Washday

July 27th, 2006 by Editor B

I’ve been trying to get my head around what happened. The timeline looks like this:

Xy and I started Officially Trying in early May. She might have conceived in mid-to-late June. She did the home pregnancy test last Friday, and upon seeing the positive result, got an appointment to see our Ob/Gyn Wednesday at 2 PM. She started spotting the very next day, Saturday morning, and immediately we wondered if she really was pregnant after all. The spotting continued off and on, with cramps, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We were concerned, of course, but Xy figured she’d just hold out for her scheduled appointment on Wednesday afternoon.

But Wednesday morning, around 2:30 AM, all hell broke loose. Xy passed a lot of blood and tissue. She even had the presence of mind to put put a chunk of the tissue in a bag for the doctor. I slept through all this, completely oblivious. She only woke me up later, when the cramps continued. They were so bad she fainted. We were certain it was a miscarriage, and we thought the worst was over.

We didn’t sleep much more. Later that morning Xy went to a friend’s apartment because we’re dogsitting while they’re on vacation.

I foolishly went into work. When I got there, I went into the men’s room and burst into tears. Then I realized I’d forgotten my keys, and had to get a co-worker to let me in to my own office. Soon I talked to my boss, who gently and quite correctly advised me to go home. I called a collaborator to cancel an afternoon appointment, and found I was barely able to leave a coherent voicemail.

I got back to an empty house. I called Xy and she seemed fine. But shortly thereafter, it became clear that the worst was not over. The blood, the cramps, the tissue — lots of it. When it subsided a bit she made her way home. That was around 10:00 AM.

Soon it got worse again.

I called the doctor’s office, something we should have done four days earlier. They asked to speak to Xy, which seemed reasonable enough, except that Xy was actually so distraught and disoriented that she wasn’t able to communicate the urgency of the situation. As a result, they scheduled us for an ultrasound at 1:30 that afternoon. I had to call back. I tried to explain what was happening. They told us to come immediately.

Once we got there, I tried again to emphasize the urgency, but the receptionist was unreadable. We sat in the waiting room for half an hour or so while other people who weren’t bleeding were called in for their routine appointments. Xy was worried that she was bleeding onto the chair. She’d already bled through one pair of pants.

Once we got to the examination room, the nurse and doctor were very concerned. They didn’t panic, but they could see the situation was serious. I give Dr. Schultis major props for walking us over to the hospital personally and taking Xy directly to Outpatient Surgery. Xy called this the “rockstar” treatment. It basically meant that she was able to lie in a bed rather than sitting in the wait room while we got her paperwork processed.

In retrospect, the overloaded healthcare system worked pretty well for us. We arrived in the doctor’s waiting room at 11:00 AM and the D&C was complete by 2:00 PM.

Xy was feeling pretty good by the time I got her home, what with the morphine and all. We watched some stupid show on television and went to bed early.

The doctor had said she might feel like a truck hit her the next day, or she might feel (almost) fine. I’m happy to say she’s at the latter end of the spectrum.

Today she was quite well, considering what she’d been through. In fact, she attended an all-day teacher workshop. Wednesday was effectively the end of her summer vacation.

It may seem hard to believe, but Xy isn’t too sad or upset about all this. She’s mainly relieved that the pain is over. I know her pretty well after all these years, and I don’t think she’s in denial. She never truly believed she was pregnant, and it all happened so quickly that she didn’t have time to envision the child or think of herself as a mother.

For whatever reason, I’ve been having more emotional issues. It’s not so much grief as shock and confusion and fear. I didn’t know this could happen. I was blindsided, and I think that’s why it scared the bejesus out of me. Seeing my sweetheart crouched in our bathtub, wailing in pain as blood gushed from her like a river — that memory is etched in my soul. I never want her to suffer like that again.

It’s outrageous to claim that I’m more upset than my wife. I know, I know. To hear me tell it, you’d think I was the one who had the miscarriage.

Those who know us intimately might understand.

Over the past months I’ve allowed myself to emote freely about the ongoing tragedies of Katrina. Tears have been my safety valve, helping me cope. It’s almost been a point of pride. I certainly don’t buy into that “boys don’t cry” bullshit.

Xy, on the other hand, has only really cried once since Katrina, and that was when we saw the remake of King Kong. She was mad as hell at me for taking her to that movie.

