Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Question Unasked, Unanswered

So with the New Year, I guess it's time for this post. The real reason I haven't been writing much since Eden was born. It's not really because of the day to day stuff, or fear of hurting others (although there is some of that), the real reason I've been avoiding writing is because I knew that if I started blogging here regularly again, I would eventually have to write this post. I mean, how long can words circle around in your head before they have to come out? It seems for me that answer is about 5 months.

I think I killed my son.

Let me back up. I didn't always think this. In fact, I know the exact moment that phrase came in to my head for the first time. It was August 11th, I was in the hospital and the hematologist was explaining my diagnosis to me. I.TP or idiop.athic thromb.ocytopenia pu.rpura, or in layman's terms low platelets for an unknown reason.

Dr. R was reading over my medical records and said to me "I see you lost a son to abnormal bleeding in utero- so you've had episodes of this before?" It was half question, half statement.

"No." I said quickly. "or...not that I know of..." A feeling of horror swept over me. "Could I have had this and not known?"

He looked at me. Then he shook his head. "Oh no, they would have tested you here before you delivered him. It's just that the intracranial bleeding....well that is not uncommon with ITP pregnancies. But it must have been something else."

"He wasn't born here. I had testing after he was born but not for a few months. I don't think I was tested when he was born." I was getting frantic.

"No, no. I'm sure they tested you. Let's deal with what's going on now." And he changed the subject. Not unkindly, he was just preoccupied with getting me safely through the current crisis. (In appointments since then Dr. R has confided how afraid for me he truly was those first few days. He didn't sleep and he and the OB did not leave the hospital until my platelets started rising.)

In every quiet moment since then I have wondered. What makes me crazy is that I do remember having lots of bruising that summer. I remember remarking to JD about it. I remember one of the midwives asking me hesitantly if I was "safe at home." But I don't remember any platelet testing.

I shared all this with JD after Eden was safely home. "I have all my records in the trunk with Owen's things. I could look...."

"Ashleigh, don't go there. What would it help? What would it change?"

"No. no. You're right. I should let it go."

But I didn't. I didn't let it go.

In my records are the results from all the various tests they ran the day Owen was born. No where among them is a simple CBC. No where is a platelet count.

I think I killed my son.


Anonymous said...

Though I more than understand this feeling, you cannot blame yourself for a test that you didn't know you needed. Someone should have run the test, but you couldn't have known to ask. You did everything right given the knowledge you had on hand. Maybe someone should have run the test, but it was not your responsibility.

It is so easy to blame ourselves for our losses, but please don't. You did nothing wrong.

c. said...

I struggle with feelings of this, too, Ashleigh. It's hard not to feel guilty, even though there wasn't whole lot we could do at the time with the information that we had. We were as helpless to what happened as our babies were.

But, the guilt still gnaws at me regardless. Maybe because if I feel guilty, he'll always be with me, it's that one thing I can always hold onto, ya know? I guess I just want him to always know how much he was wanted, how much I still want him - though I'm not really sure how he can as, well, the dead thing gets in the way, I think.

Be gentle with yourself, A. I know you would have gone to the ends of the earth to save Owen. I know you would have. XO.

k@lakly said...

How could you have known? You never had the problem before and YOU are not a medical professional. As the dotor told you, they should have run it before you delivered but even then, it was already too late.
I totally get why you are thinking the way you are, but it is not your fault Ashleigh. There is just no way for you to have predicted this.
You did everything you could for Owen, absolutely everything.

Sue said...

I know these thoughts. Please don't torture yourself.

On bad days, I know it was my fault, that I was leaking, that I missed a shot or two. That I would have prevented all of this.

The previous commenters have it right -- how could you have known to do something it was your doctor's job to know. That may not even have been related.

I know these thoughts. Please, please, don't torture yourself.

charmedgirl said...

i don't know if this is comforting or not, but we all killed our children. we all carried our children in our bodies and made the decisions we did regarding who our caretakers were, where we planned to deliver, what we ate, what we did...we passed on our shitty genes or traits, we exposed them to whatever was in our bodies (diseases, disorders, etc) which we did or didn't know about. we are all at fault, yet faultless. i think we all go through these thoughts; i think it's inescapable...but irrational...and you are not alone in it.

Julia said...

YOU did no such thing. You had no way of knowing. None.

I know that conversation with the midwife is gnawing at you, but YOU DID NOT KNOW. And SHE did not follow it up with a test or even tell you something was unusual. Please please please try to not blame yourself. You didn't do this.

CLC said...

You did not do this. How could you have known? I understand the guilt, and maybe C is on to something. But maybe it's just a way of holding on. Please be gentle to yourself. You couldn't have possibly known to be tested for this.

Clarissa said...

You did the best you could with the information you had and unfortunately your pregnancy with Owen was nothing too bizarre to have special testing done. I can understand the guilt - I feel guilty always...thinking I made Amelie's faulty heart and maybe I didn't ask the right questions at the sonogram. I don't know...regardless, the guilt is there.

Be kind to yourself.

Ange said...

Oh sweet this makes me so sad for you these strong feelings that you have. Would it help if I told you I also killed my son, with a bloody virus that could have been detected and I had ample time to do something about. But when you don't know you just don't know. I hope you can let go of some of these guilty feelings - really you just did the best you could at the time.

Coggy said...

Ditto what everyone else has said. I think the doctor was completely out of order making assumptions about Owen's pregnancy based on this pregnancy. He has no way of knowing that the same thing happened with ITP as did this time.
I have read a lot about ITP as I have slightly low platelets, always have even when not pregnant. Luckily they have always stayed above the 100 level. I know there is some link with hemorrhaging in utero and the baby having ITP, but as far as I understood you just having ITP alone would not necessarily cause any harm to the baby. In fact a paper I read the other day said that there was no firm link between the mothers platelet count and the babies in utero.
I also think if it had been that chronic in Owen's pregnancy you would have had more ITP symptoms and would have presented as such. I don't know if you did have any but I suspect not from your blog.
Your doctor was wrong, wrong, wrong to make sweeping statements like that.
I know you have no CBC post delivery but did you have a full blood count done on yourself at any time during Owen's pregnancy? Routinely here we have them on booking at 16 and again at 28 weeks. If there had been anything weird with your platelets then I would have thought it would have shown up earlier.
Sorry lots of waffle, but what I am trying to say is you did not kill Owen. You could not have possibly known or prevented what happened and to repeat myself again the doctor should not speculate on things he knows nothing about. Thinking of you Ashleigh and wishing you much peace. x x x

Coggy said...

Sorry Ashleigh I just went back and reread your post and realized you mentioned bruising and don't recall having any blood counts done.
To me that's just plain weird not to have any done even just to check your iron levels. If you were bruising and someone commented on it then I think that's pretty negligent of the midwife to do nothing about it. To not even think to check your bloods. Again though I still think that there is no way doctors can make any assumptions between you having ITP and Owen hemorrhaging without any clear evidence.
Could you get back in touch with the hospital that saw you and Owen and go through everything with them again? I don't know if that would just make things worse.
Again I'm so sorry that you are facing this Ashleigh, but it wasn't your fault or responsibility to do these tests. I know that doesn't help the feeling of guilt, but it really was beyond your control.

Mommy said...

I lost my fourth child, my baby girl Elisabeth, on Nov. 3, 2008. I too blame myself to a certain extent, although I've yet to pinpoint the reason for Elisabeth's death. I'm not going to tell you to not blame yourself. I hate it when people say that to me. It takes away any sense of control I'm attempting to exact over the situation. I will tell you that I'll keep you in my prayers and ask that you find peace.
I was recently telling a friend that it was frustrating when people tell me it wasn't my fault. She happens to be a child psychologist. She mentioned that when she was in training with rape victims, she was told to never discount the victim's statements of self-blame. We can all say that it's the perpetrator's fault, but if the victim says she blames herself it just might be her way of regaining control over her life. She might believe that she can prevent future attacks by changing her own behavior.
I do see the rape victim in a similar vein that I see those of us who have experienced stillbirth. Most of us know we didn't intentionally "cause" our baby's death. But, we grasp for a reason why our babies are not with us. We figure we can prevent a future stillbirth by finding out the cause of the last, even if we have to shoulder the blame. Don't take that control from us.
You are in my prayers,