What Not to Say

It’s a rainy day here in Maine. It’s also the only day this week that I don’t have something going on. So I’m hanging out in my jammies, doing laundry and watching movies with my little guy while I sit on a tennis ball. (It’s supposed to massage your muscles. So far it just hurts.) I picked up my Kindle while re-watching Wreck-It Ralph for the second time in 2 days to browse my Facebook newsfeed. And I saw a post of a friend of a friend who was letting everyone know that she had just lost her baby.

I clicked on her status post and read each of the 50+ comments written there. I can’t explain why, but maybe it was some morbid need to see what her loved ones had to say about this devastating moment in her life. And then I got upset for her. Because some people just say the absolute wrong things. You can’t blame these women either, because they haven’t gone through the experience. They are trying to be loving and supportive. But they still say things that can almost demean what their friend is going through.

So if you have a friend who has recently experienced a miscarriage, these are, in my opinion, some things NOT to say:

You already have 2 beautiful children. This may be true, but it isn’t comforting. I don’t care how many children a woman has, she will still deeply mourn the baby she has lost. A friend shared with me that her husband’s grandmother had 14 children and had one miscarriage. Only a couple of years ago that grandmother shared that she still hadn’t gotten over the loss of that one child. She still mourned some 50+ years later. And what about the women who miscarry that don’t have any children? Does that mean they are entitled to feel more grief? Grief is grief, whether other people think we’re entitled to it or not. Please don’t try to demean the depth of a woman’s grief by reminding her she already has other children. Because for me, it made me feel like I was being told that I shouldn’t be too upset about my loss because I had already attained the ultimate goal of a woman: I had already experienced motherhood. It made me feel guilty that I had children when some women couldn’t and I should get over my grief more quickly so as not to possibly offend the women miscarrying who didn’t have any children yet.

Everything happens for a reason. This is a tough one. Partly because I believed it when I kept losing baby after baby. I wanted to believe there was a reason. I had to believe there was a reason. And I couldn’t figure out what that reason could possibly be. I became so fixated on trying to determine why I was miscarrying that I couldn’t allow myself to complete the stages of grief. I thought if I could figure it out I could fix it and get pregnant again and finally have that elusive third baby I kept wishing for. I really struggled with my faith during this. Because I kept hearing about how God has a plan for me and knows what’s right for me and blah, blah, blah. I listened to this and tried so hard to embrace it, to take comfort in that thought. I had friends and family praying for me and with me and that support really meant a lot. But I asked myself a lot of ugly questions. Like, is this some kind of message? If so, what’s the message? Am I not being a good enough mother to the kids I already have? Am I sick with some hidden illness I’m going to discover is the culprit behind my losses? Am I supposed to experience this so that I can write about it, so that I can help other women get through it too? I had my fourth miscarriage at the end of April this year. I was still grieving my other three and was so overwhelmed. Then, a few months later someone said something to me that enabled me to finally let go and start to heal. She said, “We want to believe there is a reason for everything bad that happens in our life, but the reality is, sometimes things happen for no reason at all. They just happen.” And there you have it. Shit happens and it doesn’t have to mean a damn thing.

So now I’m crying for a stranger who is going through something horrible. A woman who will probably hide her grief during the day so that she doesn’t upset those 2 beautiful kids she has and who will sob into her pillow when she goes to sleep. If she were my friend, what I would say to her is this: My heart is breaking for you. I love you and am here for you if you ever need anything. Let yourself cry. Your kids will be okay.

Be there for your friend. Don’t try to say things to make her feel better. She needs to cry. She needs to get all those emotions out. Let her know she can do that with you. Give her a hug and don’t let her go right away. Make her feel loved and supported just by your presence, even if it’s just on the phone.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to sitting on my tennis ball.

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My Blogging Quirks

Ahhhhhh, Monday. Why do you and I hate each other so much? You are just so manic! Why can’t you be more like your brother, Friday? Oh well. Since we’re back to the beginning of the week, I guess I should get back to my Book Blogger Challenge.

Day Seven: Talk about your blogging quirks.

Quirks, huh? Let’s see… I have a penchant for big words and run-on sentences. Sarcasm, movie and music references. Fragments. (And I seem to be in love with using parentheses to express my remarks that go off on a tangent.)

