8/27/2014

"It's been a long year, and I'm finally ready to be here..."


"How have you been?" "How are you guys doing lately?" "Really. How are you guys doing? How's Jas?"

How are we doing? How much do you know? How much do you want to know? How much should I share? All of it? I'm not sure what to say...

"We're good. Jas is doing great, healthier than he has been in so many years."

On Feb 10, 2014 we lost a baby, and almost... me.

I remember looking up to the sky, seeing all the blue and the tops of palm trees and light brown roofing tiles, as firefighters raced me down the stairs outside our apartment. I was very worried that I was only in underwear under the green blanket covering my body—oh yeah, my body—it was continuing to writhe in mind–numbing pain. But also there was this state of resignation to the pain, like my threshold had been reached... Or maybe elevated—like a wave of exhausted, confused, adrenaline seeped through my veins and poured over my alarm cells, or whatever it is that tells your body it's filling up with blood. It was as if I wasn't in my body, and I really really wanted my thread–bare favorite tribal sweater. Delirium. Delirium plus pain.
Only minutes before, back up in our bedroom, these same firefighters could not find a pulse or blood pressure. Jason let them know I was just a day away from 7 weeks pregnant. The taller, bulkier EMT, before he even came to hover over me on the floor at the foot of our bed, stated loudly and matter-of-factly "Sounds like it might be ectopic pregnancy."
Once in the ambulance they continued to try to find pulse/blood pressure, with no luck. The siren reeled and I remember being incapable to keep myself from moaning over each bump... and there never was a bumpier ride than that one in the back of the ambulance, flying to the hospital. So many bumps. So many hands. So many heads and voices. So many pricks and sticks and stings from repeated attempts at starting an IV. Now, reflecting back logistically there were just two heads and four hands... oh but on that day, from where I lay, there were so many.
Jason passed a friend out on a walk with her son as he followed the rig in our car. The little boy was pointing and saying "Look mommy! Firetruck." Then our sweet friend spotted our car following behind the ambulance, Jas saw her confusion, panic. He shouted from the car "Geri's in there!" "What?! What can we do?!" "It's serious! Please pray!" and then we were gone. Turning out of our complex and speeding down the street.

This round of invitro fertilization was rocky. It was almost as if everything that could go wrong... did, totally did; making the already difficult journey, the White Cliffs of Dover of emotions and guarded optimism and the sea of needles and needles and suppositories and needles and waiting and holding breath, all of it, feel like trudging through waste–high molasses. The short story: A–fluid filled my ovaries after the extraction (brutal introduction to days of brain–melting pain that is Fluid Being Where Fluid Shouldn't Be—and then trying to drown myself with water and Gatorade and Vitamin Water to get the fluid out... ? This I'm still trying to understand. But I did it). B–They had to take from both testicles because the sperm count was very low, both doctors were nervous about the success of the outcome at this point. (C–Roughly four weeks after my emergency Jas would have one as well, one in which he almost lost his left testicle as it had swelled to triple its size, became rock hard, and inflamed with pain... you can ask him more about this issue at a later date... if you really want to. Spoiler: he didn't loose the whole testicle, just the epididymis.) We ended up with 5 viable embryos. Transferred two, froze three (that part was the best part).  D–After the transfer, we experienced another "low positive" and yet not as low as last time. This brought with it a current of old emotion and memories. I remember thinking it might have been better to have no positive at all, over the extra blood draws and the waiting and the not exhaling until the phone rings. And then there was the call and the levels had more than doubled. We were pregnant! "We were pregnant" with a million exclamation points! And also "We were pregnant" in a whisper, with a smile that held only half a heart and so much caution.

From the beginning we had tried to keep this as secret as possible. We thought it might be fun to surprise everyone with happy news. (Or that it might be better to privately grieve together, should there be the opposite.) We had our list written—all those we were excited to tell after our first ultrasound, coming up on Wednesday. It had been pushed back a week. I was already feeling very nauseous. And this strange sick feeling had made me so happy. To me it meant something was happening, someone was growing.

