Sunday, December 29, 2013

Laid to Rest

We were finally ready to do the burial. I printed out a prayer that I wrote and one that I found online, and my in-laws stayed with our son as we set off into the forest.

Under other circumstances, it would have been a lovely trip. The weather was not like December. It felt like a summer morning. We parked the truck and headed into the forest, off trail, just looking for the right spot.
I saw these rocks from about 100 feet below, so we hiked up to the top of the hill. Just past these rocks, at the very top of the hill, we found the right spot.

This little clearing of only moss beside a stump sat in a pool of sunlight. It was perfect.

I silently watched as he dug the hole. Then I said a prayer. 

First, this one I found online:

 My Lord, the baby is dead!
 Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?
 “Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why.
 You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”
 I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool—forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity.

And I said my prayer I wrote:

Dear Heavenly Father,
Today we lay our baby to rest and
entrust to your care a life conceived in love.
As we mourn the death of our child,

we place ourselves in your hands
and ask for strength, for healing, and for love.

In Christ’s name we pray, Amen. 

He feels better now. He said he feels closure. I can't shake the feeling we accidentally left something important behind in the forest. I suppose for me it may take a little longer.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Part 4: Healing and Recovery

It’s now been over 3 weeks since Little One was lost. I had thought my story was over, but I realized something important; I realized that the mental pain doesn't go away as soon as the bleeding stops. At this point I thought I’d be a lot better off than I am. I feel like I've reached my “quota” for feeling sad or depressed or panicked, so I feel uncomfortable showing it to anyone. This is a hard time for me because I do NOT feel better, but I feel like it’s been too long to act sad so I have to hide it.

I know from talking to a few people that this idea of a “quota” of sadness-sharing is not unique. I’m writing a Part 4 to help others know that they aren't alone if they aren't suddenly ok on a certain expected timeline.
I also have experienced a wide array of emotions, some of which have been uncomfortable or confusing. Again, I’m likely not unique, so I will share these too.

After my hospital trip I started recovering physically fairly quickly. I had the expected amount of bleeding and pain (about 2 weeks of a “period” with light cramps) and a lot of the pregnancy symptoms subsided. After about 1 week I felt similar to about 3 months postpartum with my son. At 2 weeks I feel nearly physically recovered.

At 1 week the emotional pain was acute. I had no interest in getting pregnant again, ever. I felt as though the idea of another baby (ever again) would be betrayal to the one I lost. Then a few days later I changed my mind… maybe another baby sometime next year, but certainly not soon.
At 2 weeks however, I was moving it up sooner. I started wondering when my cycles would restart. I started wanting to try sooner.  Then came the confusion. I wondered how I could possibly feel this way when 1 short week prior I was so sure I couldn't handle another pregnancy? What was wrong with me that I could be so ok with things, so soon? I felt a lot of guilt and had a hard time understanding myself.

Some of my dearest friends got together and bought me a lovely print meant for survivors of pregnancy loss. It’s a visual interpretation of the term “Rainbow Baby”, which really helped me understand my emotions. Here is the description taken from the listing on Etsy:

This term is used in the babyloss community to communicate the fact that while a subsequent child is an amazing blessing, that child's life does not replace that of the one that was lost, just as a rainbow following a thunderstorm does not erase the storm's existence.

I’m still not ready for another baby, but I’m ready to accept the fact that I will eventually be ready, and that is ok.

There are other uncomfortable feelings, too.

To be honest, other people’s pregnancies (especially ones close to mine) are very hard to see. I feel like a jerk, but this post is about honesty and sharing true feelings no matter how uncomfortable. Maybe someone can relate and feel like less of a jerk themselves.

I still have daily breakdowns. Usually they are mild panic attacks. Sometimes they are paralyzing numbness attacks. Sometimes I cry and can’t seem to stop. I know it’s only been 3 weeks but I really thought I’d have gotten it together by now.

