“…how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.”
This quote was said in episode 1 of NBC’s “This Is Us” which happens to be mine, and Dan’s, favourite TV drama at the moment. I can say that with certainty because even though we rarely watch it when it is broadcast on Tuesdays (doesn’t air until 10 PM) we record it and he often doesn’t wait for me to watch it. That show has been my replacement to “Parenthood”, as it really is my “I need a good cry” show. And a lot of the time, if one of us watches an episode before the other, we rewatch it together. That same quote was shown on the January 17th, 2017, episode. And it was timely.
I wrote my last post about a big event in mine and Dan’s life. I was pregnant. Note, I say was. Last week Friday, we headed up to Calgary to get the optional First Trimester Screening test done. As we did the two hour drive, we talked about baby names, what we really wanted to do when we build the addition, that we should probably look on Calgary kijiji and see if there were any good dressers or rockers we could take a look at on our way home. We checked in to the radiology centre, I spoke with a receptionist about how I get a free photo of the baby, and we went into the small ultrasound room with a tech. The tech gelled me up and got the ultrasound up and running.
And what we saw was just a black, blank space.
Dan was oblivious for a few minutes, as he doesn’t know what an ultrasound is supposed to look like. I didn’t panic at first; I thought “maybe they just have to move things around and zoom in and there’s the baby.” But then, the tech had the screen zoomed out so it was the typical ultrasound view you are used to seeing if you were to Google any pregnant woman’s ultrasound. The black space where there should have been a fetus had nothing.
The tech was taking measurements and very quiet, then asked me to go empty my bladder and come back and do it one more time. I knew this wasn’t going to be good, but I was still very confused. I came back, same results. She said she needed to go talk to the nurse and doctor and would be back. As she left I curled into fetal position and cried holding Dan’s hand. What was going on?
Eventually, some people came back and explained I had an “Anembryonic Pregnancy”, also known as “blighted ovum.” I had gotten pregnant, and when the egg attached to the uterine wall, it never actually became a full blown embryo. Reading information online tells us the embryo absorbed back into the wall, but a gestational sac and yolk sac still remained. This gestational sac kept growing over these weeks, and at 13 weeks it was approximately 44 mm. My body kept thinking I was pregnant this whole time, as I was having many pregnancy side effects-sore breasts, extreme fatigue, more visible veins, gaining weight. My body had decided to not clear itself of the pregnancy. This sometimes could happen at 8-12 weeks. I never experienced any bleeding, spotting, painful cramps. I was still holding on.
Eventually I dramatically stormed out of the office because a nurse I didn’t know was trying to console me by rubbing my leg. But then, like in a sitcom, I had to come back into the damn room and grab my jacket. I was crying in the mall somewhere in North Calgary. And we had a 2 hour drive home. As Dan drove, I cried. I looked at the form the office gave me that had a conclusion statement of “An intrauterine gestational sac is seen but the fetus and fetal heart rate are not identified. Findings are in keeping with an early fetal demise. MISSED ABORTION” What a fucking dark conclusion.
I looked up on reputable websites to find more information about Blighted Ovum. Apparently it is the cause of half of miscarriages. A lot of times, women don’t even realize they have it….maybe they didn’t even know they were pregnant and they miscarried before they even had an ultrasound. I also read that many doctors believe this occurs because when the egg is fertilized, the body recognizes some sort of hormonal abnormality. The body decides it shouldn’t continue on and it isn’t viable. I am not a bio teacher, but to me that sounds like a crazy good thing the human body can determine that.
I got myself sort of together and phoned my mom. I just stared at Highway 2 as she said “oh honey…oh honey…” I cried. I messaged two other important people in my life right away. I had to tell them. Dan and I stopped at some townie bar in Claresholm to have a beer and dinner. Dan’s idea for this was that he didn’t want us to taint a place we have good memories of back home in Lethbridge, so we may as well stop at this hole. Actually turned out to be a good meal. Damnit.
Dan and I got home and I didn’t even know what to do. The doctors in Calgary had informed my OB-GYN’s office in Lethbridge, but nothing could be done until at least Monday. I already had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday, but obviously this would be a very different type of appointment.
