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Today, I took a step forward. I also took two steps backward. Or . . .  make that a dozen.

I actually did an Arbonne party today. Was I ready to? No. Was I ever going to feel ready? Maybe not for a long, long time. But as my mom and my counselor both pointed out, it might feel good to do something “normal.” Something productive that usually brings me satisfaction.

Last night was extremely rough, and I thought I was making a huge mistake in trying for the party today. But you know what? I did it. Granted, I made a billion “mistakes.” Things I forgot to bring — things I brought, then left them in the car — things I did completely wrong. I even called one of the guests by the wrong name. I guess you still get post-partum brain, even when there’s no baby at the end of the pregnancy.

In spite of all that, the girls were really sweet. I enjoyed getting to know them, and I enjoyed the party.

Ryan and Maddy drove with me to the party, so I think that made it easier.

But on the way home, I became sullen. We ate at Panera, and I was consumed by remembering my last visit to Panera — the day after I miscarried and I had emotionally lost it when I got my coffee.

Later this evening, friends of ours watched Maddy so Ryan and I could have a date. It was super, super nice of them. I was looking forward to our date earlier in the day, but now? Now I was paralyzed by emotion. We ended up at the movies watching Mission Impossible. But I couldn’t focus. I read blogs and texted. I just felt disconnected from everything — Ryan included. Nothing felt right.

My mood had gone considerably south by the time we’d gotten home. Anxiety about going to church crept up. Ok, it didn’t creep. It clawed at me, making me feel like I was on the verge of a panic attack. I wanted to go to church, but I’m not ready for attention. I feel like I’ll just cry through worship. Not be able to focus during the sermon. And I feel like I’ll want to make a beeline out of there if anyone talks to me.  Ryan assured me I didn’t have to go if I wasn’t ready. But I almost feel like the longer I procrastinate, the harder it will be.

Then there’s the anxiety about more “firsts” coming up this week. (As in, “Last time I did this, I was pregnant. This will be my first time doing this/going there/talking to this person since I lost the baby.”) Last time I went to church, I was pregnant. Now I’m not. And later this week, I will go to my work to collect my things and have lunch with my friends. But last time I was there, I was pregnant and I began cramping and this entire nightmare began.

I decided to try to sleep off the anxiety, but decided to open my mail first. I opened up a sympathy card. The first thing I read was, “There are no words that are appropriate right now.” How true. This whole situation was inappropriate really. When is it appropriate to lose a baby? And what words could a person say?

The truth of this overwhelmed me. The woman who had penned those words was the first to see me in the bathroom at work, curled up on the floor in pain. She was the first that brought it to my attention that I might be losing the baby. Until then, I was in complete denial anything was truly wrong.

Remembering that day sent me into flashbacks of the events I’ve gone through in the last three weeks.

Trauma 1: I was at work, enjoying a Christmas party when the cramps started. A week before, I had been joking to a coworker that I had a “cranky uterus” this time around. We both laughed. But on this particular day, the cramps were sudden and awful.

It became obvious to others I was in pain, but I didn’t want attention. So I excused myself to the bathroom, thinking that in 15 minutes or so, they would pass and I would be able to eat the yummy Indian food that was waiting for me.

That was definitely not the case. I found myself needing to breathe through the cramps, and eventually, I curled up on the floor (albeit, as far away from the toilet as I could possibly get. And yes, I know this is really gross. But I was just trying to get through the pain.) Coworkers came in, and I insisted I was OK . . . but deep inside, I wanted someone to come help me. Finally, my friend Deb came in and saw me crying in pain. She said, “That’s it. We’re driving you home, or to the hospital. Which is it?”

They drove me to my parents’ house, and my dad believed I had either an ectopic pregnancy, an obstructed bowel, or appendicitis. My parents took me to the ER. Before I got to see the Dr., much of my pain subsided due to pain meds and I wanted to go home. My dad insisted that I be seen.

Trauma 2: I had a very kind, compassionate Dr. He seemed to care very much for me and my baby, and spent a lot of time with us. We discussed how far along I might be, and when my due date is. And then, he reviewed my paperwork one last time before leaving the room to order tests and said casually, “Oh, wait a  minute. The pregnancy test here says you’re not pregnant.”

And with that calm, casual statement — as if he was announcing something as trivial as my temperature — a part of my heart died. Just died. I knew there was no reason for the pregnancy test not to be positive unless the baby had died, or was going to die. And the despair that filled my entire being was so consuming. Crying didn’t help. Nothing helped. During that time, I was almost numb to physical pain. They put in the IV lock, and I didn’t notice. I almost wanted some physical pain at that time to take away the heartache. To give me some distraction from the raw emptiness inside. (Eventually I got it as my arm ached from the IV.)

