Monday, March 31, 2014

Pregnancy After Miscarriage: Prayer Answered and Hope Fulfilled

           So there I was, still trying to think like a pragmatist while simultaneously praying that maybe—just maybe—everyone was wrong and I was still pregnant. I was edgy as a surprised cat, vacillating between hope and that something-horrible-has-happened-and-there’s-not-a-darn-thing-I-can-do-about-it feeling.
            I had no choice but to hurry up and wait.
            Dr. Landry’s call came early the following morning, minutes after his office opened.
            “Has the pathology report comeback?” Dr. Landry’s inquiry was garnished with edginess.
            “Are you having any abdominal pain or bleeding?” he questioned with greater intensity.
            No,” I repeated.
            “You were right,” he stated flatly, with an edge of apology. “Your hormone levels are increasing, not decreasing. I don’t think you have an ectopic pregnancy because you don’t have any of the symptoms.  But I want you in my office as soon as you can get in here. I need to see you right away!”
            “Do I need to make an appointment?”
            “No, just tell the girls up front that I wanted you to come in, and they should let me know when you arrive.”
            “Okay. I’ll see you soon.”
            My shaking hands cradled the receiver. My heart raced. Then I grabbed the receiver again and called Chris at home. “Dr. Landry wants me in his office right away. Could you meet me at his office, to take Parker in case I do have an ectopic pregnancy and end up in surgery?”
            “Yes, I’ll meet you there. I’ll leave here right away.” Chris’s voice raised a nervous octave as he responded.
            I clutched the phone and sucked in my breath. “If it is an ectopic pregnancy, this is it. I won’t try again.”
            Chris’s shaky voice vibrated through the airwaves. “I agree. I’ll see you there.”
            Within thirty minutes, we converged upon Dr. Landry’s waiting room, breathless and jittery.
            His nurse promptly ushered us into one of the examination rooms, and Dr. Landry appeared within minutes, looking serious and concerned. He wasted no time in prepping me for the ultrasound. While he prepped, he broke the nervous atmosphere by reiterating his belief that I didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy because I didn’t have the typical symptoms: bleeding, cramping, severe abdominal pain.
            Suddenly the ultrasound machine snapped to life as he flicked the switch and guided the ultrasound head over the area of my uterus. Chris squeezed my hand. Parker hopped on a chair in the corner of the room and made car vroom noises with a Lego.
            “There is only one of two things that I think it might be, since I do not have the pathology report to look at,” he began, “…and that is exactly what I thought we would find!” With an elated sigh and smile, he pointed to a tiny object projected onto the monitor. Four pairs of eyes peered at the picture.
            “An embryo within an intact amniotic sac!” Dr. Landry announced like a triumphant creator of something rare and priceless.
            And there it was: a small embryo—not quite an inch long—suspended miraculously within a tiny, balloon-shaped receptacle. Yet all eyes were drawn to a minuscule, pulsing organ, fiercely pumping out an earnest, life-affirming rhythm.
            My baby’s beating heart.
            I sucked in air. I ached to reach out and touch the form projected onto the gray and white screen. I longed to provide reassurance that everything would be okay; that both of us would navigate the next eight months without problems.
            That precious, beating heart mesmerized all of us, and I found it impossible to avert my tear-laced eyes. My heart feared that when Dr. Landry switched off the monitor, I would have had my last glimpse of my unborn child. I wanted that vision etched on my memory. If we could just leave the monitor on, where I could watch over my baby, it might increase our “luck” of completing the pregnancy without a mishap.
            With excitement, we all pointed, gazed, and exclaimed at the tiny living miracle within my body. Even Dr. Langford acted like it was the first baby he’d ever seen; even he seemed unwilling to turn off the machine.
            But it all had to end, and as he reluctantly removed the ultrasound head from my abdomen, the screen went blank. Lifeless, cold, gray haze inserted itself in place of the living picture.
            When will I be treated to that picture again? I wondered. Would I ever be treated to it again? Were we really on our way to fulfilling our hopes and dreams? Eight months seemed an eternity, and so much could happen in that time. With my history, which seemed to be repeating itself, I could almost count on experiencing the same debilitating nausea I’d endured with Victoria.
            Would a rapid plunge into the valley follow this mountaintop experience?
            Suddenly, a rush of fear, exhilaration and doubt poured into my neural pathways. I lay on the examining table—breathless, excited. Numb. My mind raced forward as I thought about that critical ultrasound that needed to be performed at sixteen weeks to determine the placenta location—to make sure I didn’t have another placenta previa—and the blood tests to identify the neural tube defect or genetic abnormality risks.
            Just exactly how would I bear the strain of waiting?
            This was going to take mental discipline. I had to stop worrying about what if’s and the future. I needed to do everything in my power to facilitate this pregnancy into going the distance, in receiving the reward of a full-term, healthy baby.
            We had no choice but to wait. That’s what pregnancy is, I reminded myself: one long nine-month waiting game.
            Chris snapped my pendulous mind-wanderings with his delighted and celebratory mood. And in typical Chris Owan style, he suggested having lunch at his favorite Italian restaurant before returning to work. Momentarily forgetting my nausea and distinct lack of appetite, I wholeheartedly agreed with his plan, as did Parker.
            Waving exhilarated good-byes to a grinning Dr. Landry, Chris, Parker and I left the office to bask in the joy of the present and hope of the future. Even Parker seemed giddy, although I doubt he knew why. He just fed off the adrenaline floating around his happy parents.
            Though the edible portion of lunch made my stomach lurch, I refused to let anything steal my joy. The thrill of verbally reliving the moment—our baby’s picture emitted onto the ultrasound screen, and the realization that I really was pregnant—kept us suspended on clouds of unbridled bliss. We prattled on excitedly, and Parker giggled his way through lunch.
            Oh, how I ached for that feeling to continue—unabated—forever, to follow me delightfully through an unremarkable pregnancy (the medical term for nothing-happening-significant-enough-to-write-in-the-chart-about) and on into an easy, glorious delivery where my arms would be filled with a perfect infant.
            Reluctantly, Chris returned to work for the remainder of the afternoon while Parker and I drove home, happily discussing babies, siblings, nurseries and due dates.
            Oh, yes. About that due date Dr. Landry gave us of April 13, 1995.
            We were expecting our new baby’s arrival on the exact anniversary of Victoria’s death.


NEXT WEEK: Nausea, bleeding, the 16-week ultrasound…and a chilling encounter with evil…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!