Sunday, February 19, 2017

Laura's birth story - January 2017

Laura Rose Wahlund
1/21/2017, 12:28pm
7lb 13oz, 20.75 in long

My entire pregnancy with Laura was fraught with anxiety due to our two previous losses. While I felt slightly less anxious with each positive milestone that we passed, I never was really able to settle down. As my pregnancy drew closer to full-term, I began feeling increasing anxiety about labor and delivery. I was worried that my labor would go so fast that we wouldn't make it to the hospital in time, and that we'd have an unplanned home birth or car birth (this fear stemmed from the fact that Peter's birth as very nearly an unplanned car birth). I was worried that I wouldn't be able to handle he the pain of labor, despite having had five unmedicated births. I was worried that something would go wrong during labor -- hemorrhaging, or placental abruption, or a host of other maladies -- and we would lose the baby. And so on.

I turned to birth affirmations and prayer to help soothe my fears. Every time a fearful thought would enter my head, I would tell myself, "Fear and anxiety are not of God. Get thee behind me, Satan." This strategy helped, but only somewhat.

I started having prodromal labor around week 37. The one day in January I didn't want to give birth was January 13 -- Elanor's 12th birthday -- so I was pretty convinced that was when I'd go into labor. Sure enough, I started having contractions the evening of the 11th and hardly slept at all that night. The contractions weren't terribly strong or regular, but occasionally they would wake me up.

I called in sick to work and kept timing contractions throughout the morning, and I sent the following text to my doula, Laura (the same doula we had for Peter's birth), at 9:38am on January 12:

"I was up all night with contractions 10 to 15 minutes apart... not terribly intense but I think I was just too anxious to sleep. They slowed down around 5am, but seem to be picking up again. They are about 20 minutes apart at the moment, not very intense, about 30 to 45 seconds long. I have a midwife appointment at 10:45; I might might checked to see if I have made any progress. Will text you if things pick up more."

I ate a high-protein english muffin with peanut butter and drank a labor-inducing smoothie. Collin stayed home from work as well, just in case, and I was grateful to have his company. We went to my appointment, and I requested a cervical exam. I was dilated to a 3, 80% effaced, and baby was at -2 station. My cervix was posterior still. I was excited because I'd only ever been dilated to a 2 prior to the onset of labor, so it seemed to me that this might be the real thing. Still, my midwife cautioned that it could easily be prodromal labor. She recommended that I go home and try to nap -- taking some Unisom or a warm bath to relax if needed. I was exhausted so that sounded like a good idea to me!

After I woke up from that nap, contractions were still coming but they were still pretty weak. Collin and I decided to walk to our sons' daycare to pick them up, instead of driving, in order to see if the walking would help strengthen contractions. We did so, walking a total of 1.4 miles, and after we got home contractions did seem to be picking up. They were coming every 10 minutes and lasting 1 minute.

Accordingly, we called my FIL to come and stay with the kids, and set off towards the hospital. It was premature, perhaps, but given Peter's fast birth, we didn't want to take any chances. I had contractions every 10 minutes on the way there, and had a pretty strong one in the drive-thru of the Burger King across the street from the hospital (Collin wanted to grab some supper quickly -- I'd eaten prior to leaving the house, but he hadn't).

We walked through the doors of the hospital... and contractions STOPPED. It was like my body suddenly flipped a switch from "labor" to "not labor." Even so, we went through the whole rigamarole of being checked into L&D triage, being checked (no changed from that morning), and I stayed on the monitors for about 20 minutes. We spent an hour or two walking in the hospital grounds to see if contractions picked up again, which they didn't, and I was checked again. Still dilated to a 3 and 80% effaced. We were discharged and went home.

So, I didn't have the baby on Ellie's birthday... which I was glad about, but at the same time I was rather peeved about the false alarm. I was tired of being pregnant and so anxious to meet this baby.

Fast forward to Sunday night (January 15). Around 10 or 11pm, I started feeling REALLY strange. I wasn't having any contractions, but I was experiencing labor like signs - upset stomach, very shaky, and alternating between hot and cold. It felt like I was either having a panic attack or in transition. I was pretty sure that I wasn't in transition given that I wasn't having contractions, but I worried it meant that something was wrong. We decided to go to L&D triage, just in case. We called my FIL to watch the kids again, and arrived at the hospital just before 2:00am.

