Friday, November 21, 2008

Another remembrance

This day two years ago, Tuesday November 21st, 2006, I underwent a D&C after I had been told that my first pregnancy had ended in a missed miscarriage. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

We had been trying to conceive for six months when we got lucky. It was the first month that we got in any way scientific about the whole business; I invested in a digital thermometer and a charting book from Boots, as well as a pack of OPKs. My ovulation date co-incided with a long weekend at the wedding of friends in the Ardeche region of France. The setting was beautiful, the weather was spectacular, the wedding itself was amazing, and we were in honeymoon mode. We were at it "comme les lapins" all weekend.

Two weeks later, much to our delight, we found out that we had brought an extra little passenger back from France. In our minds it was a boy, no rational explanation for why we thought that, just pure gut feeling for both of us. Being the ever pc people that we are, we nicknamed him Kermit the Frog, since he was made in France. A week later, I started to get light brown spotting. It was the start of a bank holiday weekend. We didn't panic at first, but my GP told me to call him in a couple of days if it got any worse. Over the weekend it got heavier, so the following Tuesday I phoned the GP back and he told me to go straight to our local maternity hospital. A friend of mine from work drove me to Limerick and John met me in there.

At that stage it was too early to see a heartbeat on an ultrasound, but we did see the gestational sac, so there was no doubt that there was a pregnancy there. I was sent away and told to come back the following week for another scan. The following Tuesday I was scanned again, and this time we could see a heartbeat on an internal scan. The first time you see your own baby's heart beating is an amazing one. The sheer awe you experience looking at that tiny little pulse on the screen. Unfortunately it wasn't all good news that day, we were told the gestational sac was a very irregular shape, and this was an indication that the pregnancy might not be viable, although the sonographer said that she had seen this before and it was not always bad news. We were given another appointment for a week's time and sent on our way.

At this point I started googling "gestational sac" and "irregular shape" at every opportunity. Not a good idea really when you are trying to put your mind at rest. One friend of mine told me that she had been told the same thing at an early scan on her first pregnancy, and she went on to deliver a perfectly healthy baby girl. That gave me some reassurance. The following Tuesday we went back to Limerick for another scan, and we were given the bad news that our baby had died. The gestational sac was measuring six weeks three days, when it should have been a week more than that. We were absolutely devastated. I suppose in hindsight we were naive as regards the statistics of miscarriage, one in four pregancies. At that stage I had nine nieces and nine nephews, and only one of my siblings out of six had ever experienced a loss in pregnancy. My mother had one loss out of eight pregnancies. I never thought it was something that would touch us. How wrong could I have been?

A week later, I was admitted to hospital for a D&C. Physically and emotionally it was an extremely tough day. It was a cold day in November, and the hospital was undergoing renovations. I was admitted to a day ward around 10am, fasting from 6pm the evening before (big mistake, I should have eaten much later in the night, nearer to midnight) and the noise level in the ward was horrendous. It was like someone was operating a jackhammer just under my bed. A few people had told me in advance of the D&C that it is a painless procedure. John's sister, who had had it done a number of times to remove fibroids described it as quite uncomfortable. This was the only warning I had in advance.

Uncomfortable was the understatement of the year. After about an hour I was put on a saline drip to stop me getting dehydrated. At around noon, my gynaecologist came in and introduced herself, and without further ado shoved a couple of pessaries up into my cervix (pleased to meet you, Doctor, OWWWW!). The midwives told me that there would be pain relief available should I need it. I was doing the whole brave patient routine, thinking there are women in here in the throes of labour, I'm not going to start shouting for pain relief over a few little cramps. I sent John down town to get some lunch and I settled in for the afternoon. All of a sudden what had been like minor period pain was like the most excrutiating period pain, multiplied by around 20. I rang John on his mobile in agony to tell him get straight back here. I was getting progressively weaker from the lack of food. The room seemed to be getting colder, and the jackhammer was still hammering away at top volume.

I rang the bell and asked the midwife for pain relief. She took my blood pressure and told me that it was dropping, and we would be getting a slot for theatre soon. At this stage it must have been around 4pm. I was writhing around the bed in pain at this stage and begged for something, anything, so she gave me pethadeine. This made me really woozy and out of it, and not in a good way. It didn't really do much for the pain either, probably because I had asked for it too late. If I had asked before the pain increased to unbearable levels, it would probably have stopped it before it got really intense. The midwife and porter came to wheel me up to theatre just after that, and the combination of the motion of the moving bed and the pethadeine really started to give me the room spins. I met the gynaecologist outside the theatre again, and I was almost passing out at this stage. It took two people to lift me onto the operation table. I was so out of it I literally could not move a muscle.

I woke up probably around twenty minutes later, still in pain. It was then that it really hit me, my baby was gone. I was given two rounds of painkillers in suppository form. I was wheeled back down to the ward and left to rest for a while. At one stage I went to go to the bathroom and when I stood up I literally saw stars. I was discharged later that evening, so glad to get back home to the comfort of our own bed. After a couple of days I was feeling much better physically, but it took much longer for the emotional pain to ease. In some ways I think it has never fully gone away and it never will.

A few months later I found a post on a parenting website about the Shrine of the Holy Innocents in New York. It is based in a Church in Manhattan, and is dedicated to all children who have died before birth. Parents of babies lost through miscarriage or stillbirth can name them and have recorded in a book of remembrance kept in the shrine. Although I was brought up by religious parents, I am not strongly religious myself, but the idea of this brought me some comfort. We named our lost little one Kieran, because as I said before, we always thought I was carrying a boy. I have been thinking about him a lot in the past month or so, wondering what he would have looked like, imagining all the mischief he would be getting into now if he was still with us. No doubt he would be chasing the poor cats around the house, terrorising them. I like to think him and his sister and our other lost little ones are waiting for us, somewhere in the next life.


AmandaHoyt said...

I'm praying for you today as you remember your little angel baby, Kieran.
Hugs and prayers,

Xbox4NappyRash said...

There are so many things from that I want to say, and ask, but it just doesn't seem right somehow.

I'm just so uselessly sorry.

twondra said...

I found you through L&F. I just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you during this tough time. (((HUGS)))

Anonymous said...

Just hugs. And thinking of you.

womb for improvement said...

I always think of a miscarriage as the end. But reading this is heart breaking. What you had to go through, afterwards coupled with the grief is unimaginable.

Jane G said...

Amanda - thanks for dropping by and thanks for the prayers.

Xbox - Ask away, no bother.

twondra - thanks for calling by too.

nutsinmay - thanks!

wfi - it was a fairly rough experience alright. What was worse was that I went through the same thing again exactly six months later. Hopefully we won't go there again...