Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sawyer's Story: Loss, Medical Termination & Crap Law

My friend Nicole is very brave. She went through a very traumatic experience with a late term loss of a child. She wanted to put her story, and Sawyer's story out there in the hope she could possibly help others in their journey of healing and to offer support to anyone in the same kind of situation she was in. As a friend, it's an extremely helpless place to be when someone you care about goes through this type of loss. So, the only thing I can really do is be a vessel for her story to get out into the world. Even if you haven't gone through this, we should all be angry at how little the law cares about women and mental health. If nothing else, hopefully this will help people gain an understanding of termination that isn't a story of stereotypes and stigmas. Love to you Coley- Your bravery & willingness to put yourself out there is inspirational. I wish bell cakes really took away your pain. xoxo
Sawyer’s Story
Disclaimer from Nicole: This could be a trigger for some, so read with caution.

A story of loss, medical termination and the laws that do not favor a woman’s well-being in difficult situations.

I should start my story by saying that I am fortunate enough to have had one very healthy pregnancy and a very active four-year-old son, Emmett.  I thought that when my husband and I were ready to try for another baby in 2012 that there would be no problems getting pregnant.  And there were no problems—we got pregnant quickly.  After 6 weeks, we found out that that baby had no heartbeat.  By 10 weeks, we had a “natural” miscarriage (not assisted by any type of medical intervention; letting the body pass the fetus on its on), which was uncomfortable in itself.  I took some time off of work and still ended up passing the baby in the bathroom at my office.  Not an ideal situation.

My husband and I believe it was just bad luck and started trying for another baby again a few months later and again, quickly got pregnant, for which we were both thankful for.  This pregnancy lasted a few weeks (8) and again, we found no heartbeat.  Because of the length of time it took for Baby #1 to pass previously, we elected to have a D&C (medical abortion) in order to help us move forward and heal.  The procedure was quick but this time, I did not recover well at all.  I was still having painful contractions a few days later and passing large clots.  My regular OB was out of the office for Hanukkah, so I saw her practice partner on the 5th day, when I called in, concerned something wasn’t right.  She immediately sent me for a 3D ultrasound and we quickly found out that there was still fetal tissue remaining in my uterus, which my body was trying to deliver.  Since I was no longer dilated (they dilate you for the D&C and eventually your cervix closes up), it was extremely painful and nearly impossible.  Another D&C was scheduled for the following day as we were leaving 2 days later to travel from Florida to Ohio for Christmas.  (I should also note that only our parents knew of this pregnancy; we couldn’t cancel the trip without “outing ourselves” which we weren’t prepared for). 

Recovery for the second surgery went well and we discovered during my follow-up in January that I had a partial molar pregnancy.  The Cleveland Clinic’s website defines a partial molar pregnancy as “A partial molar pregnancy is a variation of a molar pregnancy, an abnormal pregnancy in which an embryo (the fertilized egg) either develops incompletely, or doesn't develop at all. Instead, a cluster of grape-like cysts (known as a hydatidiform mole) grows in the uterus.”

It was a few weeks after this point where I broke down and confided to my close group of friends that I was feeling depressed.  With their help and encouragement, I spoke to my husband and made an appointment with my OB for the following day.  She started me on Prozac for PPD and eventually, things started to get better. 

In the next few months, two more pregnancies followed and ended – one chemical and one missed miscarriage.  My husband and I decided to hold off on trying again to give both of us time to heal.

We began trying again in May of 2014 and were optimistic when I got a positive test in July 2014.  My EDD was St. Patrick’s Day (3/17/15).  I moved through the pregnancy cautiously, not wanted to be let down yet again.  I had weekly ultrasounds and everything was progressing normally (for once!).  I had a lot of morning sickness and I was never so thankful to be throwing up (probably the only time in my life I’d say something like that).  Still, I had a hard time accepting that nothing horrible would happen.  At my 18 week appointment, after a routine heartbeat check (perfect!), my OB even told me “Nicole, it’s okay to relax.  You’re 18 weeks!  You’re safe”.  That was Friday afternoon.  By Monday morning, everything changed.    

Sunday evening, while sitting on the couch relaxing, my right arm started throbbing.  After I Googled (because, that’s what you do!), I quickly turned to my 49 best internet friends and asked their advice because I determined I had a blood clot.  They said that I had no symptoms other than the throbbing (no redness, swelling, hot to touch), but to head to the ER to check.  For once, my Googling symptoms turned out to be a blessing I ended up having a blood clot.  I was put on Lovenox (blood thinners) and sent to my OB’s for a follow up the next day.

We went in for the ultrasound and discovered that our baby boy’s amniotic fluid was not at a normal level.  We were rushed upstairs to the specialist that told us to rest and drink plenty of fluids and that we would recheck at 20 weeks.  Rest.  That was impossible.  It was that night I had my first panic attack.  Of course, I didn’t know what a panic attack was, and since some of the symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism (clot in lungs) were shortness of breath, dizziness, vomiting, rapid heart rate, etc.  we immediately called an ambulance and back to the ER I went.

For the next 2 weeks, I spent every other day at my OB’s getting ultrasounds and watching Sawyer’s fluid get lower and lower.  I was having 10+ panic attacks a day.  I was depressed.  I would not eat and was only drinking because it was my only hope his fluid would come up.  I could not get any kind of anxiety medicine because I was still pregnant, so with my OB’s blessing, Benedryl became my best friend.
At my 20 week ultrasound, we saw our sweet little one bouncing around and putting his little feet up for the Doppler.  We giggled and were smiling and hopeful…until the doctor came in.  Sawyer’s fluid was getting lower and lower and he only had one kidney, which was malformed. 