There was no cervical change from my last appointment, but our doula came anyway just in case things changed. Baby looked and sounded great on the monitor, which was a relief, and after a while the symptoms subsided and I felt better. We never did figure out what had happened -- our best theories right now are that I had a panic attack or perhaps suffered a very mild case of food poisoning. (We'd eaten at a restaurant with Collin's mother and grandparents earlier that day, and apparently Collin's grandfather experienced similar symptoms the same night.) At 4:50am, we went home.

The next few days were difficult and frustrating because of continual prodromal labor. I had an appointment with my OB on Thursday the 19th, 39w3d, and I was was 3-4 centimeters, 80% effaced. With my consent, he stripped my membranes, hoping to stimulate labor. I'd never had a membrane sweep before. It was very uncomfortable, but not painful.

The next day, I started losing my mucous plug, which was an encouraging sign. With all of the other kids, I had the baby within 24 hours of losing my plug (some within 12 hours). I had irregular contractions 20-30 minutes apart all day. Even after a bath and hydrating with plenty of Laborade, contractions kept coming. I couldn't sleep and wasn't hungry. Finally, around midnight, I called Collin. He was at his weekly Dungeons and Dragons game, and would have been home shortly, but I told him I'd prefer if he came home immediately because the contractions seemed to be getting closer together, and I'd feel better if he was here. He immediately packed up and came home, calling his dad on the way and asking him to come and watch the kids (again). My FIL was such a saint that week for putting up with the middle-of-the-night calls! We eventually made the decision to go into L&D yet again, and called Laura to ask her to meet us there.

We arrived around 1:20am. Contractions were about 7 minutes apart, but getting stronger. An exam showed I hadn’t had much change from my appointment on Thursday, and was still 4 centimeters and 80% effaced. However, with contractions that were persistent, the nurse suggested that we walk and be checked again in an hour or two. Laura arrived at the hospital around 2:00am.

We walked the halls, rested while Laura tried some acupressure spots, and returned to L&D for an exam at 4:30am. The nurse said my cervix was slowly changing, as I was now at 5 centimeters. Amanda, the CNM from my practice who on call, agreed to admit us to the natural birthing suite in the hospital. I was happy to hear that she was the one on call, as I've known her for several years and she had been so helpful and supportive when I lost Francis in June of 2015.

The natural birthing suites were brand new, and had just opened for business around Thanksgiving. Four rooms had been outfitted with a full-size bed with memory foam mattresses, and there was an option to buy an inflatable tub (we declined, as we preferred the jacuzzi tub already in the room -- you couldn't birth in the tubs, otherwise we might have gone with that option).

I labored for a few more hours, getting more and more frustrated. Contractions were not getting closer together. They stayed at around 7 minutes apart, and the intensity wasn't changing either. I tried to rest, and laid in bed with Collin for about an hour (those memory foam mattresses were SO NICE), but the contractions were just strong enough to prevent sleeping. We walked down to the hospital cafeteria to have some breakfast (I had bacon, eggs, and juice) but that didn't help either. Once we returned to the room, I tried sitting in the shower for a while, but the apparatus to hold the removable shower head in a fixed position above the tub was broken, so Collin had to manually hold it -- not fun for either of us. We also joked about asking Laura to leave the room and trying more intimate ways to kick labor into gear (that bed was REALLY nice, after all), but decided against it. ;)

I was checked again at 8:30am, and was only 6 centimeters. Contractions were still only 7-10 minutes apart, only lasting about a minute. At that point, I felt utterly defeated. I was exhausted from the long night, as well as the preceding weeks of prodromal labor. I started sobbing and told both Collin and Laura that I simply could not handle a full day of slow labor. I was too tired. I wanted an epidural and pitocin to move things along.

Both Collin and Laura knew that my birth plan specified that I did not want an epidural or pitocin unless medically necessary, so they both tried to encourage me toward other, more natural methods of speeding up labor. Laura suggested trying herbal tinctures or perhaps castor oil (Laura, in addition to being a doula, is also a Certified Professional Midwife, and thus very knowledgable about what to use to speed up a slow labor), but I was resistant. I didn't want to keep puttering along for the next day, trying one thing after another. I was too tired to keep walking. I felt like I had no more energy left. I kept sobbing, insisting that I wanted an epidural and pitocin, in that order. Collin reminded me that we'd have to move to a different L&D room for those options, but I didn't care. At that moment, even a C-section sounded good to me.

