When I asked Kim to share her story with The Sisterhood of Imperfect Mothers, she wrote a novel. What you’ll read below reflects only the highlights of her story, but the depth of the pain, sickness and struggles that Kim works through on a daily basis are much more involved than any of us can every know. Yet she manages to embrace all of this as an opportunity for growth and healing. She’s amazing. What else can I say?
Seven months ago I had the most traumatic experience of my life. I gave birth to the most beautiful set of twins 26 weeks too early. Second trimester loss is something I knew nothing about. I figured once you got past the 12 week mark things were pretty smooth sailing. Ten months prior, I had miscarried at 10 weeks, so I thought that at 14-weeks I was in the clear.
I knew a twin pregnancy could have complications, but I was considered extremely low risk. This was my third pregnancy, first having had a C-section, and second was an all-natural VBAC. I was even going to continue care at my teeny rural hospital where giving birth is like having a home birth at a hotel, but with people waiting on you.
At 14-weeks I was rushed from my tiny little hospital that I loved to the big scary hospital 35 minutes away in an ambulance. I had gone into the ER on a Sunday morning with horrible low back pain, abdominal pain and spotting. I was sure I was miscarrying, but I was hopeful. An exam at the ER ruled out miscarriage along with a few other possibilities, and everything seemed fine. I was given orders to go home, take it easy, and come back if anything got worse, including fever or vomiting. I had been vomiting for this entire pregnancy so I laughed at their recommendation.
Home I went, but I returned to the ER a few hours later complete with vomiting, severe abdominal pain and a fever of 103 even though I had taken Tylenol. I could tell the ER doctor was freaked out, he didn’t know what was wrong. Appendix? Some other weird infection? I was hooked up to antibiotics, doctors were called and it was confirmed that surgeries during pregnancy are an issue for the bigger hospital. So, off I went.
I remember the paramedic offering me Fetanol for pain in the ambulance. Fetanol? I remember thinking, “didn’t I just read an article about Fetanol being used for heroin overdoses? Um, no.” We had a long conversation about how he and his partner had been trying for a while to have kids, only to have miscarriage after miscarriage. I told him about my December miscarriage, explained to him that I didn’t want narcotics because I was pregnant, and needed to be able to describe the location and intensity of the pain to the doctors. I might have even prayed for the guy. I also remember him calling the hospital and asking if he could administer fluids since my heart rate was so low, a feature that’s not out of the norm except that I also had extremely high blood pressure.
Once at the hospital, things moved quickly. The OBGYN team was busy delivering a baby, but the surgical team came right in, examined, and ordered an MRI and all kinds of things to try to keep my heart from shutting down. I didn’t realize it until reflecting on it, but it was at this point that everyone confirmed I had sepsis. No one knew why, and they didn’t tell me what was actually happening, but I remember all this fuss about my heart and there were usually at least 3 people in my tiny ER room at all times.
The OBGYN team came in, performed an ultrasound and we got to see our twins – David, the one who was dancing all around and Daniel, the one who was more prayerful. I think they were hoping this would help my heart rate, I’m pretty sure it didn’t, but how wonderful to see that the babies were okay! Then came the MRI. The sound inside the tube is pretty muffled, so every time the lady came over the speaker and said “table moving” I thought she was telling me to move. So, I squirmed and moved all around. Thinking about this just makes me laugh, she was probably so annoyed with this crazy lady flailing around in the MRI tube at 10:00 at night!
The scans showed no appendicitis! I said to the surgeon, “that’s great, I need my appendix.” Who says that? But then the OBGYN team came back again, this time they felt around on my abdomen. I almost punched the doctor. The pain was so far off the charts it didn’t even register as pain. Childbirth is probably the only thing more painful than what I felt. It was at this point that I was moved to the ICU. There, I finally got an actual diagnosis: chorioamnionitis, a uterine infection that occurs in 1% of pregnancies.
The intense pains that I had been experiencing were the pains of preterm labor coupled with the pains from the infection. My husband and I were then told that if I didn’t deliver the babies naturally soon they would have to operate, and they might have to take my uterus too. I had told the ER nurse when I came in that I never wanted to be pregnant again, but when the doctor told me that a hysterectomy might happen I was like “NO! I NEED MY UTERUS! I have to have another baby!” Wow, here I am about to lose 2 babies and I’m already making plans for another. Grief is weird.
I ended up on Dilaudid for the pain, which made things fuzzy, but I remember getting sick, vomiting, birthing the first baby and the OBGYN team rushing in all at once. I actually asked if we could keep the second baby in somehow.
We held our babies and wept, while the nurses and doctors wept with us. The resident OBGYN looked how I felt. I still want to talk to her, let her know I’m okay.
It didn’t take long for my body to stabilize after delivering the twins and the more I read about sepsis the more I realize what a miracle all of this is. The people in the birthing center where I recovered were amazing. The original ER doc from the first hospital came to visit and cried with me. I never expected to have doctors come to sit with me and cry, but they did. Over the next 6 months I went to so many doctors appointments, follow-ups with OBGYN’s, cardiologists, primary care doctors, midwives and finally a naturopathic doctor. When you have the hormonal craziness of postpartum, mixed with emotions of grief, your body is a wreck. Combine that with that fact that I have a history of trauma and you end up with a body that doesn’t want to function.
Since the miscarriage, I have been tested for cancer, autoimmune disease, adrenal failure, and allergies. The conclusion of all of this testing was that I have adrenal fatigue, a few IgG food allergies, and I’m still grieving. I could go to endocrinology for a formal adrenal work-up, but I’m opting out, because I’m ready to stop focusing on the illness and start focusing on the wellness. I’m ready to deal with past trauma that I chose to forget and work through it so that I can be well from the inside out.
I feel like part of me died with my babies, but at the same time I feel like if that part of me hadn’t died, the part of me that will truly be able to live would never have been awakened. I have a traumatic past that I chose to look at through rose colored glasses. If I hadn’t been stripped down to nothing and in a desperate place I would have been fine pretending to be happy. I’m happy sometimes, yes, but there were many times in my life when I wasn’t happy, but wasn’t sure how to feel anything else. Ignoring those other emotions will only make me sicker, so I’m slowly walking through all of those memories that were never properly dealt with. The healing that is occurring is more than just acknowledging my loss and illness that have happened over the last year. Yes, I’m still sad about not carrying our twins to term, but I also believe that there is a purpose for everything. I know that without this deeper healing I wouldn’t be able to be the person I was created to be. Grief is hard, and it’s doesn’t stop, but I’m learning that it’s forcing me to discover who I really am.