When I started my blog, it was to sort of document my life with kids. Both for myself and for my family members that live in a galaxy far, far away. I used to worry about what I should be writing about vs what I wanted to write and I oftentimes did not write what I wanted to. I was worried that I was going to turn into a complainer or that those people that are struggling with infertility would get pissed that I was some mess of a woman who was lucky enough to be able to birth a child and boo to me. Then I went through the trauma of losing a baby. Well, it wasn’t until the second baby that I was traumatized. And I found that blogging about that raw pain was extremely cathartic. It embarrassed me to admit my weakness, but made me feel like a better person because I could.

Now, I guess I’m treating my blog like an online journal. I’m blogging about what I’m usually thinking about. And the days I’m not blogging, I’m probably not thinking about much of anything. Or I’m writing fiction, reading, cooking, or being a homebody. I’m having more fun with my blog now that I’m not caring about what people will think when they read it. No one else has lived my life, so they can go ahead and judge me if they want to. I know that they don’t have a clue.

Do you blog? Why did you start blogging? Are you still blogging for the same reasons?

The Berserker Tear-Jerker

I think I’m fighting a losing battle with the Whole 30. I’m really hating life right now and I’m only on day five. Twenty-five more days of starvation may help me drop some weight, but I don’t think its worth it. Although, if I give up so soon, I’ll feel like a failure and feel worse about myself. So the million dollar question is: do I feel bad about myself for giving up my super restrictive diet plan, or do I feel bad for the next month because I’m miserable eating food I hate and hungry (because I’d rather not eat than eat food I hate)?

Anyhoo, now that I’m done playing my tiny little violin of pity, let me get back to my Book Blogger Challenge.

Day Five: Recommend a tear-jerker.

I don’t like books that make me cry. I feel like I’ve cried enough in the last two years over things in my own life to last me a long, long time. So I don’t want my escape mechanism of reading to also make me cry. But I have read one whole tear-jerker this year that my book club (when I was still going) was reading. And I would definitely recommend it: “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See.

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I have a hard time sometimes getting into books about different cultures. Not because I don’t think different cultures are interesting, but because I can’t relate. I get angry when cultural rules or mores abuse people and suppress their natural human rights. I feel thankful that, being a woman, I live in America in the present time.

I didn’t have a hard time getting into Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Probably because its about women and friendship. I think that topic might just be universal. The book is about two girls from different classes in 19th century China, one lower class, one upper class, who spend their lives building a friendship through the sharing of their emotions and thoughts. They send each other secret communications that they write on a silk fan. They find comfort in each other in a time where being a woman in China (two words: foot binding) had nothing comforting to offer.

The tear-jerker part, other than the misery of their lives, is that the women have a misunderstanding that could potentially destroy their friendship. The woman telling the story is the lower class girl, Lily, and as she is the one who damages this lifelong friendship, you really feel her heartbreak, guilt and regret as well as her love for her friend.

What I got out of it, other than the fierce desire to name a daughter Plum Blossom or Beautiful Moon, is that women need each other. We have these crazy close friendships with other women because they are essential to our emotional well-being. No one will ever truly understand what a woman is going through or has gone through like another woman. No one can prepare you for a life event like a woman who has already experienced it. Women just get what it means to be a woman. And we can support each other emotionally because of that.

Personally, the real tear-jerker part was that Snow Flower, who takes such joy from her children, keeps losing babies. She tries to communicate the anguish and despair, the life-altering sorrow of those losses to Lily, her closest friend, but Lily doesn’t understand. She hasn’t experienced it and she doesn’t know how to comfort Snow Flower. This made me bawl openly. I mean, I was crying tears the way a berserker would fight a battle. I wanted to smack the crap out of Lily because the things she said to Snow Flower to snap her out of this depression were stupid and mean. I wanted to comfort this poor fictional woman who was steeped in despair and self-loathing because I understood what she was feeling. I understand that loss. And it made me relive my own feelings about all of my lost babies. “Cry Me a River” you say, Justin Timberlake? Oh, I did. I most certainly did.

I may just go cry another one.

What’s the last book that made you cry?

Products of Conception

Biology 101

This morning, a friend called me out about my last post, “The Nitty-Gritty.” I was told that I shouldn’t be apologizing for grieving. She is right, but I can’t seem to help it. I’ve been made to feel like I shouldn’t be feeling this way because I was only 15 weeks pregnant. I haven’t been able to find closure. And I’m going to tell you why.