Finally, Laura suggested calling in the midwife and discussing our options with her. Amanda was doing rounds, but made it to our room about 15-20 minutes after we asked to speak with her. She came in and noticed right away how upset I was. She pulled up a chair across from me, took my hand, and asked me to tell her how I was feeling.

I kept sobbing and told her what I had been telling Laura and Collin for the past twenty minutes. I was too tired to go on. I wanted an epidural and pitocin because I could not keep going.

Amanda let me cry for a minute, and then she quietly asked if she could pray with me. I was surprised -- it isn't a suggestion that you usually hear from a doctor or midwife in a secular hospital -- but I readily agreed. So Collin, Laura, Amanda, and I (and maybe one of the nurses as well, I can't remember) bowed our heads in prayer. Even now I can't remember the exact words of the prayer, but I know she prayed for strength for me, and for discernment and wisdom for all of us as we decided what steps to take next.

After praying, we discussed options. Amanda said that she felt I was experiencing heightened anxiety and fear due to my previous miscarriages (very true), so we needed to be sure that we didn't make any decisions based on anxiety and fear. While an epidural and pitocin weren't out of the question if that's what I truly wanted, she knew me and knew my passion for natural childbirth, and encouraged me to try some other strategies first, just so we would know that we had exhausted our options before resorting to medication.

In the end, Amanda proposed doing a vigorous sweep of my membranes to see if that would make contractions stronger and closer together. She suggested that I get into the tub, turn on the jets, and try to relax as much as possible, because it was possible that stress and anxiety were keeping my labor from progressing. She promised to return in an hour or so and at that time we could re-evaluate, and perhaps break my water to speed things along if baby was low enough.

Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed. She did the vigorous membrane sweep (and boy, she was not joking when she said it'd be vigorous), and I got into the jacuzzi. Laura dimmed the lights and turned on my iPhone's "Labor" playlist. Collin pulled up a chair and sat next to the tub. Laura suggested that he try nipple stimulation while I was resting, because that might help too.

So, for the next two hours, that's what we did -- and it worked. (Mad props to Collin, because he did nipple stimulation for two hours straight -- poor guy, his hands must have been sore!) Contractions sped up and got closer together. I started needing to vocalize through them, which took the form of saying "Ooooooooopen, ooooooooooooopen" over and over, as I tried to visualize my cervix opening up. 

Around 11am I announced my intention to open a cause for canonization for the inventor of the Jacuzzi (He was Italian, so he was probably Catholic!) as at that point, I was begging both Jesus and Mary to be with me and help me get through labor. I made it a point to offer up my contractions for specific prayer intentions (I'd asked friends on Facebook to give me intentions to pray for a few weeks previously).

Amanda came in about 11:10 (according to my doula's notes) and did a cervical exam. She did it while I was still in the tub! I was so grateful I didn't have to get out. I was 8cm! I was also starting to get those panicky, "I don't think I can do this anymore" feelings that indicate transition. I stayed in the tub for about half an hour longer, until I started feeling enormous pressure.  I had to leave the tub (to my great displeasure), but I was given the green light to start pushing.

I was hoping the pushing stage would be similar to previous births, in that I'd push twice and baby would be here, but alas -- it was not to be. I tried laying on my side and also going on my hands and knees. They cranked up the head of the bed and I leaned against that, and pushed that way for a while. I was peeing and pooping all over the place because baby was putting pressure on my bladder and rectum, but it still seemed to take forever for baby to descend. At some point, my water broke, but it probably happened while I was peeing so no one noticed. (Gross, right?) We only realized it had happened when Amanda checked baby's station and could feel hair instead of the amniotic sac.  

Finally I announced, "I can't push like this anymore!" and turned over so I was sitting up. Finally, things started to happen. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed again, and finally baby's head was born. Amanda quickly told me to stop pushing -- she wanted to ease baby out so I wouldn't tear -- and then instructed me to push again, more slowly. With one final push, baby was born at 12:28pm. I'd only pushed for 40 minutes, but it had seemed like 40 hours. 

