Monday, October 01, 2007

Flashbacks

As I walked across the parking lot, I noticed that there was still salt in the cracks of the asphalt. It had been there since spring when the snow finally melted. A misty wind hit my face, and I squinted to spot my minivan in the lot. October was here, and I was on my way to my annual exam with my OBGYN, Dr. C. As I hopped into the drivers seat, the rain began to pour down.


Photo: www.microsoft.com

I switched on my wipers, and turned on my headlights. The sky was a slate color and fog was coming in waves in front of me. I made the drive with ease down the highway, though.

My van glided off the exit ramp, and I made the turns to arrive at Dr. C's office.

As I turned left into the drive way of the office building, I began to have flashbacks of being there before. I wasn't prepared for it. I wasn't ready to "relive" it in my mind today. A lump formed in my throat, and I stuffed down the urge to cry. I know I'm supposed to be over this by now, but it just isn't going away. I really don't think it ever will.

I scolded myself saying, "No Jen! Not now!"

Every year with my annual exam, I face the past. It is an internal struggle for me. I was supposed to go for my visit in June. They had already sent me 2 reminders, but I just couldn't bring myself to make the appointment until last week. What finally made me call was the story of a woman who died of cancer. That finally clicked with me, and upon calling, they fit me in since I was overdue. (Upon rereading this, I laughed at the prospect of saying I was overdue, that never applied to me when I was pregnant.)

As I left my van, I clutched my umbrella and a white piece of paper I wanted to share with Dr. C. I walked quickly through the parking lot, and rain water was rushing past my feet down an incline toward a drain.

As I opened the door, I inhaled deeply to prepare myself for seeing pregnant women in the waiting room. I noticed a sign that said bone density screenings were on the second floor. Fortunately, this was enough of a distraction for me. My mind wandered considering just what exactly a bone density test entailed. I found myself at the desk, and checked in.

As I turned around to sit down for the wait, I noticed a woman who appeared to be close to 9 months pregnant. Her face seemed puffy, and I noticed her ankles were swollen. I wondered if preeclampsia was in her destiny. She was quickly called back to her exam room, and this was a relief for me. I hate feeling jealous of pregnant women at the same time I'm scared to death for them. To me, pregnancy is an illness and with it comes horrible consequences. It isn't a time for joy and anticipation.

It starts with unbelievable nausea and vomitting, which lasts until to the mid-way point. Then, the headaches start. Shiny silvery flashing lights appear in my vision, and then the "fireballs" appear before my eyes. The incredible swelling comes, which results in stretching, painful skin. My central nervous system gets irritated, and every thing results in insults to my senses. Eventually, my blood pressure creeps up to scary levels, and then my kidneys start to malfunction. The baby stops moving around in a scary silent kind of way, and I start to obsess about counting kicks or movements. I poke and prod my belly to make sure baby is alive in there. I stuff down the fears and focus on the kicks. I'm so swollen that my teeth are tight inside my mouth, and it irritates me that I can feel my pulse in my gums surrounding my molars.

All of this is flashing through my brain. All because I'm facing my past. Twice I suffered from severe preeclampsia. Twice I had premature children. Twice it didn't go well for me. Twice I felt like a failure. Twice I prayed every moment my child was fighting in the isolette. Twice I cursed me and my failure of a body.





There I was in the waiting room hoping like hell that my name would be called soon. I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted it over. Reliving it again was too much for me.

To distract myself, I looked around the room to check the door where the nurse would appear to call me back to my exam room. There she was. It was Erin. I hadn't seen her in a few years.

I thought, "Not you too."

Erin was about seven months pregnant, too.

"Jen, come on back."

6 comments:

Mama said...

Thanks for making me feel normal today.

You aren't supposed to "get over" it. You are supposed to learn to live with your "new normal" life, and in that life OB/GYN visits and seeing pregnant women are hard things for you. It seems like you are doing that.

kate said...

This is really lovely and heart-breaking. I'm so sorry you had to live through preeclampsia twice. I am a preeclampsia survivor, as well, and I am now twenty weeks pregnant(with my second). I said to my husband last night, "We should measure my wrists and ankles." I want to know the second I start to swell this time. I'm trying to be careful. But what, really, could they do if I do start to swell? So glad to find your blog (and thanks for linking to mine)!!

Anonymous said...

jen, I am "Michelle" from Preemie Experiment. I came over to explore your blog. You, your girls, and your story has touched me deeply.

I can definitely relate to not getting over it! I was on bed rest from preeclampsia with my first, that wasn't caught until 33 weeks. Luckily, I made it to 38.5. My son is the one who was taken at 25 weeks due to HELLP. When he was about a year old, I thought I was strong enough to volunteer on the high risk perinatal unit at the hospital. Um. . .nope. I can't even drive by the hospital (which I have to do to get to the Children's Hospital) Heck, I can't even stand to watch or read about a sick baby. I had to stop watching ER when they had Abby and Luca's baby born a preemie and in NICU.

Also, my micro-preemie is 3, and I have yet to make it back to the OBGYN, with the exception of the post-natal. Pregnant woman make me sad, not for them, for me, because I don't get the chance to do it again. My best friend, who I went through both my pregnancies (or partial pregnancies) with, is pregnant again. I'm escstatic for her, but mourning my loss. Does that make sense? I mean, you can tell from Preemie Ex just how much control I have over the kids I do have, and I want more? But, my God, the pregnant people are EVERYWHERE!

Anyway, wanted to say "HI". I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt this way. Thanks for your candor and advice on the other matter and I'll be checking in with you and your girls to learn more of your story.

Michelle

Jen said...

Michelle,
I'd love to correspond with you by email. If you'd like to, please contact me at:

jenchar{AT}uwalumni DOT com

Jen :)

Anonymous said...

My baby was born three months early and only weighed 2 pounds! I hate seeing pregnant women too. I hate to say it, but I am jealous. I will never get to experience it and actually enjoy it again. I feel as though I was cheated the first time. It got cut short. But I wouldn't trade my little angel for anything!

Amy Jackson said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I had severe preeclampsia, was put on bed rest at 22 weeks, and my daughter was born at 31 weeks. My blood pressure got up to 260/180 before the emergency c-section, and my kidneys had started to fail. I was so swollen I couldn't move, and had an anti-seizure medication IV drip.

My angel was 2lbs 11oz and spent 5 weeks in the NICU before coming home. My dr told me that if they had waited any longer we would have died.

I wasn't able to nurse because I was given poor instruction by my lactation consultant and my milk never came in, but I pumped and attempted to nurse for 3 months before finally giving up in defeat.

Our insurance only covered $50k of the $300k hospital bill, so we lost our house and had to declare bankruptcy and move in with family for a couple years.

That was 7 years ago this week, and my precious daughter is beautiful, kind, and strong. I know that I am so fortunate that she and I are even alive.

But I am just now beginning to work through my emotional issues. I only realized today that what I've been through could and should destroy a person, but somehow I made it through (we all made it through) and I need to give myself permission to grieve all that I lost during that time.

Reading your post helped me so much. It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one who is having these feelings.