Saturday, October 29, 2016
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Seven things I wish I’d known before I had a miscarriage
Saturday, October 15, 2016
I am lucky. Luckier than so many others. I have a child, a beautiful little boy who is healthy, who is precocious, and has my husband's eyes and my smile.
We feared that this little boy would never be. He was our last embryo - a poorly graded day 5 morula to be exact - that the doctors feared would not even implant let alone develop.
Yet somehow, despite the odds that were seemingly stacked against him, he came to be.
While he has managed to fill my heart with such joy, there is still, and will always be, a part of my heart that cannot be filled with joy. Part of my heart will always belong to my children that never came to be.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day - a day a remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death.
I did not know how I would feel today. I did not know how or if finally having a child would make make my losses seem less sad or that somehow I would be healed.
"It has been said 'Time Heals All Wounds'. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time the mind (protecting its sanity), covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessons. But, it is never gone."
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
Unfortunately I believe that this quote rings very true. Time has built scar tissue, and some of that scar tissue has faded, but it is still there. Having our little boy has built scar tissue - a significant amount in fact - but still, however faded, and only visible in certain light, still there is a wound.
It was probably very silly of me to think that somehow having a child would make losing another child less sad. I will say that I think about it less often, and that now when I do I am still hopeful. Whereas before I may have felt nothing but despair.
A year ago we were 20 weeks into a pregnancy via gestational carrier. I should have been overjoyed, but instead I was terrified. I was terrified to get close to our unborn child as I was convinced that I would never meet him. Or, on the occasional moments that I thought I may actually meet him, I would then feel guilty that somehow these feelings were not honoring the memory of the children that I have lost.
Pregnancy after a loss is a difficult time for many women. Instead of spending nine months of being blissfully happy (well sometimes cranky, bloated, nauseous, hormonal, etc. etc. but for the most part happy) many women, especially those who have experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss spend those nine months in hellish anxiety, convinced that their baby is not real until they hold a healthy baby in their arms.
And then, when our baby is born, healthy, and we finally do hold them in our arms and realize they are real and not just a figment of our imagination, and all should be happy and right with the world....instead it is not. Or, it is, but it isn't. While we are happy, deep in our hearts we are still sad.
It is OK that we are sad. It is normal that we are sad.
And, stop telling us that we should not be sad.
Yes, I do have a child (finally). But, I cannot (and should not) forget that right now I could have 5 children.
Two of those children would have been carried and born by me. Two would have been been carried and born via a gestational carrier but are still (an no less) my children, and their loss is not softened by the fact that I did not carry them myself.
Stop telling us that having a child heals the wounds of losing a child.
It does not, and should not.
My own body failed me twice.
Once it decided on its own that my pregnancy was not viable. My breasts had started to swell and I was exhausted. Then I started spotting. And then the spotting turned into bleeding. The bleeding got heavy. Heavy enough to cause concern, but not quite to the amount that indicated hemorrhaging. I knew that no good was coming of this. I tossed and turned in agony as my body expelled my child. I was lucky that it was fairly early - only 8 weeks - and that it was a complete miscarriage.
The second time was more difficult. I had made it a little longer. My breasts were huge. My pants were starting to get tight. I was so exhausted that I was getting lightheaded. I nearly passed out a few times - once in traffic. I was having stabbing pain on my right side. I went into the emergency room because the pain was so bad. The ultrasound tech started out chipper - I was pregnant! Then, she started making faces, then she shut down the ultrasound. She told us we needed to consult with our OB. I am not a doctor, but I caught a few things - I could tell that something was not right and that our baby's development was not completely normal. Our OB added that the baby was compressed - my uterus did not seem to be expanding as it should most likely due to my uterine abnormality. We could continue the pregnancy at my risk and probably the risk of the child. We chose not to take that risk.
My body then failed others twice.
We knew that my uterus was flawed - it never fully developed and it was therefore not an ideal host to support a healthy pregnancy. We did not know that my eggs were also (potentially) flawed. We underwent IVF in order to produce embryos that we would transfer to a gestational carrier with a healthy uterus. We knew that my age could be a factor since a woman's fertility begins to decline at age 35, but a battery of tests showed that my fertility was good - "better than my age" - so we assumed that a healthy uterus would ensure success. Unfortunately it did not - twice. The second time even more crushing than the first.
Fast forward six months - we transfered our last embryo.
Fast forward 9 more months - our son was born happy and healthy.
Fast forward 8 more months to today.
Today we have a healthy, beautiful 8 month old son. He is a wonderful gift.
Or, should we say a blessing.
A gift is free. A gift has no strings attached.
