Category Archives: friends

This time last year…

I’ve been anticipating the anniversary of Noah’s birth all fall—tomorrow is the one year anniversary of his birth/loss. There has not been a single day that has passed this whole year that I haven’t thought about him, his birth, about miscarriage, etc. I used to think about his actual birth many times a day and that intensity has faded in recent months so that I think about something Noah-related once or a couple of times a day, vs. a couple of times an hour. I’ve been feeling “milestone-ish” about his birthday more than anything, just like I felt with his due date. However, I realized after having a mini-meltdown this evening, that I have not spent much time at all remembering/thinking about November 6th. Indeed, I’ve actively pushed it away and can hardly stand to let myself remember it. As I put on Facebook, today is the anniversary of the second worst day of my life. The worst was the day of the physical experience, the hospital trip, and the return—the coming back home “empty” and having everything that had happened come flooding in. Watching my husband dig a hole to bury our baby. Lying in the bathtub and crying and talking to my no-longer-there baby and having to realize that I was not pregnant anymore. (And, FYI, the third worst day was the whole placenta aftermath deal—maybe I’m just not remembering other “worst days of my life,” but I’m pretty sure that these three are the top of my list. Okay, I remembered another—in the first year that we were married, we had a traumatic ER trip one night where they thought my husband had a clot in his brain. It was a horribly awful day and probably ties for third place.)

Anyway,  today I went to a women’s spirituality retreat today with some friends and then stopped for lunch with another friend (who, thoughtfully, brought me a little bottle of “rosemary for remembrance” which also had 5 little notes in it to put out tomorrow at Noah’s burial place). After I dropped those friends off and was heading home, the whole “what was I doing last year at this time” thoughts started—but they were about Nov. 6th and not the 7th—I was thinking about how I had to call in and cancel my class at the last minute. Things like that. Telling people what had happened. I got home (tonight, not a year ago) and had dinner with my visiting grandma and then when I got back home I started to do it again—“this time last year…” and I got very emotional remembering that awful day of finding out the baby had no heartbeat and then sitting on the couch at home waiting and wondering what was going to happen. It was so, so, so very intense and filled with grief and despair that I can hardly stand to think about it/look at it/re-visit it. And, that was my realization—I’ve spent this year thinking about my baby and his birth every day. I’ve worked on that, processed that, and even found beauty and strength in that. What has not had any room allowed in my memory is the “finding out” day. I can’t even really describe that anguish of that day—with his physical birth, there was a story to tell. Something to go over and to “refine” and integrate into my life. With the preceding day—the lead-in—there is nothing but a terribly painful memory of terribly painful feelings. I cried about it for a while and had a sort of small freak-out session with my husband about how I didn’t want to think about it (the 6th) and that while it was okay to acknowledge that, “this time last year…” had happened, I wanted to stop there—to keep it put away and not to re-live it. It was very startling to suddenly experience this “secret” other set of memories and feelings. I can’t even really write about it clearly. Perhaps I don’t actually want to go any further, perhaps I’ve said what I needed to say.

 

Acknowledging Losses (again)

This weekend I was part of a wedding. At the reception, I was talking to my friend who recently experienced the loss of her baby and I started thinking about the amount of pregnancies represented in our group of friends compared to the amount of children—I then expanded this outward to think about all the people in the room whose loss histories I did not know, and wondering how many pregnancies total the room had experienced. It was kind of staggering.

I also had several awkward moments with being asked about how many kids I have. I’m almost 23 weeks pregnant now and so was obviously pregnant in my bridesmaid’s dress. The mother of the bride asked me, “so, is this your third baby now?” The awkwardness of how to respond to questions like this is pretty big (before getting pregnant again, I addressed something similar, in “how many children DO I have?“)—I just said, “yes,” even though my heart was saying, no. This is my FOURTH baby (and it is my fifth pregnancy–I didn’t really identify my second miscarriage as a baby to me yet, but it was a pregnancy. Side note: my oldest son’s 7th birthday was yesterday and I thought about how I’d been pregnant with all four of my babies on Sept. 21st, but only with three of them on Sept. 22nd!). This isn’t something I really want to get into explaining in this setting, but the sense of guilt and “betrayal” of not acknowledging Noah stuck with me for the rest of the evening. I talked with my friend about it and I know that what matters in the end is that he is always acknowledged in my heart—it doesn’t always have to be spoken aloud (though, by not speaking, I am choosing to miss moments of awareness-raising…).

