Ten Years

10 years ago right now I was wheeled into surgery prep. I was crying, silently, as doctor after doctor approached me and asked me questions. The same questions. After the third one I wanted to begin throwing punches. Couldn’t they see the tears running down my face? How could they be so cruel? Their giddiness at seeing a rarely performed procedure – a late term abortion – was obvious and I resented the fuck out them for it.

These were my sons, after all. One already gone and one barely clinging to life and slated to die.

They took me into another room and forced me to sit up. I was so swollen with fluid from the preeclampsia that trying to bend was painful for me. The anesthesiologist began prodding my spine to give me the spinal block and he started asking me about my tattoos. As if I wanted to discuss my fucking tattoos in that horrible moment! I believe I said “Fuck off” although it might have only been in my head. I was pretty doped up.

The rest was horrible. I woke up at one point during the procedure and tried to run away. I heard my kind doctor yell at the anesthesiologist telling him to give me more. And I cannot describe the moment of waking up alone in the recovery room feeling so empty.

Ten years. Ten long and hard years where I both succeeded and screwed up my life. I miss them still, my Nicholas and Zachary. The legacy of their loss in my life is huge, from the weight I still carry trying to cope with my grief with food, to the tears that still come each year at this time.

There is a positive legacy too. In the last ten years I’ve received dozens of emails from other women who have experienced a similar loss and were grateful to me for writing about it because they felt less alone. Even more amazing are the ten or so emails I’ve received from women who told they remembered what happened to me and spotted their signs of preeclampsia before their doctors did, and as a result got the early treatment that saved both their lives and the lives of their babies.

This is why I haven’t pulled down my blog entirely, even when I am unsure still about blogging. Because my posts about my experience with my sons get hits daily, and all I can hope is that my grief and pain become a tiny light in the darkness.

Years ago I wrote a post about feeling jealous of the other bloggers I knew who had babies that survived over terrible odds. It was a tone deaf post during my “anger” phase of grieving, and another blogger snarled at me in the comments that I should be happy for those bloggers, particularly the one that “lost a living child.” I thought of her comment yesterday when a friend posted about a tiny baby that died of SIDS at four months old. Because the truth is, ten years into this journey, I know that she was right. I cannot imagine losing a child you’ve held in your arms. Because the grief of losing my two boys, three months away from birth, nearly killed me. Losing Tori after she was born would have killed me, I’m sure of it.

Gah. After months of silence here, I’m sorry to return with only this sadness. But as this day approached I couldn’t imagine not writing here.

So let me end with this: if you are currently pregnant, know the signs and symptoms of Preeclampsia. In retrospect I can see that my disease with my sons could have been addressed much earlier; my blood pressure surged as soon as I was pregnant but I was never treated for it (not the case in my pregnancy with Tori; I was on slowly rising doses of blood pressure medication throughout that pregnancy), my constant and extreme nausea, and my massive fluid retention (I went up two and a half shoe sizes) were all symptoms that were evident as early as 16 weeks pregnant. So if you feel like something isn’t right – your weight is going up too much, you aren’t urinating enough, and your heart is racing – go see your doctor. Specifically ask them to screen for early signs of preeclampsia. Don’t just assume your symptoms are normal pregnancy symptoms like I did. I thought everyone felt as horrible as I did during pregnancy. I had no idea.

I wish I had an elegant way to end this post, but I don’t. All I can say is this: ten years later, my heart still grieves for my boys. I miss you still, my sons. Each and every day, even now.  Nicholas and Zachary, I still miss you, even though I never got to see your faces. You are missed, dear boys, still.

Grief

I just found myself with my forehead resting on my desk, tears in the back of my throat but unwilling to be shed. In my Facebook stream, a woman I don’t know well at all shared that she’s currently sitting where I was nine years ago Saturday; absorbing the news that her baby has died in her womb, and in the hospital coping with the aftermath.

There is nothing about being in that place that doesn’t fucking suck. She’s not as sick as I was, and in some ways that’s far worse. It was hard for me to think clearly about what was happening because I was so busy being ill, and the real grief didn’t plunge into my heart until the sickness began to abate.

I went into the hospital on October 26th; well, I went for our anatomy ultrasound. It was a few weeks late. We weren’t in a rush because we’d already had so very many ultrasounds of the twins, thanks to my infertility treatments. I’d seen Nicholas and Zachary when they were tiny, four-celled organisms. I also knew they were healthy and genetically normal thanks to testing via CSV when they were just 11 weeks along. There was no pressure to get that anatomy ultrasound at all.