My doula took a video of the actual birth, but I haven't watched it yet. I may add it to this story at some point, but I haven't decided if I want that online yet -- from what she tells me, it doesn't leave much to the imagination. :) 

The baby was put on my chest immediately, and I was crying in relief that it was finally all over. Unlike previous births, this time I looked for myself to see the gender, and burst into fresh tears of joy when I saw that we had a baby girl. I'd felt she was a girl all along, and I'd been hoping for a girl so that we'd have three girls and three boys. 

We told Amanda and the nurses that her name was Laura Rose. (The fact that our doula's name was Laura was a happy coincidence -- you can read the reason we chose her name at the end of this story.)  She laid on my chest as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. I tried to latch her onto my nipple but it was a little difficult due to the position I was in -- I'd ended up nearly flat on my back as I was pushing (my choice). I did eventually get her latched on, but I think it wasn't until after I birthed the placenta and the cord was cut.

Unfortunately, despite having taken alfalfa supplements since 34 weeks to reduce chances of postpartum hemorrhage (as I did with Peter), I had heavy bleeding and was passing large clots.  Apparently this isn't uncommon with moms who have had six or more births. Amanda explained her concerns and asked for my permission to administer pitocin and methergine, and I consented to both. They did help slow the bleeding. 

Happily, unlike four of my other births, I did not have a second degree tear! I had torn very slightly, but it was so small that I only needed one stitch. Amanda numbed the area with a shot of lidocaine and put in the stitch. 

Amazingly, other than the lidocaine, pitocin, and methergine, I didn't need any other medication during my stay -- not even acetaminophen or ibuprofen. My afterbirth pains were minimal and I had very little discomfort from my tiny tear. Laura nursed very well from the start, and our hospital stay was uneventful. We were discharged from the hospital on my due date, January 23.

I have mixed feelings about this labor. I was glad, in the end, that I did it unmedicated, but at the same time the slower pace was very mentally difficult and exhausting for me. As always, though, the moment she arrived was absolutely incredible, and she was worth every minute of the pain.

I am grateful for my rockstar care providers, though -- I could not have gotten through this birth without my midwife Amanda: 

Nor could I have managed without our doula, Laura (if you're in the Phoenix metro area, I highly recommend her as a labor doula or a homebirth midwife!). 

You can read about why we chose her name here (we didn't name her after our doula - that was just a happy coincidence!).

Baby Laura Rose is so sweet and so beautiful -- I am so in awe of how God has blessed us. And she's a big hit with her older siblings! :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Baby Update!

I'm now 21 weeks along and the pregnancy is going well! We had our 20-week ultrasound last week and got some great pictures of "Baby Snitch." Best news of all -- s/he looks 100% healthy! No clubfoot (!!!), and no other issues or abnormalities detected. 

sweet little profile

We caught a smile!

Look at that face!!
S/he likes having his/her arms up by his/her face, just like Peter.

Full-body shot in 3-D

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It's Been A While!

I've been a pretty poor blogger lately, both here and at Catholic Working Mother. I'm hoping to change that, though. Not that I necessarily have any more time, but I do miss blogging. I've been doing some creative fiction writing as an outlet, which helps, it's not the same.

Brief update for those of you who don't follow me on social media:

- The kids started school on August 3rd. I now have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a PRESCHOOLER! (See next bullet.)

- I had Peter tested by AZ Early Intervention for a speech delay last year, and he's been receiving therapy for several months, with little progress. (He hasn't had as many sessions as I'd hoped, due to illness and other factors.) Well, once he's three he "graduates" from Early Intervention and needs to receive services from the public school system, so this summer we went through the process of getting him tested again.

He was diagnosed with a moderate speech and language delay, and as such he qualifies for preschool through the public school system. He receives speech therapy while there. So he rides the school bus every day (we had to set up the bus rides due to my work schedule) and attends school from 8:15-10:45. So far he seems to enjoy it very much!

Poor Gabriel is the odd man out this year, but he'll start kindergarten next year.

