Chronic Pain

I woke up the following morning nervous to start medication. When your an over thinker, like myself, your brain tends to run on overdrive, usually with negative thoughts like; Will I be on this medication forever? What kind of side effects will I have? Will it make me tired? Will it make me a zombie? Will I have to try a bunch before I find one I like? How will I know if I like it? The doctors had wanted to start me on four different pills and up my dosage accordingly. I had asked to be started on the lowest dose and I didn’t want to be on more than two pills at a time. The great thing about U of M is that they actually take what you want into consideration. They agreed to put me on Zoloft daily, mainly because I requested one that was safe during pregnancy (just in case) and Xanax when needed for panic attacks.

We had a dry erase board in our room and we had to write  a goal on it everyday.  My goal was to not take any Xanax. The nurses insisted that I not make medications MY goal. They felt that I needed to realize medication was here to help and that it wasn’t a bad thing. What they didn’t understand is that my end game in all of this, is another baby. I wasn’t against the medication. I didn’t like it, but I was at a point where I would try anything if it would help; however,being on a medication dictated when and if I could have another child and that’s why I was fighting it. Every time I took a Xanax, I knew I was that much further from being able to get pregnant. Even if I never have another baby, I can’t take that disappointment, not when it’s the one thing I still have hope for.

My next group was “support team”. Almost all of us were in that one. We had to discuss who our support people were and who we would call if needed. What was sad about this group, was that  most, could not not think of a support person other than their therapist. Derek was the only one besides me who had a lot of support at home. I listened as each person talked about their home life and in most cases even, it’s what had brought them here. I wanted to take them all home with me. These people had horrible things going on in their life and no one to turn to. In that moment, I was so thankful for my friends and family. Two patients were being relocated to a special housing for teenagers of drug addicted parents. Kennie was trying to get her sister to leave her husband and come with her. Steve’s grandma had just died. I think she helped a lot financially and he was returning to a wife and new born baby with little money and not in a good place mentally. Obviously his wife wanted him home so she could have some help. I remember him on several different occasions saying he wasn’t ready to go home and his wife was upset he wasn’t pushing to leave sooner. Most people did not want to leave and there I was, wishing everyday was that day.

I can not recall the name of our final group that day, but it was all about therapy – what kinds, how often it’s needed, and if we already had a therapist, were we seeing them. if we didn’t have one, they guided us on how to find the one that fit. My friend Lauren is a therapist and I had actually contacted her before I went into U of M. We can’t leave the hospital without having an appointment with a therapist within two weeks of leaving. I had already asked Lauren and so she was getting all the information about my stay and planned on seeing me after I was discharged. She was one of five people on speed dial when I was in the hospital. I went from never seeing a therapist to needing one on the daily. Who am I kidding, hourly. In one of our groups, there was a guy named Phil. Phil scared me from day one. He was maybe five years older than me. He walked with a cane and was pale and sweating 99% of the time . He always, and I mean always, had a scowl. He doesn’t mind staring, and everything out of his mouth is sarcastic and mean. In group, he never spoke. The only reason  I only knew his name was Phil because the social worker would call him out of group. He would laugh in groups when people were talking about their issues. Not a full on laugh, more like a sarcastic chuckle, as if their issues were comical even. I  made eye contact with him  once and it sent chills down my spine. No smile, just that scowl, pale face, and a look of disgust that I had the audacity to sit near him. When the social worker got to me, she asked me about therapy and my experience. At this point in time, I had never discussed Nash once. He, after all, was not my issue, but a lot of my thoughts about therapy I got from losing him. I said, “I don’t really believe in it.”I said, “for me, its hard to believe someone who hasn’t been through what I have can really know how to help because they have no experience with it themselves. The social worker replied, “Yes, you are correct, but they can empathize with you.” Now I found myself chuckling like Phil. She then said, “why don’t you try it out here? What do you think they can’t empathize with?” Not sure why, but it opened the flood gates. I started talking about Nash, the call from Todd telling me the police were doing CPR, seeing him on that gurney watching doctors and nurses doing viscous and brutal chest compressions that shook Nash to the point where I felt I should stop them because they were hurting him. I recalled the day I dropped him off, the last time I saw him and the last time I saw him smile at me as I walked back towards my car to leave for work. I hiccup-cried as I explained that no matter how much they felt they could empathize with me, they could never know the pain I feel each day. They could never understand the pain of re-living the best five months of my life and the gut wrenching feeling of rocking my dead child in a rocking chair in front of my friends and family, singing to him his favorite song and telling him it’s ok to go. I didn’t realize I had been looking at the floor the entire time. As soon as I looked up there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Even the social worker was crying. Jozlyn, Steve, Derek, and Kennie were all looking at me, crying. Some even got up to hug me. This was the first time in a long time I talked about the day he died. Seeing others who have significant issues of their own be in complete disbelief and sadness for me, made me realize just how much I probably needed this help long ago. Then, out of nowhere, that low and scary voice came from my right, as Phil said, “this is the first time someone has explained exactly how I feel.” I immediately thought, “oh my God, Phil lost a child!?” That wasn’t his story though. He explained that he was hit by a drunk driver years ago. He described the amount of surgeries and metal he now has in his spine and legs. That his fiancé left him after the first year, when he was just learning to walk again. He then said, “no one understands what I go through on a daily basis.” How can some therapist give me any advice? He paused and then said, “no one else knows what it’s like living with chronic pain….”

 

Making Memories in the Strangest of Places

“Tell me about Nash.”

Those words echoed in my brain for what seemed like hours. How do I even begin to answer that question? How do you explain someone that changed your life forever? How do you explain that amount of perfection, or that amount of love…I am convinced it cannot be done. I have written well over 100 blog entries, and still feel I haven’t fully captured or conveyed the amount of love I felt and still feel for him.

I kept trying to swallow the giant lump in my throat so I could answer. I stared out the window as I explained my perfect baby boy, his life, and everything after. I finally looked at the psychiatrists and said, “So you can see I handled his death in the healthiest of ways. There is no way this is postpartum.”

The intern quickly answered, “We don’t think this is from Nash but from your miscarriage.” I was puzzled. I didn’t realize you could have postpartum depression after a miscarriage. I explained how little the miscarriage affected me. Don’t get me wrong…it was extremely hard, but after all Todd and I have been through it seemed…small in comparison. We were more upset about our ill misfortune. We knew the baby was not healthy and we accepted that with some relief. He went on to explain that postpartum is a chemical imbalance. That whether we are sad or feel sad does not matter. That our body will react differently because of this. I was skeptical to say the least.

I tried to be open, but the head psychiatrist seemed to be able to read my mind. He commended me on how we dealt with our grief. He complimented Todd and me for having the insight to do this in the middle of such heartache. He continued, saying, “This destroys marriages and it apparently brought the two of you closer together.” He then said something that made more sense to me then almost anything else I have heard regarding my health issues. He said, “Some people are mentally strong, such as yourself. You’re resilient…but your mind cannot continue to compensate for your body after long periods of stress. This is your body saying it’s done, that it needs a break.”

This made some sense to me. I laughed and replied, “I feel embarrassed that, after everything I’ve been through, dizziness is what broke me.”

He replied, “Don’t be embarrassed. You were going to break with whatever that next stress was. It just so happens it was this.”

They dismissed me and said they would start me on medication the next day. The next day?! Ugh, I was hoping I was leaving. I got back to my room and my roommate was packing. She was just short of prancing around the room as she excitedly told me she was going home the next day. All I could think is that they must really think I need some help if this chick hearing voices that came from the hospital can go home after a day and I’m not leaving anytime soon.

Her phone rang. I could only hear her side of the conversation. “Hello?” After a long pause she said, “I don’t know who this is,” and hung up. A minute later, another call. She answered “Hello?” Another pause, and she replied, “Who is this?” Another pause, and she replied, “I don’t have a husband,” and hung up.

Now her phone was blowing up. We both started laughing when we realized we had each other’s phone. The first person who called her was my friend Shawn, who called Todd worried that I didn’t know who she was. So Todd called. I died laughing thinking about Todd when she said she didn’t know who he was, and when he said this is your husband she told him she didn’t have a husband. Todd and Shawn were minutes away from breaking me out of the hospital on some sort of rescue mission. Seriously, when I think about this, I still laugh.

The next group was Anger Management. I didn’t think I needed it, but it was on my list and I wanted out of here. I sat by Steve and Derek and listened without talking the entire group. Jozlyn came in the night before. I could hear her screaming in the hallway that she was going to kick someone’s ass if they continued to not let her use her phone after hours. Let’s just say I was not surprised to see her in anger management. There was also a woman who I am almost positive was transgender–her name was Kennie. She was an introvert in every way. She spoke no higher than a whisper and not often. She nervously played with her hands if someone asked a question or made eye contact.

The counselor asked us all if we had ever felt our anger was out of control. Jozlyn damn near stood up, raising her hand, screaming, “I’m pissed off right now by that kid looking at me every two seconds!” She then pointed to the hall monitor who has to check on every one of us every ten minutes. even in the night. His head pops in every ten minutes to make sure we aren’t hanging by our shoelaces or something.

