Products of Conception

Biology 101

This morning, a friend called me out about my last post, “The Nitty-Gritty.” I was told that I shouldn’t be apologizing for grieving. She is right, but I can’t seem to help it. I’ve been made to feel like I shouldn’t be feeling this way because I was only 15 weeks pregnant. I haven’t been able to find closure. And I’m going to tell you why.

The same night I was discharged from the hospital, pretty drugged up on something similar to Morphine, I called my midwife and told her what had happened. I don’t remember if I asked her what came next, but she did tell me that it was most likely hospital policy that the baby’s body and the placenta (which I had delivered together) would be sent to the Pathology Lab for testing. She said this was a standard procedure. When the weekend was over, I signed various forms authorizing my midwives to request all my medical records from the night of my miscarriage. They had told me that they would review all the labs, nurse’s notes and doctor’s orders and would try to figure out, based on the results, why I had gone into labor at 15 weeks of pregnancy, and what the sex of the baby had been.

I waited for a week, maybe more (My memory is hazy since I’ve been in kind of a grief-induced walking coma for 2 months). When I heard back from my midwives, there was no answer to any of my questions. There was no Pathology report. There were no nurse’s notes or doctor’s orders. There were only the lab results on the blood work they had done, checking my iron levels and iron binding. My midwives expressed dismayed amazement that the hospital hadn’t sent the baby to Pathology. So I asked, what happened to my baby’s body? The answer: I don’t know. But I knew. Because I know that anything that comes from a person’s body that contains blood is considered a biohazardous material. And I know that biohazardous material is incinerated. I knew that if my baby’s body hadn’t been sent to Pathology, then it was thrown away, like trash. And this is what keeps me up at night.

I have been on a downward spiral of depression since I lost the baby. I feel regret that I chose to go to the hospital, because if I had stayed home and delivered with my midwife, I would have the answers to my questions. I feel guilt that I had been too shocked to form cohesive thoughts and verbalize the questions that were in my head. Why didn’t I ask to see the baby? Why didn’t I ask what I had had? Because I was thinking those things as I lay on the gurney in my bloody johnny. I feel devastated and disgusted and angry that my baby’s body was thrown away like a piece of trash and I will never have my questions answered. I feel cheated because instead of planting a tree in honor of a lost life, I could be burying my baby.

Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor to talk about medication for this depression. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me with astonishment and actually said, “That is so fucked up!”. She told me it was no wonder I was depressed because on top of experiencing a traumatic loss, I had received poor care. My doctor told me she was going to call the hospital and try to find the answers to my questions so that I could try to find some closure. But she has not been able to find any answers for me. In fact, the answers she got left me feeling even worse. She was told by the head of the Emergency department that there is no protocol in the ER for the handling of “products of conception” after 12 weeks of pregnancy. There is no record of the Pathology lab ever receiving any “products of conception” in my name.

Those three words, products of conception, drilled a hole in my heart each time they were said. Over and over and over, “products of conception aren’t in Pathology” “products of conception aren’t stored anywhere in the hospital” “there are no protocols for the handling of products of conception”. The last time I checked, the definition of a product of conception is A BABY!! What the hell else is the product of conception? Baby, baby, baby, baby. Let’s say the word, people. I don’t give a shit if doctors and hospital personnel fear saying the word “baby” when referencing the “product” of pregnancy. Will the world end if we say that I delivered a baby – that my baby wasn’t sent to pathology – that there are no protocols for the handling of a baby’s body? I didn’t go into the hospital to have an abortion. I went into the hospital to deliver a baby. And I’d like that to be acknowledged.

My doctor asked about grief support groups for women who have miscarried. The answer was that there is one, but its for women who lost a baby at 18+ weeks of pregnancy. So because I was 15 weeks, I guess I’m not supposed to feel this bone-crushing grief? I guess I wasn’t supposed to have loved my unborn child, because I was just 15 weeks? I didn’t pass a kidney stone and spend the last 2 months grieving the stone. I delivered a baby. A baby I already loved. I am grieving a lost love. So why am I being made to feel like I shouldn’t be? I’ve been feeling like society thinks I shouldn’t have blinked an eye at the loss of my “product of conception” because I wasn’t at the socially acceptable number of weeks to feel grief. That is bullshit, but also why I feel apologetic when I burst into tears and can’t even speak when I think about it. I lay awake at night thinking of everything I should have done, all the questions I should have asked, wondering if I can ever go through another pregnancy again, even though I want that baby so badly that I cry. But I feel bad if I bring it up with friends, or cry about it to my family members. I don’t want to make others feel as badly as I do.

