Wednesday, January 11, 2017

All I Want Is A Happy Ending

When I think of our fertility struggles and our future "family plans", all I want is a happy ending. And I have that right now. After four miscarriages, we've had a beautiful healthy baby boy. There is a completeness there. A sigh of relief. We made it. It's over. We've won. Except this isn't the end. I still have around fifteen years of fertility left. Who knows what will happen in that time?

I am ok with having more miscarriages as long as you tell me that my last pregnancy, whenever that is, is one that ends with a living child in my arms. The birth of a baby provides closure and resolution, a sense of victory and hope. But to end my childbearing years with a loss, to have my last pregnancy be a miscarriage, would leave an open wound. All miscarriages leave scars, of course, but in time and with the birth of a living child, those wounds heal. The scar always remains, the memory persists and there is still pain. But looking into my son's eyes, I'm able to say "everything was worth it" because now I have him. If I hadn't had those miscarriages, if I hadn't persisted through another pregnancy, and another one, and another one, I would have never gotten to the one which gave me my son.

Pregnancies that end in miscarriage have their own value, of course. An eternal soul brought into creation. Suffering that can be united with Christ for a greater purpose. Lessons learned. An opportunity to rely more fully on God in our grief. I pray that someday these things may be enough for me, but in my human selfishness, I struggle to see this as worth the great pain loss brings me.

Of course, no one can guarantee my happy ending. If we continue to be open to life (and we will be) we continue to be open to death. And I have to face the reality that there may not be a happy ending in store for me. Perhaps my last years of fertility will be riddled with miscarriages or perhaps we'll spend years longing for one more child only to suffer a secondary infertility that is never resolved.

How do I move forward? How do I acknowledge the risk of another loss and decide another pregnancy is worth it anyway? I don't know. I just have to have faith that no matter what happens, I'll get through it. God will see me through it.


Friday, January 6, 2017

All I Wanted Was a Card: Mixed Messages in Support and Grieving

 After my second miscarriage, I told my mom that I really wanted her to send a card. My mom sends cards to everyone for every occasion, it is kind of her thing. Every insignificant holiday. Birthday cards. Anniversary cards. Get well cards. And if someone had a loved one die, even if it was someone she wasn't close to, you better believe she sent a card. If your beloved pet died, you'd be getting a card from my mom. But two of my babies had died and she hadn't sent me - her own daughter! - a card. And that hurt. It felt like she didn't acknowledge my losses as real losses.

I'm sure that was not what she was thinking at all and that I was being more irrational than anything else, but the pain caused by it was very real. So I told her. And still a card never came. I waited for weeks, months. I mentioned several times on the phone with her over the months after that loss that I still wanted her to send me a card. She never did. I don't know why. I guess she just thought it was too late and that I was telling her I wanted a card so that she knew what to do if (when) I had another miscarriage, but I thought that I was very clearly stating to her that I needed her to send me a card now.

At some point several months down the road, I blew up with her on the phone and told her how extremely hurt I was. She told me that instead of sending a card, she had done other things, like visiting with my dad at Easter and taking David, Lucia, and I on a vacation to the beach. And about a week later, a card came.

And after my fourth miscarriage (we didn't tell people about our third because it was so early), I received a card from my parents too. That time, it was very prompt.

I feel like this story is a perfect example of how messages somehow get mixed during periods of grief and how the support someone offers often doesn't reach their loved one, at least not in the form of support they actually want or need.

I never felt like I had the support I needed after my losses. Yet, I have several very kind, loving friends and family members and I know that they were attempting to offer me support. I imagine the mixed signals often happen because our society is so closed when it comes to issues of death and grieving. How can we help our loved ones during such a difficult time if we are expected to spend our entire lives acting as if such topics don't even exist?

I know that the majority of hurt and disappointment I felt at the lack of support was due to miscommunication, not due to actual lack of support. It wasn't the support I needed, but it was there. I truly believe even those who remained completely silent did it with the best intentions, thinking that bringing it up might be painful to me.

I've come to really appreciate the efforts of those I love even if they missed the mark. But that perspective has taken time. Years. Right after my miscarriages, when I needed that support and wasn't getting what I needed, it just hurt. It felt like they didn't care. Or that I was abandoned completely. I know that was an unfair assessment, but I've come to realize that grief is a very selfish time. It's a time when what I want and what I need and what I feel trumps all. And that's not to say that it's a bad thing, or that those experiencing grief are selfish. But to expect someone in the midst of grief to step outside of themselves and see the broader picture is just not realistic. And to beat yourself up (as I sometimes do) for thinking selfishly during that time is nothing less than expecting yourself to be superhuman.

