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Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


So, our March was pretty terrible. You?

My little family had a bit of a bummer of a March this year.


On March 6th, I finally had my hernia surgery I had been putting off for ¾ of a year. I had been putting it off due to lack of real insurance, and scheduling problems. My wife is doing her required pharmacy internships and could not take off a week to watch the kids, but she had March off. So I was pretty sore and unable to lift our giant toddler for that first week.


Then, two or three days after my surgery, the toddler gets a high fever, and then a few days later starts refusing to eat solids and screams when we try to brush his teeth. He finally lets me peek into his mouth for a second see that his tonsils are red and swollen. Figuring it's tonsillitis and after doing a bit of research, we decide it's useless to bring him to the doctor where he'll just be given antibiotics which won't help.


This goes on all week and into the next, which is when I start getting a high fever and really bad chills, and end up shivering on the couch under a blanket for several days. At this point, my throat starts hurting, but more than that, my gums start hurting. Terribly. I can't eat solid food at all. Even bananas cause severe pain when chewing. Now I understand when my 2-year-old was going through. Also, I am severely lethargic: walking to the bathroom wipes me out. It's worth noting that wife had picked up a paying shift for this week, so was gone during the day all week.

Oh, and by this time, my two-year-old's gums had started bleeding.

Soon I noticed little white and red sores on my gums and mouth, and my gums start bleeding. That's when my wife figured it out: Herpangina. It's similar to foot and mouth, but only mouth, I guess? And apparently it's like 20 times more painful.

My toddler started recovering after a week and a half, and bounced back like only a two-year-old can, so I figured I had about a week left… But I am not 2, and it was significantly longer before the gum pain totally went away, and I still feel a little rundown several weeks later.

But, I'm glad neither of us went to the doctor, because they'd probably just have given us antibiotics and/or mouthwash and sent us home to get diarrhea.


But anyway, once I was mostly recovered, and was ready to get back into the swing of things with a family trip to the zoo, my wife's OB called. We were at a gas station and as I climbed back in from filling up, she's on the phone and grabs my hand.

It takes a few minutes, but I eventually get that the genetic testing that was done a few weeks before was complete: our little 12-week embryo had Trisomy 21, better known as Down's Syndrome. Well, there was a 91% chance. A follow-up visit to confirm was scheduled, and we continued to the zoo, what else could we do?

We spent the next 3 or 4 days wondering what to do. Actually, that's not true: we both knew exactly what to do, but we were unsure of how to tell our friends and families, some of whom were staunchly "pro-life". My wife and I are staunchly "pro-choice", and at 12 weeks, there is no doubt in my mind that the little sack of nervous tissue does not even come close to "a person".

Strangely, we got a little pushback about choosing to terminate because of Downs. It's strange because if you are in favor of a woman's right to choose based on "I'm not ready right now", surely you have to understand "I'm not ready to be a lifetime caregiver"? We're both in our 40s, and that means we'd be making a choice for our daughter and son to be lifetime caregivers, as well.

So no: at 12 weeks, the question was easy.

But…I still didn't know if I'd be able tell my mostly-"pro-life" family, so we debated coming up with a cover story. I eventually decided I'd just tell the truth, but things weren't done going south.


A little less than a week after we had gotten the Trisomy 21 news, we went in to have the first of a possible 2 or 3 confirmations. It was still several weeks too early to do an amniocentesis, but they could do an ultrasound to look for a few telltale signs. It wasn't 100%, but there was a chance they'd rule it completely in or out. They could also do another type of genetic test, but we'd probably end up waiting for an amniocentesis in the end.

So, we were pretty subdued going into the ultrasound procedure: I was pretty sure they'd not be able to tell and we'd need to wait anyway.

The technician started scanning, and we saw the familiar random-noise / weather-radar screen appear. The technician scanned for a minute without saying anything. Abruptly, she turned off the machine, and said "I can't find a heartbeat."


