Friday, May 18, 2012

5 Strands of Hope: Chapter 22

Chapter Twenty-two
The Longest Saturday

As Jack drove our only son to my sister’s house, I spent the entire day frozen on the couch.  I curled up in a ball and sobbed my eyes out. I was scared to move in case that one particular movement would cause me to go into active labor. 
I watched football to pass the time.  I barely made it through the first quarter before anguish like I had never felt before tour through my body.  I let out an animal-like scream, body-convulsing tears followed.
My perfect babies are going to die, I thought.
I suck.  I suck.  I suck. I suck, I cried with such force that my brain was left void of thought. I curled up tighter and cried.
I hate this, I screamed in my head.  I knew that crying wasn’t going to do anything.  It offered some relief to the anger and sadness in my heart, but I knew that it wasn’t going to fix anything.  I picked up my cell and called my parents.
“Hi, is Dad there?” I muffled through held-back tears.
“Is everything all right?” my mom questioned.
I love my mother.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know with 100% certainty that she would do anything for me, but sometimes my father was whom I needed.  My mother felt my pain as if she herself was living through the exact same experience.  In the last two days whenever I called her, we just ended up crying.  We were two grown women sharing sobs across the eastern seaboard.
I needed a plan.  I wanted to figure out how to make it to twenty-five weeks pregnant and give my babies a 50/50 chance of making it.  I was twenty-one weeks and a day, so I had six days and three weeks to go.  Shit, that was a long time, I thought with uneasiness.
“No, can I talk to Dad?” I softly said.
“What happened? Are you in the hospital?” my mom said, trying to hide her tears.
“I want Dad.”
“Laura, are you ok?” my dad asked.
“Dad, how do I do this? My babies are perfect, but my body isn’t.  I’m going to kill my babies,” I sobbed with snot running down my face.  I felt like I was being overly dramatic, but sadly I also knew this to be the truth.  “Daddy, tell me what to do to save my babies,” I unfairly asked.
One of my favorite images from my childhood is my dad holding me high on his shoulders as he walked into the ocean.  I was a short and a super-skinny little girl.  I loved the water, but I was scared of the ocean.  The waves could knock me around like a rag doll. 
We spent the summers at our house in Mantoloking at the Jersey Shore.  My father only came down for the weekends.  The only time I went in the water was either when my father was holding my hand or carrying me.  On that particular day, he had me on his shoulders.  I felt invincible.  There wasn’t a wave that could get me.
As I talked to my father, I needed him to be that little girl’s daddy who could lift her up in his arms and save her from the scary waves below.
“Laura,” he paused.  It sounded like he sniffled.
I knew why he paused.  I asked the impossible.  I finally asked him something for which he didn’t have an answer.
“Don’t think about it.”  Silence again.  I think he knew he just said the impossible.
“Dad, they’re kicking,” I sobbed. I figured they knew that we were talking about them.  I wondered if they knew the peril that they were in. I tried catching my breath and controlling the sobs and finally did after a moment or two.
“Watch one of those girly movies you and your mother like. Just don’t think about it.   Try to escape into the movies,” he suggested.
That’s it? I wanted to say.  I wanted a solution, a plan of action.  I wanted a miracle.  Where was my superman?
He didn’t have anything else to say and became uncomfortable.  I have always known that my dad, similar to my mother, will do anything for me.  However, there are differences.  For example, my mother probably would have loved to beat to a pulp my ex-boyfriend who broke my heart.  She would defend me in any battle.  My father would listen to me and then explain why he thought the relationship failed.  My father would arm me better for the next battle.
Nothing prepared him for this, though, his littlest girl, heart-breaking, pleading for him to figure out a way to save his grandchildren. He had nothing concrete to give me. 
“When’s your next doctor’s appointment?” my mom said softly, having been handed the phone from my father.
“Tuesday morning.  It’s early, so Jack is going to go with me,” I responded equally soft.  I noticed during the past few days that when I am on the verge of tears, the softer I spoke the less someone could tell I was about to cry. However, in this case, I could care less if my mom knew I was crying.  I was tired of crying.
“Call me after the appointment,” she said gently, knowing that she was always the first person I spoke to after Jack.
“Ok,” and I unwillingly hung up.  I didn’t have anything more to talk to my parents about.  However, I felt that nothing could go wrong when I was around them.  I fretted that once we hung up the phone, I was going to go into active labor.
I lay on our brown, leather couch with my hands on my belly, feeling contractions that I had been having since thirteen weeks.  Thankfully, there was no regularity to them, but some would last a minute and I wondered what it was doing to my cervix.
Three hours must have transpired and I probably fell asleep, because my cell rang and it was Jack.  He had made it to my sister’s house and Brian was doing great.  He had one little mishap, Brian fell down the second floor staircase, but other than that everything was fine.
