Category Archives: birth

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.

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!

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.

 

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.

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: