|St. Thérèse, pray for us!|
I must warn any readers that I am about to share the story of how I lost dear Baby Thérèse and that I'm including every possible detail I can remember--even the graphic ones. I know this might seem like a strange way of handling the death of our child, but I'm doing it for a few reasons.
I know Philip and I will start to forget the details of these days as time goes on, and I never want to forget. I want to remember every little detail of our child's short life as well as her death. I want to preserve these details so that as I start to wrap my mind around the reality of losing our baby, I have it all written out for me to relive and face emotionally. I was so focused on physically enduring losing Thérèse that I want to have the details recorded when I'm emotionally ready to face them.
I'm also writing about the actual physical part of losing Thérèse because of the multitude of women who have reached out to me. Since sharing my blog post on Sunday, nearly two dozen women have thanked me for sharing my story. For some, I am the first person they told that they lost a baby or a sibling. I am hoping that opening up about my story and how we have begun the grieving process will somehow be helpful or healing for them. I hope by my opening up about losing Thérèse that other women who have experienced the death of a child will be able to seek the help they need--whether it be calling a friend, making an appointment with a counselor, or just spending time crying in a chapel during adoration.
So, as you read, I apologize if the story becomes too graphic and you can't read on. Nonetheless, please respect that Thérèse is our baby and that this is our way of celebrating her life and grieving her death. Thank you for allowing us to choose to grieve the death of Thérèse as we wish.
I thought that miscarrying Thérèse would be like a painful period with some heavy bleeding. At least that was what my brain took away from how my OB described the process on Friday. I anticipated that it would all play out like the plot of a story--the pain and bleeding would slowly build to a painful climax, I would endure the agony of delivering Thérèse, and the bleeding and cramps would slowly come to an end a few days later.
Sunday night, Philip and I were still emotionally numb. After we put Janie and Walt to bed, we decided to take a break from talking or thinking about Thérèse and just watch a few shows. At 7:30, I started having painful cramps and the spotting turned into moderate bleeding.
A few hours later, the bleeding and the pain intensified, and I thought that surely I was going to deliver Thérèse any moment. The emotional pain would be terrible, but I thought that at least the physical part would be over soon. I was bleeding so heavily that I had to go to the restroom, and Philip was with me every step of the way.
The most grizzly part of all was having to take that small sterile container that my doctor had given me to the bathroom. I was to preserve as much of our baby as possible so that the tissues could be sent in for medical testing.
At this point, the bleeding turned to uncontrollable gushing, and I started to pass blood clots the size of my fist or larger. I knew that there would be a lot of heavy bleeding and probably some large clots like there was during labor and delivery, but Philip and I started to think that this was not how it was supposed to happen. I started to pass clots and blood at such a rapid pace that I asked Philip to collect them in plastic cups to examine for tissue to collect in the sterile container. I didn't want to somehow lose our baby.
We knew something was wrong as we couldn't keep up with the pace of my blood loss. I started to lose consciousness and told Philip to help me to lay on the bedroom floor. At this point, I was unable to speak, was still bleeding uncontrollably, and I had lost all color. Within minutes of laying down, I slowly regained my blood pressure and the blood flow slowed to a manageable rate.
We called my doctor's office after hours emergency line, and the nurse told us to go to the ER if I continued to bleed heavily or if after laying down for awhile I was dizzy and lightheaded. After getting off the phone with the nurse, we called my mom to be "on call" in case we needed her to stay with the kids while we went to the ER. I stayed laying down on our bedroom floor with towels underneath me. I was so cold from the blood loss that I asked Philip to cover me in a blanket and to bring the heating pad to help with the pain from the cramps. Philip continued to push me to drink as much water as possible, and I was able to eat a small snack.
Forty-five minutes later, I felt ready to try standing up again. The moment I stood up, I passed half a dozen clots the size of my fist, and I started to get dizzy, so I laid back down. We decided it was time to go to the ER, so Philip called my mom.
I laid on the floor as he packed us a bag for the hospital. My mom arrived shortly thereafter. I was nervous about bleeding through during the car ride, so Philip helped me to double up and put one pair of underwear with a heavy duty pad on top of another. I crawled from our bedroom to the stairs to limit the blood loss, and I put a towel on the seat and reclined during the ride to the hospital. By the time we arrived ten minutes later, I was already bleeding through the towel, and I was extremely light-headed. Fortunately, there was no one waiting in the ER waiting room at midnight, and I ended up being the only patient admitted overnight.
