Sunday, February 12, 2012

Octo Mom #3 and #4, Easter and the 43 Year-Old Eggs

When you meet new people, at work, church, wherever, we are conditioned to ask "do you have any children?" and since we lost Noah, there is never a good answer to that. Wrong answer: "No." (because in the Mormon culture, you feel like you have to justify that answer with an explanation.) Wrong answer: "Well, we had a baby right after we got married, but he is no longer with us." Makes you sound like social service came and took him away. "We had a baby but we lost him": Do you know where he is? We had him and then "boom!" gone. Or how about: "We had a baby but he only came to get a body before he returned to his bigger mission in Heaven with God." WHOA! Crazy Mormons ahead! No more friends.

The right and shortest answer is, "Yes, but he died." It's also the most awkward answer. But it's short and to the point. Unless you count the time it takes for the questioner to decode your answer and come up with a politically correct reply to it. I hate to make people uncomfortable, so I usually say "We have 330 children, we're school teachers." And that avoids the original question and invites the next one: "oh, where do you teach?" Awkward moment averted. Vagueness...still there, but who cares. Once these people figure out how busy we are, we won't be able to befriend them anyway.

So there is just no good way to answer that question. I've stopped asking it myself. So if you wonder why I haven't asked about your kids, it's because I know how hard it is to answer that question unless I know in advance that they are all living, wonderful and superstars. Then I will bite my tongue and listen to you brag. It's soooo much easier.

After we lost our baby (have you seen him? Just kidding!) I was determined not to ever get pregnant again. I tried to put it out of my mind. I was 42, then January of 2008, more than a year after Noah died, I felt my biological clock ticking so loud in my head that it consumed me. When you are "aging out" of the have shame, guilt and anxiety almost all the time. Every time you have a period, you wonder if that was the "egg that got away." It can make a person certifiably crazy.

I used to laugh at people who would say "by biological clock is ticking" outloud. Mine was too but for me, I needed a companion first. I was lonely and I wanted a physical relationship with a man. S.E.X. (Remember - Mormons are advised to save that act for the sanctity of marriage.) But the thought of raising a child on my own, seemed daunting and wrong somehow...wrong for me. A lot of people do it. You can buy babies. You can have them implanted, grown in a dish, grown in another person, adopt them, foster them... Babies, eggs, sperm...huge demand. While I was single, the thought of a baby was second in line to getting a sperm donor to marry me first. I really wanted a companion. I knew I couldn't handle it by myself.

Once I thought about selling my eggs to build a house...I wasn't using them after all. I could sell them to buy a baby...that would be ironic. Truthfully I didn't think I could have handled knowing that there was a little Jan out there, torturing someone. What if, one day, I saw her get an Oscar, or my neighbor said, "my son's drama teacher looks just like you...I wonder if you're related?" BAHHHHH!!!! But adoption is $30,000 these days and a drama teacher doesn't have that kind of money laying around. So I reasoned that I would have to sell a few hundred more and start a savings account for the day-care that I would need once I adopted someone else's child, since I would still have to work. PSHTTTTT!

But then I read story about a woman that lied about her age to sell her eggs and went to jail because the child ended up with Downs Syndrome, and the parents started worrying about the donated egg they had paid a mint for. She needed the money but she was over 35 and "eggs that are older than 35 years are not always immune to chromosomal deficiencies" so egg banks (is that what they're called?) don't usually accept eggs that are older than that.

That was something I didn't need to hear. I have always remembered that article, because that is the first time I learned that a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. I don't know how I missed that information in school, but after talking to my doctor, I did find that to be true. My heart eggs were aging with me!?!? So the longer I waited to inseminate one of my ancient eggs the more likely I was to miscarry because there was something wrong with the fetus. I didn't have a problem raising a child with a chromosomal deficiency...I had a problem keeping a fetus with me for longer than 27 weeks. In fact, of the seven miscarriages and one baby I've had, we've only held half of them longer than 6 weeks.

So I decided that if I wanted to have a baby, I would need to get going again. I would need to stop crying about Noah and get into the shark tank again while my eggs were still dropping pretty consistently.