The counselor replied, “That is his job. Do you feel like your anger is maybe higher than normal in this situation?”

She sat stiff, arms crossed, and red faced as she answered, “I don’t care if it’s higher than normal or not–someone needs to teach that fucker to be a little more discreet. He’s making me fucking nervous.” Two seconds later he popped his head in and Jozlyn screamed, “You can see us through the fucking window, kid! No need to open the damn door to look in!” Steve and I started laughing hysterically. That poor kid did not open that door again for the rest of that hour.

When the counselor got to Kennie and asked if she felt she had anger issues, she looked at her hands and quietly said, “I’m not an angry person. I’m mainly just sad.” She made my heart break instantly. Her sadness was palpable, and all I wanted to do was give her a big hug.

They dismissed us and we waited in the hall for lunch. Just then some U of M students were walking down the hall with clipboards, about 25 of them. They looked at us smiling, but trying not to stare. It was 12:00 and I was still  in a hospital gown, slippers, and a robe. Jozlyn leaned over to me and said, “I feel like a fucking zoo animal.” I looked at the students and back at myself. “Zoo animals” pretty much captured it.

We had assigned seats and mine was with Kennie. We ended up talking quite a bit. She was extremely sweet. She lived with her sister and her sister’s very abusive boyfriend–never abusive to her but to her sister and her sister’s kids. She had decided to move out because it was an unbearable living situation. She felt a tremendous amount of guilt leaving her nieces there. He ended up beating them badly the first night she was gone and she ended up moving back in to help them. I’m not sure what happened after that, but that’s what brought her here.

I was on my way back to my room and saw I had Art next. Steve looked over my schedule and said, “That sucks–I got Gym.” Gym?!?! There was a gym? I noticed the Art class was all girls and the guys played b-ball and lifted in the gym. Anyone who knows me knows this did not make me happy. I didn’t say anything though. I just painted with the girls and headed back to my room.

Steve said there was a guy named Jack who works nights that will open the gym if there are enough people who want to workout. I said, “I would for sure.” Around 6:30, Steve and Derek were at my door in full gym clothes, waiting for me to get ready. Who comes to this place with a wardrobe? Todd had brought me some jeans and shirts, so I took off my robe for the first time all day and headed to the gym.

Steve and Derek explained that they wanted to play basketball, but that I didn’t have to–they had jump ropes and stuff. I laughed and said I would rather play basketball. They looked like I told them I was going to paint their nails or something. Then Jack said he would play 2-on-2 with us and they argued about whether I counted or not. Now I’m not meaning to brag, but I’m pretty damn good at basketball. I stayed silent, but all of the sudden I felt the need for anger management now. They finally decided I counted mainly  because Derek volunteered to have the girl.

I felt this pressure now. I hadn’t played in years. What if I sucked all of a sudden? I’m happy to report I didn’t, and Steve got razzed pretty bad every time I blocked his shot or scored on him. After the game we were all sitting against the wall catching our breath when Steve asked if I was a lesbian. I about died! I laughed and said, “No, are you gay?” Derek laughed so hard he shot Gatorade out of his mouth across the gym floor and we were promptly kicked out.

It was the first time I had had fun in months. The gym became a regular thing for us, although Steve would never play 2-on-2 anymore; instead, we played HORSE.

That night Todd had called like he did every night on his way down after work. He said his dad was coming with him which made me so happy. My father-in-law, Greg, is the best person I know. To be around him means to be happy. I knew hospitals were not his thing. He drove separately from my mother-in-law to the hospital when I had the boys so he could come later–the less he was there the better (but he always got to restless and came early anyway). When I was hospitalized with the flu and found out the baby had no heartbeat, he came up and sat by my side–my only visitor other than Todd. Todd told him not to come, that I was sad and very contagious, but he came anyway so I wouldn’t be alone when Todd ran home for things. He manages to be this quiet, calm voice of reason, and yet a complete tower of strength in these situations…and he instilled these qualities in his son.

When he got there, I could see that uncomfortable look he always has in hospitals. It’s a look I imagine most S.W.A.T. teams have when they are dismantling a bomb. We sat in the cafeteria playing UNO, just the three of us. We talked and laughed, and I could tell Greg was feeling a little better as the time went on. The last time he had seen me I had been in his living room sitting in his chair crying before I left for U of M. He had hugged me and said, “I want you to go, Honey, and get better.”

I’m glad he didn’t come the first day or two when I wasn’t as well. He got to see me on one of my better days. I’ll never forget that night. It was special for me–just me and my favorite guys playing cards in the psych ward cafeteria.

Tell Me About Nash

My second day in, I was still not leaving my room. I called my friend Shawn. She is my tough-love friend. I told her how I felt and she encouraged me to at least try to go to a group. I looked over my schedule for the day. Morning stretch, followed by CBT therapy, and then pet therapy. I couldn’t help but laugh at my situation as I read it to Shawn. She, however, did not laugh…. I mumbled hesitantly, “Pet therapy sounds interesting, and I could use a puppy to pet.” I could hear her smiling as I hung up.

They give you a coloring book when you arrive. It’s suppose to relieve stress and I found that it actually does. To this day I’m a coloring fool. As I was on my second hour of coloring, a man walked in and said he had to move me to another room–they needed this room for someone else. I learned quickly they didn’t really need my room–they just wanted to move me closer to the nurses’ station after my “episode.” Again, no roommate and I was thankful for that. I would say three hours into coloring I could color no more. I went down to the kitchen for some ice cream.

I got about ten steps before I went clammy/shaky and felt my heart racing. The nurse took one look at me and hurried me to this corner room I wasn’t aware of. It was a small room with a TV and two small couches. A man my age was sitting in there watching football. He was screaming at the television when they brought me in to take my vitals. My heart rate was 140. All I could do was cry. I should have never left my room. The man saw me crying and scooted closer to me. He leaned in and said, “My name’s Steve.”

I looked around the room trying to see who he was talking to. It was only us and the nurse taking my vitals. I knew he could clearly see I was in distress, but he acted as if this was just kinda normal. I shook his hand and said through a shaky voice and tears, “Shelly. Nice to meet you.” He then told me to breathe and try and think about anything else.

He had a monster tattoo on his arm, was vigorously chewing what I was almost positive was Nicorette gum, and he constantly was nervously kicking his leg. You could tell right away he was a very high strung individual. His advice was working though and, right when my heart rate was going down, I heard “god dammit” followed by a thrown remote.

My heart rate was back up and the nurse was yelling at Steve to calm down. Steve sat quickly and apologized for his outburst. I said, “Do you have Tourette’s or something?”

He laughed and said, “I wish–my fantasy kicker just fucked my world up.” I started laughing hysterically and he followed. I had no idea in that moment that I just met my person for the next week.

I tried going to lunch, but again I started crying and getting shaky. Steve walked me back to my room and got the nurse. I was a mess. How was I going to “work the program” if I can’t even leave the room? A nurse came in with another nurse whose badge read “Supervisor.” She looked me up and down and asked me sourly why I was crying. I explained, and she said, “You have go to at least try.” I explained something was wrong with me and she said, “Let’s just concentrate on the here and now.”

I wanted to punch her. I actually visualized it. I sarcastically replied, “OK, sounds good,” and gave her a thumbs-up. An hour later my heart rate was back up and that same nurse was ordering an EKG.

When the lady came into the room to apply the stickers, I just laid there staring out the window crying. No more noise, sniffling, just tears rolling down. I had no energy to even look at this woman. I could feel the woman’s concern and I couldn’t even give her a smile. Right before she left, she laid her hand on my arm and through a cracked voice said, “It will be OK, Honey.” Then she left.

Todd visited as normal, and I cried and told him about my day. I think he was getting discouraged that I wasn’t getting better, and I felt the same. I lived for the few hours I got with him. We did our usual ritual of a sleeping pill and waving goodbye, but I could not sleep. I decided to go to the small living room I was in earlier. Steve was there with another young man watching football and eating candy, because that’s exactly what high-strung Steve needed–sour patch kids. He offered me one, and I smiled and said, “No thank you.”

Derek, the other young man, was a good-looking 19 year old who played lacrosse for U of M. He was so soft spoken and sweet, and I found myself wondering what brought him here. He implied once that he felt a lot of pressure to be the best. They closed the room at 11:00 and kicked us out. Steve said, “You can come hang with us–Derek is my new roomie.”

I hung out and talked for a little while and then headed back to my room. Alba was back on and said she saw I had made friends. She said Steve came from the hospital. I said, “What does that mean?”

She said, “Suicide attempt.”

He had told me he had just had a new baby girl and my mind wondered about what had caused him to want to take his own life. I got the impression that this wasn’t his first time here.

I woke the next morning to a very childlike voice crying and saying, “I don’t want to be here.” I opened my eyes and saw I had a roommate and she appeared to be talking to her dad. She couldn’t have been older than 16. Her dad had to leave and she just laid there crying. She looked over at me and said, “Why are you in here?”

