Monday, February 12, 2007
February - For Real This Time
All those words and I never actually got around to why February is an odd time of year for me. Okay, then, to continue...

We went to New York for Thanksgiving, to spend it with Willem's parents and brother. Not because they wanted to host it, particularly, but because his mother was jealous that we spent so much time with my family and so she got competitive and impulsive. She wanted us there for the holiday, and the fact that she hates to cook didn't present itself to her until after we had agreed to come out. She ordered the entire Thanksgiving dinner pre-cooked from the local grocery store, sent Willem's brother out to pick it up at 11:00 in the morning, and then left it on the kitchen floor until 2:00, when she picked it up, plopped it on the table, and served it to us.

We stayed in a hotel, because... well, have you never read this blog before? His parents were - are - not good hosts. In the sense that Iraq is not a relaxing place for a tropical vacation. We made use of the hotel, both to sleep unaccosted by his mother's personality-disordered cats and to celebrate the end of the six-week abstinence imposed after the miscarriage. (Which spawned another inside joke - then-3-year-old Emily was sound, and I mean sound asleep, so we thought we'd risk a moment or three of carnal knowledge, and were well into the throes when she sat bolt upright in her bed and said, "Daddy, what's that noise?" He replied, as calmly as one might offer the time to a stranger on the subway, "Oh, that's just me twitching my foot." She said, "Oh, okay," flopped back on her pillow, and fell back asleep. We interrogated her the next day - she has no memory of this. Still, occasionally, I'll ask if he feels like twitching his foot...)

We returned home, and I felt awful. Severe nausea, low-grade fever, gastrointestinal yuck. I went to the doctor, and was diagnosed with e. coli. Yes! E. coli, from my mother-in-law's Thanksgiving dinner! Hooray! Physical proof that her presence is toxic!

"Oh," said the doctor, "and by the way, we have to be careful how we medicate it. Congratulations. You're pregnant."

Um. Excuse me?

"Yes, we always check when we take a urine sample, just in case."

It is so not April Fools Day right now. Any jury in the country, as long as it's made up of women, will acquit me if I crawl through the phone and kill you for such a horrible joke. Really? Pregnant?

"Yes, really. You'll have to have bloodwork to determine dates."

Yeah, I know the drill. And sure enough, we were right back on that roller coaster already. This despite having gone on the Pill again immediately after the miscarriage in an effort to re-regulate my cycle. Which marks the fourth time I've been pregnant on the Pill or Patch... I'm not sure why we talk about future children as though we have any say in the matter at all.

So, mid-December, I got confirmation, but was told there were no special precautions or concerns that I needed to have; I should treat this as a normal pregnancy and not worry. Funny, funny stuff, that. Oh, sure, I won't worry about a thing, just because you said so! Thanks, Doc!

But we kept it quiet. With the lost pregnancy, we'd just barely told my family, but had not told my in-laws; I can't remember what, now, but my mother-in-law had done or said something particularly hurtful and I had told Willem, in total wide-eyed sincerity, that I planned on informing her about the pregnancy by sending her a birth announcement. When the child was five. This time, I was still unhappy with her, but I was also scared to death and simply could not face the possibility of another round of "It's probably for the best" and "Did you even know you were pregnant?" and "Oh, well, you'll get over it - I've had four miscarriages and I'm fine" if I did lose this pregnancy.

Willem and I had planned to go to Las Vegas to visit my friend Molly, leaving Emily with my mother and actually taking a real vacation - and we still did so. The third morning there, I woke up, walked into the bathroom, and felt a pop. And started to bleed. Heavily and horribly. I started the whimper-and-cry routine right away, and called my OB, who agreed, "It sounds like you're having another miscarriage [always wonderful to be right] but no need to see a doctor [do they even have doctors in Las Vegas?] unless you experience symptoms of [ugh, this just bites]..."

The day before, we had driven all the way around the Grand Canyon, just because we could. That day, we were scheduled to drive out to Death Valley - coincidence, but it seemed apt. I moved very quickly from the sniffle-and-moan stage to the emotionally-numb phase, so we went anyway. Only time I've ever been in California so far. It was all gorgeous, and a nice day despite the pall over my uterus; we accidentally drove near Area 51 and ate at this tiny little diner with the coldest toilets I have ever hovered over in my life. Flew back to New York the next day, gathered up Emily, and went home, all the while congratulating myself for not having told the whole world this time.

