Monday, November 19, 2012

First ER visit

Amazingly Chris and I have both never been to an ER before Friday. Even with three kids, two of them busy boys we've never had to go to the Emergency Room.  I think most of this is owed to Chris who is always watching out for ways the boys could be more careful and is quick to tell them and explain why he thinks they should stop what their doing.  Plus despite being busy and active our kids are also fairly cautious and surefooted, again, traits they've inherited from Chris.  So it seems fitting that our first ER visit would not be because one of the children or Chris, but me. Although it wasn't my fault, it wasn't anyone's fault.

Chris and I found out in September that we were expecting! We were very very very happy with this since we want our kids close in age to each other and the baby was due in June with just enough time to recover a bit before we probably moved in August to wherever we get a job. And it was a good sign that all the chemo treatments hadn't inhibited Chris ability to father children.  I was happy to tell our family and some of our friends but we hadn't told the kids yet, we were planning on doing some fun surprise at Christmas time.  I actually had the thought a couple of times, "Can we really be so blessed?!?"  Everything was working out just perfectly for what I thought was a perfect plan.

We had our first prenatal visit on Wednesday and the doctor said it was too early to check for a heartbeat but next time for sure. She did a very thorough exam and declared everything to be looking just great. That night I started spotting. A little worried since I never spotted that much with the other kids I planned to just take it easy the next day.  I ended up going back to the doctor in the morning just to be safe and she said it could be normal from the physical exam but to just go to the ER if it got heavier.  All Thursday I would be pulled back and forth from worry that it was too much, to calm thinking it was still light enough to be ok.  A friend offered to pick up Alec from school for me and I didn't go to Volleyball that night. By Friday morning I knew things were getting scarier and told Chris we needed to go to the ER.

Another amazing friend offered to take the kids, Alec could walk to school with her kids, and her husband and Chris gave me a blessing before heading to the hospital. I was blessed with peace and glimpse of God's will and that my body would function properly. On the way I tried to stay lighthearted and told Chris we were pretty lucky to have our first ER visit not be because one of our children was bleeding to death.  Ever the quick one, Chris immediately replied, "well, hopefully not."  I guess I can be pretty witty when I do it accidentally.

Most of you probably already know how the ER works but I didn't. Luckily they had everything pretty well labeled and I stood in all the right lines on my first try: first the triage reception, then the admitting reception. They got me in pretty fast, although it wasn't very busy, took me to a room around the corner, told me to change into the gown and the doctor would be in as soon as he could.  I spent the next 6 hours mostly in that room.  But most of that waiting time was after all the tests. A nice resident came and did an exam but couldn't offer a decisive diagnosis. Yes, there was a lot of bleeding and it was coming from the cervix (bad news) but it wasn't open (good news) but he was kindly straightforward when I asked and said his guess would be a miscarriage.  He ordered some blood work and an ultrasound and both of those happened within an hour.  So far I was able to answer no to most of the important questions, no there wasn't a lot of cramping (except for 1 big painful and long cramp early Wednesday morning that I thought nothing of at the time) no, I felt no back pain and no problem with bowels.

A nurse escorted us to the ultrasound room, down some halls, passing by people laying in hospital beds in hallways and in rooms (they mostly kept all the doors open, even ours almost the whole time...with just the curtain closed for privacy).  I felt a little weird walking by all these people who looked much sicker than I felt all out in the open in flimsy gowns. I was cold  in just a little gown myself, one that was very open across the back, and I was glad that I was wearing a longish sweater when I came to the ER because I wore it with the gown for some personal decency and warmth.  But I had to take it off for the ultrasound and for some reason they wouldn't let Chris come into the room with me. It was just me and the technician guy with a thick Eastern Europe accent.

He couldn't see what he wanted to from doing the ultrasound on my belly and asked me to go to the bathroom then come back for an internal ultrasound. He had prepped the bed in my absence with a thick slanted foam block and gave me directions of  how to position myself on my back. A nurse came in to sit by me for this one and when I asked for Chris, they told me no again. After a long attempt to get the right angle and many pictures later the technician mumbled something about how it was very small and he couldn't find a heartbeat but he wanted to get the radiologist to have a look. So he left the probe in me and he and the nurse left the room (thankfully remembering to shut the door behind them). With legs open, cold despite the blanket clumsily crossing most of my knees, slanted 45 degree angle, rear end up, on my back I waited for 15-20 min alone in the room.

Surprisingly this time alone was a real positive experience for me. As I awkwardly lay there  I looked up a the ceiling and felt such LOVE for my Father in Heaven. I took a deep breath and felt peace.  I looked out the window and saw the beautiful clean snow and the clear blue sky and I felt so blessed to already be living a rich life. I have my 3 beautiful, wonderful, amazing children, my sincere husband, and my knowledge of and love for my Savior and Father in Heaven. I felt so blessed. These feelings of love themselves were another blessing and I think related to the priesthood blessing Chris and Jay Harker gave me that morning. For a little bit I wondered why I was feeling love for Them and not having a nice spiritual experience of Their love for me, but I came to feel that the feelings of peaceful love and gratitude were an expression of Their love for me. You know the phrases, God is Love, Where Love is there God is also.  I honestly didn't mind the wait and was glad for the peaceful feelings. I've had to summon them back quite often in the following days.