The same night I was discharged from the hospital, pretty drugged up on something similar to Morphine, I called my midwife and told her what had happened. I don’t remember if I asked her what came next, but she did tell me that it was most likely hospital policy that the baby’s body and the placenta (which I had delivered together) would be sent to the Pathology Lab for testing. She said this was a standard procedure. When the weekend was over, I signed various forms authorizing my midwives to request all my medical records from the night of my miscarriage. They had told me that they would review all the labs, nurse’s notes and doctor’s orders and would try to figure out, based on the results, why I had gone into labor at 15 weeks of pregnancy, and what the sex of the baby had been.

I waited for a week, maybe more (My memory is hazy since I’ve been in kind of a grief-induced walking coma for 2 months). When I heard back from my midwives, there was no answer to any of my questions. There was no Pathology report. There were no nurse’s notes or doctor’s orders. There were only the lab results on the blood work they had done, checking my iron levels and iron binding. My midwives expressed dismayed amazement that the hospital hadn’t sent the baby to Pathology. So I asked, what happened to my baby’s body? The answer: I don’t know. But I knew. Because I know that anything that comes from a person’s body that contains blood is considered a biohazardous material. And I know that biohazardous material is incinerated. I knew that if my baby’s body hadn’t been sent to Pathology, then it was thrown away, like trash. And this is what keeps me up at night.

I have been on a downward spiral of depression since I lost the baby. I feel regret that I chose to go to the hospital, because if I had stayed home and delivered with my midwife, I would have the answers to my questions. I feel guilt that I had been too shocked to form cohesive thoughts and verbalize the questions that were in my head. Why didn’t I ask to see the baby? Why didn’t I ask what I had had? Because I was thinking those things as I lay on the gurney in my bloody johnny. I feel devastated and disgusted and angry that my baby’s body was thrown away like a piece of trash and I will never have my questions answered. I feel cheated because instead of planting a tree in honor of a lost life, I could be burying my baby.

Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor to talk about medication for this depression. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me with astonishment and actually said, “That is so fucked up!”. She told me it was no wonder I was depressed because on top of experiencing a traumatic loss, I had received poor care. My doctor told me she was going to call the hospital and try to find the answers to my questions so that I could try to find some closure. But she has not been able to find any answers for me. In fact, the answers she got left me feeling even worse. She was told by the head of the Emergency department that there is no protocol in the ER for the handling of “products of conception” after 12 weeks of pregnancy. There is no record of the Pathology lab ever receiving any “products of conception” in my name.

Those three words, products of conception, drilled a hole in my heart each time they were said. Over and over and over, “products of conception aren’t in Pathology” “products of conception aren’t stored anywhere in the hospital” “there are no protocols for the handling of products of conception”. The last time I checked, the definition of a product of conception is A BABY!! What the hell else is the product of conception? Baby, baby, baby, baby. Let’s say the word, people. I don’t give a shit if doctors and hospital personnel fear saying the word “baby” when referencing the “product” of pregnancy. Will the world end if we say that I delivered a baby – that my baby wasn’t sent to pathology – that there are no protocols for the handling of a baby’s body? I didn’t go into the hospital to have an abortion. I went into the hospital to deliver a baby. And I’d like that to be acknowledged.

My doctor asked about grief support groups for women who have miscarried. The answer was that there is one, but its for women who lost a baby at 18+ weeks of pregnancy. So because I was 15 weeks, I guess I’m not supposed to feel this bone-crushing grief? I guess I wasn’t supposed to have loved my unborn child, because I was just 15 weeks? I didn’t pass a kidney stone and spend the last 2 months grieving the stone. I delivered a baby. A baby I already loved. I am grieving a lost love. So why am I being made to feel like I shouldn’t be? I’ve been feeling like society thinks I shouldn’t have blinked an eye at the loss of my “product of conception” because I wasn’t at the socially acceptable number of weeks to feel grief. That is bullshit, but also why I feel apologetic when I burst into tears and can’t even speak when I think about it. I lay awake at night thinking of everything I should have done, all the questions I should have asked, wondering if I can ever go through another pregnancy again, even though I want that baby so badly that I cry. But I feel bad if I bring it up with friends, or cry about it to my family members. I don’t want to make others feel as badly as I do.

So that, my friend, is why I was apologetic. I’ll try better next time.

The Nitty-Gritty

When I started this blog, I meant for it to be me commenting on the antics of my 2 children, my life as a mom and wife, my control-freak anxieties about basic motherhood issues all wrapped up with a little bit of wit and sarcasm.

