Footprints on My Heart in book form!

As of this week, my miscarriage memoir, Footprints on My Heart, has finally been published and is now available in eBook format via Kindle and Lulu, Inc. (epub format compatible with Nook and iBooks). There are a few formatting errors and some other general problems (like with the sample/preview–it is totally wonky–and with the lettering on the cover), but guess what, it is DONE, it available, and it is out there. I’m really, really excited about it and I feel this huge sense of relief. I still want to write my Empowered Miscarriage book someday, but for now, this memoir is what I had in me and it will have to do for the time being. I realized after Alaina was born and was, in a sense, the happy “ending” to my Noah story, that in writing this blog about miscarriage and pregnancy after loss I had actually ended up writing most of a book. So, the bulk of the book is drawn from this blog and from my birth blog as well (for the pregnancy after loss content). I also included an appendix of resource information/additional thoughts that is fresh.

I’ve felt haunted by the desire to publish this for the entire last year. It took a surprising amount of work, as well as emotional energy, to prepare for publication, even though I actually did most of the actual writing via blog in 2010. Now that it is ready, I just feel lighter somehow and have this really potent sense of relief and ease, as if this was my final task. My final act of tribute. My remaining “to do” in the grief process.

If anyone really, really, really wants it and cannot afford the $3.99 for which I priced it, I do have it available as a pdf file, a mobi file, and an epub file and I will be happy to email it to you in one of those formats.

Aaaaaahhhhhh….

Stillbirthday–new miscarriage resource

I have accepted that the timeline for writing my Empowered Miscarriage book is going to be quite a bit longer than I originally hoped, partially because I didn’t get as many stories as I had hoped for and so the “feel” I had envisioned for the book is evolving. If you submitted a story, rest assured that I have not forgotten it and continue to hold it with the honor and respect it deserves. I have also decided to turn this blog into a book and I’m working on that project first, since it is more readily completable in the context of the rest of my life.

In the meantime, I just discovered this helpful resource: Stillbirthday. It is EXACTLY what I wished I had available to me during my own miscarriage experiences and in part, it contains exactly the type of information and support that I envisioned my own book providing. It has a section about birth methods, including a good one about natural miscarriage. The most helpful part is the “early pregnancy home birth plan” printable and customizable document. It is exactly what I wished I had when I faced my own miscarriage-birth of Noah. His birth was such uncharted terrain for me and I felt the lack of a “guide” for it very keenly.The website does say that you should not have your baby at home alone and that natural miscarriage is safest for pregnancies 10 weeks or younger—my baby was over 10 weeks and I did have him at home alone (with my husband). These are not decisions that I regret, but I do think it is important to be aware that what I chose to do is not necessarily the safest route. I did not realize that at the time and looking back I feel somewhat horrified that the doctor’s office just sent me home to go it alone! Since my outcome was “positive,” I wouldn’t change how I handled it, but knowing everything I know now, I would probably make some different decisions if I ever had the experience again.

As an example of the kinds of things I wish I had known or had available to me before my own miscarriage-birth, the birth plan section of the Stillbirthday site makes the suggestion to have saline solution and a clear jar available to put the baby in. This is to “restore the baby’s fullness” and give you a chance to spend time looking at the baby without worrying about damaging its skin. While I’m happy that I knew enough to take pictures and to look at the baby at the time, I think I will always regret that I didn’t spend more time with his body. By the time my dad brought him back to us in the afternoon to bury, his form was very different (less full) than it had been originally and I feel like we missed out on important time and observations.

The Stillbirthday website does seem to assume that most women will be coming from a Christian/traditional spiritual belief system, which is not the same as my own, so do be aware of that.

Not Forgotten!

From Grandma C

Last week, my in-laws visited. They brought various presents for the kids and while I was alone with my mother-in-law, she said she had a difficult subject to bring up. I got a little nervous about this, but then what she said was that she had brought something she made for Noah and she wasn’t sure if I would want it or not, or whether it was okay to mention it to me. She said she felt like they hadn’t acknowledged him and she wanted to see where we had buried him and to put her gift out there. I was incredibly touched. When we called her in November 2009 to tell her what had happened, we got a sort of, “it could always be worse” type of remark and I felt like my experience and his life were then ignored from that point forward. It meant a great deal to me to know that she didn’t forget about him and that she “saw” and recognized our family’s loss.

Tribute

This month a short version of Noah’s birth story was published in Midwifery Today. I feel like it was another tribute to him and his role in my life. The same week that I got my copies of the publication, I noticed that the tulip tree we planted in memorial had a bud on the top!

A bud!

I was so excited! I hadn’t known if the tree would survive or not and this felt like another tribute, as well as a “new hope” sort of message.

Then, temperatures dropped back below freezing and I thought it probably wasn’t going to bloom, but last night we went out for our walk and look what we saw:

Tiny tulip tree from a distance

Noah's tree bloomed!

We did it!

