Friday, March 14, 2008

One week on

"...menstruation was always a little sad - but it was also a new beginning. I was being given another chance."
Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

I went for coffee with two colleagues the other day and was asked outright, "are you going to have children?", and "when are you going to have children?".

I try never to ask such questions. I prefer to ask "would you like to have children?".

There is no way I could answer those questions without lying. Well, actually there is, and I think I did. My response was to shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know. Whenever. Who can say?" or something along those lines.

Had I been asked "would you like to have children?" however, my answer would have been, "yes, I would. I would like to do that some day."

Of course the colleague in question had no way of knowing I was recovering from a miscarriage. I wonder how he would have felt if my answer had been, "how can I possibly know whether I'm going to have children? This isn't something you can predict. Until 10 days ago I thought I was going to have my first baby 7 months from now but then it died and now I'm not. So, how can I possibly answer your questions as to whether and when I will have children when nature seems to have a mind of its own?"

That would have been really cruel, plus I didn't want to expose my personal life whilst I was still feeling vulnerable, but it might have made this man think about his words a bit more. To be fair to him, he probably has little idea that life can do this to you. His kids arrived without much warning when he was in his early twenties and courting a woman he hadn't yet made the mental or emotional commitment to be with for life. Of course, now he's with her for life and sometimes I wonder whether he's happy. So you see, our lives have taken completely different paths.

People do say stupid things though. The doctor advised me not to tell anyone at work the real reason for my day off last Friday. He said to tell them I was having a "minor procedure" because people will unintentionally say stupid things. As it is, I only had to tell my boss because no one else asked. They all just assumed I was doing something nice and said "enjoy". "Sure, I'll try to remember that whilst I'm waking up from the anaesthetic." Actually I did sort of enjoy it. It was very relaxing but also uncomfortable and exhausting.

It wasn't exactly a cruel coincidence that I was asked this question less than a week after losing my pregnancy because people (especially people with children) ask it a lot. This particular colleague absolutely loves having children to the point where he actually pities people who don't, or who have left it too late. I pity him for having such a narrow mind, putting all his eggs in one basket and failing to see in a positive light the many alternative paths life can take. On the other hand, I do understand his point of view and think it's lovely that he's such a devoted dad.

In stark contrast the third member of our coffee club has been saying some rather negative things about her children recently. I was sure she'd twigged on I was pregnant a few weeks ago when she was drilling me as to why I was drinking de-caff. But then a few days later she was talking about what a bind children can be, how they take over your life, you have no time for exercise and doing your own thing, it's an incredible responsibility, if you say the wrong thing your child could grow up to be a murderer (she's a tad neurotic). She told me she'd never wanted children. I asked what changed her mind (she has three!) and she said "well, I haven't really". I thought that was funny but also sad. The poor woman is divorced and has seemingly given up her life for her kids. She's constantly arguing with her 16 year old daughter and they have a personality clash that puts them in an enduring battle of wills. (Perhaps that's just life with a teenager.) I think that now her daughter is 16 perhaps she can start living her own life a bit more... but maybe so much time has passed that she doesn't know how to. Sometimes I wonder if she's trying to warn me what I'll be getting myself into should I decide to have children.

This wasn't actually what I'd intended to write about in this post. I wanted to give an update on how I'm doing. Pretty damn fantastic, thank you for asking. I had a great yoga session on Monday which hurt for about 36 hours afterwards, I made it to the gym twice and I did pilates this morning. My cardio fitness is still a bit weak; I only managed 17 minutes at about 60-70 rpm on the cross trainer on Tuesday, whereas a couple of months ago I could have done 20-30 mins and reached over 100 rpm. My heartbeat hovered around the 130 bpm mark, whereas I used to get to 150-160. However, on Thursday I improved to 20 minutes and got my revs up to about 85 per minute (not consistently though). It's so nice to have energy again, to be able to get up early in the morning and do my physio exercises and yoga, get the cats sorted, arrive at work early enough to get a spot in the staff carpark, and still have the energy to do exercise after work, cook dinner, wash up and get lunch ready for the next day.

