Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Major Setback

I'll just have to wait a little longer to be an aunt, that's all.

Wednesday night we went to the movies. By the time the trailers were over and the appropriately gloomy opening credits of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince appeared, my sister Morgan, who was four months pregnant, had started to squirm, and pretty soon she leaned over and whispered, "I think something's wrong." The rest of the evening -- the restroom floor, trying to follow the ambulance without breaking any traffic laws, the vials of morphine administered in the E.R., the devastating ultrasound -- are a horrific blur.

Miscarriages are, we're learning, a very common tragedy (nearly everyone we talk to has either had one or knows more than one woman who has), although this one occurred relatively late and came with an unusual amount of severe pain. Morgan and I, being of, as we like to say, hearty pioneer stock, have a high tolerance to pain, but this pain had her in eye-rolling, howling, incoherent, paste-white, sweat-drenched, writhing agony and had Kelly and I afraid for her life. It all happened so fast, less than three hours from the previews to the bad news: no tiny, fluttering heartbeat, and an unstoppable, awful process already in motion.

Diagnosis, prescriptions, and instructions received, we got our groggy girl home and to bed, gave her the water she had desperately needed for three hours and the recommended dose of Percocet. We washed the blood out of her clothes and tried to comprehend; Kelly and I bumbled around, angry without a target and in despair without relief. She was chilled so I piled on extra blankets and he crawled in bed to warm her, finally dropping off after 1. I curled up at the foot of the bed at first but sometime in the night -- we were up periodically, and she was strangely lucid at 2 -- I moved up next to her, wrapped in a quilt, with a pillow from the couch. Funny how, at times like this, you discover that you can sleep in any way and anywhere.

Everything moves on; sunny days and rainy days, the County fair, the downtown Brewfest. I didn't work Thursday -- I made crepes for breakfast and tried to be useful and made M laugh with -- but went back Friday and Saturday, both long days at the plant, which keeps trying to malfunction for various reasons. I would say Morgan and Kelly are doing well, that we're all doing very well. I know a miscarriage is hard at any stage, but it seems to me it's more difficult the later it occurs. Four months is a short time in the grand scheme of things, but is a long time to wake up every day with the knowledge that an immense and wonderful change is happening; they had already been shopping for baby supplies, had told everybody the news (which was particularly welcome to a family who hasn't had a baby around since Libby came along about 14 years ago), had been preparing to finish the basement. The baby, who was a boy, was four inches long and already had tiny fingers and toes, and it's hard not to think what might have been. We're all prone to little fits of weeping, and the oddest things set me off.

A miscarriage almost always means that the body detected something wrong with the fetus (and think of all the things there are to go wrong! We're horrendously complex) or any of the numerous temporary components of gestation: a malfunctioning umbilical cord, an incomplete placenta, etc. ("It's the body's quality control kicking in," said the E.R. doctor.) An extremely high percentage of women go on to have a normal pregnancy soon after. We have the responsibility now to remind M that it wasn't anything she did or didn't do; she had, in fact, done absolutely everything right, following the sage advice in What to Expect When You're Expecting and What to Eat When You're Expecting to the letter and getting the kind of sleep I only dream of in my fitful, insufficient hours of unconsciousness.

In the meantime there's a lot to do and a good-hearted (and equally disappointed) step-nephew to console us, although he's 15 and decidedly un-baby-like. And there are still four dogs to be roughed-up and walked, and one of them needs extra love to make up for a missing leg, although she's getting around better every day and has even figured out how to run. (Is it awful of me to call her Tripod? She doesn't seem to mind, as long as I'm scratching.) This has all been tragic but not discouraging, I think, and I'm sure it won't seem like much time has passed when they get to announce the news again. And it was pretty fun the first time.

Things like this tend to pull us together as a family, and we have a remarkable family. Poor Kelly got more than he bargained for when he married a girl with a sister like me, but M and I have what I suspect is a rather rare sibling relationship. Something about the pairing of our very different personalities, a good age difference (3 years- not too close, not too far), and a shared history in a relatively healthy, happy family (with its own quirks, it's true, but we're still unusually functional) made us close in a way that only the best of friends ever get to be. I'd never survive without her, and Wednesday night was quite a scare. My relief at her progressing recovery and my faith in her resilience makes this bearable. There is no one I admire more and very few people I love as well.

Life is made up of the good and bad. This could have turned out worse, but it was pretty horrible. Still, like Kelly says, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And we're already pretty strong. (I'm glad nobody has said to me, "It is what it is." I hate that line. LOATHE it. I think it is what you make it; nothing's black and white.)

After I got off work tonight, after the week I've had, I was lost. M said she'd need me tomorrow when Kelly goes back to work and I should get some rest, and that's what I did: slept for four hours, paused to walk for an hour in the cool, quiet night and share this story with you, and now I'm going back to bed, where I hope to forget that the dishes need done and the floor needs vacuumed and I'm going to have to put away the little blue Winnie the Pooh booties I bought... for just a little while.


Blogger Allison said...

So sorry to hear this news.

July 26, 2009 at 11:12 AM  

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