Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Truth, The Whole Truth... In Abridged Form, Of Course. Still Long, Of Course.

At my last doctor's appointment, he asked me if I have the support I need. I paused, and he added, "Honestly." I had to answer no.

(That second sentence looks like a punctuation nightmare. I know it already, so forgive me and keep your mouth shut unless you know how it actually should be.)

He was asking me about support because... I've had some stuff going on. And I had to say no, because only a handful of people even know what is going on in my life. How can people support me when they don't know I need support? Why do I keep hiding something that is in no way my fault? This isn't a dirty secret. It's just... my third miscarriage in six months.

The first two pregnancies occurred this summer. They both terminated very early--the first at seven weeks and the second at five. I take pregnancy tests the second my period is late, so I knew about both for a while. Long enough to start thinking about names. Long enough to go through the baby stuff in my basement and decide I would need a new crib, and maybe new crib bedding to go with the new crib. Still, I was over it after a week or two. Once the bleeding stopped, the grieving stopped. The first miscarriage I blamed on a genetic anomaly. It happens. It isn't a baby, I told myself. It's an Unbaby.

The second one worried me a bit. I did some research and found out the birth control method I was using to space out my children to a more reasonable two years apart may or may not cause miscarriages if a pregnancy does occur. I discontinued using it. After all, it wasn't exactly, umm, working, and I'd rather have a viable, albeit unplanned pregnancy than a miscarriage.

I found out I was pregnant again at the beginning of November. I was so happy. No, I was ecstatic. I was over the freakin' moon. I felt pregnant--unlike my last two unpregnancies. You have never seen a woman so happy to puke every morning. I made a doctor's appointment. I ceased drinking coffee (for the most part), exercising, eating anything artificial, anything that I might have done wrong the other two times. I worried at every twinge, but I told myself: no blood, no panic. I went to the first prenatal appointment bracing to be lectured about the nine pounds I had gained.

He didn't find a heartbeat. The doctor was nonchalant about it; I was in instant panic attack mode. When he was listening to--whatever they listen to on your back, your heart or lungs or both--he told me to breath normally. This is as normal as it gets.

Because no doctor likes hyperventilating maybe-pregnant-maybe-not women in their office, he offered to do a quick ultrasound. He found a water sac, a pregnant-ish uterus, but no baby. It's called a missed abortion. I lost the baby, and I never even knew it. 'No blood, no panic'? Apparently not a medically sound policy. I was almost ten weeks pregnant, but not really.

That is the biggest shock I have ever experienced. I felt bad for Dr. Davenport, because I knew he was counting seconds until this entire not-really-prenatal visit was over. Sheesh, he's like my baby brother's age. Just had his own first child. Such a nice guy, but he has to be thinking please, please, please, don't freak out. I started to cry, but stopped myself long enough to get out.

It was 5:30 PM and I had this to-do list. Pick up kids from preschool. Get daughter ready for her Christmas play. Go to Christmas play. Tell husband our baby is dead. Move the Pottery Barn crib set that the UPS man delivered while I was at my doctor's appointment. Complete two writing jobs. Study for second day of finals.

Did you know life keeps happening when your baby dies? It's really surprising when you are in the moment. Like, how come the Christmas play isn't cancelled? How come Christmas isn't cancelled? Intellectually, you understand, but emotionally, it just seems like the world should stop turning for a few days, maybe even a month or so. And no one knows why you are crying at your daughter's play or why you are rude to her teacher. No one knows why your writing assignment is late, or why you fail your finals despite being a straight-A student up to that day.

I'd like to make a note here. I had never considered that I would be hit this hard by a miscarriage, but it is the biggest and most terrible shock I have ever experienced. I have buried a parent at a young age, been unceremoniously dumped by my oldest son's father after working three jobs to support our fledgling family while he finished his degree... none of it even compares. When my son almost died twice earlier this year, I was so distraught that about three-quarters of my hair fell out. I can't wait to see what this does. (Please, God, spare my hair. There's so little of it left. It was just starting to come back in. Don't leave me ugly and barren.)

The day after my finals, I had another ultrasound at a facility with more sophisticated equipment. My doctor wanted to do more tests to make sure the baby was really gone. He also wanted more data on the huge growth in my pelvis that he found while looking for my runaway fetus. Did I forget to mention that? The possibility of having cancer was nothing compared to the reality of not having a baby. Mere background noise.

At the appointment, the ultrasound lady went and fetched her supervisor. They agreed to call my doctor. Then, they came back and did the rest of the ultrasound. I won't tell you what a transvaginal ultrasound is--that should be self explanatory. I will merely suggest that the 'wand' used for it is so long, I laughed when I saw it. Seriously, if it vibrated they could market the thing to lonely women.

They told me that my doctor would get the results by Monday and then call me. I was a little concerned about the whole 'call the doctor' thing. But then, I thought, if I really had a problem, they would fast-track the ultrasound to the radiologist, not let it languish in his inbox for almost a week.