The wedding was beautiful and wonderful and the most fun wedding I’ve ever been to—I think because it was the first wedding I’ve been to as an adult where I cared so much about the wedding couple as well as had so many other friends in attendance (as opposed to having to sit with random distant relatives and make awkward small talk as often occurs at weddings!) And, I was so, so, so thankful and aware of blessedly still being pregnant. One of the things I wrote about early in this pregnancy was the fear that I had already *clicked* forward to the wedding day and what if instead of being halfway through my pregnancy, instead I ended up flat-bellied and empty again?! We’d talked about how the dress would fit me pregnant, etc. and what if it was irrelevant? I’d imagined how sad I would be standing up there alone, knowing I “should” have been pretty pregnant. But, thankfully, when the real moment arrived this weekend I was full both of joy AND a kicky little baby!

Finally Shifting Gears?

I think I may have reached a turning point in this PAL experience. I noted earlier how I feel like my dominant thought during my current pregnancy is, “don’t die.” I don’t know if it was the writing about it that helped (as well as the transitioning of my pregnancy blogging to my regular website and the making of some birth art sculptures), or if it just that I have moved far enough ahead from my past pregnancy, but I FINALLY feel like my pregnancy experiences are diverging—like my current pregnancy has finally reached its rightful place as my front-and-center (no pun intended!) current experience, rather than being somehow blended together with my unfinished pregnancy with Noah. I find that (most of the time) I am no longer thinking of this pregnancy in terms of or compared to, my pregnancy with Noah. I hoped this would happen around the 15 weeks mark and when it didn’t dramatically shift in emotional terrain then, I thought perhaps it wasn’t going to. However, in between 18 and 20 weeks, I’ve picked up a qualitative shift. (Who knows, maybe I’ll hit a rough patch again, but I do feel as if I’m finally shifting gears and it is a welcome relief!)

Recently, I had to make a difficult decision that at this point in my life I should not pursue a wonderful plan that I was cooking up with a friend for a women’s center/birth “studio” space in which to hold all manner of fabulous classes. While this is still a definite plan and goal, it is now an “in the next three years plan,” rather than a “this winter” plan. We were approaching time to sign a lease for the studio, when I started to panic thinking that I was certifiably INSANE for thinking I could simultaneously start a new business and also have a new baby. But guess what? This is tremendously significant! Until this last week, I was preceeding with plans as if nothing in my life would change in January—indeed, I consciously have NOT said “no” to teaching engagements in January, thinking that, “I might not actually have a baby then, so why turn things down only to have to sit there sadly in Jan. with no baby?” My realization that launching a new enterprise in January was incompatible with giving birth and having a newborn means that I have shifted mindsets and that I really DO think I’m going to have a baby in the end—before, I’ve been going forward with January plans thinking IF I have a baby. Then, last week, it switched to WHEN I have a baby and that’s when I got realistic with myself about what I can handle simultaneously with a new baby. I do still think the “ don’t die” kinds of thoughts, but MUCH less frequently. I think it started to switch after the 18 week ultrasound and now as each day passes I feel much “further” away from the Noah-pregnancy experience. Fifteen weeks, 16 weeks, and 17 weeks weren’t “far” enough away from his date yet, but now that I’m cruising toward 20 weeks on Saturday, it does seem like I’ve reached a new developmental stage of pregnancy. The baby is moving lots–big pushes/jumps sometimes, none of this “butterfly” stuff for us. It is quite a bit bigger by now than N was—it is like 8 or more inches now and a ½ pound at this point, etc. The experiences are FINALLY starting to diverge. And, I’m so thankful for that!

New picture! :)

(Is it just my imagination, or do I look more genuinely smiling in this picture than in any of my others? Less of a shadow of fear/anticipation of pain lurking behind my eyes?)

No “Safe” Point

Okay, I guess maybe I am actually “scarred for life.” Something that has struck me very deeply during my current pregnancy is a sense of there being no “safe” point during pregnancy. Everyone is familiar with the advice to wait to announce a pregnancy until after 12 weeks because the risk of miscarriage drops then. Well, my own first miscarriage experience happened after that “safe” point. Then, as I’ve referenced before, in July one of my very good friends also had a later loss like mine (her baby was born after 16 weeks of pregnancy—it is not my business to share details of her loss, but there was nothing “wrong” with her baby either. That is something that will always linger for me about Noah—the whole, “well probably there was something wrong with him.” I don’t know that. There was no evidence of anything wrong with him. I feel like that is an easy brush-off answer/response that people give to try to make themselves feel better and/or safer). The same week that I found out about her baby, my midwife called me to tell me that her daughter had just had a stillbirth at 20 weeks. For me, who was waiting so intensely to make it past 15 weeks, that was so awful to hear! And now, here I am at 18 weeks and another friend’s sister just had her baby die at 23 weeks. These occurrences really elevate my risk perception and heighten the already present sense of there being no “safe” point—no point where I can finally breathe easier and trust that my body really can “successfully” do this again (thank goodness I already have two lovely, healthy boys that remind me of my past childbearing “success”!)

