May 28, 2007

In Memory

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed this year on 2007-05-28). It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911.


For me (and I think many others), Memorial Day is also a day to remember important people who have passed on, regardless of military experience. It's a day to visit cemeteries and to revisit memories you acquired of said people. It's a day to reflect on how they impacted your life and how much they're missed.

My grandfather is one of those important people that I think of on this day. He was in the Air Force and served for many years, but was not killed in the line of duty. I was lucky in that he passed away after living what I hope he found to be a very full life. He was my inspiration to do many of the things that I have done. From an early age he always encouraged me to work hard and to do everything I wanted to do. After my Mom, he was the one I called with all of my accomplishments -- ACT scores, acceptance to Michigan State, scholarship awards. He'd always tell me how proud he was of how hard I worked and the things I was accomplishing. This spurred me on to work even harder. It meant the world to me that he and my grandmother made the trip from Florida to Michigan for my High School graduation.

Unless you knew him, it's hard to understand why he was such a role model. For me, he was the epitome of strength and perseverance. He was a diabetic who had to give himself insulin shots everyday; he survived numerous open heart surgeries, a stroke and had a pacemaker put in while I was a senior in High School (that trip in itself will never be forgotten -- "I can't believe we're in Cincinnatti..."); he lost one kidney to cancer...But he never let any of this slow him down. He was an avid hunter who won many awards running 'coon dogs. In the years before his death, he worked as a golf course ranger in the sticky Florida summers.

To this day I remember vividly my mom calling me at work that summer day in July of 1997. She asked me to meet her at home and in my heart I knew what was wrong. I remember driving, literally about 90 miles an hour to get home. My sisters were there and were surprised that I was home and that I was so shaken up; I don't think my mom had called them. I don't remember much of the conversation but as my mom made arrangements for us to fly to Florida, I drove down to my Dad's to tell him. My body was racked with sobs and I could barely get the words out. He held me tightly and let me cry. I still had on my work clothes and I ended up with grease on my dress from my dad -- he'd been working on a tractor when I pulled in. I flew all the way from Detroit to Florida with that grease spot on my shoulder. It never did come out of the fabric...Funny the little things you remember...

He wasn't around physically for my wedding, for my graduations from college, or for the birth of my daughter. But I know that he was there. I know that he is proud of me for the things I've done. I just hope he knows how important he was, and still is, to me.

Memorial Day is also a day that I remember the babies that I've lost. Two years ago, through many tears, I acknowledged my heartache with this...


It had only been 4 weeks since that dreadful night in the emergency room but the wound was still very raw. The pregnancy had started out very well. I conceived on my 5th round of clomid; initial bloodwork showed my hcg levels to be increasing perfectly. On Thursday, April 28th, I had my first prenatal appointment in which everything looked great. My body was still showing all signs of a perfect, healthy pregnancy. I tried to push for an ultrasound that day but the doctor dismissed the idea since my history didn't warrant it. He warned that I might experience some spotting after the exam but that it wasn't anything to be concerned about. The next day the spotting began, but was light brown, old blood. No need for worry. At least that's what I tried to tell myself. It got heavier as Friday progressed, heavier yet on Saturday, but still brown. Sunday early afternoon it turned red. I laid on the couch, not saying much to C, and cried. In my heart I knew. About 8pm the cramping began and through a veil of tears, I told C we needed to head to the hospital.

At the hospital they tried finding a heartbeat with the doppler and were unsuccessful. At just over 8 weeks gestation, this was a long shot as it was. They drew blood to check my hcg levels and ordered an ultrasound to see where the bleeding was coming from. Since it was a Sunday and a small hospital, we had to wait for the ultrasound technician to arrive. They wheeled me down the hallway and I was numb to the sounds around me. The ultrasound room was set up horribly. The bed was next to the wall, with the machine on the right hand side. There was no room for C to stand next to me and hold my hand. He stood at the foot of the bed and watched the computer screen intently. The only sound in the room was the clicking of the machine as the tech measured the size of the baby...

Click, click, click...
click, click, click...
click, click, click...
"Are you sure that you're 8 weeks along?"...
click, click, click...
click, click, click...
click, click, click...

I couldn't see the computer screen so I stared at C's face to watch for a sign. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and shook his head. The floodgates opened and I began to cry.

The tech told us that he couldn't find a heartbeat and if my dates were correct, there should be one at 8 weeks. The baby was only measuring 5 weeks, 3 days. He kept saying that perhaps my dates were wrong and everything would be okay. Back in my room, the doctor kept repeating the same thing. I tried to tell him that I knew my dates were right, not only because of the clomid (and tracking my ovulation) but because of the initial hcg levels. But he wouldn't listen and I was too exhausted to try to get it through his head. They diagnosed me as a threatened miscarriage and told me to call my OB in the morning. I didn't say a word to C as he helped me get dressed and into the truck. I knew that if I looked at him, I would completely lose it. At home there was a message from the ER doctor on our machine, telling us that my hcg levels were only at 3300 and they should be ten times that by now. He expressed his sympathy and said that a loss was inevitable. I hung up the phone and collapsed on the kitchen floor.

Monday morning brought the most difficult aspect of all -- making phone calls. I called my boss before she was in the office and left a message on her voice mail, telling her what had happened and I'd be out for a few days. Then came the calls to my parents. My mom was the hardest, my dad being only slightly less difficult. I asked them to pass along the news to the rest of our family. C fielded calls to his folks, asking them to relay the message as well. After that we shut off the phone and let calls go to voicemail. My OB's office got me in that afternoon and we scheduled a D&C for Wednesday, May 3rd.

4 weeks later, I was still consumed by my grief. I longer to find a way to help ease the pain. The tattoo is one that I designed myself, with my angel in mind and was placed on my left hip. I cried the entire forty-five minutes it took to get done. I'm sure the artist thought that I was just a wimp who couldn't handle the pain. I guess in some ways, that was the truth...

5 comments:

Ash said...

what a tear jerker, I like the stories, stories that I know but good to hear from your point of view...hugs and kisses

Kristin, Rod, and Victoria said...

All those memories bring tears to my eyes as well... for many reasons. Tears that you and I had drifted apart around the time of your grandfather's passing and I wasn't there for you as I should have been. Tears all over remembering the IM you sent me, telling me not to call because you couldn't handle saying 'it' out loud.

I'm sorry that in order to form who we are as strong women, there's some pain we must endure. Make no mistake you are a stronger woman for enduring these things, and more. Love you.

Marz said...

Wow! Your angel story brought tears to my eyes. That was so beautiful & I'm so sorry for your loss. Coincidentally, May 3 is my son's birthday.
Your grandfather sounded like a wonderful man & I do believe he's still with you now and continues to be proud of you.

Kristen said...

I am so sorry you had to live through that. I already knew this story but it still hurt my heart to read. It reminds me of the pain we have both gone through with losses and the angels that are gone. I just thank God we were both strong enough to get through. *hugs*

Nickie said...

wow, the story of your m/c was like a combo of my 2 m/c's. I did the ER thing with the first one and had the u/s with no hb with the 2nd one followed by the D&C. Those wounds never really heal do they? They just sort of scab over. I like your tattoo, maybe I should find a way to physically commemorate my angels too. Hmmm...