“Brandon and I were extremely happy after finding out we were expecting in August! But, of course, not after a few tears related to pregnancy tests. I mean come on, why are the two pink lines so hard to read sometimes?! We invested in beautiful, heartwarming, and easy-to-read tests that confirmed the pregnancy by giving us the easy ‘yes’ answer.
We then talked about when we should tell our families. My family is five hours away, and I selfishly wanted to tell my parents and family first. So, we made a plan and switched our schedules to reflect our soon-to-be, happy trip home. Being from Iowa, May Day (May 1st) is kind of a big deal. You prepare little treat baskets for your family and friends, set them on the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run. It was so fun watching everyone find their treat basket. When we found out our little one was due on May 1st, I was beyond excited. I knew exactly how to tell my parents. We would prepare a May Day basket and sneak the ultrasound picture inside.
We would announce to Bentley and Brandon’s family on Halloween. We found cute costumes to give away the pregnancy, during trick-or-treat hours. I married into a family that lives in close proximity to one another, which has turned out to be a great thing in my life. Unfortunately, that idea will have to wait.
The more I think back to this, the more I feel selfish. My husband has been married before, had a son, and then divorced. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow I’m not his first wife, and I will not have his first child. This makes me selfish. I wanted to tell my family first. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get into awkward conversations, so I chose not to go to the same hospital where my stepson was born. My mother-in-law works among high-risk ladies at another facility close to us. But again, I was being selfish. I know, I know, I should have had this all processed before deciding to marry someone who has been married and had a child before, but those feelings don’t come up until it happens.
I began to tell a few coworkers, because I work in a field where it is imperative to know about pregnancy. In addition to holding off on administering chemo, there are other viruses pregnant ladies should avoid. It was a happy time, and no other events could bring us down from this.
However, the struggle of just changing insurance and my name began to arise while making appointments. My first phone call ended in, ‘What just happened?’ So, I can’t see this OBGYN until I find a primary doctor. They were in my group, but whatever. I do need a new, closer PCP. I found someone who was wonderful, but also told me I didn’t need to see her before the OB I had chosen. Okay, fine. One more thing I had set roots for in my still new neighborhood.
Thursday, September 13th was my first appointment. We showed up, and they still had me listed under my maiden name (which was weird because the week prior, I was at the PCP under my married name). I had been seen with my maiden name and old insurance at another facility within the last 6 months. This appointment was only for labs and a nurse visit. Well, we didn’t get to the ‘nurse’ part of it. We were asked a few questions, but they went into a fury after we announced we had been out of the country in May. We understood Zika is a big deal, but there are ever changing recommendations about travel. Recently, it had been changed to men waiting 2 months from the previous 6 month recommendation. We were within that time frame and the time frame listed on the paper I needed to sign.
However, the staff became distant and secretive, until they told us we needed to go to a different lab to have blood drawn. Okay, fine. We walked across the street, still holding urine from the first office visit. While waiting for labs, we were still concerned about the name difference. I had just set up my online portal the week prior, so I checked to see what my MRN was on that and what it was on the paper. There ya go, they were different. I really was two different people. Anyway, while still waiting, this great husband of mine ran back to the other office to notify them of our discovery. They flagged my charts, and within a few days, everything had been corrected. Blood and urine samples were given, and we were heading home.
With all the hustle and bustle that day, I didn’t remember which labs they had or were supposed to draw. When I saw my results online, I didn’t see anything about a pregnancy test. After talking with Brandon, we decided we would double check with them. They don’t ‘confirm’ the pregnancy until the first ultrasound. Okay, well I had one pregnancy test left at home, so I’d just confirm myself. ‘Pregnant.’ Okay, wonderful.
Which brings us to September 29th, first ultrasound day! Yay! I picked Brandon up from work and off we went to one of the happiest events of our life. So we thought. We arrived and had our transvaginal ultrasound, which was an experience, but we realized it’s a better picture than other ultrasounds. We had a veteran tech and a new resident preforming the ultrasound. They pointed out all the ‘perfect’ things they saw. We didn’t get to hear the heartbeat, but we saw the heart flicker and the rhythm on the screen. 174. We were happy.