Miscarriage #3, August, 2007. 6 weeks. This miscarriage was identical to the first one and that's when I knew how to identify the first one. I was at school... of course. We hadn't told anyone we were pregnant. I had just started the nausea cycle and so the pain seemed like part of the process. We share a campus with a professional theatre company and the dancers were rehearsing tap numbers in our theatre. I was alone in the bathroom. I left the toilet long enough to go next door to get Andy. I wanted him to see it before it was gone. So Andy came into the bathroom and we had a moment to ourselves. Until 20 professional tap dancers, who still had their shoes on, marched in across the tile floor for their "break." It was like thunder. They didn't know. They looked at Andy, standing there in the women's bathroom and said "do you mind?" What do you say....? Pearls before swine. So Andy left and I locked myself in the stall and held my hand over my mouth and cried, as silently as I could. Looking back, I should have said "do YOU mind...we've just had a miscarriage here" or something curt and to the point. But when you miscarry, your mind isn't with you. It's everywhere else.

Miscarriage #4, Easter weekend, 2008. 14 weeks. This one makes me sound like a crazy loon. Which I might be.

My sister Penny's family was looking for a house and they found one a mile from us in Washington. It needed lots of work before they could move into it. My brothers are all blessed with skills that can make turning a house over in a week, almost possible. ;-) And let's face it, when you have 7 siblings who are all married, those 14 people, all know how to do something. It's awesome that way! And if they don't know how to do something, they know someone that does. I'll always be grateful to my mom and dad for giving us all that incredible network. We have benefited from each other skills so much. (Except the only thing I can do is loan out cool Halloween costumes, but I am good at cleaning and boxing up stuff too.)

Andy and I had successfully crossed the 12 week mark with pregnancy number 4 and had just let that cat out of the bag. Everyone was ecstatic! 12 whole weeks and I was actually looking pregnant. There was no mistaking it. The pregnancy was going really well. I felt great.

Week 13 - spotting. Laid down...feet up.... spotting went away. Then at the top of week 14, I woke up early in the morning to pee, and swung my feet over the side of the bed and realized I wasn't pregnant anymore. I didn't feel pregnant. A wave of emptiness went over a spirit had woken me up and was now leaving the room... I sat there for a minute, trying to decide what to do. As I stood up I felt the blood descend.

No need to wake Andy up. We were putting the final touches on a musical and he was about to leave that day to take 50 kids on a bus to state drama in Northern Utah for 2 days.  We were exhausted. I cleaned up and laid back down. I didn't feel a need to make it an emergency because I knew it had already happened. So I laid there and cried. The bleeding stopped as quickly as it had come. We called the Doc as soon as their office opened and he had me go in to the hospital in Hurricane to have an ultra sound. I drove in myself because Andy had gone to competition with other peoples kids.

The ultra sound technician was about 12 years old. Okay, maybe she was 21, but she was obviously nervous about the situation. She hadn't been doing it very long. She might have said three words the entire time. "Please scoot down." Once she decided the regular external ultra sound wasn't giving her what she wanted, she lubed up the internal one. That was fun. A person ought to give some warning about that one. None. I'd never had one of those before so I was..............S.U.R.P.R.I.S.E.D.

The only ultrasound I ever had was two years earlier with Noah and I had forgotten why they did them in the first place. Since this technician was so talkative, I just laid there, watching the monitor. She kept moving the "wand" around.....O.W....W.E.E! and around and around....never saying anything. I could very clearly see this little person inside of me, though. Arms, legs, back....It didn't have two heads. But it didn't have a heartbeat either. I wasn't thinking about that. I was just caught up in the fact that I had a fully formed little human inside of me. After at least 30 minutes, which I found out later is a very long time, my technician left suddenly. I needed to pee. So I just laid there concentrating on NOT pee-ing all over the table.

The girl came back in and handed me a phone. Maybe she had a severe speech problem..?! I took the phone and Doc Chamberlain was on the other end. He said "I'm so sorry, Jan, they can't find a heartbeat. I'm so sorry."

What did he mean exactly? They just can't find's too soon...or it's lost.... or.... oh.

