Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Realities of Pregnancy: After Loss

I said I would come back to the NPR article about Pregnancy Loss. One of the reasons that people often don't reveal pregnancies until about the end of the first trimester, is because they don't want to have to "untell" people if things go badly.

Natural miscarriages are *extremely* common. My mother lost two pregnancies, and my grandmother lost several. Common enough that my high school science teacher expressed the opinion that human bodies prefer to have a "trial pregnancy" before completing the real deal.

When my mother suffered her first miscarriage, she was further traumatized to learn that the medical term for a natural miscarriage was "spontaneous abortion." She was morally opposed to abortion, and there it was in her medical records.

In the aftermath of my salpingectomy, and the removal of my ectopic pregnancy, I had a follow-up visit with the OB/GYN surgeon. I had to have additional blood tests, to ensure that the pregnancy hormone returned to normal levels, indicating that any remaining tissue was absorbed into my body or expelled from it.

It turns out that, if that did not happen properly, a Molar Pregancy could result - which could further progress into cancer.

So I had follow-up visits until my hormones returned to not-pregnant levels.

After my week of medical leave, I was able to fly home. Given the recent abdominal surgery, I requested assistance at the airport. While I could walk short distances, I was not in a position to haul my luggage across the terminal. I got a strange look or two from the assistants at the airport, especially when I said I could walk some distances. But I wasn't feeling up to explaining the circumstances. I always remember this scenario when I hear stories about "wheelchair miracles." While I don't think my situation is what the airlines were complaining about, there are many in the general public who confuse the two.

I returned to work. Between the planned vacation, and the unplanned bereavement + medical leave, I had been out most of a month. At that point, I still had the Paid Time Off in reserve, so it wasn't a concern -- yet.

Most of the things that I had left to be done, were there waiting for me when I got back. The majority of them were, at that time, in Covey's second category: Important but Not Urgent, exactly where one wants to spend most of their working time.

I was able to catch up on the regular class that I had missed.

My capstone project, though, suffered. I had been able to complete my engineering degree at Purdue without owning my own computer. At Purdue, enough campus computer labs were open, close enough to 24/7/364, for me to complete my assignments. UHCL was a different story, particularly when we got to Thanksgiving. At which point I found myself purchasing my first computer just so I would have the time to write and type.

I managed to get everything submitted, both the regular coursework and my capstone, right about on the deadlines, and over a business trip. Nothing like finishing a term paper in a hotel lobby.

I started, slowly, to tell my story to a person here and a person there. One woman advised me to get a Hystero-salpingogram. This is an outpatient procedure where they insert a dye and do imagery of your reproductive system. Having had one ectopic pregnancy, it was important to know whether there were structural problems in the other fallopian tube.

Then my capstone project was rejected. My advisor went to bat for me, telling the department that I had had "a miscarriage" that semester. I was given a new deadline to rewrite the project for review. They had until early January to review the resubmitted project, change my grade, and make my December graduation official.

I didn't correct the terminology. I was grieving a pregnancy loss. Another secondary consequence of the anti-abortion movement -- besides the misunderstandings about spontaneous abortion -- is that admitting one has had a medical abortion is a risk. It risks bringing down wrath, disapproval, hellfire and damnation upon one's own head. And when one is in mourning a pregnancy that could not be, one may not have the energy to deal with such anger. Nor am I the only one.

For the project report, I called in help, a friend who offered to proofread it for me. She, in turn, passed it along to a friend of hers that she trusted - without my knowledge. We arranged a meeting at a restaurant to talk it over. I knew she was friends with this person, and it was someone who I admired and respected... but to see him there with my paper was... mortifying.

He had some good advice, though, and additional resources for me. I'm deeply grateful for that review.

With several more edits and reviews (both by my friend and the members of my committee), I got the redone project submitted and made graduation official.

I was, again, on travel when I got the good news, and we celebrated.

With the M.A. out of the way, I met my new OB/Gyn and requested the hysterosalpingogram imagery. That led to a referral to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. A fertility specialist.