Emotionally it's a bit more difficult. I'm not weepy or anything but I get irritated by conversations and questions, such as the one mentioned above. I'm terrified that someone I know is going to unexpectedly tell me she's pregnant. Why would that terrify me? Well, that in itself doesn't but the emotions I may experience in response are what scare me. I'm trying to prepare myself but you never really know how you're going to feel until something like this actually happens. Now that I've emotionally prepared myself (ish) for starting a family I have this childish desire to be the first, or rather next, person to do it of everyone I know. I'm almost feeling competitive about it, although I realise it's not a race and I still don't want a Christmas baby. It's a crazy situation because I really don't mind when we do start a family... but I still want to be the next to do it, which makes me want to do it now just to be sure I'll get in there first. I think second babies will bother me far less, it's the first babies that I'm worried about. The silly thing is that the more unexpected it is, the more the thought of it bothers me, which is a bit of a paradox. If I think of the people I suppose are least likely to get pregnant, then imagine them telling me they're pregnant before I am, are they then still the least expected to get pregnant? Or does my imagining this whole thing mean that they are now more expected to get pregnant? And are those who I'm not considering, or who I think could get pregnant, now the least expected? In which case, am I setting myself up for an emotional avalanche as those I least expect to get pregnant are actually most likely to?

See how muddled my brain is? Hormones! They're still not settled. I'm actually perfectly sane.

UPDATE: Friday night. I'm tired. I think the week at work, getting back into exercise, hormones shifting and doing pilates with my physio this morning have taken their toll. It's understandable, I suppose, but I feel like I've let friends down as I was supposed to call around tonight. Hopefully they'll understand. We've also been invited for dinner at someone's house tomorrow night. I think we'll decline as we're planning on doing a long walk with them in the morning, plus I haven't cleaned or tidied the house since before I got sick and we have washing etc. to do for our holidays and I really don't want to take on too much. I feel bad though because this couple don't know about the pregnancy so what's my excuse? I shouldn't really mind what people think but I do hate feeling like a wet blanket. Oh well. Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When does a soul become a soul?

I still haven't finished writing my last post (because it's long, sorry), although I will try to publish them in order, but I had a thought last night that I wanted to share.

The thought was, what if your soul is assigned to your physical being at the time of, or even before, conception? What if the little embryo that was growing inside me already had a soul? And what if that soul is watching us now, feeling unloved, possibly even relieved that it didn't get assigned to a body with such uncaring parents? A crazy thing to think, I know, but it made me want to spend more time thinking about what it could have been like if it had grown to be our baby, more time acknowledging the little life that could have been.

I tried to talk to Toby about it last night but he was too tired for such philosophical contemplations. Does essence precede existence, or does existence precede essence? And at which point do we begin or cease to exist? Does a soul continue after the expiration of a body? Is there an after-life? And if so, is that after-life completely separate to this life, or can there be communications, either one- or two-way, between the two?

As a pro-choice advocate these are awkward issues to ponder. I think that perhaps I don't really believe that there could be a soul before a life, and that perhaps by "life" I mean a living, breathing individual, but I'm not sure that's how I feel right now. This whole thing has made me realise I probably should get my philosophical and spiritual beliefs sorted... but not today. For now I think I will just go with how I feel (just in case) and I think I feel like I want to perform some kind of ritual to say goodbye to the first little Clucklet that didn't quite happen. I think I will do this in a simple way, such as lighting a candle and pondering all of the above questions, perhaps on a quiet (but probably cold and windy) beach in Tasmania.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

As I was saying...

Monday was tough, especially because Toby was going away on Tuesday and I really didn't want to be alone with my thoughts.


I decided to go back to work on Tuesday to limit the amount of time I would be spending alone at home. I still wasn't feeling physically great and then had the added challenge of dealing with intense emotions. I was worried I'd be a bit weepy at work but in actual fact I was fine, although quiet on account of how tired I was. I couldn't concentrate on my work at all and after my friend Nirvana invited me to the movies that evening I spent the afternoon watching movie trailers on the internet whilst deciding whether to go. By 3pm I decided there was no point in my being at work and I might as well go home and rest then head out to the cinema later. I told my boss that I'd be taking a day off later in the week for minor surgery. I figured that would let me off the hook if I performed badly that week.

