December 21, 2014

Christmas isn't Merry for Everyone

Being outside of one's passport country during the holidays can be rough.
Sure this is home to us, we love Tanzania, we love the community here in Moshi. But it's just something about the Christmas holidays that brings on a bit of a dark cloud of depression. Part of it is being away from our family back in the states. But part of it is that there's no chill in the air when you step outside, there are no mini marshmallows to top your hot chocolate with, there are no real Christmas trees anywhere, no sparkling lights adorning homes and twinkling in the night as you drive through the neighborhood, not a snowflake to be seen, minus the few left on top of Kilimanjaro.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas.
Last year was our first year away and it was the hardest. We had no Christmas decorations at all, because we could only pack the necessities to live on in our luggage. So I set to crafting as much as I could – hand stitching little stockings out of felt, curling green construction paper until my fingers hurt to create our Christmas tree. 
(see the tree behind O, and the snowman and felt tree in the 2nd pic? that was our 1st Cmas)
It helped, but it still wasn't the same.
This year is a little better, we made it a priority to bring back some small Christmas items because last year was so hard for us. We have a little 12 inch tree, one strand of white lights, another little tree a friend left behind with a tiny strand of battery operated lights, and a nativity we purchased here carved out of ebony. Plus a few things I've crafted. 
 It's a little better this year. I suppose that's in part because we're getting 'used' to it. Maybe it's because we have a strand of lights – seriously it's amazing what one strand of lights can do for your Christmas mood. We've also got the typical Christmas parties lined up – we had the lady's cookie exchange party Friday, for Christmas eve we've got a pool party potluck lined up. Okay, maybe it's not so typical :) But still. The community here is great, and we all get together as much as we can this time of year pretending to be each other's family, but there's still a void there.
And this year, for us at least, there's an even bigger void. Yesterday we discovered that our family is one less. Our little baby Batterson is now in the arms of Jesus.
*         *        *
At the cookie exchange party Friday night I started feeling some cramps, and noticed a little spotting. The cramps worsened so I slipped away as the gift exchange was beginning and came home. I got in bed immediately and took a progesterone, hoping to stop the bleeding and cramping. The cramping and bleeding lasted through the night, so I texted the doctor in the morning. He advised me to head to the clinic, where his partner (the head of OB at the local hospital, and (coincidentally) the parent of one of Bill's former students) would be waiting to see us. We arrived around 10:30 and told him the history of the pregnancy. He did a trans-vaginal ultrasound right away and the picture was crystal clear. Clearer than any ultrasound picture I've ever seen in this country. There was the gestational sac, misshapen, and completely empty. He searched 'every corner' (his words) and said, I'm sorry, but it's a failed pregnancy. Do you see the baby? I shook my head silently, “no.” He also noted the shape of the sac, and said it had been some time since the baby had been gone, and that now we needed to focus on getting the sac removed to avoid complications. He described the procedure to me and told us to come back at 4 so we could have it done.
I did not want that procedure. Even if we were in America I wouldn't want it. I prayed that I would somehow pass the sac naturally and we wouldn't have to do it. Back home, laying in bed and contracting every so often, I tried my best to get some rest. At 3:00 it passed. Somehow that made it real. Seeing the picture made it real, and I cried for a few minutes. But passing that big piece that was inside of me made it so much more real. I was 13 weeks along exactly.
When we returned at 4 he did another abdominal scan to be sure the entire sac was gone, and sure enough, it was. Thank the Lord. He did see some remaining tissues (totally normal) and prescribed a pill to disrupt the uterine lining and get it to come out. He gave them to us for free (not something doctors ever do here) and also prescribed an antibiotic to be sure I didn't get an infection from it being left in there so long. He told us to come back Monday at 4 to check and make sure everything was out.
We returned home, to our neighbor's house where Owen had been staying, and had a wonderful dinner of vegetable soup. Toward the end of the meal I was about to fall over from fatigue so we said our goodbyes and thank yous and walked the 20 feet home. I went to bed right away and the contractions started getting worse and closer together. As I was reading Owen his bedtime story a contraction came, so I put the book down, grabbed my pillow and started deep-breathing. He reached for my hand with his and let me hold it, then afterward said, “Um. Momma, what.. what..” I finished what he was thinking, “What just happened?” “Yea,” he said. I described to him what a contraction was, and how when my stomach muscles tighten it hurts a lot, but if I breathe like that it helps with the pain. He said, “Oh. Momma? Can I pray for you?” Of course I said, yes, and tried to hold back the tears as he prayed to Jesus to “please take the pain away from momma and help her feel better.” That boy. He is such a gift. I haven't had the heart to tell him about the baby yet. We will soon though.
Around 7:30 I took the antibiotic and the other pill and had some relief for about 30 minutes. I guess that's how long it takes for it to get into the system because at 8 o'clock it felt like I was in labor. Contractions were hard, long and very close together as my body worked to get the rest of that tissue out. By 9 o'clock I was sure death was near. Okay, maybe that's a tiny exaggeration. Seriously though, I was so weak, the contractions were so strong and so long-lasting I didn't think I could handle it anymore. I was pleading with God to make it be over, to take it all away.
My amazing husband was right by my side for all of it. Standing endless minutes by my side letting me squeeze his hand until it turned numb, holding my water bottle for me because it was too heavy for me to hold, wafting peppermint oil past my nose to help rejuvenate me and stop me from smelling the smell that so reminded me of Owen's birth, the man even helped my change my pads because I was so weak and flushed the toilet full of blood as I teetered back to the bed to try and get a short reprieve before the next contraction hit. It should also be noted I decided (while sitting on the toilet having contractions, screaming into a pillow and squeezing my husbands hand) that I would most certainly be scheduling another c-section the next time around, because two labors is more than enough for me. To which my husband reminded me I may not be in the best state to make that decision. I disagreed.
By 11 or 12pmthe contractions had slowed and I was in and out of sleep. I woke up twice drenched in sweat, so much so that I had to change my shirt because it was wet. I got a little sleep and when Owen crawled in bed with us this morning it was just what I needed.
I still haven't taken time to mourn, I have been too focused on getting past the pain and getting my body re-set. I started to cry shortly after the doctor's appointment yesterday but it just made the contractions worse and it left me more exhausted. So I resolved to put on my game face and get through this hard (physical) part first. There's plenty of time for tears later.