Then Monday morning came and Jason was taking a final exam. It was eight o'clock. I woke suddenly and clutching my lower abdomen. So much nauseous pain. I dropped my legs to the floor and staggered to the bathroom. I didn't know what to do—sit or kneel, sit or kneel? I sat and held the garbage in front of me. Nothing happened, but more pain, more intense. I knelt. I dry–heaved. I clumsily laid on the cold, three foot by four foot, bathroom floor. I pulled my knees closer to my body. I slowly crawled out of the bathroom and down the tiny hall (can I call it a hall?) until I collapsed by the kitchen. I whimpered and wretched because I was so so nauseous and so so weak and so close to the smell of the garbage can. Somehow, I'm not sure how, I found myself back in bed. I let myself fall in and out of half–sleep.
Then it was ten o'clock. Jason must be done, right? There were time limits on those tests, right? Feeling the last bits of lucidity escape me I fumbled with my phone and texted something about not feeling well and needing help. There was another hour left of the test, but for some reason Jas had been flying through the questions with ease. He hadn't turned his phone off before the exam (which was unusual) and he read my message. Something whispered it's urgency to him, he scribbled answers to the remaining few questions and ran from the room to his bike. Forgetting his white–coat, his keys in its pocket.
The door was locked when he tore up the stairs to our apartment. He knocked and pounded and rang the doorbell. I could hear the ringing and the pounding and I imagined myself getting up and opening the door—but I couldn't lift my head. My phone chimed, he had texted. Slowly and with so much concentration I turned my phone to the side and read "Locked. Can you come let me in?" I answered, although I don't quite remember typing, "I can't. I'm sorry."
And he was off—running across the complex, to the front office, and racing back up the stairs with the extra key. He bounded into the apartment; I was jostled from my half–slumber. He was talking too loudly, asking questions. "You're whiter than your pillow. Stay awake, ok. Nope—don't close your eyes." He was calling Dr. A (our fertility doc) and they were insisting I come in to their office... NOW. I couldn't imagine walking down the stairs and getting into the car. There was hardly strength to strength to register words, let alone respond. If I moved I wretched, or I needed to. Please can I close my eyes. I just need to rest. Please?
Jason tried to talk me into getting up, gently at first, then demanding we go. I said I would, I just needed to rest for a minute more. Just a few minutes more. He pulled a pair of shorts half way up my legs, the movement excruciating. I moaned and breathed, so shallowly.
By eleven thirty Jas had called the doctor's office again and they urged him to either get us in the car and on our way to their office, or call 911. He pulled his arms around me and sat me up. "We need to go, we need to go now. Here, let's get you sitting up. Can you–"
I woke feeling so comfortable, as if someone had found the reset button... and then came the pain, again. I was laying side–ways on our bed now, half on/half off.
"Geri? Geri. Hey, hey you." I nodded. "You passed out. I tried to get you to sit up and you passed out." He let me lay there a little bit longer, then tried to help me up again—slower this time. I remember standing, taking note that I really couldn't feel my feet on the floor. But ok. I just had to–
This time I woke on the floor at the foot of our bed. How did that happen? Why was I here? Reset. Jason's eyes were wide, his face pale. "I'm calling 911. Don't move. Don't try to get up." I began a feeble attempt at moving. Why was everything so... heavy? Why couldn't I move my arms? "But I need my sweater." Jason was already talking to dispatch. "My sweater, please can you get my hoodie?" Jason continued talking, suddenly, too soon, there were sirens. Desperation flooded me. Underwear! That's all I have on! My sweater! Please! My "sweater. I need it." Jason shook his head and said something about I didn't need it. I focused all my attention on insisting. He said he was getting a blanket.
Then there were firemen in our apartment, in our bedroom. Talking loudly and bluntly and saying the words "ectopic pregnancy"—words I had read about a few weeks before. I would need surgery. That's what I knew. That and something about a fallopian tube. "Can you roll to your side? Good. That's all we can do while we wait for the stretcher."
Jason was on the phone again, this time with our close friend/neighbor, who lived at the front of the complex and had heard the sirens and had a feeling they might be for us. "Aubrey. Hi. Yes. It's Geri. She's in a lot of pain, and weak. She's so pale, whiter than our sheets. She passed out twice. She seized the last time, threw up and stopped breathing, it was longer. They can't find a pulse or blood pressure. ...I don't know, maybe an ectopic pregnancy. We're getting her to the hospital. Pray. Please pray."

I had seized?

I was on a stretcher. I was in an ambulance. I was being lifted from the ambulance, then rolled into the ER. I lost more of myself. I remember seeing sky, then ceiling, then a dark room with a curtain and IV poles. I remember more poking and stinging, but duller, more fuzzy now.
Then there was a deep, insane, stabbing in the crook of my right elbow. I cursed. I yelled it. Loudly. The male ER nurse moved to the left elbow, this time with ultrasound. I prayed. I prayed and prayed, more fervently than ever before, for a successful IV. Somehow, by miracle only, there it was and then another. And we moved on to the ultrasound.
The vaginal ultrasound from someplace deeper and darker than hell. I was that person screaming in the ER—that person you see on those doctor dramas on NBC or TNT or USA or TLC or wherever. I was her. And the ultrasound tech lady shook her head and tried her best to hurry, but there was "oh! so much fluid." So much blood.