If you do have someone in your life grieving a loss, I encourage you to ask her what she needs you to do to help. She may not know, but she just might. And keep asking! Unlike the common belief that grief is short and thee grieving will return to normal after a set time of a week or a month, it's a LONG process. Often when the shock of the loss wears off and they grieving need the most support, those around them wrongly assume they've already "moved on". Over two years after my last loss there are still times that are tough and when I'd love the support of a friend!

photo by Freddy Castro via Unsplash

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Remembrance is a little different for us this year (+ a giveaway)

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. I spent the day with my husband at the last day of foster parent training. And you know what? That feels like the absolute best way we can love and honor the children we've lost.

Becoming a foster parent feels like an essential piece in my healing process. For three years now, I've forced myself to keep a space open in my life, a void that reminded me of of our loss. I didn't let anything fill that space because I felt like I needed to have this painful opening in order to feel the raw wound of the absence of our children. I thought that the only way to appropriately honor them was to be in constant pain, to stay in that place, and to always have a hole that reminded me what could have been and everything that was lost. Doing something that we wouldn't have done had our child(ren) lived seemed to be a form of treason, like leaving them behind or pretending they never existed.

It's only now, three years after my first loss, almost two years after my last, and just weeks away from the first birthday of my healthy (living!) baby boy, that I'm realizing the best way I can honor the children I've lost is to fill that void with something good.

No, we can't fill that open space in our lives with another child, that's not what foster parenting is about for us. Other women who have lost a child may fill that space with something else completely non-child related - volunteer work, prayer, art, etc. This is not about replacing our children, but forging ahead and creating a full, meaningful life with what we have been given.

David and I have talked about being foster parents since before we married. We've moved around frequently and struggled financially so that it was never a viable option until now. After buying our home earlier this year, we finally have the space and stability to be able to care for foster children. It was time.

And yet in the back of my mind, there was that thought, that reminder that if one of the children we lost had lived, we probably would not feel capable of being foster parents right now. We'd most likely have three children then, closer together in age, and I imagine we'd feel like there wasn't the extra time or energy or space right now for foster children.

The truth, however, is that our children did die. Francis died. Julian died. Adrienne died. Christian died. And I have a choice. Either I can continue to dwell on their deaths and make my life some kind of morbid mausoleum to them, or I can choose to turn their deaths into something positive. Because they died, my family has the resources to care for foster children. I think maybe I've not wanted to admit that there are good things we can do because they died for fear that in some way that could be twisted to mean that it was good that they died.

It was not good that they died. But their death can still bring about something good. I'm finally at the place where I'm ready for that. Where I no longer have to torture myself with thoughts of "what would have been". Where I no longer feel the need to punish myself with continual reminders of their deaths for fear that if we move on we are somehow betraying them, that we are in some way saying "it is better this way". No, it is not better. My four babies, four unique beautiful souls are missing from this world, but in their absence we can still go on living. It is not better, but it can still be good. It is good.


I don't know how I missed it in the past, but it seems fitting that Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day is also St. Teresa of Avila's feast day. My favorite quote of hers seems so fitting today:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
-- St. Teresa of Avila

In honor of Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, I would like to give away a beautiful printable of this quote from the etsy shop brickhouseinthecity. (Giveaway sponsored and purchased by me.) Also, Usborne Books consultant Kayla Fellows has very sweetly offered a giveaway item as well:
I am a stay at home wife and mother. I have felt the heartache of infertility, miscarriage and the anxiety of pregnancy after miscarriage. I am very blessed to have given birth to my rainbow baby almost a year ago. In honor of the baby I lost, Bernard Marie, I'd like to donate $15 worth of product from my Usborne Book Store.

I'll also throw in a Lilla Rose hair accessory, as always, since that's my little side biz. I'd like to keep the entries to parents who have lost a child to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. To enter, simply comment telling me something you do to remember your baby/babies. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fond Memories of an All Too Temporary Joy

Three years ago, I was pregnant with our second child. I got a positive pregnancy test on September 1st, after four months of actively trying to conceive and a while before that of very sadly avoiding pregnancy due my husband's underemployment. The pregnancy was very desired, the baby was so very loved, and we were so, so excited. Miscarriage never even crossed my mind, but I would miscarry our baby at home on the night of October 10th after only a minor warning that something might be wrong. (You can read my detailed miscarriage story here.)

I'm crying as I write this post, not thinking about the miscarriage but thinking about the incredible joy, hope, and expectation of those six short weeks that we had with our baby. They were so happy. I still possessed a slice of innocence that I'll never recover. And I'll never quite know that kind of hidden delight during a pregnancy again. I haven't though about it in a long time, but I can still remember exactly what it felt like, having the secret of a new life inside you, imagining the future with that little one laid out before you, the anticipation of bringing a new person into this world, picturing little toes and a tiny button nose. The term "expecting" has always been one that has appealed to me so much more than "pregnant" because it captures a bit of those fluttery feelings of excitement and anticipation and joy. The last few pregnancies though, I've expected a miscarriage, not a baby and there is nothing but dread in that. Even though my pregnancy with Davey was healthy and without any major complications, I was convinced my baby would not live until the moment David placed him on my chest on that cold evening in the passenger's seat of our car. Seeing his face for the first time was honestly a bit of a shock because despite being 41 weeks pregnant I was not expecting a living, breathing child.