Once home, we limped through New Year's, and I kept my OB appointment for 1/3, intending a post-miscarriage meeting to discuss, now what? Two makes a pattern, so what next? Instead, I mentioned, "You know, it's really unfair. I've never had morning sickness before, but ever since the bleed in Las Vegas I have barely been able to eat." That, along with a few other things, finally led to the doctor saying, "I don't think you actually had a miscarriage. Our ultrasound computer is down today, so come back tomorrow morning and we'll find out for sure."

I got back in my car and promptly drove off the road. It was bad weather, the guy in front of me swerved and stopped abruptly - but I was in mind-numbing shock and had the reflexes of a sloth on heroin.

The next day's ultrasound confirmed, I was still pregnant - and this time there was a heartbeat. There was another bleed, at 10 weeks, which was horrible and scary, but again faded away and, yep, look at that, I was still pregnant.

Then came February 9, 2004. Poor Mark. Mark is Jenny's husband, and was a classmate of mine and a good friend. We decided to go to lunch at Subway, and he drove me. At this point, I still hadn't told anyone, other than Willem, that I was pregnant again, still pregnant, whatever. He pulled up to a parking spot and got out to feed the meter. I stood up, felt a pop and was quite literally covered in blood. It was winter in New Hampshire, so I was bundled up, and I ruined an entire outfit down to the shoes, including a heavy LL Bean double-layer $19-on-sale coat. Seriously, poor Mark. He'd watched his wife give birth by then, so he wasn't totally clueless and useless, but he was still male and overwhelmed and scared witless, and in all fairness I had no idea what to do, so I was no help either. He drove me home, and I went into the bathroom with the house phone and my cell phone, calling Willem and my doctor at the same time. Mark paced in the hallway, calling through the doorway, "Can I do anything? Anything at all?" in that tone that we all get when something has gone horribly wrong and we can't do a damn thing about it.

I was able to get an emergency appointment at the OB, and Willem was able to find a sub to take over his classes, so I waited at home for him. During that wait, on doctor's instructions, I had to do the single most upsetting thing I have ever had to do in my entire life - and bear in mind that I was raped as a child, I know from upsetting - but this wins, hands-down. I had to search, visually and tactilely, through the horribleness for evidence that this was a miscarriage. I know, you're grossed out by the mere thought - please trust me that the reality was far, far worse. Please don't ever have to do that, okay? It was beyond disturbing. The whole incident was just so out of control and overwhelming, I could find words to give it justice but I don't think there's any need. Suffice it to say, the bathroom looked as though a slasher flick had been filmed in there, even after my pathetic attempts to clean it up.

I have never been so mindlessly scared, both because I thought I was losing another pregnancy and because I was literally afraid for my own life. We do have finite quantities of blood in our bodies, you know? I'd never given this serious thought before that day, not even in my Anne-Rice-and-vampires phase in high school.

Willem and I finally got to the doctor's, where the receptionist was surprised to see me again so soon. That morning, I'd had a routine checkup, and everything seemed fine. The doctor hadn't been able to find the baby's heartbeat, but insisted that this was not a cause for alarm, I was just 11 weeks pregnant and often the Doppler won't pick up the heartbeat until 12 or even 13 weeks. Three hours later I had the horrible bleed, so all in all I was completely convinced that this pregnancy was over. The doctor - another member of the same group, not the one I'd seen that morning - first poked through the horrendous butter tub I brought from home, and announced, "This looks fine." Fine? Really? That's what "fine" looks like? Now I have proof that when men tell you an outfit looks fine, it should promptly be removed and burned.

Then he got out the Doppler heartbeat-listening thing, and found the baby's heartbeat within about half a second. I was blown away, just couldn't believe that it was possible to lose that much blood and still be pregnant. My mind was officially boggled.

Of course, he reminded us several times that there was only about a 10% chance that I would be able to carry the pregnancy to term, given the bleeds and subchorionic hemorrhage (way to scare them with big words, Doc!) and that I was now severely anemic and needed to go on strict bedrest for the next... period of time. Could be a few days, could be a few months.

It ended up being a few weeks. I didn't die of boredom. And my little 10% chance is at daycare right now, being two and cute and healthy and precious. Despite landing back on bedrest for the last 4 weeks of the pregnancy due to pre-eclampsia, and a brush with Fifth Disease during the second trimester. He was a lot of work, that boy. Good thing he's mellow now.

So, February is odd for me since then. Not bad, just... pensive.