I had to have an ultrasound, and I watched the image of my empty uterus wave across the screen as the technician searched for a baby. Nothing. There was nothing. I know what my pregnant uterus should look like. And that was definitely empty. At one point, she turned up the sound and I heard a familiar “whoosh whoosh” of a heartbeat. I think the technician saw hope flick across my face for a brief instant, because she quickly made note that that was MY heartbeat — not a baby’s.

It seemed like the ultrasounds lasted 30 minutes (I had two). All during that time I was despondent. The technician was also kind, and told me over and over, “I’m sorry.” But she said she couldn’t tell me anything about the ultrasound. She just said, “I know you think you know what this is, but it might not be.” But then in the next breath, she would look at me compassionately and say, “I’m so sorry.”

By the time I saw the Dr. again, I had been in the ER for 5 hours. And I had begun to bleed. The Dr. said the blood draw came back positive for pregnancy with very low HCG levels. I had to wait until Friday for the blood draw to find out if the numbers had doubled, which would indicate that the pregnancy might be viable. He told me that he wasn’t willing to give up on my baby. That he’s seen crazy things happen before, and he was holding onto hope.

I felt a little bit better. But I also knew it would take a miracle from God for us to keep this baby.

Trauma 3: On Friday (two days after the ER visit), I had the blood draw. After the blood draw, I came home and could finally sleep. I was worn out from praying, crying, reading about miscarriage/ectopic pregnancy, and the like. It was as if after the blood draw, there was nothing left for me to do. A friend recently blogged that we women fight to keep our babies alive in the uterus. I definitely felt as if I had been in a battle. Now it was up to the numbers to tell us the fate of our baby.

The nurse’s call woke me up and she said we had good news. The numbers had gone from 560 to 840. So that meant the baby was still alive and growing. When I informed the nurse that I hadn’t bleed at all in 24 hours, she was encouraged. She, too, said she was holding onto hope for our baby.  But she also said that because the numbers didn’t double, she was still quite concerned about the placement of the baby.

So much hope was given to me then. I began texting and calling with the good news. But still, I did ask friends to pray that if our baby was ectopic, that I would pass the baby naturally so I didn’t have to make any hard decisions.

Five hours after the nurse’s call, it seemed that God was answering my prayer. Well, at least the prayer that I had hoped He wouldn’t have to answer.

The bleeding began, and the cramps. We were supposed to have dinner with Ryan’s grandpa that night — but I didn’t think I should go. We were supposed to go out of town on vacation the next morning, but I didn’t know what I should do. Ryan and I were on opposite pages as far as what we should do at this point, and emotionally, we were both heated. But I knew this was the end. I wanted to pass the baby as peacefully as I could at home.

[Please excuse the next part — it’s a bit more graphic, but I really feel I need to write this out.] During the cramping, I was constantly in the restroom checking my bleeding. It was definitely as heavy as a period. Once, when I stood up, I felt something in me and felt the need to push. I sat back down and did, and this large clot with tissue forcefully came out.

As soon as I saw the clot, I began weeping, clinging to the toilet. I knew it was our baby, and she was sitting in our toilet. I felt as if this caged animal inside of me was let loose. There was no rational thinking. No logic holding me back from just feeling. Honestly, I had no choice but to let this grief possess me in a way I had never let anything take over. I was no longer felt like Rachel — I couldn’t even recognize this person who was wailing on her bathroom floor. In truth, I don’t think Ryan recognized her either.

Trauma 4: The next few days were so hard. I felt expected to be normal. To go on vacation, and be socially acceptable. To enjoy shopping and eating out. To enjoy our hotel. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to be normal. I no longer cared if I made others happy or uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to be this new person I had become. I didn’t know how to grieve. I didn’t know how to live.

Trauma 5: The following Tuesday, as I was putting on my coat to leave for my post-miscarriage appointment (that was originally scheduled as my first prenatal appointment), I felt very sharp cramping in my abdomen. Within seconds, I could no longer stand the pain was so intense. I eventually walked to the car, taking many breaks to squat. (I imagine I was a sight to the neighbors.) I called my parents and asked if one of them could watch Maddy, and the other accompany me to my appointment as I could not go alone . . . I was in too much pain. They asked if I needed them to pick me up. I declined. I didn’t want to be late for my appointment.

I could hardly walk, but somehow I got Maddy into her car seat and began driving. The pain was unbearable, and made me nauseous. I kept telling myself outloud I was OK, in between dry heaving. Maddy was in the back telling me over and over not to cry. The truth is, I knew my tube had ruptured. I knew I was bleeding internally. But for some reason, I still thought I could handle it.

