Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Past the Beginning

Mom, is that my baby sister?

No Bug, that's a sick baby in China.

My baby sister died. I want a new one.


Although I'm clear of guilt in the process, knowing full well there's nothing I could've done, that's not exactly true.

I had 14 or so ultrasounds through 32 weeks, and all were fine. I know now that you can't see liquified white matter or lethal proteins or glaucoma on an ultrasound.

I did my kick-counts daily. And although Maddy was less active than Bella, she passed every single one. I know now some of these may have been seizure activity.

There was no time -- absolutely no time -- at which we could've delivered early and saved this pregnancy. If the one doctor was right, she was on a track headed in the wrong direction from conception. If the other doctor was right, she was gripped by infection around 25 weeks. If there's a future pregnancy, there is no point at which I can relax, no date which I can squarely wrap my head around and figure "That's it. If I make it there, and she's still kicking, she'll live." That date will be labor, and I'll find out shortly after a baby's removed from me, when a doctor gingerly tries to peel back an eyelid to see if the corneas are clouded over, whether that child will live or die.

I had amnio, it was perfectly normal.

I don't stay awake thinking that I should've called about that abdominal pain, or I should've pressed harder on a certain ultrasound reading. There were no signs to be had. I sought medical attention regarding the bleeding and the low-lying placenta, and the result was always the same: The baby is fine. I don't worry that I should've delivered her earlier -- I would've wound up exactly where I am now, just with a different set of dates to mourn around.

There is no point at which this train wreck could've been avoided.

Except the very first step: the phone call. Picking up the phone to call the RE, and explain in an attempted cool voice that yes, I'd like to try this again.

I did not remotely enjoy my pregnancy, and I'm very sure that to the extent babies are aware in utero, Maddy probably didn't enjoy it much either. And the only thing that could've prevented this entire mess, was not picking up the phone.

I explained to someone last week that I'm the kind of person that likes to at least explore things, say things, just so I know -- so I don't go through the rest of my life thinking What if. I went to visit all of the colleges I got into, even the ones I hated on sight, because I didn't want to stay up nights thinking Would I have been happier there? Did I make the right decision? I always got what was on my mind about a boy off my chest even if the answer was No, thank you, or in the case of my now-husband, at least 90 seconds and two subject changes after asking the question, Yes, yes I would.

And so there is a small piece of me that would consider going to the RE if nothing else to find out if there's even a chance. Of course the RE is always going to tell a patient there's a chance given the right protocol, but I feel I somewhat need to know the answers to my personal parameters so I can sleep at night, and lie next to my husband in good conscience knowing it was a matter of science and not my emotional failings: I was too old. There was no way we could have another safely.

But I can't pick up the phone. I find other things to do, other appointments to make first, weight that needs lost, things I need to take care of before embarking on the multi-appointment hell that marks the six-week work-up to figure out the condition of my reproductive system. I can't pick up the phone because this is where I could've saved Maddy. Right here. Pushing those buttons and making that initial three-day blood draw appointment followed immediately by calling the pharmacy. A cell phone call from an oppressively hot car on an Arizona street, the day after a wedding, on the way to get tampons and lunch. That's where I failed her, as I sat unknowingly holding her fate from the passenger seat in the rental car right around noon on that Monday. And I don't want to put another child through that ever again.

Maybe Maddy was the question. Maybe that was me asking if --What If -- I could have another child, and taking that chance, and I need to acknowledge that the answer was a resounding No.


Anonymous said...

I think your instincts are right here. To push yourself to do something you feel is just not a good idea just for the "what if" would be for the wrong reasons. Yet, I cannot imagine how much it hurts to feel it is not a good idea when you want it so badly.

Mrs. Spit said...

Ahh Tash. I'm not stupid enough, with my risk of recurrence, to tell anyone what to do.

I can understand. Sometimes I question why I went to the Doctor too. If I had known how it would end, would I still do it?

Beruriah said...