So that, my friend, is why I was apologetic. I’ll try better next time.

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The Nitty-Gritty

When I started this blog, I meant for it to be me commenting on the antics of my 2 children, my life as a mom and wife, my control-freak anxieties about basic motherhood issues all wrapped up with a little bit of wit and sarcasm.

What I didn’t expect (and who ever does?) was that I would go through the traumatic event of my life, so far, while I was writing posts for others to read. So, in a way, I feel like I should apologize to my readers for the deep, dark things that I have been writing about. But since I write more for myself than anyone else (selfish, I know, but true nonetheless) I need to be true to how I am feeling now. This has become part of my journey through motherhood. I have discovered, the hard way, that it isn’t just spit-up and diapers, sassy back-talk and snuggling. Sometimes motherhood is dark and gritty and ugly. And I will be walking through that part of my journey for a while longer.

I hope that it will be sooner, rather than later, when I can start blogging regularly about the antics of my children and my light-hearted frustrations as a parent. But I also hope that some of my deeper posts can help other women out there, struggling with something, feel less alone in their pain and sadness. And I hope that my friends who read this will neither experience this horrible part of motherhood, nor feel neglected as I withdraw from the real world for a while. I hope that these posts can be how you gauge my emotions and what I’m going through mentally, so that when I can’t speak of it, you will still understand.

Some Body That I Used to Know

I’ve got this love-hate relationship with my body. I’ve been overweight since puberty –  that time when I was ashamed of my body for not being picture perfect. Now that I’m in my mid to late 30s, I’m no longer ashamed, but I do still hate to try on clothes, and sometimes find myself wishing that I had a little more willpower when it came to food! And I find that I don’t really care what other people think of my body (except maybe my husband) because I’m not on the prowl for a date, and I’m confident in my marriage and friendships. But in the last 2 months, I’ve felt a different kind of emotion about my body: hatred.

Being pregnant is the most vulnerable time in a woman’s life – especially for a control freak like myself. Because once you’ve conceived that baby, there is nothing else you can really do except eat well, get prenatal care, and trust your body to do its job. You can’t pick the baby’s gender. You can’t pick the baby’s birth date. You can’t reach in there during conception and do a chemistry jobbie with the available DNA to get the exact traits you’re hoping for. “Oh, let’s just get rid of that family history of mental illness gene over there… grab that athletic giftedness gene over here… blond hair, brown eyes, oh! Don’t forget the good singing voice and dancing with rhythm genes!” So really, what it comes down to is trust. Trust in your medical professionals and trust in your body.

I guess I don’t have to tell you that I don’t really trust my body so much anymore. In fact, after I had gone through some of those stages of grief and finally felt some acceptance, I started to feel betrayed. Betrayed by the one thing I trusted most – my body. My amazing body that had conceived, carried, birthed and breastfed 2 beautiful babies, the body I trusted completely, had betrayed me. The working theory behind my second trimester miscarriage is that my body wasn’t producing enough progesterone (the hormone that keeps your placenta strong) and my placenta weakened and separated from my uterus which kicked my body into survival mode and immediately put me into labor. So my body thought it was doing the right thing. And I know that if I had been much farther along, it would have worked out. But your body is just like a machine that has been programmed to do one job, it doesn’t think, and it doesn’t understand that, sometimes, timing is everything. And then, to rub my face in it even more, my body responded just like it did twice before when I had given birth. I healed quickly with almost no pain and my milk came in.

The new hatred for my body is because of this normal response. Stupid body, there is no baby here to feed, and you didn’t have a normal birth. I feel like my body should have suffered a little more for making me lose my baby. My body wasn’t working perfectly and Bing, Bang, Boom, it is all over and done with and my body is a-okay again like nothing ever happened. While my brain, and my heart and soul are still trying to cope. My body is pain free, but my heart is not. And so I am angry at my body, not myself, my body because it didn’t do its damn job. It let me down. And I wish there was some physical pain to deal with. Because that would be easier, I think.