Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nothing was different, but nothing would ever be the same

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Last week I spoke of loss, largely of parental loss, and that I believe in life before and after this one. This is the story of the most profound loss I have yet experienced in my own life.

I confirmed that I was pregnant late on a Wednesday afternoon in late August 2017, about ten minutes before Blake was due to be home for the day. I was fairly confident, based on certain symptoms that I now know for sure are my personal early pregnancy signs, but a quick home test and I knew. I'd been antsy about it all day, but I didn't want to know too much sooner than he did. When he got home, I gave him a super cute little "Made in Japan" onesie I'd rather hopefully commissioned a few weeks or months prior and we were both very excited. We got hospital confirmation by Friday of that week.

We told family that weekend, because Blake would be leaving soon for another temporary assignment and we wanted the familial support during that time. We told a few local friends and Blake's chain of command for the same reason. And because we just couldn't contain the happy news for long!

As is often the case with the Navy, Blake's assignment changed. He was supposed to be flying out to the carrier, the USS REAGAN, but instead he was tasked to help with the USS MCCAIN investigation down in Singapore and left right after Labor Day, with an undetermined return date. I didn't get to visit him, because of Zika, but I had my first prenatal appointment and busied myself with good things, as I do while he's away.

Three weeks later, Blake came home for 19 hours! Hooray! He got home Saturday night and was gone again by late Sunday afternoon, this time definitely for the Reagan with another undetermined return date. We'd been looking forward to him getting some experience at sea, and he was stoked about landing on an aircraft carrier!
Taken during the short window we got to be together

Malcolm tries to remind Blake to take him too by laying in the middle of his re-packing

I was feeling a little ill the Sunday afternoon he was home. I'd been having some mild spotting almost daily for the previous month, but everything I read indicated it wasn't anything to worry about, so I was trying not to. By Monday morning, just before he was supposed to take off on his flight to the ship, the spotting and the feeling ill had increased, but OB said not to worry yet but to keep an eye on it. So, I told Blake to get on his flight and we'd be okay.

Naturally, I worried and kept close eye on things all day. I was taking a pottery class on base on Monday evenings, so I headed down. I was running late, and our dear friend (and Blake's immediate report in his chain of command) was leaving work late, which is unlike both of us, but it gave us a chance to run into each other and to talk. I think we were supposed to run into each other. I told her what was going on and she said that if anything more happened, anytime, to call her. I promised I would.

Pottery class was an hour long. OB had said that if bleeding increased enough to soak a pad in an hour to go immediately to the ER. I checked right after class and, sure enough, it was time to go. It was a blessing that I was already on main base, where the hospital was, and my instructor was kind enough to drive me to the hospital while I called Kate and stayed with me until Kate could arrive. I also called my upstairs neighbor, Jen, to update her and asked her to check in on Malcolm for me.

The ER wasn't very busy that night, so I was taken straight back. The next few hours was a lot of waiting, exams, tests, and worry. It couldn't be confirmed immediately that I was miscarrying, but I was told the baby was measuring small for the 9 weeks and 6 days they should have been and we were also checking that it wasn't ectopic or anything else.

Somewhere in that, Blake finally messaged me to let me know that he was safely on the ship and had started getting settled in. I had to respond that I was in the ER. He found a phone on the ship and called me immediately. I updated him as much as I could. He started offering to see if he could get back off the ship and home and I was about to tell him "No, you're already there, I'll be fine.", but I was taken to an ultrasound in the radiology department before I got a chance. I laid alone, scared, and crying while the tech, who had been called in from home, silently did their job. By the time I got back, maybe 30 minutes later, Kate had updated our commanding officer (CO) and Blake had updated his chain on the ship and the commands had already decided, without Blake asking, to send him home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be until next day, but it would ultimately be better than either of us being alone. We talked a couple more times throughout the evening and the doctor came by during at least one phone call so they were able talk too.

Somewhere in the 9pm hour, I finally called Summer (who I do the school musicals and many other things with) to let her know that I wouldn't be at rehearsal the next day and why. She immediately offered words of comfort and asked if I would like her to send Ben to give me a blessing. We believe that through the power of the priesthood, blessings can be given for illness and comfort and through our faith we can be healed, if that is the will of Heavenly Father. It can be hard to ask for help, of any kind, but after running to Kate as I had earlier and the pottery instructor offering to drive and this offer of a blessing, I was getting practice in taking people up on things as fast as I could. I knew I couldn't do it alone. Ben recruited another man from church to help and arrived about 20-30 minutes later. Kate, a woman of faith in her own way, had also prayed for and with me while we were waiting.

Finally, around 11pm, I was discharged. We still didn't know for sure yet, but it was most likely that I was experiencing a miscarriage. I was told to keep an eye on the pain (which had started setting in while in the ER) and the bleeding and sent home. Our CO, who lived very close to the hospital, had offered his car to Kate, since neither of us had one, so she could drive me home. I called my parents and Blake's to let them know what was happening. I also had to call Jen again, the aforementioned upstairs neighbor, because I was completely out of toilet paper. I had planned to pick some up on my home, if things had gone according to plan.

