Of all the stories I’ve had the privilege to share, I’m feeling the most honored to share this story — my husband Ryan’s story.
When people began questioning how he feels about my blog, as well as how he and Maddy are handling my grief, he offered to write out our story from his perspective. He wanted to share because he believed that it might help women understand their partner’s actions a little better during a loss. He also thought that if men read my blog, they would have a post that they might be able to relate to more.
I agreed with all his reasoning, but secretly, I was just excited because I would finally learn how he was feeling about our loss of Olivia!
I was surprised to learn how differently we have interpreted events, even things that I thought were cut-and-dry.
For instance, our ER Dr. mentioned all of the reasons this pregnancy might not have been viable, but I latched on to the last thing he said, “I’m not giving up hope for this baby.” Ryan, on the other hand . . . well, I’ll let him tell you what he thought about that.
Thank you, love, for share sharing your story! You are my hero!
On Saturday, December 3, 2011 (and I only know that date because I asked Rachel for it), Rachel and I were preparing for a road trip to the wonderful city of Yakima, WA. She was going for work, and I was going because it meant I would get to spend time with her. While I was getting ready . . . ok, while I was procrastinating . . . Rachel decided to show me her positive pregnancy test.
What went through my mind when I saw it was . . . nothing . . . or perhaps everything at once, and it was all so fast that my decidedly slow mental dexterity couldn’t track it.
Excitement for another kid.
Oh wait, how much is this going to cost?
What about sleep?
At least I’m not in school this time.
How much is this going to cost?
If this pregnancy is anything like the last one, this is going to be a rough nine months.
I’m going to have to get a second job to pay for this.
What are we going to do?
Even with all the crazy thoughts going through my mind, I was still excited at the potential for another little rugrat to be crawling around our house. Our trip to Yakima actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable as Rachel and I laid down some dreams and plans for the future. The nice thing was that our house was already set up to receive a 0-2-year-old foster child, so we didn’t have any major furniture expenses to deal with. But the fear of another difficult pregnancy loomed over our heads.
Rachel’s first pregnancy was pretty rough. On top of the midnight trips to the grocery store for whatever she was craving and the puking every time she walked past a trash can, she was plagued with intense morning sickness, was on and off bed rest, and had a couple of scary bleeding episodes. Not to mention the blood pressure and liver issues (HELLP Syndrome) she faced at 37 weeks that resulted in an emergency C-section and a beautiful, healthy, baby girl. I found out later that Rachel in fact could have come close to dying, and we also came close to losing Madelyn.
I really didn’t want the next nine months to be similar to the first pregnancy, and so I hoped and I prayed that Rachel would be well and that I wouldn’t have to wait on her hand and foot for nine months while taking care of Maddy, working full time and running a bicycle repair business on the side.
Everything seemed to be going good . . . too good. Rachel wasn’t sick, just slightly nauseous and only a few smells bothered her. I was happy for Rachel and I really wanted to believe everything was ok, but deep down, it just didn’t feel right. I kept a strong, happy and supportive face for Rachel, but I expected the worst. I just hoped that the worst didn’t mean I would have to choose between my wife and our new baby.
I don’t remember what the date was, but Rachel uncharacteristically called me while I was at work. She told me she was headed to the hospital because she was in a significant amount of pain. I asked her if it was serious and if she thought I needed to leave work to come be with her . . . dumb question. She said I could decide. I quickly realized I would be a horrible husband if she were in pain at the hospital and I wasn’t there with her because I didn’t want to use any time off and I didn’t want to ride my bike up the ridiculous hills on the way to the hospital.
Rachel had been in the ER for about an hour by the time I got there. We waited another two hours before the doctor came in and nicely explained to us that she probably had an impending miscarriage, but there was a chance that it could be any number of other things. He said Rachel should have her blood drawn Friday and then see her doctor on Monday to either confirm or deny a miscarriage.
Honestly, I was expecting the news. It hurt, but I was expecting it. I was sad, but Rachel was devastated. I didn’t have time to be sad. We still had hope, but our moods were decidedly sour. Two days later, on Friday, Rachel bled a lot and passed some large clots and what we thought might have been the baby. At this point, our hope pretty much disappeared.
The following Tuesday came, and again I received an uncharacteristic midday call from Rachel. This time however, the only words she could get out between gasps and sobs were, “. . . my dad . . . is taking me to the hospital . . .”
I didn’t hesitate this time. I knew I had to get to the hospital. (I also drove my car that morning, so I didn’t have to ride my bike up any hills.) I told my coworkers I was leaving and went to my car. As I was climbing into my car, it hit me . . . my wife really sounded like she could be dying. I was afraid. My best friend could be dying.