Several doctors came in, and they ended up sending us home and said they'd call and schedule a time to do a D&C in the next day or two. We were super hoping we could avoid "completing" the miscarriage at home, so when they called and said it'd happen on Friday, my wife "negotiated" at them until they agreed to do it Thursday. At noon. So they called her in Wednesday afternoon to "soften the cervix", which is a weird term for painful cramming of seaweed-based medicated strips in said location.

Wednesday evening she uncomfortably "passed" the strips before bedtime.

At 3 she wakes me up and tells me she's been cramping and passing blood and tissue. She's very lightheaded and feels she can't stand up very well, so at 5:30am we wake up the kids and go to the ER at the hospital she had the procedure scheduled.

We check her in and I spend the next 2 hours not knowing anything while trying to keep my toddler from touching every MRSA-infected surface in the waiting room, while simultaneously trying to keep my nine-year old from whining too loudly about how tired, bored, worried, and unhappy she is with this whole situation. My rejoinders of "None of us like this!" didn't seem to help much.

Eventually a nurse comes out and says "She's back", and then disappears. … Uh, what? Back from where? … A few minutes later she reappears and says we can go see her.

Turns out nothing much has happened. They gave her a pelvic exam and a few ultrasounds, which my wife reports were quite unpleasant.

So we sit in that room while I try to keep my toddler from touching/breaking everything in that room. A blood pressure monitor is making known its displeasure at not being attached to anyone. And we wait for an hour. A nurse or two come in and out. And we wait for another hour. A doctor comes in and tells us to wait more until they can get ahold of my wife's real doctor. And we wait longer still.

Finally… finally, they say they're going to do the D&C at the scheduled time. They said they'd call me when they were done and I could come see her / bring her home. I end up taking my daughter to a friend's house, and take my son home for a desperately-needed nap.


I get a call from the doctor at precisely 12:31, saying they were done and it went well. She'd be in recovery until about 1:30, at which time I could probably see her.

So a little after 1:00, I wake the boy up from his nap and we head to the hospital. I find the place, and the desk staff was a bit confused about why I didn't have one of those little waiting-for-a-table buzzers they use at chain restaurants that the hospital apparently uses to tell waiting-room patrons that their loved one is ready to be seen. They get me sorted out and tell me she's not ready yet. For about 20 minutes, my toddler and I repeat the "dear god don't put whatever that is in your mouth" we've done so much of today.

When I see her, she's hunched over in bed, with a barf bag in one hand. Right before I arrived, my wife told one of the nurses she had a little bit of a headache, and asked for acetaminophen. The nurse said they didn't have that, and quick as a wink, injected fentanyl into my wife's IV without saying anything.

This made her very dizzy and loopy, which is a big trigger for her anxiety disorder. So now, barely out of general anesthesia after surgery, she's having a panic attack. This greatly slows down out exit. Luckily, I had my son strapped in his stroller, which, incredibly, he is was OK with. The nurses were adamant that they'd not give her ativan, which is the only medication that helps. So, eventually, we said we'd just go home and figure it out there.

Did I mention that my wife gets violently carsick if she's not driving? And that the resulting nausea will, in turn, cause a panic attack? As soon as the nurses walk away from the car, I give her half an ativan, and we set forth. Longest 15 minutes ever. Windows down and AC blasting because the cold air reduces her nausea, but still she's trembling and nearly barfing by the time we get home. I get her in, lay her on the floor, and go back to get my son out of the car and put a show on for him.

I bring her up upstairs, where she lays mostly naked and shaking in front of a box fan for 20 or 30 minutes until she's un-nauseated enough to be covered up. She sleeps on and off for the next several hours, alternating between the floor or the bed depending on which feels best at that moment.

By the next day (Friday) she's a lot better, mostly just weak and dizzy. She's supposed to start her next internship on Monday, but it's 30 minutes away and she's not sure she can making it. She emailed her boss and he was very understanding. She took Monday off, and I rode with her on Tuesday, but by Wednesday she was flying solo. Still tired and occasionally dizzy, but managing.

Now it's been two weeks, and things are just getting to feel "normal" again for us. Hopefully the rest of spring will be a little better… (fingers crossed, knocking on wood, throwing salt, shooting back cats, actively repairing broken mirrors…).

2017-04-12 #family   #tmi