Eventually, I got to bed and woke up feeling sad and scared on Tuesday morning. I was still bleeding some and the pain was mild, and my outlook was not good. I walked Malcolm and probably tried to eat breakfast and go about my day. But, by late morning, the pain came on so suddenly and so intensely that I was vomiting and shaking on the bathroom floor. I called Jen again and asked for a ride back to the ER. When I was waiting for Jen by the front door of our building, I saw another friend from church and told her what was happening.

I later identified that the pain was probably labor pains, which my body was not ready for. It came in waves every several minutes and was the most intense and painful I could ever remember. Jen helped me breathe and work through them until I was able to get some medication. There were more tests and exams and finally the official confirmation - my HCG (the pregnancy hormone) levels were 50% what they were the day before. I was, in fact, having a miscarriage. Once again, Blake called to tell me that he in was back in Japan and awaiting a flight back home, and I had to, once again, tell him I was in the ER. I also told Kate at some point that I was back in the hospital and when she tried to check on me and I didn't respond right away, she came over from her office in the building next door and relieved Jen. Eventually, and I can't remember how she found out - probably related the church friend I'd seen earlier, my friend Crystal came shortly after I was discharged and waiting at the pharmacy and relieved Kate.

This time, Crystal took me home. We stopped for a smoothie (because I was hungry but had no energy or desire to actually eat), which she kindly went in for while I hid in the car. Once we got home, I took Malcolm out and then Crystal and I both took up residence on the couch. We talked a little, but mostly just watched The Great British Baking Show while I laid down. Crystal admitted it was probably the most tv she'd watched in years, but I was grateful for her company. At some point, I actually heated up some dinner for both of us because I was feeling up to it and because it was easier than trying to tell her where everything was.

Eventually, Crystal started falling asleep on the couch. By this time, Jen had picked up Blake from the airport so I knew I'd only be alone for an hour or so, and sent Crystal home.

Blake was given the rest of the week to be with me as much as needed. He had to do a little work stuff here and there, but mostly we were just able to be together. Wednesday morning, the fetal tissue passed. Thursday, we got a ride from yet another friend back to the base so I could some follow up lab work and see the OB. It was supposed to be my 10 week appointment, but instead to it was to make sure everything was progressing as it should in a different kind of way so I wouldn't have to have a d&c. We had a couple hours to wait in between the lab and the OB, so while Blake ran errands like groceries, I rested at a friend's apartment, even though they weren't home. Their cat took care of me instead, which I referenced vaguely last year

Throughout the week, we had a few visitors, meals were dropped off, and many people called or texted to check in. Because Blake was gone to the ship and then suddenly back and then there were all the people we had already drawn on for assistance, so we knew we weren't going to be able to not tell people, and we really didn't mind that word was getting around. It was easier than telling people ourselves. I can't say that I'm ever happy to talk to about it, but I'm comfortable talking about it and willing to, when the time is right.

Saturday we went out to a light movie on base, just to get out of the house. But on Sunday, I wasn't up to the social and fellowshipping part of church. I did, however, really want to partake of the Sacrament (much like communion, but with bread and water instead of wafers and wine), which we believe is a renewal of our baptismal covenants and chance to realign ourselves with God's will every week. I also knew I was in great need of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which we believe covers all struggles and ailments - not just sin and death. So, we showed up to church just as services started, stayed until the Sacrament had been passed, and then quietly left.

Monday, Blake went back to work and I went back to rehearsal and we tried to get back to normal life. Except, like the song lyric that I chose for this post, nothing was different, but nothing would ever be the same. It was the most intense grieving process I have ever experienced, and I was retrospectively sad for all the friends and family I've had who have had a similar loss. It's not a club you fully understand until you do. I felt broken and devastated and lost. And, admittedly, I sometimes felt relieved. I was (and still am) terrified about being a parent. Even though I was (and still am) mostly excited about the prospect, I was also okay with waiting a little longer, but then I'd feel guilty about that. It's an incredible roller coaster of emotions and a cycle I've been dealing with ever since.

Eventually, we did mostly get back to normal. There were probably even some days I didn't think about the loss at all, but most days it at least crossed my mind. And, as most people know, just over a year later, we are having better success this time around and have officially been told that the chance of miscarriage in this pregnancy is less than 1%.

I don't know why this baby didn't get to stay with us, and I don't know for sure what will happen in regards to this specific loss in the future. We have beliefs and doctrine about what happens to children after they are born, but nothing specific about before. Just hope, and I can live with that.

If you've ever experienced this kind of loss, you are not alone. I am here and we can talk, or not talk, or whatever you need. 20-25% of pregnancies end in loss, so it's a much bigger club than any of us would ever hope. Our generation is much better talking about it than those before us, but it's still not easy, nor will it ever be. I know I'm changed forever because of this, but I am grateful for the family, friends, and especially Blake, Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ who made sure I didn't have to do this alone. 


Myrna said...

Love you, Amanda!

AmandaStretch said...

Love you too!

Giggles said...


Heidi said...

Through my own recent issues, I've come to a place of greater sympathy and a certain level of understanding of this kind of loss. I look forward to the day when we will all learn why.