Monday, August 08, 2005

The rest of the story

The four days we spent in the hospital after J.'s birth and death were some of the strangest of my life. I should have been so happy - spending time with my husband, surrounded by family and friends, and learning how to take care of my new baby. Well, Mr. NK was there - he pretty much never left my side - and my family and friends, and the room filled up with flowers and candy, like it would have for a normal person. But in spite of all that, I was having to learn how to live without my baby, a baby I'd never even held, never nursed, had barely even seen alive.

On Friday morning, I was allowed to eat solid food for the first time since Wednesday. That, combined with being moved out of the windowless room and into a normal room on the maternity ward, made me feel somewhat better. Later that evening was best of all - I got to take a shower. It's amazing what a shower will do for your mood when you haven't had one for nearly three days.

My family stayed with us almost constantly for the next few days - including my brother and his wife and my aunt, who all arrived on Friday. We had so many visitors. I never realized before how many friends we have.

Those few days were strange for Mr. NK and I. He was allowed to stay with me in my room, on the foldout bed next to mine. I've never felt closer to him than I did during that time - what happened truly made us realize how much we love each other. If I ever had any worries that our marriage wouldn't last, they are gone now. It was odd to feel such overwhelming love and, yes, happiness in the midst of so much sadness, but that's how we felt. Sometime in those few days, we decided to renew our wedding vows as soon as we could.

We talked a lot about trying to have another baby. It was the foremost thing on both our minds almost from the moment J. died. Does that sound callous? I certainly don't mean it to. It's more that we were so ready for this baby - we had prepared ourselves and our home so much for his arrival, and to now not have a baby made us feel so empty. And we'd never had the chance to bond with J. - we had barely even seen him.

Meanwhile, I was finding c-section recovery not at all that bad. Within a few days I could get in and out of bed and walk to the bathroom with surprising ease - I think even the nurses were surprised.

My dad and his wife left on Saturday evening; the rest of my family left the next day. By then, I was able to walk up and down the hospital corridor. I thought about going home on Sunday; the doctor had said that if I wanted, I could be discharged that day, but ultimately we decided to stay the full 4 days.

While we were there, we had a visit every day from my OBs while they did their rounds. Dr. S. had the weekend off, but two other doctors from my practice, Dr. M. and Dr. K., came to see us and were wonderful. Both of them were very encouraging about us trying again, and we were pleasantly surprised to hear that both of them said we could start after 3 months from the delivery.

All of that was over a month ago. We spent the first few weeks after J.'s birth at home, not doing much except talking and watching TV - we just needed time to be alone together. We did take a short trip to the Finger Lakes to get out of the house for a while, and I think it helped. I went back to work on June 22, a month after the day I went into labor. The first day was hell - no one knew what to say to me, and I just holed up in my office and cried. Since then, things have been a little bit better every day.

Three weeks after J. died, Dr. S. called us with the preliminary autopsy results. We had been driving ourselves crazy in the meantime looking up information about pulmonary hypoplasia and all of the other bad things that could have been wrong with J. We were terrified that we were going to turn out to have some kind of inheritable genetic issue. But the doctor's news surprised us - it wasn't pulmonary hypoplasia. In fact, there were no congenital birth defects found, no human error discovered - no cause of death determined. Dr. S. told us that in many, many cases this is what happens - the death is just "one of those things" with no explanation.

Is this good news or bad news? I suppose it's in how you look at it - when I told Mr. NK, he cried a little and said, "If there was nothing wrong with him, why did he die?" But on the other hand, that means that we didn't pass on some kind of genetic mutation that caused a terrible defenct. That's good news, because it means that it's unlikely to ever happen again. We're still waiting for the detailed autopsy report, but we're hopeful.

I have almost no pain left from my c-section - just a very slight tenderness above my navel that is probably the internal incision healing. I'm back to most of my regular activities, but trying to take it a little bit easy until my 6-week checkup next week.

We weren't sure what to do with all of the things we had accumulated for J. - all the clothes, the carefully decorated nursery, the toys, the baby gear. We left it there for a while, and then last week we dismantled the crib and packed away the toys and blankets. Because he never came home with us, we don't have memories of him wearing the clothes or sleeping in the crib or playing with the toys, so keeping them around makes us hopeful that someday before too long, there will be another baby here to use them.

Speaking of which, trying again has become almost an obsession. I was so glad when the doctors told us the wait was only 3 months. Since then, stupidly, I've done all kinds of reading and seen that many other doctors recommend waiting 6 or 9 months, some even a year. Because the doctors who told me 3 months, although they were from my practice, aren't the ones who will be doing my 6-week checkup (Dr. S. will do that), I am terrified that Dr. S. will tell me I have to wait longer. There doesn't seem to be any consensus among doctors about the reason for the wait - there's some concern about the c-section scar rupturing, but that's mostly only in cases where the mother tries to labor and delivery vaginally after a section. I have no intention of doing that - the next time I want the baby out as soon as possible. I don't think I could handle the anxiety of laboring for hours, wondering the whole time if my baby was going to make it.

So I'm just counting the days now until I see Dr. S., and praying that he doesn't make us wait. By the time I see him, the three-month waiting period will be half over. I can deal with that.

I worry sometimes that my all-consuming desire to try again is disrespectful somehow to my son. I hope not. I wanted him so very much, and even though I never met him, I loved him so much. It's because of how much I loved him that I want another baby. It won't ever erase what happened to us, but it does feel like there's a huge emptiness in our lives that only a baby can fill.

Mr. NK and I have said that in a way, some good has come out of the tragedy of losing J.. We realized how much we love each other - going through this together has strengthened the bond between us so much. And as much as we wanted J., this has made us see how incredibly important having a family is to us - even more important than we thought. We were forced to see what our priorities are, and our family is now the most important one.

Thank you, my son. I love you and I'll never forget you.


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