Oh, Tash. You didn't make the wrong choice for Maddie. But I can understand, as much as is possible given my own history, your feelings here.

Antigone said...

Tony Blair was on the Daily Show recently. Jon grilled him about Iraq, certainty and regret. Tony's response would have been perfect coming from the lips of a deadbaby mother.

Sue said...

Four months after losing the boys, I asked my RE to do all the CD3 testing one more time. the results came back better than they ever had in my life (except for FSH). It was kind of anti-climactic. Reading your words now, I think maybe I wanted another obstacle, because I haven't been able to do anything else related to trying again.

My latest downswing came right on the heels of C and me discussing the idea of trying again in October. Yes, I have other stressors, but I can't ignore this one.

So, this is all a long winded way of saying, I'm sorry. And, "me, too."

Thinking of you, Tash.

luna said...

this must tug at you constantly. there is no logical or analytical thing to say here. of course you must follow your heart. just sitting with you as you do.

k@lakly said...

oh Tash,
You did not fail Maddy. You tried valiently to give her a life filled with love and hope and care and honor and respect and dignity. And you gave her all of those things, more so than many ever get in a much longer lifetime. Nature failed Maddy, either by design or by illness, it robbed her of all the things she so rightly deserved, except for extraordinarily loving parents and a magnificent sister. Those things nature was unable to take away from her.
I wouldn't even begin to offer advice as to whether you should make that phone call, again. I only know what I have been reading in your words of late and that is, I believe that you want to make that call, just to see what if. I still think there is time to stop, after the call, if you decide to. I wish it wasn't this way for you, I wish we could all have it easy now. We deserve easy. It just never is.

Cara said...

Tash- I am in the "deadbabymom" club, but not the "ever had to make a call to an RE" club. I offer no advice, I'm not qualified in that arena.

But to the grief of wonder part I could type all day. Done it, still occasionally do it. I will only tell you that when my family was complete, I knew it, with such certaintly it shocked - even me.

Just sit with your thoughts and'll know what is right.

CLC said...

I don't know what to tell you about the future. Only you will know the right decision for you and Mr. ABF. But I don't think you failed Maddy. I think you gave her enormous amounts of love and still do. And that is more then some people get in a lifetime that last 75 years.

Just curious here and you certainly don't have to answer, but have you and Mr. ABF talked about another route, i.e. adoption or surrogacy?

sweetsalty kate said...

This twists my heart into knots for you. Can I just say, at the risk of rubber chickens: babies are not failed or wronged when their parents conceive them, or want them, or try to bring them into the world despite a carrying body (or genetics) that may or may not cooperate.

You were not a source of misery or betrayal for Maddy. You were her source of love and hope. Another try, if you went down that road, would be another kick at that can, more of that same love and hope. It would not be any condemnation of you, or of Maddy, or of any future child. Everyone gets pregnant with dreams of growing their family. That's all. Sometimes dashed, sometimes not.

To say that you would have saved Maddy from the burden of existence if you hadn't have conceived her.. maybe that's technically true, but then couldn't we say that about all human beings? Kids born into broken families, alcoholic families, abusive families. Kids who grow up and become addicts of one kind or another because of their familial inheritance. It’s a tangle to try and grade existence, or label one birth or pregnancy worthwhile, and another not-worthwhile because of how that individual’s story concludes. If a child is diagnosed with a congenital or inherited heart defect at ten years old and dies, could the parents have saved him from existence by not conceiving him at all? At what point do we cut that sentiment loose — at what point has a soul ammassed enough time on earth to have been considered worthy of existence despite suffering?

Now speaking from my perspective, not meaning at all to be extrapolated to you or Maddy — all I can do is believe that Liam had a purpose, and accept that perhaps a part of his purpose was existing exactly as he did. That’s the only outlook that fits me, and not just applied to Liam but applied to all the people who have ever lived in the history of the world. People who do horrible things, saintly things, people who are lazy, people who work hard, people who get sick, people born with disability, born into extreme poverty. Their life here is a part of some bigger story that we may not quite understand, but they matter just as they are… imperfect, sad, redeemed, lost, injured.

