The first wave of my hand recovery took three months. Three months of seeing an occupational therapist twice a week, changing of dressings, ultrasounds, and trying to get my pinkie and ring finger to straighten out while avoiding ripping the newly mended tendons. I was careful and perhaps too careful for today those fingers still do not straighten. I try to think back and assure myself that I tried and worked those fingers as hard as I could, but I always seem to come back and think that I could have done more and then today I would have a normal hand.
I would love to write more about the hand and will undoubtedly write more eventually, but am feeling the need to move on to other significant events.
The hand accident was in October of 2007. I went to see an acupuncturist in February 2008 to see if acupuncture could help facilitate the nerve regeneration in my fingers. After a couple of sessions I dropped into our conversation that I was also trying to get pregnant. He took my pulse and looked at my tongue and diagnosed me with kidney Qi deficiency. He prescribed a bunch of herbs for me to brew and ingest and said I should not try to get pregnant for three months. I choked. I was now 39 and felt the time was now. But I drank the bitter brew those herbs produced and continued to get acupuncture once a week for a few weeks. Then about a months after my first acupuncture visit, we went in for another bout of insemination.
A few hours after the insemination, I went in for my acupuncture appointment. He took my pulse and said, "I think you are pregnant already." Well, we'll see. But yes, indeed he was correct! I was pregnant! Joy of all joys. It worked! I was wary for the first three months, and sick as a dog. Also exhausted because I found myself with insomnia.
It is Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008. I am newly entered into my 18th week of pregnancy and I spot blood. I call my midwife line. I am part of a midwife network, thereby not knowing each time I call which of the seven or eight Midwife/Nurse Practitioners I will have the opportunity to talk with. I first speak to a nurse. “I am 18 weeks pregnant and I just spotted!” I know this can mean any number of harmless things, and try not to get worked up. She says she will leave a message with the midwife and he or she will call me back. “OK,” I say. Some time later the nurse calls me back. She asks me what color the blood is. I say pinkish. She assures me that it is most likely nothing to worry about, we hang up and I go about my day. Each time I go to the bathroom, I see a touch of red on the toilet paper after I wipe. On Thursday I am still spotting. I call the clinic again and again they ask me what color it is and then reassure me that I do not have to rush in and that it is probably nothing. I do have a pollop on my cervix which they suspect is the reason for the spotting. I check websites, chat lines and blogs on which I find many women sharing that they are spotting and scared and many other women assuring them that that had happened to them as well and it came to nothing. I relax a little. This afternoon we load up the car to go camping in Lake City on Lake Pepin with some of Robert’s relatives. I feel comfortable going.
Friday, I had as good a night sleep as I ever have camping: little sleep lots of meditation listening to the wind in the trees, the insects and other outdoorsy phenomena we do not experience in the city. Friday I am still spotting. Is it more than before? I can’t tell anymore. It is July 4th. I go down to the beach at the camp site and swim. We eat over the fire and enjoy the company and vistas. In the evening Robert and I take our daughter and her cousin to see the fireworks in town. I am feeling pretty good. While sitting in our camping chairs watching the exploding lights ahead I feel some watery discharge come out of me. I try to remain calm and don’t tell Robert. I try to ignore it. We head back to the campsite after the fireworks and use the modern facilities one last time before heading to our camp site. As I am urinating, I feel large clumps pass out of me and hear as they hit the water below like lumps of mud. All I can think is oh my god oh my god. I walk back to the campsite my head exploding with fear and panic. I call the midwife line again and finally talk to the actual midwife. He listens to what I has happened with the watery discharge and the passing clumps. He asks me if I feel any pain. I say no, no pain. He asks me if I can feel the baby moving. Oh yes, I say, it’s moving a lot. He tells me it doesn’t sound like I am miscarrying and that I don’t have to go in to the ER. I tell him that I have an ultrasound scheduled for Monday, he says, “Oh, well you’ll be fine until then, we’ll just wait and check you out at that time.” I hang up reassured. That night trying to get to sleep I have some discomfort. Feels like the baby is pressing on me. I get up to pee and the discomfort seems to stop and I am able to sleep.
Saturday I try to stay on pelvic rest, which basically was explained to me as no heavy lifting or running. So I walk slowly and stay mostly at the camp site. I go down the beach and sit in the shade trying to calm my worries and pretend I don’t feel that same pressing feeling periodically. We go for an evening boat ride that night with the girls. Uncle Pete brought is fishing boat on the trip and we glide through the calm beautiful waters of Lake Pepin and watch the sun go down. Iris falls asleep in my arms.
We prepare for bed. I retire early listening to Robert by the fire with everyone else. I lay on our blow up mattress and try to sleep but the pressing sensations come back. I rub my belly trying to calm the baby and myself. I try to go to the bathroom as last night that seems to help. I return and the discomfort continues. Discomfort slowly turns to pain. So slowly in fact that it barely registers. After a couple of hours I start to cry. This can’t be happening, I think. This happened to Tracy and this just doesn’t happen to two people in the same circle of friends. This can’t be happening. This goes around and around in my head as I silently sob begging the pain to stop. Finally, I have to admit to the world that this is happening and I get out of the tent and call Robert over. I start crying harder and can’t make the phone call. He calls and they tell him to get me to an emergency room. I pull on clothes and we walk the long path to the parking lot and the car. The pain seems to even get worse as I walk. When I sit in the car seat, I feel that things are right, it feels like I have a rock lodged in my vagina. I am terrified. Robert keeps telling me that we don’t know anything yet and it could be nothing, but he is scared too.
