So. This will be long. But worthwhile, if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to these last few quiet months.
Hard though. For me especially.
That monday night in early June, I had a dream. I was on a beach. Looked like one of those ruggedly gorgeous little hidden coves on Lake Superior, or the edge of the Pacific. The end of the world. We were sleeping in a tent. But I had left our laundry in a basket at the edge of the water. All my socks and underwear. I ran out and, sure enough, my laundry had floated out and was bobbing around in the water, and getting burried under the surf and sand.
I started desperately grabbing it all, sand sogged and water logged, putting it back in the basket. Which is when I noticed a handsome man with a soft smile and short, messy gingery hair back on the beach. He was dressed like a Mad Men extra, in a slim dark suit and skinny tie. He smiled at me and came over.
“need help?” he said
Yes, I said, if you don’t mind sorting my delicates.
He didn’t. So we worked together, digging my socks out of the sand, making easy work of it.
As we worked, I asked him what was up with the suit, and he smiled again, this time very sadly.
Oh. I said. The suit is important.
Yes, he said. I have a funeral to go to.
Oh. I understood. For some reason.
His kindness had soothed my me, however, and I wasnt worried about him, or me.
Suddenly he was gone. I spent the rest of the dream panicked, searching for him, on piers and decks and other beaches, through crowds, turning ginger haired bodies around only to find it wasn’t him.
Finally, in the midst of a crowd I thought I spotted him. But he spotted me first. He smiled that soft smile, but bigger this time. He came right over to me and grabbed my hands, hugged me tightly, and then looked me in the eyes.
The look said I know you. It said I can’t forget you, any more than you can forget me. It said, I didn’t need to keep searching. It said I wasn’t, not ever, alone.
And then I woke up. I was happy. I felt like if a dreamy ginger man in a dark suit showed up in my errands that day, I wouldn’t be surprised. But I was also happy, because today was the day I was going to meet my baby.
I was exactly 13 weeks pregnant that day, and I had to get ready to get my first ultrasound. It was already late in the morning, as my pregnant body was so easily exhausted, that I had taken to sleeping 12 hours a night, (and sometimes napping in the afternoon). Everything was exhausting, and I had to get all the way to the hospital on my own.
I made sure to eat a carrot muffin to stave off the morning sickness that I had so far managed to (mostly) avoid, but I knew food would also exasperate the progesterone storm, brewing in my body, making me gassy, bloated and incredibly uncomfortable.
But my baby needed food, and not vomiting was slightly better than being epically, painfully gassy… Slightly.
The baby/progesterone had forced me off meat, and dairy. I was effectively vegan. Which wouldn’t be so bad if my favorite food in the whole world, the one I was craving more than any other was cheese. Not to mention the fact that I needed to pump my body with protein, (the only substance that seemed to make my gastro-intestinal complaints a little less severe).
To sum up: I was kinda miserable. Scratch that: I was incredibly miserable.
But things were looking up. My 2nd trimester was starting, and thankfully that was when my symptoms were supposed to start easing up. Food was getting a little easier to tolerate than it had been in the previous weeks, and at the moment my body didn’t ache all over from the muscles and bones that seemed to constantly be in the process of loosening, streching and re-aranging themselves.
As my husband, Liam put it: this whole thing – pregnancy – was kinda… well, gruesome.
So far, I had not experienced a whole lot of the beautiful transformative process one hears about. I did not feel like a caterpillar, turning into a butterfly. I felt like a dying slug, crushed underfoot.
But today, today was different. Today I would get to see my baby. Today would make it all worthwhile.
I headed out into the first truly sunny, hot day of the year, after a long cold wet spring, and got on the TTC.
In between stations at an end of a platform, I got too easily exhausted by a set of stairs, and started panting, and stuck my elbows out behind me, with my hands supporting my back, taking the classic “pregnant lady” stance. Suddenly, a tall african man in sunglasses started yelling at me, telling me not to stand like that. I had no idea what was going on, or what he was really saying, I was too exhausted and shocked. I knew my eyes went as wide as saucers. He then started much more obviously hitting on me.