I got dressed, and the veteran tech said she noticed a little fluid in the baby’s chest. She would pass the information along to the doctor. We received an ultrasound picture, and we both looked at each other and said, ‘There were better pictures than that.’ Looking back, maybe they were shielding us from something. I’m not sure. What was my first thought after being given the news? To google it. Yes, I’m a nurse, but I’m also human and in need of direct answers. Brandon would stop me from grabbing my phone, but once I did get a hold of it, there was no service.
The doctor finally came in, a little disheveled, maybe coming from a birth, c-section, or another difficult conversation. She started to go over a little history and lab work, and then she returned to the elephant in the room… the ultrasound. She said she had others look at it and decided we needed to see a high-risk specialist. She didn’t want to speculate, but from my work background, I need you to speculate. ‘Give me anything,’ which, of course, I only said in my head, because I was choking back tears to the point of being nonverbal. Brandon, again my rock, asked a few questions, but we didn’t really get the answers we needed. She said they couldn’t get us in today, but they would fit us in on Monday, and we should expect a phone call.
We knew nothing, but google might. I needed answers. Chromosomal abnormalities, pleural effusions, hydrops… we read about them all, but I needed more. I didn’t need internet stories from people I didn’t know. I needed family. I needed friends. I have a great friend who is a nurse and works with high-risk pregnancies. I decided to announce to her what was going on. She said she just knew we were pregnant. Maybe it was all the ‘asking for a friend’ comments from the beginning of our pregnancy. Anyway, she provided support and told me to stop googling and looking up hydrops. Well… I already had, and sorry friend, I didn’t stop googling. I still needed more.
I confided in one of Brandon’s cousins who had dealt with loss herself, and I admire her beautiful words and outlook on life. She was also supportive and gave me all the information I asked for. Even though she didn’t need to, I am so thankful she did. She stayed in contact with me all weekend to help keep me level-headed until Monday.
I tossed around the idea of telling my mom, because you are never too old to need your parents, but it was a big weekend at home, and she needed to be there for my aunt and uncle. I didn’t need to worry the Queen of Worriers, especially if everything was going to turn out fine on Monday.
Brandon’s mom is a nurse in the high-risk department, so I thought maybe I could start a conversation with her. But, we were attending a baby shower together, and I didn’t want to be the one to bring someone down on a happy occasion. On our way home, I was seconds away from bursting into tears and telling her everything. When I got home, I ate my treats, relaxed, and then joined my boys outside to see their chalk art. My stepson was so happy to show me everything, but especially the rainbow he drew for me. I almost lost myself. It was such a special drawing; I wish I would have thought to take a picture. Even though he had no idea what was going on with Katie and Daddy, his big heart shone through. I may have snuck him a few extra pieces of candy that day… shhh, don’t tell Brandon!
We went to another party that afternoon to see friends of Brandon’s. We had a blast — again, just what we needed. On Sunday, we were both drawn to church. We hadn’t been most of the summer and decided it was time to surround ourselves with the lovely community of our church. We found this church while looking for pre-marital counseling, and I’m so happy we did. Our experience with this church has been positive. Whether we go each week or every few months, they are always there to welcome us with smiles and, most recently, delicious banana bread. Most of the service talked about Stephen ministers and how this group of people are there in times of need. It felt like they were talking to me. However, I’d had great support so far with only telling a few people. The sermon was honestly about feeling loved by people and when to ask for help. Again, wow, we needed to be there that day. We were brought there for a reason.
Sunday night, we made plans to go out to eat with Brandon’s parents. Brandon had been so great at distracting me all weekend, so I didn’t have time to really think. We still had to disguise my ‘drinks,’ but I did agree to a sip of Brandon’s mom’s margarita. We felt that was a win, and we’d fooled them once again.
Monday, October 1st, rolled around. Brandon went to work. I helped get Bentley ready for school and out to the bus. After making breakfast, packing a lunch, and making sure he had everything for the day, he hopped on the bus. But, I forgot his water bottle. I filled it and sat it on the counter. Maybe it was a sign. If I couldn’t remember a water bottle, how could I be a mom myself? I called Brandon, almost in tears, as I told him the situation. He told me to follow the bus, but I physically couldn’t. I was embarrassed. How could I have done that? Brandon came home, grabbed the bottle, told me everything was alright, and delivered my mistake. He really is the greatest dad.
