Monday, May 30, 2011

It Wasn't Meant To Be

It is called an inevitable miscarriage. By definition, an inevitable miscarriage (or spontaneous miscarriage) is one where the miscarriage is imminent or is in the process of happening.

To me, it was a death sentence for my perfectly healthy unborn 18 weeks baby boy with impeccable heartbeat.

18 weeks. After how hard my body worked to make this little miracle, my body still failed him. From two cells to fingernails, his time came before he could even live.

Miscarriages usually happen in the earlier weeks, way before fingers are even formed. And most miscarriages happen without the mother knowing. They say it’s like a heavy period with clots and cramping. My miscarriage felt like it was an actual childbirth, with an outcome we had to accept. An inevitable outcome.

It started with an urge to poo. At 4am. In Genting Highlands. In our hotel room on the 9th floor. Surrounded by tourists and gamblers. I just wanted to poo. The sensation became stronger and little different. No contractions, no pain, no water breaks, no blood. I sat on the toilet, reminding myself to have a banana later. And then I felt it. Something was somewhere it shouldn’t be. I reached down and felt something membranous filling up my woowoo. That was the membrane bulge from the waterbag, the sentence of the inevitable. Have you ever panicked? This was 100X.

By then, it was already 6am. The boys were still asleep. The husband called for an ambulance as I tried to relax and to resist any bearing down urge. We waited. A minute felt like an eternity. Daniel had woken up and was lounging around, oblivious to the crisis we were in. My mind was in a crisis. A shitload of emotional crisis.

The stretcher team finally arrived. One woman two men team garbed in uniform that looked like police. Daniel felt the crisis. You see, Hollywood taught him that when there is ambulance there is big trouble. He didn’t cry, he was just stunned as everything happened so sudden and fast. As I was lying on the stretcher, I told him calmly, “Daniel, ambulance take Mummy to hospital ok? Because mummy is sick. My stomach hurts. Don’t be scared ok? I’m ok, I will see you later”. With that, he nodded. I wasn’t in pain actually.

I was wheeled to the hotel clinic at ground floor for a quick examination by a very nice young lady doctor who was the first one to utter this word to me. ‘Abortion’. Doctors use this term which is the same as miscarriage. There, medical lesson 101. I asked her what it meant though deep inside I already knew what it was. She said the baby was already coming out and there’s nothing we can do. I lied there, trying to process my thoughts as they tried to process the paperwork fast to get me to the nearest hospital. I tried to dissect and ‘decipher’ that phrase ‘there is nothing we can do’, as if it was a code that actually meant ‘there is hope that your baby will switch to reverse gear and move back inside like a car, and continue growing to become a full term pink mushy little bundle of joy’. I enjoy bullshitting myself like that.

Deciphering the ‘code’ helped me in enduring 40minutes of journey to the hospital. Was it 40 minutes? Who cares. I was in an ambulance, going down the winding Genting road. All ambulances should be GTIs, you know what I mean.The clinic nurse was beside me, observing me throughout the ride, holding the familiar big yellow biohazard waste bag. I resisted any bearing down urge. No way my baby is going into a biohazard bag.

I arrived at Hospital Selayang at about 9am. It is an ‘upper-standard’ government hospital right smack in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t care where I was as long as there were doctors and a bed. At the ER ward, I was checked again. By now I was already bleeding a bit. Bad news. And more bad news. Cervix has dilated. And came the worst news. As I watch my baby’s heart beating away on the ultrasound monitor, it hit me. Has anything hit you so hard that you feel that your spirit is leaving your body? The MOs, oh I love them MOs, earnestly explained to me.

“OK madam, your OS is dilated and you’re going through an inevitable miscarriage now. Since your baby is only 18 weeks, it will not be able to survive when it’s born…” I went deaf after that.

These guys are trained well. They never use the word ‘die’. They say ‘will not survive’. All throughout my stay, all the different MOs had never said the ‘d’ word. Only the cleaner. She said the ‘m’ word.

I was wheeled to the gynaecology ward. Another internal examination. Another scan. That was the last time I saw him. The grainy black and white blurry image of him cozy and snug in my uterus. The lady gynae was also pregnant, far more along than I was. She was nonchalant as she performed her job like any other job. She examined me, read out the diagnosis and treatment to another MO and left. Now I was under the MO’s care. He was nice. He looked like Mark Ruffalo (Just Like Heaven with Reese Witherspoon). Back on my bed, he asked me a series of standard medical history questions and wrote it in a folded A4 paper. Did I mention he was nice? I’d give him A+ for bedside manners. He was sensitive, kind and polite. I was put on ‘conservative management’, meaning I lie in bed and rot naturally. No drugs, no surgery, only painkillers if I needed. They would do nothing to speed up the ‘abortion’ because ethically, my baby was still alive. Doctor Mark Ruffalo told me to just rest and wait. That was the last time I saw Doctor Mark Ruffalo.

