Being a Mom: Devastation and Acceptance

I’ve attempted to write this post over and over again, in the past nearly 3 years, but I’ve struggled with it. I mean, it’s really NOT that easy to hit PUBLISH on something that is so deep down and personal. Yet, it is something that I need to share. Partially, for the healing quality of sharing, and partially, because I may not be the only one who has been through, or is going through, this sort of devastation in my life. And if there is a teeny tiny chance that someone else might resonate with what I’ve been through, I’m happy to share with them and provide the support that I lacked while going through it.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably already read “Being a Mom: Desperation and Celebration”. If not, you may want to read it…it explains a lot.

So, go get your cup of coffee, and a box of tissues, and join me on a trip down memory lane, as I say good-bye to a part of me forever...It's a long one, so get comfy!

I’m one of those “horrible women” who allowed her children to be born via C-section. Yes, I did. Both times. Pickle was an emergency c-section, delivered after 18 hours of labor, and several very scary moments. I didn’t want to do it, but because I knew by the look on the doctor’s face that there was no other way, I swallowed my self-pity and allowed them to do what needed to be done to bring my son safely to my arms. SugarPlum was scheduled, at the urging of my OB, due to her projected size of 9 lbs. I must say, I am VERY glad that I allowed this to happen, because she was a pound larger than predicted.

After SugarPlum’s birth, I opted for an IUD, due to previous difficulties with birth control options. As luck would have it, my IUD decided to migrate from my uterus into my right tube and ovary, where it had to be surgically removed. So much for birth control! That’s a whole other post for another day.

It was nearly 9 months after SugarPlum came that I fell ill. With the return of an old not-so-welcome friend, came crippling pain that took away every ounce of strength I had, and my will to live. I had to have my Hubby help me out of bed some mornings, because I couldn't even stand to walk to the bathroom. I felt like I was failing my children, because I couldn't play with them the way they deserved, and I didn't have the energy to go anywhere to let them run and play.

Each day was harder than the last, and as the months passed, we tried multiple medications, and nothing helped. I was tested for this, that, and the other, but nothing "appeared" to be out of the ordinary. It was a complete mystery to my doctor, but for me, it was complete misery.

In December, I broke down...I didn't want to live. If I couldn't care for myself or my children, what good would I be to keep around? I begged my husband...and yes, I even used "that" line. If you love me...please, just do it for me. Yes, it was selfish of me, and I am glad he refused, all said and done, but at that moment, all I wanted was for him to bring me peace and end my suffering. The realization that I had lost was upon me, and I was ready to wave my white flag in defeat.

At my next appointment, my doctor wanted to try another method of treatment. In his words, were I HIS spouse, this is what he would want for avoid surgery and try everything possible. Only, nothing was working, and it had been nearly 5 months. I asked him, in all seriousness, if his wife asked him to take her life or her uterus, which he would take. He scheduled my surgery.

At this point, you are breathing a huge sigh of relief, but I wasn't. It was early December, and he could not do the surgery until late February. 2 1/2 months seemed like an eternity...and it was.

In those weeks, I searched desperately for an inexpensive method of child-care, for my return home, because I would be restricted from holding my children for a minimum of 6 weeks. Luckily, just days before my surgery, a close friend of mine mentioned that she was out of work, and when I proposed that she come help me with the kids, and use any down-time to draft up her resume and apply for jobs online, she immediately accepted.

The day of my surgery, my husband and I dropped Pickle and SugarPlum off with a dear friend, I said my good-byes, kissed them, and promised to be home in a couple of days. Hubby planned to drop me off and go to work, then pick the kids up each day, after work, and drop them off again the following mornings, so that he would not have to miss any work, aside from dropping me off and picking me up. Unfortunately, the kids fell ill with the flu almost immediately, so he ended up staying home after the first day, to care for them. I went into surgery feeling nervous and beyond scared, and nothing could have prepared me for the nightmarish experience I had.

The surgery itself went's what happened AFTER my surgery that went wrong. I was given Dilaudid out of surgery, to help me with the pain I would feel upon waking. As I woke up, all I could do was cry and writhe in pain. I didn't understand. Why, if they had told me they would make me comfortable after surgery, did I feel worse than ever? And why wouldn't anyone help me? I didn't have my glasses on, so I could only make out blurs of color passing through the recovery room I shared with multiple other patients. I couldn't stop hurts, please, give me something for the pain! Finally, a blurry face hovered next to me, and explained that I could not have any pain medicine for a while, because there was still medication in my system...HUH!?! After that, blurs of people were coming and going, and speaking in hushed voices. "What happened?" "Who was it?" "Well, everyone better cover their ass!" Wait a minute...why did anyone need to cover their butt? What had happened? Was it me? Was it someone in the bed next to me? What had gone wrong?

