Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Boost and a Blip

The following two weeks felt like some of the longest of my life.  I thought about the baby I was carrying every minute of every day and continued obsessing about the pregnancy symptoms I was feeling.  I was desperate to hold my baby - to have a baby - and couldn't think of anything else.  I carried on crocheting the blanket and praying that my little baby would live and would grow.  I would stand in front of the mirror umpteen times a day trying to work out if my stomach was changing shape at all - trying, with a huge desire for X-ray vision or ownership of my own ultrasound machine, to see inside myself and visualise that tiny heart beat.  To know my baby was alive.

Sam's birthday party was over and the day of his birthday arrived.  He was three - two years older than he had been when we began the journey of hoping for another baby.  We took him out to a favourite restaurant for a birthday tea and took him to the Build a Bear shop to choose and build his birthday present. Having never been to Build a Bear before I didn't know what to expect.  Sam loved it. His instantly chooy he wanted - a monkey - and took it over to be stuffed.  He loved watching his monkey fill with stuffing and take on its monkey form.  Once his monkey was filled the shop assistant explained that Sam could choose a heart to put inside himInstantly the room began to spin.  She explained that the heart could have a sound attached so that Sam could hear it beating.  I could feel my own heart begin to beat more quickly and my breathing sped up.  I tried to block out what she was saying as we did our best to steer Sam towards the silent heart which he thankfully chose.  I was relieved when she stitched up Sam's monkey and handed it to him.  He was thrilled. However, the final step of the process felt like a stab in the gut for me. We followed the sales assistant over to the computer where she began logging in the monkey's details. She logged his name (Sam, rather creatively, chose the name 'Sam' for his monkey), his date of birth, colour etc.  She then printed out the details and handed them to Sam explaining that this was 'Sam Monkey's' birth certificate.  A wave of nausea and panic flowed over me and I had to walk away leaving John to take Sam to pay for his monkey.  It still amazes me, looking back, how such a special experience could have become so painful.  Sadly, although Sam still has his monkey, now affectionately named 'Liverpool Monkey' due to the Liverpool football kit he wears, I do not know where the birth certificate is and we have never been able to speak to Sam about the heart inside his monkey.  It was at this point that I began to realise that the words 'heart', 'heart beat' and the sounds relating to heart beats would be a big trigger of panic for me for the foreseeable future.

The day of the ultrasound finally arrived and we had no choice but to take Samuel with us.  He sat and played with my phone whilst my consultant scanned me.  I had been terrified in the lead up to the scan and struggled with the whole 'full bladder' thing; I was so nervous that I had had to go to the toilet four times before my scan!! Immediately on scanning me my consultant reassured me and  told me that there'd been progress since my last scan.  The baby had been developing.  She kept telling me that she could see the embryo but it was very tiny. She then asked if I'd had any bleeding and my heart just sank....

Minutes later, however, she said 'there's the heart beat. I'm very, very happy-it's a viable pregnancy'. I couldn't believe it! I tried so hard not to cry.  There was no real sense of excitement or anticipation, just an overwhelming sense of relief. I felt like I could finally say 'I'm pregnant!' And sent a text message out to our closest friends to thank them for their prayers and share the good news.

I was still terrified but spent the rest of the day reading back over my notes again and again to see it written in black and white: 'crown to rump length 4.9 mm' 'fetal heart action seen'. I needed to keep reminding myself that it was real and that it was happening to me.  We returned home and spent the day trying to get our head around things and forcing myself to rest.  

That evening I started my fragmin injections which were every bit as painful as I had remembered them being following my Caesarean section with Sam.  With each injection I decided to make a point of taking joy in each sharp scratch of the needle reminding myself that I was one day closer to meeting our baby.  I cooked tea for Sam and John and we got ready to put Sam to bed.  Somewhere around this time I went to the toilet and saw what I had been dreading for the past 7 weeks.  

I was bleeding.

shouted to John and explained to him what had happened. I saw his face fall.  Straight away, and trying not to panic, I called Sally and arranged to take Sam round there so that we could go to the hospital. 