I don’t share these breakdowns with anyone but a few close friends. I feel self-conscious for being “dramatic” or not “getting over it” fast enough. I don’t want to bum everyone out with my depression. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to get attention or perhaps judge me for being ungrateful for all I do have. I personally am sick of myself, so I feel like everyone else should be sick of me too. These are difficult feelings and I feel like I’m isolating myself because of them.

I'm pretty sure there is going to be a part 5 too... We decided today that we will probably name the baby and have a little service and burial. But we aren't ready yet. I never knew this was going to be so hard on us, and I certainly didn't foresee it emotionally affecting my husband as hard as it has.

Unfortunately this post doesn't have much of a moral. I suppose I just wanted to keep up the honesty. I feel like I “wrapped” everything up for publication way too neatly, and the truth is things are not wrapped up at all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Part 3 of 3

Part 3

With having passed the embryo, I felt as though a huge weight was lifted from my mind. I had more energy and felt less sad. I was ready to heal.

That Monday I woke up ready to move on. I cleaned my house, played with my little boy, and went to a doctor’s appointment. At the doctor, they checked me with ultrasound to be sure I had passed everything, and the ultrasound showed that there was still a mass left that looked like a clot. The doctor assured me it wouldn't be a problem and we could safely cancel the D&C.  I left the appointment and stopped at Target to fill a prescription and pick up some groceries.

Around 4pm, while shopping, the worst “period” cramps of my life began. It actually felt a lot like early labor with my son. I was having trouble walking, and I ended up needing a Target employee to escort me and my son to my car. I sat in my car, hoping the pain would subside. The employee came back to my car after I’d been there almost an hour worrying about me. He offered to call 911.

Instead, I called my hospital and spoke to a midwife on call. They were very worried and started to send me an ambulance. I refused and said that I wasn't going to take an ambulance to a hospital for bad period cramps. I promised that if the bleeding reached the maximum amount safely allowed or if the pain did not stop within the hour, I would arrange for a ride to the hospital.

Right around then, the contractions got further apart. They went from every 2 minutes to every 5, and the length was shorter too. It was then I decided it was safe to drive home, since I was only 6 or 7 min away.
Upon arriving home, my husband had just gotten home too. The bleeding intensified, and I had reached the quota allowed (1 pad per hour for 2 hours) the contractions waxed and waned in intensity, so I was still reluctant to go to the ER. What if this was the tail end?

The bleeding seemed to stop, but I had that familiar feeling of needing to push again. Then a clot passed, and the bleeding turned scary. I was a tap, and it would not stop gushing.

Without hesitation we rushed to the ER. In the car, the contractions got worse and worse and eventually became worse than any of the contractions I had when in labor with my son. They came with only seconds in between and they were so horrible all I could do was scream through each one.

Now here is where I don’t remember much. The pain was too intense and I could not speak or look around me. I was admitted to a room and hooked up to monitors and IVs. After an exam, they finally gave me pain medicine. Within seconds of the injection, I felt glorious relief.

I don’t even want to go through the next 4 hours of pain and suffering I felt. It’s boring to read anyway. Eventually, using forceps and vacuum, they were able to deliver a retained piece of placenta that was causing my body to freak out. Once it was out, I was a lot better off.

That night I lost a lot of blood and they were concerned I may need a transfusion. Luckily , I didn't. I was in shock (my body wouldn't stop shaking,) and I was too weak to even stand, but eventually I was cleared to go home. I was wheeled to my car, send home with pain medicine, and slept very deeply all night (what was left of it anyway.) The next morning I could walk again, was in no pain, and felt heaps better emotionally.

My story is not unique, but it isn't common either. Some miscarriages are quick and painless. Some are worse and longer and painful than mine. Some are quickly ended with a D&C, others take weeks and weeks to resolve on their own. Some women react even more intensely emotionally, while others take the loss in stride.

Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, before anyone has been told about the pregnancy. Ironically, women don’t share the news of the pregnancy in case the pregnancy ends, but really that is when they will need the most support. I’m hoping to raise awareness of the normalcy of miscarriage. Miscarriage isn't your fault, it isn't something to be ashamed of, and you are not alone.

