Say Hello Wave Goodbye

7 06 2010

“I never knew you,
you never knew me.
Say hello goodbye.”
– David Gray

I have a daughter.

This probably surprises some of you, since I only talk about Big and Little G. I don’t talk a lot about the fact that they were pregnancies #4 and 5.

I wrote about my first pregnancy in a previous post. To get a feel for where I’m coming from, addiction-wise, I’m afraid you’ll need to read about my second pregnancy.

I’m going to pull a lot of this from a story I posted at the Preeclampsia Foundation back in 2002. The women in the forums there saved my sanity, and I love them for it.

About 17 weeks into my pregnancy, I experienced a day where I threw up all day long. I hadn’t had morning sickness at all, so I was a little concerned, but Car and I assumed I had a 24-hour bug. The next day I didn’t throw up, but I simply didn’t feel well. I had a general feeling of unwellness from then on, but nothing specific.

At about 17.5 weeks, the pain started. At first I assumed the pain, which was located just below my sternum, was heartburn. I’d never had heartburn, but I couldn’t imagine what else the stabbing pain could be, and everyone knows that pregnant women get terrible heartburn. The pain got progressively worse until I could no longer work. I asked a few people if this was really what heartburn was like, and they assured me that pregnancy heartburn could be really bad. I took the maximum amount of antacids allowed, but nothing helped.

I had my usual appointment with my perinatologist on a Wednesday, and I mentioned the pain. He suggested Pepcid AC. My urine showed only a trace of protein, so there was no cause for concern, despite the fact that I had to have a friend drive me to my appointment because the pain was so intense.

That evening, as I curled up in a ball on the couch and sobbed, Car decided I needed to go to the emergency room. I refused, positive the ER personnel would laugh at the pregnant woman who couldn’t handle simple heartburn. We finally struck a compromise–I would page my local OB and if she thought I needed to go to the ER, I would. When my doctor returned the page, I was crying too hard to speak with her, so my husband filled her in. She also thought it was most likely heartburn, but said if the pain was bad enough that I couldn’t talk on the phone, the ER wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The first thing the doctor at the ER did was give me something he called a “GI Cocktail.” It’s a lovely little drink that numbs your entire digestive tract down to your stomach, and will apparently subdue even the worst heartburn. It made my tongue and throat numb, but did nothing for the pain. The doctor said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but it’s not heartburn.” They gave me a shot of Demerol for the pain and ran  several tests (blood work, ultrasound, CT scan). After about 4 hours in the ER, all they could come up with was, “We can’t find anything wrong except for some elevated liver enzymes. We think it’s probably your gallbladder. Call your doctor in the morning.” They discharged me and sent me home.

The next day I called my doctor and told her I had elevated liver enzymes and the ER doctor thought I had something wrong with my gallbladder. My wonderful doctor, whom I credit with saving my life, said, “That doesn’t sound right. Let me makes some calls and call you back.” Within 30 minutes, she called me back and told me to go to the hospital for further testing.

From that point on, things become a blur. I was admitted to the hospital on Thursday and put on a morphine drip for pain. My liver enzymes skyrocketed, my platelets dropped. We were told that the best-case scenario was hepatitis. My red blood cells started to self-destruct and my kidneys began to shut down. My brother flew out from Minnesota in case he had to say goodbye. Every possible liver disease was tested for and ruled out between Thursday and Saturday, when the doctors finally settled on the final diagnosis–HELLP Syndrome. They told us that to save my life we would need to terminate the pregnancy. I begged them to prolong the pregnancy long enough to save my child. The doctor told me, “I don’t think you understand. It’s not an either/or situation. If we don’t end the pregnancy, both you AND your baby will die.”

On Saturday night a doctor started the process of manual dilation (which is every bit as painful as it sounds), and on Sunday I delivered a perfectly formed little girl, Margaret Marie. Maggie weighed 3.88 ounces and never took a breath on this earth. I held her in my arms, counted her fingers and toes, and decided she looked like my husband, who was weeping at my side.

About six months after Maggie was born, we decided to try again. I miscarried at six weeks. I told myself , “At least it happened early,” but I was still devastated.

Three months after that, I had my first drink.

*The WordPress proofreader may be many things (some of which include colorful expletives), but it is not a medical encyclopedia. I revel in my intellectual superiority. And yes, I realize it says a lot about me that I’m so excited about knowing more than a computer program. Shut up.