I wanted to shout at Jack, What do you mean he fell down the stairs? but I didn’t have the energy.  Jack looked horrible when he left that morning. I knew he felt as badly as I did about shipping our baby off to my sister’s house.  I tried to focus on the fact that Brian was fine.
Brian was almost 17 months old. He was at an incredibly cute age and was a wonderful little guy.  We were lucky that he was extremely adaptable.  We were even luckier that my sister and her family unwaveringly welcomed Brian into their home.
My sister has three kids.  Alex, her oldest and only son, was a senior in high school.  Hannah was a sophomore and Rachel was in seventh grade.  I loved her kids and all of them were terrific people.  I knew that each of them would be a lot of fun for Brian.
Alex is a handsome combination of his father and my father. He has beautiful, hazel eyes and a manly, chiseled jaw.  However, as attractive as he is on the exterior, it is his patience and heart that make him a beautiful person.
Hannah is my Goddaughter, so I am completely and utterly biased.  She has won a lot of awards for her athletic, academic and leadership abilities, so I am not alone in my approbation.  Hannah is also blessed with beauty.  She shares her mother’s gorgeous, blue eyes and long, shiny blond hair.  She has a softness to her personality that makes her inviting to everyone.
My little Rachel is just as accomplished as her older siblings.  She also has the bluest of eyes.  However, her thick, long hair is very blond and wavy.  She is stunning.  What sets her apart, though, is her quick smile.  When I think about her, I picture her with laughter in her eyes and happiness in her smile.
Lucky for Brian those were not the only kids in the house.  My sister, Crist, and brother-in-law, Leo, were as youthful as teenagers.  Maybe more so, as Leo ran two marathons the previous year and my sister ran one.  I was sure that with three teenagers in their house that they had some stress in their lives, but you’d never know it.
One image I have of Leo beautifully captures his quirkiness.  It was Christmas and Brian was three months old.  Leo took the frog hat that his parents gave to Brian and put it on.  Then he took a toy tambourine and started dancing around the music-less kitchen, making Brian and everyone laugh.  He had absolutely no problem making a fool of himself just for a baby’s giggle.
Brian was going to have fun with everyone in my sister’s family.  It comforted me to know that they were looking forward to Brian’s stay as much as I dreaded his absence.
Now I knew that I had another five plus hours to wait until Jack got home.  I called Ruth to ask if I could come downstairs.  We got in a little argument, because she didn’t think I should get out of bed.  I explained with a bunch of profanity that my apartment was depressing without Brian in it.  It was the first time since Brian was born that I was there without him.
“Hi,” I said as Ruth opened her apartment door.  Ruth’s bottom lip began to quiver and we both started crying as she embraced me in a tight hug.
“How are you feeling?” Ruth hesitantly asked.  “I mean, ah, come in.  Let’s go lay down.” 
On Friday, we spent an hour on the phone.  She knew everything that was going wrong with my pregnancy.  She had been one of the few people outside of my family with whom I talked.  There wasn’t anything Ruth could say that would’ve been wrong, because I knew that she had my best interests at heart.
Ruth was gracious enough to know that I couldn’t or shouldn’t sit up, so she guided me past their family room and right into her bedroom.  She instructed me to lie on the bed.  She even threw some extra pillows my way so I could get comfortable.
“Wow, you really seem ok,” Ruth exclaimed.
“I’m not.  Trust me.  I’m just really tired of crying.” I responded.
“What do you think you’ll do…never mind…have you heard from Jack?” Ruth stumbled.
“Yeah, Jack called.  Brian fell down the stairs at my sister’s house, but he’s fine.  What were you going to ask?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ruth said.
“Were you going to ask me what we’d do if I lost these babies?” I questioned.
“Yes, but, ah, not because I think you’ll lose them.  I really think you’ll hold out for a while longer,” she quickly got out.
“It’s ok. I have thought about that too,” I confessed.  “Unfortunately, I’d probably need to wait a year or so for my body to calm down before doing IVF again.”
“Have you thought about the entire IVF process?”
“Yeah, I don’t mind IVF.  I just don’t know what I’d do about how many embryos to transfer.  It all just sucks.” I concluded.
“Well, at least you’re lucky enough to have a bunch of embryos to choose from,” Ruth said.
“Yes, but you are proof that it doesn’t really matter how many eggs or embryos you start off with.  Remember, I had seventeen eggs, but only had four embryos – not a good hit ratio.  You got perfection,” I said joyfully.
Ruth smiled, painfully, “It didn’t seem like perfection, at the time.”  Ruth had a horrible IVF experience.  Ruth only produced two eggs on a very aggressive protocol.  Before seeing if her eggs fertilized, her doctor told her to look into donor eggs.  He thought her eggs wouldn’t fertilize.  However, he was wrong.  She lounged across from me with two healthy babies in her belly.
“It’s really hard to say what we’d do.  I’d be terrified of an IVF cycle not working, but equally terrified of having twins,” I spoke as I was thinking.
“Would you reduce if you got pregnant with triplets again?” she questioned.
“There’s no way I’ll transfer three embryos again.  I’m not sure we’d even do two.”

