Warning: this post is extremely graphic. It may trigger flashbacks, if you have ever had a traumatic birth experience. I first wrote this as therapy. Then I showed it to my counselors in hopes that it would help them to understand me and why I was struggling. And now I am sharing it with the world (or rather my 3 regular readers...) just in case it rings a bell with someone. Shortly after this experience, I needed to find other people with similar experiences and reactions. These were exactly the sort of blog posts I was looking for. If anyone reads this and wants to talk about their own traumas, you are very welcome to leave a comment. I hope to follow this post with one more positive, about the blessings that came alongside.
Shortly after Alvin's birth, a close friend of mine had her 4th baby. This was her first water birth. She was so enthusiastic. “I can’t wait to get pregnant again so I can have another water birth!” she gushed. That settled it. I now knew that I could have a natural birth in the hospital. Now I wanted to have a home birth. Maybe even a water birth! I started studying in earnest. We moved out to the country. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel depressed. I read everything I could about midwives, home birth, and water birth. I watched videos on You Tube. I found a midwife I felt comfortable with.
Ruth is a Certified Nurse Midwife. She is a RN with many years experience working L&D in the hospital. She has a reputation for being very cautious and transferring her clients to a Dr. at the first sign of diabetes or high blood pressure. I felt that I was very well informed. Home birth seemed to be a very reasonable thing to do. I wasn’t out to take crazy risks. I felt that home birth was perfectly safe. I really wanted to deliver in a safe, cozy environment. Without any IV’s irritating me or pesky monitors or wires to trip over. I wanted a hot bath. Long walks. Candles and music. This is beginning to sound like a romantic retreat! Hey, some people even claim orgasmic birth possible in such a setting. Although I remain skeptical… Anyway, this seemed to be the time for me to step out and discover birth as it was meant to be. Dr W. had moved to St John’s shortly after Alvin was born. Dr S.II handled my 6 week visit. I liked him well enough. But, again he seemed very conventional and I was beginning to wonder if maybe a midwife might give me more personalized care. Maybe she could give me magic herbs that would be so much better for me than any nasty drugs. So, as I embarked on my 7th pregnancy in 7 years I set up an appointment for CNM Ruth.
At 10 weeks we heard the baby’s heartbeat. Ruth used a Doppler. She doesn’t own an ultrasound machine. The office in her home seemed otherwise well equipped. I really enjoyed our hour long visit. She asked very thorough questions and took my complete history. I was surprised when she enquired into the state of my gums. “They bleed “, I answered. “Actually, they bleed a lot. I floss and brush and rinse and still I spit out mouthfuls of blood.” She suggested I take 1,000mg of vitamin C daily. (That actually has worked very well for me. My dentist is impressed.) I left her office feeling very positive. In my heart, I knew this child was a girl.
Two and a half weeks later I woke up and found some very minor spotting. Fighting panic, I called Ruth. Since I had no cramping and it was a Saturday she suggested I go to an ultrasound studio for reassurance. Sounded like a plan, but first I had my 5 year old's soccer game to go to. I might be 25 at this point, but I still had a lot of the blindly optimistic 18 year old girl in me. After the game we dropped the kids off with a babysitter and moseyed on over to the studio. These are not ultrasound professionals. The purpose of this business is to take cute ultrasound pictures. So, they were not allowed to remark on the tragically still outline of our baby. There was no need. I cried a little in the bathroom, noting the bleeding was still minimal. I pulled myself together in order to attempt a graceful egress. Since I was still just spotting, and we knew from experience that a miscarriage could take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, we decided to go to lunch and wait for Robert’s phone to be repaired. Hideaway Pizza was nearby. Robert put his arm around me and held me close. We prayed, there in our booth. We ate our free pizza we had won by spinning a wheel. After an hour I was ready to go home. I was beginning to feel some crampy pains...
I stopped writing at this point, about 6 months ago. I had spent over 9 hours straight typing, with brief breaks to fix the kids lunch and change diapers. It really didn’t help anything though, I still felt muddle headed, unable to concentrate on taking care of my family. Summer was tough. But in the last month, I had started to feel the cloud lift, some normalcy return. Now (at the time when I first wrote this) it’s September, nearly 2 years since my last miscarriage. I don’t know why I am feeling so sad once more. I am anxious, my heart has started racing at odd times during the day, and I broke down into wrenching sobs the other day after a particularly vivid memory/flashback of when I held my 12 week gestation baby. I guess I’m still not over that last loss. The baby I call Micah. The one I just know was a girl. Maybe I can finish her story now…
…We walked through the door, to the parking lot. Our car was right there at the entrance. As I turned to open the door, I felt something break. Warm fluid gushed right through my clothes. I had no time for explanation. I turned on my heel and rushed back inside, hoping to get to the bathroom before there were puddles on the floor. Robert was right behind me. Thankfully the bathroom was small, single occupant, with a lock. Robert alerted management to our predicament and they taped an “Out of Order” sign to the door. Everything was out of order… I expected pain and blood, but nothing had prepared me for this. I desperately tried to page the midwife, but she didn’t return our call. In a near panic, I called my OB’s office. Good thing his number was still in my cell phone. Dr S.II was a little surprised to hear from me, since I hadn’t made an appearance in his office for some time. But he advised that the bleeding shouldn’t be heavier than a pad an hour. It didn’t occur to me to mention that blood was regularly gushing into the toilet and I could no longer see the bottom of the bowl.