Yesterday, when all this craziness was happening, I kept feeling overwhelmed by emotions, and I found myself really craving a little of the old macho mystique. Xy needed me to be strong and reassuring. I guess I was — but, goddam, just barely.

Of course, telling yourself not to cry doesn’t work. The only mental trick that worked for me was telling myself that I was numb to it all. That held the tears at bay.

Today I took our huge load of laundry to the Bienville Washerateria. I laundered all the bloodstained clothes and towels from yesterday. I never mind going to the laundromat, which is a good thing since our washer and dryer were ruined by the flood. It gives me time to reflect. Today felt especially therapeutic. I got home and bawled my eyes out, and finally I’m starting to pull myself together.

Some will wonder why I choose to write about such painful stuff so publicly. Others will understand immediately. Some of us do our laundry at home, in private, while others do it at the laundromat where everyone can see. It’s not even a choice, really. It’s just who we are.

When we drove to the doctor’s office, Xy said we should think about adoption. On the way home, she was already talking about getting pregnant again. As the doctor was quick to point out, “The good news is that you got pregnant, and quickly.” He even said we could try again in a week, though the nurses said two weeks, and our book says several months.

I’m glad Xy is so resilient. Myself, I’m a little gunshy. I was ambivalent about procreation to begin with. Now I’m terrified of something like this happening again. The doctor explained (and friends and books confirm) that somewhere between 20 to 25% of pregnancies miscarry. First pregnancies are especially prone. It’s caused when the embryo can’t form properly, or can’t attach to the uterine wall. Odds are this wouldn’t happen again — but they’re not great odds. One in four or five pregnancies miscarries? I’m amazed the rate is so high.

I feel like God should tattoo a warning label on our genitals or something.

We can figure that out later. For now I’m so glad that Xy is safe and well, and I’ve been very touched by all the kind offers of support that have poured in through every channel.

Thank you.

18 Responses to “Washday”

  1. Stephen Says:

    B – I love reading everything you write. I am sobbing myself – partly because I feel so much for you and your wife and partly because I cry at the slightest provocation especially after Katrina. I hope that it all works out for the best.

  2. judyb Says:

    “It’s outrageous to claim that I’m more upset than my wife.”
    No it’s not. You have just been though a HUGE life experience and you are learning more and more about yourself. Your relationship with Xy is growing, strengthening. I’m glad you are both all right.

    I too cry at the “slightest provocation” since Katrina. It’s a new part of all of us that experienced it. Our badge of combat. It’s not because we’re weaker, it’s because we now feel deeper.

  3. Michael Says:

    You don’t have a warning label on your genitals? I’m glad you’re both OK.

  4. Grampa Ray Says:

    I cried, too, reading this commentary. Things have been so sad for my son and daughter in law. My best hope is that a silver lining will shine through someday.

  5. Marco Says:

    It’s good too read that Xy and you have come through this.
    Women, in general, seem to have an instinctual strength in times like this, maybe it’s because they’re closer to the all the cycles than we are. My best to both of you.

  6. Maitri Says:

    Still thinking of Xy and you. You two are so resilient.

    Some hope: My mom had me after almost losing her uterus to cysts and many painful surgeries (which perhaps explains my craziness).

    Big hugs to you both.

  7. spab Says:

    I’ve been thinking lately how stressful Sonya and my situation has been with all our problems, then I read what you went through and it puts a lot of things in perspective. Your blog entry brought tears to my eyes too. I commend you for making your life public, whether good or bad, as it makes me feel like you guys never left.

  8. TBK Says:

    Bart… I have no words.. and no wisdom.. simply prayers

  9. dangerblond Says:

    I hate to sound like the grandmother that I am, but I think in addition to the stress of Katrina and the loss of the baby, you have been confronted with the mortality of your beloved wife. Even though you handled it, you still have that feeling of “my god, what if I had choked?” You didn’t, and you won’t when she needs you again. The responsibilities that you take on in your marriage vows don’t become crystal clear until stuff like this happens.

    Ya’ll are good people and I hope you become parents, however you choose to do it. You know, “Dangerblond” is a nice name for a little girl.

