Saturday, October 30, 2010

Part 8: Renewed Hope

Her hair was up in a loose pony tail. Clothed in a flowered gown, blue robe, and tan slippers, the woman sat in the hospital bed, her husband in the chair beside her, and they waited. She stared out the window into the early morning darkness and admired the city lights. There was something peaceful about that time of day, while the city still sleeps. She took a deep breath, allowing divine peace to calm her in preparation for the upcoming surgery.

“Time to go,” the nurse said, peeking her head around the curtain that split the room in two.

The woman stepped out of bed and followed the nurse down the hall to the elevator. She wasn’t sure what to expect as this was not only her first surgery, but also her first ever hospital visit. They entered a triage area full of people on hospital beds separated by curtains and bustling with hospital staff. The woman was directed to her bed and she climbed in.

After answering a long list of questions for the nurses and anesthesiologists, she was wheeled into the operating room. It looked just like tv: white walls, lights everywhere, people with masks dressed in blue, IVs and monitors. The decisiveness and speed at which the operating room staff moved was like a well oiled machine.

“We’re going to give you some oxygen now, so just breathe deep,” one of the staff said as they placed a mask over the woman’s mouth and nose.

She took about three breaths.

The next thing she realized, she was in the recovery room listening to a nurse talk on the phone, “She’s awake and stable. Ready to come back upstairs.” An escort came by shortly thereafter to wheel the woman back up to her room. When she got back, she found her husband sitting in the bedside chair with his laptop. It was a familiar sight and it comforted her.

Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the free cranberry juice, or maybe it was the knowledge that her body was finally rid of the harmful tissue that had been plaguing her for the past month. Whatever it was, she felt so good—better than she had in weeks. She wouldn’t find out the results of the biopsy for another few days, but still, a renewed sense of hope filled her heart and she was grateful that this was all finally coming to an end.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Part 7: Mystery Unveiled

One thing the woman learned quickly when going to doctor appointments is that waiting rooms are accurately named. Nothing makes bad news worse than having to wait 1 ½ hours to hear more of it. Luckily, her husband was a geek who had a major work project due that week, so he had brought his laptop along that day. They sat in the waiting room devouring as much information as they could about molar pregnancies to pass the time.

Symptoms: nausea/vomiting—check, vaginal bleeding—check, “snowstorm” appearance on ultrasound—check

“At least these pieces of the puzzle are finally adding up,” she said to her husband. “We’re finally getting some real answers. And at least they think it’s a partial mole. The complete one sounds a whole lot scarier.”

They were finally called back to a room to speak with the surgical gynecologist who would be taking over the woman's care. The doctor was young, approachable, sensitive, knowledgeable...and female—everything that caused the woman to take an immediate liking to her. She educated the couple about the disorder. Inside the woman's uterus abnormal cells from the fertilized egg were producing tissue resembling a bunch of grapes. Due to the cancer-like, invasive nature of these types of cells, the doctor highly recommended an outpatient surgical procedure called a dilation and curettage, or D&C. This is where the contents of the uterus are suctioned out and the inside of the uterine wall is scraped in an effort to remove all of the abnormal cells. In all reality, there was not much discussion about alternatives. At 5:45 a.m. the next morning they were to report to the hospital admission desk.

Though much had taken place over the course of the whole day, to her it all seemed to be moving so fast. The woman didn’t have time to think through all of the risks of the disease she carried in her body or the procedure she was having the next morning. Three weeks of mystery had finally been unveiled, and there was no sense dragging it out any longer. She was glad that there was finally something she did not have to wait for—the surgery.  The surgery would be the first step to ending this horrible month-long nightmare.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Part 6: Snowstorm

His emotionless eyes said it all. The doctor glided the ultrasound wand over the woman’s belly as he gazed intently at the screen. Though she didn’t know what he saw, she knew what he didn’t see. There was no baby. If there were to be, this would have been the time for it to show up on the monitor and he would have said something right away. He would have smiled. Instead, his face was somber. It screamed amidst the silence: There is no baby.

If there is no baby, then what is it? How could I be feeling all these symptoms and there be no baby? she wondered.

Finally, the doctor spoke up. “I still don’t see a fetus. What I do see is a little more concerning. This ‘snowstorm’ appearance indicates to me something along the lines of what is called a hydatidiform mole or molar pregnancy, but we will need to get a clearer ultrasound taken to be sure.”

“Hide-a-didda-pole what?” she asked.

“Hydatidiform mole.  It is when there is a genetic abnormality starting at conception...”

The woman drowned out the rest of his explanation as her mind wandered off on a tangent. Abnormal. There was that word again. Since the beginning none of this had been normal. She had to wait three married years before getting the opportunity to start trying for pregnancy. She had started bleeding 6 weeks into her pregnancy and it still hadn’t stopped yet. They never saw anything normal on the ultrasound. Her miscarriage did not happen normally. The only normal thing about this whole experience is that everything was abnormal.