He went on..."If you don't pass it within 72 hours, you'll need to come in and have a D&C. Keep me posted." I was still hanging on the word "pass." I asked him to repeat himself and he focused deeply on what he was saying always followed by "I'm sorry."  It dawned on me that I would have to carrying around a dead fetus for three days..."Can't I just have the D&C and get it out and over with? "We want your body to expel it on its own, you don't want to have a D&C. If you've already passed a lot of blood it should be very soon. Go home and let it happen. Bring the fetus to me after you pass it."

I wandered by myself to the parking lot. Everything from the waist down hurt. When I got inside the car I sat down and screamed at the top of my lungs "WHYYYYYYYY?!?!?!" And I "wrestled" with the Lord. I felt so far away, abandoned by Him. I was grasping and heaving. I thought I might pass out so I opened the door. I vomited next to the car and an older couple ran over to me and asked me if they should get help. I didn't know what to say except "I just need some time to deal with something," and they walked away. I got myself together and went home.

We were putting up a musical and trying to get the team together for competition, so Andy was at work and of course, Tuacahn has the worst reception ever so his phone was out of range. I went home, laid down and you guessed it... cried some more. He called me when I got home and I broke the news to him. He sent everyone away and came home. I wanted to pass that baby while Andy was still there, but it wasn't to be. 24 hours passed... Andy left with the team... then parents arrived to start packing my sister up for the big move and I decided that I might as well get up and help. I went to her house, grabbed a box and started throwing things in it. I was so pissed. So angry about having to tell everyone that we weren't pregnant anymore, but I was still carrying around the baby...that had been dead now for three days.  I lugged boxes full of food storage cans out to the trucks and after 6 hours of that, I had created some pretty big pains. So I went home...dragged out the green colander from it's usually space under the bathroom sink and started "sifting" through the blood.

My mom told me to call her if I needed her. But that was Penny's day and I didn't want to drag her away from the joy and excitement of my sister moving into her first home. I didn't want to put a damper on that awesome event. Everyone was working furiously to get them out of the rental before the end of the month. I told her I was fine and I drove home.

When you carry a baby for 14 weeks, that baby has created a lot of G.U.N.K. It has padded it's apartment well. So your body reacts in an effort to get rid of the renter and it's apartment just as if you are having a full term baby. I didn't know this. Now I do. I started very specific contractions as soon as I laid down. I started passing whole sheets of blood - things that looked like giant pieces of beef liver, only, as you break them up, looking for the miscarriage, they fall apart like broken jello. A miscarriage is a leathery mass that can't be pulled apart.

My a saint. I've already told you that. After about an hour of having full on labor pains, I just started praying that someone would come home or come over to help me if they had a chance to break away from other priorities. I was in the middle of that constant prayer and I heard my mom say "Jan?!" Where are you?" She felt that prayer out there in the universe. She gave her boxes to someone else and came over to hold my hand and help me deal with the loss. I wasn't alone. I now know the great and tender mercy of God that he allowed me to keep that baby long enough that my mom could be there with me when I delivered it. That was such a blessing to me. She held my sweaty hair back, wiped my forehead and scrubbed the bathroom after it was over. She even lifted that tiny baby out of the trusty Tupperware colander, put it in another piece of Tupperware and took it to the doc so he could analyse it.

What does a 14 week-old baby look like? Like a tiny person (3-4 inches?) covered in slimy, wet beef jerky and red jello. I only glanced at that tiny baby. I could see it's little head,black eyes, arms and fingers through the transparent slime. Then I had to look away. The entire mass could have fit into an 8 oz. measuring cup. Doc Chamberlain told me that it was a perfect little person and did not have an answer for me about why we miscarried.

It took a week or so for my uterus to pull itself back together and that was pretty painful, but other than that, the boobs, the nausea, the all went away immediately. That's why you continue to try to have babies...because the pain goes away and the desire to raise a family is so powerful. But I was discouraged, beyond discouraged after this experience. When will I be given the blessings promised me in my patriarchal blessing? Maybe not in this life. And I might have to be okay with that.

What can I take away from this.... what can you know from me about how to help someone through a miscarriage? Because of the guilt, shame and anxiety that come with miscarriage, women tend to want to do what animals do...go somewhere else and be by themselves. But don't let them do it. Be brave. Brave enough to face it, add stability and not drama, add hugs and not advice. Let them try as many times as they can and pray, pray, pray.