Monday, October 8, 2012

The Journey of Death - and Life - Begins

            This is a story about severe physical pain and deep emotional hurt. It’s a story about grievous loss and deep grieving. Fighting. Losing. Depression. Agony. Death.
            Yet it’s also– probably even more so – a story of spiritual awakening and renewed hope. Healing. Redemption. Love. Life.
            It’s a story of miracles – given and taken.
            Your story might sound very much like it.
            I hope you like stories, even if they’re the kind that hurt. I hope you share yours and we can recover – and learn to live again. Together.

~   ~   ~
            I should have known from the beginning that things weren’t going to end up in my favor. And I should have known that not all pregnancies are the same. I should have known that I wasn’t different, that bad things happen to “good” people.  
            There are many things I should have known. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t, just because I didn’t, or I chose to willfully ignore them. Or I insisted on hanging onto a double-minded hope.
            Eight weeks into my second pregnancy, I started having problems. Having a medical group that seemed more concerned about practicing medicine on a shoestring budget was one of them.
            Chris and I had been forced to change insurance companies, and I selected a medical group recommended by a co-worker in the medical field. The clinic was near our home, which seemed like an added convenience.
            From the onset I had reservations about the care, and the skepticism intensified as my pregnancy progressed. More than once I discussed switching facilities with Chris. At the time we lived in Fallbrook, a small avocado and citrus farming community in North San Diego County, California. Instead of continuing to drive to Temecula, just ten minutes north, I thought it might be best to find a doctor in Escondido, thirty minutes south of us. The hospital there was bigger and more comprehensive in its care. Our small village hospital offered limited services.
            Selecting and staying with my current medical group because of the driving distance turned out to be the worst reason I used for selecting a medical facility. Working in the medical field, I knew better. You don’t select a doctor because of convenience.
            Eight weeks into the pregnancy, I started bleeding and immediately drove myself to the urgent care facility of my new doctor’s office. Upon arrival I signed in, listing my ailment as a possible miscarriage. Somehow the receptionist missed this information, so I sat patiently in a chair – praying fervently – and preparing myself for what I thought would be a heartbreaking diagnosis. If I were miscarrying, there’d be nothing the urgent care doctor could do for me. I resigned my heart to a loss even while I prayed for a miracle. After ninety long minutes the admitting nurse read my questionnaire, gushed with apologies for making me wait and rushed me into a treatment room.
            Thankfully the ER physician was a compassionate, gentle woman. During the examination she found what she thought was embryonic tissue and softly announced that if I had not miscarried, then I was probably in the process of doing so. A glimmer of hope ignited when she promised to send the tissue to the pathologist’s office for immediate evaluation. Furthermore, she insisted that I have an ultrasound performed the following day to determine if there was indeed an “intact” pregnancy. Reluctant to perform other procedures, she decided to “just let nature take its course.” I was sent home to relax then resume my normal schedule in the morning.
            I returned home acutely depressed, my heart drenched in failure and loss. I attempted to encourage myself with self-talk about it not having been a strong pregnancy. Perhaps there was something wrong with the baby; that it was just “not meant to be.” It was easier to package my true feelings in a box, seal it shut and discard it than to confront the pain.
            We’d just have to “try again.”
            The following day I felt renewed hope and determination – a hope that I’d be able to “hang onto” this pregnancy, especially if I fought this fight mentally – concentrated on good thoughts and hanging on. In the morning I drove to San Diego – almost an hour drive – to substitute teach and then spent more than an hour on the phone arguing with the medical director of my primary care facility about having the ultrasound that the urgent care physician said I needed.
            Then good news elated me. The pathology report returned with questions as to the identity of the tissue extracted the previous night at the urgent care facility. It was definitely not embryonic! Hope blossomed anew since the cramping had ceased and bleeding had stopped. With all of these factors working in my favor, I remained determined to have a diagnosis that afternoon.
            Yet the medical director insisted that I’d have to schedule an ultrasound for three days later because there were other tests they could perform first to identify bloodstream hormone levels. She also wanted an ultrasound technician to perform the test – cheaper than a physician doing it. Although she didn’t say as much, I knew it would save her medical group money to do it her way.
            Yet I didn’t back down. After I insisted that she tell me what she’d do if she were bleeding with a baby she was carrying, she gave in – after a prolonged silence – and I obtained my appointment with my delivering obstetrician for that afternoon. My delivering obstetrician I hadn’t yet met.
            That meeting couldn’t come soon enough for my anxious heart.

You will show me the path of life… Psalm 16:11a NKJV