By the time they were wheeling me to the OR for surgery I was grateful to go. They made me repeat back to them my situation, to be sure I understood and was aware. Oh. I was aware. I ached for the sweet relief of anesthesia. We winded down hallways and there were faces and arms and ceiling tiles and faces and Jason "I love you so much, Sweetheart. Everything will be ok. Ok? You're going to be just fine. I love you." and then there were stained–glass tree branches and sky above me. Under any other circumstance it might have been pretty, but I hated that stained glass. It was an impostor in this clinical place. I wanted to throw up. So nauseous.
Double doors opened and a wall of stainless steel whirled in sight. A long stripe of shining, metal tools. I consciously looked away and tried to blink back that vision. Focus on anything else. Focus on the gentle cadence of the doctor's voice. He was older, gray. There was a confident calm about him. I decided I liked him. I needed to like him. More people were in the room. I realized I'd long since been stripped of all clothing and my green blanket. I guess I didn't need my sweater, I thought. I was laying on a table. I was naked, and I didn't care.

Then there was nothing. I woke in a hospital room feeling that much time had passed, not knowing where it went.

I don't remember very much of the hospital stay. I do remember Jason, overwhelmed by stress, trying to find a way to get back to the school to study/finish finals and at the same time not leave me alone at the hospital. I was helpless. I needed someone to hold a styrofoam cup in front of me to drink because I physically could not move. I remember several sweet friends who quietly sat beside me, holding cups and straws near my inclined head.
I remember the first night, pulling my heavy eyes open—seeing my friend Aubrey sitting at my side, bent over herself, head in hands, and shaking. Ohh, she's sad. She's crying. She must know... I lost the baby. And I felt her love and if I hadn't been fully depleted of energy I might have cried too. And I fell asleep.
There was also Naarah, who spent the night on an awful chair/bed, to whom I slurred about having more sleepovers and watching Duck Soup and giving me a round of applause should I be able to pass gas.
And more sweet friends and flowers. My little room became a garden.

It's blurry, most of it.

My mom came, I got to go home, more flowers, so much love, so many meals and letters and care packages from family and people around us, from my sweet young women, from people who knew.

I'm not sure why this happened—I am sure it wasn't coincidence (an ectopic pregnancy through IVF is like one in thirty–thousand, an ectopic pregnancy placed where mine was—where it could stay longer and grow bigger and cause the most destruction, was even smaller odds). I am sure of the miracles we found on our right and on our left—Jason's phone was on, he was able to come to me when I had a matter of hours to live, his thoughts were clear and movements sure, the EMTs were there in no time at all and were able to call it what it was from the start, Brad (Jason's dad) happened to be in the area and met him at the ER to take care of paperwork so Jas could take care of me, the kindest, most capable OBGYN was at the hospital and ready to perform the surgery, and I lived. I lived.

I'm not sure why this happened—maybe someday I'll understand a little better, but I'm so grateful for the angels that were placed in our path, the outpouring of prayers and love.


After the dust cleared, after a few more complications, and finally, finally, a bowel movement, a different pain settled upon me. An internal pain, a dark sadness, a debilitating anxiety. I waited for night to walk outside. I couldn't look at my phone, I tried to hide it away from me. I was afraid of social interaction, afraid of having to try—I was too exhausted to try to be chipper or to explain how I felt. It was all so uncomfortable. It was like I swallowed a tea kettle. All tight and compressed. All gasping for breath through the tiniest of air holes, and only able to let out a high whistle. There was this yearning, this need, to write it down before the insurmountable pressure blew the lid off the kettle and bursted open my stomach, as well as my heart.

I guess with trauma commonly comes depression and anxiety also. It came. It tackled me to the floor and sat on my chest. There was a black hole where a baby used to be, it seemed all hope and light had been swallowed up in it as well. I wept for empty arms and empty promise and a thick–ropey incision at the base of my stomach.

I tried to get back to life. It was so hard. Laden with almost crippling anxiety and marinated with sadness. I meditated. I prayed. I tried to use my phone again. I read the Book of Mormon as if my life depended on it. I counseled. I sought refuge on the sand at the beach or high on mountain tops. I talked with friends. I tried to take pictures again, I tried to enjoy it. I tried to move on. I tried to try.
A friend told me about her time with depression and anxiety, how all she could do was lay on the couch and cry daily, sometimes unable to attend her classes. Then, she said, there seemed to be a glimpse of happiness, then a window... after more time there became a door... then, almost without her noticing the walls holding her hostage were lifted. Sometimes there would be regression, but only for a time, and it grew shorter and shorter and farther between. Until one day it was ok. She was ok. And, after much more time, and yet almost as if suddenly, she realized she was whole.

