January 17, 2009
Jonathan and I traveled to Dubai to visit friends of his. The city doesn’t seem to have a middle ground; it’s opulent wealth and migrant workers, sunbathers on the beach and shadows in burqas, water and desert, fast food chains and open-air souqs. In places like this, it’s hard for me not to stare at everything.
This afternoon, we visited one of many Dubai’s mall with its luxury shopping and wondered who was keeping all of these stores in business (in case you can’t tell, this is a Manolo Blahnik shoe store.) Later in the day, we took a boat across the river to visit the older section of the city and some of its shoe stores.
As they say in Asia, same same, but different.
Before you read this, I’ll warn you that it is the story of our recent miscarriage. It’s long and some might find it depressing. I wrote it for anyone who needs to know someone else has been there and because I don’t think this sort of thing needs to be a secret. I’ll be writing more about it, but for now, this is just the story.
In early November, we found out that I was pregnant. We were hoping to have children fairly close together, but didn’t expect it to be so soon. It would probably be due in July when Alida would be 15 months old. When we told people, most said “you’re crazy” and we kind of agreed with them.
Almost immediately my milk supply dropped and I reached out to the ladies at our church. I was heartbroken at the thought of robbing Alida of my milk. She was only 7 months old. But, as I heard from the ladies, I was encouraged. I heard how close in age their children were, how they were best friends, how the oldest was too young to know jealousy when the second one was born. They reminded me that a sibling would be more of a blessing to Alida than a few more months of milk (if indeed those were our choices.)
I still felt like we were crazy, but became even more joyful at the thought of this little one that would join our family. I had very similar symptoms to my pregnancy with Alida – one day of nausea, serious smell aversion (rosemary this time), and extreme breast pain (now when breastfeeding.) I didn’t feel nauseated, but that didn’t come until later with Alida.
My first appointment was schedule for December 6. At this point I should have been almost 9 weeks. The midwife said my uterus felt about 8 weeks along, but since they only have a Doppler at their office, she was unable to find a heartbeat. She offered the option to go for a dating ultrasound, or I could just wait until my next appointment in January. In spite of the fact that there is no history of miscarriage in my family, I felt an urgency to know that there was something in there, so we scheduled an ultrasound.
The next day, as I lay on the ultrasound bed, we saw the gestational sac, but there wasn’t anything inside. The technician tried every angle and even did an internal ultrasound, but there still wasn’t anything. We met with Dr. Bootstaylor who told us, with hands pacing gently with his words, that only time would really tell us what was going on. Maybe my dates were wrong. If I was only five weeks pregnant than there wouldn’t be anything but a sac.
I felt that this couldn’t be. My symptoms lined up with the timing. But, I’m no doctor, and I don’t know my body perfectly. Maybe I was wrong. They sent me upstairs for bloodwork. If the hormones in my body indicated that I was eight weeks pregnant, then we would have a problem. He said we were looking for results much less than 10,000.
The wait in the doctor’s office and the lab was long. I cried in fear and disappointment. I couldn’t keep it together. I knew that whatever the outcome was, God was still in control, but I had grown attached to the dream of this little one. It was supposed to be the size of a grape by now.
That afternoon, I got the 24-hour stomach bug that was going around. It made me miserable in a different way and was a good distraction. As the weekend went on, Jonathan and I talked and agreed that neither of us were hopeful. I knew that there were times that nothing showed up on the ultrasound and then the next week there was a baby, but I also knew that many, many pregnancies end practically before they’ve even begun. As I nursed Alida on Sunday night, I realized that it no longer hurt, and the suspicion became stronger.
Monday morning, Dr. Bootstaylor called to tell me that my hormone levels were 38,000. It was a blighted ovum, which is an egg that never grows in spite of the fact that your body still thinks you’re pregnant. I was not surprised. After spending the weekend in a state of limbo, it was good to have confirmation. I asked him what happens next. I’d had no cramping or spotting. The only change was that my symptoms had disappeared. He told me I could take medicine to make it pass, or I could let it happen naturally. I believe in the body’s ability to do what it needs to do, and hoped that I could let it happen.
But, less than twenty-four hours later, I called the doctor to get the name of the medicine. I still wanted to wait. I knew that if my body did it, there wouldn’t be a mistake. I didn’t want to wonder if I had waited, would something have shown up. But, I’m also not a very patient person. It was on my mind all day, every day. Every time I went to the bathroom, I looked for blood. When was it going to start?
