26 October 2011

Longest Night

In my last post, I talked about having surgery to resolve an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy and waking to the news that the baby and my left tube were removed. To continue ...

When I woke up from the surgery, I was in excruciating pain. My husband was already on his way, but had not reached the hospital yet. My doctor told me that she had to take my tube, and that what they thought was twins was only one baby. I begged for pain medicine and wept.

Once he arrived, my husband was obviously extremely disappointed and exhausted, so he went home shortly after talking with the doctor by phone from the hospital recovery room. I was hurt that he didn't want to stay, but I also understood... He had just lost a child as well. And since I ended up sharing a room with another woman, he wouldn't have been allowed to stay with me anyway.

After I woke up completely from the surgery, I was pushing for more and more pain medicine. I had had several surgeries prior to this one, but only one that involved over 100 stitches was as painful upon waking. I was in recovery for over 3 hours while they waited for a room to open up for me, and during that time, they gave me so much pain medicine, my blood pressure started to decline. They had to keep urging me to take deep breaths to get my heart rate and blood pressure up. They had maxed out the IV pain meds they could give, so they started bringing me oral meds.

I think one of the worst things about that night was how awake I was. I was alone and in pain and so sad. My cell phone was dead, and I was not within reach of a room phone and wouldn't have known who to call and wake up anyway.

All I wanted was to see and hold and love on my precious baby girl. My sweet friend who had been watching her for the day was so gracious to keep her overnight that night so that we wouldn't have to worry about her. As upset as I was about losing Gabriel, the experience made me even more grateful for the beautiful child God had blessed us with already. I couldn't wait to see her.

Once they placed me in a room with another lady, I realized that she was also very awake. She had the TV on, and I was so glad! I wanted something to entertain my heavily medicated mind so I could think about something other than my loss. We had most of the room lights on as well. I could tell both of us were slipping in and out of drug-enduced naps though.

The night was creeping by SO slowly. I really don't know if it was because of the medicine, or because of the surprising and horrible experience I had just had. I am positive that it was the longest night of my life to date. I was shivering cold and itching like crazy from the pain medicine, so they gave me something for the itching, which made me nervous and antsy. Toward the end of the night, I realized that if I wanted to go home in the morning, I needed to ease off of the pain medicine, no matter how badly it hurt. And as I slowed down my requests for pain meds, time moved even slower because my pain was increasing.

The lady next to me asked me if I was ok sometime in the night, and I realized that I was crying out loud. I told her I was ok, but just very sad. She asked why, and I told her the short story of my 3rd pregnancy. She told me how sorry she was for my loss, and then she told me her story ...

A few days ago she had been 6 months pregnant, and all was well. She was feeling movements and getting prenatal care. But her baby passed away inside of her just a couple of days ago. They gave her the option of delivering the baby, but she was sure she couldn't handle the emotional part of that. So they surgically removed her baby, and she was there recovering from the surgery. I was so moved by her story and the fact that she had just given me condolences on my loss. She was very calm, and almost sounded numb. I couldn't even imagine .... It's hard enough to lose a desired baby 4 weeks after finding out I was pregnant. The emotional turmoil after carrying a baby for 6 months ....feeling him/her move, knowing the sex, and preparing the nursery ....it was unimaginable to me.

The next morning, while I waited for my husband to come get me, I heard the nurse come talk to the woman next to me while she was being discharged. The nurse explained to her that she would need to call a funeral home within 48 hours to make arrangements for her baby. And I tried to hold back my tears for her as I watched her walk out with her little leftover baby belly.

And that is when I really felt God moving my heart toward helping other women who have gone through the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss. There wasn't much I was willing to do that day, because I was in way too much pain. But I felt more than ever that morning that maybe God wanted me to do something to help others who were feeling the pain I had felt.

21 October 2011

Gabriel: Surgery, Praying, and Disappointment

In my last post, I told about finding out that our 3rd pregnancy was failing because they found two sacs, one with a heartbeat, in my left fallopian tube. To continue ...