23 responses

16 10 2012
For Maggie « Like Swimming

[…] would have been your 12th birthday. I’ve decided you probably would’ve been a chatterbox and I’d […]

3 03 2012
Emptying the Baby Trousseau « Like Swimming

[…] the Smith clan’s naturally-born grandson population.) Then I got pregnant which, as you know, didn’t go very well the first three times. However, in two of the three pregnancies I lost, we knew the gender: […]

17 10 2011

This just leaves me breathless. My heart goes out to you and your baby.

17 10 2011
How Can I Keep from Singing? « Like Swimming

[…] years ago I’d lost my perfect baby girl and my heart was broken into so many pieces I didn’t think I’d ever find them all, much […]

11 03 2011

It’s unbelievable how our stories parallel each other. My heart is breaking for you, but I know Maggie and Aiden are playing together in heaven, loving us as much as we love them.

15 10 2010
Maggie Doesn’t Live Here « Like Swimming

[…] you don’t know about Maggie, you can read the story of how I had HELLP Syndrome and lost my daughter. Or you can just know that ten years ago I carried a little girl in my womb, but she doesn’t […]

5 08 2010
Takes My Pain Away « Like Swimming

[…] Say Hello, Wave Goodbye […]

12 06 2010

I’m so sorry for your loss. Beautifully written account of your experience, thank you for sharing.

14 06 2010

Thanks, Charlotte. I’m really sad I didn’t get to meet you at CBC10–maybe next year!

12 06 2010
Untypically Jia

Jenny, thank you for sharing. So, so brave. Brave for not ignoring the lives that were given to you, albeit very briefly. So many women I know have tried to ignore experiences like that and it just eats them alive. And Brave for dealing with your addictions, even in a public setting. Much love to you.

14 06 2010

Thanks, Jia. I don’t feel very brave most days, but I feel honest, which is good.

8 06 2010

There is nothing that can truly express it, but just know that I love you and that I am truly sorry you went through this. I had no idea, and am glad that you shared your story. You never know who might read it and be helped from it in some way.

Also, I am glad that you are still here. Who else would post photos of animal cookies in compromising positions? 😉

9 06 2010

There must be someone else. Right? Okay, maybe not. I think my rather strange brand of humor has served me well through all of this. Laughing is a lot more fun than crying. 🙂

8 06 2010
Jessica G.

Jenny, this makes me love you even more. I am so glad got to meet you in person!

9 06 2010

I’m glad I met you, too! Now, if only we’d had the chance to sleep together…

8 06 2010
Elizabeth Gessel

How simple it all sounds when you write it so concisely. I remember it much better as I saw my beautiful daughter nearly lose her life. You left out the fact that you virtually had no platlets left, so every time the machine took your blood pressure, it would break down more blood vessels until your arms was black. And perhaps you didn’t know that when the doctor told us your official diagnosis and the fact that they would have to terminate the pregnancy, I asked it they would do it that night. the reply: “Oh no, your daughter would bleed to death if they did it tonight.” They gave you steriods for 24 hours so you would bleed to death. I cried almost all night: my daughter was losing her baby–her second one–but right now the baby was killing MY daughter. What a mix of contrasting emotions.
You were in the hospital for a week. On top of the blood, liver, etc issues, you had pneumonia.
Now that you’re a mother, you know first hand how you wish you could take away and shield your boys from awful things. You never get over that feeling. I couldn’t save you. With everything I knew, and all the questions asked, there was absolutely nothing I could do to save you and Maggie. I still cry.

8 06 2010

Honey, I’m so sorry. That’s just awful. I know your pain, too. It sucks.

9 06 2010

There’s really no other way to say it, is there?

8 06 2010
Erika Hill

I don’t really know what to say that doesn’t sound a bit trite to me– “Sorry” seems completely inappropriate. I guess the thing I can say is that I’m still reading, and I think you’re great.

8 06 2010
Kristina P.

Oh, Jenny, my heart is breaking. I had no idea. You are so brave to share your story.

8 06 2010
Michelle F


You amaze me. I had no idea you had been through all of this.

8 06 2010

Both this post and the last one left me in tears. I’m so sorry. My heart is breaking for you.

8 06 2010

I know Maggie and I remember that time like it was yesterday. There is some stuff no human should have to endure but you did and you still do. which makes the g’s all the more precious to their e-aunties. *smoochies*

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