Dr. Bootstaylor had also suggested I call the midwives to get their opinions. One thing I love about Intown Midwifery is that they are less concerned about the decisions that you make and more concerned that you make informed decisions. He wanted me to know all my options. So, on Thursday I called and talked to Anjli. She suggested that I come in to have my hormone levels tested to see if they were declining, as they should in a miscarriage. Or I could go to the ultrasound that I still had scheduled for the next day. That would provide me with more immediate answers.
The next day I went, and saw the same thing I’d seen the week before. The only difference was that the sac was smaller (around 6wks when I should’ve been almost 10wks) and they said it looked like there was blood in it. This, along with my lack of symptoms, gave me peace.
I spoke to the P.A. there who told me she had also had a blighted ovum. She had worked for an OBGYN before her current job and told me that she had seen people spot for up to two months. The patients would call every week waiting and wondering when it was going to happen. I knew how I was already feeling after a week, and could understand the feeling. I decided that if it hadn’t happened naturally by the following Thursday (Jonathan’s last off day before Christmas) I would take the medicine. It was bad enough not being pregnant anymore without having to remember this Christmas as the one where I spent the day miscarrying.
As many of you know, we announced our pregnancy online the day I went to the midwife. We had already told our family and many close friends because my theory is that if something were to go wrong, I would tell them anyway. I did not anticipate having to tell so many well-wishers that something had gone wrong. I struggled with feeling bad for making others feel bad. Then I realized that in this situation, the feelings of others are the last thing I should be worried about.
The up side of it being broadcast so widely was that we had many people reach out to us who have gone through this same type of miscarriage as well as other miscarriages. After the initial disappointment of not seeing an embryo, there were very few tears. We didn’t feel like we had experienced a death. The life had never begun. That’s better, right? We had never seen the little heart beating. Nothing had died. It had just never been. What about those who lost a fully formed little person? How can we be heartbroken when we have such an amazing child already?
Maybe this was a second chance for Alida and me. My milk supply was almost back to normal. No more worries about where I was going to get enough breast milk to feed her or if I would have to use formula. She could get all of our attention for a while longer.
On Thursday, December 20, I took the medicine. I made sure Jonathan was home to take care of Alida in case I had to take the pain medicine and in case it was difficult emotionally. I had read about a few experiences and knew it might be very painful. It ended up being fairly uneventful. I felt like I was having a bad period, and was able to see when the sac passed. Yes, it is a little gross, but it’s life. Evidently it happens to millions of women every year.
When it passed, I didn’t feel sad or cry. I actually felt relief. I knew that my womb was now empty and ready for the next little one.
Last year, I realized (to my great shame) that other than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I had never read The Chronicles of Narnia. Since December, I’ve been making my way through them. The main problem I’m having is that once I start one, not much else gets done (and I don’t sleep) until I’ve finished it. Because of this, I have to ration them out.
I know classics are classics for a reason, but the more I read, the more I’m amazed at C. S. Lewis’ writing abilities. The books were intended for children so the language is simple. Yet, the stories have charm that appeals to everyone. He uses phrases and situations that any child can understand. I also love reading about Aslan and the different characters’ reactions to him.
When I first started The Magician’s Nephew, I began writing down the phrases that appealed to me until I realized I would never get through the story that way. He is so unpretentious and honest in his writing. Who doesn’t know what he means when he says that “his face went the wrong sort of shape as it does if you’re trying to keep back your tears”? Any child can immediately imagine what Digory’s face looked like.
In The Horse and His Boy, Shasta doesn’t know how to use the horse’s reins because he was taught to ride by a talking horse. So, the first time he had to ride a regular horse “he looked very carefully out of the corners of his eyes to see what the others were doing (as some of us have done at parties when we weren’t quite sure which knife or fork we were meant to use) and tried to get his fingers right.” I think a person would be lying if they said they’d never done this – or something similar.
My favorite quote so far is at the end of The Horse and His Boy when he is summing up what happened to everyone:
“Avaris also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.”
Do you have a favorite children’s book that you still enjoy reading as an adult?
One of my goals for 2013 is to organize all my photos. I’m hoping to combine that project with my love of remembering “On This Day in History” and post a photo (or photos) of what was going on that day. I’m also hoping this will help me tell some of the stories that I never got around to telling when they were actually happening. I haven’t figured out how often I will post. I want to make it doable, but also want it to be a challenge. I hope you enjoy it.
January 4, 2011 was the last day of our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We had spent the last three days hiking up and down ancient temples with four of our friends. We also suffered through a fish foot massage, and enjoyed seeing US dollars come out of the ATMs. (Everyone uses USD, but they will refuse your money if it isn’t in perfect condition – or they reserve the right to take 90% of the face value. True story.)