What did I do in the meantime? I cried every day. I cried every hour. I went to my husband's company Christmas party and got ploughed on a Riesling with a silky honey aftertaste. Everyone commented--more than a year already and I'm not pregnant? I watched Tori Amos videos on Youtube. Did you know she had three miscarriages before she finally had a successful pregnancy? Now I know why almost every song on From the Choirgirl Hotel is about her miscarriages. If I could write a song that adequately expressed how shredded I am about this, it would be all I did. Song after song. Instead, all I have are my words.

I stayed home all day Monday and--no call. Then, on Tuesday, my doctor called. The growth was a corpus luteal cyst, which is something pregnant women get sometimes. It was already almost gone when they did the second ultrasound. Because, of course, I wasn't pregnant. That's why the techs were calling him so frantically. They couldn't find anything noteworthy and wanted to make sure they were looking in the right place.

My uterus was seven weeks pregnant, which I guess means that is how far I made it before the baby died. I tried to think what I did that week. What was so important that I didn't realize my child was dying? I can't go there... but I can't not go there either.

I was spotting, not so much spotting but passing a few tiny blood clots. My doctor expected that my next 'period' would be heavier than usual. Because, you know, I had all the baggage from a seven week pregnancy. Other than that, I was physically a-okay. Right, I thought, except that I have all this rotting tissue inside me. I told him that I was (am) going crazy. He thought that sounded like a normal reaction and offered antidepressants, which I refused.

Late that night, I woke up because something was... ummm... coming out. Like, several blood clots the size of golf balls, along with a lot of blood and cramping that felt like labor pains. I thought, wow--it all happened at once. Baby suite, dismantled. All over. Except that it kept happening, every twenty minutes or so. It was so freaky, I was afraid to call the doctor's on call guy. Afraid to go to the ER. Who is going to believe this? I couldn't fit all of those clots in my entire abdomen, so every time seemed like it had to be the last.

By morning, I had bled through two large packages of maxi pads and every pair of pajamas I own. I decided to take a shower (not exactly springtime fresh after my night of horrors), take the kids to school/preschool, and then call the doctor. My own doctor would believe me. I think he'd believe anything I said at this point; I'm a walking anomaly, but an honest one. Although, I briefly considered, I did just tell him not twenty-four hours ago that I'm going crazy.

I didn't get the chance. I passed out just after getting out of the shower. I awoke not long after, but I couldn't talk, and every time I lifted my head the room started to turn gray. After a few minutes, my daughter walked in. Why don't kids knock? But thank the heavens she didn't. Get Daddy, I whispered. She came back and said Daddy was leaving. I couldn't think of anything to say. My wise little girl, she went back and insisted that he come. By the time he walked in, I could sit up, hunched over. There was blood everywhere. He looked around in shock, and I said, I'm bleeding to death. It seemed a reasonable conclusion. He said he was calling an ambulance, and I told him just to put the kids in the car and bring me some clothes so we could drive to the hospital.

I looked bad when we got there, bad enough that they took me back while asking me what had happened instead of making me go through the triage thang. They started an IV and did a screwy job that left a huge bruised lump on my hand that is still there. I started to feel better, and a little sheepish. You see, the blood clots stopped coming as soon as I arrived at the hospital. Of course. But my blood pressure was low--90/60 after two bags of fluid. And I was bleeding like crazy, blood just pouring out of me. They knew something was going on.

They did a ton of tests, including an awkward pelvic exam throughout which I apologized to the doctor for how gross this had to be. I hope this is the low point of your day. I'd hate to think it goes downhill from here. The tests--including another transvaginal ultrasound, which wasn't so much funny as painful this time--showed I was full of baby detritus that was poised to exit, possibly taking a lot of blood and fluid with it. Seeing as how I didn't have a lot of either left to spare, the ER doctor wanted to do a D & C, which is this horrendous, invasive procedure in which they scrape your uterus clean while you are completely awake and without anesthetic. My doctor popped in, and thought that was unnecessary. I'll go with his opinion, thank you. They decided to admit me and give me medicine to make all this baby stuff come out while I was under their expert supervision.

It didn't go according to plan. As soon as I took the pills, the bleeding let up, which is the opposite of what it was supposed to do. My blood pressure kept getting lower. My blood count kept getting lower. The machine showed my blood pressure at 83/40, so the nurse took it by hand. That reading was lower, 80/37. The other nurse--who told me several times how crowded they were and how they needed my bed--came in and took it, saying it was 90-something over 50-something. She was so lying. But it was enough that I was sent home. I was happy to go home.

I had a mess on my hands at home when I arrived at 11 PM. I had to change my sheets, scrub the mattress, and get all the bloody laundry to the laundry room. This was a challenge when I couldn't walk five steps without getting dizzy. Finally, I went to bed. I'm still bleeding heavily four days later with some frankly disgusting stuff coming out of me. I had a follow up appointment and my doctor was so quiet and gentle instead of the all-business type thing you usually get with doctors. When he found out I did poorly on my finals, he wrote a letter to my teachers requesting that I be allowed to retake them. He even printed it out right away because I have to go visit my dying grandfather two states away and didn't know when I could pick it up. It's such a compelling letter (yeah, I read it, before I even started the car in fact) that I wondered if he worked his way through medical school as a freelance writer, the way I am doing it right now. But who cares? I doubt my dillweed professors will let me retake the tests because they are jerks that way and all men besides.

