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.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hope in Other Babies

I wonder now if God wasn't protecting me somehow, preparing me for this to happen. When I found out I was pregnant with Bailey, I blogged once about the happy occasion, and then only once more before abandoning this blog for two months. In my head, I was blogging all along, with inane little monologues about my changing taste in food and about the weight I was gaining. In my pregnancy with Ray, I put on the pounds like there was no tomorrow. Gaining weight was new to me, and it was absurdly fun. This time, for some reason, I was gaining weight more slowly, but still slightly faster than the experts suggest. By about the thirteenth week of the pregnancy, I had put on 13 pounds and was having a blast trying to stuff myself into my largest pair of non-maternity jeans. My early pregnancy pants from the last pregnancy were capri pants, not something I can wear in January, so I knew I would have to go out and buy just one pair of small maternity jeans to get me through until I needed the larger pairs left over from last time. For three weeks, I picked up a pair at Walmart (correct size, easily affordable) and looked at them for 10 minutes or so before putting them back on the rack and walking away. Didn't make any sense at the time, especially since I was holding my jeans on with rubber bands around the snaps to buy me another inch or so.

Now when I read back on my last two posts here in November, it is painful, and I am both grateful and dismayed that I didn't record more details of the pregnancy. At the time, I thought it would last for 40 weeks, and there was plenty of time to capture the magic and the hilarity of pregnancy. Never once, in either pregnancy, did I worry that I might lose the baby. It just never occured to me. And this time I kept having the hardest time remembering what week of pregnancy I was in. With Ray, I subscribed to an online newsletter that was sent to me during each week of the pregnancy, describing exactly what was happening with the baby and with my body. I guess I felt more confident this time, because I did not re-subcribe to the newsletter, with the net result being that I often had to count on my fingers and toes to remember what week I was in.

Painfully, I am having a very easy time pinpointing the week of pregnancy that I should be in now. I was 16 weeks along when I lost Bailey, and I struggled into church yesterday, knowing that I should have been 17 weeks along then. I know two other people who are expecting babies within two days of when Bailey was due, and I have no intention of being around them for even a minute during the next five months. I do not begrudge ANYONE their healthy pregnancy or their healthy newborn. I just don't want to be around someone who will be living the exact timeline that I have been robbed of. A girl in our church was in the same hospital I was in, giving birth in the next wing while my doctor was telling me that my baby only had a 50% chance of making it. Amazingly, I was happy for this other girl and her family, and even encouraged in some odd way, knowing that this acquaintaince was down the hall, bringing new life into the world.

The morning after I lost Bailey, when I had woken up from the hour and a half of sleep that sustained me for about 48 hours, I heard a new baby squalling not far from the door of my room in the new and beautiful Family Birthing Center. I smiled and said something about that being a hungry baby to Preston and to the incredible nurse that was tending to me. The nurse asked if it bothered me, but I said no, that it was the most beautiful thing I had heard in days.

Preston and mom both mentioned that every time they went outside after I had been moved to labor and delivery, that they had to walk by the window where the newborns are displayed. Both of them said that it did not bother them. Preston was even asked once by a stranger in the hall, during the day I was delivering Bailey's lifeless little body, if he was waiting for a baby to be born or if he was visiting one. He blanked for a minute, and then replied that he was waiting.

When it was time for me to leave the hospital, the nurse asked if I wanted to go out the back way, instead of being wheeled past the baby window. As much as I wanted to see those babies, to receive some affirmation that life was continuing, I did not want any of the new moms, or their families, to see me being wheeled out without a baby in my arms. I didn't want them to wonder where my baby was. I didn't even want them to be aware that this kind of thing had happened right down the hall from where the happiest event in their lives had just taken place. It was an awful, indescribably isolating feeling.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mourning Bailey

The infinite sadness of the past week seems to have now been replaced by a vast and frightening emptiness. I am working hard to keep my head above water, but in my mind I am running a non-stop loop of the events of the past two weeks. Looking back, seeing all that led up to the moment late Monday night when I delivered a 3-ounce baby who had already left us, it now seems like, through that week, we were all caught on a runaway freight train that was rushing us into the awful despair that followed. As it happened, of course, we had no idea of what was coming. And it all seemed to happen in slow-motion at the time, though now I see it differently. Life, after all, can turn on a dime.

I am hoping to put pen to paper (or, in this case, fingers to keyboard) so that I can record my memory of that awful week, hoping that if I write it all down, that I will cease to replay everything over and over and over again. This may not be the appropriate forum for it, but it is all I have. The easy happiness and the flippant attitude with which I wrote previously in this blog is now gone. The Before Sarah is a completely different person from the unrecognizable After Sarah that I have become, at least temporarily.

We are no longer the caricatures that I wrote about before. The Southern Foodie, The Carnivore and The Odd Toddler are now simply Sarah, Preston and Ray. Reality just doesn't allow for humor right now.

I used to say that nothing bad ever happens to me. I sincerely miss the old me, the one who believed that would always remain true. I know now that the worst can happen, and it can come out of nowhere. If I do this right, I will come through on the other side without this current abiding fear that the worst can happen again.

I am having a hard time finding God right now, and God's comfort is completely elusive. I forget to pray. I forget to eat. This morning, I realized I had forgotten to breathe for a moment. I appreciate everyone's prayers, and we continue to need them desperately.