I told her, “Because I’m dizzy.” I laughed and said, “That sounds outrageous when I say it out loud.” I asked why she was.

She said, “I came from the hospital…. I hear voices and they tell me to do bad things to myself. I’ve heard them since I was 13.” I was intrigued. I asked if she ever believed they are real, like spirits, and she said, “All the time.”

The next morning she went to groups and said, “If you want out of here, you have to go to group. They won’t let you out otherwise.”

She asked if I wanted to use her brush since I was using a hospital comb. I thought to myself, “The last thing I need to do is catch voices.” I smiled and said, “No thank you.”

The first group was morning stretch. I was so freaking dizzy I had to sit for all the exercises. Steve yelled to the instructor, “This is bullshit that she gets to sit down!” I was taken aback, but he whispered to me, “Just kidding–the instructor is new. I like to break them in.” After that we were walking past a huge conference room to head to our rooms. I saw one obvious patient and five other people talking to her. Steve explained those were the psychiatrists and we would meet with them daily. An hour later I was told they were ready to see me.

I walked into the room not knowing what to expect. Quickly I learned there were four interns and one head psychiatrist. One intern would ask me the majority of the questions and I would answer. I mainly stated I was sick and no one was understanding this. They were the key to getting me on the right floor. I went on and on about my dizziness, hands being numb, moments of clamminess, and high heart rate. They then dismiss you. After they talk among themselves for about thirty minutes, they call you back. When I sat back down, the intern who asked all the questions gave me his diagnosis: delayed postpartum depression with severe anxiety and panic attacks. He recommended medication and explained that all of these symptoms can be caused by anxiety and/or depression. I smiled back at them and said nicely, “I know you all think that, but I don’t.”

He smiled and said, “We know.”

I laughed and said, “I’m not trying to belittle your profession but I don’t really believe in all of this, and I don’t believe therapy can help what’s going on with me physically. I have something medically wrong with me.”

This is when the head guy talked for the first time. He said, “Why do you think your mind isn’t attached to the rest of your body?” He said this smiling and looking at the table before looking up at me for an answer.

I smiled and said, “Touché, Doc, touché.”

The room fell silent for what seemed like minutes.

He then said, “Why don’t you tell me about Nash?”

I looked out the glass windows to the hallway area, closed my eyes, and pictured my smiling happy baby boy, and then the rocking chair where I held him for the last time. The tears fell like rain.

Perspective

Let me start by saying I did not think for one second they were going to actually admit me to the Psych Department. I after all was not anxious or depressed–I had something medically wrong with me. I hoped they would only because I would be in the best hospital in the state. Once they saw that I was clearly sick they would transfer me to the correct floor.

Waiting in the lobby was the first indication I may actually need help. They have a med cart in the lobby in case you need meds. A med cart!!! People were actually in line with little cups waiting for their psychiatric drugs! This seemed bizarre to me. The old me would never have needed meds to sit in a lobby…but guess who was in that line within an hour of being there…this girl!

The hardest part about being admitted to the Psych Department was saying goodbye to Todd. He has always been my rock, but, these last four months, I couldn’t function unless he was with me. They put me in a wheelchair and had me say my goodbyes to Todd. He leaned over to kiss goodbye this drugged, wheelchaired, fragile person his wife had become. He said, “Just get better, Honey. Don’t worry about anything else.” Let’s just say I cried hard as they wheeled me away, out of his sight. How was I going to do this without my person?

Luckily it was three in the morning when I was admitted. Everyone was in bed. I was scared to death. I pictured people walking down the hallway drooling on themselves or screaming obscenities. I guess I have watched a few too many movies.

The nurse gave me the tour. It was one giant hallway with a nurses’ station, living room area, and a kitchen. The kitchen was fully stocked with drinks and food, including ice cream. This in and of itself made me happy. That is if I could find the will to eat it. The living room had books, board games, and a TV.  She explained that they would give me a flip phone every morning at 8:00 and I would have to turn it back in by 10:00 each night. As they walked me to my room they explained that there were no TVs in our rooms or call lights…that this was not a hospital in that way. Anything that promoted us staying in our rooms was a no-no. She explained I would get my schedule every morning that would explain my daily activities. I thought to myself, “Activities? Are you sure this is not a prison?”

My room was at the very end of the hall. I was thankful to see I didn’t have a roommate. I woke the next morning to the nurse saying I would see the doctors today as she placed my schedule on the table. The list had different group activities with meals scheduled in between. I set it back down, rolled over in bed, and went back to sleep. It wasn’t long before the nurse was in my room to ask if I wanted breakfast. All I could do was cry. She said, “Just this once you can eat in your room.” She brought my food in and set it on the table. I  didn’t touch it. Visiting hours started at 6:00 p.m. on the weekdays, and I wanted to just sit and sulk until Todd could get there. This did not fly however, and every time meals were provided I was encouraged to go to the dining room and eat with everyone else. I didn’t leave for one meal.

Then I remembered that we got phones. I walked down to the nurses’ station to get mine. I gazed into each room as I walked by. People walking down the hallway would smile at me. I grabbed my phone and headed straight back to my room so I could call Todd. The doctors ended up not being able to see me until the evening of the next day. So I sat and waited in my room for Todd.

When he arrived I was so happy. For some reason I would always cry and shake uncontrollably when he got there. The relief that washed over me as soon as he arrived was all consuming. I think at that point I was surprised I had not driven him away yet. He went down to the living room and brought back UNO. So we sat there and played for hours. The closer it got to the end of visiting hours, the more anxious I became. I would cry and hold Todd, not wanting him to go.

The hospital is big on pushing meds, and they asked me several times if I had wanted something for sleep. I decided I would. Todd and I developed a ritual that first night. I get scared taking new meds, and I was even more terrified for him to leave. So a half hour before he would go, I would take a sleeping pill and get ready for bed, and he would sit and talk to me while I laid down. He told me to watch from my window and I would see him drive away. It took some time for him to get out of the hospital, to his car, and to the intersection in front of my window. I would stare out, waiting anxiously to see his truck.  He would flash his lights and wave as he drove by and I would watch until I could no longer see his taillights. I loved him so much in those moments.

That night I woke from the middle of a dead sleep to a pounding heart, almost like someone had injected adrenaline into my heart, like in the movie “Pulp Fiction.” I had never in my life experienced anything like this. I scoured the room–no call lights and the nurses’ station was down this gigantic hallway. I was crippled by fear…afraid to move. I thought I was having a heart attack. Well, I would be damned if I was going to die in this room alone.

It took everything I had to get to my door. By this time I was sweating something fierce, like I had run a marathon. Once I got there I saw the nurse and I yelled for help. She quickly got me to my bed. All I kept saying was, “Something is wrong. Something is really wrong.” They came in with a monitor for my vitals. My heart was racing 180 beats per minute! I was terrified. I started to think of Todd and Crue.

She said, “Did you have a bad dream?”

I said, “No I was just sleeping, and woke up like this! I’m telling you I’m sick!” I knew something was wrong and these nurses were moving as if I was just panicking. I  yelled, “Call my husband! Call my husband right now!”

She said, “Stop, take a breath, and calm down.”

I said, “Just give me something to calm my heart down.”

She said, “I will give you something when you calm down.”

One of the nurses was this young, spunky thing named Alba. She looked at me and said, “You got this! You have been through way worse then this, Honey. I’ve read your chart. Just catch your breath and kick this thing’s ass.”

I thought, “OK, calm down. Breathe. Your heart would beat this fast if you were running. You are not having a heart attack.” As I started to breathe slower, I tried to think positively. I pictured Todd and Crue and Nash. My heart rate lowered to 140, then 100.

Alba was my own personal cheerleader. She said, “You got this girl! You’re doing amazing!”

Once I got it down to 80 on my own, they gave me medication and I cried myself back to sleep. I woke up crying as I relived the night before. I went to the nurses’ station to get my phone so I could call Todd and tell him what happened. I was ready to leave this place.

When I got to the nurses, Alba hadn’t left yet. She smiled at me and said, “You did great last night. It’s not often we see people bring their heart rate down like that. If you work this program, it will help you. You’re one strong woman.”

I wanted to cry. I still felt misunderstood. I still felt as if I was sick. No program was going to make me better. I was so thankful for her though. Regardless of my health issues, she motivated me to stop being such a baby. Yes, this is horrible, but it could be so much worse. It was time to gain some perspective on my situation.

