A year and a day we have survived and lived through the most painful year of our lives. This post has been sitting in my draft box for a long time. It took even longer to write it. Just over a year exactly. One may wonder why I wanted to write it, well because tucked inside the darkest, hardest days of our lives are little treasures that I never want to forget. And in order to truly remember the treasures that they are you have to remember the dark days that they came packaged within. In addition, writing it down and out of my head reduces the demon powers. I also truly believe you can find an entirely new level of joy and light only after your experience the hardest, lowest, most painful level of darkness. This is a
forever long post mini novel long and there is definitely more heart ache than good. But here it is. I had this posted titled Our Story for a while but that is not right at all. This is a portion of our story, perhaps it spans longer than a chapter, but nevertheless it is only a part. Our story is made up of so much more than The first few weeks of 2017 and the months following. Our story is Riley Kate, but it’s also love, travel, shrimp, goat cheese, beaches, mountains, breakfast burritos for dinner, adventures, Italy, back scratches, Paris, Iceland, milk, California, international grocery stores, Canada, snuggles, weekend getaways, fuzzy blankets, Mexican food,and yet even more love.
I also considered calling it Riley Kate’s Story but that was not fitting either. Her story is so much more than losing her. Her story is filled with love and giving and anticipation and serving others. A story that in its entirety has impacted the world and made it a better place. Not on some grand sweeping way but an impact nonetheless. And those to me are the best, the small things that add up to a grand, beautiful world.
Now onto the thing…
On January 2, 2017 I headed into work leaving my husband, mama, and brother asleep at my house. I got to work to discover there was an extra person so I volunteered (ok begged) to leave. Score! I went home went for a walk, rested a bit did a little calculating, then decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. Of course I always thought I’d tell Ryan in a really cute way but what actually happened was like what wait is this real? And I instantly told him, while standing in the bathroom shaking. He kissed me told me he loved me. This was no surprise. Yet it in a way caught me off guard. Whether working in the NICU or being a constant worrier I always have felt getting pregnant would not be easy for us.
In the coming days and weeks we told our families and friends. My sister’s reaction did not disappoint. We actually told her first with a card with the pregnancy test in it. Naturally I wanted to save the first one for myself so I “made” another…well the test bled the ink so it took her awhile to make out the accompanying card. We was crying (hysterically) the entire time. I told my cousin over the phone, we had been chatting a few minutes and she was telling me an in depth story, after she finished I said so I am pregnant. Her response, WHAT you let me go on and on this whole time. You could have opened with that. Ryan’s dad couldn’t quite piece together the information with the pacis added to his birthday present.
The planners that
we are I am, we had been talking babies for years and officially planning since July. And I had been dreaming for years because all I ever truly wanted to be was a Mommy. I talked about having a career as a neonatologist when I was younger but I attended the Rural Medical Scholars Program the summer before my senior year of high school and quickly deduced from the interactions with doctors there that I would not have enough time with my babies I so desired so I abandoned ship. That’s how much babies where always on my radar. I had already begun collecting diapers, blankets, clothes, books and a Boppy before and while I was pregnant. I was already dreaming about Fall at Pepperplace and Alabama Football Games and Christmas.
On January 30 we went in for our first OB appointment and ultrasound. We heard the heart beat and I asked at least twice to confirm there were not two babies in there. A few people in my life have had dreams of twins for us, in particular boy twins. YIKES! Twins-doable, survivable, cutest, greats for some people but me, IF we have more than one I would rather do them separately. Good news there was only one baby. I have some blood work drawn. We talk with the MD about different things. She mentioned baby was measuring smaller than we thought which was perfectly normal this early. And I possibly just got my dates wrong or ovulated late. We got home and I saw that the ultrasound pictures stated I was measuring 7.3 weeks instead of 8.5 weeks that I thought. Well I had a mini freak out. You know me the calculator, planner, thinker I could have gotten the dates wrong by a few days but 1 week and 2 days off? Also, I was almost 100% confident that I knew my dates were right. But managed to move on.
Ryan and I discussed (aka I agonized) about doing genetic testing. I have seen too many people expect healthy babies and then only to be devastated when that was not the case. I told Ryan I just wanted to mentally be prepared for whatever came our way so I wasn’t adjusting to being a new mom and possibly get hard news. Well turns out that happened anyways because even though I did not birth her I am still a Mommy, her mommy.So we called with numbers and codes and got the price of the test and decided to do it. On February 22 I went in to have the test drawn. While there we heard the heart beat with the doppler. I also spoke with the Dr about should we do another ultrasound later since the baby measured small on the first one. She assured me it was ok. On the way home I remember reading to Ryan about one of the test run on the blood is to check the baby chromosomes if the baby has too many, in some cases the babies can live for a short period after birth but there is also a risk of the mom’s having negative effects from carrying baby and the placenta. Yep I kid you not. Looking back, it’s bone chilling to me.