The feelings I had were MAD and EMBARRASSED. I was MAD because if I had been able to get an early ultrasound this could have been determined at as early as week 8. Still would have been tough to find out then, but instead we got to Christmas. Then me announcing it to everyone before my Marathon. And then just earlier that week I told my students I teach. That’s where the EMBARRASSED feeling comes in. Now I had to go face everyone and tell them this wasn’t happening. I know it’s not the right way to feel, but I felt like I had lied to everyone.
That night, I texted a handful of friends who we had told earlier in December, before announcing it to the world. I wanted them to know before I told everyone else. Then, I drank a bottle and a half of wine and stayed up till 3 am. Saturday morning, Dan made me eggs and I puked up the bottle and a half of wine and the eggs. I posted an informative Facebook status saying what happened and I sent an email out to the staff at work. I asked for the staff at work to not reply to my email, which everyone respected. I didn’t say anything in the Facebook post, but I turned off notifications as I didn’t want to keep getting notified that people commented.
I eventually looked at the comments. Publicly, people shared they had also experienced a loss. I also got texts and messages from friends who experienced losses like ours. Some of my friends I were aware had miscarriages before, others I had not a clue. Hearing from these friends who have families of their own made me feel better. I went to work Monday morning, even though many people probably questioned my well-being. I needed to go otherwise I would have just laid around feeling sorry for myself. I also had to go because I needed to tell my students what happened. I teach many mature students, age 15-18. So it wasn’t necessarily a complete foreign idea to them that this could happen. But it came as a surprise to many I think. I told it straightforward and informational…I didn’t cry…I held it together…and then I went on to teach them pre-calculus. Shit.
At my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, I told my doctor about my ANGER and EMBARRASSMENT. She said those were totally normal feelings. And then, we made a comment about it being a ‘fake pregnancy’ and she stopped us right there. She said if we went on thinking about it that way, we would be really messed up. It wasn’t fake. It was very, very real. It is still a loss. But we can move on and start over.
I had three options for management of the blighted ovum presented to me—let the pregnancy miscarry itself on its own terms, get medication to force the miscarriage, or get a D&C (dilation & curettage) performed. I at first had thought I wanted medication, but it was explained that the medication sometimes doesn’t kick in right away….and sometimes it doesn’t clear everything out…and you still need another ultrasound to make sure all the tissue is gone…and you sometimes still need a D&C. So we booked a D&C for Thursday.
I’ve been in surgery before, so I don’t really get bothered about the idea of getting put under general anaesthesia. I just wanted this procedure to be completed so we could move forward. Check in at 6:30 am…in a pre-op bed by 8 am…IV with saline by 8:30…. moved to a different room by 9:50….into surgery by around 11. Last thing I remember before being knocked out was the strangely soothing jazz/blues/I-don’t-know-what guitar music that was playing in the operating room. I woke up in another room and all I wanted was water. The nurse attending to me talked to me quite a bit and I found out she rode her Harley with her husband all over and really wanted to go to Milwaukee. That provided distraction as I told her all about the summer festivals, tailgating, the microbreweries. I was a fucking Milwaukee tour guide while hopped up on what I later found out to be Fentanyl.
We eventually were on our way out of the hospital by 2 pm. Long day. Requested frozen yogurt, got home, and plopped on the couch in the basement to watch TV. I was bleeding but not throbbing in pain yet, as the anaesthesia hadn’t worn off. So I told Dan I wanted to watch “This Is Us” from Tuesday. He had already watched it earlier that week, and when I wanted to watch it Wednesday night he said he wasn’t sure if I could handle it. Oh shit. Watching it anyway.
Well, we watched it together. It was a great episode. It was basically the first episode, but from a different point of view. I didn’t cry, mainly because I didn’t have any tears left in my tear ducts. I went upstairs to get my water bottle, and in the fridge I find a bottle of lemonade….
The tears flowed. I went downstairs and Dan and I hugged. It had been a really, really, really shitty week. Extremely. But we are strong. We are going ot move forward. We have eachother. We have our family. We have our friends. We can turn the sourest of lemons into something amazing.