Saturday, October 15, 2011
October 15th - Remembering
I recently discovered an amazing site, Band Back Together, and this post is in response to their efforts to recognize the October 15th day of remembering for all the lost pregnancies and babies and those who have lived through the experience.
Here’s my story.
It seems like a person should be able to grieve any loss that they endure in their own way. That’s not always the case as I found out. And when you feel relieved by that loss at the time when it happens, then what? Do you later have the right to feel sad about it? I’m still trying to sort it all out and honestly, I don’t know that I will ever feel like I’m feeling the “right” way about it.
The summer between my Junior and Senior years of high school was going along well. I was working a shitty job but had two of my best friends working with me every day so besides the actual work, it was a lot of fun. I was going out almost every night, hanging with friends, making out with boys, all of the normal stuff that a bored teenager in a town that was much too small would be doing.
About halfway through summer, I started to get sick. I was vomiting, had really bad pains on my left side nearly all of the time, and felt really weak. Then I started bleeding. It wasn’t a normal “time of the month” bleeding, it was much worse and on-going for several weeks. Something was really not right.
I got really sick one night with a high fever, non-stop vomiting, and overall just feeling like I was going to die. My parents were out of town so my sister and her boyfriend took me to an urgent care facility where the first thing they asked was “could you be pregnant?” Of course not! No way could that happen. I was only with one guy and we used condoms so that was not on my radar. They treated me for a virus, gave me anti-nausea medication, and sent me on my way.
I continued to bleed and to be sick to the point where I made an appointment with my pregnant 16 year old friend’s OB-GYN just to be checked out. I could have a tumor or something for all I knew. She went with me to the appointment and I was scared to death. I had never been to an OB-GYN nor had I had a pelvic exam despite having been sexually active since shortly before I turned 16. I was safe, that should have been enough as far as I thought.
The nurse and doctor were both very kind. The exam was quick and fairly painless except for when he pushed on my left side where my pain had been coming from. The doctor was quiet as he ordered my lab work and sent me to the waiting area.
In the lab, the tech asked me, “Is this your first pregnancy?”
I nearly choked on my spit. I replied, “There better not be a pregnancy!”
I was beyond nervous at that point. Of course they didn’t tell me anything right then. They sent me home to wait for a call with the findings of the blood work.
I picked up the phone on the first ring when the call finally came in around 4:30pm the following day.
The voice on the other end of the line said, “Lisa, this is so-and-so from Dr. X’s office calling. We have the results of your blood work….your pregnancy test was positive. We need to schedule you to come back in immediately……”
I didn’t hear what else she said. All I heard was a loud ringing in my ears and I instantly felt like I was going to pass out or throw up, or maybe both. I just hung up the phone. I couldn’t think straight or talk or even cry at that point. What do you do when you are a 16 year old honor student from a good Christian family with high hopes for your future and hear that over the phone?
I sat at the kitchen table for a long time. Luckily I was the only one home when the call came in. I had about an hour to process the news until my mom came home. Oh god, my mom. This was going to kill her! How do I tell her? What is she going to say? Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god….
When mom walked in, she instantly knew something was very wrong. She sat down at the table but the look on her face wasn’t concern, it was anger. She knew what I was going to say. And she was furious!
This was not the gentle, supportive “After School Special” moment that you see on TV when the pregnant teen breaks the news to her mom and she gives her daughter a hug and tells her everything is going to be OK. She started yelling at me, questioning me how could I have been so stupid, did I know that I just completely screwed up my entire life, did I understand that this was not HER problem and that she was not going to take on the burden that I had created. On and on she ranted. I let her; there was nothing for me to say.
She stormed out of the house, on her way to a pharmacy several towns over to buy a pregnancy test to see it for herself. That left me alone in the house again to let it all sink in. I just couldn’t believe it. Not me. This was not supposed to happen to me. I was careful, I was safe, I used a condom always. Where did it go wrong?
It didn’t matter. Fact was fact and I was pregnant. I called the doctor’s office back the following day and made appointment. He was concerned about my pain and symptoms and scheduled me for an ultrasound. I was expecting a little goo on my belly and that would be that. Oh no, not quite. At that early stage, a standard ultrasound wouldn’t show anything. I had to have a vaginal ultrasound which is basically adding insult to injury at that age and in that situation.
That ultrasound also showed nothing in my uterus. I didn’t know enough about pregnancy and what could go wrong at that age to know what that meant.
Well, what it meant is, as the doctor explained after reviewing the ultrasound images, was that although I was pregnant the fetus was not growing in my uterus. It was growing in my left fallopian tube, which is also known as a tubal or ectopic pregnancy. It was the first time in my life that I had heard that term.