Before we headed back to the airport, we spent the morning touring one last temple and the afternoon taking a cooking class. The food had the freshness of Vietnamese food and the warmth of Thai curries, which is the perfect balance for me. One of my favorite things about Cambodia was the people. They had an openness that we had missed while being in Vietnam. They also weren’t afraid of the sun, which was a refreshing change.
The beautiful, brown children were always smiling and waving at us. Each of these girls had a Disney princess backpack on.
I can’t believe they serve beer to people wielding large knives.
I remember seeing tourist carrying babies as they went up and down the temples. It was nice to see that once children come, the traveling doesn’t have to stop. Hopefully that’ll be us with our little ones some day.
Well hello, 2013. Nice to see you. Let’s see if you can one-up 2012. It was a good year.
I flew and hitchhiked to Charleston, SC last night so I could ring in the new year with Jonathan. It was my first night away from Alida *sniff sniff*. She stayed with my parents and probably had such a good time she won’t want to go back home.
It was wonderful to spend the evening with my husband, my love, my best friend, the most amazing father of my child. Here we are on the way back to the airport this morning having our first cup of coffee – gotta start the year off right.
I’m looking forward to what this year has to offer. What are you hoping it brings?
(This was posted from my phone, which I’ve never done. We’ll see how it turns out.)
Yesterday, I went to my sister Joy’s new apartment to help her get settled. She and X are living in this particular complex as part of a TOAG internship. But, even if that wasn’t the case, I know this is the kind of place Joy would like to live anyway.
Their apartment is near the back of the complex, and as I drove toward it, I passed people walking everywhere. This is nothing special in and of itself, but as I looked at the people I could see that this wasn’t your usual Atlanta complex. I saw faces whose origin I couldn’t pinpoint. The residents are mostly (if not all) refugees.
Before we started unpacking, we saw a man standing outside the next apartment. Figuring there is no time like the present, we went out to meet the neighbor. He is from Bhutan. It took a little while for us to figure this out because he kept telling us the words for things in Nepali. He spent 26 years in Bhutan, 18 in Nepal, and has now been in the US for 3 years. (When I googled Bhutan, “Bhutan refugees” is the third option suggested.)
He asked if we were American, and when we said we were, he was confused that we lived in an apartment. Why not live in a separate house with grass and a place for growing vegetables? We tried to explain that many Americans live in apartments by choice, and also that houses are expensive for everyone. He and some of his male relatives work at a chicken factory (he brought out his ID to show us).
His adult nephew joined our conversation and helped with some translations. I always feel bad when non-English speakers apologize for their “bad English” – especially people like these. I would rather they be proud of what they have learned. A little while later, his wife arrived from shopping at the Dekalb Farmers Market, and we got to meet her. They invited us inside where she quickly cut up apples, and with a “namaste”, offered a plate with bananas and apples on it. I couldn’t help but think that maybe she would teach Joy to cook some foreign food. During the whole visit, Alida sat quietly on my lap and watched everything. The husband kept saying he loved us, and Joy was able to explain the difference between love and like – you love your wife, you like your neighbor.
They were surprised to find out that Joy and I come from such a large family. The neighbor is one of eight, but only has three children himself. His two older daughters were gone and live in Texas and Pennsylvania – something his wife mentioned with a hand gesture that could’ve either meant “they’re out of my hair” or “I can’t believe they’ve left me.” The nephew has two children, but doesn’t plan to have anymore. He talked about how much it costs for children to go to university. I thought it was great that that was part of his plan for his children.
I found out that several of their relatives work at the Dekalb Farmers Market – a place we have been going to as long as I can remember. One of my favorite things about the market is the variety of cultures and languages represented there. I love the flags hanging from the ceiling. I don’t recognize many of them, and it reminds me how big the world is. How much is out there besides the stars and stripes. Some of the jobs there seem really difficult and I wonder how they feel about working there. Are they happy ‘just having a job’, or do they go to work every day dreading it? When I think about it, though, I saw people every day in Vietnam who spent their lives elbow deep in fish guts. Of course, that doesn’t mean they like it.
I am so spoiled.
Talking to them took me away from Atlanta. I miss those conversations in Vietnam where half of the story is told with your hands and face because neither of you know the words. I hadn’t realized how deeply I’d slipped back into our culture of sameness, comfort, and ease.
I would say that I envy Joy and Xavierian’s opportunity, but instead I’m just going to have another reason (besides my soon-arriving new nephew) to visit them.
I’m curious – is the possibility of liking your job a Western luxury?