Here I was feeling fat, bloated and exhausted in my stretchy lulu lemon harem pants (yes really) and here was this dude negging, and then hitting on me. Pregnant, married me.
He finally stopped TALKING and asked:
“So, what are you thinking?
I held up my left hand and showed him my dainty little engagement ring.
That I’m married. I said. Shoo. Move on.
He got a sheepish look on his face, and moved to the other side of the platform. Just then a train came, and I got on, and he didnt follow me in. Which was incredibly good luck, I think.
I was a little outraged that this guy had cornered me, Something I hadn’t experienced since I was a much more vulnerable young girl. Maybe I had a maternal aura of sweetness and vulnerability around me that day. My cats had certainly been treating me differently since I’d gotten knocked up.
But I also felt proud that I had gotten rid of him, and flattered that fat, pregnant, old, married me in a baggy Man Repeling outfit could still attract some attention.
I continued on my way to the hospital, got confused and a little lost as the maternity department was not in the main building, but I finally found my way to the dissaray of a pregnancy department in the midst of renovation.
Everything was closed off in little temporary walls and windowless cubicles. But there were pregnant ladies, and babies and kids and husbands, and it felt happy.
I went in to the ultrasound pretty much right away, they squeezed the gel on my tummy (which in the heat didnt feel all that bad) and got to work. They said they’d take a look first, and then let me see after.
The doctors started mushing my abdomen. Soon enough they started looking confused. Not worried, just confused. But I knew what was happening. Something was wrong. Thats ok, though, I thought, ultrasounds are tricky. No need to get worried yet.
They couldnt find a heartbeat. They switched to a internal ultrasound, a dildo with a condom on it that gets pushed inside me and pressed directly against my cervix. I was ok with that, I thought. I might have a tilted pelvis, or my irregular period could have meant that I was essentially a week or two less pregnant than we all thought. Both of which would make things look different than they should have.
Then they turned the screen to me. They showed my big, black empty placenta, taking up most of the space in my abdomen. Then they pointed to the little, tiny white figure, lying at the bottom.
9 weeks they said. I was 13. There was no heartbeat. My baby had died. Fetus really. It was never going to be a baby.
But my body was pregnant, I said. I’ve been miserable. I still had morning sickness!!! I had had it for months. One of which, during there was no living baby.
They shrugged. Sometimes these things happen. They just happen.
They then let me put my pants back on and left me alone in a dark, windowless, box of a room for a half an hour.
I don’t exaclty know how that was supposed to make me feel better. Being alone.
I called Liam right away though. I told him to come pick me up. Right away. That the baby had been dead for a month. A month. A month of being miserable for no reason.
The ladies finally came back in. They explained that I would need to do something about this. That I had missed my miscarriage. That my body was still pregnant, and was not expelling the dead fetus like it should. That I would have to resort to physical or chemical means to expel it. That my midwife would not be able to help with this (they then called her to tell her). That I should contact my family doctor. They then backpedaled and said in a few days, ” when I was ready” I should go to their womens clinic. They implied that my family doctor may not want to deal with it they didn’t say why, but I felt they were sort of implying it was because of of Pro-life politics. I firmly told them that my doctor was amazing, awesome, and that it was not going to be an issue. I liked these women less and less, and them telling me my baby was dead was the very, very least of it.
They left me alone again. In the dark windowless room. They said I could leave when I was ready. I was fucking ready. But I had no one to pick me up. Thank god, Liam called, just then. I got up and walked out.
I walked back through the waiting area filled with babies and kids and husbands and pregnant ladies. All still happy.
It began to feel like the world was not fighting fair.
How were they supposed to know not to be happy? I hadn’t known. I tried not to look directly at the bonnets and carriages and hopeful, joyful families. I tried to just get the heck outta there.
But tears were coming
I found him. I got in the car. He held me. I cried. Liam told me I should go straight to my lovely, adorable, wonderful family doctor, at MY hospital up the street, right away. It was still early, she would be there seeing patients. Which she was.
The attending nurse was wonderful too, and told me she had gone through the same thing. She remembered me from the previous months when I had told her I was pregnant, and the month before that when I had told her we had just started were trying. It only took that long. She had called us the fertile pair. Which was no longer true… Not really.
Sitting and waiting, I put it out on twitter. I didn’t want to talk about it yet, but this way I wouldn’t have to. Everyone would know, and I didnt have to talk til I was ready.
But I would talk. For my sanity, and for the good of all women who had suffered in silence.
Thank goodness for modern technology.
My doctor saw us at the end of the day. She told us that we could deal with this right away if that was what we wanted. Or not if that was what we wanted. I told her that the baby had been dead for a month, and I worried about my body. It still thought it was pregnant, but meanwhile there was dead tissue rotting away inside of me. I wanted it out. Pregnancy had been miserable, had been gruesome, and I wanted it over.
So she told me my options were to take a pill and experience horrible cramping and bleeding for anywhere between 2 days to 2 weeks, or get knocked out and have minor surgery which would involve me having my cervix dilated with metal rods and my uterus literally SCRAPED out with tools. A D&C.
Rock. Hard place. I had no idea. Blood, and blood and more blood and pain. Wowwie, what fun options.
So I looked to Liam. He said: I don’t know what she wants, but I think, that between gruesome and gruesome, but knocked out while it happens, if it were me, I’d pick the latter.
That was enough for me. I wanted the D&C. My doctor warned that I might not be able to have one for a week or even two. That was not good either. It had already been a month. Too long. This needed to be over. She gave me a prescription for tylenol threes and the misopropol, just in case, but told me that she would call around tommorow and find out the soonest I could have the D&C. And that I should contact her in the afternoon to find out.
Home. My midwife called. She told me it would be ok. That she had been through it twice. That her best friend had been through it twice first, but that now she had two beautiful children. That I could come back in, talk to her anytime. That I would hopefully see her again. That I should have a cold beer. A glass of wine. Take care of myself. Be kind to myself.
All wonderful things. Things that I needed to hear. Things that exemplify why being able to have a midwife is an amazing, amazing thing. Even now when she could have just closed the door to me, she was taking care of me, emotionally, so that things would be easier for me physically.
So I took her advice. I had a beer. My first beer in months. It was cold and delicious.
Then I decided I wanted Mexican food. Which we went to go have. Mountains of molten cheese which, along with all dairy had been verboden. It was also delicious.
Though it was odd to sit on a patio on a beautiful day with young hipsters talking about theie conquests and conflagrations without a care in the world, sipping daiquiris, when you are officially a Real Live Adult, struggling very hard not to burst into tears after receiving the worst news of your life. Surreal.
While shoveling my emotions full of deep fried confections smothered in dairy, I started telling myself – by way of Liam – all the things I could now return to. Meat. Dairy. Drinking frozen cocktails in a heatwave. Raw milk cheeses. Artisinal charcuterie. Normal clothing from normal stores that don’t look like floral tents. A body that I can actully recognize. No more stretch marks and eczema. No more random nose bleeds. Going out. Seeing my friends. Drinking with them. Pain killers. Iced coffee. Nine hours of sleep a night (and no naps necessary). Less pain. Less miserableness. My normal life back.
I felt bad that this all being over was a huge relief. But this pregnancy had not agreed with me. I began to feel uncomfortable calling the thing inside me a baby. It had caused me such agony, and it seems it had never intended on repaying the favour of growing inside my body. My body, which had taken such care of it, and given it a lovely, healthy placenta, and done everything within it’s power to keep it alive. My body, which was holding on to that failed pregnancy for dear life. My body had not failed me. But that so called baby had. I was much more comfortable with calling it a fetus. I’ve always been pro-choice, but now I am even more so. The thing inside me was dead, was not a baby and had never been one. No soul to be lost. It was a parasite. Thankfully soon it would be gone.