If anyone ever wants my support or wants to talk, don’t be afraid to ask me.

Part 2

 This post contains photos and detailed descriptions of an embryo. If you are sensitive to these types of photos or descriptions, do not proceed.

Part 2 

At 10 weeks 3 days, the baby was still inside me. I was drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea, taking Black and Blue Cohosh… and even had 2 rounds of Cytotec. My body did not want to let go.

But that morning I felt different. The cramps were worse. I left my husband and baby home and went for a jog (probably my third or fourth jog in my entire life) in the 12 degree weather. I felt like my body needed it.
I came home and compulsively cleaned for the first time in a week. I wiped down cupboards and cleaned toys. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was preparing for birth.

Then the cramps intensified. They weren't much worse than my worst period, so I wasn't alarmed. I was upstairs alone in my bathroom when I felt a similar urge to push as when I was having my son. I manually checked inside and felt a large object lodged in my cervix. Afraid it was the baby, I didn't want to pull too hard and dismember it. So I pushed and pulled gently until it came loose. It was not the baby, it was the placenta and umbilical cord.

I quietly put the placenta in the jar we had saved for this, washed my hands, and called my husband in. I calmly explained what had happened. We were in the process of getting ready to leave for a family outing when this happened, and my husband thought we should cancel. I firmly disagreed and said I wanted to go.
As he got reluctantly got dressed, I leaned against our bed, updating what had just happened on my phone with a friend.

Then a sharp pain, pressure, then POP. My water broke with a gush and I yelled loudly in shock and a little pain. I ran to the bathroom, and checked my pad. My baby had been born.

The next few minutes were a panic. I screamed at my husband, “It’s the baby! It’s the baby. What do I do? I don’t know what to do? Where’s Jim? He’s scared, take him away, I’m ok.”

He took Jim away and I scooped up the little baby into my hands. Her neck was thin and her head was almost disconnected from her body. She had big black eyes on either side of her head, arms, legs, and her skin was so translucent you could see her brain and organs. She had been decomposing for over a week, so some details were hard to make out, but you could still see her mouth and hands.

I just stood there with her in my hand, hunched over the bathroom counter breathing heavily. I didn't cry. I was just taking it all in. After a while, my husband came back after gating our son in his room.
He asked if we should put it in a jar. I said no, I’m not ready. I studied the baby for a long time. I turned her over on her side, touched her arms and legs, learning and observing almost scientifically. Still no crying, just awe. At one point I held her up to my husband and said, “I made this.”

Eventually I was ready. I got the miniature blanket I had made for her and laid her on it and took her picture. 
9.5 week embryo; on side, hands curled under chin, legs curled and crossed

We said goodbye and wrapped the blanket around her and put her into the box. We didn't know what to do next. Bury her? Where?  Now? None of these details had been worked out, and we had no idea how to proceed.

Finally I said that we should wait. The ground is frozen anyway. I suggested we put the box into the freezer and bury her when the ground thaws-- when we have a good idea of where to bury her and are ready to have a little service for her. So we put the box in the freezer, and then I insisted we still leave for our outing.

We went to dinner. We went to see Santa. The evening proceeded as normal, as if nothing had happened. I attributed it to the relief of no longer carrying the baby. The next day was Monday, husband left for work, and I felt better. I was sad, but did not cry. I felt glad that it was over. I was ready to begin healing.

I did not know that it was NOT over…

Part 1

This is the story of my second pregnancy and first miscarriage.

I want to share my story because miscarriage is common (1 in 4 pregnancies,) but resources, stories, and support for such difficult events are so scarce. Women shouldn't feel alone and suffer in silence. I hope my story helps someone know what to expect and not feel alone, afraid, or ashamed, and give them the courage to reach out for support.

I won’t spare details. I won’t sugar coat things. There will be photos. If you don’t feel comfortable, do not read it.