What I didn’t expect (and who ever does?) was that I would go through the traumatic event of my life, so far, while I was writing posts for others to read. So, in a way, I feel like I should apologize to my readers for the deep, dark things that I have been writing about. But since I write more for myself than anyone else (selfish, I know, but true nonetheless) I need to be true to how I am feeling now. This has become part of my journey through motherhood. I have discovered, the hard way, that it isn’t just spit-up and diapers, sassy back-talk and snuggling. Sometimes motherhood is dark and gritty and ugly. And I will be walking through that part of my journey for a while longer.

I hope that it will be sooner, rather than later, when I can start blogging regularly about the antics of my children and my light-hearted frustrations as a parent. But I also hope that some of my deeper posts can help other women out there, struggling with something, feel less alone in their pain and sadness. And I hope that my friends who read this will neither experience this horrible part of motherhood, nor feel neglected as I withdraw from the real world for a while. I hope that these posts can be how you gauge my emotions and what I’m going through mentally, so that when I can’t speak of it, you will still understand.

Some Body That I Used to Know

I’ve got this love-hate relationship with my body. I’ve been overweight since puberty –  that time when I was ashamed of my body for not being picture perfect. Now that I’m in my mid to late 30s, I’m no longer ashamed, but I do still hate to try on clothes, and sometimes find myself wishing that I had a little more willpower when it came to food! And I find that I don’t really care what other people think of my body (except maybe my husband) because I’m not on the prowl for a date, and I’m confident in my marriage and friendships. But in the last 2 months, I’ve felt a different kind of emotion about my body: hatred.

Being pregnant is the most vulnerable time in a woman’s life – especially for a control freak like myself. Because once you’ve conceived that baby, there is nothing else you can really do except eat well, get prenatal care, and trust your body to do its job. You can’t pick the baby’s gender. You can’t pick the baby’s birth date. You can’t reach in there during conception and do a chemistry jobbie with the available DNA to get the exact traits you’re hoping for. “Oh, let’s just get rid of that family history of mental illness gene over there… grab that athletic giftedness gene over here… blond hair, brown eyes, oh! Don’t forget the good singing voice and dancing with rhythm genes!” So really, what it comes down to is trust. Trust in your medical professionals and trust in your body.

I guess I don’t have to tell you that I don’t really trust my body so much anymore. In fact, after I had gone through some of those stages of grief and finally felt some acceptance, I started to feel betrayed. Betrayed by the one thing I trusted most – my body. My amazing body that had conceived, carried, birthed and breastfed 2 beautiful babies, the body I trusted completely, had betrayed me. The working theory behind my second trimester miscarriage is that my body wasn’t producing enough progesterone (the hormone that keeps your placenta strong) and my placenta weakened and separated from my uterus which kicked my body into survival mode and immediately put me into labor. So my body thought it was doing the right thing. And I know that if I had been much farther along, it would have worked out. But your body is just like a machine that has been programmed to do one job, it doesn’t think, and it doesn’t understand that, sometimes, timing is everything. And then, to rub my face in it even more, my body responded just like it did twice before when I had given birth. I healed quickly with almost no pain and my milk came in.

The new hatred for my body is because of this normal response. Stupid body, there is no baby here to feed, and you didn’t have a normal birth. I feel like my body should have suffered a little more for making me lose my baby. My body wasn’t working perfectly and Bing, Bang, Boom, it is all over and done with and my body is a-okay again like nothing ever happened. While my brain, and my heart and soul are still trying to cope. My body is pain free, but my heart is not. And so I am angry at my body, not myself, my body because it didn’t do its damn job. It let me down. And I wish there was some physical pain to deal with. Because that would be easier, I think.

Sad Endings

I’m not sure how to start this post. I know that even though I’m writing it now, I won’t be posting it for a while yet. I’m keeping a secret and it’s been a hard thing to do. But I still feel the need to “talk” about it, so I thought I’d write this now, while my feelings are fresh, and still pent up, and maybe this will be cathartic for me. And once I’ve shared my news, I can publish this. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe this will end up being just for me.

In October, I happily announced on Facebook (after calling my family) that I was expecting my third child, due in early June. I was so excited that I told everyone who would listen about our happy news. Mike and I started arguing about baby names, we told the kids, Caylie’s nursery school teacher…. And then, suddenly, I wasn’t pregnant anymore. My pregnancy had ended and I was left with confused children, sympathetic family and friends, the awkwardness of telling people when they asked about how I was feeling, and a sense of loss that, even now, I’m not sure I’ve dealt with thoroughly. I did not announce my miscarriage on Facebook. Instead, I called my parents and asked them to tell the family. I called a local friend and asked her to share it with our friends in our mother’s group. I emailed the friends I could think of off the top of my head, while still numb with it all, and asked that no one talk about it. I didn’t want to relive the event over and over again until it had become some news report I could recite, by heart, with no feeling. I spoke with my midwives and they prepared me with information about what to expect and offered to come and be with me. Mike came home and we took the kids for a drive. We ran some errands and I tried to pretend that my life was exactly the way it should be.