Throughout the next few weeks I developed
morning sickness all the time sickness. I learned how to drive while simultaneously throwing up into a cup. I had grand dreams of feeding my baby only the best whole nutritious foods. Reality check I ate Gutherie’s fries, the occasional hamburger, Bagel Bites and Chickfila if I had to cook raw meat there was no way I could eat the meat after it was cooked. And to this day I can’t really even look at a Bagel Bites after one fateful night when I thought I might puke up my toenails.
Fast forward to February 28, 2017 I was feeling so sick and I couldn’t handle it anymore so I called my OB for some medicine. Ryan called me to tell me the medicine was going to be $300 ish dollars. Umm, what?!? No. I don’t know why but something made me think, “well let me check the heartbeat, because no point in paying the money if there is no heart beat.” I kid you not. I thought that. I could not find the heartbeat with the home Doppler. I tried my best to keep my cool, which was impossible. It was still early 12.4 days. But that didn’t really calm my nerves since I had found the heartbeat twice myself with the Doppler and once in the OB office. Later that day I tried to nap. I heard Canadian Geese while I was sleeping. I’m not sure if it was a dream or they really were flying overhead. But I ALWAYS think of my Papa and smile fondly when I hear geese (ie treasure).
Around 420 pm that day my mom convinced me to call the office. You see I didn’t earlier because I didn’t want to be THAT crazy NICU nurse. I spoke with the front desk who then transferred me to the nurse’s voicemail. I didn’t even leave a message because I knew I would not get a call back. That night I even had a friend try to find the heart beat but that did not work either.
The next day I was at work at the Eye Foundation I was still worried and trying to get a connection with some one for an ultrasound you know nurse and doctor friend perks. I also had as usual thrown up that morning, I remember thinking if something was wrong surely I wouldn’t be sick. The reality was something was wrong so I was SO sick during pregnancy. Early afternoon I was sitting in the ER, my phone vibrated. I did not recognize the number nor was it a number associated with Brookwood but for some reason I answered it anyways. And if I do not know the number I hardly ever answer. It was my OB on the other end of the line. She say Hey, Anna Kate It’s Dr. In that moment I wanted to say F**** no it is not do not be calling me. If everything was ok the nurse not the doctor would be on the other end of that phone call. She asked me if I had a minute and then said the words that destroyed my heart and world. The genetic testing came back and indicates the baby is not viable. She said some other words about could be twins and one did not develop. Could meet with Maternal Fetal Specialist on Friday am. We decided since I could not find the heart beat yesterday that I would go in for an ultrasound that afternoon. I hung up, called my nurse manager, left work in a blur. I got to the car called Ryan, my mom and MC. My sister and brother had class and I did not want to bother anyone else until we knew more. Somehow I managed to drive home. I took a bath to try to relax as I waited on Ryan to come home and the appointment time.
I remember our Dogwood tree was blooming. It seemed early to me. And I remember looking but not seeing anyone else’s close by in bloom like ours. Dogwoods are my favorite. We have had one as almost every rental place and now a pink and a white one in our front yard. They are kind of like a sign to me. I took comfort in those early blooms and here we are a year later and again on February 28 the blossoms are open.
Ryan drove us to the doctor’s office. On the way there I remember praying please let Squirt be healthy or in Heaven already. Please do not make me make that call. We got there and had to wait and agonizingly long time in the waiting area, also with a full bladder. There was also paperwork to sign that made us aware that insurance might not cover another ultrasound so soon and we would be responsible for covering the cost if that was the case. It seemed like the first of many insurance cruel jokes.
We got back to the back and they wanted to do a trans-vaginal ultrasound so I was able to empty my full bladder. So odd the things you remember. Well the ultrasound began and I just knew. There was no heart beat. I feel bad in retrospect for asking the tech. It was more of a statement from me and not a question though and I am so thankful she did not beat around the bush until the doctor came in. She confirmed that in fact there was no heart beat. The doctor came in and we talked about options, a D&C or naturally. She said we could think about it and call her office in the morning and have the D&C as early as the next day. We left the hospital and called my mom and then other appropriate people, family, friends, work. My mom was at our house shortly after and my sister and dad and aunt came as well. We went out to Jim N Nicks for dinner. I ate a salad with the BBQ Ranch dressing. Think I have been to Jim N Nicks much since then…I do not remember mush else from that night. How did I even begin to sleep I have no earthly idea. I did have some ambien and zofran maybe she gave it to me that day or maybe it was after surgery I am not sure.