To me your words speak to fear… totally valid, earned fear. The same that I have, and so many other women (and men) in this space. I understand it. I know our circumstances are different, and perhaps we believe in different bits and pieces of meaning and randomness. But I just had to pipe up and say what I know everyone else will say, roundabout: do what’s in your heart. But no matter what you choose, please don’t condemn yourself. I know it’s almost impossible somedays. I just care about you, and you’re a lovely writer and a lovely thinker and mama, even when you’re in turmoil. I salute a sandy beer to you, which is my slightly less overdone way of saying ((hugs)) xo

Catherine said...

Or maybe the answer was "not yet."

Which Box said...

I have only the same thing nearly every other poster has said. Oh, Tash.

You didn't know then. You couldn't know then. And worse of all, you can't know now.

I cannot even imagine being in your situation. I will slightly echo K@lacky. I think I hear the same thing she is hearing.

I lived in absolute terror until 13 weeks, when the CVS results came back. Then in ever decreasing terror until 26 weeks. I'm not 100% confident yet, but given my history, I'm reasonably comfortable. I don't know that I could live 40 weeks the way I lived 13. And yet, if it were possible, I don't know that I couldn't, at the same time.

Years ago I worked with a woman who had 12 pregnancies resulting in 3 living children. I didn't know then what that really meant. I am now in awe of her desire/determination.

charmedgirl said...

i'm so torn on this, tash. you are so right; there was nothing you could do to save her once she was there. and you're also right, that someone like me, who lives with the horror of self-blame, would way more easily dive back in. you, on the other hand, the roll of the genetic dice, the jumping blindly on a bus and not knowing where you will get dropped off (i mean, that's all of us to an extent, but this was "THE REASON" in your case...which matters).

why am i torn? because you still want a baby. i have no advice, but there's no way in hell i think Maddy was the question. there are so many questions, the answers to which are more questions...i really don't know how anyone comes to make decisions like this at all.

but, BUT...what if i fill myself up with the *FUCK IT LET'S DO THIS THING!!* and call the RE back and get pregnant with another baby that dies?

(but what if...........WHAT IF..........we don't?)

Aunt Becky said...

I read through all of your wise comments and with each of them, I nod my head "yes."

Everyone is right here, but they need to be right for you, too. You're doing what you need to be doing right now. And you're welcome to change your mind at any time.

G said...

I don't know what I would do Tash. Maybe it depends on whether you want another fully biological child or another child regardless? So many decisions, thoughts... I would probably find other things to do until time made the decision for me.

Aurelia said...

Hmmm, well I ditto Kate, and I ditto Catherine.

And I could say all the things that you have said. I guess I just can't help but think about all the real life dead baby mamas who have been told never, no way, no chance. and then they take the chance, and have healthy living babies.

Like me.

I was told that I would never ever ever have a living baby, by REs, by geneticists, by OBs, by everyone, and now----he is he sleeping upstairs.

So take some time, and think some more, and don't close the door just yet.

Gal aka SuperMommy said...

The question I keep asking myself is: Do we - human mamas that we are - really have ANY control over the destinies and purposes and journeys-to-unfold of our children? Or is it all just so much bigger than us? I don't know if it's comforting to see it as just way bigger than us... but at least we don't need to hold all of the responsibility ourselves for the "what ifs". Be gentle with yourself, sister.

niobe said...

I felt, feel exactly the same way.

That my only chance to have saved the twins was not to have done the IVF in the first place. Once I'd done that, the chain of events was set in motion that led, inevitably, to their deaths.

Of course, in that case, they (and the current potential one) wouldn't have existed, so they wouldn't really have been saved. But you get my drift.

Foreverloves said...

I wish I had your ability to take away the "what ifs", because my memories are littered with them. I have to consciously put them down because, in the final analysis, nothing brings my sons back.