I can't tell how long I lay there, crying in pain, wondering what was going on around me, but eventually, I drifted off to sleep again. When I woke, there was a gentleman by my bedside, standing quietly, watching me as I slowly came out of the haze. The nurse came over, and handed me my glasses and checked my vitals. It took a moment, but slowly, I realized I wasn't in the same place as when I had fallen asleep. It was dark and quiet, and my room opened out onto a large nurse's station. The nurse had a computer in the room, and stood quietly in the corner, charting as I took everything in.

The man next to me spoke in a gentle voice, and asked if I knew why I was transferred to D.O.U., and I shook my head and asked what D.O.U. meant. I felt as though I should have known, but nothing came to mind. He explained that I was in the Direct Observation Unit, and would remain there for the rest of my time in the hospital. He went on to inform me that something had gone seems that when I was given my post-op dose of Dilaudid, my first dose went uncharted. So, someone else came by to check on me, and seeing nothing in the chart, gave me a second dose. I had been nearly unresponsive, and they didn't expect me to pull through. He was very emotional as he spoke about the incident, and expressed to me that he had personally made the decision, as the Director, to put me in D.O.U., because he did not want to face the task of explaining to two very small children that their Mother would not be coming home. What do you even SAY to something like that?

I felt like I was in a dream, and none of what was happening was real, that I was imagining it all, and I would wake up had to be that I was still sleeping, and had not even come out of surgery yet. So, I pinched myself. Yes, it hurt. But it still didn't seem real. I was in a fog of confusion, and I had no idea which way to go to get back to reality. I drifted in and out.

My husband had promised to come see me after work, and check on me, but he never came...I thought for sure, I would at least get a phone call...something! Panic started. Maybe something had gone wrong with one of the kids, what if he'd gotten into an accident...what TIME was it? It was nearly 1am. Maybe he is going to come see me in the morning.

Morning came...he never showed. Eventually, the doctors came to do their rounds. I have no idea what time it was at this point. I was in a dark room with no clocks, and my sleep was determined by the person with the needle. My doctor had spoken to my husband, and reassured me that he knew I was out of surgery. Why had nobody transferred the call to me, so I could talk to him?

Ah, it's been 32 hours since surgery, it's time for you to get out of bed by yourself and use the toilet! Prior to that 32 hour mark, I'd had some help to use the toilet, but suddenly, it was time to be a big girl and do it myself, to prove that I would be ready to go home the following day, if the doctor felt I was doing well enough. YES! I DID IT! And yes, it HURT! But I DID IT, and that was HUGE! I was proud of myself for being tough and pushing past the pain...I just wanted to go home and see my babies and kiss them and hug them, and smell their hair and hear their voices...I wanted so badly.

Back in the bed with a fresh set of sheets, and some ice in a cup. Then the nurse rushed in with paperwork and handed me the phone. It was my surgeon.

The nurse has a consent need to sign it NOW. I'm on my way, I'll be there in 5 minutes. Sign the form, so the nurses can start the transfusion and prep you for the OR. I've already spoken to your husband. You're blood counts are low, which indicates you are bleeding internally, and we need to go back in and stop the bleeding. This may mean the loss of your ovaries, depending on where the bleeding is coming from.

WHAT? I don't understand! Everything went fine, I'm getting up and peeing by myself, I feel fine! So, I sign the paper, and they bring in a fresh bag of blood. I think back to all of those times in my life, starting as a young teen, and continuing even up until my pregnancies, when I had donated my own blood to possibly save someone else. Now, someone else's blood was going to save me. I got the rundown on risks of transfusion as I was receiving the transfusion...there are no guarantees. I received 4 units of blood in all...I wish I knew those donors, so I could thank them all personally. I just sat there. Numb. And before I knew it, I was being prepped for surgery, and disappearing back into the foggy sleep.

This time, when I woke up, I was in the ICU. It was FREEZING cold in there! And, of course, I didn't have my glasses with me, so I could only make out a distant blur of a person in the large room...I had no idea if there were other beds with other patients, or if I was the only one there, but I DO know I was the only one crying and begging for someone to please help me. I'm having a heart chest hurts, I can't breathe, please, what's happening to me? The blur comes closer, then disappears...WAIT! Come back! Please, can't you hear me? Why won't anybody help me!?!

