Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Riding through the wobbles

Simply put on Thursday 17th January I was a complete washout.   I'd  lost the beginnings of a baby and with it the delicate hopes and silent prayers that were gently strung around my heart.  What followed next was a new dawn and a new day and as the saying goes, 'you've got to get back on the horse that threw you'.  I know this to be exhausting and painful and most of the time you just want to sling the filthy nag back in its bloody stable and slam the door.  But in order to move forward you generally have to face your demons and ride at them like hell.  So last week I reluctantly dragged the horse from its stall - because a toddler marching at your side waits for no man, woman or beast - and rode like the devil with a lump in my throat. 

Irritatingly I hadn't factored Leo being so in tune with my emotions (of course he wont let me wallow in my own cupboard of sadness outside of his bedtime) so when we play with his wooden trains or race around outside I occasionally lie down and pretend he's run me over with the plastic motor bike or mini locomotive.  This tiny breather of self pity is all I need until much later in the night when I can cry alone.  I realise holding it all together instead of letting everything go is twisting my conscience about grieving, but I'm there with misty exhausted eyes for the good, the bad and the ugly.  Is it helping?  Nope, but the weeks holiday I've booked for us on the Kenyan coast most definitely will.

Ahhhhhhh sea air and ocean wash me clean and vodka dawas cleanse me internally!


Chris got back on Monday evening.  He had driven a horsebox up from Nairobi with a metal giraffe inside for the Lodge - yep my life is like some weird movie.  So I've added a few photos to prove (hi mum) that I haven't crashed and burned (yet) and we're slowly and carefully making it through the wobbles.




Sunday, January 27, 2013

Real, Cruel, Beautiful & True

Thursday 17th is captured in my mind like a series of badly taken photos that are blurry at the edges but sharply in focus.  I hung on a wire that day between the space of here and now, there and then. 

On our way to the hospital we were pulled over by the traffic police.  It was 6am and dark.  They showed us a speed gun indicating Chris had been travelling a wicked 79kmph.  They asked to see his driver's license.  As he fumbled around in the car's plastic consul he whispered something about having left it on the back of the sofa.  Bang.  A second offence.  I rested my head against the slightly open window and breathed in the tropical morning air.  Chris explained we were in a hurry and he would pay the fine that afternoon, only could someone write it quickly because we had to reach the hospital and we were late.  How to slow up a group of bored Ugandan traffic cops from reverse to stationary?  Advise in no uncertain terms to hurry the hell up.  They told us to wait....and wait....and wait.  Moments later Chris slammed his foot on the accelerator and we disappeared like wild dogs into the early morning dawn.  Fine-less no less.

At the hospital I was asked to repeat my medical history and they took a sample of blood to check my blood type.  I had explained I knew my blood type, it was on my notes, but the charge nurse wanted to make sure.  To add insult to injury I asked if they had a clean blood bank on site - of course they didn't.  Shortly after the blood was taken a tall and nervous looking male nurse requested that I sit in a small room close to the waiting area and as he pulled equipment and gloves from a drawer I cautiously asked what he was doing?  About to place a cannula into the back of my hand.  I asked him not to, suggesting that it wasn't necessary until I was due to go into theatre, but he was adamant.  It was his job.  The fiasco that ensued had him stabbing the cannula repeatedly into the back of my left hand - I have veins you can drive trucks down - and not only did he miss, he spectacularly messed up.  I cringed as my hand was jerkily held aloft and asked him to stop.  He told me to sit quietly so I shouted NO, put my head between my knees and seconds later crashed to the floor unconscious.

My eyes blinked open.  Chris and two nurses lifted me onto a bed and a second cannula was stuck into my undamaged right hand.  My left hand curled tightly shut with pain and I winced as sticking tape was placed over my opposite hand to hold the cannula in place. I slowly rotated my wrist and noticed the needle point of the cannula poking up from under the surface of my skin.  I groaned and asked Chris to drive me home.  I was taken by wheel chair into a lift and we travelled to the floor above and into a room that overlooked the hospital car park. We waited in silence and Chris read the paper.  A nurse appeared with a gown and as I removed my clothes to don the dark green sack the cannula got caught in my shirt sleeve.  Chris picked my hand free and I angrily spoke about the awfulness of the moment; the mockery, the irony, the ridiculousness and the overriding sadness that was washing across me.  A hard knot of fear began to release itself - I was looking down from above and it all felt wrong.  I thought of Leo and his birth and I thought of Ella and of what we had lost and as I lay back on the metal bed and my glasses were removed I cried very softly into my raised, yet bent and bruised arm.

