Phantom Pain

I remember a number of years ago, when I was still a girl living at home with my parents, my great aunt used to come visit and stay with us on weekends. The reason for her visit wasn’t purely social. She had recently had her leg removed due to diabetes and was allowed out of the rehabilitation centre on weekends under the care of family. I remember her vividly describing to me, at that time, the immense pain she would feel in her absent leg. She said she would often reach out in the night in attempt to make the pain stop, only to discover her leg was no longer there. It was, what the doctors described as, phantom pain. I don’t ever recall anyone asking my aunt how she was doing in getting over the loss of her leg, they simply asked her how she was learning to live without it.

Phantom pain. My heart and soul have been torn from my body and even though they’re not there anymore I still feel myself reaching, crying out in the night for them, only to find them missing. Unlike a leg, it’s not something that can be seen by others. Only felt by me. Being haunted by a phantom. Can I learn to live without my heart and soul, or will I ever find them again?

As predicted, today is a bad day. I feel like I’ve been punched in the throat. I wish I could accurately describe this feeling, this tightness, the raw ache and burn in my throat that’s always there, pain from holding back the tears every minute of every day. She was supposed to be mine today. She was supposed to be safe in my arms, but now all I have is that phantom pain where love should be.

The worst days of my life

It’s been really hard for me to even speak for the last week. I can’t talk much before the bitter taste of sadness fills my mouth and pours out of my eyes and on to my cheeks. Every ounce of happiness I have ever felt has been torn from my body. I’m left empty, lost and alone. I have so many wonderful people around me, offering me nothing short of everything. But what I want none of them can give me. I want my precious Everlee Rose back. I want her cooing and crying in my arms. Instead of waking up for middle of the night feedings like most new moms, I wake up to silence and a hole being dug through my chest. A crushing pain that keeps me from crying out in the nights. It leaves me scared, and vulnerable. Probably worse than that, it leaves me hating myself for something I know very well I have no control over. I may not have been able to do anything to stop what happened, but it it was still my body that betrayed my beautiful baby and didn’t keep her safe like it was supposed to. It may have been completely out of my control, but I still hate myself every second of every day for not being able to do the one job a mother should; keeping my baby safe.

Last Tuesday afternoon, February 12th would be only one day in a string of days that would culminate to be the worst in my life. I never thought I would ever have trouble pinpointing the worst day of my life, but that’s where it begins – I guess. I went to a routine doctors appointment, my 34 week checkup. I had been on bed rest for 3 weeks because of high blood pressure. A practice in torture for anyone who knows me, I’m not one to sit still for long. But I did. I ended up admitted to hospital twice in that time, but each time I was assured my baby was fine and that it was my health that was in jeopardy. I was having some mild cramping all afternoon. Like period cramps that were progressively getting worse. As my doctor and I went through our routine checkup I mentioned the cramping to her and she joked that it would be great if that was the start of labour because she was sick of seeing me already (in a joking manner, of course). I hopped up on her table, she measured my tummy and listened for the heartbeat – 154 beats per minute. I’ll never forget that number. She put me on blood pressure meds at that appointment and sent me on my way with an appointment for next weeks follow up.

As I waited at the pharmacy down the hall for my prescription to be filled the cramping got progressively worse. I thought maybe it was gastro pain and went to the washroom. The was little relief. My parents were in the parking lot to drive me home (unable to drive on bed rest) so I quickly got in their car and asked them to bring me home because I wasn’t feeling well.   By the time I got home (ten minutes later) the pain was unbearable. I tried to lay in bed to make it go away but I soon gave in to call my husband home for work to take me to the hospital.

About 30 minutes later we arrived in the case room where the nurses began asking me a barrage of questions as they took my blood pressure and hooked me up to monitors. I showed the nurse where our babies heart beat was normally found so that she could hook up the fetal monitor but it wasn’t there. She searched all over my round tummy and couldn’t find it. Another doctor soon rolled in with an ultrasound machine. The room was quiet. There was my beautiful baby on the screen. Hands to her mouth. I was in awe. So beautiful, too beautiful for words. But they couldn’t find the heartbeat. I was still either oblivious or in denial. I had heard the heartbeat not more than an hour ago. 154 beats per minute. She’s being stubborn again, I thought. I asked what that meant. And the doctor took a deep breath and looked at me, hand on my leg squeezing “it means your baby died”.

The world stopped. Time stood still.

What did she mean? How was that even possible? What happened to my beautiful baby? I could clearly see all ten fingers at her little mouth on the screen. But they weren’t moving. I don’t really remember what happened next. My husband left the room to go call my parents. I have no idea what he said to them, how he told them. I just lay there, staring into space.

Sometime later they wheeled me down to the ultra sound unit to a more sophisticated ultrasound machine to confirm the horrible nightmare, my beautiful baby, that the whole world had nicknamed McBaby, had gone. I was still in excruciating pain, and until this point had refused any sort of pain relief because I was sure they had made a mistake. But it was real, and I wasn’t waking up.   As they brought me back up to the labour and delivery room I was greeted by my crying family outside the doors, my mom dad and only sister. They were crying. That’s when I shed my first tears. They haven’t stopped since.  My husbands parents live 3000km away and when we called they quickly made the three hour drive to Toronto and hopped on the first flight to St. John’s tobe with us.  The doctors and nurses greeted me in the room with the news that I would now have to be induced and deliver my baby (it was much too risky to do a c-section). It could take hours but they promised to make me as comfortable as possible, there was absolutely no reason why I should feel pain. It was a cruel joke. I hadn’t ever felt this kind of pain, I was just told my only child, the one I loved and wanted for as long as I could remember and wasn’t sure I would ever be able to conceive, had died -and they thought the drugs would help me not feel pain?

4 shots of morphine, 4 doses of Ativan, an epidural, 4 minutes of pushing and 16 hours of labour later at 1:16pm on February 13th,  I heard the words, now tainted and sour, that I had waited almost nine months to hear – its a girl. My beautiful Everlee Rose was born sleeping, much too perfect for this cruel world.

I’m not sure what this blog will become, how long I’ll write here or what it will be a vessel for. I have a long road of healing ahead of me. Having children is not something that comes easily to my body, not conceiving, and not carrying. I know I want to make Everlee a big sister. That’s really the only thought that is keeping me the least bit sane. But we won’t be able to do it on our own. So this may become a place where I discuss that, or maybe just a place where I can discuss my road to finding a new kind of happiness again. My world is dark and lonely right now, despite all of the love I’m surrounded by I feel like I’m drowning. Drowning and all people can do is cheer me on to reach the surface, but nobody can reach down to pull me from the water.   All I know is that the one thing I want, the one thing I need to make this pain and this hurt go away is to hold my baby girl in my arms and see her big beautiful eyes looking up at me. How can I find happiness in a world without my little girl?