At one point, the logical part of me said, “You need to stop here at this fire station and tell them you need help.” The illogical part said, “They’ll take me by ambulance and we can’t afford that.” I took probably 30 minutes to make a 15-minute drive. My mom was so worried that I had gotten in an accident. (She later told me she had to get on her knees and beg God to forgive her for letting me drive like that.) As I crawled along the highway, I recieved many dirty looks from the people that passed me by. It’s hard to drive fast when you hurt so badly.

By the time I reached my parents, I could officially no longer stand. I broke down in tears of relief when they took Maddy from me and helped me into the backseat of their car. My dad took me to my appointment because my parents figured he would need to carry me in.

My mom called Ryan to tell him I was in pain. She also called the office to let them know that I was coming to them in bad shape. They brought out a wheelchair and both my dad and the nurse helped me in. I sobbed as quietly as I could in the fetal position as they wheeled me through the waiting room. I was relieved the room was not full of onlookers.

My poor nurse was smaller than me, but she had to fully support me standing and had to undress me and get me into a robe as I could not. My normal self would have been humiliated — but this new me didn’t care. My OB immediately came in and did an exam. Again, nothing was in my uterus. She wheeled in the ultrasound where she saw fluid in my abdomen and a mass by my ovary. She told me I had an ectopic pregnancy and that I needed surgery right away. She said I had not passed a baby on Friday, I had passed uterine lining. The baby would have died when my tube ruptured.

She was going to try to save my tube and ovary, but she could make no promises. She didn’t know what shape I was in until she opened me up.

After the nurse redressed me, I called Ryan. “I’m in pain. (Long pause). Meet me (long pause) at Harrison. (Long pause). I have to have sugery.” Ryan could barely make out my words. Later he told me he thought he was going to the hospital to say a final goodbye.

At the hospital, the receptionist had me go in the backroom to fill out paperwork. Really. She wanted my insurance info. At this point, I was shaking from the pain. She asked my dad if I needed a blanket from being cold. He pointedly told her I was shaking from pain, not cold. She infomed him he needed to move his car. For a few minutes, they left me alone in the room . . . and I began dry heaving again. Finally, after seeing me try to throw up on her nice carpet, she realized maybe this was not a good idea. Paperwork could be done in the hospital room. (I can’t believe it took her this long to realize the absurdity of me doing paperwork in the shape I was in.)

The nurses were really kind. I mumbled out answers to a billion questions about my health and previous surgeries as best as I could, and FINALLY they gave me pain medicine. After the shot, I began truly throwing up at this point. Ryan was finally in my room, and was trying to comfort me. Each shot for the pain lasted about 15 minutes, but it was enough to finally stop the shaking and I could rest just a bit.

Family arrived at the hospital out of nowhere. It was nice to have everyone there supporting me, even though I didn’t see them.

I got wheeled into the OR, and my OB kept telling me, “Baby girl, I’m going to take care of this for you. I’m going to fix you and make you feel better.” At that point, I could have cared less that she was talking to me as one might talk to a toddler. Her words gave me much comfort. I knew she cared about me.

The shot had worn off, so I was quite ready for the anesthesia. The fear I felt toward the surgery was overcome by my need for relief. The gave me the anesthesia, and I just nestled my head into the pillow as I might have if I was going to bed. Sleep was most welcome.

It took me several hours to fully wake up after surgery. At one point, I dreamed that the baby had floated down my tube into my uterus from the surgery. When I woke up, I thought I was pregnant again. It took me a while to realize that was just a dream.

It was disorienting to wake up from surgery, not knowing what had gone on. How long had I been in surgery? What time was it? Did I have a tube still? Did I have an ovary? Heck, did I have anything left in there? Did I lose blood? Did I have a transfusion?

Ryan came back and told me I did still have a tube, and that I had lost a half a liter of blood and had a huge clot, but that I did not have to have a transfusion. At some point, I thought I heard that I had a cyst on my ovary they had to take out. But I found out a week later that was just something I conjured up on my own in my anthethesia-induced stupor.

They sent me home that night. And my family and friends loved on me and took care of all of us. And I guess that’s the silver-lining in this whole thing — I’ve experienced other people’s love and concern — even from strangers — in amazing ways.

Back to today — I finally feel some relief after writing this all out. I apologize again for the more graphic nature of my post. 🙁  The memories of pain and fear were welling up into anxiety — and from my past, I know the only way for me to release that is to write it all down.

Tomorrow, maybe I will go to church. Maybe I will be able to take another step forward. And maybe tomorrow night, I’ll only have to take one step back — and not two.