I am very shaken up by any new, close-to-my-own-life loss story. It makes me feel like any tentative equilibrium, security, and peace I’ve managed to build up about my new baby crumbles away and I am left with the sobering reality and I feel so unsettled and off balance.  I am humbled by the amount of childbearing loss there is in the world—it is deep and vast and it HURTS. My friend went to a support group meeting in her area and shared some things that had happened there. I asked her, “Aren’t you AMAZED by the incredible amount of loss and pain and sadness and grief there is out there? How were we ‘blind’ to it before? I’m stunned every time I go to mothering.com by the sheer volume of babyloss in the world. I feel about it like I used to feel about domestic violence—like a lot of people don’t want to “look” at other’s peoples’ pain and would rather turn the other way or shut the door on it, but that once I know it is out there, I feel like I have a responsibility to look and see and hear that it exists and is real.”

We’ve also talked about how there is an emotional side and a mental/logical side to the loss experience and that often the heart “wins” out.

It has also given me a bit of a new perspective on medical professionals who say they either can’t support homebirth or wouldn’t have a homebirth themselves, because, “I’ve seen all the things that can happen.” I feel this way now about pregnancy—I can’t necessarily expect to have a lovely, healthy baby at the end of pregnancy, because I’ve seen all the things that can happen. Like my perception of risk is emotionally inflated to a practically pathological level. Of course, logically I do know that losses at 23 weeks (or 40 weeks) are much less common than at 6 weeks, or 8 weeks, or 15 weeks, but STILL.

I am now 18 weeks pregnant. I am feeling a bit more secure, but as I noted, that security is very tentative and easily shaken by the losses around me. Today we had an ultrasound (yes, another one) and I hoped to find out the new baby’s gender. The doctor first said he was leaning towards “boy” (which I also have been feeling), but then he looked around some more and said he was definitely “flipping” his opinion to “girl.” So, essentially, I know as much as I did yesterday ;-D I really want to name this baby and to have a non “it” identity for it. It is really important to me to find out gender in advance this time around.

I have come back to a “dwelling” place/musing recently in which I feel like I’m almost still too “fixated” on miscarriage and not paying enough attention to my current pregnancy. It changes you though. And, I have this interest/passion for the subject of miscarriage now too that is almost independent of my own feelings/experiences (but intertwined, of course)—kind of like how I stayed super interested in birth after having my own kids, but not specifically dwelling on/reliving their births, just maintaining an intense, ongoing interest in the subject of birth. Now, I’m still intensely interested in miscarriage-birth—-sometimes with my own story in there, sometimes not.

I do feel like I am suffering almost from the fear, loss of innocence and lack of the normal joy of pregnancy. It is hard. I don’t like feeling this way. Several days ago, I talked way too long to a good friend about this experience (thank goodness for friends with good listening skills and patience!) and explained to her that my dominant feeling during this pregnancy is, “don’t die.” And/or, “I hope the baby doesn’t die today.” What a horrible emotional “marinade” for a new baby to grow in! I can’t seem to stop it though—that is where I’m coming from, not from a “yay!” place. While I deeply want to be cherishing each moment that I do have with my baby, my dominant feeling is of the “don’t die” variety. Thank god(dess) for my Doppler, because when I hear its heart then I know for that day (at least) it didn’t die and I feel a rush of connection and love that keeps me going for another day. I care about this baby so much. Hopefully, it (she?) feels that more deeply that the “don’t die” thoughts.

I think I’m at a point now where I’m going to move most of my pregnancy-related thoughts to my birth blog and let this blog rest for a while. I still have a lot I’d like to share about miscarriage and miscarriage-birth—things I’d like to share from that interest/passion for the subject place, not from a dwelling/still-processing place, but I think I would like to wait to work on those posts and ideas until after my new baby is born. I am going to go ahead and post my call for contributions for my book though, because I would like to be ready fully move forward on it after my new baby is born too.

Sharing Stories

I have a lot of thoughts about the role of story in pregnancy, birth, miscarriage and motherhood. I haven’t had a lot of time to pull them together into a blog post and actually I think I’m going to turn them into an article instead.