After my doctor called and told me to go to the St. Lukes ER to be monitored until they could start surgery, I was terrified to call my husband or anyone else. I had a terrible fear that people would think I was choosing my life over the lives of our twin babies. I felt like people would question my faith and think I was giving up without a fight. I felt so much guilt already .... What would this feel like after it was over?

When I called my husband, I told him first and foremost that I needed him to get in the car and drive from Lafayette, where we were living, to Houston, where I would be having surgery. I told him that the pregnancy was definitely ectopic and that there were twins in my left tube. And I told him that I was being taken within a couple hours to surgery to have the babies, and possibly the tube removed. And before he could say anything, I asked him if I was making the right decision. His reply was a huge relief in light of my fears: "You don't really have a choice, do you?"

He was right. I didn't have a choice. The doctor never asked me if I wanted to have the babies removed. She said I had to have surgery immediately and that I could bleed out otherwise.

Then I called my dad and mom to tell them what was happening. My father is a pastor, so I asked him if he thought this was anything like having an abortion. He said this was not the same and that I should not feel any guilt. He also said that he would start praying and would contact others to have them pray, not only for my surgery, but for a miracle for my babies. My friend called a couple of other people for me as we drove the few blocks from one hospital to the other.

Now that I knew what was happening, the pain that I had been feeling in the left side of my belly was really starting to bother me. I had been dismissing it until now because I was so confident and at peace that this pregnancy was going to be ok. Now that it was the opposite of ok, I recognized the pain for what it was. And I embraced it because it was all that I would ever get to feel of my babies.

Once I had been prepared for surgery, I got to meet the surgeon and had a chance to ask all of my questions. Through my tears, I asked her some questions to which I already knew the answers:

  1. Was there any way they could move the babies into my uterus? Her answer was what I knew it would be, there was nothing they could do to keep the babies alive once they removed them from the dangerous place they were located. Once the bloodflow was stopped, the baby with the heartbeat would pass away, and the other one wouldn't be able to survive either.
  2. Was this like having an abortion in any way? Her answer was that this was in no way even remotely close to electing to have the pregnancy terminated. I did not have a choice. There was not any chance that the babies would survive even if I sacrificed my life for them.
  3. Could she save the babies for me to see so I could say goodbye? (I know how morbid this sounds, but I needed some type of significant closure.) She could not, but agreed to take as good of a picture as she could without damaging my body.
I also asked her to please try to save my tube and all of my reproductive organs if at all possible. And then she told me something I was not expecting. She said that it was possible that even though it looks just like twins, it might not be. It was possible that it was a baby and some other type of anomaly, like a cyst.

I called my husband and he told me that he was on his way. He also told me that there were hundreds of people praying for a miracle, and he sounded optimistic. He prayed for me over the phone, and I could tell that he believed we would have our miracle. 

And then I went back to surgery.

The next thing I remembered was intense pain. I woke up from the surgery in excruciating pain as they were wheeling me into recovery. As they pushed my bed into place in the recovery room, the surgeon came to my bedside and told me that there was only one baby, and that the other one was just a cyst in my ovary. She also told me that she had to take the tube because there was already significant damage. 

And I cried ...and cried ....and cried....

Partially because I was in terrible pain, but mostly because I was so disappointed.

I begged for the nurse to let my husband come back, and I didn't understand why they wouldn't. I also begged for more pain medicine. Every time I came to again, I would ask for my husband again through tears. And finally he came back. He had just gotten parked and updated from my two friends who were still waiting in the waiting room at like midnight or so on a weeknight. He had such a defeated look. I could see the disappointment and exhaustion all over him. And I wasn't surprised when he left me alone at the hospital that night. It took them almost 3 hours to get me into a room.

And so, that night, May 4, 2011, Jesus held our baby Gabriel in heaven.

Pictures of Gabriel in my tube

12 October 2011

One Heartbeat, Two Sacs, and an Emergency

In my last blog, I talked about driving back to Houston with Abi to get a second opinion on my pregnancy. To continue ...

My doctor in Lafayette had seemed very unsure of what was going on with my pregnancy. I needed to talk to a doctor I knew and trusted, and I trusted the doctor that delivered Abigail with my life and the life of my children. So the morning after I got to Houston, I left Abi with a dear friend for the day, and I went to work in my old office.

