Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Motherhood Interrupted

During the six days and five nights that I spent in the hospital, while I was being robbed of my chance to be a mother to Bailey, I was also being cheated out of a week of being a mother to Ray. The double whammy cost me a lot, and made the first few days back at home even harder than I expected, while I fought my own grief and tried to re-instill a sense of security back into Ray.

Ray is 23 months old now, and before this tragedy, we had never been apart for more than three or four hours at a time, and even that was extremely seldom. Twice, Preston and I left Ray with my mother while we went to see a movie. Once, mom kept Ray for an afternoon while I struggled with tax deadlines. And there were times he stayed at mom's or with my grandmother for an hour while I went to a doctor visit or to get a haircut. We had never spent a night apart, and even though Ray has a blast at my mother's house, I could only rarely bring myself to leave him over there to play while I came home to get something or another done.

On the Thursday that I was admitted to the hospital, I woke up in considerable pain and we knew that I would have a kidney ultrasound later in the day. At the time, we were all (including the doctor) hoping that I had kidney stones. Thursdays are my busiest workdays of the week, and mom, Preston and grandma were all jumping to give me a hand. Yolie was even offering to bring dinner over so I wouldn't have that to worry about as well.

While Preston went to town to pick up my work for me, mom came over to pick up Ray at around 8:30 in the morning. Normally, I only work during the two to three hours of Ray's afternoon nap, the better for us to never really be apart. The plan that day though was for me to try and knock out my work in the morning and then be ready for my ultrasound and be able to take the afternoon off to deal with the pain, if necessary.

Ray went with mom without hardly a backwards glance at me, and I took a shower, relieved to spend a few minutes with hot water massaging some of the pain from my back. Then, I went upstairs and tried to slam through my work as quickly as possible while the Tylenol helped to keep me upright. By around 10:00 though, a wave of pain hit me so hard I nearly fell off my chair. I stood up to go to the bathroom, and was horrified to see blood in the toilet. I burst into tears and went downstairs to lay down in bed. I had never made myself aware of the bad things that can happen in pregnancy (part of my mother's Pollyanna legacy), but I knew that if blood appeared, it was time to lay down.

I crawled into bed and called the doctor. They told me to come in as soon as I left the place where the renal ultrasound would be done. I called Preston to let him know what was going on, and then I called my mother and asked her to get on the internet and look up kidney stones. At the time, I didn't panic. The blood scared me nearly out of my mind, and the pain was close in intensity to labor pains, but I'd had a friend (another healthy vegetarian) who had been briefly hospitalized for kidney stones during her first pregnancy and I was comforted knowing that everything had gone fine for the baby.

Mom read information about kidney stones to me over the phone and I breathed a sigh of relief. ALL the symptoms fit: the blood, the pain, the cloudy urine, everything. Though I wasn't looking forward to dealing with the stones, I knew I could handle anything as long as it meant the baby would be okay.

By mid-afternoon that day, kidney stones had all but been ruled out, and my OB was admitting me to the hospital. She said I most likely had a severe kidney, bladder or uterine infection and that outpatient treatment had failed. An ultrasound was done of the baby, and since everything seemed fine there, and since the doctor didn't say ONE WORD about the baby being in danger, I went to the hospital and was laying there in a bed by dinnertime, making a list of things Preston would need to bring to me, and worrying myself sick about Ray.

For most of the hospital stay, I didn't worry about Bailey, and I hardly worried at all about my own health. I worried most about Ray and about how he would deal with my absence. There were moments, obviously, when the other worries loomed large: on Friday, when the baby was given only a 50% chance, and then on Sunday, when I was told the baby was dying; and of course on Monday, when labor had to be induced. On Saturday though, the baby's heartbeat was still fine, my fever had gone down, and the doctor was talking about sending me home on Sunday morning. The worry over Bailey went away, and I focused instead solely on Ray and on how I couldn't wait to get back to our normal schedule.

Ray spent the days of Thursday, Friday and Saturday at my mother's house. On each of those evenings, Preston picked him up at dinnertime and took him home to bathe him, feed him, play with him and put him to bed. Preston spent the nights at home, and he was the one to get Ray ready in the mornings. Ray seemed fine with the situation, though Preston told me he would come home in the evenings and walk into all the rooms calling for me. He didn't get his naps on those days, but he had fun with mom's children and so I didn't worry too much about lasting effects.

On Sunday, when everything went all to hell at the hospital, Ray's care had to change even more. He still spent the days of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at my mother's house, but he had to do without Preston as well as me. Preston went home on Sunday evening to put Ray to bed, but it was my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who stayed at our house for the night and were the ones to get Ray out of bed in the morning. It was then that I knew not only was the baby inside me dying, but that Ray was going through an awful adjustment without his parents who had up until now ALWAYS been there with him.

My in-laws dropped Ray off at my mom's house on Monday morning and came to the hospital to be with me and Preston. Mom followed soon after, leaving Ray and all of her children with Grandma and Yolie. That night, Ray spent the night at my grandparent's house, his first night away from both his home and his parents at the same time. He was a trooper though, and let Grandpa give him a bath with Jack, and then fell asleep with Lily without putting up a fight.

It hurt me incredibly to spend so long away from my life as a mother. On Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, Ray was brought to the hospital to spend an hour or so with me, but each time he would sit on the bed next to me, hunched over and quiet, obviously confused and becoming insecure. When it was time to leave, he would kiss me and go quietly out of the room with whoever had brought him there. It broke my heart.

On Sunday, mom told me she went into the kitchen at her house to find Ray just standing there crying for no apparent reason. On Tuesday, when he woke up at Grandma's house, he sat up and began crying right away. Sunday morning, when my mother-in-law and sister-in-law got Ray ready to go to mom's house, he stood in the middle of the living room and cried, not wanting to go with them. I wonder if he didn't know where they were taking him, and if he thought that he should stay home in case his parents came back for him.

Ray is starting to act like his normal happy-go-lucky self again, but I am dealing with tantrums that are new from him, and there are times when he clings to me or to Preston like he never has before. It is possible that I am reading too much into his behavior, but after spending so many years as the only birth child in a large adoptive family, and after listening to so many discussions and interpretations of my siblings' rage and acting out, it was inevitable that I would start to associate some of what I have learned about abandonment from them to what has happened to my own child while I was gone for a week.

For years, when I have tried unsuccessfully to relate to my siblings, or when I have attempted to be a part of the discussions of their behaviors, my mother or one of the older siblings have snapped at me that I don't know anything about loss, or abandonment, or grief, etc, and I have essentially felt shut out. I only wish I could return to those days. I have an empathy now for my siblings that didn't exist before, and while I am appreciative of that on many levels, I can't help but be aware of the cost at which I have gained this empathy and understanding.

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