After awhile it seemed that the pain and bleeding lessened. I felt that maybe I could stand and try to get cleaned up enough to walk back through the restaurant without grossing anyone out too badly. As I wiped, I was perplexed to feel something there, stuck. It was velvety soft, so delicate, I could barely even touch it. Yet is was solidly lodged, no amount of wiping, pushing or tugging could move it. I thought it was a clot. We tried once more to contact the midwife. I didn’t think I could walk out with it just hanging there. Bothering the doctor again never crossed my mind. So I kept working to dislodge the clot so I could go home. After about 15 minutes it finally came loose, and then I could see it was my baby. It was about the size of the little white mouse I held about a week later. It just laid across the palm of my hand, trailing a single ragged thread. The whole thing seemed to deflate as fluid trickled from the cord. I never noticed that there was no placenta on the other end. I carefully wrapped her in a paper towel and placed it in my diaper bag. (We later buried Micah underneath our oak tree in the front yard.) Shaky, shaken, I made my way back out towards the car. I just wanted to go to bed. My best friend, Sherry agreed to come pick up my 3 boys for the night and to bring me some pads. I was at present wearing a size 4 diaper that happened to be in my bag.
The next hour was quiet. I tried to rest, but couldn’t get quite comfortable, even though there wasn’t much pain. Our pastor came over to see us. As I lay on the couch, listening to his comforting speech and loving prayer, I felt a sudden enormous gush. I rushed to the bathroom and noted that I had once again soaked my jeans. I only had one more clean pair. After that, the pain and bleeding picked up exponentially. I began to be concerned that maybe I was bleeding way too much. I was bleeding at about the rate of a pad an hour, but that wasn’t counting all the minutes I spent on the toilet, and that each I time I flushed, the bowl of water was a dark burgundy that I couldn’t see through. After about an hour or two of this, I started getting dizzy and blacking out whenever I stood. Robert was initially reluctant to take me to the ER. We had been through many miscarriages before. Surely we could tough this one out. A good friend brought a blood pressure cuff over, and Rob checked my pulse and pressure. The blood pressure was a little low, and my pulse a little elevated, but not too bad. He figured it wasn’t an emergency yet. I asked him to talk to his sister, a nurse. She informed him that by the time I presented with alarming vitals, it would be too late to get me to the hospital. So, we went.
A short, 15 minute ride later we were at St Francis South. I was shivering, wrapped in a Finding Nemo quilt from home. The triage nurse said that this was the busiest day of the year so far, and to expect a long wait. I don’t think they even took my vitals. By this time the pain was so bad I couldn’t sit in a chair. I opted to lay on the quilt on the emergency room floor. Truly alarmed by this time, Robert continued taking my blood pressure himself. I guess that didn’t look very good. A few minutes later I opened my eyes to a pair of boots in front of my face. Squinting upward, a security guard came into focus. “Ma’am, the emergency room floor is not a very clean place to lie down.” “I’m sure it’s not,” I replied. “But I’m bleeding heavily and really can’t sit up” “Well, we can’t have you laying here, would you mind going to a room down the hall, at least it has carpet.” “Sure, if you can get me there. I can’t get up to walk.” He disappeared.
Not long afterwards a lady with a stethoscope showed up. She was the hospital administrator, doing triage. She called for a wheel chair, that I kind of flopped into. Then the lights started to dim, I couldn’t catch my breath or move. I felt myself being pulled under and wondered if this was the day I was supposed to die. I figured I was OK with that. If that was what God had planned. Around me I could hear people rushing, opening doors, calling my name. I couldn’t see or respond other than a grunt. They asked me if I could help them by standing up to get into the bed. I guess I kind of lunged forward. Next thing I know, I’m sprawled across the bed, feeling the weight of the world on my chest and struggling to make any sort of acknowledgement to my nurses questions. My shirt was sort of pulled up, but I couldn’t make any movement to pull it down, nor did I really care. They tilted the bed upside down and gradually the rushing in my ears began to fade. I heard Robert out in the hall, asking if I was alright. Instead of a reply, they gave him papers to sign. Someone else remarked that there was a 90 year old man in a wheel chair with chest pains waiting to be seen. The administrator said he would just have to wait. I was getting the last bed.
Eventually the world came back into focus and I could breathe again. Eventually the tissue that remained was cleaned out and the bleeding and pain gradually stopped. Eventually I was able to stand without being dizzy or my pulse shooting to 180. Eventually I was able get outside by myself with God and just cry. Eventually I was able to go to my friend’s baby shower, the one that was due the week after I was. But I was never the same. All the fall and into the winter I struggled with depression and anger. Not with God, necessarily. Just in general. I wanted to hurt someone. I was afraid that maybe I would. I felt like I was coming unglued, unhinged, unbalanced. Maybe I was going crazy, Maybe I was bipolar. Maybe it was Satanic oppression. Life was pretty much unbearable for me, probably for my family as well. But outwardly, no one else ever knew. I could pull myself together at church and other social gatherings. Laugh, wear makeup, make jokes. No one could have guessed I felt myself to be tottering on the brink of insanity. PMS week was the worst. It took all month to undo the damage of that one week.