Moments later, the nurse is at my side, telling me to calm down, that I've already had pain meds, and that I was fine. I didn't FEEL fine, though! Apparently, she didn't care, she walked away without another word. I cried and waited and cried and waited...I was exhausted, blind, scared, and alone. I wanted my family. I wanted my husband to hold my hand and tell me everything would be okay.

Eventually, a new nurse came on. I told her what I was feeling, and that I could not get the other nurse to respond to me, or help me...that she had stopped to tell me that I was fine, and had already had pain meds, and nothing more. She was extremely apologetic, and immediately jumped to action. Soon, a young fellow with bedhead stood next to me, still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and attempting to hide a yawn. The new nurse had woken the Duty Doctor from his sleep to come care for me. I was sent for a scan. And more seemed like forever. Then it was over, and he was giving me my answer. In the midst of opening me back up, in a rush, my chest muscle had been pulled, and this was why I was having such horrible chest pain. Lovely. A little voice in the back of my head questioned why I hadn't just died when I had the know, when I was NUMB from the Dilaudid overdose.

Eventually, I was returned to my D.O.U. room to complete my recovery. Back at square one. The surgery had gone well...again. Amazingly, the bleeding had stopped by the time they got to it, so they were able to clean up the mess and I was able to keep my ovaries, since they were doing fine.

The rest of my days were a hubby finally came for me, and after picking up all of the necessary medications, we were headed for home. Several days later than anticipated. I was so happy to see my family, but it was so hard not to be able to hold my babies. It wasn't until the moment I laid eyes on them, smelled them, touched them, and heard their voices, that it hit me.

I almost didn't get to come home. That is when it truly sank in. I was THAT close. I had almost followed in my mother’s footsteps. I had almost left my children mother-less, to struggle with the same pain and emptiness I’ve lived with my entire life. 

SugarPlum rejected me. It hurt. I ached to hold her. I had been pumping during my hospital stay, dumping the contaminated milk, so that I could continue nursing upon my return home. I had left her, and not come back for a long time, in her eyes. She was hurt, mad, confused. I tried to understand, but it still hurt. She wouldn't look at me. She wouldn't even hug me. My husband would hand her to me, so I could cradle her in my arms, but she would turn her head away and refuse me.

Two days after coming home, she turned her head to my chest and began to nuzzle me. Slowly, she began to nurse again. I was so happy. I didn't want her weaning to be a negative experience, so it was extremely important to me that we continue nursing at that point. Had she chosen against it, I would have accepted it, but I was so happy that she didn't.

Pickle had spoken to me on the phone while I was preparing to come home over the last two days of my stay, so I knew how he was was hard for him, he missed me, and cried for me, and I missed him and cried for him, too. But I didn't tell him. I just told him I loved him, and that I would be home soon, for him to take care of his baby sister until I got there, and be good for Daddy.

In the span of less than 3 years, I had given birth to two beautiful children, and basically had 5 c-sections. And? I would never be able to feel another child growing inside my body, and experience the joys of holding my own newborn child. My ability to create life had ceased to exist. I was devastated. Happy to be pain-free, and have the ability to enjoy the two children I already had…ABSOLUTELY. But still, it hurt…in my heart. I had been blessed with two amazing pregnancies, and in all honesty, I had planned for there to be more. But there never will be. I had refused a tubal ligation after SugarPlum’s birth, and again when my IUD had perforated, and yet, in the end, I had lost.

Each time a friend would announce their new pregnancy…some for the first time, some for the 3rd…the 3rd that I had been hoping for a couple of years down the line, my heart would sink into a dark place. I wasn’t NOT happy for them…I was overjoyed for them, but hurting for me. But I kept it to myself. I didn’t want friends to feel guilty about their joy, or to stop sharing their amazing news with me, simply because I couldn’t have any more children. Most of my friends don’t even know about it. The ones that I’ve been extremely close to know, and an odd friend here and there, when the topic came up, which isn’t often. But nothing hurts more than being asked when you are due with your baby, when you’ve just lost your ability to HAVE another. Even now, I still get asked if we are going to have another one soon. And I just smile and say “We are done.” And believe me, when my kids are having a particularly unruly day, I MEAN it, but in my heart, I know I wasn’t truly ready to say “never again”.

I remember at one point, while I was still healing from my hysterectomy, a woman approached me, pointing at both of my children, telling me how full I must have my hands with these two and WOW, a third one on the way! Her eyes were full of judgment, for this woman she assumed was simply a breeding factory, and I cried for nearly a week. I am overweight, and unlucky enough to carry my excess weight right in my belly…add to that the swelling of a recent surgery, and she was right! I looked as though I was carrying a third, and maybe even a fourth child in there! And I still, TO THIS DAY, get comments about when I’m due with my baby. I’ve learned to look them in the eye and tell them December 13th, 2007. That was my SugarPlum’s due date. My sarcastic side wants to get a shirt that shuts them up before they even open their mouths, but I’ve refrained. My nice side wins.