When I got home I called Lucie. She was the first person I told I was pregnant (other than my yoga instructor) and the last I told I wasn't. I'd wanted to tell her over the phone but hadn't been able to get hold of her. Eventually I didn't want to drag it out any more so I emailed her. I realised that she'd invited Toby and I around for dinner that night but I'd been so out of it when I got her email the previous Thursday that I hadn't really taken it in. We had a chat about it and I found her to have the perfect level of sympathy and practicality. She told me she was shocked by the news and then gauged my reaction before encouraging me with positive statements such as I'd be pregnant again in no time, this sort of thing happens all the time, 50 % of her friends have had miscarriages. Some people may have found her unsympathetic but it was exactly what I needed and I suspect her reaction would have been very different had I been sobbing down the phone to her. I felt so much better after our chat and I realised how much I'd missed her the last few weeks whilst I'd been getting used to being pregnant and she'd been away on holiday. I decided not to go to dinner as I didn't feel up to meeting her brother for the first time.

Going to the movies was a great idea. Fool's Gold was the the escap I needed. See my review here: Nirvana was also great and I realised the value of telling at least a few close friends and family, people who know you and know how to gauge your mood, early on in a pregnancy.


On Wednesday I felt slightly better than Tuesday but still pretty rough. I still don't know what was making me feel so physically awful. It is a terrible coincidence that it all happened around the time the embryo died, and the obstetrician told me some women report having felt different at that time, but I suspect I actually had a virus made worse by the fact that I was pregnant and thus my immune system was low. I base this on the fact that the boys at work started to feel unwell this week. Ooops. I was convinced that what I had wasn't catching but obviously they don't agree. They started calling me The Grinch, a name Dan's friends gave to him after he made our boss ill over Christmas. I actually got a little upset for a few moments as I was still adamant my failed pregnancy was what was making me feel so bad. I managed to pull myself together but had almost as useless a day as yesterday and finally left around 4.30pm.

I picked Toby up from the bus stop around 6pm and we ordered Indian and bought ice cream. Mark and Mindi arrived at our place later that evening and I enjoyed a beer with my dinner, the first in a while. I'd been feeling anxious about them staying over as I felt Toby and I needed some alone time. It helped that Toby arrived before them and having them there did take my mind off things a little. I hid the flowers from my parents in the bedroom to avoid awkward questions.


There was an awkward moment when Mark wanted to check his email on my computer but I was trying to fax my admission form to the hospital but it all worked out okay. I was feeling better physically and actually managed to get some work done. It felt strange when I explained to people that I wouldn't be at work the next day and they told me to "enjoy".


I woke up at 2.10am with a stonking headache. Actually it was more like an intense pain in the head than an ache. I couldn't take any painkillers, and I couldn't drink any water as I wasn't to eat or drink anything after midnight. I was so thirsty and there was no way I could sleep through it. I took sips of water and held them in my mouth so that I would at least feel like I was drinking something. I got up and mixed up some essential oils, marjoram for headaches and insomnia and lavender for relaxation, and rubbed them onto my temples and the back of my neck. Toby then massaged the base of my skull which was incredibly tense, perhaps unsurprisingly. I eventually got back to sleep.

I think the fact that I was feeling better physically helped me to cope with the emotional side of things much better. I was relieved it was all going to be over soon and we could move on. I did get a little bit nervous about having to have anaesthetic but the staff at the day surgery were really nice. They let Toby come in with me whilst I was changing and being checked over. I was lighter than I had been all three times I'd been weighed on Monday, which is bizarre considering I'd been eating stodgy comfort food and sweets all week (rebelling against having to eat heathily for the baby, you see).

The anaesthetist and his nurse introduced themselves to me which I don't think has ever happened before (I've had general anaesthetic on 3 previous occasions) but which I really appreciated. The obstetrician appeared very briefly and said "hi" but didn't really bother to talk to me. Nevertheless I was relieved to see a familiar face. The weirdest bit was when I had to get off my bed, walk into the room where I was being anaesthetised and which may also have been the room where the procedure was performed, and hop up onto the trolley in there. I'm used to being wheeled around everywhere. I felt the anaesthetic slide up my arm from the needle in my elbow and was out within seconds.

