Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Panya Ruth: My "Little Panda"


            It did not take long before we were pregnant again.  We lost James Isaac in March 1999, and I was pregnant by September. 
            Once I had a positive home pregnancy test result, I went to the doctor as soon as I could get an appointment.
            Everything looked great and we were given our next appointment with the admonition to enjoy the pregnancy.
            On Sunday, November 7, just a few short weeks before Thanksgiving—approximately eleven weeks into my pregnancy, I was on the phone with my sister, Katie.  While I was talking to her, I had to go to the bathroom.  Nothing new.  In my family we had even had a telephone installed in the bathroom in my parents’ home because we were always in there when the phone rang.
I had a little bit of red coloring (blood) on my toilet paper when I went to the bathroom.  I also had some sort of draining.  It was as if I went pee in pants, but I did not pee.  The bleeding was so slight, I thought that maybe I had irritated my skin when I wiped and had just rubbed it raw. 
There was that small part of me that felt that something was wrong.
It really scared me.  I spent a LOT of time praying for a couple of hours.  I am just so scared that something will happen.  I am trying to “trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not unto my own understanding—in everything I do to acknowledge Him and to allow Him to direct my paths,”  but I am just so scared.  I want this baby.  I want a healthy baby.  I want to hold this baby in my arms—to bring him or her home from the hospital with me.  Please, Lord. . .please keep my baby safe. . . .Help me to trust in You. 
            I did not say anything to my sister.
            I also did not say anything to my husband.