  10. Editor B Says:

    I should say more about Xy’s strength through all this. She was really remarkable. Of course she was scared and confused. She’s never had surgery, never even had to go to hospital before — though she often sat by my hospital bed back when I was having all those seizures years ago. Through all this pain and trauma she kept her perspective and her sense of humor. Talk about grace under pressure — she defined the term.

    I’ve now heard from a few people and even read in a book that it’s common to keep a pregnancy under wraps until after the third or fourth month, when the danger of miscarriage has passed. To bad I never got that memo! I can see the wisdom of it, as I’m sure we’ll be continuing to break the bad news to people who heard Xy was pregnant.

    Then again, I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. After all, we never “announced” the pregnancy. I only wrote about the positive test results. The only real principle I have for this weblog is to try to write every day about whatever seems most important or interesting in my life at the moment. The positive pregnancy test certainly qualified.

    Another afterthought: Although I’m frightened of a repeat miscarriage, a lot of what made this so scary was that it was so unexpected. It may seem like cold comfort, but we’ll never have a first miscarriage again. At least we have some idea of the territory now.

  11. Aunt Judy Says:

    Heard some of this when visiting in Indiana, and am sorry to read the outcome of it all. Thinking of both of you…

  12. Kathy Says:

    I so glad to hear she is doing better. I think your reaction is the reaction that any loving, empathetic person would have when seeing your spouse in pain. Those qualities are musts for a great father.

    Just give it some time and continue being good to each other.

  13. Karen Says:

    We all live and breathe loss now. Somedays I sit on my porch and wonder were everyone is?

    We have made new “comrades” in this new life we have here in New Orleans, our joy and pain are one.

    You have celebrated life to the fullest when you dare to be brave and keep on moving forward

  14. Garvey Says:

    [Wow--sorry about the winkey-smiley. It seemed so less goofy as ascii. Didn't know it would be rendered thusly.]

  15. Garvey Says:

    “it’s common to keep a pregnancy under wraps until after the third or fourth month, when the danger of miscarriage has passed.”

    My wife set me straight on this years ago, when we had major fertility problems. It was looking like a child was not in the cards for us. Anyway, my wife questioned the wisdom of keeping it under wraps. She said that we should let people know immediately, because it is precisely the danger we wish to avoid by enlisting loved ones in praying for us. The begining part is exactly when we need prayers the most.

    (and for those who aren’t the praying kind, substitute “good vibes” or “positive thoughts” or whatever it is you do when you wish well for others; for me, it’s talking to the Great I Am.)

    So what I’m getting at is this: you did the right thing. Let your people know what’s up, and we can keep the prayers et al. focused on the situation at hand.

    And after lots of heartache and trials, we were lucky enough to have a kid after all. Born in B’town Hospital, actually. She’s 4 now.

    Also, given the information you’ve shared here, it seems like y’all are both fertile. So no need for me to offer advice about seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. But we know a good one in Indy… ;-)

    Cheers, man.

  16. Rob Says:

    Wow, I’m just catching up on your stories after several days of being away from blogland. You’re an amazing couple, really holding it all together. Peace to you, and I’m glad you’re both gonna be OK.
    —Rob

  17. Sophmom Says:

    I think Karen nailed it with: “We all live and breathe loss now.” In the end, it’s about loss, and you guys have had more than your share. This one more loss brings back the pain of all that has been lost this last year.

    As for telling people or not, I think you’re right, B. You just do what you’re built to do. I lost 3 of my 6 pregnancies and still told the folks I loved the minute I knew (thought?) I was pregnant. It’s just me. I *did* find, afterward the miscarriages, when I so needed to talk about it, that folks would change the subject when I tried to bring it up. Perhaps that’s a little of what you’re trying to do here, process all the feelings by communicating them. I think it’s healthy.

    Finally, and forgive me if it’s too early for me to say this, there is one thought, that, in retrospect brings me great comfort. You see, I have these two amazing sons. Michael is 21 and goes to Loyola and plays the mandolin (and writes) like an angel. Bobby is 18 and a senior in high school, a great baseball catcher who can hit a ball 450 feet (and he’s shockingly, movie-star pretty). Now, my first pregnancy resulted in their oldest brother, but I would not have either of them, had I carried to term the first two pregnancies I miscarried. Michael and Bobby were the children I was meant to have. Yours is out there waiting for its time.
    -Sharon

  18. Joe Says:

    I am so deeply, deeply sorry to read this, and you’re both in my prayers.

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