“Really?” Ruth said as she absent-mindedly rubbed her belly.
“Oh…please,” I said.  “I’m sorry.”
“No, no,” Ruth interrupted.
I interrupted her right back, “I would love twins.  I really would.  I’d love to have triplets. I would just be too scared that my body couldn’t handle twins.  I’d hate to be in this position a second time.”
“You know I go to this message board.  I read that some woman was reducing down to one baby.  I was so judgmental about it.  I guess she could have had a reason for it,” Ruth confessed.
“I would have damned her for sure, prior to this,” I said.  “I really have learned that it is hard to judge a situation unless you’ve been in it.”
“Oh, now I remember correctly the woman wanted to reduce down to one, because she didn’t want to ruin her body,” Ruth recollected.
“Oh, well, she can be damned then,” I exclaimed.
We both heard Greg enter the apartment and make his way back to his bedroom.  Earlier he had a long meeting and he looked exhausted.  He was very gracious and said that I didn’t need to leave, but I knew it was time to go back to my empty apartment.  
Jack would be home in two hours, so I turned the TV back on to a meaningless football game.
“Hi, can I leave a message for Dr. Kelly,” I said to the answering service.  I left a message and within thirty minutes my phone rang. 
“Hi, Dr. Kelly?”
“How are you doing Laura?”  I explained to her what was going on with my pregnancy in more detail than she probably needed.
“Even though your doctors don’t believe in bed rest, I think it is good that you are resting.”
“Really, you think so?”

“Yes, this way you’ll have no regrets,” Dr. Kelly said.
“Thanks, thank you so much.  I meant to tell you at the beginning of the conversation that I really appreciate you calling me back, especially on a Sunday,” I said.
“I’m just happy I can help.  Please keep me updated and don’t hesitate to call,” she said and hung up.  I sat on the couch and realize that my heart was lighter.  My mouth formed a smile.  There were no tears.  Dr. Kelly gave me hope, but better than that she gave me happiness during a day that overflowed with anguish and for that I would forever be grateful.

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