Our little one was not definitely not free - we are not even talking about the financial toll. Our little one came to us at great emotional toll. The road was very bumpy and winding along the way. It has been said that the only pain worth suffering for is the kind that makes you stronger. I do believe that my pain has made me a stronger and more appreciative person.
And, my pain is real, and however uncomfortable, deserves recognition.
Miscarriage and Infant Loss is raw, real, and should stop being swept under the rug.
1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy and/or infant loss. Let's start talking about it in the hopes that sharing our pain and our stories may lessen the pain of others.
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Recently, Mark Zuckerberg made headlines for opening up about his family’s experience with miscarriage. Hearing one of the most powerful couples in the world talk about their struggle with pregnancy and pregnancy loss was honest and eye opening. Regardless of who you are, or where you come from, or how much you wished for and loved your baby, pregnancy loss can blindside anyone.
We aren’t supposed to talk about miscarriage. It’s as if we’re all supposed to believe the pregnancy never really happened, as if it never really existed. Every word used to describe the way you feel after a miscarriage epitomizes everything you are in that moment... empty, hollow, exposed — but none of those words describe what you really are...overwhelmed, devastated, and incredibly sad. Stripped of every expectation and left without an answer to a single question spilling out of your head, you don’t know much. But you know you are no longer pregnant.
As a labor and delivery nurse, I don’t often take care of women who are experiencing a miscarriage because they don’t normally come to a labor and delivery unit. Even as I type that, it sounds strange. Many women experience their miscarriage at home, and don’t require any hospital care. When they do, they are usually discharged home as soon as possible, or sent to any other unit besides labor and delivery. It’s as if it isn’t even a real pregnancy, or a real birth. And although I have never had a miscarriage, I have taken care of a handful of women who miscarried and somehow ended up in labor and delivery.
Fresh out of nursing school, I found myself caring for a woman who miscarried early in her pregnancy. She had come to triage for cramping, and although at this particular facility we didn’t normally take care of women who weren’t at least 20 weeks pregnant, she had slipped through the emergency room and ended up in front me and my preceptor.
When she didn’t come out of the bathroom, I opened the door to see her standing there, her panties bunched around her ankles. Blood dripped down her legs and splattered on the floor, like raindrops on a window. Her eyes were squeezed so tightly shut, as if she didn’t want to open them and see everything so evident beneath her.
I didn’t know what to do. I had never taken care of someone who was only 12 weeks pregnant. In my mind, I tried to think back to nursing school and tried to remember what a 12 week fetus would look like. Would I know? Or would I help her back to the bed and wipe up tissue from the floor that would have been her baby?
While thoughts like these ran through my mind, I grabbed her hand as hard as I could and guided her back to the bed, her eyes still tightly shut. I sat on the bed next to her, hugging her as tightly as I could, and let her cry into my shoulder until her partner arrived. And then I got her ready just like I would any other pregnant woman giving birth. She signed consents. I started an IV. I placed pillows behind her back and all around her. And before I knew it, she had delivered and was no longer pregnant.
I remember the way she held her stomach afterwards. I remember the blank expression on her face. I remember the way she laid in bed, seeming to suffocate in disappointment and disbelief. And from one minute to the next, it was all over.
Women experience loss differently from men. Women feel broken, not quite whole. Men tend to feel as if they have to be the source of strength for their partner, their helplessness silencing many of their words. Maybe women don’t want to talk about it with other women because they don’t know if their feelings are founded. Maybe they didn’t have an actual baby to hold, and maybe they don’t know that that doesn’t matter. Maybe they somehow feel responsible for the inability to keep their baby secure inside of them. Maybe all of this contributes to the quiet culture we have cultivated as a society.
Now, years later, I still often think of that woman and wonder if she remembers that I was there to witness her miscarriage. I wonder if she ever has an opportunity to talk about the pregnancy that ended so surprisingly, shattering the early formation of any dreams for that baby.
And the one thing I can say without hesitation, the one thing I can say with absolute certainty, is that miscarriages matter. They are a birth. It’s the birth of a baby, of your baby, a baby that no one will speak of, may not think of, and might not remember. But I remember that day. I was there and saw your face, shocked that you were suddenly alone, and I remember the way you held your abdomen, unexpectedly empty of another life.
For any family out there that has experienced the loss of a pregnancy, I understand that it is so much more than that. And although I can’t give you an answer of why things happen, or change the experience you had, I hope you find some sort of peace knowing that so many people out there have experienced the same loneliness and suffocated on the same disappointment of losing what could have been. And if we can learn anything from one of the most influential couples speaking out about pregnancy loss, it’s that it’s okay to talk about it: miscarriages matter.