Part 1

I found out I was pregnant almost a week before my missed period. We had been trying for only one cycle, so I was very surprised and excited it happened so quickly compared to my first pregnancy. I told my husband, family and close friends immediately.

Over the next 2 weeks I experienced bouts of spotting, on and off. I spent a lot of time at the doctors being tested and having ultrasounds, with the general message being “don’t get too excited, this is likely not a viable pregnancy.”

But at 6 weeks, we saw the heartbeat on ultrasound and everything looked healthy and perfect. They told me that the bleeding must have been normal for me, and they scheduled me for all my prenatal appointments and basically gave me the go ahead to relax.

6 week embryo with yolk sac; HB 124

The next two weeks I felt very pregnant. My tummy got pretty big (you show faster with each subsequent pregnancy) and I had some bad morning sickness that caused me to lose almost 10% of my body weight and was prescribed Zofran. But I was happy to endure it because I was told that sickness = high hormones = healthy baby. The morning sickness also convinced me the baby was a girl.

At 8 weeks I was able to find the heartbeat on my home Doppler. I checked it every 2 or 3 days. Despite my negative feelings and seemingly irrational fear of chromosomal problems at 5.5 weeks, I started to relax more and more each time I heard that sweet little pitter-patter.

With my first baby, I “came out” at 10 weeks. Generally once you hear the heartbeat, you are pretty safe to assume a healthy pregnancy. I had heart this little one’s strong heart beat so many times, and at 8 weeks I had a great ultrasound. Saw a cute little bean with arms and legs and a pattering heart... All seemed well. The midwife did note that I had a Subchorionic Hematoma (SCH) about 3cm cubed, but I remembered being told I had one with my first, and they generally mean nothing. So I ignored it.

8 week embryo with SCH visible upper right
When I was just about 10 weeks, I decided to “come out.” I told everyone I knew and posted a photo announcement on Facebook. 

The next day I couldn't find the heartbeat on the Doppler. The day after that, I took a nap and woke up in a pool of blood.  That evening an emergency ultrasound showed a perfect looking little 10 week embryo, motionless, with no heartbeat. Before the doctor gave me the news, I knew. I knew what to look for and it was not there. My baby had died inside me two days ago.

9 weeks 4 days embryo - no heartbeat
SCH has reduced in size by two thirds

I completely lost it. I don’t really remember the next few days. I was in a fog of constant sobbing and the dread and anxiety of carrying a dead baby. I wanted to run away from my body.

All I really remember was my little boy holding my hand with both of his most of that time. He is such a kind, loving boy. He was a huge comfort.  Since I had just “come out,” I also had to share the bad news with the world, too. I told with a Facebook post. I had feared that part… but it was not bad. It would have been much worse to suffer so badly while having to hide it from the world. Silent suffering is what I'm hoping others won't have to do.

My baby comforting me.

I don’t remember how long but a couple days or so of waiting for the miscarriage to complete, and nothing was happening, I decided I wanted to do something to help speed things up. My midwife called in a prescription for Cytotec, a drug used in early abortions and also to help full term laboring women dilate faster. My husband went out to get it for me and came home with craft supplies… and he spent the whole evening making a tiny satin-lined box for the baby while I waited for the Cytotec to work.

The box my husband made for the baby.

Unfortunately, nothing happened. Two doses 24 hours apart, and nothing. We scheduled a D&C, which was 7 days away at that point.

The next 2 days of waiting were torture. I was lightly bleeding, slightly cramping, nauseous, tired… and donning a big baby belly in maternity pants. I couldn't go anywhere, I couldn't go to work. I still had moments of feeling “normal.” I still smiled when my little boy did something funny, I still took his pictures, and I still giggled when I tickled him. I still laughed when my husband said something funny. But in between the little bits of normal, there was more heartache.

I made a mommy’s necklace, and that is a comfort for me to hold both my children over my heart. 
Crystal birthstones represent loss date and due date,
while my successful pregnancy has an initial and birthstone. 

Then things started to happen...