Remember Brandon’s cousin? Well, she knew our appointment wasn’t until 1 p.m., and she knew I needed to get out of the house. She emailed me a gift card to Starbucks, and I left the house and ordered my two favorite things. I brought them home, enjoyed them, and then began to watch ‘Parks and Recreation.’ This show has gotten me through a lot in my life, so thank you Amy Poehler.
Before I knew it, noon came around, and Brandon was home from work. It was almost time for us to leave. We talked a little in the car about being scared, and a little in the waiting room about if we were prepared for anything. Correction, you are really never prepared for anything. They called my name; the time had come. Oh, just the dreaded height and weight. Okay, fine. Where I work, we have to measure our heights, but in most places, patients can just state their height. I mean, would they really say anything if I said I was 5’9″? Okay, you got me. They probably would. I got my vitals done; my blood pressure was 90’s/50’s which is around my norm. That helped me feel a peace I hadn’t stressed myself to the point of high blood pressure. I received the ‘best wishes’ message and was sent back to the waiting room.
Again, my name was called, this time by the ultrasound tech. This was it. What was wrong with our baby? We went back. Thankfully, I abided by the rules and had a full bladder for the ultrasound — this time was just the external ultrasound. The tech was nice and calm. She did a bunch of scans, pretty quickly. She stopped to take measurements, and I was looking for anything and everything. I was focused on where the heart was the last ultrasound and noticed it wasn’t flickering like the other time, but it was a different ultrasound, and I wasn’t ready to accept that news yet. She did an audio/visual clip of the heartbeat, and to my positive, silver-lining husband, it showed something different than what it showed me. I saw nothing. Why? Why was this happening? Did we need to switch to the other ultrasound? I may be a nurse, but my specialty is not women’s health.
The tech covered up my stomach and told us something we thought we had been prepared for, but we weren’t. She said, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing a heartbeat today. I will give you two some time and will have the doctor come in shortly to discuss everything with you.’ She handed us some tissues, and down we went. We have never hugged each other with more heart, with more strength, or with more love. We were one — he was there for me, and I was there for him. I remember telling him I was sorry. I felt like I had failed him. He had one healthy boy, so it had to be me. He reassured me this was NOT my fault.
I felt like I had been so cocky about pregnancy before this. This was like a slap in my face. By cocky, I mean, one of my grandmas had 8 children and the other had 12. My parents had three decent kids, haha. How could this be happening to me? I had this all planned out. This doesn’t happen in my family, but it does. It does. What you don’t know won’t hurt you, but what you don’t know can’t help you. After thinking about my family a little more, it has happened. I was just blind to it. Maybe because I didn’t want to read the sad stories, or I just didn’t know how to help. But I do now, and I am here. I am here for anyone and everyone.
The doctor came in, said hello, shook our hands, and gave his apologies. He sat down at the computer and showed us the images once more, being more specific. ‘This is where the heart should be flickering. The yolk sac has fluid in it, which leads me to believe it is no longer supporting the pregnancy.’ He gave us reasons this could have happened and said if we wanted to know more, we could always send a sample for genetic testing. He believed it to be something chromosomal that was affecting the heart. He gave us options for what happens next. This was all so much.
He stated we could 1) Wait it out and let everything come out on its own time, which could take weeks. 2) Take a medication to help it come out faster. Or 3) Surgery. Honestly, surgery sounded like the worst option at first. I basically had thrown it to the side. He said we should go home, be with each other, and think about it. This wasn’t even the doctor we were supposed to see, but I am ever grateful he was.
I began to tell people who already knew of the circumstances. ‘No heartbeat,’ was what I sent. I couldn’t form other sentences at first, even with my fingers. I was numb. We went to a bar, and I ordered a drink. I felt like I was doing something wrong by drinking with a fetus inside me. However, we needed it. I needed that time with my husband. I didn’t need the Cubs loss, but we needed to be there. We then began to tell other people, who didn’t know of the pregnancy or what happened, on Friday.