Of course, you all know the story. Along with seeing the curves of the boys’ noses and their tiny clenched fists, we saw the absence of one heartbeat and quickly learned that I was so sick with preeclampsia that I needed to be admitted to the hospital. And just 18 hours later I was much, much sicker and we were forced to terminate the pregnancy.

Ah, there are the tears now.

It’s amazing how the body holds on to this grief. I’ve faced this week as if it were normal, but yesterday I found myself snacking all day long, pouring food into the gaping hole of grief inside me. Oddly, I didn’t know why I was doing it, not until I saw my friend’s update today. Not until just now when I finally allowed the tears to fall, again, again, and again.

My boys. They would have been so beautiful. How can I still miss them so god damned much?

Please, spare some prayers for Allie. She’ll need them today.

Sunday, Full of Grace

Yesterday morning Tori crawled into bed with me declaring she needed cuddles. Before long we both got up and dressed, filled our bellies, and headed off to meet my friend Annie at the Wissahickon to go for a morning hike.

It’s been unusually hot here in Philly – 86 degrees on Saturday – so we were quickly bathed in sweat, but it was a good sweat, the kind you want when you work out. The trail was particularly beautiful on Sunday, the path covered with fallen leaves in amazing colors highlighted by the cloudy day. Some of the reds of the fallen leaves practically glowed. It was gorgeous.

After three miles, we made it back to our cars and drove to a nearby Agricultural High School. We’d brought some sliced apples and carrots to feed the horses pastured outside. Tori is crazy about horses, as am I, and the horses are well used to visitors and willingly accept head rubs in exchange for a snack. We divided the snacks up between the eight or so horses, including a foal born at the start of the summer, but ran out quickly. The foal announced his displeasure at this fact by nipping my arm.

We drove home, stopping briefly at a grocery store to restock Tori’s lunch food for the week, and grab some potatoes for dinner. Once home we relaxed. I read a book and Tori played some video games, pressed into my side as she did so, still clingy after my long trip away.

Eventually I cooked dinner, got Tori ready for bed, and tucked her in with tickles and lullabies.

In other words, it was a perfectly ordinary Sunday.

…..

This was exactly the kind of day I’d hoped for when I began trying to get pregnant eleven years ago. I had no idea it would take four years the first time we ditched the condom. I’m not sure, frankly, if I’d known what the road ahead had entailed, I would have done it. But then, that’s the nature of faith, isn’t it? We can’t see the road ahead, but we move forward anyway.

October is a sad month for me. Nine years ago, I was pregnant with Nicholas and Zachary. Nine years ago I’d shaken off my sadness about not having a girl and had finally fallen madly in love with my boys. Nine years ago I was just beginning to register for my baby shower, having successfully made it into my third trimester of pregnancy.

But nine years ago, I was incredibly sick. My legs were swollen and tight with fluid, and I was nauseous nearly all the time, often severely so. I was incredibly exhausted; showering required a nap afterwards. I was still trying to work, although I felt awful all the time. At lunch I would lie down on my left side for an hour trying to ease the strain on my heart.

And of course, nine years ago, at the end of October, we got the news that one twin had passed away. Nine years ago my blood pressure soared, my weight went up a dozen pounds in a week, and my urine was full of protein, so much so it turned the little stick test completely black.

Nine years ago, at the end of October, I was admitted to the hospital. I was told my son and I would both die if the pregnancy wasn’t terminated. I still remember Charlie’s tears at the news; I couldn’t cry, not yet.

…..

Last night Tori and I spent about an hour looking at Halloween costumes. She’s decided to be Neru – a Japanese vocaloid – which is not exactly the sort of costume you find at Target. I’m trying to figure out if we can fake it with stuff from the new Goodwill that opened in our neighborhood (I’ve recently changed my mind about shopping at Goodwill; they got some inaccurate bad press, but once again I believe we can support our community by shopping and donating at Goodwill).

But I also remembered that Halloween nine years ago. I’d been home from the hospital only a day or two when Halloween hit, but foolishly insisted I sit on the porch and distribute candy to the trick-or-treating kids of our neighborhood. It was torture, and eventually I went back inside because I couldn’t stop my tears.

It was then, finally, I found the willingness to cry. And the tears are still here, nine years later. I still love my sons, and miss them every day. I will for the rest of my life, I imagine, although the pain is far less acute now.

Like I said, October is hard.

I still miss you, Nicholas and Zachary. I hope you’re safe.