Every gal has her limit

As I said in my last post, Sean and I were off on Friday because we had an appointment. It happened to be an appointment at an out-of-town hospital, to speak to a specialist about Sebastian’s autopsy.

In the past three-and-a-half months, I have discovered that, fortunately for me, I am not very susceptible to triggers. I can be around babies and pregnant women without freaking out. Several of my friends are pregnant; one of my co-workers is almost due with her second child, and another one had her first a few days ago; I just found out my best childhood friend is expecting for the first time. Overall, it doesn’t bother me – on the contrary, I am sincerely excited for them.

But it’s getting harder. I don’t know if it’s the change of seasons, or the fact that Sean and I have started talking about trying again… but it is starting to get to me. As I wrote two weeks ago on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I am at the same time wishing and afraid to be pregnant. (I would have written about it here, but that day… I needed some anonymity.)

I have been avoiding this – admitting that I’m bothered, and even thinking about it. Most days, although Sebastian is always present in the lining of my thoughts, I am simply too busy to mourn. Most days, I feel pretty good, pretty normal.

On Friday morning as we headed to the hospital, I felt fine, unfazed. We had received a call from the clinic the day before, asking us to come at 11 instead of 12:30. We dropped E off with Grammie and Papa, and headed to the hospital, arriving ten minutes early for our appointment. I hadn’t realized we would be going to the Ob-Gyn clinic… but still – I was okay. I had my fascinating book about vegetables (MOTL) to distract me.

We waited and waited. And waited. By 11:30, I was antsy, but I knew clinics like these are busy and over-booked. At 11:45, I went to check with the receptionist just to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood about the timing. She double-checked and said we would be next when a room became available.

Then I watched three more people get called in. (Actually five – one was a family of three, including a chubby baby.) My annoyance suddenly shifted into emotional frustration and I found my eyes filling up.

It wasn’t until I left the cramped, fluorescently-lit waiting room to collect myself (read: cry for ten minutes and then collect myself) that I realized my real problem: I needed to escape the pregnant women. I can handle one round, burgeoning, expectant mother at a time – even two – but ten… was too much. The simple act of sitting there had sent me back months and rendered me raw. It wasn’t about being kept waiting (although that’s never a picnic); it somehow just felt personal to see all these women – every one of whom had arrived after us – getting called in one after another. It’s like one of those observational games: Which of these women doesn’t belong here? Just a big gut-punch reminder that I have no baby.

It really caught me off-guard. I am not one to take situations personally – especially blameless ones. I guess it’s also a reminder that although I do all right on a daily basis, I am not as fine as I think I am.

When I re-entered the waiting room, red-eyed, Sean headed up to the counter to ask again – and that’s when we finally got called in. We were ten minutes shy of our original 12:30 appointment time. WTF. How nice that we arranged to get there early.

We were led down the hall to the farthest room, where we sat and talked with the nurse practitioner for a while. Then she left for a good chunk of time and we waited (at least we were alone this time), and then she returned with Dr. Smith (Ob-Gyn), to go over basically all the same things.

I wrote about it when we got our placental pathology report, but I didn’t do so when we first got the autopsy results (over a month ago) and went over them with the midwife, because she recommended we talk an expert about it to get some deeper insight (happily, as a midwife, she does not have lots of experience with autopsy reports). From her perspective, the autopsy didn’t tell us much more than the pathology had: that Sebastian had had anemia and fetal hydrops (basically excess fluid where it shouldn’t be). It had ruled out viruses as the cause, but there were still myriad other things it could have been.

Now, after speaking with the NP and the doctor, we actually have fewer answers than we did. (We figured it was likely we wouldn’t get many new answers, but we didn’t expect to lose any.) Apparently the conclusion was drawn about anemia because of the hydrops – but both these women examined the ultrasound images, and insist there is no evidence that Sebastian was hydropic. So the anemia conclusion might be wrong. There is a statement about his heart being oversized, but also a statement putting his age at 24 weeks (more than ten weeks off) – so we don’t know if that’s a typo or a genuine mistake.

WTF, again. I am now picturing this forensic pathologist hastily typing whatever damn-fool thing came to mind, whilst watching Jeopardy and perhaps swigging from a gin bottle.

At this point, the only medical conclusion drawn that was definitely correct, the only thing we actually know, is that there was no amniotic fluid when Sebastian was born. And the cause of that is still a mystery.

This is not good. I had been somewhat comforted to think that there was nothing we could have done; if he had been born alive, our baby would still have been very sick. There was a reason he died. Now, although I didn’t like thinking he was sick… the “what-ifs” are worse. What if he was actually fine, just short on fluid? What if we’d had a C-section that Thursday night – would I be nursing a snuggly, on-the-small-side-but-still-tough 3.5-month-old right now, after all?

Thinking about these things does not help me. Last night, for the first time since the summer, I felt my arms aching again. I thought about conceiving another child… and even though we’ve always known we would try again, I suddenly felt sad about it. As if we would be erasing the space reserved for Sebastian.

Fortunately, on Friday, I had managed to gather myself and was calm throughout that appointment. We made another one for five weeks from now, so that Dr. S. can consult with the pathologist, and then headed to the lab for blood tests. I even smilingly reassured the rookie technician who was supposed to draw my blood, as she tried and tried to find a vein, “Don’t worry, it’s not you.” (True story – people rarely get my vein on the first try. Her superior was watching her every move, which can’t be easy – and then she got me, the gal with the sneakiest possible veins.)

We finally left the building three-and-a-half hours after arriving. Ten minutes after my favourite Indian restaurant, spitting distance from the hospital, closed for the afternoon.

This experience was a potent reminder for me. In spite of myself, I’m still precarious.

Thanks for listening.

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