My doctor's appointment was in the afternoon, and another friend of mine came with me to the doctor's appointment in case the news wasn't the positive news I was hoping for. My hope was that the doctor would do an ultrasound and find the baby immediately, and that all would be fine. I was actually quite optimistic all morning, and in turn I was very productive at work.

When I saw my wonderful doctor that afternoon, I was a bit surprised that, after hearing how my numbers were increasing slowly, she immediately said that it sounded like an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. I hadn't even told her about the pain in my left side, and she hadn't even done an ultrasound, but she was pretty sure already. So she was not at all surprised when she did an ultrasound that she didn't couldn't find anything in my uterus. She scanned the tubes, but with the bedside ultrasound machine, she didn't see anything. She began explaining what would happen next ...

She would send me for an ultrasound in radiology so they could identify where in my body the baby had implanted. If they found a baby in a location other than my uterus, we would have to treat for an ectopic. There were two directions this could go: 1) If a gestational sac was found outside of the uterus, but no heartbeat, they would give me a chemotherapy drug that would destroy any fast-growing tissue in my body. That basically meant that the drug would kill my baby. It would also make me very very sick, and I would not be able to travel for a few days. 2)  If they found a fetus with a heartbeat anywhere outside of my uterus, I would have to have emergency surgery within a day or two. The surgery would remove the baby, and any part of my reproductive system that was damaged by the growth of the baby in the wrong place. The surgery would also end the  life of my baby.

But I kept thinking that there would be a third possible outcome: 3) They would find a set of twins who were just too small to be visible on a bedside US. I would be 4 or 5 weeks pregnant instead of 6 or 7, and I would get to go home with no issues.

A couple of hours later, I was laying on the table in the radiology department with an ultrasound wand inside of me. This was the first ultrasound I had ever had where they turned off the monitor on the wall so I couldn't see what was going on. It seemed to be taking forever. I must have been laying there for about 30 minutes before the ultrasound tech turned some nobs, and I started hearing a very familiar sound. It sounded like a very rapid heart beat, and I started to get very excited. I asked her what it was, and she hesitantly said, "That is just your blood pumping into your ovary." That's what she said, but I could tell she was not telling me everything. Soon after, the technician left, but told me not to get dressed in case the radiologist wanted to take a second look. And then I was alone with my friend, and I was very afraid.

The radiologist came in and explained to me that he had spoken to my doctor already, and that I would need to speak with her before leaving the medical center. He explained that they had found the pregnancy in or on my left fallopian tube, and that one of the babies had a heart beat.

One of the babies .....

One of the babies? How many were there? What did this mean?

He could see the shock on my face and quickly informed me that it was a twin pregnancy, but that one of the gestational sacs did not have a heartbeat that could be found.

And then I cried. I had held myself together all day, and I had been strong and optimistic. But this was too much. I had prayed for twins for years, and God was giving them to me and immediately taking them away. I was really confused, shocked ....devastated.

The radiology team excused themselves and told me I could get dressed, and to take my time. My friend held me and prayed for me while I wept.

And then I realized that I would have to explain this to my husband...that our babies didn't have a chance, and that I had to make the decision to go into surgery, knowing that it would end their lives. I was terrified that he would tell me to wait and that the pregnancy would kill me, leaving Abi without a mommy. I didn't want him to think I would make a decision to end the lives of our babies just to save my own. I was afraid he would think I was being selfish by listening to the doctor.

Two gestational sacs. The one on the left had a heartbeat.
He would want to see the babies, right? We had no evidence that they were ever conceived or even alive. I needed a picture. And so, I found the ultrasound tech and asked her for a picture, which is apparently not a common request from a mother who was about to say goodbye to her babies.

My friend and I walked out to her car while I waited for the doctor to call with next steps. And the whole way to the car, I told her how afraid I was of telling anyone. I felt responsible, and I was afraid to make the decision to have surgery because I was scared that I was murdering my babies. I didn't want people to think I had aborted the babies I wanted so very badly. Maybe I would have a couple of days to make the decision ...