I woke up soon after, amazed it was all over already. By about 10.30am, which I think was 10 minutes later, my cognitive functions started to return and I was able to read the time on the clock which was much earlier than I'd expected. I lay, feeling incredibly relaxed and watching the nurses going about their business, watching other people being wheeled into recovery and slowly start to wake up. Every few minutes a blood pressure monitor swelled up around my left arm and eventually I was able to turn my head and see numbers flashing on a screen. A pulse monitor was attached to my index finger on my right hand. I was also attached to a drip somehow. I asked a nurse what time I'd been given the anaesthetic. She said it would have been between 9.45 and 10am. I was amazed. I actually felt really nice, not sick at all, just relaxed and floaty and happy to be just lying there.

At about 11.30am, by which time they'd brought my clothes and bag to me, they pulled the curtains around my bed and told me to sit up slowly and get dressed when I was ready. They then carried my bag for me and I followed them through to the recovery room. This was incredible. Less than 2 hours after having been knocked out I was up and walking, a far cry from my first experience of anaesthetic when I was seven years old and vomited all over my hair and couldn't even sit up in bed and colour in for the rest of the day. I guess shortening an eye muscle is a slightly more complex procedure though.

I then got to lounge in the most comfortable recliner chair with a little tray for drinks and food, although all they gave me was water. I had a heat-pack on my tummy to help with cramps, a blanket round my shoulders and another one on my legs. I read my trashy magazine and sat there for another 2 hours before Toby came to pick me up. During that time I did manage to get up and go to the toilet, at which point I discovered the disinfectant around my middle and groin was still there and my trousers had stuck to my skin. Ouch! I then asked for a cup of tea and some food as I was starving. They gave me biscuits, a little reluctantly, and told me to eat really slowly, which I did. They took my blood pressure and told me it was too low and they couldn't take the needle out of my arm yet. I had to get my fluids up. Yay!!!

At around 1.30pm I was discharged. Toby took me home, rearranged the furniture so I could sit with my feet up, made me some lunch and heated up my rosemary-scented heat-pack, whilst I had a shower. We spent the rest of the day watching movies we'd rented the night before.


Feeling much better than I had in weeks, we headed up to Eumundi Markets to shop for presents for people. After about 2 hours I got tired and my painkillers wore off so we headed home and again, I spent much of the day on the settee hugging my heat-pack. Lucie came over and we went to the local cafe for lunch. Things were starting to feel a bit more normal again.


Much much better. I think I only heated the pack up once today, didn't spend much time on the couch at all and even backed an orange and poppyseed cake and coconut biscuits.

It's now Tuesday (it took me a while to write this) and I'm feeling much better. Had a great yoga session last night and I'm heading back to the gym tonight. I'm unfit so still tire easily but I have more energy than I've had in ages. I can't really remember what I felt like before I got sick two weeks ago, but I think I have more energy than I had then. I certainly feel a lot more normal. Part of me feels bad for thinking that because the reason I felt not normal was mainly due to being pregnant. However, it is kind of a relief to not feel like that anymore. I know (if I'm lucky) that I'll have to go through it all again some day, but I'm enjoying having my body to myself again and being able to do (almost) what I want with it. I still have moments of sadness and low energy but that is to be expected whilst everything settles down.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

All done, for now

What a week.

Monday was tough. Emotions were very up and down as we came to terms with what has happened. To be honest, though, I haven't felt anywhere near as bad as I'd always imagined a miscarriage would make me feel.

Technically, it was a "missed miscarriage", which is where the embryo (or foetus, depending upon the stage of pregnancy) dies but the pregnancy continues. This is probably less traumatic than a "threatened" or "incomplete" miscarriage, where bleeding occurs and the contents of the womb are naturally expelled, because somehow you feel a bit more in control; you know what's going on and when things are going to happen, and recovery time is quicker. Waiting for your pregnancy to draw to its natural conclusion during a full miscarriage must be very traumatic, and often this results in surgery anyway to ensure that all contents have been removed in order to prevent infection.