Monday was normal.  I do not remember having any bleeding on Monday.  On Tuesday morning, I had just enough blood on the toilet paper to scare me witless. Again, I did not tell James about it. 
As soon as I got to school, I began making arrangements to go see my doctor.  I asked a parent who was on campus that day to watch my class until I got back.  Then I went up to my room and made out lesson plans for the whole day, just in case.  As soon as she came in, about 8:25 am, I went down and called my doctor’s office.  I talked to a nurse and she acted like she did not want me to come in, but somehow or another, she did tell me to go ahead and come in and they would squeeze me in. 
I left immediately.   I did not have much of anything with me.  I cannot even remember if I took my purse with me or not. 
I got to the office within just a few minutes and did not have to wait long.  My doctor examined me (he thought that maybe I was in because I had the crud).  I was not bleeding at the time.  We went and did a vaginal ultrasound.  He could not see anything at all—not even the baby who should have been in my uterus. 
There was nothing there.  He sent me over to the lab at the hospital to have some blood drawn to test my hormone level.  I was back at the school in about an hour and a half.
I was told that I was possibly miscarrying, but I needed to wait and see what happened.
            I was very reassured.
            NOT.
            So I went home and waited. 
            Tuesday plodded along with little change.
The next day at school, when I went to the bathroom and wiped, there was even more blood than there had been the night before. 
            We had chapel on Wednesday.  I sat in the back by myself, praying the whole time, “Please, Lord.  Please.  Please.  Please.” 
I had no other words. 
I fought the tears but in my heart, I already knew the truth.  I just did not want to accept it.  The tears flowed no matter how much I attempted to staunch them.
            By the end of the day, I knew that a miscarriage was inevitable.  The bleeding was getting more and more severe. 
I spoke with my principal at the end of the school day about going ahead and having a sub prepared to come in for Thursday and Friday.  He told me to do whatever I needed to do.  I asked our secretary to take care of it for me and she asked me if everything was ok.  I told her that it wasn’t.  She prayed for me.  I went back upstairs and got ready for the sub to come in for both Thursday and Friday.
            I went home as soon as I could and took a nap.  James left to go to church.  I told him everything I could.  By the time I woke up from my nap, the bleeding had worsened.  I began passing fist-sized blood clots—almost every five minutes.  Then the cramping began in earnest.  I called James at church and told him that I was cramping so bad that I would not be able to make it to church and that my bleeding had worsened. 
At some time during all this, I called Mom and told her what was happening.  She reminded me, “Polly, you have to trust in God.  Hang in there.”  We shed a few tears together. 
My cramping and blood clots got so severe, I finally decided I had better call James and get him to come home.  I accidentally called Mom.  She attempted to reassure me again, “You must let God be in control.” 
To my shame, yet I believe God understood my heart, I screamed into the phone, “God isn’t doing a very good job of handling things right now!”  I then exploded in sobs.
She asked me if I needed her to come and I told her, “I think I do.”  She said that she would call me when she got home from church—around 8:30
I got through to James and told him that I needed him to come home. 
In the meantime, Mom accidentally called me back—she was trying to call Katie.  I told her that James was on his way.
The bleeding continued, getting worse and worse with each passing hour. 
James came home and called the answering service and within five minutes my doctor called.  I told him what was going on and he said, “If you are bleeding that much, then it’s obvious that you are miscarrying. You ought to get a D&C.” 
He said that it was my choice. 
As if I felt I had a choice at that point!
I asked him what he thought I should do and he said that he recommended that I get a D&C.  I told him I would follow his recommendation.  He told me to meet him at the emergency room.  We agreed to meet him there within the hour. 
James turned everything off on the stove—he was hungry, but we needed to get going.  A friend arrived with some larger pads, but I did not take the time to change.  (That was el stupido!)
I know this is gross, but I took the blood clots with me—just in case.  (I had been catching them in the sitz bath that I still had from before.  They did not need them.  Oh well.)
            When we got to the ER, we told the girl at the front desk that my doctor was expecting me.  She told me that I still needed to see the Triage nurse.  As we walked over, there was a lady sitting in a wheelchair right outside the Triage waiting area.  She informed me that she was last in line—before me. 
James and I sat down to wait.  We listened to the woman already with the nurse.  She had to tell him (the nurse) every ailment, ache and pain, and type of medicine she took and was allergic to, ever since she was a little girl.  It took her forever to get through. 
I was scared and upset.  And I was bleeding…a lot.
I told James that he needed to ask or find a way for us to be next.  I could not wait any longer. 
(In the meantime, I overheard the girl who was in the wheelchair make a phone call on her cell phone—she told the person on the other end of the line that she had broken her toe (or foot) at the hotel and that she had already talked to her insurance company and the $5,000 that she was going to get would make her foot feel much better!  In case I forget, she was still waiting to see a doctor when I was wheeled out three hours later.)
My husband whispered to the other waiting patients what was going on and asked if they
minded if I went next.  They were all so sweet and said that would be fine.
My relief was palpable.  The other patients did not have to wait long as the triage nurse assessed me and got me back into a room within just a few short minutes.
            I had to change into a hospital gown.  I bled all over everything.  Everything I touched had blood all over it.  My doctor came in to do an exam.  He started to insert the thingy (I do not know the technical terms of these things) to open my vagina and the blood gushed out like water going over Niagra Falls.  He could not do an exam so he started the process to get me to the operating room so he could do a D&C. 
James came in and my doctor tried to explain that the baby had never begun developing as he/she should and that this was “just Nature’s way of taking care of that.” 
            The nurse had tried to start an IV before the doctor came in, but she was not successful.  My doctor told her that they would do it down in the operating room.  (I had nasty bruises everywhere that they stuck me, one on my left arm and two on my right.)
            They wheeled me down to the OR where James prayed over me before they took me in.  I had the same anesthesiologist as when I had my surgery just eleven months prior.  I recognized him by his bushy eyebrows.  He put an IV in and tried to get some blood—it did not work so they had to try my other arm. 
I told him, “I have a place where you can get all the blood you want.”  
He said, “That’s ok—I’ll get it from somewhere else,” and patted me on my shoulder. 
I still cannot believe I was trying to make a joke. 
They got a good vein and they got quite a bit of blood quickly. 
I started to feel sleepy and they wheeled me into the OR.  I had to get onto the OR table by myself.  There was a hole where I had to put my butt.  I was too short for the table and they had to move the arm rest.  I asked them if they were going to strap me down and the guy told me, “Only if you get frisky.” 
We all chuckled.
The anesthesiologist put the face mask over my mouth and nose.  That is the last thing I remember until I woke up in recovery.  They had to put a tube down my throat into my stomach because I had eaten earlier in the day—too close to OR time.  My understanding is that it would catch any food left in my stomach and keep me from throwing up or choking during the surgery.
            I woke in recovery up crying like a baby.  The recovery nurse let me cry.  She told me that she had been through the same thing twice.  She gave me some ice and a lollipop to help my sore throat (from the tube).  She told me that I had been awake earlier and had talked to my doctor.  I do not remember speaking to him after the D&C at all.
            We soon learned that they had put the wrong name on my wrist band.  For some reason or another, I was “Carol Watson.”  All of my paperwork had “Polly Anna Watson,” but for some reason, the wrist band and a blue card had “Carol.”  It took them awhile to get that straightened out.  I do not know why that matters now, but it stands out as one of those surreal moments in a sea of impossibilities.
Someone went out to get James.  They had left him in the waiting room longer than usual.
I was able to sip on some Sun-Drop, my favorite soft drink that I had not allowed myself since I first learned I was pregnant. 
Praise the Lord for small blessings.
I told the nurse I had to go to the bathroom.  Once I went, she helped me to get dressed.  She had given me a shot of a medicine to help my uterus contract and to stop the bleeding.  Then she had to give me a shot of the Rhogam because my blood type is negative.  She gave me my instructions and signed that I could stay out of school until Monday.  James signed the papers, and they wheeled me out. 
(I am embarrassed to say that I took a perverse pleasure in seeing the woman with the broken
toe—or foot—still sitting in the ER waiting to see a doctor.  God forgive me, but I could not help but think that she deserved to wait.) 
We left the hospital right about 11:00 pm.  A few friends were still there.  Others had come before I went into the OR, but I did not get to see them as they had had to leave before I came out of recovery.
Anger. 
Depression. 
Despair. 
Pain. 
Suffering. 
Hurt. 