By the end of April I was catching glimpses of my window. By the end of May I had found my door, and I could smile again, even laugh, not always—but I knew I could, it was a possibility.

Now there is still anxiety. I'm still a little socially frightened and awkward, but I feel more myself. I'm getting stronger and more capable. The panic attacks have dissipated and the sadness has seeped away for the most part.
There's still the racing heart and self–doubt. But there is also hope. My caving–walls seem to have lifted, and the steps back seem to be much shorter and farther between.
After more time I'll probably be whole. Different. But whole.

And we'll try again. We have three beautiful embryos all frosty and waiting (that was the best part, remember? Our three tiny miracles in a petri dish).

When it's time, we'll try again.

How have we been? How are we doing? Do you really want to know? It's kind of a long story...

"We're doing fine. Jas has been so healthy, healthier than ever. We've been so blessed, really. I'm alright too."



I listened to this song on repeat as I lay in bed recovering: Been a Long Day by Rosi Golan
because in case you wanted to know... and I like it

21 comments:

Alli Damraur said...

Welp, I'm in a puddle of tears after reading this story. I'm so sorry to hear of all your heartache, sadness and loss....and yet, you are still so amazingly strong and a beautiful example in every way! I know it's been so long since we've seen each other, but know that I have always been touched by your strength and testimony. I pray that one day you will have those sweet three babies to hold in your arms. Love you girl!

Katie said...

I really just think the world of you. You are an amazing girl. I'll be praying for you guys!

Nancy said...

Oh, my goodness, girl! Thank you so much for sharing. You are such a rock.

I'm still suffering from anxiety TWO YEARS after "my" trauma. *sigh* But we just keep trying, right?

Sending a million hugs and prayers your way...

ashley mikell said...

We love you and will be continually praying for you. You two are the strongest people I know. Hang in there!

Torrie said...

I don't know you, but I want to let you know how much I've always been inspired by your faith and strength. I am so sorry you had to go through this---I'm sending thoughts and prayers and love your way, even though we've never met.

Best of luck to you both---you deserve the world!

royce and aubree said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that Geri and Jason. You are a beautiful writer Geri. I feel so blessed to know you both, you have been through so much but keep the most amazing attitudes. So grateful to a heavenly father that's so mindful of His children! Love you guys! Thank you for your examples

Brianna Siddoway said...

Thank you dear friend for always finding words that I never can.

As you may know or or not I had never been pregnant and was told I never would be. I grieved, shut that door and moved on. For 6 years we tried and then we adopted a beautiful boy and have been waiting for another child for 2 years. Out of nowhere I found out I was pregnant on June 30th. It was truly a miracle, and answer to my prayers. We saw a heartbeat and loved our little person. 3 weeks ago our little person disappeared. I was lost, broken, and could not understand why... Why had this door been opened to me and I got to meet this little special someone and then they got taken away from me. In life we have to have hurt so we can know the good. That is all I could find for an answer and for now I have to be okay. I then went through a very similar miscarriage as you did. I too was that crazy screaming woman in the ER.

A few days after I found out I had miscarried I wrote in my journal. I said that it is hard to grieve someone you never met because you imagine their life as you hoped it would be. Her name was Hope for all she stood for, for what she meant to us. She had my freckles and wades blue eyes. She loved music and married and had 3 kids of her own and a house filled with laughter.

This was my dream for her life.

I know I am not yet where you are now but I hope for that day. Thank you for sharing. For your bravery, for your kindness. For hope.

Lucy said...

I am so sorry...Love you :)

Emily said...

I don't know you, but i'm amazed by your strength. From experience (nothing compared to yours) I know that losing a baby easily one of the hardest and worst things in the entire world. You're friend is right.. sometimes it can and will be dark, but it will slowly become more ok. It doesn't mean you'll be the same person you were before but it means that it will be better and somehow after it all, you'll be better. I lived off this quote the times I was going through my lost babies. "Know that he will have prepared a way for you to do it, even under great difficulty" Elder Eyring. It still sits in my kitchen and I read it every day. I don't know you, but you've inspired me. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and i'm so glad that you are alive- and here- and that you can someday keep trying.

merlene said...