 

Call me Crazy

About four months in, I felt like a shell of myself. I finally posted on the Facebook forum for vertigo. I listed all my symptoms, asking if anyone else shared similar ones. Two girls commented that it sounded very similar to what they experienced when they first started developing a condition called “POTS”. I looked it up on the internet (I know, I know). The main symptom was a high pulse rate and low blood pressure. Specifically, a pulse rate that goes up 30 beats or more when standing. My blood pressure has always been low and it has never been a concern, so at first I wasn’t that worried. As I read more symptoms, I started freaking out. I felt like they were describing every symptom I have had since I was a teenager. I’ve worn multiple heart monitors throughout my life because I get something called, PVC’s. From what I understand, it’s a skipped beat from stress or caffeine. Lots of people get them, but not everyone feels them. I do. These are also very common with people who have POTS. Other symptoms included: lightheadedness in the shower or heat, unable to tolerate large meals, bowel issues, and dizziness. Although they do not know the cause, it usually develops after or during pregnancy, after a traumatic event, severe blood loss or surgery. Ok, so that terrified me! Every one of these things happened to me just months before this all started.  These people usually go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because its a new condition that doctors are just beginning to understand. No cure, but fluids and a high salt diet help most. Of course, I knew I would be the 20% that were completely bed ridden. 

 At this point, I knew my doctor already felt I was crazy and I was starting to wonder if I agreed with her. So, when they asked if I could see the physicians assistant instead, I was more than happy to. I didn’t tell her about my google diagnosis. No need to show all my crazy cards right up front. Plus, the last time she had seen me I was in her office with the flu and a heart rate of 200, which landed me in the hospital, and a miscarriage. I didn’t want her thinking I was “depressed”. They checked my heart rate like they always do and I asked if I could stand. It went from 80 to 140! I knew then, I did in fact have this condition. I said nothing though. I didn’t even tell her it went up. She asked for my reason of being there and I said I wanted to see a cardiologist. She practically held my hand when she said, “at what point do you stop seeing specialists?” I was taken back. I had only seen the ENT at this point. She then began to talk about all I have been through and being depressed is to be expected. I started crying out of frustration and said I’m depressed I can’t be left alone, that I don’t feel good, that I can’t take care of my child. I’m not depressed about anything else. I can’t afford all of these medical bills. Does she think I want to do all of this? I just want to feel normal. She prescribed me Zoloft, which I had no intention of ever taking and she gave me the referral I wanted. I asked how long to get in. She said it usually takes a while but there is a new cardiologist trying to build up a patient base and he is getting people in rather quickly. That is, if I didn’t mind he was younger. Not only did I not care, this made me excited. Someone who  would be up on all of the new things. He may actually know what POTS is! She said, “you will like him, and he is from Fenton.”

A week later, I was feeling my absolute  worst. I was crying all day. I was missing work. I had little to no contact with friends and family and rarely left my house. One day, my friend Shawn called me and I became hysterical. I sobbed on the phone, barely putting words together. She drove two hours to be with me and I told her everything I was going through. Every time she went to leave, I would start panicking and crying. She then called my friend Lauren who is a therapist and it ended up being an intervention of sorts. At this point, I was barely leaving the house, so neither of these girls knew what was happening in my life. I think they were surprised to see me in the condition I was in. It felt good to unload all of what was happening over the last few months on them. I knew how crazy  I sounded. I knew I  looked like a hypochondriac. They both were so understanding though. At this point Todd was home from work and explaining to them just how bad I had become. You know, just in case they didn’t pick up on it from my crying fits and completely disheveled appearance.  When I told Lauren about my upcoming appointment with the cardiologist she had said, “what would be the best outcome of this appointment for you?” At this point I was spiraling and believing no doctors and no diagnosis. I knew what she was implying. I had said, “if he knows what POTS is, I will be happy. If he knows, and he either says I have this or I don’t , that will give me a lot of relief.” I wondered if I believed what I was telling her. Would I feel that way or was I convinced otherwise regardless of what he had to say?

The day I was scheduled to see the cardiologist, I was feeling better than I had in months. I even thought about canceling but I knew better.  As I sat in the room, I thought to myself, “do I tell him about my “google diagnosis?” I thought “no”, just tell him how you have been feeling and see if he comes to it on his own. They took my vitals, which were the best they have ever been, of course. I then waited patiently to see the doctor. I would like to think I’m a good judge of character. I usually get a feel for someone right away.  The doctor walked in and  shook my hand, introducing himself. He exuded kindness and enthusiasm and I felt comfortable with him right away. I told him every symptom I had over the last few months, but left out my google search. I planned on giving the short version but realized quickly he wasn’t interrupting me or trying to cut off my rant… so I kept going. When I finished I almost laughed at myself. It’s funny how crazy you can sound when your explaining something out loud to someone else.  He smiled and then told me I was not crazy at all but that I may be dehydrated. I guess constant “bathroom” visits  can cause this along with lowering your potassium and a high heart rate is an indication of dehydration. He recognized my last name and knew all about Nash. He excitedly talked about what an amazing thing we have done in his honor.  It was then that I felt I could really unleash my crazy. This man would never make me feel worse. I could tell I could be open with him without judgment. I wasn’t going to get any peace until I knew for sure. I grimaced and said, while looking at the floor, “that because of my high heart rate and low blood pressure, I was confident he was going to tell me I had some rare heart condition.” He then said, “like POTS?” I smiled and said yes, and I am so glad you know what it is. He laughed and said the full name that I am not even going to try and spell here. He replied confidently that he did not think I had this condition. I knew I had to drive it home and I shamefully said that I had googled it. He laughed and said, “Dr. Google”. I don’t know why I trusted him, but I did. Maybe it was the time that he spent with me or that no matter how much crazy I was sharing with him, he always seemed to listen without judgement. Or it could have been the overwhelming feeling that Nash was with me in that room that day…He scheduled a follow up appointment in a couple of weeks and I was on my way.

Over the next couple days I cried every second. Todd could not leave the house. I was afraid to walk, run, climb stairs. I was so dizzy I was running into walls, and I was ridiculously thin. I remember at my lowest telling Todd, “maybe it would be better if I wasn’t here. This is not the mother I want Crue to remember.” Todd had finally had enough and took me to the doctors himself. He said “you have got to do something.” She looked at Todd and back at me, crying as usual. She then said, “I think you should take her to U of M, the psych ER.” I was so exhausted, so frustrated, so desperate, that I didn’t even put up a fight. That day would begin my week long stay on the psych ward. A week that would cause a great deal of soul searching and show just how devoted  a husband can truly be.

Does God Hate Me

Not long after Todd and I decided we were done having children, we decided we were not. Seeing Crue at the playground with other kids, or playing with his cousins, really pulled at our heart strings. We have come so far. We have been through so much. For what? To just give up?  We decided we would try again in June. We had a wedding coming up and a concert and we would wait until those had past. We were excited to add to our family and put all of our hard times in the past.

Unfortunately, I woke up in the middle of June, dizzy. Not world spinning dizzy, but what I would call drunk dizzy, like my equilibrium was off. This was a 24/7 thing. At first it was just annoying. I could barely do anything without feeling off. Try having a busy two year old that runs constantly and every time you look in a different direction you feel like you are going to puke. Three weeks in, let’s just say I started having bathroom problems and let you take it from there. I was really starting to worry something may be seriously wrong with me. Why wasn’t this going away? So, I  made my first of many doctors appointments that came in the MONTHS to follow. My doctor had no idea. She said dizziness can be caused by so many things. She gave me a referral to the ENT. I couldn’t get in for three months! I was hoping in three months, whatever this was would be gone. I was wrong. It continued to get worse. I was down almost 20 pounds at this time. I couldn’t eat and everything I ate ran through me. My anxiety about what was wrong was through the roof! Also, a constant stress was my desire to try again for another baby. It was already months since the time we had originally decided to try again. I am 37 years old and that weighed heavily on my mind. Not to mention the baby we miscarried had downs, something that is said to be higher with older mothers. Every day I would wake up hoping I felt different. Usually ten minutes after I would wake up, the dizziness would set in, followed by a trip to the bathroom. This completely ran my life. There were two things that made it drastically worse; TV and my phone. So, watching TV, social media, and even writing was off limits. So, all I could do was sit in misery feeling guilty about the son I can’t even play with. If you have not experienced vertigo you can not understand how completely debilitating it can be…and if you have had vertigo, i know your reading this with complete sympathy.

The day before my ENT appointment, I was at dinner with my friend Kasey. I had a long day at work, so I wasn’t surprised when I started feeling really dizzy at dinner. I had to take breaks in talking to gain my composure, and finally, I felt like I was going to pass out. Kasey asked if she could take me to the hospital. I kept saying “no, this will pass’. I have been dealing with this for months. That is when My hands started going numb and we decided the ER may be a good idea. I found out shortly after that my potassium wasn’t just low, but scary low. My EKG was bad, but the doctor thought it was due to my potassium. They kept me overnight, giving me potassium and doing a stress test the next day. All I kept thinking is that tomorrow was my appointment with the ENT, the one I waited three months to see! Luckily, they got me out in time and I went straight to my appointment. The ENT did a quick look in my ears and said, “since you were just in the hospital for your potassium, I think your electrolytes are off and that’s what is causing the dizziness”. He drew more blood and said, “I’ll see you again in three months”. I was so upset. Three more months!! I didn’t know if I could keep doing this.  The other part of me was optimistic for the first time. Could it be this easy? I prayed it would be.