I remember they made me wait in theatre for Dr Busingye to arrive from a C-section delivery.  I remember a young nurse wiping away my tears that wouldn't stop with a scratchy tissue.  I remember someone hunched over at my side attempting to attach the imposing stirrups to the side of the bed.  I remember thinking this is all a dreadful joke and why the fuck am I in theatre completely aware, alert and scared instead of waiting outside for my turn.  I remember seeing Dr Busingye before they placed the syringe of knock-out sleep into the back of my hand.  I remember he was masked, but spoke softly about the procedure he was ready to perform on my uterus.  I remember thinking you did the same thing for me nearly 4 years ago so don't mess it up. I don't remember falling into nothing.  I remember waking up and a nurse pulling a wooden stick from my mouth.  I remember Chris being there moments later.  I remember feeling numb to pain and full of emptiness.  I remember walking to the toilet and being amazed at how there was nothing to show for my loss apart from small drops of blood.  I remember eating a packet of haribo.

Soon Busingye was talking to us and saying it went well.  Yes there's still minimal scarring on the far lower wall of my uterus, but otherwise it's clean.  I raised myself onto my elbows and asked what he thought our future chances were.  Was it a risk to try falling surprisingly pregnant again?  He said every day he gets into his car is a risk.  Another woman had a D&C that morning but she suffered with high blood pressure and there were complications and in his opinion he wouldn't advise her to risk falling pregnant again.  But me?  You're fine.  But I am an old hand at this kind of talk.  I know I'm a risk.  My age is a risk.  My fertility is a risk.  My emotions are a risk.  My history makes me a risk and my future could be put at risk.  Risk schmisk.  We travelled home at speed that afternoon - a finger to every traffic cop on the roadside - and as I stumbled across the garden to reach Leo he smiled his chipped tooth grin and shouted, 'ello mummy'. 

Trying to put it all into context later that night was too much and I flipped out, as did Chris.  My heart hurt, my uterus was empty, blood and tears dripped silently.  An unexpected dream broken, hope lost and life captured as we live it - real, cruel, beautiful and true.


When the nurse discharged me that afternoon she took my right hand in hers and carefully peeled back the sticky tape holding the cannula in place.  The area was already purple with bruising and the vein raised.  'Oooh' she said, 'this is going to hurt, your hand is very hairy'.

The bearded lady lives on. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Bearded Lady

Well I know, what do you make of it??!

Leo came home from nursery with this bushy masterpiece the other day.  I haven't yet been able to touch her so I can't commit on what she's made of.

Not sure if you frame something like this or hide it away in a drawer?

Tomorrow morning I re-join the D&C members only club.  The ultrasound on Monday provided me with enough evidence to suggest that my body is still gripping, like an octopus, to every scrap of early pregnancy hovering inside my uterus.  It's just refusing point blank to let go. 

So to take my mind off the now or never before Leo's bath time tonight we smashed plastic golf clubs at plastic balls around the garden.  I felt heavy footed and cumbersome jogging about.  My mental state is tripping in circles whilst my physical self is full of screaming hormones and sluggish to a fault.

I probably resemble that bearded lady more than I care to think. 

Now there's a reason to fight another day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kissing pure love

"Mummy, popcorn.......mummy buggy, walk.......popcorn".  Sitting reflectively on my own, like a statue in a great open hall, is a thing of the past.  My wild 21 month old toddler hurtles around the house shouting and pushing his buggy aggressively (in every possible direction, mainly at me) at a wicked 4mph and I jump.