Geri we are so sorry for all you two have had to go through, seems like so much for two perfect people! We love & appreciate you both sooo much!! W e pray these nest years will be the best years of your lives & you will be so blessed, all your dreams will come true. We know how Heavenly Father love's you both & he will continue to bless you. It was so wonderful to see u Sunday. Thank you for commimg. Grandpa Elmer & Grandma Merlene

Bretty said...

Oh my goodness, you both are amazing. I can't believe how much you've had to go through. God has a plan (which i'm sure you've heard thousands of times, and know better than anyone!) We think about you guys often, and always hope for the best for you. Team Egbert!

Cassie said...

❤️

Kaitlin Merkley said...

You don't know me, I don't even know how I stumbled upon your blog, but I have loved reading your blog and following your journey these past couple years. You have a talent for writing and I have admired the strength with which you have braced your trials. This post had me in a big, old puddle of tears. Both for your pain, and in admiration of your strength. I lost my first baby at 34 weeks gestation last year, and the depression you described took me right back there. That darkness feels all too real and I am so sorry you had to go through it. My prayers are with you guys and I can't wait to hear about those little frozen embryos just waiting for you :)

Kayleen said...

you are one of the bravest most beautiful people I have met. You are in my thoughts. I hope with all my being you will never have to go through that darkness again. Your story and courage to share it all is changing lives Geri. Your strength and testimony has deeply touched my heart.

Elise said...

My friend Amanda sent me to your blog. I too had an ectopic pregnancy and was internally bleeding and said I was close to dying! It was so wild and so traumatic. It's cruel the things we have to endure and you seem to have endured it well. Keep on going...you have such a great outlook and will have an amazing future !

Chris Warren said...

Geri I am so glad that I know you. You and Jason have dealt with heavier trials than most yet you live to inspire me and others. You two are special people which is why we are all constantly rooting for #teamegbert! I cannot wait for the day when you two hold that little red headed (I mean is there really any chance otherwise?) baby in your arms! Thank you for your openness and thank you for being there for me in my time of need. You two are the best!

Michaela said...

Oh Geri! I've been thinking about you guys so much lately, and wondering how you guys are and the latest news, I read something about you moving, but where to, and for what, and everything else! Then I read your post the other night, and I cried. And I cried. And I prayed. And I cried more. And I prayed a little more. I don't know, I'm totally one of those people who never really knows what to say, and usually says the wrong thing when I actually do say something, so I'm sorry in advance if my comment is just weird, or . . . something (permission to delete granted). Since reading this the other night, I've been thinking about you even more, and thinking about the past 6 (6?) years since we first met you guys. You were always so kind and thoughtful. Always smiling, both you and Jason. And your happiness was infectious. And I remember you brought me muffins after I had Calin (fyi - that was one of my favorite things anyone has done for me after having a baby), and treats when we would return from our summers selling. It made me feel like someone missed us while we were away, and it was so sweet. You are so good at being amazing, it's actually quite intimidating, I always felt you were just a little too cool and awesome for me. I remember you as being fun and sweet, and oh so beautiful, and smiling all the time, you remind me of a box of sunshine, like you don't (shouldn't) have a care in the world. But over the past few years I've learned you are a warrior. Brave, and tough, and strong, ready and willing to fight. And you've survived and fought through quite the number of brutal wars. I'm sure you're right, you've probably changed a bit after making it through each battle. Every experience, the good ones too, will change us. Maybe now when you find yourself totally back and whole, instead of a square box of sunshine, you'll be a diamond, pulled a little tighter at the corners. At the end of your post you wrote "Do you really want to know?" Yes, the whole long story! Your stories are inspiring. So personal, real, and honest, and full of faith and strength. I'm so glad you share so much of them. I miss being your neighbor and I wish I could come give you a hug! Since I can't, I'll keep praying for you guys (and probably crying too) And if you decide to come to Arizona we have a wonderful ocean view ;) XxXx

Paige said...

Oh Geri. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I'm sorry you had to experience something so terrifying. I, too, suffer from panic attacks and I understand the debilitating feelings of fear. Sending you and Jason so many hugs all the way from Georgia.

Robin said...

I'm a little late on this comment but I wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing your story. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss and want you to know you have a complete stranger praying for your three frosty petri miracles. I too have suffered losses and hope that maybe my story can help even just a little. http://robinchandlerphoto.com/blog/2014/7/2/today-is-my-due-date

Thank you again. You're so brave. :)

Kim said...

Geri, you're an amazing writer. And, I'm so very sorry!

Lauren said...

I've been thinking about you! thank you for sharing your story geri, you are amazing. I am so inspired by you, your positivity and your faith.
you are amazing!
xo lauren