We are very lucky that we were able to seek private health-care. Had we not, we probably wouldn't have had a scan at 8 weeks and found out that the pregnancy was over before bleeding occurred. At least this way it will all be over before our honeymoon. I can't imagine anything worse than suffering a miscarriage whilst away from home on your honeymoon.

I think another reason why this has been less traumatic is because we were fully aware of the chances of something going wrong within the first few months. We know many people who have lost babies and in far worse circumstances. As such, we hadn't started really thinking of this pregnancy as being an actual baby. We still grieved for the lost dream of our October baby but less so for the actual embryo which was yet to become our child in our minds. It's hard to explain and I hope it doesn't make me sound cold but I guess the baby we were grieving for is a baby we might have had in the future had things worked out, rather than something tangible in the present. I have talked this point over with both Toby and a pregnant friend who were of the same opinion but somehow it's harder to put into the written word.

One positive that has come out of this experience is that it has reminded me how happy I am with my marriage, my home and my life. This is an amazing revelation for me after periods of homesickness and feeling mentally weak. It has reminded me that I am a strong person, and not only that, I am happy, loved and emotionally supported. The past 14 months have been very up and down and, at times, emotionally challenging. Strangely, this has been one of the easier things to deal with, perhaps because it is out of my control. I have to accept that this has happened and move on. I feel incredibly positive about the future and have so much to look forward to. Whilst I was looking forward to becoming a parent, a baby is not the be all and end all of my life right now. It would have enhanced my life to have a child but at this stage I certainly don't feel my life is empty without one. I am looking forward to time as a married couple with Toby, sorting out our house, getting our business off the ground and following my passions, including yoga and writing.

One thing that does concern me with regards to how well I seem to be coping, is that at some future time this might all come back to haunt me. If I don't deal with my grief now then perhaps if I have another miscarriage in the future it will hit me twice as hard. Or maybe I will be extremely paranoid during the first months of my next pregnancy. Or how will I cope if I find out there is some genetic reason why Toby and I shouldn't have children together? Or what if one of my friends unexpectedly tells me she's pregnant?

However, I don't feel like there is much I can do about that at this stage. I have tried my best to stay in touch with my mind and body and I can honestly say that whilst I have the rare moment of sadness, usually centred around silly things, like our baby won't be born in 2008 and I had imagined that as being a nice, pregnant number, or I won't be a mother before I'm 33, despite all that I am actually okay and there's no point moping around just because I think I should be sad. If something triggers some sadness related to this in the future then I will deal with it then.

Well, I started this post with the intention of giving you a summary of my week, how I've been feeling physically and emotionally, how supportive Toby and my friends and family have been, and what my experience in day surgery was like, but instead I went all philosophical and analytical. Now I'm tired and want to go to bed so perhaps I'll pop back later to let you know what the last few days were like. 'Til then, good night.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It isn't meant to be

Wow. A whole week has gone by without a post. And what a week it has been. I kept meaning to get on the computer and type away but just never quite got around to it.

Firstly, I was going to tell you about how I'd been feeling slightly more energetic than I had been since the previous Wednesday when I ended up chopping the vegetables on the settee in front of the telly because I didn't have the energy to stand. For the next week I still felt tired but didn't seem to be quite as tired as I had been for the previous two weeks. Then on Wednesday night I woke up to go to the toilet, as is quite usual for me, and just couldn't get back to sleep again. I had a very disrupted sleep and was exhausted on Thursday morning. I dragged myself out of bed and to the computer but found I couldn't sit there for more than ten minutes without feeling tired and sick. No way could I go to work. I spent the morning eating Special K with milk, reading for a short while then going back to bed. Eventually in the afternoon I found the energy to do some baking and watch a film.

On Friday I went back to work but still felt pretty average, especially in the morning when I felt nauseous and fuzzy. I'd had a bit of a sore throat on Thursday and it was much worse on Friday. The next day we drove down to the Gold Coast to see some friends. The journey down was horrid. We were in Toby's car with no air-conditioning and I wasn't feeling my best. Shortly after we got there I perked up a bit but was still feeling a bit quiet. Friends were trying to persuade us to go to the QuikSilver Pro Show music gig with them but there was no way I could survive that. I just wanted to go home. We went back to the home of some other friends who have a 17 month old baby and ended up telling them our news. They were so excited. The girls nattered about what it's like to be pregnant and the boys talked about the birth.