Did he just say something about cancer? she thought. Apparently certain forms of this disorder could turn into cancer. Great. Even better.

The next ultrasound couldn’t come soon enough. She knew the drill for these vaginal ultrasounds by now. Not pleasant by any means, but if it meant better answers, it was certainly worth it.

The ultrasound confirmed the doctor’s suspicion. “This is definitely a molar pregnancy,” he said. “It happens in about one of every thousand pregnancies.What I don’t know is what kind. There are two possible types: complete and partial. Based on the ultrasounds we’ve seen, I would suspect you’re suffering from a partial, which has fewer risks involved.”

"Just out of curiosity," the woman began, "how often do you see this here?" The medical institution where she was receiving her care was well-known. Perhaps this happens a lot here, she thought.

The doctor replied, "We see this maybe once a quarter."

Wow. I guess not very often.

He continued, "But this condition has been around long enough that we know exactly how to treat it."

He referred them to a surgical gynecologist who would be able to give them more details. They set up an appointment for early that afternoon and made their way over to the next waiting room.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Part 5: Nothing

Day one: nothing.

Day two: nothing.

Day three: nothing.

“It’s okay to go now, little one,” the woman said aloud to her stomach. “I understand. We will see you again someday.” With a quiver in her voice she sang the baby’s first and last lullaby:

Glory baby you slipped away as fast as we could say baby…baby.
You were growing, what happened dear?
You disappeared on us baby…baby.
Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you…
Until we’re home with you…

Week one: nothing.

The doctor said two weeks. I guess I’ll wait a little longer, the woman thought.

By this point she began experiencing more distinct pregnancy symptoms. Brushing her teeth in the morning became pointless because each time she finished up, the toothpaste would make her gag, initiating an instantaneous reaction. She was grateful the toilet was only two feet away. Her body also got into the “after work” rhythm, forcing her to run to the bathroom as soon as she pulled into the garage. One time driving home, it came a little early. Thankfully a cup from a fast food drink sat empty in one of her cup holders.

Week two: nothing.

I’m still bleeding so I’ll just wait a little bit longer, she thought to herself. Perhaps it will finally happen this week.

After three weeks of nothing, the woman was finally convinced that nothing was happening. “There must be something still in there if I keep experiencing this morning sickness,” she said to her husband. “Maybe we do have a baby after all.”

“I don’t know what else could explain all this,” the husband replied.

For the first time in five weeks she worked up the courage to go back to the pregnancy website tracker to see how far along she was: eleven weeks. According to the article, she would soon be out of her first trimester and the morning sickness would soon subside. She scheduled another appointment and a glimmer of hope stirred in the back of their minds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Part 4: Something Normal

“I believe what I’m seeing here is the sac and this would be the fetal pole,” the ultrasound technologist reported, as he zoomed in to show the couple a closer look. “But this does not look normal to me. Considering you are eight weeks along, it should have been much bigger by now.”

The couple then moved to another room to discuss the situation with the doctor. While they waited, a spirit of relief calmed them.

 “Well, at least they finally found something,” the woman said to her husband. “I don’t mind being told I’m abnormal as long as there is something normal in there somewhere!”

The doctor finally arrived. He explained to them that it was indeed a miscarriage and that he believed that the bleeding she was experiencing was caused by a detachment of the placenta form the uterine wall. He discussed with them the options available to deal with the miscarriage. The couple decided to forego intervention methods and let it happen naturally.

“How long do you anticipate until this miscarriage will occur?” the woman asked.

“Based on the amount of blood in your uterus, I would imagine it would happen in the next few days,” the doctor replied. “Be sure to make an appointment after it happens so we can make sure you’re okay.”

“If it doesn’t happen as you say, how long should we wait before seeing you again?” the husband asked.

“If in two weeks you still haven’t miscarried, come back in,” the doctor said.

The couple left, and as they drove back home the woman could not help but relive the car ride from two weeks prior. Another dose of bad news, she thought. This is really happening. This pregnancy did not work out.

She grieved.

Fears about the miscarriage plagued her mind. How bad will it hurt? What if it happens while I’m at work? How do I move past this? She sent up a prayer for strength and courage to make it few the next few days, resting in the peace that followed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Part 3: Emotional Gymnastics

It was the day of the woman’s second ultrasound. Her hypochondriac tendencies nearly drove her mad the week before, but today was the day where she and her husband would finally be able to get some closure.

“I can say with certainty that this is definitely not an ectopic pregnancy,” the doctor reported after viewing the latest ultrasound scans.

Relief swept over the couple.

The doctor continued, “While your hormone levels did double like normal this past week, based on your ultrasound we believe that they will soon be on the decline, as there is no visible fetus present. You are going through a miscarriage, which should happen at any time. We want you to get another blood test just to be sure these levels are trending downward.”

“So, I should expect to see that the hormone levels have gone down from last time?” she asked.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “Someone will call you with the results once they are in.”