I then decided I wanted Juno’s Baby. I told Liam I wanted to hunt down Michel Cera and Ellen Page, and force them (even though I’m not one hundred percent sure either of them aren’t completely asexual) to make me a baby, which I would then take and love forever.
And that baby would be perfect. A smart-alec and a genius and musically talented and occasionally shy and occasionally a handful and beautiful and tiny and dark-haired. All the things my own baby would have been (genetically speaking) likely to be. Even better maybe.
But it wouldn’t have to come out of my body.
When we got home, I went straight to the junk drawer in our credenza, and took out the bag of catnip. I then rubbed all three of our cats noses in it, and watched them trip balls.
I woke up late the next day, Liam curled up on the couch typing and working away. We spent a quiet day in, he worked from home, and I just sat next to him, sighing and distracting him.
My doctor called and told me I would get my D&C, first thing tommorow. Relief (A little bit of fear too).
I twittered that I felt like I literally had an goldfish bowl full of liquid, and a dead goldfish sunk to the bottom inside my stomach. I could feel it slosh around and get in the way, this strange lump thing in my belly. This would turn out to be an incredibly apt description.
Liam’s boss then told him to take the week off. Not to bother getting work done from home even, just relax. Rest. Take the time for both of us to heal. Which was such a gift.
When Liam’s work was done for the day, we went out to the local nerd board game store, and wandered around indulging ourselves. We like fun, nerdy, euro board games (especially if they have a retro premise, or some really great design). We had gotten started with Carcassone and Catan.
We figured since we’d have to spend the week taking it easy, board games were a great way to do that. My mom had been trading emails with me, and she agreed and said that when she had her miscarriage she spent a lot of time playing cards with my dad.
So we indulged our nerdiness. We bought:
Bang! – a spaghetti western card game.
Mr Jack Mini, a Jack the Ripper meets Sherlock Holmes deduction game for two.
I’m the boss, a no-holds-barred, ruthless investment game, that is great for parties and destroying relationships.
Gloom, a gorgeously designed, Edward Gorey themed card game with transparent cards where you try to destroy your own family, as grotesquely as possible.
I’m going to further defend our indulgence by saying that opening boxes and unwrapping many little packages of cards, and punching peices out of cardboard and organizing all the pieces into their little slots is incredibly therapeutic. Like a little dose of Christmas morning, right when I needed it most.
We went to the Vietnamese restaurant around the corner (which has pretty much become our salvation) for dinner. We discovered it because south east asian was much easier on my tummy, when I was off meat and dairy. I had cool refreshing Bun with chicken and spring rolls, and Liam had crispy noodles. Meals there are always light, fresh and relatively healthy, and come with jasmine tea but best of all, most dinners cost around six bucks and come quicker to the table than fast food.
This was important because having that restaurant around the corner is, to me, the modern equivalent of having all your neighbors pack your house with casseroles. On a week like that, the less thought and effort we could put into things like feeding ourselves, the better.
Still. Things felt. Off.
I sobbed myself to sleep that night. Exhausted.
When I woke in the morning I had to take the misopropol. The miscarriage drug. I was worried about this, as as far as I could tell (from the internet) it was not standard care. In my mind, the whole point of the d&c was that I wouldn’t have to experience the cramping and bleeding.
I worried about how soon my surgery would be. I was told to be in for 10, but I didn’t know how soon after that I’d go in. But I trusted my doctor, so I took the drug and waited. By the time I went in the hospital, I knew things were starting to go south. I was bleeding, and experiencing mild cramps – like the first day of a period.
By the time I got to the surgical waiting room, I was pale and quiet. The admin ladies told me they were going to “try to fit me in today.” They then contiued the patten they would exhibit that day of completely ignoring me and everything that went on in that waiting room and instead chatted about their families (with a long hour for lunch in the middle).