And wait I did. A whole lot of waiting. A whole lot of crying in between. 36 hours felt like a week had gone by. Three other MOs came by to repeat the series of medical history questioning. All of them writing in a folded A4 paper. One was a first year MO, and she nervously memorized all my information in front of me, like she was preparing for a slide presentation. And then I understood why she was nervous. The ‘teacher’ doctor and her entourage of MOs were doing rounds at the ward. There were first years, like herself, second years and maybe third years. All crowding around bed by bed.
My turn. I felt like a specimen for show and tell. I was sitting on my bed, actually lounging around in my pink top and sarong. My nervous MO recited my diagnosis and prognosis and all the hoolabaloo while looking at her folded A4 paper intermittently. The first years were paying attention. The rest were lounging around like me. I must be a boring case because at midway, the ‘teacher’ doctor and the final years started talking about distochia (where baby’s shoulder get lodged in the mother’s pelvis thus prolonging childbirth)

Final year MO: Sorry, I’m late. Just now got distochia case.
Gynae guru: * jumping animatedly * REAALLLYY?!!! OH MY GOD! I SHOULD’VE SEEN IT LA!
Final year MO: Big… There was another one.
Gynae guru: SERIOUUUUSSS?!!!
Final year MO: Haaa… took some time to get the baby out. 4kg. Both mother GB.

I sat there, enjoying the medical jargon tennis game. I was chopped liver. But I didn’t care. I was numbed by all the waiting. I just wanted everything to be over. I just wanted to go home. Then they turned to me like I was a boring case. I was told to ‘just rest’.

The body is amazing. It really does work in its own pace and process. My body was doing what it had to do. I felt like it gave me time to say goodbye to my bunnyboy. They say there are 5 stages of grief, and my body was giving me time to go through them. As I lay on the bed, finally accepting reality, I decided to speed things up. I wasn’t scared anymore. I got out of bed and started pacing up and down the aisle. Sir Isaac Newton is a genius. Gravity had somehow ‘pulled’ my membranous bag further down. I could feel it. I alerted the nurse and went back to bed. I was told to push when there’s the urge. But I didn’t feel any urge. This was the hardest part. How can you push when there’s no pushing urge. A final year MO was nice, she stayed by my side and gave me support. She would make a good coach because she kept saying “Very good, very good” and boy that really helped! So I just pushed. A number of MOs came in and out to take a peek. Some were seeing it for the first time, some were just curious. I didn’t care, I was so focused like it was some competitive sport. For one looooong hour, I was so focused. I just pushed. I didn’t care what came out anymore, pee or poo. There was no room for embarrassment. I was tired and delirious. Surprisingly, I felt no contraction, no pain, nothing. Not even the bearing down urge anymore. I just lied there, knees bent, holding my ankles like a yoga pose, and I kept pushing whenever I had the strength and lung power.

On the 7th of April 2011, at 4.25pm, our third son was born. He was still inside the membranous 'pouch'. I think the MO made a slit to 'release' him. My coach asked, “Do you want to see your baby?” At this point, overwhelmed with so much emotions, I panicked. I spent all those hours waiting for this moment and I didn’t plan on whether I would look at him or hold him, or what I would do at this moment. Shit shit shit shit shit. I chickened out. Part of me wanted to hold him so much, but part of me was scared shitless. I felt I won’t be able to handle it. I thought what if the image haunts me for the rest of my life and I get chronic depression and become a nutcase. Seriously, I was afraid that I wasn’t as strong as I believe I am. People say certain visions will psychologically affect you for life. This was a traumatic dilemma. To see my dead baby or not. I wasn’t prepared for this.

“No”, I sobbed harder. My memory of him will remain as the happy little fetus with his heart beating away and his tiny little limbs waving at me. At the same time, I felt so ashamed and guilty. Why can’t I just look at him? He’s my baby! By then, it was too late. He was taken away for a tissue sample test and was wrapped to be ‘collected’ later. Did I mention I was overwhelmed with intense emotions of all sorts and delirious? Did that cause me to make such poor judgement and decision? This would be the biggest regret of my life.

Nature won’t let you off so easily. I still had the placenta to expel. I was given a shot of something to make me contract. Great, back to pushing. Push push push, sob sob sob. A shot of vodka would be nice. Are we there yet? No. Push push push, sob sob sob. Everything went vague after that. I was cleaned up and the privacy curtains were drawn away. Oh hey, I forgot I had 5 other roommates! Who probably heard me sobbing and pushing away like I was in my own private 5 star labour ward. Ah, who cares. Where’s my Doctor Mark Ruffalo? By the way, has anyone seen Shania Twain, I thought I saw her earlier.

That was my drug talking. Way way earlier I had a shot of painkiller when my contractions kicked in. Oh ya, I did feel pain after all. Now, I was woozy. And dreamy. And VERY sleepy. So I slept. I had the knowledge that the hubby came by but all I wanted to do was close my puffy eyes to sleep. I had the best sleep. No emotions, no dilemma, no goodbyes, no guilt. It was like a calm sea after a tumultuous storm. Calm sea indeed because I woke up soaked in my own pee. My muscles were probably still ‘relaxed’ or numb from all that pushing. Oh great, I’ll just go back to sleep in my pee-soaked hospital clothes. I didn’t care anymore. I was glad that it was over. Pee-soaked clothes? Blah, that’s peanuts.