I knit my eyebrows together and gulp back the sketchy plans we had begun to hold gently, yet deeply, in our layered hearts. I look wistfully at the sky, storks flying overhead.  I breathe, Leo runs, arms held aloft, catching the smoke from next door's bonfire in his hands. I close my eyes.  I breathe.

Chris had to leave for Murchison this morning, a hire car packed to the brim with supplies and a ladder of ridiculous length tied to the roof.  If I need him he'll come, if something like a whoooosh happens then he'll be here faster than a shooting star, but the whoooosh I'm waiting for is unlikely.  My history knows it.

Last night alcohol passed my lips for the first time in several weeks.  I wasn't trying to forget but none of it feels real.  Like waves reclaiming the shore, memories get erased over time and I feel this happening now, but it's too soon, too quick and too sudden.  But life is like that.  My history speaks it.

I'm one of those statistics, or at least that's what everyone who calls themselves a Doctor has told me over the last 4.5 years.  I'm not supposed to be able to fall pregnant without the gloved arm of modern science, but I continue to buck the rules.  I don't walk the line and I don't follow the trends although I wish I had a haircut that turned heads.

Raising a finger to modern science a matchstick of a pregnancy test delivered the ultimate shock in December.  It was positive.  Chris and I wowed, stalled, cried, laughed, planned and hoped.  Trying hadn't been on the proverbial cards, we thought it near enough impossible, so I left the contraceptive blister pack unopened as my golden uterus proved otherwise.

We pressed lips against the winds of festive change, we only told my GP, a Dr and my mum.  Leo pressed his lips to 'mummy's tummy'.  What did his magic and wise soul know?  We spent Christmas in Murchison.  It was hot, it was busy, we fed over 40 people and the Lodge was manic.  I slept on Boxing day, a deep sleep I have not known since before Leo was born.

The New Year we celebrated with a handful of close friends.  We lay on blankets around a fire in our garden and lit candles, a lantern and ordered a take away curry.  We raised glasses to the year of 2013 and all that she would bring - she kicked her bright heels and nodded discretely at us.  I drank soda water with a twist of lemon and booked a date scan for the 8th January.

On Tuesday Chris, Leo and I visited Alice (who has long been part of my pregnancy history here in Uganda) for an ultrasound and as she moved her wand over my stomach Leo shouted 'mummy noooo' and wriggled in Chris's arms.  My pregnancy symptoms had been nothing but filthy and there was no spotting.  We were nervously hopeful.

But I know not to look Lady Luck directly in the face for she cares little.  Alice took too long to locate a heartbeat.  I knew it.  I felt it.  I saw it from the strain of her face staring into the screen.  She used more pressure on my lower abdomen.  Leo fidgeted and climbed onto the padded bed and lay across my chest.  Chris smiled.  A smile worth a thousand wishes.

My uterus revealed not 1 but 2 egg sacs, but only 1 contained the very beginnings of a pearl.  I measured 8 weeks and 1 day, but the tiny seahorse fetus had stopped growing at 6 weeks.  What do you say, what do you do?  You conceded and admit defeat because there's absolutely nothing else but to cry.

I visited Dr Busingye that afternoon (he performed a d&c when I miscarried in 2009) and he gave me my options.  I requested the drugs, the thought of having my uterus touched so soon after surgery in September made me wince.  I started the course on Wednesday and again Thursday.  Nothing of significance has happened, no whooosh.  I have another scan booked for Monday and if everything is intact I will need a d&c. 

I'm willing my body to turn itself inside out.

I shared my news with a girlfriend who has known me longer than I dare remember and has a pained history of her own.  I poured out my anger, my fears for Leo being an only child, the sadness of right now and the whole fucking unfairness of it all.  She replied immediately with words of tenderness and love, finishing off:-  I raise my gin and tonic with you.  To the wretchedly cruel turns life can take and the unbelievably beauty that still happens every single day.

It's often so hard to see the beauty in anything when you just want to envelope yourself in pure sadness, but beauty remains in the eye of the beholder and it surrounds us constantly.  We just need to prise the flip flop from the mouth to kiss pure love squarely in the face.  And to never, ever let the beauty go.