Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

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.

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