The woman and her husband made their way down to the lab services. The short elevator ride gave her time to reflect on the news. Well, at least we know what’s going on, she thought. This will soon be over and we can try again. The unknowns of miscarriage scared her and the loss of the little life inside grieved her, but she was hopeful that one day there would be new life, redemption to glory over the sorrow.

The phlebotomist rubbed the woman’s arm with alcohol and she turned her head.

“Don’t worry. It’s not you. I just don’t like needles,” the woman said and breathed deeply. In a matter of seconds it was all over and she headed out the door with her husband.

For the remainder of the day, the woman sat at her work desk trying to focus, but all she could think about getting the call with her test results. She waited an hour. She waited two…three…four. Finally, the day was over and she had still not received a call. Impatience getting the best of her, she called the off-hours nurse line to get the answer.

“Looking good!” the nurse said excitedly. “The levels have doubled from last time.”

“Um…that’s interesting,” she replied, puzzled. “I was told they were supposed to be going down since I am having a miscarriage.”

“Oh, dear! I’m so sorry!” exclaimed the nurse, noticeably embarrassed. “I didn’t look at your history first. I’m so sorry. You’re right. It’s been five days since your last draw, not two.”

“That’s okay. I just want to know what that means, since the doctor said they were supposed to be going down.”

“Well, you’ll have to check back with your doctor about that,” the nurse replied, and the two of them hung up.

A call to the doctor’s office the next day began with confirmation of the prior day’s blood test results, but unexpectedly followed with a request to come in again for yet another ultrasound for the following week. The woman wasn’t sure what to make of this, considering the fact the doctor had told her the day before that she would not come in again until after the miscarriage delivered. Sadness. Hope. Despair. Possibility. The emotional gymnastics were starting to wear on her, but she did not want to give up on her baby if her baby wasn’t ready to give up on her.

 Perhaps I am still pregnant, she thought. Maybe they were wrong.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Part 2: Puzzles

“What do you mean I puzzle you?” the woman asked, cold and uncomfortable on the exam table. She was six weeks along and had been bleeding slightly over the last three days. The prior five minutes of poking and prodding amidst silence was bad enough, but “You puzzle me” being the first statement out of the ultrasound technician’s mouth did not offer any reassurance.

The technician responded, “I’m not seeing anything that resembles a fetal sac. This does not look normal,” and she left the room to get a second opinion from a doctor.

Humming from the ultrasound equipment resonated through the room while disbelief resonated in the hearts of the woman and her husband. Anticipation for a more detailed explanation rose within her. The additional five minutes of waiting felt like an eternity.

She turned to her husband, “This cannot be good.”

Finally, the doctor entered the room. Through his British accent, he matter-of-factly explained how the woman was either dealing with an ectopic pregnancy or a normal miscarriage. He wanted to get some blood tests in order to track her hormone levels to determine which one of the two was the culprit. He requested that she return in a week for a follow-up ultrasound.

The woman left the clinic devastated. Anger, disappointment, sadness, anxiety, and fear wrestled with each other to get their fair share of attention. Unable to bridle them all, she sat in the passenger side front seat and wept as her husband drove her back to work.

Why is this happening? It wasn’t supposed to be this way!” she cried, pleading to God through her tears for some divine explanation.

There was nothing more she could do for the next week but wait and wonder. Either there was an embryo attached somewhere it shouldn’t be, which could threaten the woman’s very life, or the little life that had been there never made it very far and was gearing up for miscarriage.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Part 1: Possibilities


Her disbelieving eyes squinted as she held back the wand to gain better focus and then she brought it back in again for a closer look. She had taken the test other times before. There was only ever one line. The current result was unmistakable. Glaring back at her through the small pane were definitely two pink lines. She was pregnant!

Three long years she had waited to start trying for kids. Though she had hoped to have at least one child by now, she knew her husband was a little more conservative on the issue. He wanted to be sure he was ready before diving into this life-long commitment called parenthood. Understandable, of course, but in her mind, she at 26 and he at 30 meant both of their biological clocks were ticking, especially if they were to have at least 4 kids! She had learned the hard way, however, not to press the issue. Arguments and tears did nothing but delay what she had longed for since the day she married him: to have his children!

One day, a month after their 3-year anniversary, he casually mentioned how he would like to start trying. At such a moment, true desire trumps past bitterness and hurt. Bygones can be bygones. Equipped with that mindset, she seized the opportunity before he got any second thoughts. Three months later, here they were: pregnant! Her mind filled with dreams of the future, I wonder what it is? I wonder when I can hear the heart beat? What should we name the baby? It was all so new, so fresh, so scary, yet so exciting! Three years were worth the wait.

Immediately she began doing all the good stuff she should have been doing in the first place: eating super healthy, getting exercise, taking vitamins, etc. Never to late to start, she thought. She signed up on a website where she could track her weekly progress. Making the first appointment was a little nerve wracking. Inside she questioned her readiness to be a parent. This would be the first concrete step towards a new future. The appointment itself emphasized the weight of the responsibility as well as the reality and inevitability of what was to come. Little did she know how weighty that reality truly was.