- Our vacation this summer was an epic road trip to and from North Dakota to attend a family reunion for my mother's side of the family. We took four days to drive from AZ to ND, and three days to drive back, with about a week between in ND. Amazingly, we had no major mishaps. It was exhausting, but we had a lot of fun and made some great memories, and it was great to spend some time with my family. I met a few relatives I hadn't yet had the chance to meet, and saw many that I hadn't seen since we left ND.

- I'm becoming the employee of a new company, but my job is still exactly the same, as is my office. Long story short, my parent company decided to "divest" the division I work for, and it was sold to a private equity firm. It's not altogether dissimilar to the acquisition we went through in 2012.

Thanks to that firm's investment, our division is incorporating as a new company effective September 1 (the new name isn't public knowledge yet - although the divestiture itself is - so I can't blog it quite yet). Good news is that my benefits don't seem to be changing much, I still get to keep all my service years and, so far, I get to keep my flexible schedule and telecommute most of the time. Here's hoping it stays that way.

- And the biggest news of all:

Our newest son or daughter, due to arrive sometime in January 2017 
Meet Baby #10, a.k.a. Baby Snitch (so nicknamed by a FB friend at 10 weeks, after the observation that our baby was as big as a Golden Snitch). 

For obvious reasons, this pregnancy has been fraught with anxiety. I had repeated pregnancy loss testing back in December, and it yielded no abnormal results, with one exception -- I am heterozygous for the MTHFR A1298C gene mutation. It's not certain if this particular mutation causes the inability to process folic acid that the other MTHFR mutations do (there was no evidence of that from other tests), but just to be safe I started taking a prenatal vitamin (this one) with methylated folate instead of folic acid. I also called my doctor's office and had bloodwork done right away. 

My first two HCG results were a little lower than they like to see (doubling time was 62 hours) and my progesterone was a tad low (20), so my midwife started me on progesterone supplements immediately. Both numbers markedly improved, and at the suggestion of my midwife I went in for weekly ultrasounds from weeks 8-11 (with the exception of week 11 -- the ultrasound machine was in use that day so my midwife tried the doppler instead, and found the baby's heartbeat immediately). Each time, baby looked great - strong heartbeat and appropriate growth.

I elected to do the NT test at 12 weeks. Normally we eschew most prenatal testing, but this time around I wanted it -- maybe the test would give us some clue about what went wrong in the event that we had another loss. We went into the test with some trepidation, as it was at our last two 12 week appointments with Francis and Jude wherein their deaths were diagnosed. 

However, as you can see from the above picture, Baby Snitch looked wonderful. S/he was moving around, waving his/her arms, and had a nice strong heartbeat. Even better, all measurements looked great and there's no evidence of any chromosomal abnormalities from either the ultrasound or the blood test.

I'm 16 weeks now (almost 17) and everything seems to be going well so far. We've heard his/her heartbeat via Doppler several times, which has been reassuring. I have his/her anatomy ultrasound on September 8. It'll be a Level II ultrasound because I'm technically AMA (advanced maternal age), and also because of the prior history of birth defects (Peter's clubfoot). As is our custom, we won't be finding out his/her sex, but I'm eager to see him/her again. 

I'm hoping for a healthy baby -- we have a 96% chance that this baby won't have clubfoot, which is pretty good, but there's always that 4% chance that he or she will. It won't be the end of the world if he or she does have clubfoot, and we'll be much more prepared to deal with it this time around, but I'm really hoping for a newborn period that doesn't involve weekly casting appointments and surgery at 8 weeks old. It made Peter's newborn period rather stressful. 

I'm praying that there won't be any other birth defects (although I'm thinking anything major would have been seen at the NT test). But if there are, s/he will still be welcomed joyfully, of course, but I think all mothers hope for a healthy baby. 

The kids are very excited about their new sibling, although Ellie is apprehensive about the possibility of having to share her birthday (January 13). My EDD is January 23, so Baby could very well decide to come on her birthday, but I think we're both hoping s/he will choose a different day. Still, Collin and his youngest brother have the same birthday (December 24) so we know from experience that it's not the end of the world if they do end up sharing. 