A few days later, I woke up and  I was clammy, sweaty, lightheaded, and it felt like my blood sugar was low, but eating did not help. Then, the bathroom, lets just say, many trips. I told Todd I needed to go to the ER.  I felt so terrible, like I could barely stay conscious. I had the window down so the air would blow on me and all I kept thinking was, this is it. This is how I’m going to die. Crue was in the backseat saying, “Momma, Momma! You no feel good?” I started crying. Not only can I not give him a brother or a a sister, I’m going to die and leave him motherless. I was yelling at Todd at the top of my lungs to drive faster. When I got there, a young lady wobbled back on a hurt ankle. They informed me I would have to wait. Now, this is the first indication I knew I was going crazy. I started yelling at the front desk lady (so not my character). I said, “that girl hurt her ankle! I, on the other hand am dying and you want me to wait in the lobby!”  I have worked in the hospital for years and have so much respect for medical professionals and what they deal with on a daily basis. I’ve personally seen how bad it can get. Here I am being one of those people. I saw the eyes rolling, the annoyed looks, and I just sat there, feeling terrible and upset that no one was getting how awful I felt. The blood pressure cuff barely filled when it gave a reading of 80/45. I thought, “yes, finally they will see I’m on the verge of death. Instead, they  sent me back to a room where the doctor told me I was having a panic attack. Now, Todd had tried to get me to take meds for years now, but I never felt I needed them. I despise taking medication. Although I did not agree I was having a panic attack, I asked for medication.  Anything that could help at this point, I was willing to do.  I felt defeated. Something was seriously wrong with me and they are telling me it is basically all in my head.  They sent me home with Xanax and I took it, immediately. For four hours, my dizziness was completely gone. These little pills were amazing!! I had heard how addicting they were, so I kept myself in check. I only allowed myself to have one daily and only if I was at my absolute worst.

Almost four months in, I managed to get on Facebook and say something about this vertigo, or whatever it was. I was frustrated and wanted to see what people had to say. Todd’s cousin, Jamie, messaged me and added me to a vertigo support group which ended up being a good and bad thing. As I read through posts, I started seeing a lot of these people had vitamin deficiencies. Things that were an easy fix, but there were also many who have had this for twenty years or more. It was discouraging. 

My friend managed to get me into her ENT office, so I wouldn’t have to wait another three months. He told me he felt I was having silent migraines. I wanted to cry. All the women on the Facebook forum who had this, said they just had to live with it unless you are lucky enough to find your triggers. He recommended magnesium and quiting all caffeine. He also recommended an MRI. He was fairly confident it would show nothing, but anytime there is dizziness and extremity numbness you should rule out a brain tumor or MS. He again stated he thought it would show nothing, but it would be therapeutic for me. So, another medical professional who thinks I’m crazy. I was thankful for the MRI. At this point, I had googled just about everything. I know, I know, not smart. I was convinced it would prove to everyone, for once, that I am not crazy and that I, in fact, have something seriously wrong with me. Well, the MRI showed nothing and I found myself being somewhat relieved and also stressed that I still didn’t know what was causing all of this.

So, this is where I really go downhill. My dizziness was so bad I could barely stand in the shower. My heart was racing, just going up a flight of stairs. I was now down 30 pounds (almost my weight in high school). These clammy moments where I felt lightheaded were happening on the regular and I no longer felt safe taking care of Crue by myself.  Every time Todd left for work, I would cry. What if something happened when he was gone? What if I passed out and Crue got out of the house? I could not be away from Todd for a second!! I was losing it. He stayed home with me more days then I have ever seen him stay home. He also left work early every time I called him crying that I felt horrible. When he could no longer miss work, I went to Todd’s family’s house so I wouldn’t be alone and they could help me take care  of Crue. I would just sit there and cry. I didn’t care what anyone thought anymore. I could no longer fake being ok. Something was wrong with me. Would I always feel this way? I cried, knowing my family and Todd’s could play with Crue, and all I could do was lay on the couch.  I was taking up to three Xanax a day, just to function.  I was also seeing my doctor weekly and really felt like I may in fact be going crazy! At this point, she had prescribed me migraine medication and checked my blood for everything under the sun. I can’t tell you what it feels like to know something is wrong and doctors not only have no idea, but think you are just depressed. No doubt I have a label. I have lost a child and had a miscarriage recently. Depression was the label that fit best. I wasn’t depressed though. I was excited to try again. I was at my highest when all of this started. I felt misunderstood, frustrated and sad. I thought to myself, “does God hate me?”  All I wanted was  to have a family. Why must one person deal with so much? I started looking at my life as a whole and all I have been through. My mother leaving when I was small, my dads death when I was 24. The loss of Nash. A second trimester miscarriage with my third, only to become sick when I was ready to finally try again. Yep, God hated me. I was convinced. I must have been a horrible person in some previous life to deserve all of this. I unpacked all my emotional garbage and threw the biggest pitty party this world has ever seen.

Boy Mom

The day of our induction, they asked us if we would like genetic testing done on our baby. They warned us that it would be expensive, but may give us answers as to why we lost the baby. Not only would it give us these answers, but we would find out the gender as well.  We didn’t care about the cost; we just wanted to know. After all, Todd and I were on the brink of deciding if our family was complete. We needed all the information possible before we made that very difficult decision.

I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think of Nash. What if there was something wrong with him, something they didn’t catch, something Crue may have as well…like some sort of genetic heart condition?  Waiting for those results was excruciating. At that point, we felt we may be done having kids, but we wanted to make that decision for ourselves, not because of some condition or genetic error Todd and I might have that forced our hand.

A couple of weeks later, our doctor called and left a voicemail to call back. I am terrible with my phone, and didn’t check my messages until the day after when she called again. It wasn’t like her or her office to be so persistent. I knew they must have the results. Driving to the office that day, I was filled with anxiety. I told Todd to go to work because I know working and staying busy helps him. There was no reason for both of us to be there. I regretted that decision as soon as I hit the waiting room. I wanted him there. I wanted to be comforted by the only other human on this planet going through exactly what I was going through at that very moment. I wasn’t sure what I was so nervous about. What was I hoping to hear? What was a good result? It reminded me of getting the call that Nash’s autopsy was in. Not nearly the same level of anxiousness, but similar in the feeling that we may be getting life changing news.

I tried to read the faces of the ladies that worked there. Did they know what news I was about to get? Did they seem sad for me? As I was escorted to the operatory by Loraine, a nurse I have grown to love over these last couple years of baby making, I searched her face for reassurance. She told me she was retiring and we talked about work. After she had taken my vitals and was walking out…I felt that familiar lump in my throat and manged to get out, “Loraine, i’m a little nervous about this.” I tried to smile through my cracked voice, and she smiled back and said, “It’s going to be just fine.” As I sat there alone, my stomach started to turn and my hands became sweaty. I was fidgeting nervously when I heard that familiar knock at the door as Dr. Hardas entered. We made a little small talk and then she went right into what birth control I was considering. My mind went immediately dark places…birth control?!?! She is going to tell me not to have any more children? Maybe I have cancer? I mean, I thought of every scenario, both rational and irrational. She then said she was pleased that we did in fact get a result. She said that because the baby had no heartbeat for so long before I delivered, she wasn’t sure they would be able to get any information at all. She smiled and said, “it was a boy.”

I bit my lower lip and tried my hardest to fight back tears as I pictured my boys. I braced myself for what I was going to hear next. She then said, “He had Down Syndrome”. It took some time to process what she said and my feelings about it. This news hurt for a couple of reasons. One, because I could picture a little boy with Down Syndrome, and just that image made me happy and sad all at once. Todd and I had always said it would never be a question, we would have a baby with Down Syndrome and love him/her wholeheartedly. We have both been around these children, and even joked years ago that the world would be a better place if we all could bottle their happiness and love of life. I imagined a happy little boy with that familiar smile and my tears began to flow.  It felt as if in that moment I had met him in my mind. The other sadness was more of a guilty feeling because I did have some relief.  I know that not all children with Down Syndrome live long lives. Todd and I would have most likely buried another child, and I just don’t think we could have beared that. I also have friends who have children with Down Syndrome, and lets face it, its hard. These children have medical issues and go through multiple surgeries. I felt like what should have happened, naturally did, and it made me sad that I felt that way. The doctor was relieved to tell us the flu did not cause it. She saw how guilty Todd felt for giving me the flu, and she was happy to give him some relief from that burden he was carrying.

As soon as I got to my car, I started bawling. I don’t know if it was because I had been trying to hold back my tears for the last hour or what? I just remember telling myself, get to the car before you lose it. As soon as I shut the door behind me  I was hiccup crying.  I called Todd to tell him. As I told him, his reply was “aww” and then silence. I knew what that “aww” meant. He was picturing the same little boy I was, the boy we would have loved. I remember saying through tears that I wasn’t sure why I was so upset. We chatted for a while and then I hung up.

