Friday, October 17, 2014

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

I admit that I have been pretty focused on my own stuff at the moment and and slowly starting to peek my head out of my shell and get caught up on what is going on in the world around me.  One of the things that came to my attention was that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  It began in the United States on October 25, 1988 when President Ronald Reagan designated through a Presidential Proclamation that the month should be recognized as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which is a day of remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death, which includes but is not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or the death of a newborn.  The day is observed with remembrance ceremonies and candle-lighting vigils, concluding with the International Wave of Light, a worldwide lighting of candles at 7:00 p.m.

I missed my opportunity to light my candles, as such I am lighting them now.

I haven't thought much about my losses for a long time.  They so long ago (13 & 14 years ago).  They were also babies that were never meant to be in the first place.  My doctor told me that I would never have children, so when in 2000 when I found out I was pregnant, the miscarriage that soon followed was expected.  I admit that it still hurt.  For a few short weeks I thought that maybe it had a chance.

The second loss is more difficult.  That loss was induced.  In 2001, shortly after coming moving to the twin cities, I found out that I was pregnant.  I was shocked.  The first pregnancy occurred because I stopped taking the pill - I was told I was never going to get pregnant.  This time I was taking the pill - although admittedly not as regularly as I should.

Almost right after I found out I was pregnant I started having problems.  I started feeling faint a lot.  I almost passed out while driving one day.  I was also having a lot of pain on my right side - my uterus is right-sided.  One day the pain was so bad we went to the emergency room.  I was sent back right away for an ultrasound.  They were concerned that I had an ectopic due to my symptoms.

The good news was that it was not an ectopic.  I could tell from the ultrasound technicians face that was the only good news.  For a few moments I saw my baby on the monitor, it was clearly in distress, it was also clearly malformed.  We were told that I was not in immediate danger and that they would send the results to my doctor for a full diagnosis.

Luckily I had found a doctor right after moving who specialized in high risk pregnancies.  She had a patient with a bicornuate uterus who had recently achieved a live birth.  It was, however, not a severe bicornuate case and that type of uterine abnormality has better pregnancy stats than a unicornuate, but she was nevertheless hopeful that someday we would achieve a live birth of our own.

This was not going to be that time.  There were several things that were not in our favor this time.  First, the baby was malformed, it had so far developed arms but not legs.  This could have been due to my uterus shape, this could have been due to exposure to nicotine and alcohol (I had no idea that I was pregnant and had some bad habits at age 26).  Babies with congenital limb deformities often have difficulty with normal development and struggle with developing motor skills, need assistance with daily activities, cannot independently care for themselves once they are older, are limited in movement, and can even develop emotional or psychological issues related to physical appearance.

But wait, there's more.  The position of the baby in my uterus was less than ideal.  Instead of being centered or in the main body of my uterus it was "up in the horn".  Placement of the developing embryo is especially important with uterine abnormalities.  This also was pointing to the fact that my uterus didn't seem to be stretching properly, one of the unfortunate side effects of uterine abnormalities.  My symptoms were pointing to a very painful pregnancy, a pregnancy that most likely was going to lead to either a uterine rupture (which is life-threatening to both me and the baby), a second trimester pregnancy loss, or a very preterm baby with severe abnormalities

For my health, and for the fact that this baby just really didn't stand a chance, we decided to terminate the pregnancy.  When I say "we", I should really say "I".  My ex-husband was against termination.  It didn't matter to him the facts that were clearly in front of him.  He was willing to put my life on the line for the possibility of a child.  I was not.  Some days I feel like a horrible selfish person for this decision, but other days I realize that it would have been even more selfish to leave a child with disabilities without a mother.

I admit that I have spent years stuffing this memory deep down in the core of my being.  I have told myself over and over again that this was the right decision.  Not only would this child, if somehow the pregnancy lasted long enough for the child to be born alive and viable, have severe disabilities, it would have been born into a very volatile and broken marriage.  Even so, I still feel very sad, and I still feel very guilty.  When I stop to think about it, I start to cry.  I am crying now.

“When a child loses a parent they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses his or her partner they are called a widow/widower. When a parent loses their child there isn’t a word to describe them.”

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