Today I went back to the doctor in San Francisco for a follow-up appointment because I've been having some unusual symptoms after my D&C. Nothing too painful, and don't worry, I'm not going to get specific on the details. An ultrasound showed that I have a blood clot in my uterus. It's basically blood that, instead of passing out of the cervix, stayed inside the uterus and formed a clot. Even after visiting the doctor, I'm a bit unsure how worried I should be about this. It is something that happens; how common or rare it is I'm not entirely clear. It's not a blood clot like the kind that can suddenly go to your heart and kill you. I suppose the worst-case scenario would be possible infection (requiring antibiotics) or potentially if the clot does not pass or re-absorb into my body, another D&C. That second possibility makes me want to either a) fall into bed and cry for three hours straight or b) go outside and scream at the top of my lungs. So for now, I am going to try to be reasonable and just fervently hope that doesn't end up being the solution.
Elan and I are going to San Diego tomorrow. We will be there for 10 days with my parents and sister, and then we are going to Colorado where Mikhail and my sister's husband Jason will come meet us for a whole-family vacation. I am looking forward to getting away, to getting out of the city and being at the ocean, a place I find soul-filling and restful, and then in the gorgeous mountains. I think of nature as healing, and I had been thinking of this trip as a way for me to begin to heal from this physically draining and emotionally difficult time.
I wish that clot weren't there. I wish I were done with all this miscarrying stuff and could move on to the healing part. I feel like as long as there is uncertainty, as long as I'm analyzing every twinge and cramp, waiting and wondering what's going to happen next, it's going to be hard to feel like I'm healing. I'm still so in it. Healing seems like something that happens once it's over, at least physically. And what I learned today is that it's not, yet.
This is a time of revising my expectations. I am constantly in the process of remembering and being surprised, being sad or shocked or angry. Every plan for the future is in revision. Life has been revealed as the rough draft that we all always know it is but mainly choose to ignore so that we can go on making plans. Now it's time for me to wrap my head around yet another shift in expectations, and go on. For now, it's to finish packing a suitcase full of clothes that I'm not sure will fit. And tomorrow, on a plane headed to the beach.
If you don't know this yet, I am a big fan of Sex and the City. I have all the DVDs from the series, and sometimes, when I am in need of comfort, I like to sit down and watch a few. Or maybe all of them, night after night, until I have gone through half the series. Someday I might tire of this, but these last few years it's like occasionally checking in with a group of girlfriends I haven't seen in a while.
I mention this because recently I realized I had only seen the SATC movie once, so I rented it a few nights ago and watched it again. Maybe you've seen it; maybe you haven't. There is a place in that movie when Carrie, the main character, is lost and overwhelmed and so very sad about the unexpected turn her life has taken. She looks around her chaotic apartment and decides to hire an assistant. And the woman she gets is Louise -- Jennifer Hudson -- "Saint Louise from St. Louis." Louise is warm and beautiful and large-bosomed, and takes no bull, and gets things done. She gets right to work in her positive-attitude, take-charge way to set Carrie's life back in order. In days, she creates momentum. In weeks, there is real progress. Carrie is there; she is not uninvolved; but for a little while she steps into the background of her own life. Someone else takes care of the details, while she rests, recharges, and slowly gets back her mojo.
I want Louise.
It's not that my life is so logistically out-of-control right now. I have neglected a lot of daily life kind of stuff in the past few months, but the pit is not so deep I cannot, with the right attitude, dose of caffeine and childcare, dig myself out. I've been lucky to have a few versions of Louise in my house this past week - my mother-in-law, mother and father have each stayed here and done wonders. Friends and family have stopped by, bearing flowers and baked goods. But tomorrow, my mother is leaving.
And I want Louise.
Someone to help me crawl out of bed and into the shower when it is time, and crawl back under the covers when it is that time. Someone to take over the logistics when I cannot summon the energy or desire to handle them myself. Someone to guide me around the emotional minefields when I don't want to face them, and give me space when I do. I have these people - I do. It's just they have to go off to work, or take care of other people, or they live far away, and sometimes they can't answer their phone. People have their own work to do in the world, while, for that short crucial time, Carrie's life was Louise's work.
My sister told me about her friend, a musician, who created an alter-ego agent for herself, to help her further a career that felt heavy resting only on her own shoulders. So unless I spot the perfect ad on Craig's List and come into some unexpected money, it looks like I will be developing a Louise inside myself. She might not show up for work every day, but this morning, with the help of some coffee and a shower and some strategic list-making, she came by for her first hour of work. And I was grateful to see her.
It has been nearly six days since we found out that my pregnancy stopped progressing, and probably many weeks since it actually did stop. And now, after nearly a week of waiting, only fifteen hours before my scheduled D&C procedure, it appears that my body has finally figured it out. I'm hoping the bleeding will stay light enough that I can hold out until 8 a.m. tomorrow morning and not end up in the E.R. tonight. I believe I will be in bed the majority of that time. I've got a bottle of Advil, a stack of undoubtedly bad romantic comedies, and thank goodness my parents are here to take care of Elan (and Mikhail and me too).