Over the last few months, Todd and I have talked a lot about our family. These were emotionally heavy and draining conversations. Todd and I always envisioned having a family with more than one child. We both have siblings that we adore, and we wanted that for Crue. However, we didn’t know at the beginning of our journey what we would have to endure to get that. Our whole marriage has been about creating the family we wanted. The first four years we spent trying to get pregnant and and dealing with the yo-yo of emotions that comes with fertility issues. Once pregnant, we thought those problems were over. Sure, we were having children later in life, but there was still plenty of time to have a couple and not be too far over the age we had wanted to be. Having Nash was everything we dreamed. We were on an all time high, just to lose him five short months later. I remember thinking what if we never get pregnant again? Four years it took for him, we don’t have four more years.

Crue, however, had a plan of his own. He came so quickly and filled our broken hearts with so much love. The anxiety caused by the thought of losing him during the first year of his life was brutal. It wasn’t until he was almost two when we felt truly happy. In the past were our fertility problems, in the past was the loss of our baby, in the past was the worry of Crue falling asleep and never waking up. We were ready. We were calm for the first time in a long time. Here comes baby number three, the baby that would complete our family. Then came the miscarriage, the hospital bills, the emotional and physical toll. We were right back where we started, anxious, scared, and sad. We have spent our whole marriage trying to do what comes so naturally to most, having a family. We want to be happy. We want to enjoy what we have. Everyone who knows me will tell you I always wanted three boys, that was my ideal family. Something about being the only girl of the house seemed sweet. I envisioned little boys covered in dirt, with skinned knees and ball caps. I could imagine teenage boys raiding my fridge and picking on me the way there father does. I have ALWAYS adored little boys….they simply melt my heart. In the end God gave me that, just not the way I planned. Three boys, two of which are angels. Our family is complete, it wasn’t what we had pictured when we started on this journey but in life, is it ever what you pictured? I know when I am older and I tell people about these past seven years of my life, the first years of my marriage, I will smile and cry reflecting on my boys and all Todd and I went through to have them. Pictures of what could have been will always plague my mind. I will envision myself the “boy mom” I always wanted to be. I think every mother, no matter her circumstances, has a hard time saying she is done, and that is no different for me. I have shed many tears over these last few years, and I’m ready to be happy and try to heal. As hard as it is to say it out loud, My family is complete…and if for some reason God decides differently, I’ll be over the moon to hold another rainbow in my arms.

Triggers

Anyone who has lost a loved one can tell you they have certain things happen in their day to day that trigger a memory of their loved one. It could be a song, a smell, or even  a glance at a familiar looking stranger. I not only have triggers that remind me of Nash, but specific triggers that remind me of the day he died or the obstacles I faced after his death. For instance seeing Facebook posts of other children born at the same time as Nash. I find these pictures to be excruciating at times. Todd says he shares this trigger. Part of the pain is jealousy, no other way to say it. I’m jealous they got to watch their babies grow and I didn’t. The random selection of the universe to choose my Nash. The other part is knowing exactly what Nash should be doing but is not. Seeing these kids starting pre-school or their moms welcoming their second children and seeing their firstborn hold them….it’s not an easy thing to see and not have some sort of emotion. Even pictures of babies that hit their 6 month mark make me think to myself, what the fuck did I do wrong?  Another big trigger for me is Seeing little boys with their big brothers.  I tend to stare at them and wonder what  it would be like if Nash were here, and how amazing it would be to see Crue and him playing together. Every one of my brothers and sisters has more than one child. On a daily basis I find myself  jealous, angry, even mad at them. Another reason holidays suck! Some triggers can be as insignificant as the  smell of baby puke if, you want to know the truth.

I could go on and on listing triggers. They are everywhere and hit me like a ton of bricks at the most random of times. I’m finding that with time I’m handling them better. Whether its avoiding them altogether or stopping my brain from letting myself get to upset once they happen, I truly have adapted to the role of a bereaved parent. That was until our miscarriage. This has been the trigger of all triggers!!! The actual  loss of pregnancy has been a small blip on the radar compared to all of the Nash triggers it has created. The condolences, the pictures of expecting mothers on Facebook, the empty feeling of going home without a child. I think I have cried everyday since the miscarriage, not because of the loss necessarily, but because of Nash….. if that makes sense. I miss him. God, do I miss him. 

I’m also dealing with anxiety and depression. These things are not new to me but I feel I have control over them to an extent. However, this  last month I have absolutely no control on stopping panic attacks once they start. I can no longer brush things off my shoulders, like I have learned to do over the last two years. It feels as if  all the time and effort I have spent getting to a good place means absolutely nothing now.  My anxiety is through the roof. My  biggest fear………….. is that Crue is going to die. Think about it. He is the only living child I have out of three, of course something is going to happen to him. I am obviously doomed. I think we have established that bad things happen, and they happen to me. I think about his death so much that I can actually throw myself into a full on panic attack. I have problems sleeping…I have seen doctors because of my irregular heartbeat (caused by stress). It gets so bad at night that it takes my breath away. The lack of sleep has caused me to have restless legs.  My hair has started falling out again and my irritability is at an all time high!  I am basically a wreck of a person. My mind  drifts to the darkest of places once im finally laying down for the night. It feels as if something is going to happen and I need to be diligent in making sure, that when they do,  nothing that I could have done could  have prevented it. Todd and I have been through so much, but the loss of crue would be the end of us, of life….just the thought of it happening is killing me a little everyday. Like I said before, I thought I got a pass after Nash died…now I know I didn’t. That if anything, something will happen because that seems to be the norm. I’m trying hard to dig myself out of these thoughts, this hole I feel buried in, but it’s getting harder and harder everyday. The only thing that actually helps is Crue…he is my lifeline. That’s why the thought of losing him is crushing me. Just thinking of it brings me right back to the day we lost Nash…Crue himself has become a trigger.

 

The Ugly Truth

Before I start this blog entry I want to warn you that I’m going to be brutally  honest about my miscarriage experience. That means I’m going to be talking about blood, a lot of it. I’m going to be talking about female body parts and a fetus. If this is too much for you, or you feel it’s in bad taste, quit reading here. When I lost Nash and began writing, I had more women write me about their miscarriages than anything else. They usually  said something along the lines of, “I know it’s not what you went through,” or “I know I can’t  understand you, but.” I feel I owe it to these women to tell this story with as much transparency as I can.

Let me just start by saying I’m appalled and embarrassed to be a 37 year old female who knew very little about miscarriages. I think most of my embarrassment is becasue half the women I know have had them and that includes my sisters and best friends. Not until I found out my babies’ heart stopped beating did they tell me their stories. Stories they consider the worst time of their life. So, if this was the worst time of their life and these people are close to me, how am I just hearing these stories now? I’ll tell you why. As a society, we are told miscarriages happen and they happen often. This is a fetus, not a baby; therefore, it shouldn’t be sad. Oh, and if it’s in the first trimester, it doesn’t even count. To a lot of people it’s like the equivalent of a hangnail. We are even told not to share our pregnancy news until we are in our second trimester. Why? Because our chances of losing them are high, so why tell people and go through telling them you lost the “fetus”. I’ll tell you why!! The minute those pink lines appear on a pregnancy stick, you are a mother. The excitement, the planning, and everything that goes into the joy of knowing you will bring a baby into this world is palpable at this time more than any other. A lot of woman who have miscarriages never carry one child to term, but have miscarried on several occasions. I can’t think of a woman more deserving of the title mother than one who has put her health and fear on the back burner just to have the chance to have a baby of their own.

When I thought of a miscarriage, I thought of a cramping and some bleeding. Yep, that’s what I thought. I think like all women, the fear of finding blood in your underwear was an ongoing fear until you reach that pivotal second trimester. I remember looking frequently and breathing a sigh of relief that nothing was there. Yes men, us women do that. If your wife is pregnant, ask her. She will tell you she has checked  her underwear for blood on more than one occasion. So, imagine if one day she finds it….alone. Women do this at home all the time. They go from being excited at the thought of becoming a mother, to blood in their underwear. What’s worse is that they are told not to talk about it. That although it’s sad, they can try again. Or, at least it’s early. Are these things true? Absolutely. Does it make their loss less heartbreaking? No! They have the right to go through the grieving process. We should be embarrassed as a society that we don’t let them have that. That we make them feel like it’s nothing and a weird thing to even grieve.

I had my miscarriage at 15 weeks. That means I was in my second trimester. What this means to me now, is there is no safe zone. I did what most women do and shared my news once I got past that pivotal mark. I held my excitement in for twelve excruciating weeks before I shared. In the end, it didn’t matter anyway.  Did it hurt more to tell people I lost the baby? No, it helped to have support. It helped to know people knew we were experiencing a loss.