Even though my pregnancy has gone very well so far, we're not out of the woods yet, and my pregnancy loss support groups have taught me that late losses can still occur. I'm striving to stay hopeful and to enjoy every moment of this baby's life, no matter how short it may be. Your prayers are appreciated! 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Yes, there are lots of missing people if a zygote is really a person

It took some research, but I think I tracked down the correct e-mail address for the author of the editorial referenced in the first paragraph of my letter, below. I sent this letter to him today, but I am publishing it here as well. 

Dear Dr. Nash,

I'm hoping you're the same Dr. David A. Nash who wrote the following editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader ("Lots of missing people if a zygote is really a person"), found here:

If not, feel free to ignore this e-mail. If so, however, I wanted to share my experiences with you.

First of all, I absolutely agree that there are a lot of missing people if a zygote is really a person. Death has always been a part of life. In years past the death rate, especially for infants, was much higher than it is now. For example, in 1850, the mortality rate for infants was 216.8 per 1,000 babies born. (Source: Do you think that infants weren't people back in 1850 since so many of them died of natural causes in their first year of life? 

Secondly, in your editorial you said the following, "We do not designate the results of such spontaneous abortions as 'persons' nor grant them the respect routinely given 'persons,' by naming them, providing a respectful burial or including them in our population and mortality statistics."

It's interesting that you say they are not including in mortality statistics after quoting pregnancy loss statistics! Those seem to be mortality statistics. However, the fact that they are not included in infant loss statistics does not mean that unborn children are not actually persons -- it only means that they are not (yet) considered persons by our government. That was also the case with slaves in 1835 (they were only considered 3/5ths of a person for tax purposes), but I think you would agree that they were, objectively, persons even if the government did not legally regard them as such at that time.

I have had one spontaneous abortion and three missed abortions (or, as I prefer to call them, miscarriages). All of my deceased children have names, Dr. Nash. They are Noel, Chris, Francis and Jude. Noel, Francis, and Jude died at 12 weeks gestation. Chris died at 5w6d. Three of them (Noel, Francis, and Jude) we saw via ultrasound. Two of them (Francis and Jude) had strong heartbeats at 8 weeks gestation, but had inexplicably died at 12 weeks.

Three of my children are buried in cemeteries, with grave markers. Noel is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. Francis and Jude are both buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Avondale, AZ. We had funeral services for all three. We weren't able to bury Chris, as my miscarriage happened late at night in the emergency room and my husband and I were too shocked and overwhelmed to attempt to save his or her remains (that miscarriage remains my only "natural" one  -- I've had D&Cs for the other 3, as their deaths were diagnosed via ultrasound). But we had a memorial service for him or her, anyway. I've uploaded several pictures of the graves and funerals we've had for our miscarried children so you can see that they were, indeed, mourned and buried: 

Noel's grave, Holy Cross Cemetery, Fargo, ND
Francis' burial, June 2015
Jude's burial, October 2015
Francis' gravestone
(added 5/9/16) Jude's gravestone, next to Francis'
Also, miscarried children are provided a respectful burial. At the time of my most recent loss, my husband and I were given a paper stating that we had three options when it came to the disposition of Jude's remains. We could let the hospital handle the disposition and choose to have the remains cremated and interred either at the local Catholic cemetery – in fact, in the exact same section in which we had buried Francis – or scattered in the Superstition Mountains. The paper stated that this would be done in 30 days’ time. We could also choose to have the remains released to a local funeral home, or we could choose to have the remains released to us (we chose the latter option so that we could have private services).  

It's not true at all that miscarried children aren't given proper burials or funerals. Many are, and many parents wish they could bury their children but don't know how. However, a proper burial isn't what determines whether or not humans are persons. Even genocide victims thrown into unmarked mass graves were persons, even if their oppressors did not believe so (and even if the oppressive government did not legally consider them persons). 

There's objective criteria for personhood (see here, for example), and unborn children meet that criteria even if our legal system hasn't quite caught up to that fact yet. 

My lost children were people, Dr. Nash, just as much as my five living children are people. I mourned their deaths when they happened, and I still mourn them every day of my life. They were human beings by all scientific criteria, and they were persons by all subjective philosophical criteria. The fact that they were unborn and not born doesn't change that fact. 

If you'd like to engage on this topic further, I'm more than willing to do so. I think it's an important discussion to have. But if not, that's all right too. I just wanted to set the record straight regarding some of your comments.


