Category Archives: feelings

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!

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!

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.

 

The Amethyst Network

For the past couple of months, I have been involved with the founding of a new network for miscarriage doulas. Today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, The Amethyst Network officially launches! (Facebook page can be found here.) While I have not been as directly involved with the day to day work as some of the other founders (like Jenni, who has been deeply invested in making this actually get off the ground), I really care about the mission, purpose, and scope of this organization and I hope doulas around the country to rise to the opportunity to provide direct miscarriage support to grieving women and families.

Noah’s birthday is coming up on November 7th and I’ve been thinking about ways to commemorate the occasion. I keep only thinking of buying things and need to find something non-purchasing to do as well! However, ever since he died, I’ve wanted to buy a jizo sculpture. My mom made me two (see picture below) that are very sweet and that I really like, but I still want one that stands up and looks more traditional.
I’ve found a couple on ebay that were so-so and plenty that are simply too expensive and today I thought I’d check one more time and amazingly, there was a new one on ebay that just felt perfect. So, I ordered it this morning. It is coming from Australia and I hope it gets here in time. The only problem with it is that I don’t think it can go outside and I’d really like to have one to put out by his tree.

Dizang (Jizo Bosatsu) with 2 Children - 100mm
I also want to get a new memory box that can actually hold the cards, folders, etc. that I have. I have them in a box right now, but it is too small and the folders don’t fit. I can’t quite find the right one though. I’ve tried several and end up rejecting them.

Feelings After Multiple Pregnancy Losses

I am involved with the founding of a new miscarriage-support organization (The Amethyst Network) that is going to be launched on October 15th.

Recently the subject of multiple losses came up and I shared some of my feelings about my second loss, which I hardly ever talk about.

While both my losses were emotionally very painful, they each had their own “special” kind of pain—with the first it was primarily over the BABY. My baby that I wanted so badly, had died. Since I was 15 weeks pregnant—and thus saw and touched my baby after his birth—and labored and gave birth to him in my own way, the “closure” so to speak was better with him. I can barely write about my second loss, because the pain that came with it was so different and in many ways harder—I felt shame about that loss (for having tried again “too soon”). Confusion because of the earliness of it. Despair that perhaps I was refusing to get the “message” that maybe we weren’t meant to have more children. No “closure” because I only saw blood and later a tiny, tiny embryo. Guilt that I had “replaced” my other little baby’s meaning and loss with this new, lesser (in gestation) loss. Muted and closed in (instead of reaching out to others, I felt like I didn’t want anyone to know and didn’t want to talk about it). Horror that now I was two for two—two living children and two dead ones. Sadness and grief that I just had to “layer” on top of my first loss, because I was unable to separate the two/fully think about the second. It was so complicated and awful to go through all these feelings. The first loss was much “cleaner” in a way (emotionally).

As I’ve noted, I’m kind of putting this blog on hold until January when my new baby is born. I still have a LOT I’d like to share about miscarriage, coming now from a sharing/helping others place, rather than a processing or “dwelling” place as well as work I’d like to do on my book. During my current pregnancy just doesn’t feel like the right time for writing the posts that I do plan to eventually write, however, since the topic came up and I’d written about it, I felt like sharing here as well!

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!

Fair Warning!

Just a little FYI. No one has said this to me (yet), but I’d like to head it off at the pass and give fair warning that there is something I never want anyone to say to me about my current pregnancy/new baby. I do not want to hear, “just think, if you hadn’t had those miscarriage experiences, you would never have had this baby!” (or variations thereof) I know some mothers take comfort in that line of thinking and I’ve heard people say that sort of thing about themselves more than once. I’m not saying it is a “wrong” way to think, what I’m saying is that if someone says that to me, what I’ll hear is: “I’m glad your other baby died.” So, please don’t say it.

We had another ultrasound today at 21 weeks (final one we plan to have this pregnancy). The doctor is pretty sure that new baby is a GIRL! This is quite shocking to me, because after having grown three boys already, I was pretty convinced that was my exclusive capability! However, that is another reason I wanted to give warning about my “peeve” comment, is because I NEVER want to hear anyone imply that, “see, it all worked out for the best in the end!” Or, “if you’d had him, you wouldn’t have had her!” Because, if you say that, what you are really saying is that it is somehow good/right/lucky/convenient/handy if a baby of the “wrong” gender dies. Is it okay when boys die when you already have boys? NO! So, don’t say it, please!

Additionally, technically speaking, logistically I actually COULD have had both Noah and this new baby both at full-term–they would have been 10 months apart and it would have been unlikely to have happened, but the timeframe is such that it actually could have been possible.

And, finally, I’m not actually holding this baby earthside yet, so we’re not quite sure how everything has worked out in the “end.”

As I’ve noted before, if I had to go back and start all over again without being able to change the outcome, I would still choose to have been pregnant with Noah and to have given birth to him like I did, rather than to have “spared” myself the pain and the knowledge. I’m also grateful that I was brave enough to try again and that (hopefully!), I will end up with a happy new little baby in January to show for this journey 🙂

That’s my public notice for the day!

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?)