I got checked in right away, and immediately got hooked up to IV fluids. The nurses were incredibly sweet and serious about getting me efficient care all while being sensitive to the fact that we were there because our baby had died and I was miscarrying. Soon, the ER doctor was performing an internal exam, and I felt all kinds of movement and heard strange sounds. Philip explained that he was removing the clots and any remaining tissue to stop the bleeding. (So long as a woman is retaining clots and tissue, her uterus won't clamp down to stop the bleeding.) After he was done, the bleeding seemed to stop, and Philip and I dozed for a few minutes here and there as the nurses came in and out of my room to check my vitals and change the bed pad.
By 4 a.m., my blood pressure was at a safe level, and the bleeding seemed to be done, so the doctor said I could go home. Philip and the nurses helped me back into my clothes and into a wheelchair so that I could use the restroom before leaving. Philip went to get the car as the nurse wheeled me to the restroom down the hall. She waited outside for me.
Immediately, I knew something was wrong. I felt the blood rush out of me, and I passed half a dozen clots the size of my fist. I was able to wash my hands, call in the nurse to show her my blood loss, and she walked me back to the wheelchair. She said she'd go and tell the doctor about the clots but that I seemed to be doing okay. The clots were probably just from the blood pooling up as I laid in bed, she said.
As I sat in the wheelchair in the hallway, I started to lose consciousness. I heard another nurse approach me and said that I didn't look well. When she asked me how I felt, all I could do was shake my head. I heard Philip's voice, and they wheeled me back to my room. I couldn't say anything, and I thought I was dying. If I could have talked, I would have asked Philip to call our priest. The nurses had to lift me out of the chair and back into bed. When they got me hooked back up to the monitor, my blood pressure was extremely low. The nurses helped me back into a hospital gown, and I'll never forget the look on my nurse's face as she checked my bleeding. She raised her eyebrows and said, "Yes, you'll need to stay with us. We're calling your OB right away."
At this point, I was terrified. I had thought everything was under control, that I had delivered our baby, and that I was going to have some light bleeding at home for a few more days. Now, they didn't know why I was still bleeding, and my OB was being called in. At this point, I was on my fifth bag of IV fluids, and my hemoglobin was getting low enough that they were considering a blood transfusion. I was given some medicine rectally to stop the bleeding, and an IV had to be inserted into my left arm since my veins in my right arm were shot from the first IV.
Soon, an anesthesiologist was talking to me about surgery, and his nurse was prepping me. My OB arrived at 5 a.m. and explained to us (but mostly to Philip because I was so out of it) that I would need an emergency D&C to stop the bleeding. I would receive anesthesia through my IV, and my OB would dilate my cervix enough to use a vacuum catheter to remove the lining of my uterus and any remaining tissue. I dreaded the thought of having to have a D&C to vacuum out any remaining parts of our baby. It was too barbaric to even think about, but I didn't have a choice anymore, and I didn't have enough strength to say anything other than "okay."
Minutes later, I had to sign a few consent forms. One form asked us what we wanted to happen to Thérèse's remains after pathology performed all of the necessary tests. I am so glad that Philip and I had prepared for this question and had discussed our plans ahead of time. Processing that question while being nearly unconscious and prepping for a D&C would have been horrific. We said that we wanted Thérèse's remains to be returned to our care so that we could arrange for a proper burial and some kind of a prayer service.
Soon after, the anesthesiologist's nurse put oxygen tubes into my nose and a cap on my head. Philip took my glasses and rings, and they whisked me off across the building to the surgical wing. Philip gave me a quick kiss and told me he loved me. I didn't even have the strength to tell him that I loved him back, and I cried that I couldn't tell him those words.
They opened the doors to the operating room and helped me to scoot over to the operating table. I don't remember a countdown or a warning that they were knocking me out. I just remember waking up in a recovery room bed with a sweet nurse sitting at a computer next to me. She said, "Your husband is in the waiting room, and you'll be able to see him soon." She wheeled me to a strange room with a reclining chair and gave me a Diet Sierra Mist and some stale graham crackers while she went to get Philip.
I was still very much out of it, but I was so happy to see him. He came in and gave me a hug, and the nurse gave us a few minutes while she got my clothes, our checkout instructions, and my prescriptions for pain medicine. Philip helped me back into my clothes while he gave me the report from our OB on how the surgery went. My OB had to leave for a delivery after my D&C, so he wasn't able to wait for me to come out of recovery. Philip said that my OB told him the D&C went well, he was able to remove all of the clots and remaining tissue, and that my uterus was able to clamp down to stop the bleeding. Everything went as it was supposed to in surgery, and I was to schedule a follow-up exam with him in two weeks. We both asked each other how the other person was doing, and I think we knew we weren't ready to really talk yet, so we both said that we were going to be alright.