The more I informed people, the more I learned of the losses people have had in the past — even stories I have never heard and would not have expected to hear. I’m sad I brought up the sad times in others’ lives. I let people answer me if they wanted to, but by golly, that was the most helpful thing I could have asked for. These stories brought me so much hope. I read stories of moms who went on to have happy, healthy children after loss. We are also dreaming of that rainbow.
We informed our parents and felt terrible for not being able to give them the good news before the bad news. We’ve decided there is no point in waiting to tell people; our support system is going to be there in the happy and the sad times. That’s just our thought, but everyone is different.
Back to our decision of how everything was going to come out. People would tell me their stories, and many chose the D&C route. I brought that option back to the table. Many others had miscarriages before being told they had a miscarriage, so they didn’t have an option. Graphic details: if I chose to wait, I could be at work trying to take care of others when the bleeding and cramping hit, which I didn’t feel was fair to my patients. Option 2: the medication. After the thought of bleeding out at work, I realized I didn’t want to bleed out at home either. I had been coping well, but if I was planning to save tissues for genetic testing, I could eventually see our baby, and I’m not sure how I would cope with that. D&C it was. Again, each option is an option for a reason. Do not let me tell you want to do or think. This is just what we decided would be best for us.
That was it. The plan had been decided. Unfortunately, it was after clinic hours, and we had to leave a message. I called back in the morning, and they had to get in touch with the doctor and call me back. It was scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. Ok, but what was I going to do until then? My mind was not in a place to be at work. My work bestie was there Monday and Tuesday, so she wrote me off for my Tuesday shift. I then emailed my bosses to inform them I wouldn’t/couldn’t be there all week. They were very supportive. One less thing to worry about.
However, Tuesday I kept busy by doing housework… sort of. I went to breakfast/brunch/lunch (I don’t know what time it was) with Brandon’s mom. Anything that took me out of the house was a joy. Tuesday night, my work bestie came over after work, of course, bearing gifts and love. We chatted, and I fell asleep talking, per usual. She left, and I was comfortable. Her mission was accomplished. She had done good.
Wednesday was less eventful. I walked to the grocery store, bought a nice dinner, and kept thinking to myself, ‘Is salmon really what I’d want for my last supper? Gosh Katie, shut up!’ While walking home, I felt the need to poop — again sorry, TMI. But this was not your ordinary poop. This was coming with force, and clinching may not help. I was so distracted by my rectum I completely missed, what I was told, was a large car accident across the street. I am hoping this poop was just a distraction sent from above, funny joke though. FYI, I made it home in time. Just in time.
When Brandon got off work, we picked up my stepson from school and went back home so I could finish making my last supper… I know, not funny. Anesthesia scares me. We ate, and then we hit the road to meet and exchange my stepson. Along the way, we received a phone call. The procedure had been moved up to 9:30 a.m., but we needed to be at registration at 8 a.m. Yipee! Going without food is hard when you are told you have to. So, no eating after midnight until after the 9:30 a.m. procedure. That sounded better!
We needed to go to Costco because they had a good deal on kid’s jeans, unfortunately not in the size we needed. So, we left with a flannel, tuna, and a smoothie. Off to my sister and brother-in-law’s. Another huge support system of ours, and we hope we are the same to them. We were distracted by watching ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and I will say, I have missed not watching it for about 10 seasons (I honestly don’t even know what season they were on). We left and came home. I ate a snack because my supper was not very filling, and the thought of not eating until after the procedure was hitting me.
We slept well, woke up, and off to the hospital we went. We got all checked in, and were sent off to the surgery waiting area. Oops! They took us to the wrong place. Oh well, off to the next place. Again, height, weight, urine, and vitals. Then off to the room where I got my very own hospital gown… gross. Followed by beautiful yellow grip socks I am convinced everyone has edema in. Anyway, I was feeling ready.
Brandon was there, again being my rock and comedic relief. In came the first of many staff members, all of which were amazing. The nurse was hilarious and a pro IV starter. The anesthesiologist was also super nice and amazing, rare right? Maybe I just catch them in code situations… Then we got the visit of, ‘What would we like to have done with the remains?’ What? This was an option? Of all the articles I read, I never read this. We were not prepared. They gave us some time, and we decided the burial option from the hospital would be best. They gave us the name of the cemetery and how we would find the plot. Wow. I didn’t even know, but I’m so happy they thought of all of this.
Then our doctor, thankfully, the same guy we met on Monday, was there to do our procedure. He was pleasant, looked rested, and was his genuinely nice self. He walked through everything again and asked what we would need from him after (doctor’s note, scripts, etc.) We were to follow up two weeks post-op. Everything was ready to go.
Going back to the anesthesiologist, she asked if I needed anything to help calm me before going to the OR. As I was about to say no, Brandon chimed in and said, ‘Yes, she does.’ He convinced me it would be a good idea, and I am thankful. Versed is a weird trip. I felt happy, no longer as scared, and the thought of my pregnancy being officially official was out of my head. In the OR, I moved over to the table and up where I needed to be. There were all the familiar faces from before, and I felt comfortable. Then I heard Propofol. You mean the Michael Jackson drug? Ok, fine. Let’s do this. They placed oxygen on me, and I was breathing deep. They told me it was time to fall asleep. I cried, panicked, and the next thing I knew, it was 11 a.m.
I was somewhere else, and I no longer had my baby inside of me. I told myself I wasn’t going to be sad, and I wanted to be a good patient. I asked the nurse how her day was going. She said, ‘Thanks for asking!’ I like to think I filled her bucket. Then, I heard the nurse call to Phase 2 and say I was ready to come over. I had a little cramping, but not enough to rate it at a 1. She helped me change the world’s largest pad, and then I waited until she took care of the lady’s pain needs next to me. She called my husband, and I was so ready to see him. I needed him.
I made it to Phase 2, and the nurse was nice. I did make the mistake of saying I was a nurse in pre-op, so during each report they made it known I was a nurse. But again, I have no knowledge in this department. I hope they knew that. I was able to sit in a chair, eat some graham crackers, and drink the best ginger ale. I still wish I would have asked what kind it was. Then my husband, of a little over 4 months, showed up. I was beyond happy to see him. We’ve been through surgery before, but the last time was him. I think I might be the better patient. He was my biggest advocate all day, and I will never be able to repay him for that.
The doctor came in and talked about the procedure and how it went well. He asked how I was feeling, and I said I had a little cramping, so he asked the nurse to get me something. This was after I refused to take anything when she first asked me. Brandon also looked at me and said, ‘Take the medication.’ I agreed to it and didn’t have to take pain medication until a few days after the procedure.
I was finally able to go home. I had a nice nap and a snack at the hospital. I was recharged. We came home and ate lunch. I felt fine and was awake, so we watched a movie. I literally hadn’t been to work all week, so I may have been getting fidgety. We took our dog for a walk. We needed to get out of the house. Brandon’s parents offered to bring us dinner. Of course, I couldn’t refuse. Ribs, fries, bread, salad, and pumpkin pie. Yes, please. I was no longer eating for two, but I did need to repair my body. Bring on the pie and the new coconut whipped cream — yeah, it’s totally a thing and totally delicious. P.S. No pumpkin pie will ever compare to my Grandma J’s, but I’ll still try it all.
Before bed, my husband gave me two gifts I will forever cherish. A motherhood angel pin and a compass bracelet to remind me what had happened, but we are always pointing to the brighter, happier future to come. As it will. We are hopeful. Again, my biggest feeling is hope. Hope someday our rainbow will come. We would take the pot of gold too. Too greedy? Ok, rainbow it is. Until that day, I’m going to continue being one of my stepson’s biggest supporters and pray for the day he will get to play and fight with his sibling(s).
To all of you out there, silently suffering, you don’t need to. Talking helps, I promise. If you think you have no one to talk to, you have me. I know you may not know who I am, or not know me very well. But I would never judge you or your situation. Everyone’s story is different. I just don’t want you to do this alone. I’m here, and I will listen.
To my angel in heaven, keep a watch over us. Keep us safe until we meet again, sweet angel.”
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