JoAnna Wahlund

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Positive Facebook Discussion with a Pro-Choice Person

Dusting off the blog because I had an amazing conversation on Facebook the other day, and I just had to share it. I think this is the first time I've had a conversation with a pro-choice person on Facebook where the person actually considered my points and my evidence, and freely admitted when her assertions were wrong. It's a Year of Mercy miracle!

 This happened on a friend's wall, not my own, so I've blacked out the pro-choice person's comments in black and the comments of all other participants in red. The very last comment comes from the friend on whose wall this conversation took place.

This conversation is long (twenty-four screenshots!), but I think it's worth reading.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Another Saint in Heaven

I hate to break my blog fast with bad news, but it's 2:30 in the morning and I ate too much Halloween candy before bed. That's not the bad news, that's just the reason I'm blogging at this hour. Also, I apologize for the stream of consciousness blogging that will follow, I just need to get all of this out but I don't think it will be very coherent.

We have another Saint in heaven. Ironically, looking back, I believe I tested positive exactly 2 months before I miscarried. I conceived around August 15, tested positive around August 28, and on October 28 we found out our sweet baby had died.

It is such a baffling loss. I had two prior ultrasounds this pregnancy, one at eight weeks and one at ten weeks. Both times, the baby was measuring right on target and had a beautiful heartbeat. I could even see him or her wiggling around. 

Our ultrasound at eight weeks

Our ultrasound at 10 weeks
Then, at what was supposed to be a routine prenatal appointment at 12 weeks, my midwife could not find the baby's heartbeat on Doppler. She wheeled in a portable ultrasound machine and did a belly ultrasound, which showed a baby about the right size but too still, and no flicker of a heartbeat.

Even so, we held out a thin shred of hope. The portable ultrasound machine was old and fuzzy, so she sent me to a nearby radiology practice for a better quality ultrasound (the practice I go to does have an in-house, high-quality 3-D ultrasound machine, but the tech only works Mondays and Fridays, and this was a Wednesday). 

But our hope was extinguished. Although the baby was measuring exactly the right size for his or her gestational age, there was no heartbeat. Our baby had died.

Baby Jude, 12w4d... too still
I had a D&C the following day. I briefly thought about taking pills to induce labor instead, and delivering naturally, but I couldn't bear the thought of going through all that pain knowing it would end in heartbreak. Or miscarrying at home with the children around. Or having to deal with the baby's body myself. Also my doctor usually recommends a D&C if the pregnancy has progressed past 10 weeks, as he has observed a higher rate of complications with miscarrying naturally past that point. 

Once again, I went in for surgery. Many of the same nurses were working in the surgical department and remembered us from June. They were shocked and sad to see us return. 

And once again, we have had to bury another baby. The same section of the same cemetery, the same deacon performed the service, and we even had several of the same friends present. The same tiny casket, with the same little blanket covering it. 

We named the baby Jude, since we found out about his or her death on the feast day of Saint Jude, patron of impossible causes. I had just finished a novena to him on the day of my appointment. In the time between my first and second ultrasounds, I begged St. Jude for a miracle, but it was not to be.

I am having a much harder time with the aftermath of Jude's loss than I did with Francis'. With Francis, I was able to accept his or her loss as a fluke. Granted, I had had two prior miscarriages before Francis, but they hadn't been consecutive. I've brought five healthy babies to term (Peter's birth defect notwithstanding). I thought, surely, my "pattern" would hold and my miscarriage would be followed by a full-term pregnancy. I even began making plans as a portent of hope - discussing names, hiring my doula, planning for maternity leave, even unpacking my maternity clothes. I had started wearing some, as my regular clothes were starting to get tight.

But my hopes were dashed, and it was made even more inexplicable by the fact that by all accounts the baby was healthy and thriving throughout most of the first trimester. I had much less nausea than usual, but I attributed that to the fact that I was taking some additional vitamin supplements. Plus, I had had terrible nausea and vomiting with Francis, so I knew that bad nausea did not necessarily equate to a healthy pregnancy.

And now I just feel at a loss. Is there something wrong with me? Did I do something to cause this? Do I have low progesterone, or a blood clotting disorder, or is it because I'm approaching advanced maternal age (I turn 35 on November 3) and my egg quality is declining?