This was not my understanding of what was to happen. I started to get worried. This was exactly my fear about taking the misopropol.
But I also was too exhausted to fight (if you at all know me, then you know that if I was too tired to be feisty, than I was already in a not good place).
Every half hour, the cramps got stronger. And I continued to to sit there, in a hard waiting room chair, leaning on Liam. The cramps started to come in waves. A wave of exquisite pain, then it would ebb away, only to come back. I started to leak yellow liquid. I asked for a hot water bottle, pain killers, anything. Liam got up and came back with all they would give him: a warm blanket. An hour past and Liam started to look really worried, but didn’t want to leave me. I went to the washroom, and saw my face white as a sheet, weak and pained. I realised, suddenly that I was in labour. Real labour. These waves of pain were contractions. The fluid coming out of me was my water, breaking.
Understatement of the century: This was not the way this was supposed to happen.
I came back to the waiting room and curled myself up between two chairs. Everytime the wave of pain hit, I tensed up and grabbed liam, and moaned as little as I had the energy to do. Liam finally saw a nurse came in and he grabbed her and explained what was happening to me. She looked shocked. She carefully got me up, wrapped the blanket around me and gingerly led me to the after care area, right to a bed. She was my savior.
But alas, I was not to be in that bed for more than a minute before they came to get me for surgery. It was two o’clock. Hours later.
Before surgery, for about half an hour I had to sit in another chair in another waiting area and answer a barrage of questions I could barely hear let alone understand between the waves of pain. They kept saying they were going to take very good care of me. Inside I found that quite ironic, and wondered when that was supposed to begin. I couldn’t sit any longer. The pain was too much. My stomach felt like someone was throwing hardballs at it. I started pacing and wincing.
Finally, they led me to the surgical bay. My hospital is quite old. The bay looked like a small concrete warehouse, with scary equipment everywhere. Less Grays Anatomy, more alien autopsy.
I told the crew I thought I was in labour. They all looked at each other, a little surprised, and worried, but suddenly very sympathetic.
But I must say, they were good people. My anesthesiologist in particular was a lovely man, a sweet, funny british guy who sounded exactly like Stephen Merchant (whom I love). Although, he pointed out (in a very Merchant-esque way) not as tall. I said that this did not exactly reassure me after playing portal, where Merchant plays a evil slash incompetent robot. He said that while he might be a little evil, he was, in fact, very good at his job.
He was, however, unfamiliar with portal, so I described it to him, and he said that he loved his xbox and was always looking for good games for it, and loved the premise and the fact that it has a woman protagonist. Yeah! Exactly! I said that he would probably then especially like it, since the villain is a woman too! He said that he would have to find it and play it. I sold a man on a video game in the 5 minutes I was conscious before surgery. I’m pretty sure Valve should give me an award.
He gently, expertly slipped in my IV, and I started feeling woozy.
Which is pretty much all I remember after that.
I know I dreamed. But I don’t know what about.
Until I woke up in another room, with my whole surgical crew surrounding me, smiling at me. I was up. I felt 100 percent better, and started chatting with everyone in quite a cheery manner. They started to make fun of me and said it was the drugs talking. I told them that this was who I was, and that I wasn’t like that before because I was in excruciating pain.
I told you I was feisty.
Then they hooked up my oxytocin. When they told me what they were doing, I warned that I had a bad reaction. At which point they were confused. At which I realized I meant Oxycontin, the drug, as opposed to what they were pumping into me – a happy hormone produced by pregnancy. We all laughed a little.
My anesthesiologist said goodbye to me, and that he hoped we’d meet again, and that he was also at Sunnybrook (another hospital in town, where Women’s College shares a maternity department with). The idea of a surgical team hoping to see you again is perhaps a little odd, but I think what he meant is that he also does anesthesia for pregnancies, which is actually quite a sweet, hopeful concept for a girl just after her first miscarriage. See? Cutest anesthesiologist ever.