And then the doctor called, and she told me that I needed to go straight to St. Lukes ER. My surgery would begin as soon as her associate could make it to the hospital. This was considered an emergency because with two babies growing rapidly, my fallopian tube could rupture, and I could bleed to death at any moment. They wanted me to be monitored in the ER until the surgery began so that if i started bleeding internally, they could save my life. She was apologetic that she couldn't do the surgery, and she was sorry about the outcome. I asked her if there were any other options to save the lives of by babies. And she said no.

It was time to start making phone calls. I was so afraid to tell anyone.

05 October 2011

Pregnancy #3

In my last blog, I talked about trying to get pregnant again even though my uterine septum had partially grown back. To continue...

Finding out we were pregnant again the day of our move from our home in Texas to our temporary apartment in Lafayette was so awesome (April 2011). I was overjoyed! Before we ever found out we were pregnant, I began praying that God would cause the baby to implant in the perfect spot. The location of implantation was so important because I still had that portion of septum that could interfere with the pregnancy. I prayed every day before and after we found out we were pregnant.

Moving pregnant also presented us with the interesting challenge of finding another wonderful OBGYN while pregnant in a new city. We already knew that the Houston area was saturated with excellent health care and that we were moving to an area that has good doctors, but that was not saturated like Houston was. Our first Monday there, I started calling OBGYNs with good online recommendations, and I found several. Unfortunately, almost all of the doctors that I called were either not taking new patients, or they wouldn't take high risk patients. So I finally found a doctor that would see me before the second trimester, and he happened to be a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, which is a high-risk doctor. I scheduled an appointment for the following week at 5 and a half weeks pregnant. I was delighted they were willing to see me so early.

Later that night, I started spotting bright red blood. Abigail was already sleeping, so I left her and my husband at the apartment to sleep while I drove myself to the emergency room. I was scared, but I also had a peace about the pregnancy. I knew that the ER was the right decision, but I was also sure that things were going to be ok. The ER staff at 11PM were very busy. I was there until about 2AM before they took me up to have an ultrasound, which of course showed nothing but a thickened uterine lining at 4 weeks. They did mention that my beta HCG (the pregnancy hormone) was so low, they were surprised I could have gotten a positive on Saturday. They sent me home with instructions not to have sex and to take it easy.

The next morning I called my new doctor, and they told me to come in the next morning for my first appointment. They saw me, did a complete exam, and then scheduled me for not only another beta HCG test, but also a 1-hour glucose tolerance test ....at 4 weeks pregnant. They didn't have their own lab in the office, so I had to drive to a hospital to get the labs done. At this point, it was almost lunch time, and Abi was livid about the whole process. So when I found out that I would be there for over 2 hours for the 1-hr glucose, I wasn't exactly thrilled. We used all of Abi's snacks and watched a lot of PBS while in the lab that day.

The results were not stellar. I failed the glucose test, and was scheduled for a 3-hr glucose test. And my HCG had not quite doubled. For a healthy pregnancy, it should double every 48 hours, and mine was calculating to be almost 80 hours. I still had peace.

I went back to the lab for another HCG and the 3-hour glucose on Monday. Then on Tuesday, I went back to the doctor's office to get results and talk to them about what was next. I passed the glucose, but my HCG was still only doubling about ever 75-80 hours. The doctor and the ultrasound tech were out of the office, but the nurse practitioner explained to me that it might be a "chemical pregnancy" which would result in a miscarriage or would require another D&C. I still had peace, but I was starting to get a little nervous.

I was also starting to have a recurring sharp pain on the left side of my abdomen, which was not very bad. I assumed it was related to the pregnancy, but since it was not bad, I also assumed it was nothing to worry about.

The following week, I went back to the office to have an ultrasound. My HCG was about 2000 at that point, and a gestational sac should be visible when a woman's HCG is 1000. The ultrasound revealed nothing ....literally nothing. No sac .... nothing. I asked about the pain on my left, and the ultrasound tech and the nurse practitioner assured me that it was probably just the left ovary since it was enlarged from producing an egg. She also said that it was probably not a viable pregnancy and that I would get a call from the doctor.

