Thursday, September 15, 2011

Big stuff

As my teacher friends began gearing up for a new school year, I found myself in a bit of a funk a few months ago. Because I didn't have the slightest desire to go back to teaching, not now, not ever. But I'm also not the stay at home mom type (I suck at cooking, and cleaning, and all things domestic. Lucas still mostly naps with me holding him- often napping at the same time- because who needs housework when I can be cuddling with my baby who won't be a baby forever?) I do want to stay home with our kids for the first year or so, and maybe work part time until they are in school, but that almost seemed like a pipe dream. So teaching is out (yay for that 6 year teaching degree). Not being sure of what is next had me super unsettled.

After some self-reflection and some research, I have a new path. Losing Olivia completely changed my priorities and my tolerance for all of the bullshit that goes with teaching. I never thought I would want to be a SAHM, for any length of time beyond maternity leave, until she was gone and I realized just how fleeting time can be.

One of the most important memories with my pregnancy with Olivia was the last ultrasound. We knew by then that I had HELLP syndrome, and the doctors were already saying we had to deliver her. She was too small to pick up on the fetal monitors so the took me to the high risk ultrasound place in the hospital to get an idea of her size and condition. We had been there the month before when my quad screen had come back off to rule out spina bifida. Anyway, I remember silently praying that she would suddenly magically be bigger as they wheeled me there, but already feeling pretty defeated and hopeless. As we suspected, she was way too small. And then the high risk doctor came in and confirmed it. He started talking about delivering soon, and I played along, saving my breath for when it mattered. They both left the room for a few minutes, and that was when I hugged my belly and stared at the tv screen which had a still image of our perfectly healthy but too small baby girl and told Joe, "I don't care what they say. I don't care if it kills me. I am not having this baby today." And he said ok.

Joe was in shock at that moment, he was at home letting the dogs out (we had been in the hospital since 3 am while they tried to figure out what was wrong-I talked him into going home to let the dogs out and get food around 1 pm, since they wouldn't let me eat,) when I called him and told him to come back immediately, in tears telling him that my OB had called and something was wrong with my bloodwork (which had been pretty much normal 6 hours before, but because she's on the ball, she had it redone and the second tests came back dramatically worse.) My OB had talked about transferring me hospitals and me staying on bedrest for a couple of weeks until we could deliver, and that a high risk doctor was on the way to talk to us. So Joe flew back and got there in the middle of the high risk dr talking to me. But I still always wonder how far he would have let me take it. I was ready to rip the iv out and go home against medical advice, in that particular moment. My mom, the voice of reason, showed up, and was absolutely horrified at our discussion and told me later that when she saw the resolute look on my face, she thought for sure she was going to lose us both.

Sometime later, the doctor and tech were back.  The doctor figured me out, I think, and must have known I was not going to deliver her to save myself so he better change his approach. When he said her fluid levels were low- a sign of fetal distress- and that she would be stillborn if we didn't deliver soon, I knew suddenly it was over. I did talk him into waiting for another round of bloodwork, and if everything stayed stable to wait and see. (He grudgingly agreed to that, knowing it wasn't going to get didn't.) But sitting in that ultrasound room, watching my baby girl move and her heart beating and knowing that she was probably going to die,(the NICU gave her a less that 1% chance),was one of the worst moments of my life. The doctor left and the ultrasound tech was still there, so incredibly compassionate. She said, "I just want you to know, that none of this is your fault. Nothing you did or didn't do caused this." She gave us the pictures in an envelope and told me that she put another set of pictures in my file that would always be there if I ever needed them. Even though Olivia was delivered at another hospital a few hours later, by then everything that happened was a foregone conclusion, the real worst moments were in that ultrasound room of the first hospital. But it was also the last time I saw Olivia alive, not dying.

So anyway, it turns out that my path is sonography. Mostly because of Olivia, but I would never be able to do it if it weren't for Lucas, too. It's still not a good enough reason for Olivia to have died, but I think I'm in a unique position, having gone through a pregnancy/neonatal loss, and then also a high risk pregnancy. It will also probably be good for me, to see normal pregnancies where babies don't die, too (even though I'm almost more comfortable with "loss people" now.)

At first, Joe rolled his eyes. I got my Bachelor's degree while he was in the Air Force. My schools were UMSL, Mizzou, City Colleges of Chicago and University of Maryland (while we were overseas), Wichita State (when we were stationed in Kansas), and then finally UMSL again once he got out. It took 6 years and nearly 200 undergraduate credits. (And it is a PITA to track down all of those transcripts. Luckily they are all on my UMSL transcripts.) So me going back to school won't really be anything new (I would love to stay a student forever, really). When we got an idea of how much sonographers make and that they generally have a part time option with still a decent wage, he got much more on board with the idea. I've researched the programs in our area, there are only 3, one is a hospital based program which doesn't let you earn any credits, one is Sanford Brown which is outrageously expensive tuition with the reputation as a diploma mill, and the other is through the community college. So it looks like I'm going to community college for the first time ever. The crappy thing is that I have to do 120 hours of volunteering and take 4-5 classes before I can apply to the program. I also have to talk them into not making me retake Biology. (They waive it if you took a year of high school biology within the last 5 years. Well, I took Biology, Advanced Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology all full years in high school, plus college Biology...but that was 2002 and sooner.) I have it roughly planned out, I will take a class or maybe two starting in January and start volunteering. Take the third class (or maybe last 2 classes) over the summer and finish my volunteer hours. Take the last class in the fall and get my application in, to hopefully start the actual sonography program in Fall 2013. Most of the classes I can take online or over the weekends so I don't have to sacrifice my time with Lucas except for studying. Once the program starts, it is fulltime, but "college" fulltime so not 40 hours of class and stuff, it's only 2 or 3 days a week. He'll be 2.5 by then (oh no!) and definitely a good age to start daycare. (Having worked in daycare for a long time, I won't put babies in daycare--too much going on and babies don't get enough attention, IMO. But I think it's good for toddlers and up, because they learn so much from being around each other.)

So, that's the tentative new plan. I have been feeling much better since Joe seriously got on board with it and then even better now that I've emailed the director of the program and gotten the information I need about what I have to do.


Brooke said...

You did not give me all those details when I saw you yesterday! That sounds like a great plan, Angie. As we've talked about, I can't get over how crappy some health care workers are about dealing with people who are coping with baby loss. Having someone from our "camp" working that sonogram machine. Well, you'd be great. Plus you're practically an expert already!

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