So much more than a baby is lost during a miscarriage. It's the loss of hopes and dreams, innocence, joy. I'm glad I got those weeks of happiness with that baby and I mourn the fact that the three subsequent babies I lost didn't get a moment of joy or expectation from me. Davey didn't either until his birth (but he's gotten so much since, just the joy he brought me just today has more than made up for it, I think).

I recently came across this picture of the pregnancy test I took on 9/1/13, confirming the much anticipated conception of our second child. I took this picture on 11/10/13 when I finally decided to throw the pregnancy test away as it continued to sit on our bathroom counter a month after our loss. Funny how a dried up stick of pee could mean so much, huh?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Oh, Hormones

It's been tough around here lately. And by "around here" I mean in my head. Everything else is going fine. After a weird job thing, David is working again at his old company with a nice raise and more responsibility, so it's all good there. Lucia is loving preschool and Davey is just sweet as ever, on the precipice of walking and becoming quite the troublemaker. It's all good.

And maybe because it's all so lovely, I'm missing the little ones we lost even more. No, actually, I think it's just all crazy hormones. I imagine it's my cycle starting up again, although it's been going on for about three months now and no cycle to be seen (no positive pregnancy test either, in case you are wondering). I'm just a constant weepy, hormonal mess. I burst into tears a lot while watching the old seasons of The Amazing Race, just to prove to you that this is all hormones and doesn't make a lick of sense.3 I've also just been feeling plain icky - nauseous, headaches, tired, etc. - and it's all kind of wearing on me.

Anyway, with all these insane hormones, thoughts of our little ones turn really depressing really quickly. For the most part, I've reached a place where most of the time when I think of them there is a kind of fond remembrance kind of feeling. Thoughts of them are bittersweet but mostly positive. I love them, I miss them, and I'm so happy to have had them. But recently, the longing (and the sobbing!) has really been coming out. I just want them here with me right now and nothing makes it better. I wish I had some kind of coping strategies for those hard moments but time (or sleep) seems to be the only thing that gets them to pass. So, I'm mostly just sitting around, waiting for my period to start in hopes that a little hormonal balance will make it all better.

source: unsplash

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Julian

I somehow deleted a long post I wrote today about it being my child Julian's due date. He/she would have be turning two sometime this month. It's a hard day for me and the deletion of the post seems pretty dang symbolic. A post that will never be read about the baby who was never born. Yep, that about sums it up today.

Julian's Certificate of Life from the Shrine of the Holy Innocents

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Re-entry

Oh, well hello there! Let's see, the last time I wrote Davey was one month old and he just turned 10 months on Sunday. Nine months...it's been a while. I'm not sure why it's been so long since I last wrote. I've been busy, sure, but not that busy. I could have made the time if it was a priority. It just wasn't. I definitely have thoughts I would have liked to share but there was something holding me back too. Does what I have to say about miscarriage matter now that I "am on the other side" with a living child? Will my thoughts and stories help or hurt women who are still striving for a living baby? The rest of the world has forgotten the children I've lost, because of time, and because I've "got my baby" now I'm not supposed to think of them anymore, much less still grieve - do I have a right to write about them anymore?

In the end, the pull to write again is strong and I know there isn't too much out there about the "life after" because I've looked for it. When I was pregnant with Davey (and experiencing quite a bit of depression), I was looking for what it might be like after he were born. How did other women feel? Would I have trouble connecting with my baby? How would I feel about future pregnancies? How should I respond to certain questions? Of course, these experiences are felt differently by each woman, but I wanted a little heads up on how it might be. And now that I'm in this place and I have all these feelings, it would be nice to know that not every woman in my situation, but some, at least one, feels similarly to me. I'm not crazy, I'm not alone.

So here I am, sharing what it's like so that other women might not feel so alone. (And I might not either. I'm definitely hoping for some "Me too!" in the comments.) Life after a pregnancy after loss in not the same as "life with a new baby".  I still remember my miscarriages. I still think about them. I still grieve them. But having a living child after them has changed things, healed in some ways, but in other ways made it all a bit sadder, those children more missed. And having had previous losses changes the way I feel about and parent my new baby. I'm a bit more thankful, more in awe of each milestone, understanding just how fragile and miraculous life is.

More on all that in later posts. As you can imagine, I've had many post topics brewing these past nine months. But for now, this seems like enough.

Lucia's first day of preschool a few weeks back.