At that point, I got scared. I held it together until I got to the car and got Abi buckled in. But once I called my husband, I lost control and started crying so hard I had to pull over the car. I decided that I really needed a second opinion. The ultrasound machine at that doctor's office seemed really old to me, and I had also experienced some staff incompetence at that office, so I had no confidence in what they were telling me. I scheduled an appointment for the following week with another doctor in the area so I could get another opinion. That afternoon, the doctor called me to review my ultrasound results, and he explained to me that it could just be an early twin pregnancy. He was not concerned, and he said we would repeat the ultrasound the following week.

I had work scheduled for the next few days in Houston, and I almost cancelled the trip in light of the news. But then it occurred to me that I could possibly stop in and see my amazing, wonderful OB in Houston to get that second opinion. I trust her completely, and I knew she would get to the bottom of what was going on. Their office was happy to oblige, and so I packed Abi into the car and drove to Houston.

I was feeling afraid and concerned about what I would find out, but I was also still upbeat and positive about how this pregnancy would turn out. I was sure that not only would God take care of my baby, he would take care of me.

We were going to be ok ....weren't we?

03 October 2011

Moving Day

In my last post, I talked about having surgery to correct my septate uterus, finding out we were moving again, and finding out that the surgery was not 100% successful. To continue ...

So after taking a little over three months break from trying to get pregnant again so I could have surgery on my uterus, I found out that the surgery did not completely correct the problem. When I saw the HSG (dye test to see the shape of the inside of the uterus), it looked SOOOO much better than the pre-surgery HSG. The day of that test, I got excited about trying again and began planning. Then, about a week later, my doctor called me into her office and told me that she recommended having the surgery again. Apparently there was still a significant portion of the septum that had grown back together.

But I was already so excited about trying again .... She was changing my plans again, and I was not ready to hear what she had to say.

When she saw my spirit collapse in front of her, she backed off of her news and began explaining the risks of not doing the surgery again:
1. Miscarriage if the baby implanted on the portion of the septum that had regrown.
2. Preterm labor.
3. Continued difficulty getting pregnant.
She also explained that the risk of each of these possibilities had already been dramatically decreased by the first surgery. And then she left it completely up to me.

I took the information home to my husband, and we discussed the risks and benefits. We talked about the fact that we would be moving in April, which would be about a week after the earliest date I could schedule the surgery. We talked about how traumatic it could be to have another miscarriage, and how difficult it would be to have another baby go through an extended NICU stay with a toddler at home. And we prayed.

In the end, we decided that we would do one cycle of fertility meds with the fertility specialist before moving. If we got pregnant, we would pray A LOT for a healthy pregnancy and trust that God would not possibly let us go through another loss. If we didn't get pregnant, we would find a fertility specialist in Lafayette, and discuss it with the new doctor. We also decided that if we had another pregnancy loss, we were definitely having the surgery before trying again.

I started Clomid again with the March cycle, and we hoped for the best. We were not totally focused on getting pregnant because we were preparing for a move in just a few weeks. My husband had to start his new job on April 18, and his last day with the old job was April 15. We had one weekend to move. And we weren't moving from one house to another. We were moving into a temporary, furnished apartment until our house in Texas sold, which we were certain would take no more than a month or two. We packed up all of our necessities, some toys for Abi, and got ready to move into a furnished, non-child-proofed, 3rd story apartment that was about a third the square footage we were used to.

For about 3 days before our move, I took pregnancy tests every morning. (I use dollar store tests, so I wasn't blowing too much money on pregnancy tests.) The move was scheduled for the 11th day after injecting myself to make my body ovulate. Technically, it is possible to get a positive on day 10 after ovulation, so when I got a negative on day 10, I decided I was probably not pregnant.

The morning of April 16, when I woke up to start preparing for moving day, I decided to take another pregnancy test. To my surprise, it was a big fat positive. I was so excited, I woke my sleepy husband up before 7AM on a Saturday, which is generally a bad idea. So we were pregnant again for a move! Yay!

And then the panic set it. What if we had made a mistake? What if the baby implanted on the septum and we lost it? I had to make a very fast decision to trust that God would not let us go through another loss.

And we started our move ...pregnant.