By the time we got home I felt terrible. My glands felt all swollen up, my mouth was dry, my throat raw and the back of my nose and mouth all scratchy. I felt like I was about to get the mother of all colds.

After a good night's sleep I didn't feel as bad but my throat was still sore so after lazing around all morning, sleeping, reading and eating toast, I managed to walk to the shops and get some cough sweets. Thankfully Toby had done the grocery shopping the previous day and was making sure I ate regular meals because I was in no state to be cooking myself. That night I discovered the joys of water-crackers for keeping nausea at bay.

The next morning I was feeling a bit better but I called in sick anyway as we had the obstetrician appointment. This was the make or break appointment; the moment when we finally find out if I'm actually pregnant and everything is going okay and we can start telling people, or whether I've imagined it all.

After a bit of a wait we finally got to see the doctor and, after asking a few questions and being weighed three times (and I was three different weights too, even though there were only two sets of scales), the doctor performed an internal scan. Finally he said, "your pregnancy isn't progressing normally" to which all I could think to say was "oh". He apologised for having to tell us so early but said it was better that we found out when we did. I asked what it meant and he said basically everything was there and as it should be, and the size of the embryo was consistent with the dates I'd given, but there was no heartbeat and by 8 weeks there really should be. It seems that although the rest of the pregnancy was continuing, the embryo had stopped developing a few days before. I asked what happens next and the doctor said he would book me in for a curette, which is basically where they knock you out with a general anaesthetic and then suck the pregancy out through the vagina. It's a fairly straight-forward non-invasive procedure and the only recovery is really from the anaesthetic. I asked if he was sure that there was no chance this pregnancy could survive and produce a normal baby. He said if he'd had any doubt as to whether it was a dud (not his words, you understand) he wouldn't have mentioned it just yet.

Hard to take but you have to trust the experts, right?

So that's that.

Toby and I are now coming to terms with what this means. No October baby. The obstetrician says it's quite alright for me to get pregnant again straight after the procedure to remove this pregnancy. I imagine it will take one or two months for my cycle to settle down and it'd be nice to leave it at least a month so I have some dates to go on. That said, I think we will just do what we did last time and let nature take its course. We will continue to live our lives, planning for the possible arrival of a baby at some point and all that that means (sorting out the house, the business and our finances), enjoying our honeymoon and getting over our loss. We are relieved that we found out the way we did rather than miscarrying and wondering why, or finding out later in the pregnancy that there was something wrong. We spent the rest of yesterday telling everyone who knew about the pregnancy. We only have a couple of friends left to tell as we haven't been able to get in contact with them. Thankfully we hadn't told too many people, but I'm also glad that some friends and family understand what we're going through. At the same time it's nice to be around others and be able to pretend it's not happening.

I'm feeling pretty awful right now. As well as having the emotional side of things to deal with I'm still feeling a bit ill, still tired, nauseous, and have a sore throat. I should find out tomorrow when I am going in for surgery but I think it will be Friday. Meanwhile, I'm just plodding on. Toby is away today and the timing couldn't have been worse. When he gets back tomorrow we'll have friends staying with us which I really could do without. I'm looking forward to spending a quiet weekend just the two of us, chilling out and possibly starting some work on the house. I can't wait for our holiday in 2 weeks. It's so needed right now. The good news is I can eat and drink what I want, by then I'll probably be a lot better physically so I should have more energy to do things, plus, if I really decide I'd like to, I can go diving in the kelp forests, which were in a magazine article of the top ten dive sites in Australia. There are definitely positives in what has happened and it was meant to be this way. Toby and I are also enjoying the feeling of closeness this has brought us. Although it would have been nicer to have experienced that over the birth of our first baby, we still have that to look forward to one day.

Meanwhile, I need to go and buy some new luggage.

I imagine the entries in this diary will slow down a bit now but this is far from over. This is just the beginning of the story of the production of our family. Watch this space!