The nurse came back shortly thereafter to pass along my prescriptions for pain and nausea as well as all of my post-op instructions: Have someone with you for at least another 24 hours in case you get lightheaded and lose consciousness. No driving, no alcohol, no signing documents or making important decisions, no showering for 24 hours, no lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds for 1 week, no sexual intercourse for 2 weeks. Rest, wear the compression stockings for another 24 hours, and call if you have any of the terrifying symptoms rattled off to me on a sheet of paper. As part of the routine, the nurse gave me a pamphlet on miscarriage with a fake white rose. I couldn't help but feel terrible for the sweet nurse as she had to give me the rose and the pamphlet and say that she was very sorry. She suggested that Philip pull up the car while she got me a wheelchair and said that we'd meet at the front.
When Philip and I got into the car, we said that we loved each other and that we were going to be alright, but we spent most of the ride in silence, processing everything that we had gone through in the last 24 hours. Philip went in to Walgreen's to get my prescriptions filled. It took a little more than half an hour. To pass the time, I sent family and friends text message updates to let them know that I had to go to the ER but that I was okay physically after my emergency surgery.
Since coming home from the hospital Monday morning, I feel like I've been living in a haze. I know a lot of that's the strong medicine that I'm on, but I know more of it is my mind and heart struggling to catch up with what my body has been through. That, and the reality that Thérèse is gone. Our amazing family and friends have been helping to take care of Janie and Walt since I've needed rest and haven't been able to do it on my own yet. Hopefully I'll be ready by Monday if not sooner. In the meantime, Philip is cutting back on his hours, and he's going to work until dinnertime instead of staying overnight for his scheduled 28-hour shifts. He'll have this weekend off, so hopefully we can use that time to begin processing what happened this past week.
I will be spending tomorrow at the hospital getting a blood transfusion. I am still very weak and get lightheaded when I spend any time on my feet. My doctor hopes that the blood transfusion will help me to get my strength back. Philip is taking the day off to be at home with the kids after I get checked in. I'm actually looking forward to have an entire day to be alone with my thoughts, read some books about miscarriage, and pray. It will be nice to have some much-needed silence.
Last night, Philip and I promised each other that whether we feel like it or not, we'll set aside some time before bed to check in with one another and talk about whatever we're thinking. Our thoughts might be incomplete, painful to hear, or slowly choked out between sobs, but we'll need to share them. I keep telling Philip that it's okay for us to process things differently and that we were forced to live out that night in the hospital individually, but that we need to share that experience with each other so that we can heal.
Sunday night was excruciatingly painful physically and emotionally, but I am so grateful for all of the ways that we were spared more pain, all of the graces that are coming from Thérèse's life, and all of the graces that are coming after her death. I thank God that our children were asleep and that Philip was home as I started to deliver Thérèse. We needed to go through that experience together, and it's special that it was able to happen in the quiet and solitude of a lonely ER in the middle of the night. I thank God for not allowing the physical process to drag on for weeks. I thank God that our children are not old enough to grieve for Thérèse but that they can join us in praying for her. I continue to find peace in the knowledge that Thérèse is a saint in heaven who can intercede for us, helping to reach our goal of joining her in heaven with our entire family. I find comfort and strength in the prayers of our friends and family.
I heal a little more each time I talk about Thérèse. The best gifts that my friends and family are giving me is their ability to listen, let me cry, and tell me that it's okay to feel however I'm feeling. There aren't any special words that take the pain away. I know that miscarriage can be such a taboo topic because people just don't know what to say or do, and some women never even share when they endure losing their babies. Some people will stay away from me for fear of saying the wrong thing or just not knowing how to be around me. Some people will unintentionally hurt me by saying something meant to help. To those who have risked those awkward conversations and have courageously said that they don't know what to say but that they are praying for me and thinking about me, thank you. You will never know what your courage and compassion are doing for me. For those who are staying away, please know that I know you're just struggling to get through this tragedy in your own way. I know we'll make our way back to each other, and I hope it happens soon.
Each mother has to find her own way to grieve and heal. For me, writing, talking, crying, and sharing as I feel the entire gamut of emotions reminds me that our sweet baby Thérèse is real, that her life deserved to be celebrated, and that her family deserves to mourn her death. Thank you for allowing me to share her story with you.
Please continue to pray for us in the days ahead.