For a week, I walked around knowing my baby was gone, but still carrying it. It’s a strange and emotional time. Every time I would take my shirt off, Crue would point to my belly and yell baby. I tried hard to quit rubbing my belly, but couldn’t. I drank caffeine and took medicine I wouldn’t normally, knowing the baby was gone. It was hard to tell my mind something my body hadn’t gone through yet. Emotionally, I was in a good place compared to most I think. I’ve been through the worst tragedy of my life. Once you have lost a child, it’s hard to trump that. If I had an overwhelming emotion, it was anger. To be frank, I was pissed off we were going through this. I grieved the loss of the pregnancy more than the baby, if that makes sense.

The morning I woke to be induced, I was irritable, moody, angry and quiet.  I could barely look at Todd. For some reason that morning, more than any other time, Crue could not quit talking about the baby. Even Todd thought it was strange because we hadn’t talked about it in front of him. When we pulled into my in-laws to drop Crue off, he gave me a hug and I started crying. He calls me baby since I have been pregnant and as I handed him off to his dad, he said, “bye bye baby”. I broke down in tears.

Arriving in the labor and delivery ward was emotional. You can hear newborns crying and most people are walking through the hallways happy, with flowers and balloons. The room we had was like any other delivery room, equipped with a bed for baby. I looked at the erase board in front of me. It had my name, followed by Todd’s under support person. Boy did that have a whole new meaning today. The objective/goal was pain control. My bed was lined with those paper pads and as I put my gown on in the bathroom, they had it fully stocked with pads, washcloths, towels, and those beautiful mesh underwear. To say I was freaked out was the understatement of the century. It was like in those mafia movies where they have the room lined with tarps  right before they shoot someone, you know to make the cleanup easier.

Our nurse’s name was Amy and she was a complete godsend for us that day. I asked her every question I  could think of. Knowledge was power and I wanted to know exactly what to expect. First question, “am I going to bleed a lot?” Second question, “what will you do with the baby?” Third question, “is this going to be like labor?” Fourth question, “when will I know it’s time to push?” This would be my first vaginal  birth. I had contracted with both boys so I knew what labor felt like, but I had never actually pushed a baby out. She said the bleeding would be like a heavy period and would mostly follow the babies arrival. She explained because I was a week out, that my body may have already started taking care of the fetus and she wasn’t sure what to tell me to expect. She said it would feel like labor,but because the baby was small, I would only have to dilate so much. I explained that we didn’t want our baby to go to medical waste. It’s weird because I felt embarrassed, like all those cliches tell you that you should. I felt embarrassed calling it a baby. I felt embarrassed caring where it went. I felt wrong asking if we could see it. The luxury of going through a tragedy like we did with Nash , if there is one, is that I have learned screw what everyone else thinks. We have to do what’s going to help us most. We have to live with our choices. I explained we wanted to see the baby, but if for some reason she felt we may not want to, I would have her describe it before she let us look so I could make a better decision. 

A resident came in and gave me  medication orally and vaginally. She said you will most likely feel something in the next hour and in three hours we will check your dilation. I was  told if I felt pressure before then,  to ring for the nurse. To me, taking the medication felt like having a forced abortion. I wanted this baby, so willing myself to take medication to get it out of me was emotional and scary. Hours went by and nothing. I was preparing myself that this may take a while. Right before they were to come in and give me more medication, (so about three hours later), I started to cramp. At first it wasn’t bad, nothing I couldn’t handle. It was quickly getting worse and although I could handle it, I remembered what many women who had went through this told me. Take the meds! Don’t make yourself go through anything unnecessary. I looked at Amy and said I wanted something for pain. So glad I asked, because in those ten minutes everything happened so fast. I was having full on contractions and I felt a pop. The doctor checked and informed me my water broke. All I could do was cry. Todd was there holding my hand the whole time and kissing my forehead. The nurse put some pain meds through my IV and this is where I became loopy and found out that pain meds make me completely inappropriate. I felt water come out in a rush. It’s a scary feeling to know your about to give birth to your baby five months too early. I didn’t want this to happen and part of your mind wants you to try and stop it. I was absolutely afraid to push. Without doing anything, I felt more water rush out of me, not knowing at the time it wasn’t water anymore, but a great deal of blood. The room started to spin and I got sweaty and felt like I was going to pass out. I figured it was the pain meds. I needed to focus on something else. I looked at Todd and asked him how he was doing. He looked worried, but answered, ‘fine’ and asked how I was. This is where the drugged me started talking. I said, ” you know, just over here rockin this miscarriage.” It was then I heard a lot of laughing and Amy letting me know I was her favorite patient. When I looked around the room it was then I realized every nurse on that hall appeared to be in my room. I heard them call my doctor over the loud speaker and thought to myself she was coming to deliver the baby. I mean, that’s what the doctor usually comes in for. Meanwhile, Amy was changing out my pad and every time I rolled over for her to put a new one under me, I felt more  “water” pouring out of me. That’s what it felt like, water. There was a ten minute period where they could not keep the pad under me for more than two seconds. Than Dr. Hardas walked in and I saw what I thought was a concerned look. Dr. Hardas is a very sweet, soft spoken, petite woman, who also has this motherly nature about her. She had a way of delivering bad news  where you were almost confused if she actually said  what she said. I remember with Nash, my biggest fear being a c-section. She walked in after 28 hours of labor and with almost a childlike chuckle in her voice, but also a motherly tone. She said, “Shelly it’s time for a c-section.” Almost like, lets quit playing around honey. In my current situation, my biggest fear was surgery. I had never been put  under for anything and I was anxious to say the least. She walked in and said we are taking her for a D&C. She than did an exam and I felt her pull the baby out. The nurses were working frantically and Amy looked at me and said, “Shelly the baby looks like a baby…would you like to see it?” She than put  a blanket over my chest and laid the baby on top. Looking at the baby, so small it could fit in the palm of my hand, I was instantly brought to tears. The baby had arms, legs,a mouth, a nose, eyes, and feet. It was different than my feelings with Nash. With Nash, I was not just devastated for him. I was devastated for my loss. I was completely grief stricken and could barely breathe. I can barely put feelings into words.  With this baby I couldn’t help but feel anything but bad for it. I felt badly I couldn’t carry it to term. I felt bad that my body failed it. I felt bad that it will never take one breath on this earth. They started taking pictures and the nurse asked Todd if he wanted to hold the baby and he quickly answered no. She then went on to explain he would never have this chance again. I stopped her right away. When Nash  died it felt so good to hold him that all I wanted was for Todd to have that feeling. I practically forced him to hold Nash and it’s my one regret. It did not help him. It made it worse. He didn’t want to remember him that way. He didn’t want to hold him after he was gone. I told the nurse he has been through this and knows what he needs. It was then I felt the room start spinning again. I felt Amy strap on the blood pressure cuff and soon after I felt the head of my bed being put down and nurses talking in the background. I then heard Dr. Hardas say, “lets go now! Are they ready for us?!” Previously, working at a hospital is a blessing and a curse. I know the head of your bed being put down means low blood pressure. Although Amie was being very reassuring, I could here the whispering of others in the background. Words like a lot of blood, loss of consciousness.Todd kept switching wash cloths on and off my face and feeding me ice chips. I could no longer keep my eyes open. I heard Amy kneel down beside me. She had promised to be honest and she was. She said, “Shelly, we are concerned about the amount of blood you are losing. I’m going to put some medication in your IV to try and stop it.” She saw me start to panic and told me to take a deep breath in and let it out. She then commended Todd on being an amazing support person for me. I felt the urge to push, but at this point was afraid to. Dr. Hardas said, “if you think you can try.” She was doing an exam during and I saw her glove covered in blood and more “water” rush out of me. She said, “No. We are taking you to surgery.” I’m an anxious person. So, at this point I know they are worried about the bleeding, giving me drugs to stop it, and there seems to be an urgency to getting me to surgery. With my string of bad luck and my anxious mind, I was truly worried this was it. This is how I was going to go.  I looked at Dr. Hardas who I trust whole heartedly and and said, “you look worrried.” She replied, “no”. I than said, “I’m nervous about surgery. Am I going to wake up?” She said, “yes” and I said “ok let’s go.”

I was confused becasue I was told the blood was more of a concern once the baby was out and you deliver the placenta. Dr hardas said that is correct but you have bled so much before that point we can’t risk it. Before I knew it I was being wheeled down the hall and to the surgery center. The anesthesiologist said I’m sorry today is not going as planned. I said, ” with everything that has happened today, you actually scare me the most.” I could tell the nurses and doctors were more calm now that I was almost in surgery. At this point I was feeling pain, the urge to push and fighting to stay awake. I felt todd kiss my forehead and tell me goodbye and I didn’t even have the energy to reply. I felt them move me to the bed and I felt one arm being strapped  down and a nurse putting an oxygen mask on me. The anesthesiologist whispered in my ear, your about to fall aslee….that was that. I woke up three hours later so ecstatic to be alive I started yelling, “margaritas for everybody!” 