The guy eventually came back and mumbled something from which I gathered the radiologist wasn't coming, that he didn't find a heartbeat on the ultrasound and the official report would be forthcoming and he left once again. I cleaned up, put my sweater back on and gladly returned to an anxious and confused Chris who thought he was waiting to go in with me for the actual ultrasound. I told him what happened as we were ushered back through the halls to our ER room.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. Noon passed, 1:30, 2:30. With no chair in our room or pillow we tried to get comfortable and took turns laying down on the bed with our head cradled in the other persons lap. I had sent Chris for a some food and we shared (well, I mostly ate it and gave a few pieces to Chris) a bag of Sun Chips, although they could've been Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake they tasted so good. Throughout the morning I started feeling cramps and they increasingly got more painful and eventually spread across my lower back. By 2:00 they ebbed and flowed in intensity much like labor only without spreading the pain across my entire torso, they stayed pretty localized and low and did NOT grow to 10 times more painful then I would like to deal with. They stayed within the bounds of "I can deal with this."

Eventually a nurse came in and was surprised to hear my account of what all the technician told me. I guess the "I couldn't find a heartbeat" really truly sealed the diagnosis. I was having a miscarriage.  This didn't really sink in until another lady came in from the Early Pregnancy Loss Support group. More than a "these are the times we hold group therapy sessions" type of lady I thought she was, she actually acts as my advocate with the doctors and hospital staff.  Her name was Cheryl and as she slowly talked with me about the practical implications and physical what-to-expects I realized I was no longer going to have a cute little sweet angel baby to hold and love and watch grow up starting in June, or even July, August, September, October and probably not even in November. Although I was teary most of the day, I really let it out just then... uncontrollable sobs as silent as I could make them. Chris and I had had plenty of time to create our list of questions throughout the day: what does this mean for future pregnancies? When can we try again? How long will the miscarriage process take? What are the complications/red flags to watch out for? Do I keep taking the hypothyroid medication I was prescribed  3 days ago? On and on we went and as we asked Cheryl she quietly, compassionately, competently answered them.  I practically choked on the last question, "what do people typically do with the...."  She came to my rescue, finishing my question for me with the word, "Remains?" because I had started crying again. The question had plagued me a lot. If I knew what it was when it came out, could I really just flush it down the toilet? What if we never had another child? Would I think of this as our baby we never had and regret just discarding it? But at only 9 weeks, it wouldn't look anything like a baby, and was there really ever a sweet little spirit in it? Was it just a broken shell? I would feel silly if I were to go overboard but I didn't want regrets. Its kind of funny the kinds of question your mind grabs a hold of in times of crisis.

Cheryl was quite mad for us at the wait time we were having to deal with especially as she watched me trying to handle the pain of cramps and back ache and by now a very bad headache from crying, and maybe hunger. She said she'd go stand and stare at whoever she needed to up in the ultrasound result area until they submitted it so the doctor could look at it, then come talk to us and officially deliver the news we'd come to realize so we could finally go home. Within an hour we finally (and for the first time that day) saw the supervising OBGYN. The five minutes we spent with her felt like some of the most pointless of our whole time there.  She stood too close to me and very awkwardly said, "Hi, I'm Dr so-and-so and I'm sorry for your loss" big pause "I'm sorry you had to wait so long." Another pause. "Do you know what is happening?" Pause. She kept pausing like she was waiting for my reaction, maybe she was just trying to go easy and give me time, but I sort of felt like she expected some response from me, like crying or questions or protests. The other people had done their job so well, I was just ready to go home. She wasn't saying anything we hadn't already heard the exact words of from her resident or Cheryl. No, wait, thats not true.  It was from her that I learned I had to go back to a lab to draw blood 48 hours from then to compare the pregnancy hormone levels to verify they were indeed decreasing.  I hadn't yet heard a time frame, 48 hours. Anyways, Cheryl gave us a baggie with pads, a 'texas hat' to catch the remains if we chose, a container to bring them to the hospital for testing if we chose, and some other goodies like rubber gloves and her contact info. They finally said I could get dressed and go home.

I think the actual miscarriage happened during that last hour of talking.  My last bathroom visit as I changed into my clothes also provided evidence to support my thought. This was the loneliest I've felt during this whole experience. With the birth of my 3 kids, their welcome into the world was full of people caring for them and for me and all I had to do was deal with the pain and think of/hold my baby while someone else cleaned up the mess and worried about my health.  Now everything was left to me to deal with in a dirty, tiny, old ER hospital public bathroom.