Today is my new baby’s one month birthday and felt like I should post here to share something about the “end” of my pregnancy-after-loss journey. While I still have other posts to eventually make about miscarriage, I’m not sure when I’ll actually get around to it and so I feel like sort of closing this blog with my happy ending. Alaina was born on January 19 at 11:15 a.m., whole and healthy, pink and precious. I have a short version of her birth story here. As I emailed to a friend who is currently in the middle of her own PAL journey, after the baby was born, I acknowledged to myself that I never fully stopped worrying that she was going to die until I was actually holding her—I think I honestly expected to be “over it” as far as that fear at some point. It did get lots easier and less frequent, but the fear was still there right until the end. Instead of looking forward to giving birth in and of itself as I have with previous babies, I told my husband that I was looking forward to getting it “over with”—in the sense of really wanting to make it past that one last milestone on my way to a living baby.

In fact, the contraction before she was born, I was trying to listen to her heartbeat because I suddenly got worried about her (she moved throughout the entire labor, which made it very intense, but then when I got close to pushing, I realized I hadn’t felt her move recently and got the Doppler to listen—we couldn’t find a heartbeat and the next contraction, she was born [duh. No wonder we couldn't hear the heartbeat, she was practically all the way through my pelvis at that point!]) While on my knees, I pushed her out in one push into my own hands. She was warm and wet and pink and crying a LOT—thus neatly eliminating any fear of whether she was breathing or not. I gathered her to me and said, “you’re alive! You’re alive! I did it! There’s nothing wrong with me!” I still can’t think about this or write about this moment without getting tears in my eyes.

Shortly after birth

Rather than feel exhilarated after her birth, my dominant feeling was of relief. Of survival. That we’d made it after all. I still had moments of feeling like I had been awesome and magical and powerful, but my primary emotions centered around the baby and my joy that she was alive and perfect and here with me. I continue to feel this way—her birth (except for that potent moment of catching her in my hands) faded really quickly to the background, rather than occupying as central place as my previous births have done.

Our whole family was impacted permanently by our experience with Noah. One month after Alaina’s birth, my older son still says to her occasionally, “we’re sure glad you survived!” and my younger one will snuggle up to her saying, “we were really worried you were going to die.” On our first car trip (this past Thursday), they kept freaking me out slightly by asking, “is Alaina still breathing? Is she still alive?” or, “I just saw her hand move, Mom, she’s still alive!” Perhaps they would say¬† these kinds of things regardless, but I really don’t think so. I don’t think they would even be entertaining the possibility that she could die, except for they know all too well that some babies do.

Remember when I said early in this pregnancy that I felt brave for doing this again? For risking the possibility of loss again. I do feel like I was brave and that pregnancy after loss is a journey of courage and soul. I took a chance and we made it.

When she was two weeks old, one of my photographer friends came to take some portraits of her. The one below is my favorite :)

Two weeks old

It can be difficult to take good pictures of newborns, because they end up looking all squinchy in the flash (or out of focus with it shut off). I always look at snapshots of my newborns and think that they are WAY more beautiful when I’m looking at them, but I can’t seem to translate the beauty I see into a picture. I think my friend did it successfully though!

Family Pictures

Early this month I got some pregnancy pictures taken. It was important to me that Noah’s angel bear be included in some of the family shots, because he is part of our family too (as well as an integral part of this whole pregnancy journey). The angel bear was sent to me along with Noah’s angel birth certificate from Angel Whispers and it sits in our living room.

Our whole family:

Mark & I with bear (and new baby belly):

One Year Anniversary

I wanted to share some pictures from the things we did in honor of the one year anniversary of Noah’s birth. It was actually important to me that we NOT spend all day on it/thinking about it/having a big event, but as it was, I was preoccupied by memories all day anyway. I must have cried most of what I needed to cry the day before though, because I didn’t feel weepy really, more like I was, “waiting for something” (all day). I also just felt reflective as well as a little “down” about life in general.

We made prayer flags to hang in his tree:

The flag I made

Lann's flag

Mark's flag

Zander's flag

We went out together and set my new footprints candle out by his tree as well as the jizo figure that I bought (it is holding two babies) as well as my angel bear from Angel Whispers and the lavender sachet I smelled when I was in labor with him. I said a quick little prayer and the kids asked if we could sing happy birthday to him and so we did. We also each placed a sprig of lavender on the ground from our lavender plants.

Then, I scattered the rosemary from my friend and read her little notes out loud and scattered them around too (they said things like, “you are loved” and “we remember you”).

Then, I decided I wanted to celebrate the kids we have with us who are happy and alive and so I gave them a “birthday” present, which was customizable Stikfas actions figures to assemble. They were getting over being sick (Z had a fever and slept on the couch most of the day on Sunday) and so that is why they look sort of glazed over.

My mom hooks primitive rugs and has a tradition of making a rug for each baby for when it is born (adds their birthday after they are born. She also makes a wedding rug for each of her children to stand on when they get married—so that they can always take the place where they got married with them :) )So, she touched my heart by giving me a small birthday rug for Noah as well:

My parents came over at sunset and added their prayer flags to our string of them and we hung them all up:

We remember you, baby Noah!