I woke up at 10pm, in time for my dinner that turned cold. I didn’t care. I ate a few spoonfuls of rice and went back to sleep.

I woke up again, at sunrise. The world looked different. I felt different. I stroked my flat belly and tears streamed down my sticky cheeks. I don’t think my eyes have ever been dry since the last scan. I felt the aftermath-calmness. Yes, it was sad and traumatic, but now it felt peaceful. Like I have forgiven myself. The morning was like a usual day at the ward. The nurses did their usual rounds, the cleaner mopped the floor and cleared the toilet bins, my neighbour brushed her teeth, the other patients woke up too and was lounging around, waiting for breakfast. It felt like I just had a bad dream. So surreal. So real, yet it felt unreal.

On the brighter side of things, I got a lot of ‘sympathetic’ treatment from the staff. I’m probably one of the hundreds of miscarriage cases there, but they were still compassionate. Even the cleaner who was grumpy and whiny smiled at me when she passed by my bed. As she was clearing my bin, she said “Baby sudah besar ya”. I smiled back and said “Ya… sayang”. She must’ve seen him. Even the cleaner seen my baby, what kind of mother am I. I closed my eyes and said a soft “Sorry baby”.
By now the husband had arrived and was preparing for my discharge, and arranging for the baby’s ‘departure’ ritual. Apparently, this is a common practice for miscarried fetuses, maybe older ones. There was a special room somewhere for religious servicemen to carry out rites and prayers, after which the body would be cremated and the ashes would be tossed into the sea. All this was done with a small fee. The husband stayed to witness the rituals while I waited at the ward.

I said a prayer of my own. A little prayer to the little one who came into our lives, just like that, and then left, just like that. I earnestly prayed that he is at peace and is in heaven with angels. I prayed for forgiveness and that he won’t be mad at me. I prayed he will have lots of mummies and daddies, brothers and sisters, friends and pets to play with him all day. I prayed he will have all the collections of Transformers, Ben 10, Spongebob Squarepants and Ultraman paraphernalia(just like his brother). I prayed he will be kept warm and snug in bed when he sleeps, I prayed he will wake up smiling everyday to a beautiful crispy morning with yellow birds and blue birds chirping by his window. I prayed he will find joy, warmth and love in the arms of God.

Then the husband came back, bearing frustrating news. Because it was a Friday (Muslim noon prayer), all patients can only be discharged at 3pm, after the pharmacy opens. This applied to me too although I didn’t need any prescription. The nurses knew we were from Johor and was hoping to get back fast, and mainly because the husband was infuriated at the system, I was off the hook. I could finally go home. As I was preparing to leave, my due-to-discharge ward mate softly asked the cleaner why I could go home first and she couldn’t, to which the cleaner replied, “Baby mati”.

Life is funny isn’t it. Who would’ve known that I would be in this exact spot, looking at a hospital ward and listening to those two words uttered about me. It happened. It’s over. We have to mourn and move on. On the way home, I thought about the moment we were surprised by his creation, I thought about the moment we first saw his little mass which grew into a recognizable baby, I thought about his heartbeat, his head, his body, his first kick, then I thought about the unfortunate events which led me here. We didn’t have a name for him yet. Maybe I’ll do it now.

Goodbye Damien, my little bunnyboy. We love you. So so so much.

Here's a little poem I found called The Cord.

We are connected,
My child and I, by
An invisible cord
Not seen by the eye.

It's not like the cord
That connects us 'til birth
This cord can't been seen
By any on Earth.

This cord does it's work
Right from the start.
It binds us together
Attached to my heart.

I know that it's there
Though no one can see
The invisible cord
From my child to me.

The strength of this cord
Is hard to describe.
It can't be destroyed
It can't be denied.

It's stronger than any cord
Man could create
It withstands the test
Can hold any weight.

And though you are gone,
Though you're not here with me,
The cord is still there
But no one can see.

It pulls at my heart
I am bruised...I am sore,
But this cord is my lifeline
As never before.

I am thankful that God
Connects us this way
A mother and child
Death can't take it away!

Author Unknown


Kean Hong said...

MO always appear in the morning to round the ward and we became the white rabbit for them in order for them to face the future "real" patient. That was my experience in HUKM for 14 days (plus some ghost stories and ghost disturbing).
Anyway, take care mom.

sue2006 said...

hang in there dear...
can feel your heartfelt pain

Anonymous said...

I so understand your pain, my baby girl didn't make it at the 30 weeks stage. My world collapsed as I always wanted children. It is my second miscarriage unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

It's all GOD willing, enjoy your day with two children you already had.

Frances said...

After reading some tennis terms and learning from them, I stumbled upon this blog and this story truly broke my heart. My deepest condolences for your loss.