It took 6 days for my body to physically end the pregnancy. It took me about the same time for my brain to emotionally grasp what was happening. I took a really good look at my life at the time. And I liked what I saw. I married someone I love with my whole being. We have a solid, loving marriage. We have 2 beautiful, bright, happy children. We don’t have a lot of money, but we have everything we need. I love my house. My family lives comfortably and we have a supportive, loving family, and some really amazing friends. The grief I felt at my loss of a pregnancy was overwhelmed with the happiness I felt at how great my life is. I am truly content in this life. And for me to say that is a big deal. I’m not certain I have ever felt such contentment in my lifetime.

The big question I faced was, should we try again? I felt blessed with the 2 children I have. Was I being selfish, or greedy, wanting another baby? I didn’t want to give up hope that we would have another baby. So we decided to wait and see what would happen.

As it turns out, we didn’t have to wait very long at all. At the end of December, we learned that I was pregnant again. But this time, we kept it a secret. As I write this, I am 10 weeks along. Close to the end of the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage drops considerably. I am hoping to meet with my midwives next week to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I’m excited, but also nervous now. I’ve read that once you’ve gotten far enough along that you hear the baby’s heartbeat, your risk of miscarriage is very low. I desperately want to hear that little heartbeat. The rushing whir of a tiny beating heart. I need it. I want to share my happy news with my family and friends. I want to be able to be happy about this baby without the fear of loss. I want to be able to share my pregnancy symptoms with my friends and laugh and complain and just live within this moment, enjoying it. Right now, I feel like I’ve cut myself off, in a way. I’m not good at keeping my own secrets. I like to be open and honest with people. And so I’ve isolated myself so I can keep my secret until the time comes when I can finally let my emotional guard down.

(I wrote the previous paragraphs in early February and never posted them; I was still keeping my pregnancy a secret. Now we are in the end of March, and I am dealing with much more than sadness and secrets.)

Two weeks ago today, at barely 15 weeks pregnant, my water broke. Having had 2 babies already, I knew the feeling well. And I knew immediately what it meant. This was the end of another pregnancy. But even as I cried, I still had a shred of hope. Maybe it was that irrational feeling we get when our brains can’t wrap themselves around the emotions of something so big; I don’t know. I called my midwife and she told me that I was going to deliver – that this wouldn’t be the same as last time when I would just bleed and take some Tylenol for the cramping. I was going to deliver. A. Baby. Holy shit.

I panicked. I couldn’t do this at home. I wasn’t going to deliver my baby in the toilet. So I had a friend drive me to the ER while Mike put the kids to bed and called my brother to come watch them. The hospital is a 10 minute ride from my house. But halfway there, my contractions started and by the time they got me out of the car and into a wheelchair, I was sitting in a pool of blood, my pants saturated. We checked into the ER at a little before 7 p.m.

I delivered the baby at 8 p.m. while I cried into my friend’s hair. Mike hadn’t even made it to the hospital yet. It all happened so quickly: the bleeding, the contractions, the bleeding, the delivery. And then it was over and I was left on a pile of bloody chucks, feeling hollow and confused, and completely devastated. Any hope I had was bled right out of me, pouring down my thighs and running, like bloody tears, down my calves to stain my bright white socks.

At 9:15 p.m., I was discharged from the ER and sent home with a pack of pain pills and an “I’m sorry for your loss; you have a $100 co-pay and can you pay that all now?” I never saw the baby. I was never told if I had had a boy or a girl. They couldn’t tell me why this had happened. They told me there were no tests they could run to give me any answers. And so I went home, with my stunned husband, my drugged body, numb brain and empty womb.

I am still grieving. I am at a loss for words about how I feel. I am surviving, and that is all I can say at this point. I am going through the motions of my life to keep my children from experiencing any upset in their lives. I can finally talk about my loss of this child. Because that is what this is. I have lost a baby. My baby is dead. My body is still reminding me that I gave birth. My milk came in last week – another reminder that there is no baby for me to feed, to hold. It was like a swift kick in the gut after you feel like you’ve just caught your breath again. But I’m surviving.

I will survive. I have to.