At this point, I would like to say I raced off to the hospital, lovingly embraced my wife, we just had a little scare, and little bean-shaped Olivia was fine. But that isn’t how this story goes. Instead I just sat in my car and cried. I was so worried that I might lose Rachel that I froze . . . and I cried. After a few minutes of just sitting in the car with the door wide open, I pulled myself together enough to start the car. I thought at this point it would be good to call my parents and tell them that Rachel was on her way to the hospital. When my dad answered the phone, I just cried. I don’t think I said anything for the first minute or two.
I’m not normally an emotionally expressive person, so to cry on the phone to my dad was rather embarrassing. He handled it well and said he would pray for us and would contact my mom (which was good, because I didn’t really want to do any more crying).
At the hospital, Rachel was waiting to go into surgery and was in obvious pain . . . but she was still alive and to my relief, was expected to live. She had an ectopic pregnancy and her fallopian tube had ruptured causing internal bleeding.
After the surgery, we went home, and for me . . . it was relief. There was finality to our pregnancy. There was no more waiting to find out if the baby was going to live or die, and there weren’t going to be any more trips to the emergency room. We were on to the healing.
But for Rachel, things were very different. And I was very ignorant.
Rachel was doing pretty well for the first couple of days after getting home from the hospital. It wasn’t until the drugs wore off that the devastation and grief hit Rachel. She was experiencing emotions and grief at a level I could only grasp at, let alone try to understand and help her deal with. She shut down. Her actions were mechanical, her interactions were forced and she was depressed beyond anything I had ever seen before. I had no idea what to do.
By nature, I fix things. I love to fix things when they are broken. I run a small bicycle shop out of my garage because I like to fix broken things (and I like bikes, which is a great combination by the way). I get really frustrated when I can’t fix something, especially when I can’t fix it because it doesn’t make sense to me.
That was Rachel. She was broken and I tried to fix her, but she didn’t make any sense to me. So the more I tried, the more frustrated I became. I prayed and I worked to make her “snap out of it.” I was trying to confine her ever-changing grief to a box of my own design and it didn’t work.
Eventually and unfortunately, the frustration came out at the other people in my life: my daughter, my coworkers, and even my family. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get my wife to just deal with the grief and move on that I would yell at my daughter and hit walls (because that makes sense). I couldn’t yell at my wife because I felt like the tiniest wrong word would send her off the deep-end and I would never get my fun, motivated, strong, and joyful wife back.
When I failed to fix the problem, I became depressed, and I began a new type of mourning. I was mourning for the loss of my wife. There was no hope in the foreseeable future. My mood and my actions became very sour and very bitter. I no longer cared. I just wanted to get away from everything, to go on a vacation from life.
For three months, I struggled to fix my wife and only became more frustrated and depressed. I couldn’t handle the household by myself (at least not while wallowing in self-pity), I turned my back on God, and I was failing to fix my wife. I felt like a failure. I was a failure. My wife needed me, but I couldn’t handle the failure. My daughter needed me, but I didn’t want to lash out at her so I just wasn’t there. I needed my wife and my daughter, but I couldn’t face them without feeling guilty for not fixing things. I needed God, but my failure and guilt were too great a burden for me to lay at his feet.
I would love to say that I just gave up and God fixed everything without me needing to do much, but again, that isn’t how this story goes. I did give up, but I didn’t give up quickly. Eventually I gave up on trying to fit Rachel into my box, and slowly she is finding her own box. I gave up trying to control my family, and slowly I’m getting to know them again. I gave up trying to find the quick solution that would make everything hunky-dory again. And I realized that very few things will ever be the same as they were.
It has been a slow, painful process. In my frustration I have hurt my best friend, I have hurt my beloved daughter, and I have hurt myself. But I am very thankful I know an awesome God who forgives even me, an awesome wife who loves me, and a daughter who is not yet old enough to carry a grudge.
Are things perfect now? No. Every day is a new day that brings its own set of problems. We are still dealing with the after-effects of a lost pregnancy, depression, and frustration (not to mention all the things we were dealing with before we even got pregnant), but there is at least some hope. Things are slowly returning to something that at least appears to be “normal,” and we have a few things we are looking forward to.
I’m happy to say that after several more losses, infertility, the grief of our foster son leaving, and the birth of our rainbow baby — Ryan and I are actually doing so much better. We each struggled with our own depression and grief in our own ways — but through it all we’ve clung to each other. I hope that in sharing this story, you who are in the thick of the grief will have some hope.