As they wheeled me into recovery I kept looking for todd. It’s funny becasue I know he can do nothing medically for me, yet I feel safer with him in the room. I asked the nurse if someone had talked to him, I knew he would be worried. She said, “yes.” Then I heard her say one unit of blood, donor W607. I looked up and saw I was getting blood and all I could think was, ‘thank you W1607’.My temp was quite low, so they kept putting warm blankets on me and after what seemed like forever, they wheeled me in the hall. I was hoping to see Todd, but no. Then I was wheeled in my room where I knew he would be, but he still wasn’t. I found out later Dr. Hardas could not find him in the waiting room. My poor husband sat for three hours with no updates on my condition. Dr. Hardas ended up calling me she felt so bad she didn’t get a chance to speak to either of us. Thankfully, my sister-in-law, Caroline came up to the hospital and sat with Todd. I can only imagine what he was going through.

Amy was very doting, helpful and attentive. My night nurse was what I like to call a short cut nurse. Most people don’t appreciate a short cut nurse, but at night time they are a blessing. What I mean by short cut is, they bring you three full glasses of water at once to get you through the night. They turn your IV down so you don’t have to pee every ten seconds. They also unplug your IV and give you a short tutorial on how to get your own ass to the bathroom and back without ringing. I saw her once the entire shift and slept the best I ever have in a hospital.

I can honestly say Todd and I are doing extremely well emotionally. We have had our big loss and everything fails in comparison. I will say this, had I not been through what I have,this would have been the most traumatic experience of my life. To know women do this all the time is heartbreaking. I think people would be surprised how many women they know that have not only been through this, but have done it multiple times. I for one think it’s time to break the silence and stigmas that go with having a miscarriage. If you share this post and want to break the silence regarding your own angels, let us know how many you are a mother to. I am a proud momma of three❤

The unthinkable 

When I got sick with the flu, I felt like death. I had never really had the flu before so I wasn’t sure if I was being the biggest baby in the world, or if what I was feeling was out of the norm. I woke Wednesday morning and could barely stand. When I stood up, I got instantly hot and sweaty and felt I was going to pass out. I had been up all night because of how crappy I was feeling and just figured I may need some sleep,but when you have an almost two year old, that’s not going to happen. I had never taken Any medication with either of my boys, but I didn’t think I could get through this and care for Crue without something. I called the doctor and she got me in right away. As soon as I was in the doctors office, my symptoms went from bad to  worse and I could barely walk without falling. They quickly put a monitor on me to check my oxygen, which was good, but every time I stood or sat up, my heart rate would jump to 160. They kept me there for quite some time. My influenza test came back positive, but they were more concerned about my heartrate and how it was affecting the baby. They called  Dr. Hardas and decided to send me to the hospital. I had to actually call Todd for a ride because they wouldn’t let me drive. We dropped Crue off at my in-laws and away we went.

One of my husband’s best friends,Dave who is a nurse at the hospital, and his wife Rachel, who is a doctor there, made sure to get us back right away. They were actually waiting at the hospital door the day Nash was brought in. They had assembled the best doctors and nurses they could for his arrival, and to this day, I’m so grateful knowing he not only had amazing people working on him, but two people there that loved him and would be with him until we could be there ourselves. To say these two are special to us is an understatement. We are even godparents to their son Cal.

As they got me in a room, I started feeling better. Not good, but better. Rachel started asking me questions and took out the heart monitor to listen to the baby.  It didn’t take long, but she heard a quick heartbeat resembling the baby’s and I felt immediate relief. I think between the chaos and how fast my heartbeat already was, she took out a bedside ultrasound  to check as well. She could not find the heartbeat, but assured me  the machine was not the best and she would send me to an OB where they could do a more thorough one. You would think I would be freaking out at this point, but I wasn’t. The machine did look old and I was confident they found the heartbeat with the monitor. I was actually excited to go to OB and hear the little tyke. They gave me fluids and I was feeling terrible, off and on. My resting heartrate was 100, but if I even sneezed it would go to 140. Rachel was concerned and told me they would be keeping me overnight to monitor my heartrate. I was actually relieved  because I kept feeling like I was going to pass out and it was a scary feeling. By the time ultrasound finally got me back, I was feeling awful. I was having shortness of breath. I was so tired from not sleeping that  I could barely keep my eyes open and to top it off, I felt sweaty, hot, achy, and the feeling of passing out kept coming and going.

When the lady started  the ultrasound, I was  so tired I barely looked. Until she smiled and said, “look the babies hands are crossed in front of its face.” Todd laughed and said, “I don’t know how you can tell, looks like a monkey to me.” I yelled at him and said, “stop it! it’s adorable! Then she pointed out the face, eyes, and such. She didn’t let us hear a heartbeat, which was strange, but told us the baby was just the right size for 15 weeks. I felt reassured.

Todd felt so reassured that he actually left for our tax appointment and said he would hurry back. He knew I was in good hands with Rachel and Dave. As they carted me back to my room, I saw Rachel behind the desk looking at the ultrasound pictures. I can’t explain what it feels like to know someone who loves you is going above and beyond to make sure everything is ok. Once I was back in the ER room, my heartrate started to spike and Rachel popped in to check on me. She asked if ultrasound said anything to me and I explained what they had told us. She asked where Todd was and I had told her that he had just left. She looked concerned. She leaned back against the counter and softly said, “Shelly, they didn’t find a heartbeat.” I stared at her not quite understanding and my monitor started beeping because my heartrate went up again. It continued to beep as she explained further. She said Dr. Hardas and her resident were in the building but would be down to talk to me soon. Tears started coming out of my eyes and Rachel leaned in and grabbed my hand and said, “I’m so sorry Shelly.” At that moment I knew for sure, the baby was gone. I messaged Todd and he was in such shock he headed back my way immediately. While he was gone, a very nice, warm younger  doctor from OB came in. Dr. Hardas was in surgery and she came to talk to me until Dr. Hardas could see me herself. As she started to talk, I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. She said how sorry she was and how this is the hardest part of her job. Between my shortness of breath and sobbing, all I could think about was what if they’re wrong. I asked her,  “is there anyway they can look again?” Of course she said she would and she pulled the bedside ultrasound out and looked. She showed me the belly and pointed to where the heart was and explained the no fluttering. She left it there for a while just to make sure. She then explained that this was not an ideal situation for a number of reasons. My low immune system due to the flu, the chance of infection. She would have to consult with my doctor and see what the next steps were. Todd walked in and hugged me. The doctor explained more and than left us alone. I just looked at Todd crying and said, “never again. I can’t do this ever again.” I saw Dr. Hardas walking our way through a crack in the curtain and she was teary eyed herself. She explained they would give me Tamiflu and once I was no longer infectious, they would give me medication to induce me. She apologized and explained that sometimes they don’t know why these things happen, but that they would be running tests to make sure it’s nothing genetic.

Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep a wink. When the resident  came in at noon the next day I was alone. Todd had just left to check on our dogs and Crue. He left my side twice during this whole experience and both times turned out to be the worst timing ever. It was the same resident as the day before and I was thankful for that. I was surprised when she said they were recommending to the doctor that  I be sent home. She felt I would be more comfortable there and now that my heart rate was down I was only really being kept there for flu medication. She explaiend becasue of how far along I was and I was showing no signs of infection they were confident they could wait until the flu was gone and bring me back. She was very sweet and explained everything to me. She said they would bring me back in five days and give me medication to dilate me and induce labor. That it wouldn’t be as bad as regular labor, but that I would have severe cramping and such. She also said they would be able to give me pain medication to make the process easier. She explained it could be a lengthy stay and so I was to come back Tuesday morning to ensure I could leave the next day. I asked her questions mainly about what to expect and if we kept the baby. I felt strange asking but I truly wanted to know if they were just going to throw it away. She went on further to explain I was right at the line of wanting the fetus or not, burying it or not. That at 20 weeks, almost all women want the baby. At 15 weeks it just depends on the parents. I couldn t believe this was happening. I started to cry and she placed her hand on my leg and said, “I’m not sure why these things always happen to the nicest people.”

For some reason I thought after Nash I was going to get a pass for the rest of my life – that  no more difficult things would be thrown at me or at least traumatic things. I felt almost in a safe bubble. Boy was I naïve. So now it’s a waiting game. I’m at home taking medication and feeling better. I’m very anxious and nervous about the days ahead and what’s  to come. I find myself confused, angry, sad, and numb to be honest. I want to scream out to the universe, “MERCY!!!!! FOR CHRISTS SAKE MERCY!!! I CAN’T TAKE  ANY MORE!!! I CAN’T HANDLE ANYMORE!!!  Who gets the flu and finds out they are also having a second trimester miscarriage…what the hell did I do wrong in life? When did I become the person bad things happen to?”

It’s coming wether we are ready or not. So,here we are at another difficult “bump” in the road. It’s crazy when I think about the starting of a family, it’s supposed to be the best time of your life. For Todd and I, it has proved to be the opposite. This is a hard time, a difficult one, full of pain and sadness. Who knew wanting a family would bring us down such a dark road. When I got home and looked at Crue I understood why though. That no matter how hard it is to have a family, it means everything. It’s worth everything.