Lake City has a hospital. Robert drops me off at the Emergency Room entrance and goes to park the car. I run inside and immediately start sobbing to the first person I see that I am pregnant and something is wrong. They put me in a room. I am the only one in the emergency room it seems. The nurses (nursing assistants?) look about 18 year old. A family practitioner finally comes in. I tell him what is going on. Spotting and now pain. He asks me if I can still feel the baby moving, I say I don’t know because now all I feel is pain. He immediately does an ultra sound. We see the baby on the screen and he is moving all over the place. That reassures the doctor which reassures me. I get up the go the bathroom. Robert says I look better already. We are hopeful. I return and the doctor wants to do a pelvic examination. I put my feet in the stirrups, he inserts the speculum and says, I see the pollop and it is quite large. He then declares that I am 4 centimeters dilated.
Everything seems to move very fast then. He calls a colleague at the Mayo Clinic who advises that I should be airlifted to Mayo for an emergency cerclage. I have heard of that and I am ready for anything that will save my baby. I feel relief. Robert kisses me good bye says he will get our stuff all packed up and he will meet me in Rochester. The doctor elevates my feet to relieve the pressure on mycervix. This is very uncomfortable and the contractions (as I now understand them to be) seem to be getting worse. A few minutes go by as the get the helicopter ready to whisk me away. I am in the room with the two nubile nursing assistants. Suddenly after one contraction passes and a jet of water shoots out of my vagina and appear to hit the wall. Water seems to flood the room. One girl runs from the room, the other tells me my water broke. I am confused and frantic. What does this mean? The doctor come back in and says, “I am sorry, there is nothing we can do now. You are going to have this baby.”
I wail. I wail like I have never wailed. The despair rises out of me so powerfully that it is beyond containing. I am alone and I am wailing. Swearing, Cursing. Screaming. Disbelieving. Robert is getting our stuff together. I was supposed to be going to Rochester to make all this right. How could this be happening? Oh my god oh my god. No please.
The wailing starts to decrease and numbness and shock descend. I call Robert. He doesn’t answer. I leave him a message that my water broke and there is nothing they can do and to come back as fast as he can. My whole body is shaking uncontrollably. I can barely talk. They ask me if I want to deliver my baby here in Lake City, or if I want to go back to the cities to deliver. What a choice. I opt to stay where I am. They wheel me down to another part of the hospital. I can barely make out what is around me. I am losing my baby and there is nothing anyone can do.
They wheel me to a small room and call a gynecologist to oversee the delivery. I am no longer feeling any contractions but am caught in this purgatory of despair thinking irrationally that maybe it really will be ok, while simultaneously knowing that it is hopeless and my baby will die. The gynecologist and Robert arrive. Robert is pale, stunned and saddened into an uncharacteristic silence. My own tears haven't stopped. The gynecologist and the nurses are very sweet to us and try to make me as comfortable as possible, but we have to progress to the next step and deliver the baby.
The gynecologist puts her hands in my vagina and painfully stretches the opening for the baby to come out with the least amount of damage and bruising. I am no longer contracting and am exhausted. She tells me to push and I can barely muster the strength. But I do. My legs are shaking uncontrollably so that Robert and the nurses have to put their hands on my thighs and knees to stop the trembling. I push and feel something flush out of me. My son was born. He is alive. They put his long skinny body in a blanket and put him on my chest. All I can do is sob and say over and over that I am sorry and that I love him. Robert is there with me crying. The baby's mouth opens and shuts. Eyes are closed, skin is membranous. He has all his beautiful fingers and toes. I see his tongue in his mouth. He is calm compared to the fast movements I was feeling earlier on the night. I can't comprehend what I am doing. I have an urge to put his head in my mouth. An attempt to put him back inside me? His limbs twitch occasionally. I can't tell you when he dies. Robert holds him while they try to get the placenta out of me. Robert says he went cold while he held him. I have to take a line of small white pills to stimulate contractions. I don't want to feel any more pain so they give me morphine. The placenta comes out and they declare that it looks normal. Then then take blood. Or does this happen the next morning? Lots of blood. I am sure some is to see if I am on drugs, and others are to check me for other problems that may have caused this to happen. They ask us what we want to do with him and do we want pictures. This floors and confuses me. These are decisions for which I have no reference or experience. I can't answer. They say I don't need to decide now. They will keep him then send him to Mayo for further tests. I say OK, relieved to not have to make any decisions.
Robert leaves to be with Iris and pack up the camp site. I fall into a stupor and drug induced sleep. When I awake I have a moment where I hope it was just a dream but then start shaking, panicking and sobbing as the reality penetrates. Robert and Iris arrive at the hospital. Iris is pale and stunned. She gives me a big hug and says, "I am sorry Mommy. I never wanted the baby to die." We slowly check out of the hospital. We are at the desk and they ask me to complete some paperwork. I realize that I am filling in information for the baby's birth and death certificate. The forms ask for a name. A name. I look at Robert and we agree on Lyle George. Lyle is the last boy name we had agreed on, and George is my father's name. Lyle George Eichinger. I write in the name. It becomes all the more real and concrete and hits me with force.
The drive back to town is surreal. My belly is still bloated yet I know there is not baby inside it. I am sore and exhausted. I weep. Robert is silent as is Iris. We arrive home and I slide into sleep.
I wanted to tell this story today because tomorrow, July 6th, is the anniversary of Lyle's delivery and passing. This past year has been so challenging on so many different levels. I have written little on this year and will post what I did write in my next post. I have new found respect for grieving; its complexity, depth, persistence and power and want to write about that. I am on a new path in my life for which I am grateful, but grief lingers on and it will for years to come.