The doctor has been such a rock star through all this. I forgive him for his rude office staff, for the giganto pain in the tokhes it is to make an appointment, for picking on me about my weight gain when I was pregnant with Rachael and not exactly bathing in love for my swollen thighs. I hope his wife is super nice and makes him homemade baklava and rubs his stinky, hairy feet at night. He's that awesome. He's cute, too, but don't start seeing him. He has enough patients. It's easier to get a papal audience than to get a routine well child visit with this guy.

So, that's what's been going on with me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Few Thoughts On High School

When I started back in college, I honestly thought I could homeschool and go to school myself. After a few weeks, one kid flew the coop and started school. Then it was like a mudslide, and before I knew it, all of my kids were in school. We're like, well, normal people. at least on the outside. But we remain homeschool rebels on the inside, which is why I want to scream when I hear the following:

1. "Homeschooled kids are weird (pronounced weee--yurd). There's more to education than reading books."

This girl, L, is the daughter of teachers and has probably never actually met a homeschooler beyond a quick "hi". She was a straight-A student at the best public high school in the area and is now failing college level math because--oops--they don't teach real math in schools now. Being able to write an articulate essay on the meaning of a quadratic formula is an interesting skill, but it does you no good when it comes time to solve for 'X'. But I digress...

Judging from what my eighth grader tells me about his school, here are a few things that would be 'weee-yurd':

Enjoying learning
Having any religion
Having dreams for your future that include an Ivy League education
Having political opinions you didn't get from MTV
Knowing that corn syrup is the devil
Caring about babies stuck in the Darfur situation
For girls, looking like your clothes weren't bought at Frederick's of Hollywood
Not having sex with someone after dating for two weeks

I'm proud of my weird kids. They're kicking ass at school academically and have a ton of friends. Some people think they're a little weird--whatever. They're proof that, while traditional schoolers may have a hard time adjusting to anything BUT traditional school, homeschoolers can do well anywhere. They're used to dealing with a variety of people in a variety of contexts, and kids their age in a classroom setting is just one of those contexts. Compare this to many public school kids, who really can't identify with people who aren't their age and grade.

My kids could learn in a cave. Which is good, because the celebrated West Valley School District offers very little more than a cave would. I consider it free babysitting. My kids still do their homeschooling curricula after school and on weekends--they're hungry for knowledge after all day in an environment devoid of it.

Next thing:

2. "All mainstream Christian churches believe in evolution. It's only closed minded extremists and uneducated people who don't."

First, I believe in evolution. Second, I jumped down this professor's throat. Lutherans aren't mainstream? Really? What about Pentecostals? How many millions of people are Pentecostal or Evangelical? He's marginalizing a lot of people. I bet he believes everyone who didn't vote for Obama is a closed minded extremist too.

Making broad negative statements about people just because they have to disagree with you... now THAT'S what I call closed minded. I believe people have the right to have other opinions. That's okay with me. I think evolution is fascinating... but if you don't agree, I still respect you as a person. My Bio professor should extend the same courtesy.

3. "I think all kids should go to public schools. There's more to an education than getting good test scores."

There was a time when public school advocates said that homeschoolers and private schools could not get the education they needed. Now that the facts about homeschoolers and private schoolers have been pretty conclusively proven--that they outperform public school kids, that is--the story has changed. Now, getting an education is beside the point. School is about more than learning. It's about:

  • learning to deal with people from different backgrounds
  • being 'socialized'
  • learning to be socially conscious
  • learning to, you know, be normal

It's amusing because most public schools are not even close to a homogeneous mix of backgrounds. The West Valley School District is almost entirely white middle and upper middle class kids. My children were learning more about other cultures when they spent the morning with a lady from the Philippines with some other homeschooled friends. They learned about what she loved about her home, why she still had to leave, and that Filipino food rocks. This is just one of hundreds of examples I could give. The point: no freakin way are public schools a good place to learn about different kinds of people.

The only other place you'll be stuck in a small room with other people your age all day is a nursing home.

And 'socialized'? For what? To learn to be bullied? To get in fights? My kids have been taught to be civil and respectful. They're popular with their classmates and their teachers adore them. Apparently not being smacked around (except by me... lol, jk) hasn't left them unable to deal with their peers.

Socially conscious? I won't even go there. It doesn't take a pre-med student to figure out that watching Star Trek every day in honors social studies isn't going to give you this profound understanding of world issues. As for being normal, see #1.

Why do public school advocates come up with these cheesy arguments? Because they are failing. Our public schools are getting worse by the day if you look at the statistics, and the only way they can justify the billions of tax dollars that go to this failed experiment is to say they are offering things that can't be measured.