Thank you for the emails and phone calls. It is nice to feel the circle of friends and family around us at this time.
There was this big news I was going to share with you. The Big Project, the one that was taking energy away from the blog and my excuse for how little I've written here the last while. Remember that? Well, that news was that I was pregnant. But we got some sad news last week, and now I'm in this strange in-between place, somewhere between pregnant and not pregnant.
Last Thursday, Mikhail and I went into San Francisco for a first-trimester screening test. It was an ultrasound that was to determine the risk of the baby having Downs syndrome, a fairly common genetic screening test for pregnant women. I was nearly 13 weeks, and by now it was pretty obvious that I was pregnant. If you knew me and hadn't seen me in a few weeks, you would probably guess. Strangers were commenting in the supermarket when I wore a tight-fitting top, or in the locker room at the Y when I went to swim laps.
For the past two months, I had been very sick. Morning-sickness, except for me it often lasted all day and was at its worst in the afternoon and evenings. I was also exhausted. I spent as much time as I could in bed, either sleeping or propped up on pillows reading and watching old episodes of Sex and the City. Household duties slipped; bills went unpaid. It was a rough first trimester, and very similar to my first trimester with Elan. In fact, I felt like the sickness was a little more manageable than it was with Elan, partly because I was strict with myself about eating every two to three hours whether I wanted to or not (generally not). It was a tough time. I tried to have a positive attitude, still get some exercise, and enjoy being with Elan. But most of all I just wanted to hibernate my way through it. Feeling like you have a never-ending case of the stomach flu for two months makes it difficult to enjoy life, and I felt like I was just gritting my teeth to get through it. I looked forward to life beyond week 12, when I thought the worst of my symptoms would probably start easing off and the bloom of pregnancy would be in full-force.
The upside of all this illness was, I thought, that the pregnancy seemed to be on track. At 9.5 weeks, I went to the midwife and she confirmed that thought. "You have almost no chance of miscarriage given how sick you've been," she said. And then she thought she heard the baby's heartbeat, very briefly, for a second in between my heartbeat pounding through the Doppler. I was reassured, though my anxiety before that was limited to the occasional "what if" moment that I believe every woman experiences in the tenuous time of the first trimester.
And so it was quite a shock when I laid down on the ultrasound table and the technician pressed down with the scope. "There's your bladder," she said. "Quite full." And then she moved the scope over. I looked at Mikhail and he looked at me. He mumbled something like "can't tell what we're looking at." I couldn't either, but I saw nothing that looked like a 13-week fetus. She needs to go lower, I thought. But then she started taking pictures, and I began to get the odd feeling of being outside my body. Watching this unbelievable thing happen to someone else.
"Here's what I'm seeing," she said, but my brain did not fully realize until she said the words "yolk sac." I don't know exactly what week the yolk sac is formed, but it's certainly nowhere near week 13. Further ultrasounds were done and the results confirmed by another doctor. My pregnancy had stopped progressing, and it was likely to have stopped many weeks ago.
Pregnancy math is a weird thing. At 13 weeks pregnant, I had actually been pregnant for 11 weeks. And I had known for 9 weeks. The first two weeks I had still felt pretty well. The last seven had been full of nausea, exhaustion, and a taste in my mouth like iron (a symptom which my mother remembers well from her two pregnancies and which I had with Elan as well).
The doctors at the ultrasound mentioned that the level of development they saw looked to be around 5-6 weeks. Meaning that it is possible that my pregnancy stopped developing right around the time that I began enduring two months of feeling miserable, misery made endurable only by the idea that it was leading to a baby.
Early miscarriages are incredibly common. The only thing that makes my situation unusual is the fact that I had been so sick, and had not had any cramping or spotting. It appeared that once my body went into pregnancy mode, the hormones were bound and determined to keep on trucking along, whether the development of an embryo was keeping pace or not.
Here is the odd thing: as I sit writing this post, several days after finding out, I still feel pregnant. I still look pregnant, with that trademark "torpedo" belly shape I had with Elan, my belly button already popped out. Every few hours I need to eat or else I get light-headed; I still have nausea coming and going (it has gotten better in the last week, which I attributed to reaching the end of the first trimester); I still have strong smell and food aversions; my breasts are swollen and tender. According to my hormones, I am pregnant. My mind knows what the blank space on the ultrasound screen means. My body does not.
I find myself in a most odd place, waiting for my body to catch up to what my mind already knows. And, though the grieving for lost expectations has begun, I know that until my body and mind are in agreement, I will not really be able to begin to process this experience. I am waiting for miscarriage, or for a D&C procedure scheduled on Wednesday, the first appointment I could get. Either way, it is not something to be looked forward to.
There are many worse things than early miscarriage. I know this, and I am grateful that nature took charge and made the decision that this combination was not meant to become a baby. But I am angry too. Why couldn't my body just have gotten the signal so many weeks ago and just stopped? I feel like my body has played a trick on me. Two months of illness... for what? Maybe someday I will be able to look at this experience through a lens of emotional and personal growth. But for now, here's what I have to say: it sucks.