Once in the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit I handed over the obligitary urine sample and sat down next to John.  I went into triage and cried as I relayed my history to the nurse.  She asked about the severity of the bleeding and whether I had any cramping.  At this point there was no cramping and I was desperate for this to be a good sign.  We did not have to wait long, thankfully, and I was examined by a doctor and a very caring nurse who held my hand and tried to soothe me as I cried.  My cervix was closed and they could not see any fresh blood which was a positive sign.  It was explained to us that spotting and light bleeding can be quite common at this point in pregnancy due to hormonal changes but to be certain I was booked in for a scan the following morning.  We were sent home as reassured as we possibly could be.

The bleeding continued through the night and had got heavier by the morning. I was scared to go to the toilet for what might happen.  I wondered whether, if I stopped going to the toilet, the bleeding might stop.  I was desperate for a miracle.  Again, we did not have to wait long in the waiting room but in the time that we were in there I looked around me at all of the women in the room. They were all, I assumed, in early stages of pregnancy and possibly in the same situation I was in yet none of them seemed teary.  None of them looked distressed.  They chatted to their partners as if life was completely normal and yet there I was, waiting for my scan, running backwards and forwards from the toilet to assess the blood loss I was experiencing.  It was getting worse.

Finally our turn arrived and we entered the scanning room.  Once again I lay down on the bed and waited for the news.  Only 24 hours ago we had seen our tiny baby - witnessed the tiny flutter of their heart beat - and had returned home reassured.  Yet here we were, with me lying down and with the concerned look of a sonographer as she scanned me.  Moments passed before she put down the scanner and said quietly "there is no heart beat, I'm sorry".  John started crying next to me and I just sat feeling numb and broken.  I wondered how God could possibly let me get pregnant again only to lose the baby.  Again. I was angry and devastated.  To avoid having to go back into the waiting room while a decision was made, we were taken into a side room with comfy sofas and were made cups of coffee.  Coffee - healer of all ailments I was discovering.

Eventually our consultant came up from theatre.  Once again she was very upset for us.  As the scan had shown that the gestation sac had not yet collapsed there was still a very small possibility - albeit very unlikely - that the baby was too tiny for a heart beat to be detected.  With this in mind she suggested that to remove any doubt we should wait for another week rather than undergoing a D & C - a procedure used to remove 'products of pregnancy'. And so, even though I knew that this was the best thing to do, we left hospital once again in a state of limbo waiting for yet another scant to confirm what had happened.

We returned home with the familiar grief hanging over our heads and knowing that we were in for more waiting.  I felt like all I had done for the past two years was wait - waiting for test results, waiting for appointments, waiting for ovulation, waiting for my PCOS riddled menstrual cycle to move on - to do something normal, waiting for blue lines, pink lines and digital 'pregnant' signs, waiting for scans, waiting for babies.  Then there I was, waiting for the inevitable.  I knew that the recommendation to wait had been given based on guidance that intervention wasn't carried out on pregnancies where the baby was under a certain size to prevent the termination of potentially viable pregnancies but I knew that there had been a heart beat.  My baby had been alive and then it hadn't.  I just wanted the miscarriage to be over and done with.

In what felt, at the time, like a cruel twist, the bleeding slowed down as the week continued and there was still no cramping. I began to wonder if things were ok after all.  I began to fantasise about having the scan that Monday morning and finding a strong heart beat.  Either way, I hated the waiting.  It seemed to drain me of any joy that was left and I began to withdraw again.  Then, a couple of days before the scan I began to experience cramping.  The pain was virtually unbearable so I took some pain relief and went to bed.  I truly believe that God protected me that night from another night of excruciating pain whilst I lost another baby as I fell asleep relatively quickly.  I woke up in the early hours and the pain had stopped.  I got up to go to the toilet and as I did I passed a huge clot - my baby.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted once again.  I tried not to look at the contents of my womb lying in the toilet and instead I cleaned myself up, flushed the toilet and went back to bed.  Two days later, the scan confirmed that my uterus was empty except for some left over areas of clotting.  I was given some strong antiboitics to clear the clots and was sent home under that advice that, should the clots not clear within a week, I would need to return for a D & C.

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