On November 10, 1999, I had to have a D&C because, at approximately eleven weeks, my baby had ceased to be.  There is no way to know the sex of the baby, but I named her Panya Ruth in the belief that she had been a girl. 
I had been looking through a baby names book and I found this adorable name, Panya.  It means “Little.”  What drew me to the name this time, though, was not so much the meaning but the fact that it sounded so much like my favorite animal in the world, a panda.  But since to name a child Panda could be considered odd, I felt that Panya worked well for my purposes.  Ruth had been my grandmother’s name (on my father’s side) and I had always loved it, so it was natural that it be her middle name.

After the second loss, the doctor recommended that we wait a little longer before we begin trying again.  James had heard from somewhere that it would take my body no less than a year to heal from this most recent devastation and subsequent operation, so he insisted that he would not even consider trying again for another baby until a year had passed.
I admit that it was one of the longest years of my life.  I lived on a roller coaster of emotions. 
As long as I was at school or working, I was fine.  I was able to function as if all was well.  I was able to function as if I had not just a few months prior survived two child losses.
At home, I was a wreck.  I did not shower unless I had school.  I did not spend time with friends.  It was too much work emotionally. 
We did go home for Christmas, but we ended up leaving early on Christmas morning because I could not hold myself together.  As much as I love my family, even being around them was more difficult than I could manage at that time.  I Praise the Lord that they loved me through that time.
One minute I would be laughing as if nothing had ever been wrong; the next I was sobbing soul-wrenching sobs. 
I remember this one day in particular at school where everything made me angry:  my students, the papers I was grading, the staff, having to go to a meeting when I had work to do.  I was venting to my co-workers during the meeting, but I did not realize how much anger I was spraying all over the room.  When the meeting was over, our precious Principal’s wife stepped over to me—after everyone else had left the room, put her hand on my shoulder, and asked me, “Polly, dear, what’s really wrong?”
And the floodgates erupted.  I screamed as I clung to her as a life-line, “What kind of mother doesn’t even know there’s something wrong with her own baby?!”  I was broken and spilling out my hurt, anger, grief, disappointment, frustrations—everything—on this wonderful woman as she wrapped her arms around me and held me until the storm passed. 
I was emotionally exhausted when I was able to pull myself together enough to leave, but I felt better as far as the anger was concerned.  Her simple action of caring enough to notice that I was not angry at my students, my co-workers, or whatever else I had been complaining about gave me the opportunity to release a lot of pent-up emotions, especially anger towards myself, my own body, that needed to come out.         
I attempted to live such that I did not have to think or feel beyond the moment I was living in at any current time.  It hurt to think about the past and it was devastating to think what my future might—or might not—hold. 
My husband and I began to draw apart. 
But I still wanted a living baby.  And I was determined that nothing was going to keep that from happening.  God had placed the desire in my heart to have children.  He would fulfill His promise of giving me the opportunity to have them.  I leaned on the story of Hannah and cried out her prayer of supplication at every possible opportunity: 