It has been just 3 1/2 years since I gave birth to my beautiful SugarPlum, and nearly 5 years since Pickle came into our lives. I have cherished each and every little moment, each special toy, outfit, favorite books, etc.

I held onto everything. I had every outfit they had ever owned, every toy, every piece of baby gear…nothing left my house. I couldn’t bear to part with any of it. I had originally held onto it, planning in the future, but after my surgery, I held onto it...not because I would be using it again, but because I would NEVER be able to use it again. And a part of me was still waiting to wake up from the nightmare I had been through, and find that I was pregnant again, and it had all truly been a bad dream. But it hadn’t been, and I never would be again, and about a year after my surgery, I managed to ACCEPT that this was my new life. And I began to let go. Not everything all at once, mind you! I’ve only JUST given away the majority of what remained from all of the newborn items. It’s been a process, letting go, and while I had a hard time doing it, it was a lot easier when I was able to see that what I had was going to people who truly needed the items, and would love them the way I had. It was more than just “stuff”. Those were my memories. Each of those things held a special moment in time with my babies, and I guess I was afraid of losing those memories. Some of them were never shared with anyone else, just special moments between me and my baby. Forever in my mind and in my heart. But I realized that the THINGS weren’t what had made the moments so special…it was the person I had shared those moments with. My child. My children.

I’ve accepted, I’ve learned to let go, and I’ve learned to cherish what I have. Does this mean I have stopped crying for what is lost? No. I cry all the time. I cry for my Mom, I cry for the babies I will never again carry in my womb. The womb I no longer have. I cry for the women who never experience the amazing gift that I was given, not once, but twice…I cry for the children who never know the kind of love my children will never live a day without. I cry for the children who know the pain of losing a parent, for the parents who know the pain of losing a child, even one that is unborn. I still hurt and I still cry.

Frequently, the first response to learning I've had a hysterectomy is..."Wow, you're so lucky!" Because I will never again have to deal with the dreaded monthly visitor that plagues women from puberty to menopause. And I think that EXACT SAME THING every time a friend shares news of a pregnancy or birth of a child. 


San Diego Momma said...

I love reading you. I am understanding you on a level I never did before and it's amazing.


stacey ross said...

I am glad I took the time to read the full story. Blessings to you and your fam. :) stacey

Mommy to ♥Pickle and SugarPlum♥ said...

Thank you, Deb! I adore that you love reading me! Thanks for the ray of sunshine you brought me JUST BY SAYING THAT! :)

Mommy to ♥Pickle and SugarPlum♥ said...

Stacey: I'm glad you took the time, too! Thanks for sticking it out, I know it's a long one! It wasn't easy to write, and part of me felt like splitting it up, but I decided against it.

Angela Quisumbing said...

Wow! What an amazing story. I'm so glad you shared this. It really is a beautiful story, very well written and from the heart. I've only had the pleasure of meeting you once, but this story makes me feel like I know you more personally. I look forward to seeing you around soon. You're family is blessed to have you!

Thauna said...

Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. My heart aches for you, I can only imagine the feeling of finality and loss. But I can rejoice with you in the love for your children...mine are grown now and I still remember those moments you describe, smelling their hair and holding them close. I hope that writing this post helped your healing process. xo

Laura@JourneyChic said...

What a moving and personal story. I hope that writing it was a cathartic experience for you. My son is almost 11mo and I hope that I'll be able to give him a biological sibling someday, so I can only imagine that feeling of finality that you went through after your surgery. Your two kids are adorable and it's wonderful that they have each other and a mom that cares so much about them.

Holly said...

Oh Ali!

I am so sad that you went through all of that at the hospital. What an ordeal! That nurse who ignored you should not be allowed to be near people in recovery. There is no excuse for such a cold heart in the healing profession.

I am grateful to God that you are still here to tell us about it. It was very hard to read... I had to stop and come back to it, but you are worth it, dear!

You also need to be told this: Your smile lights up a room and I am always happy to see you! I know many other people feel the same way. I would give you a giant hug in person if you were standing here now.

Much love to you & your family,

Signing Mama said...

Ali, it is good to share, to get the story out there to let the healing take place. I'm sure it was such a reward to have SugarPlum nurse again after all you had been through - brave women push through the straw. You were brave, you pushed through. Now you'll be empowered to help someone else do it too.

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