April 5, 2014
I think I would be remiss to leave my “12 Weeks” story on the uplifting note that all was well – that I have grieved and now I’m better. Because that’s not how miscarriages work, that’s not how grief works. It becomes the monkey on your back that you carry with you to work every day, the elephant in the room when you’re out to dinner with friends, and sometimes it even becomes an angry bull in the china shop that is life. But then somehow between the trapped moments, there are points of freedom, clarity and peace. My mind has become a menagerie, and my thoughts are equal parts remarkable and untamed.
And for some reason, this week seems to be harder than the week after my miscarriage. I don’t know what it is.
Well maybe I do. I’ve been unsure whether to share this detail of “my story” with you as it seems unnecessary. However, as I’ve worked on acceptance and understanding of the recent change of my plans, I have searched for other’s stories that might help me feel less alone. Also, I have always loved physiology and find the next part of my story pretty fascinating to share (albeit painful and frustrating).
The Friday after I had my D&C, while I was out to lunch, my doctor called to explain that they had gotten the lab test results. I was quite surprised to hear this because I didn’t know they were doing any testing on the fetus. She spoke in a careful way, each word wrapped up in softness. “The lab results indicated that you had something called a partial-molar pregnancy, which is caused by a genetic fluke. But it does bring the possibility of some complications that I’d like to discuss with you.” I had just started eating a hamburger and the restaurant was pretty loud. I asked her to hold on a second, tossed my lunch into the trash and walked outside.
She went on to explain to me that essentially, our baby had 3 sets of chromosomes as opposed to the normal set of two. These babies don’t tend to make it beyond the first trimester and if they do, they often cause risk to the mother if carried to term and none have lived beyond 10 months. Because of this genetic abnormality, there is another risk factor. The triploid set of chromosomes causes the placenta cells to grow abnormally. Which means, in some cases, the cells could continue to grow unchecked after miscarriage. And in the worst cases, these cells can spread to other areas of the body and can be cancerous. Though treatment is nearly 100% effective, chemotherapy is the route to get rid of them.
The two C-words that make my heart shrink and retreat. I thought of the beautiful people in my life who have had to own these words. How they wore them with such grace and strength – even though they did not ask nor did they deserve to have to bear those things. While my doctor assured me that the chances of this becoming cancerous were very slim, I just couldn’t shake the words off. They felt like two ton weights resting on my chest.
My doctor explained that the placenta cells produce the same hormone as a fetus does in early pregnancy (that which is detected by a pregnancy test – HCG). The way they check for abnormal cell growth is through weekly blood tests. Once you get three negative blood tests back in a row, they proceed to do monthly blood tests for six more months after that.
And the trick to all of this being accurate is that I absolutely cannot get pregnant. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
So every week for the past five weeks, I have had to sit in the same waiting room of my clinic with pregnant women and tiny babies, waiting to get my blood drawn. This weekly reminder that will eventually turn into a monthly reminder. And someday it will fade away. But right now it is ever present. I’ve seen the clinic more now than when I was pregnant. Everyone there seems to know my “situation.” They smile apologetically at me.
I suppose it’s nice to be making new friends. I try to encourage myself.
But that’s the polite part of me. Every time I’m there I want to pick up a chair and throw it. And I want to yell at the lady behind the desk, Yes! I still f-ing live on _______ street. Yes I still have Moda insurance! You just saw me last week and you’ll see me again next week! Can’t you remember anything??? And to the stupid girl who hit a nerve and bruised it the last time she drew my blood, I would like to say thank you! Thank you for giving me a minute-by-minute reminder any time I reach for something that I had a miscarriage. Or the nurse who insensitively said that I am “still chemically pregnant” on the phone. Umm, no I’m not! That was taken away from me.
Then I slip back into my nice mode. I’m sure that the desk lady is required to ask me every time where I live and that the phlebotomist must have been having a bad day. I don’t know if there are any excuses for the nurse on the phone, maybe she’s never had a miscarriage and doesn’t understand. And I soften a bit, feeling awful for my thoughts and judgment. I say a quick prayer for forgiveness and try to send them love and light as best I can.
All of the encouraging stories of “we started trying again after a month and now have a healthy baby” feel like teasing. I have not gotten a negative blood test yet but my numbers have been within normal range and have dropped like they are supposed to over time. I’m not as worried about cancer. But this isn’t going as I had planned in my head. I planned to wait the month that they suggest, then we were going to try again. Now I have to wait and I watch the weeks tick by that are turning into months and I worry that they will become years.
I would have been 20 weeks this Tuesday. This could have been the week that we found out “what kind” of baby we were to have. A little girl? A boy? Was my hunch wrong? Instead, I will sit in the office waiting for my sixth blood test. Waiting for very different news. Trying to keep my inner grizzly bear from emerging.
Right now that Disney ballad “Let it go” from Frozen is on the radio every morning. As annoying as it is becoming, I sing it at the top of my lungs, like all the little 4 year olds you see on Youtube who are equally as moved by the song. (Do yourself a favor and watch these funny little munchkins if you haven’t yet.) The music critic in me thinks that maybe the kids are a little sharp on the last high note, but I forgive them because the abandon in which they sing is inspiring. I imagine myself throwing off the weight of this grief I’m carrying, twirling around with my hands in fists and my eyes squeezed shut.
But the reality is that it is not something you can just toss off your shoulders and move on. Each day you might only chip off a small chunk of the yoke that sits on your shoulders, binding you to “the news” that is slowly becoming your history. And over time a bit of the wood seems to have settled into your bones, becoming a part of you.
Anne Lamott recently said,
“This business of being a human being is infinitely more fraught than I was led to believe…It’s hard here, and weird. The greatness of love and laughter, the pain of loss, the bearing of one another’s burdens, are all mixed up, like the crazy catch-all drawer in the kitchen.”
That’s how I feel these days. I am a pair of scissors lying next to a matchbook from an old hotel. And it seems like these past few years I’ve been desperately trying to organize the inconsistencies and lack of logic that I see all around me. I need to close the drawer and let it go. My plans and my timelines are simply not required to get me from point A to the inevitable point B. Whether it’s God, or Fate or the Universe or Love or Physics – something else infinitely more powerful than me is saying, I’ve got this. Let it go.
© 2014 D. Willson