10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”

12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. 14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

15 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”  (I Samuel 1:10-16, NLT—emphasis mine)

When I prayed Hannah’s prayer of dedication, I knew what I was promising the Lord.  I had already experienced the worst imaginable losses.  I poured out my heart to the Lord, like Hannah, and He heard my prayer, too. 
I also knew that I had the name of any future son I might have:  Samuel, “asked of God.”
           
            Right now, I would rather be with my babies than here in this world—in this place.  I do not want to have to wait until I get to heaven to hold my babies for more than just a while.  I want them here with me—NOW.  I want to hold them both—NOW.  Why me?  What is so wrong with me that I cannot have my babies?
            I want BOTH of my children.  Yes, I now have two angels in Heaven, but how do I hold them when they are in heaven?
            We considered demanding to see a specialist up at Chapel Hill, but I was scared.  Was it the fact that I am Rh negative?  Is there something wrong with me physically that we just cannot know about until something like this happens?  Even if I did go to a specialist, would they be able to tell me anything?
After the loss of my Little Panda, my cave became my Safe Haven rather than a dungeon of fear.  I found comfort in the fear, loneliness, darkness, and yes, even in the depression that weighed me down.  Rather than looking for a way out of my cave, I chose to stay broken in the dark.

I will end with a few entries from my journal:

Sunday, November 14, 1999
            Numb.  I feel so numb.  I watched Steel Magnolias today.
            “I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing.”
            “My head knows [that my babies are now angels and I will one day soon be able to hold them and to be with them forever], but I wish someone would tell my heart.”
            “I’m so mad!  I’m so angry!  I just want to hit someone!  I want to make someone feel as badly as I do!”

God is good.  Even though I feel numb, I do feel His loving arms wrapped around me.  I stand upon the promises of His Word.

Friday, November 19, 1999
            I haven’t been doing well.  I am so depressed.  It does help to be in school—to work—to be busy—to keep my mind busy.  But let’s face it, there hasn’t been any closure.  James and I haven’t had a chance to be alone together, to talk.  Neither one of us is eating or sleeping well.
What do we do now????  Where do we go from here?  Do we want to go anywhere?  To do anything?  Will we ever have children?
            But I want my babies I’ve already had. . .both of them.

Wednesday, December 1, 1999
            Exactly 3 weeks today.  Life has gone on.  I’ve laughed…I’ve cried…I’ve been angry…I’ve been depressed…I’ve been irritated…I’ve felt God’s presence…His Holy Spirit comforting me…and I’ve felt NOTHING…numb.  It is hard to believe that life can go on; that I can still feel and live. 
I must admit that rather than pulling together, James and I are pulling apart.  I don’t feel like I can talk to him.  When I do talk to him, I get the impression that he’d rather not talk about it, so I don’t say anything.  He hasn’t said all that much to me, either.  I’ve tried to talk to him a little, but I just don’t feel like he’s responding. 
He is having a harder time with the loss of this baby than even I can imagine, but I need him.  I need him to share his feelings with me. 
Do you know what we’ve talked about—beyond “how was your day?”—having sex and whether or not we should use condoms or some other form of birth control.  What’s so strange is that he’s hardly touched me.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve “known” each other over the past three weeks, but I don’t feel close to him. 
He’s gone hunting a lot.  I sure do wish that I knew what he thinks when he’s out there. 


He’s talked more to others than he has to me.  We talk about things that are so superficial.  I’m getting stressed out about not being able to share with my husband and I’m getting angry with him about  dumb stuff—and I don’t want to do anything for or with him.  I know that’s not the way to be, but our not sharing how we’re feeling with each other is causing a wall to be built between us.  There have been walls before, but never this high or thick.

(If you don't know what a D&C is, here is a link to WebMD:  D&C.)

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