But I dealt with it the best I could and was happy to wear clothes again and to think of eating something and of lying down in my own bed with a pillow - or 6 as is the case for me. We were home by 4:30 and Chris made me a plate of french bread, brie, grapes and oranges and then picked up the kids from our friends. The same friend who had also managed to clean my house for me while we were at the hospital, and make dinner for us and help the kids draw "get well" pictures for me, and feed them dinner, all with her 4 kids too! She's wonder woman and reminds me so much of my sister, Tiffany.  I felt so happy as I ate food and wrote in my journal and hugged my kids.  It was then that we told our children what happened.

I told my kids that their smiles were like medicine to me and they let me hug them and kiss them before they showed me their pictures. Gwen's said, "Thank you for feeling better for the pink!"  She loves the color pink right now. Alec had really wanted to know what had happened and Chris gathered the freshly PJ-ed kids on our bed to start the discussion. He told them that we had made a baby and it was growing inside me and we were soooo happy about it. But today the baby died (Chris and I both start crying) and so we don't have a baby growing anymore.  That's why we're sad and why mommy feels sick because it hurts her body to have the baby die.  Alec looks very serious and almost teary eyed.  He gets it.  Charlie looks sad and concerned and asks if the baby died. Gwen is bouncing and jumping all over the bed happy and oblivious.  We tell the kids that we also are very happy because we already have 3 beautiful and amazing children.  That they are all, each, a miracle and we love them.  Tons of questions from Alec later, we get them all in bed where they proceed to throw meltdown after tantrum after breakdown.  They pretty much acted like complete pills for the next 24 hours but Chris and I (mostly Chris dealt with them though) kept our cool because we really do love them and this experience has given us fresh and deep reasons to be grateful for them.

The weekend was tough. Cramping and bleeding were still really big factors for all of Saturday and Sunday. So were tears and headaches. I don't really feel up to talking to anyone about it, although I'm happy for people to know, I just am so fragile that any show of compassion or any mention of it longer than 1 sentence makes me fall apart and I'd rather not fall apart everytime I'm in public. Sunday was our Primary Presentation, and as a counselor in the Primary Presidency, it was hard for me not to be up there helping. I did sit in the back with Chris so I could watch my boys then ran out right after the closing prayer so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone.

Today I feel much better and I got results from the blood sample I gave yesterday that says the pregnancy hormone is decreasing very well, which means I'm healing well. So good news.

And there you go. I've got another post composing in my mind about what I'm learning about sorrow and happiness but I'll save that for another time.


amanda said...

Brittney, thank you for sharing this and taking the time to write. I read every word and am sad for/with your family!! You are ever my hero. Love you.

Michelle said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Brittney. Thank you for your words of love and hope. I hope and pray you continue to heal and draw strength from the gospel.

Jess said...

You are amazing. I'm sure this was really hard to write, but I know you will be happy to have recorded it in such detail. I have not stopped thinking about you guys and love you so much! Hope your recovery continues to go well and that you feel everyone's love and support.

Janelle said...

I don't really have words, but just want you to know you are loved. Praying for you and your sweet family.

dixie said...

Thank you so much for writing about this trial in such detail. I hope that it was cathartic in some way for you--I know that I benefitted greatly from reading it. I wish I could be there to help, to give hugs and to help with those beautiful, energetic children. We love you and are so sorry for your loss.

Amy said...

I'm so sad for you, but also impressed with your ability to write it all out. Sending you love and prayers!

Amy said...

Brittney, I cried while I read this. You and Chris are amazing. Miss you and love you!

Stephanie said...

Brittney, I am so sorry this happened. It makes me so grateful for my kids that they made it to this earth. My prayers ate with you.

Aaron, Cera, Jaylen and Gavin said...

My heart is so sad for you. You are amazing to have such an awesome outlook and attitude after all you've been through this year. Thinking and praying for you. Can't wait to see you at Christmas!

Heather said...

Sweet Brittney,

"God's love & strength ARE always near..." and He will continue to help you through every trial because you always turn toward Him. Love you, love Chris, love your adorable little ones, love your strength, love your faith, love your ability to face your challenges with hope, & love how you share your thoughts so willingly with the rest of us!

Shelly Beth said...

Brittney, thank you for sharing your experience. I am touched by your gratitude through this all. You are an amazingly strong woman and I admire you, but I know that doesn't make the sorrow feel less heavy. I wish you all the best and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your sweet family.

Vhari said...


This sounded very much like what happened to us. So many of the feelings and questions you expressed, were exactly what went through my mind. It's so confusing and so painful, but also such a time of feeling God's love and concern too. Thank you for sharing your experience in such detail. We love you guys! It gets easier and we had Stew after my miscarriage so there is that to look forward to as well.

Anonymous said...

Brit- thinking of you guys and so sorry for this loss :< praying for your to heal mind, body and spirit. lots of love.