However, here is a very relevant quote I came across today from a blog that a reader linked to via the comments section:

“Why is it that we do not tell our stories except to other women who
miscarry? By doing so, we are promulgating the cycle of silence.
Mothers, you who have suffered with empty bellies and empty arms, be
silent no longer! Speak up! There is no shame in having miscarried,
only in refusing to acknowledge how it changes us.
” –Jenni Brighton

(emphasis mine)

An Unexpected Gift

I felt like the Noah Bell I won at the auction was a “gift” of sorts from my baby. This past weekend, I had a more profound experience of feeling like I had received a gift, or “message” of sorts, from him. We went to visit my friend M whose baby recently died and was born at a similar gestation point to Noah. While we were there, she showed us the memory box she’d put together for her baby and then she brought out the folder she’d received from Angel Whispers (source of the birth certificate that I got for Noah and like so much). She held it out to me, and printed on the front was, “this folder was made possible by a donation in memory of sweet baby Noah Remer, November 7, 2009.” Oh. My. Goodness. How could it be that I made a donation to Angel Whispers back in May (for my due date), the check traveling all the way to Canada, and yet, this folder somehow finding its way back into my life and into the hands of my dear, grieving friend?It was an amazing feeling.

I sent a donation to cover three folders. I wonder who has received the other two? We came up with all kinds of possible reasons for this “coincidence,” but none of them were very logical (she lives in IL, I live in MO–it isn’t like they saw our addresses and though, “ah ha! We’ll send this one!”) and we were left with the only option to be just to marvel at this simple little gift. :)

Pregnancy Loss Blog Carnival + Noah’s Trees

As I noted previously, Fertility Flower is having a Pregnancy Loss Week Blog Carnival . Please join in at Fertility Flower for the week of August 23-27, 2010 where we will be featuring articles, posts and artwork about pregnancy loss.

For the blog carnival I submitted this post about Noah’s box/ceremony for the topic of “memorializing lost children.

I also submitted my post about pregnancy trauma for the subject of subsequent pregnancies.

Additionally, I wanted to add a couple of pictures to this new post, also on the subject of memorials. This one is of Noah’s plaque actually on the tree next to where he is buried:

I guess it is all smudgy looking because of how I put my hand on it? I don’t see those marks usually in real life, but the camera caught them. This one is further away so that is shows both the plaque and the rock under which he is buried:

This is a picture of the tulip tree we planted during the mizuko kuyo ceremony we had on the six month anniversary of Noah’s birth/burial. This one is in our back yard (the cedar tree with the plaque is in our front yard):

The tree is actually quite a bit bigger now than in the picture. I hadn’t really realized how much it has grown until I was writing this post!

And, finally, here is a picture of the two little “jizo” (Buddhist guardian of “water babies”—babies lost before birth) rocks that my mom painted for me and gave me during the ceremony:

A MOTHER’S PRAYER: Affirmation After Miscarriage

My heart is aching for a close friend of mine who has recently joined the pregnancy loss “club” and is embarking on her own journey. I had this poem saved in my drafts a while ago and felt like now was the time to post it. I keep thinking about her, about her little baby, and about this whole long process of grieving that is now going to be a part of her life.

A MOTHER’S PRAYER: Affirmation After Miscarriage

In this time of loss I call upon my spirit within to guide me to my strength so that I may find peace and completion.

I will use this strength to demand of myself and others my need to grieve completely, for this will be my first step to healing.

During my time of grief I will seek guidance not only from my inner spirit but from loving persons who may offer wisdom and comfort.

I need to understand that the soul as well as the physical body needs healing and to pay attention to this. I will learn to accept that the soul may never heal completely.

I will learn to live not in fear and once again see beauty in my world and purpose in my existence.

In spite of my new knowledge that things happen that cannot be controlled, I must call upon the places within me that tell me I do have control over much of my life and use this control to aid my healing.

Let me recognize the gift in my ability to conceive and carry life however briefly.

Let me take joy in my ability to love so deeply and desire to nurture a soul unbeknownst to me.

Let me find healing in the belief that this soul knew my love for it and that that love helped it to pass to another place.

Let me honor this short life not only with my love but in finding meaning in its existence.

Let me recognize this meaning in not only my ability to survive, but in my fullest appreciation of all the moments motherhood will bring me, along with my deeper compassion and sisterhood to other women who’ve experienced loss.

Let a part of this soul be reflected in the spirit of my future children, born or adopted, so that I may know it through them.

I will listen to and trust the place in my deepest heart that tells me I will once again be reunited with this soul and will fulfill the need to hold it in my arms.

I will help myself to feel comfort in the knowledge that there is a star in heaven that belongs to me.

by Stacey Dinner-Levin