Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Jack

I am reading the new Jodi Picoult book called Sing You Home, and the main character suffers from major infertility issues. Right at the beginning, she loses a baby at 27 weeks. Or, as the character says, she doesn't lose it, she knows right where it is. It just isn't alive anymore. I read the book, and for some odd reason, it made me cry. It seems silly to say that it is an odd reason because lots of people will probably tear up, as the description Ms. Picoult uses is an emotional free fall, but I don't cry. Ever. But, this made me cry because I cried for Jack.

I've never lost a baby, but my pregnancy with Jack was rough. I almost lost him twice, and I hovered on the brink of losing him for most of my pregnancy. It didn't occur to me at the time, but now as I read this mother's story, that I never really dealt with anything that was happening. Because I didn't cry then, I cried the day I read those pages. Not for the character, but for my baby boy that could have been, and odds were that he was going to be, exactly like the baby boy in the story.

At 12 weeks, I went to my OB for an appointment where I would hear my baby's heartbeat. I laid on the table not thinking about anything except my exposed nether regions when the doctor put the mic on my belly. There were the usual swish swoosh sounds that come from her moving it across my abdomen, but not the thump thump thump of a baby's heart. I watched Dr. A's face as her brow furrowed, only to suddenly hear the strongest thump thump thumps I'd ever heard. I smiled. She looked at me and said, "you hear your own heart right now." It took me a minute to realize she wasn't speaking metaphorically. She moved the mic more and the only heart beating was mine. Pounding louder and faster with every swipe that resulted in silence. As her face grew more serious, I felt like my heartbeat was slowed down to a near stop. There was a blur of words after that, possibilities that maybe my placenta was in the way, or if the baby wasn't.... whatever the word she used didn't register, maybe viable is the way she put it... they do a D&C at the hospital and.... more words that didn't register. I went home that night, told my family and friends, and didn't shed a tear.

The next day I went in for an ultrasound to "confirm the heartbeat." Apparently that is a better way to put it than to say it's to see if the baby is alive or dead. My mom came and when the tech put the picture up on the monitor, I looked at my mom. I didn't look at the screen. The tip of my mom's nose turns red when she starts to cry and I saw her blink a tear back. Only then did I look at the screen and see the blob that was my baby. Still. No flutter from where his heartbeat should be. I don't remember if my mom spoke or if it was me, but words of... there is no movement... came from someone in that room. The tech smiled and said, "That's a still photograph." She pressed a button and Jack suddenly fluttered to life. He was fine.

At 27 weeks, the same time as the character of this story, I suffered unexplainable bleeding. I had just gotten dressed, stood up after putting on my socks, and suddenly I felt a gush where gushes shouldn't be. I was diagnosed with placenta previa/rupture. Initially there was talk of delivering the baby, but at 27 weeks the likelihood of his survival was slim. So, talk turned to what it would take to keep him (by then we knew it was a him) inside as long as possible. At one point in the triage suite of the Women's Hospital the OB took my hand and said, "Are you ok?" I teared up at the moment, and then blinked them back and just said that I was fine. After 24 hours I was sent home with a prescription for bed rest and the knowledge that if my placenta tore the rest of the way, my baby would be dead before we reached a hospital. Good luck.

During both of these incidents (the latter lasting until I delivered Jack at exactly 39 weeks during a scheduled and beautifully uneventful c-section), I didn't cry. I regurgitated what my doctor told me to my husband, my parents, my friends... each time building a stronger attitude of "God's will" mixed with "it is what it is." I didn't cry. It's not that I couldn't be emotional, because I have a support system that rivals any in the world.... but instead I was the strong one for people that needed strength, the positive one for people who were negative, and the unemotional for those that were emotional. I sugar coated the odds for Mark, who tends to panic. I smiled for friends that looked on with concern. And I steadied myself for the worst, without really letting myself even think about it. I put all my efforts into presenting a strong front, so that then I wouldn't have to feel anything at all. And in the end, I didn't have to. In my happy ending, my Jack was fine. So, I read Sing You Home, and read of a woman whose baby boy didn't come home in her arms, and I cried. For the first time I felt what I really wasn't strong enough to let myself feel in those moments... and I cried.

1 comment:

Tuffy said...

I don't read Jodi Picoult, but oddly enough I was thinking about this very thing the other day. I can't remember what triggered it, I think it was some quote I read on theodicy (the theology of suffering) or something like that.

Anyway, I was thinking about how close we came to not having Jack. Seems like forever ago (and for me it was 2 lifetimes ago). I don't know how to explain any of it. Just so glad it worked out the way it did.