After a little while my my adorable little old chinese lady surgical “day care” nurse (yes, thats what they call them) asked me if I was in any pain, and I realized I was, a little. It was just so much less than before, that I had not realized it. She told be I’d be more comfortable if I lay on my side, and then packed me into my hospital bed like a precious vase with warm blankets.
She then realised I was 3rd of 3 to go back to the post op area. I heard her discuss this with the other nurses, and then chatted to me about how much nicer I was than the other cranky old ladies they had that day. She made the executive decision to move me up to 1st of 3 to go so that I could go be with Liam. I was way more conscious than the old ladies, and in much better spirits. She swapped the numbers.
Just then somebody important came in and asked why the numbers were swapped. My nurse just looked at her with absolute confidence and told her that she had no idea, and was just doing what she was told. Ha. Awesome. I love my little nursie.
A ridiculously cheery, super gay attendant who sang everyones names and was pretty much exactly Cameron from modern family came and took me back to Liam.
There, they gave me ginger ale (I hadn’t eaten since 24 hours previous) and DRUGS GLORIOUS DRUGS. Apparently there is a drug that is like ADVIL, but better! That was news to me. I rested, covered in warmed blankets and Liam sat next to me until both I and the nurses felt I was ready to go. Which I was, soon enough.
The nurse took out my happy hormone iv, which didnt hurt at all but spurted blood in every direction. Getting up to go I realized just how much blood I was surrounded with, pooling under me.
We drove away from the hospital. Rather than go straight home I made Liam take me to get Red Velvet frozen yogurt. I had read about it that morning while trying to distract myself with blogs on my iphone, and there was NOTHING IN THE WHOLE WORLD I WANTED MORE.
I should have gone home. I had just had surgery. But instead I had red velvet frozen yogurt, with some peanut butter s’more fro-yo swirled in for good measure, absolutely covered in chunks of cheesecake and skor bits.
I sat outside in the sun and basked in the fro-yo’s wonderful-ness.
Then, because my luck was changing entirely, there just so happened to be teensy little farmers market in the parking lot behind the fro-yo place. There was a stand there selling sheep’s milk cheese (squeaky sun-dried tomato curds). And charcuterie (summer sausage, my absolute favourite!). Local stuff. The best I have ever had in my life. YES YES YES.
We then drove back home, and after an hour or two of rest I sent Liam out for movies and subs. Cold cuts had also been verboden, and I was going to indulge. He came back and we pigged out on foot longs and watched things explode (the Green Hornet – funny, violent and perfectly brainless -just what the doctor ordered).
I don’t remember falling asleep that night. I just know that I did, thoroughly.
I was surprised that I only slept ’til noon. We lazed about, luxuriating in the freedom of not having to go anywhere, or do anything for anybody. Eventually we spread a picnic blanket on the lawn in the backyard and brought with us some imported beer, our copy of Gloom and one of our cats (Flora, the one who goes outside).
Flora rolled around in the sunlight, nibbling at the grass and swatting at big, fuzzy bumble bees. This was the first really warm day of the year so far, and the first day we had let her outside. Her sunshiny joy was palpable and did much to raise our spirits as well.
Our dinner was simple, pasta in sauce out of a bottle. But pasta is my comfort food, my carbohydrate addiction, it’s heavy, complex sugars would surely lull me into a kind of happiness.
By the end of the day I felt drained and faded. Melencholy maybe. Content certainly.
We watched Despicable Me before bed which cemented it as a day of simple pleasures, cheap and cheerful things in my own backyard.
Sleeping was a little harder that night. I felt an empty aching in my belly as my organs slipped and slidded and reorganized themselves and the healing began.
This uncomfortableness would continue for a long time. My breasts would recede, and my belly would soften. The cramps and bleeding would slowly fade away – although they would occasionally return in a rush as my body flushed out a clot. I would sleep ’till noon, or later more often than naught. My body was healing. Slowly the progesterone drained from my body. Slowly. Surprisingly so. You don’t just stop being pregnant. It drains from your body. Literally.