We could not even process something that we had expected was happening for the past 2 weeks.  We were told we had very little options when it came to Sawyer and my own health.  I had a previous c-section with Emmett, so it was not an option.  They wouldn’t induce me because of my clotting disorder and the possibility of hemmoraghing.  And to top it off, they wouldn’t do anything for me medically, until Sawyer died in utero.  Which could go until 40 weeks.

40 weeks of mental pain, anguish and tears.  40 weeks of heartache and waiting and praying for your child to die so that you can move on.  40 weeks of feeling your baby kick and grow, while you are growing, only to know you will have to say goodbye immediately.  It broke me.  I couldn’t do it.

The laws in the state of Florida, as well as many other states, do not account for a woman’s mental well-being when it comes to pregnancy termination.  There are NO choices for women when it comes to these situations, where you know your baby has a zero chance of survival, but you can’t move forward until they legally die. 

My doctor recommended a specialist out of my county that practiced compassionate care and would terminate my pregnancy in a private office setting.  To put it simply, he would perform a late term abortion (D&E) for me at 23 weeks.  This was the option my husband and I chose.  It’s one I struggle with to this day and one that lead me to a nervous breakdown and a night in the psych ward a few weeks ago.  The guilt.  The stigma.  Everything that comes along with that decision.

The procedure was to be done over two days, as I was late into my pregnancy.  I first went down on Thursday afternoon, where I met with the counselors, had an ultrasound, met with the doctor (who was wonderfully and VERY highly regarded in the medical field) and signed my son’s life away.  I was taken back to a room (my husband had to wait in another area) and they inserted about 10 laminaria sticks into my cervix (which was extremely painful) and sent me on my way to get a pain prescription and to get some rest for the evening. 

Rest.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, I took a few Xanax (which thankfully my wonderful OB prescribed after we decided on the decision), and had 5 panic attacks.  I spent the night lying on the bathroom floor, dry heaving and sobbing, feeling my baby kick like crazy.  In my mind, in those moments, he knew that I was killing him and he was saying “Mommy, mommy!  I’m in here!  Feel me; I’m moving and I’m alive”.  Today, I can say that I know this was not the case.  Three weeks ago?  I would still have told you that’s what he was thinking. 

The next day and procedure took forever.  I had to let misoprostol (2) dissolve which took about an hour.  Those (along with the laminaria, were to dialate me and start labor.  I started getting contractions and was taken back to the recovery room, where I spent some time with other women who were there for elective procedures.  I sobbed and hyperventilated through those contractions, knowing that there was no turning back and there hadn’t been since the afternoon before. 

Eventually I was wheeled into the surgery room and was put out for the procedure.  Kind of.  I woke up as they were removing him from my body and screamed louder than I ever have in my entire life.  It was so painful, both physically and mentally.  Immediately, I was put back to sleep again.  I woke up in recovery, empty, both physically and mentally. 

We headed home and I stayed there for 3 weeks.  I ate an orange and a piece of bread every day.  I went to the hospital constantly for every twinge that could be related to my blood clotting disorder (which is what they believe caused all of my previous miscarriages).  I spent so much time in the ER and on medications that by February, my $2000+ per month Lovenox (thankfully, a $150 co-pay) were covered and free because I met all of my deductibles. 

I tried to move on.  I put on a false smile and braved the real world again.  But inside, I was withdrawing and slowly getting worse.  They upped my anti-depressants and subbed Klonopin for the Xanax.  I saw a psychiatrist regularly. I was present for things but I wasn’t there.

I had a nervous breakdown 4 weeks ago that landed me in the psych ward.  It was, seriously like Girl Interrupted.  The nurses came into our room every 10 minutes at night for checks.  One girl paced the hall constantly.  There were privileges that you could earn.  I wanted out immediately.

When I was released 24 hours later, I knew I needed to make some changes.  We had a lot going on in our personal lives.  My brother was getting married, we just bought a house and were planning on moving and my son was winding down from his first year of school.  After much discussion, my husband and I decided that I would go on medical leave from work and attend a partial hospitalization program at the same hospital I was admitted to a week before.  The program is Monday – Friday, 8:30 – 2:30 and included time with therapists, group therapy and visits with a psychiatrist.  I am happy to say that I am graduating from that program tomorrow and this is the reason for me writing this post.  I have accepted Sawyer’s death and the choices we made for him and his well-being.  I feel alive again.  I can be happy and play soccer with my son in the yard, or joke around with my husband.  I am healing.  Finally.

One of the most difficult things for me on my journey is that there were NO support groups for situations like mine.  For a baby that my husband and I desperately wanted that had defects?  Those existed.  Abortion support groups?  Miscarriage support?  Those all are readily available.  What are not available are safe places for women (and men) to talk about their medical terminations due to heartbreaking issues, their stillbirths, their miscarriages.  So I made one.  If you or anyone else you know has been in a situation like this, please come and join us.  For venting, for support, for grief, for help.  Pass along the link to those you think might need it.  Email me privately if you just want to talk to as questions.  But please, don’t keep it inside and please don’t wait until you have a nervous breakdown or even worse because you don’t grieve your sweet child properly.  I am here for you.  I promise. 

Email Nicole:
The link to her online support group:

**I (Know It All) am adding this link I just happened upon about why someone would need an abortion at twenty weeks:


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