Saturday, December 25, 2010

Long winter's nap

I'm sorry for the previous post. I'm sorry I spent time tonight looking for information online (info I couldn't get from my doctors). I'm sorry I put both you and me through the writing and reliving and recovering from the content of that post.

I'm going to go take the dog out, and I'm going to take a couple of pills and go to sleep for a very long time.

Thank you, all, my friends, for helping to make this all a little more bearable.

To paraphrase what my sister said on FB tonight, whether it's with Christmas cookies or fortune cookies, may you be happy.

Of course I did

So, for Christmas, I thought I'd torture myself.

(You may want to just skip this one if your tolerance is low, or if you're in a really good mood.)

Here's a link I used as the instrument of torture. NOTE: it's not for the squeamish

According to this text book, cranial sutures overlap around 96 hours after fet@l death, or 4 to 5 days, it says.

Collapse of the skull happens around 1 week after.

It gets worse, but I'll spare you.

So, it's no wonder my cervix was twitchy. I had a dead baby inside me for at least 4 or 5 days when my water broke.

The ultrasound reports from the university hospital used terms like "collapsed cranial sutures" and "overlapping cranial sutures." And there was no fluid around him to speak of.

I almost asked my stupid ob for an ultrasound when I had my regular appointment. When my dad was visiting. Both because I felt, oh, like I was a different shape than I had been, and wouldn't it be awesome for him to see his grandsons? He got to hear the heartbeats. That would be good, I thought.

Stupid OB brought a tape measure with him (as I was about 18w 3d at that appointment, with twins), but he didn't use it. The first heartbeat was easy to find. The second took a couple of tries. There was a 10 beats per minute difference in the heart rate that day.

Similar to the day my water broke. I started to breathe a sigh of relief, but then, Dr. Coldfish shook his head, No, that's an echo of the first one...


Denial Denial Denial...

The night before my dad came to visit (the day before my appointment), I was up til almost 3 grading. And then I couldn't sleep. And then the nausea (which had been fading) seemed to come back, especially on my way to go pick him up at the airport. I made myself puke a little, but it didn't help. Nothing seemed to help. I tried to nap when we got home -- we were all tired -- but I couldn't. I dozed for maybe half an hour after getting almost no sleep the night before.

I took some tyle.nol pm or bened.ryl to help me sleep. It did, but a little bit.

Only a couple days later did I realize I had probably had a panic attack. I had had a few before.


There's nothing really to say.

I need to let it go. I need to remind myself I did the best I could, even if that wasn't very good at all. I need to remember that I didn't get very good care, and was not up to advocating for it, apparently.

I need to forgive myself and let go.

In many ways I have. I usually do.

I guess I still have a little ways to go. It's anniversaries that make it hard.

Still seems so much like a dream.


And I guess I was right. One of those terrible days, sitting in my hospital gown. Well, I that's it. There goes our one chance.

At least it feels like it today.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I went out to get coffee this morning, after the dog let me sleep in before her morning outing.

I went out to get coffee this morning, the first time I've left the house before, well, noon at least, all week.

I went out to get coffee this morning, in the raw cold, the sky a whitish gray, grayish white.

And when I got back in my car, I looked at the clock; at the same moment, bells chimed: 10:00 am.

Two days will make it three years.


Each anniversary is different. Each year has been different. It's kind of like BC/AD. The grief integrates, changes, morphs, fills cracks, breaks through in different ways. My understanding of what happened changes. My hopes for the coming year change, grow, shift. I find the hope that I had lost before getting pregnant -- really pregnant -- that lostness seems to be drifting in and out. Hope for parenthood gets more and more hazy. Or maybe it's my vision. Clouded.

But it still stings. All of it. Everywhere.

Just as I feared, I am not the same. I don't know that I want the old me back. Maybe I just want three years back. Or maybe just those 20w 5d. When I wasn't consumed with nausea or worry, I was filled with joy. Hope. Hope for wishes come true.


I don't wish anymore. Not really. Oh, yes, I wish for a snow day, or a winning lottery ticket, but nothing important.

The old me is gone. The new me? Well, she's stronger. Strong enough, anyway, I guess. Though, awfully tired. Some days, she's normal, like anyone else, moving through errands and grading papers and trying to do whatever else needs to get done to m. Like anyone else. Except not really.

It's invisible to most people, I think. Though I sometimes wonder what people think when they look at me, listen to me kvell over my darling baby nieces. (She loves kids, talks about if/when, but she's gotta be 40. What's going on there? Why doesn't she have any?)


Two days begins the 10-day journey. From where to where? Young to old? Hope to resignation, maybe. Filled up to emptied out.


Hope and joy. Peace. It's what the season is about, isn't it?

Where do you find it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I just read this post by Jennifer Lawler and, given this time of year, find it...well, salient. Compelling.

Depending on the event, I can often remember the date and the day it happened. We landed in this town on Tuesday, Aug 14, 2003. First coffee date with C was Monday, Dec 7. I also remember when I got braces, when I left for college. The date of my father-in-law's birthday.

My pregnancy was full of dates that were etched in my mind. Are etched? First hpt. Beta. Ultrasounds. Hospitalizations. Milestones. Three years out, of most dates I'm less sure. December sticks though.

I'm almost done with school for the semester. Just 19 papers to grade. Within the week I will be on vacation. My sister has suggested C and me taking one or two overnighters out of town. Maybe someplace that will take the dog. Or giving. My therapist suggested baking goodies for folks who do good. The volunteers at the animal shelter or vet. The admin and student workers who keep the department running. Our sweet neighbor with whom we chat while the dogs sniff or yap.

Virtually everyone I know will be out of town for a good chunk of the break. This is the first year that I have not had a particular distraction. The first anniversary. The second. The laparoscopy. C out of town for the holidays. Cycling. That project that took two months to get through.

This year, I was hoping to enjoy some quiet. Get the house cleaned up (oh, the laundry...) and have some fun or enjoyable outings. I'm feeling a bit haunted though.

My therapist keeps coming back to school -- seems to think I'm not really into getting the degree and it's affecting everything else. Could it possibly be another anniversary? Feeling my place in the world shifting as I seem to become the aunt (perhaps later the mother).

My brother* finally got a bunch of pictures of him and his wife and the baby up on one of those pic websites. I found it drawing me closer to him, to them. The love is building, which I knew it would. But somehow it hurts more. I am the aunt, kvelling. But I am always the bridesmaid, or so it seems. The more I talk about my wonderful family, the more I feel it.

Yesterday, I was chatting with a colleague, showed him a picture of my father with my sister's daughter, grinning from ear to ear. He is struggling with my brother, still. They are trying to figure out this next part of life. My sister told me that my father's girlfriend's grandchildren (you got that?) call him Grandpa.

And I think it's wonderful. He loves it. He loves all of them.

And he loves me. And C. And still aches for us. But I am not part of that.

And not part of the fertile world. I found out on FB that an old friend of my brother's is a new uncle. The birth? 8 and a half months after the wedding. I don't know how long they were trying. I don't know anything. And it's none of my business. It has nothing to do with me.

When I bring up being infertile, sometimes my therapist tries to remind me that I'm going to keep coming across this, that the world is fertile, and I've got to get used to the idea.

Usually I do. I mean, usually I'm okay. Just like it's a pain in the ass to find a left-handed desk or left-handed scissors, I've gotten used to the fact that I am not part of the privileged fertile population. Apparently, though, I don't have the right to lament it, either. I'm not saying that I sit around moaning. Just that, well, when I come across a reminder (especially from a stranger or distant acquaintance), there's an "oh, yeah. of course. of *course*. And that's it, mostly. But somehow, it seems, I'm supposed to be happy that I can be an aunt, a very important role.

It IS very important, but it is not the same.

I honestly wonder if I just have to figure out how to deal with all this on my own. Maybe I'm done with therapy for a little while. I don't know specifically what I need help with. Or maybe I need it more.

*My sister came across a posting (it popped up on her email provider) on one of those on-line question and answer sites. She is sure it was my brother asking how to deal with my SILs possible PPD and possessiveness over the baby (at 2.5 weeks old). How he felt so blessed to have this child, wanted to share her with family, but didn't know how to deal with SIL. If only he could have said something to us. "Just give us a little space. SIL is having trouble adjusting, both hormonally and emotionally." He doesn't know my sister saw this. I wonder how things might be different for all of us.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


December is harder than I thought it would be. Looking at the comments on Tash's post, the names, the love. Remembering. And so many names.

They just keep falling.

I'm supposed to be writing about Foucault in relation to the impact of loss on women in academia. Discourse analysis is not happening. I was going to write something about a plan for a project, using Foucault's ideas, but that's not happening either.

The loss is not just about my babies dying. It's a lot of it. some writers have talked about the conflict women in academia face when they consider starting a family during their doctoral process or their search for/beginning tenure-track jobs. There's a mind-body conflict: the biological clock versus the tenure clock.

In a project I did last February, I talked about the possibility exploring the potential change in world view for women like me, in academia and with late pregnancy loss. Several women I've talked to have expressed differing ways of integrating their losses into their lives and careers.

I wonder if it's more about determining how much of one's (my) identity is tied in with motherhood/potential motherhood/loss and what changes (or doesn't) over time. How I once saw myself as a mother -- in the future or in the past versus how I see myself as an academic, a professional.

Who am I?

How do I understand who I am now?

Foucault talks about normal versus abnormal; the power of authorities over the mind and/or the body. How do I understand who I am now?

He talks about how societies, authorities, doctors determine what is right, what is normal. Doctors are one of the ultimate holders of medical knowledge: we are taught that by looking at you by a variety of means, casting their "gaze" upon the patient, they can determine what is wrong with you. And what needs to be done to fix you. Your own contributions as a patient are less important.


During my pregnancy, it was determined I was high risk. Advanced maternal age. Clotting disorder. My OB had to work with other doctors. He didn't like it. He was passive in treating me. If I wanted care for a problem, I had to ask for it. Beg for it. Demand it. Despite need, some doctors thought I was merely being emotional. Despite need, my insurance carrier denied coverage that would enhance my well-being. I sucked it up.

When my water broke, the nurse at the hospital made me wait to see a doctor ("She thinks her water broke.") for at least 15 minutes. The radiologist was unavailable. I would have to settle for second best, an educated guess from the doctor on call (annoyed his holiday was interrupted) until the next morning.

Days of strangers examining me in the most personal way. (I think I lost count at nine.) Asking the same questions. All except the neo-natologist resident, who showed up (looking exhausted -- it's been a bad few days, she said) after two days of requests to talk with her about the possibilities. My family and I asked questions, and she did answer them, gravely. New words, new conditions to be explained.

After a week, when we determined that all hope was lost and that I would deliver my twins at the local hospital, we geared ourselves up and went. My OB had said he would set everything up. Already in my hospital gown, IV in my arm, and Ativan in my veins, the nurse came with apologies. The lawmakers determined that the hospital couldn't help me that day. The next hospital I went to needed me to sign a form that said I had considered my options for at least 24 hours.


The room I was put in was small. Not enough room for my husband and family and doctor. All around me heartbeat monitors echoed with the healthy rhythm of other people's babies. Normal pregnant women about to give birth to normal healthy babies. All around me. The nurse kindly turned down volumes after I asked.


The pharmacy delayed getting my labor-inducing drugs for 6 hours because they doubted the doctor's orders. The epidural was in after the fourth try. But it didn't wholly take. Instead, they gave me drugs that would distract me. That would mostly knock me out.

I started the day with one doctor, ended it with another to whom I don't recall being introduced.

I have little memory of the delivery: it's like a very bad dream, complete with a spotlight piercing darkness. Horrid images. Lots of blood. Strangers invading my body. More, and more deeply.

A transfusion, said the doctor. You'll need two units of blood.


I called the OB with a fever one week after delivery. The fever went away with a Tylenol, but left an infection that required surgery.

Six weeks or so post-partum, I received he pathology report for the placentas of my dead babies. I had had an appointment with my OB, but forgot to bring the report. I told him that I read through it, and thought I understood some of it, but obviously, I wanted to discuss it with him, hear his thoughts.

He said, "Well, yes, of course...lots of big words in that. And I did go to medical school..."

Two and a half years later I have not gone back to him.


Almost three years past these events, and I think I begin to understand the experience in a different way.

We tried for two years to have a child. We almost did. It was what I wanted more than almost anything. But what about my studies, my potential career? How do I think of the world, of my identity as a person, as a woman without this? Or, as a woman who basically failed at having a living baby. Could I succeed at it eventually? Could I succeed at anything?


A year and a half of sadness, guilt, no answers. Still, there are virtually no answers.

And being treated like...well, a body. To be dealt with. To be fixed. Some folks were kind. It seems though, when I tried to get answers, for the most part, it took pushing. Or it took physical and visual examination of my body. And responses like, "if only we had a crystal ball."

The doctors who were supposed to be helping me to finally have my twins could barely help me in losing them. Could barely help me in trying to understand.


This is something which makes no sense. That is what the grief counselor said. What many folks have said, trying to help.

It just pisses me off. I want answers. Even though I know that knowledge doesn't exist.


What about the way that I was treated? I had to push and push to get test results. To get them explained to me. To get someone to commit to some answers. Risks.

I only found out after the fact that one of my doctors considered me to be at "dramatically high risk" for pre-term labor, as noted on one of my appointment reports.

For most of the ten days between my water breaking and the delivery of my dead or dying sons, I learned more about the practice of medicine than I ever wanted to learn.

Despite their high status (as Foucault describes them in The Birth of the Clinic), medical doctors apparently seem to have very little definite knowledge. Everything "depends." In my five years of trying to have a child, only one of the many doctors I met with admitted that medicine is as much or more art than science. There are few definite answers. Medicine, it seems, is postmodern.

Doctors are human. They have egos and insecurities. They seem to assume patients would not understand, or would not be interested in knowing, the details. Why did I have to push so hard to get information that I had a right to know, that may have affected my choices.


I was medicated out of my own ability to advocate for myself. I was acted upon. After the delivery, a nurse gave me a sponge bath before taking me back to my room. She changed the linens, rolling me this way and that. I vaguely remember it. Mostly I remember being without will. I let her do what she needed to do.

I gave in. My body was no longer my own.


In addition to the loss of my sons, I lost my faith in any so-called authority. When my mother became ill six years earlier, I learned the importance of advocating for yourself and getting information as possible. It wasn't easy.

Being a grown woman, with a variety of life experiences -- achievements and losses -- I had already learned that there are few things one can depend upon. Somehow, I still believed in medicine.

I still go to doctors, though I try to see them for what they are: human beings with fallibility and not nearly as much knowledge as our society would like to believe.


In developing my comps exam responses, I found confirmation in the literature that there was an enormous surge in the importance of pregnancy and motherhood in the media: TV shows, news shows, movies, commercials. They all implied to one degree or another that a woman was not complete without a child.

In the academy, commitment to one's work may be questioned if there is suggestion that motherhood may interfere somewhat with one's pursuit of degree or tenure.

The literature suggested that there was an implicit (and sometimes explicit) demand that a woman choose between family and academic career. Certainly in considering that only 27% of full, tenured professors in four-year colleges are women (with children or not), professional gender equity is still not present. What does it mean to be committed to one's career? To be committed to one's family?

The myth of the superwoman who can do it all seems to live on. And at the same time, there is strife between those who choose to stay home and those who choose to work. Or who need to do one or the other. To be a woman and/or a mother and/or a professional seems to be a lose/lose/lose situation.

You can't please all of the people all of the time, but, apparently according to the culture, you should try.


I tried to perform a discourse analysis on several posts another blog, but don't feel confident in the practice.

My situation, my loss, is abnormal. Only about 1% of pregnancies end without a live birth. And yet, my story, the interaction with my doctor(s), my worries about my own responsibility in the loss, my interaction with the doctor about my body (not my self), seem if not universal, then common. At least where I live. The information shared with me, about my body -- or need to ask for it, seemed to separate the two (body and self). The social workers and counselors were kind, generally. The doctors were generally kind, but somewhat withholding of information. They were in charge, sort of. The kindness rather seemed like an afterthought. Discomfort with the situation made them quiet.


I'm still learning the central concepts Foucault put forward, but I am sensing it all over my own story. And, to some extent, it changes the way I talk and think about it.

Power. Knowledge. Power-Knowledge relationships. Power over the mind. Power over the body. Discourses of the body, of what it can and can't do. Discourses. Authority. Normal/Abnormal.

I'm still working it out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Tash over at Awful but Functioning posted her thoughts on the passing of Elizabeth Edwards, this morning. Another grieving mother.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do you match?

I got the following email from my friend, B, about her cousin's baby who needs a bone marrow transplant. (Her husband, by the way, is doing wonderfully since he received his new heart almost 2 years ago. As good as new. :-) )


Hi There,

Below is a link to a newspaper story about my cousin Joe. His infant son was recently diagnosis with leukemia and he needs a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. I ordered a kit to be a donor and just completed it. It was easy and painless. I thought maybe you could forward it to others you know who might be interested in joining the bone marrow donor registry. Thanks
In addition here is a link to his web page with caring bridge:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flying Colors

I defended my comps yesterday and passed with flying colors. (Isn't that a great expression? "Flying colors." So visually evocative.)

Anyway, all the agonizing and self-flagellation was apparently in vain because the preparation I did to defend what I said in (and clarify and expand on) my papers were satisfactory. I was so nervous, but once we got started it was almost fun. Only got through three of the five responses, and the deliberation was all of two minutes. My adviser was grinning ear to ear. He said it was one of the best defenses he's attended in several years.


There was a glitch, though, in that I was supposed to have the defense on Monday, but it turned out that for a variety of reasons, only half my committee would be able to be there -- so it was CANCELED. Well, postponed. Four hours before the appointed time.

I had a visceral reaction, like ptsd or something. It felt kind of like it did the first day I was supposed to deliver the boys and they sent me home even though I was already in the gown with the IV in my arm. What? But I'm ready. I've gone through the agony of deciding to do this and preparing to do it and What?? I have to put it off?

It wouldn't have been so bad, but then I went shopping instead and got overloaded with Christmas at the mall. That combined with the glitch... Oh, and the $165 speeding ticket I got on my way to said mall. 63 in a 45.


I'm exhausted and am taking my adviser's advice by taking it easy this weekend. I'm anticipating ordering in Chinese food for dinner and napping and sleeping a lot. I still have some stuff to do to finish an incomplete so my comps can be official, but it shouldn't be too bad. Stella slept on me for 2 hours last night after we got home from celebratory drinks. We are all feeling a bit relieved, I think.


But I did it.