If you really believe that the answer is "no", then you have your answer. But nobody can tell you what to do. Some think I'm crazy for trying again, others don't understand why I didn't do it sooner.

janis said...

Tash, I tend to agree with what Kate and Gal had said... we all try to think it must be something we had done, or not done... but bad things happen anyways, which is the biggest WTF question for me these days.
And I know, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I have no control, it does not save my wrenched heart a little bit, and I know nothing I can say will soothe your aching heart either. ((hugs))

Megan said...

I can't live with the whispering tyranny of what if either so I know how powerful the opposite impulse must have to be.
But maybe the answer isn't no but not today.
Maybe you have to come to believe what's true – that you didn't fail Maddie. You conceived and carried her in hope and lovingly did what was best for her for every second of her short life.

c. said...

Oh, Tash, I don't even know what to say. I can tell you that I don't believe you failed Maddy in any way, that dialing that number was in no way an effort to harm her. But. Our minds do funny things to us while bound in grief and pain. I certainly can understand why you haven't made that call. In fact, I'd probably do the same thing - I'm all about avoidance, don't you know.

Like charmy, I will forever be haunted by what if?, regardless of the decision that is made. We're fucked if we do, fucked if we don't. Just fucked, really.

It's so lame, but I'm sorry you have to make the decision to pick up that phone at all. Truly.

Alex said...

Oh, Tash.

I don't know what you "should" do.

I agree with what k@laky said, certainly, and in some ways with what sweetsalty kate said. But in other ways, not so much with kate. Of course she is couldn't have known and yes, important parts of Maddy's story and life are about love and hope. Yet I find that I, personally (because heaven knows if there's anything infertility has taught me it's that I cannot tell anyone else what choice they should make), would draw the line at trying to conceive under some circumstances. If, for example, my husband and I were both carriers of cystic fibrosis, I wouldn't.

And yet. In thinking about your prospects...well, it seems to me that you know very little for sure (unlike a CF carrier diagnosis to which we can attach specific probabilities). You may know enough to make up your own mind, but I'm not sure it would be enough for me.

In part I think I feel this way precisely because you do have two daughters...there is Bella, and there is Maddy. One thriving, one lost.

And if Bella had been your second-born, that is, if Maddy had been your first-born, maybe there would be no Bella. And that to me may be the saddest thought of all.

I have no idea what I would do. But knowing how wonderfully things can turn out (Bella), I'm not sure I'd be willing to quit trying were I in your shoes. And I suppose you are similarly situated...thinking of trying but not trying and not sure you will.

I hope you can reach a decision that you (and Mr. ABF, and Bella) are fully, perfectly, at peace with, whatever that may be.

Coggy said...

This post has been with me in my head since you wrote it and I just wanted to at least stop by and say that.

As hard as it is for me to say (considering my own self-blame issues) there is no way you bought this on yourself or Maddy. It's just a crazy fucked up situation that transpired that you could not have predicted or prevented.

Looking at it in the cold light of day I can see how it's so hard for you to make any decision right now. Was Bella the exception or was Maddy? I don't know how I would resolve that, I don't even know at times how I've resolved my own situation. Complete denial? Maybe.

I do know that you shouldn't force yourself to do something just to prove that the worse case scenario is or isn't true. I don't care what anybody says about lightening not striking twice we all know it does and it's a long road to walk down without getting struck.

Jeez I wish I could say something useful. I guess just don't push yourself into anything just yet. I'm definitely thinking of you Tash and just hoping that abiding with you (despite my lack of commenting of late) can in some way help.

Kymberli said...

Kate said all that I hold in my heart far more beautifully than I ever could have.

Abiding with you, Tash, as you find the answer to whether or not you'll pick up the phone again.

Searching said...

It was the unknown. You CAN'T know that which doesn't have the ability to be known. You are an amazing mother to both your girls, still standing, and doing a good job keeping your memories of Maddy alive.

I'm sorry you have so little control. I'll be here no matter what the future holds, baby or no baby.