My first thought was “Oh no! They are going to be able to move it from the tube to my uterus and I’m going to have to have this baby or ask for the abortion!”
I was soon told that neither of those scenarios would be happening. Neither was an option or a choice. I learned there are two things to know about that type of pregnancy: 1) the baby cannot survive and 2) you can die of internal bleeding if it ruptures your fallopian tube.
My situation was dire; the tube was stretched to the point of rupturing. I needed emergency surgery. I went straight from the doctor’s office to the hospital, was admitted and immediately rushed to pre-op to be prepped for surgery. It was scary, painful, and embarrassing and just really was not something that I ever thought I would be going through in my life, let alone at that point in my life.
I had laparoscopic surgery which means that they made three small incisions, one in my belly button, 1 over the left fallopian tube, and one lower on my bikini line. As soon as the scope touched the bulging fallopian tube, it exploded from the pressure of the growing fetus. I was bleeding out quickly. The prepared my mother for the worst and had blood transfusions on the ready. But I was lucky. They got the bleeding stopped and the rest of the surgery went on fine.
I was alone in recovery and for a while in my room. My mom was still very angry and embarrassed. She told my dad because she felt he should know but she didn’t tell anyone else. Not even my sister. Our cover story was that I had a cyst on my ovary that ruptured. Sounded common enough and no one would question it.
It was made clear to me that this was to be a secret shame on me, something for me to carry alone; I didn’t deserve anyone’s support or sympathy. I had been stupid and careless and if not for the grace of God, would have really fucked my entire life up. That is how she saw it and I was not to question it, ever.
As far as I was to be concerned, I had been given a “get out of jail free card” from God. At the time, I agreed with that thinking and decided I shouldn’t question why, I should just be grateful that I wouldn’t be teenage mother and have my entire future taken away from me. I wouldn’t have to embarrass my family. I didn’t have to tell the guy that he was on the hook for a kid as a teenager either. Besides a few scars, the whole thing had just gone away. And I didn’t even have to feel guilty about wanting an abortion because I didn’t have to ask for one technically. I just came out like a rose in this situation.
But I didn’t. In reality, I felt an immense amount of guilt. Guilt over being happy that I didn’t have to be pregnant like my friend. Guilt that I was prepared to have an abortion. Guilt that I had hurt and disappointed my parents, especially my mother, so badly. I even felt guilty that I didn’t have to have a baby when my friend did because I know how hard that was on her and how many people looked down at her for being a mom while in high school. Guilt, I couldn’t escape it no matter which direction I turned.
The thing I felt the most guilty about at the time, and even to this very day is that I was happy that I didn’t have to face the consequences of my actions. How horrible of a person I must be to be glad that I got off the hook, even when that means that the life I was carrying wasn’t there anymore?
That guilt never let me feel the profound sadness that I had over that loss. Every time I started to mourn, to let the sadness of losing a baby, my baby, set in, I would berate myself for being ungrateful for the second chance I was given to be a “normal” good-girl teenager again. I wasn’t allowed to be sad, or to even acknowledge that it had ever happened. I was expected to be thankful for how it turned out and get back to business as usual right away. I was to tell no one and I was not to ever speak of it in my house. That was my price to pay for my stupid mistake.
I didn’t tell anyone for the longest time. I wouldn’t dare. Many of my closest friends still don’t know and may never know. Instead, I acted out pain and hurt and did self destructive things to myself for a while. It was really the only way to distract myself from what had happened and the things I wasn’t allowed to feel.
At home, I was constantly reminded of the “problem” I had caused, the hospital bills that were incurred, and the inconvenience of the situation in indirect ways by my mother. She wasn’t a cruel woman; she was just so disappointed and thrown off balance by her “baby” finding myself in the situation that she didn’t know how to deal with it. I don’t blame her; I don’t know that I would do any better handling it.
Life went on. I played pretend that everything was fine and normal and good. I kept up my grades, partied with my friends, worked two jobs, and pretended that I wasn’t any different than I was at the beginning of that summer. But I was. My heart, and my body, had been broken in ways I never even knew were possible.
So here it is, in black and white. For all the world to see. I will not be ashamed of it any more. I will mourn the loss of that soul, because it is sad that it was lost. And I won’t deny feeling that loss because I know that, even in those circumstances, I have earned the right to
Let this also serve a few purposes on my pursuit to 30 Days of Shamelessness. I would say this serves to fill
#23. air one of your secrets , #13. speak up about something crap that was done to you and #12. share about a health struggle. Hey, it was a big, heavy post to write, I'm making it count for a few things...don't argue with me, it's my blog.