Or is there another reason altogether? Does God think I'm a such a terrible mother that I don't deserve to be blessed with another living child? Intellectually I know that's not true, but in my darkest moments I still wonder. I wake up in the middle of the night and start crying when I remember that I'm not pregnant anymore.

I spoke to my OB about having genetic testing done on Jude, but it would cost us $2500 out-of-pocket and that is just not an expense we can bear right now. In addition, my OB pointed out that if the tests did show something wrong genetically, it's not really something we could act upon, and he prefers to perform tests that yield an actionable outcome. 

He is going to refer me to a reproductive endocrinologist, though, for more extensive testing on me. Maybe I do have some sort of blood clotting disorder or genetic mutation that has caused my four losses, and I've just been amazingly fortunate to bring five healthy children to term. Maybe there's something we can do next time, if there is a next time. Assuming we ever get pregnant again, I know I am definitely going to get my progesterone tested first thing, just in case. But my OB doesn't think progesterone deficiency was a factor in my loss, since the placenta takes over progesterone production at 10 weeks and it's unlikely to have a late miscarriage caused by progesterone issues (usually that kind of deficiency will cause an early miscarriage). Plus my progesterone has been tested with other successful pregnancies, and was always at an optimal number. Still, I don't think he would object if I asked to be tested, and it may prove to be one more piece of the puzzle.

I feel guilty for taking this loss so hard when I do have five beautiful, healthy children. But they are grieving as well. My oldest daughter is especially devastated; she has longed for another  baby sibling now that Peter is a toddler and not a baby. She especially wants a little sister, but she understands that the baby's gender is beyond our control. Telling her that Jude had died was one of the hardest things we've ever done.

And as a consequence I'm terrified of getting pregnant again. Obviously it's too soon - both logistically and in terms of the grieving process - to make any decisions in that regard, but I know that if we do choose to get pregnant again, my first trimester is going to be a time of constant fear and trepidation, not joy. And even having successful ultrasounds that show a a living baby won't help take away the fear. 

I think that miscarriage definitely robs you of your pregnancy innocence, but multiple consecutive miscarriages, especially after what seemed like positive signs, completely robs you of your joy. A positive pregnancy test seems like a harbinger of doom instead of a gift of new life.

And yet I know I shouldn't feel that way either. God has given, and God has taken away. My babies are with God now, and they will never know pain, will never know sin, will never know heartbreak or loss. They are perhaps the most fortunate of all my children in that regard. But it hurts that I will not know them this side of heaven. 

It feels so strange to not be pregnant anymore. I can't quite seem to wrap my mind around it. One day I was pregnant, the next I was not - but there is no baby in my arms to help me acclimate to the change. Part of me wants to give away all of my maternity clothes, baby clothes, and baby gear, just to get the constant reminders out of the house. Part of me feels that's foolish because… What if? I don't know. Something to think about later, I guess.

I've been writing for about an hour now and it's about time I shut things down and try to get more sleep. If you've made it this far, thanks for "listening."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Planned Parenthood and the Two Bobs

Remember that scene from Office Space with the two Bobs? (If not, you can watch it on YouTube here.)  I like to imagine it would be that same way with Planned Parenthood.*

I can see the two Bobs sitting across the table from a PP representative:

BOB: So what you do is you make referrals and you send the women down to real healthcare providers?

PP: That -- that's right.

BOB: Well, then I gotta ask, then why can't women just go directly to the healthcare providers, huh?

PP: Well, uh, uh, uh, because, uh, doctors are not good at dealing with women.

BOB: You physically take the mammograms from the women?

PP: Well, no, my, my preferred clinic does that, or, or the hospital.

BOB: Ah.
BOB: Then you must physically bring them to the clinic.

PP: Yeah, I mean, sometimes.

Bob: Well, what would you say… you do here?

PP: Well, look, I already told you. I deal with the goddamn women so the healthcare professionals don't have to!! I have people skills!! I am good at dealing with women!!! Can't you understand that?!? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!!!!!!!

*This dialogue was authored by my friend Robert S. and submitted as a comment to one of my Facebook posts. I asked him if I could blog it, and he gave me permission. Thanks, Robert!