We decided to have the procedure the next day. I wanted it over and done with as soon as possible so we could move on. (yea you can go ahead and laugh at me for that thought).
The next morning I called the office at 8 they got me scheduled for around 2. I puked a few times that morning still morning sickness. The cruelest joke on earth my body was playing on me. I remember trying different things like Gilmore Girls or The Jungle Book to
hold my attention distract me. We went to the hospital, sat in the waiting room. Some co-workers and friends stopped by. I remember someone saying we did not mean to make you cry well you did I just can not help it I am sorry. They took me to the back and the PCA told me my blood pressure was high and just to relax ummmmmmmmmm yea ok. That still makes me roll my eyes and kind of mad.
My former nurse manger came by and got my mom and Ryan out of the waiting room so they could be with me. I am so grateful that she did. I did not want to be without Ryan for a second. Looking back when they came to get me I should have insisted he come right away. I know as a nurse I could have but I also know as a nurse how it is often good to get the patient settled. But I wanted and needed him there. Luckily it was not too long before he was.
They started an IV, drew labs, anesthesia came by. He said they would put me under general and intubate me. I told him my dad gets violently sick with anesthesia and I had already thrown up a few times that day please do not let me do it again and he did not. He also shared with us he had been here too and not had the best children his money could have bought him. Family support came by and she was the best ever then and afterwards calling and sending cards.
The doctor came by she talked about things with me like sending off more test. The possibility if a partial molar pregnancy which would mean more lab work and possibly not being able to try again for a year. She said I would be good to go back to work in 24 hours. (We will come back to that thought).
They took me back to the back, gave me some versed (maybe?) before we even rolled out of the room. I instantly felt it hit me as we rolled down the hall. I vaguely remember a bit about the OR. People talking to me. And then out. I have this vague memory of a rush or a commotion maybe I got sick or something? Unsure.
I do remember thinking to myself what happened, what is going on? And the sudden gut wrenching realization of where I was and what was wrong. The nurse asked me if I felt sick I nodded yes so she gave me more nausea medicine. It was more realizing what was going on than anything else. I fell back asleep then later willed myself really hard to wake up so I could go home. They took me back to the room I started in and we stayed there a little longer. I had to eat and drink and they needed to monitor bleeding. They gave me some of those mesh panties such a weird thing I know. But I was so angry because I was supposed to get those for having a baby not having a D&C at 13 weeks pregnant. Finally we got to go home. I do not remember much else that day. Ryan left to pick up my medicine and get dinner. I pretty much slept on the couch for days.
I took a few days off work. I am so glad I did! Despite being told I could return to work in 24 ish hours there would have been no way for that to happen. My neck hurt something fierce almost like my head was positioned for intubation but then never straightened back h out for hours. My entire body felt like it had been hit by a 18 wheeler for days. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I felt strangely guilty or like something was wrong with me that I did not even feel physically ready for work. I knew emotionally I would not feel ready for months. But I felt so defeated that I felt as much physical pain. I really wish the doctor would have said medically you can go back to work in 24 hours but I do not expect or encourage that. Take a week off if you are able to. Silly I know but I wish she had set my expectations up appropriately. I did take a week off and I am glad I did. Although to this day it is still hard to walk into the hospital where the doctor’s office is, past the waiting room I waited in, and take care of other people’s babies. Grace upon grace with myself on that one.
A few weeks later we took a weekend getaway to Fort Payne, AL one of our escape towns. We got a call from the nurse with test confirming triploidy and our Squirt was a girl. We held each other and cried it was still raw and searing pain. We held that news together for a day or so then we started telling our families and friends.
We also later learned that the placenta had come back abnormal so I would have to have weekly HCG levels drawn until they were below a certain level then monthly for three months after that. It turned out it would take until the end of July to be done with all those lab draws, so just getting it over with and moving on did not happen. The entire ordeal lasted and lasted. We had an appointment scheduled with Maternal Fetal Medicine for late July for preconception counseling. We were officially cleared to get pregnant again when our hearts where ready. A year and a day later, still not ready.
I have learned so many thing this past year, some I have previously shared and some still to come. The greatest gift I learned from this was how loved we are and how important others actively showing us how loved we are was.
The treasures they started on that Tuesday and still continue to grace our lives. The calls, text, cards, flowers, gifts, and love they pulled us through. Of course until my dying breath it will be a struggle. But we lived through the hardest (so far) year of our lives. I can not thank everyone enough. Those that have shared their stories with us, those that have given love to others in honor of Riley Kate, those that prayed for us, those that fed us, those that held us while we cried, those that listened as we vented anger and sadness.