Category Archives: mothers

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….

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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!

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.

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!

“The Empowered Miscarriage” Book: Call for Contributions

I am currently compiling contributions for a book about miscarriage. I am especially interested in stories about natural miscarriages (i.e. miscarriages that begin and complete on their own timeline rather than a medical timeline) and on miscarriage at home, but I am happy to receive any miscarriage story contribution. I am seeking full stories about miscarriage—the nitty gritty physical reality as well as the emotional components. I have a big vision for this book—I want it to be a “what to expect when you’re having a miscarriage” guidebook that doesn’t only address the feelings involved with miscarriage, but answers practical questions like, “what should I eat?” and “how do I take care of myself?” and “how much blood is too much blood?” and “how to decide whether to have a D & C or whether to wait it out at home?” I feel like the best way to answer many of these questions is through the heartfelt stories of other women who have “been there.”

I welcome contributions from women who chose to go to the hospital at some point during the process even if they originally started out to have a natural miscarriage (I am particularly interested in the decision-making process about going). My primary interest is in the nitty gritty, physical coping stories rather than specific location of miscarriage-birth, though I do still have the special interest in home experiences—-at the root, I want real, complete stories from any setting.

I have a full survey of questions that I am developing to post online, but for now I am pleased to accept any contribution related to my primary theme of natural miscarriage (and/or the physical miscarriage experience regardless of setting). Stories can be emailed to me and I will respectfully and gratefully accept each one with my heart wide open.

I was previously seeking suggestions for the title of this book, originally thinking of calling it simply, “Miscarriage at Home,” when a reader emailed me to suggest the title “The Empowered Miscarriage” (see comments on my other blog for her full explanation). I really like the connotations of the title—-particularly, that it suggests something about miscarriage that is very different than the normal coverage of miscarriage in books. So, I edited my original post to reflect this new title and focus.

Also, I still find myself signficantly displeased with the woefully inadequate word, “miscarriage.” I don’t like it. I don’t like, “miscarrying.” It isn’t enough. I also don’t like the euphemism “loss.” “Pregnancy loss” as a phrase is all right—side note: I feel like there is a range of experiences contained within the miscarriage experience and I think the three are almost separate experiences (emotionally, mentally, and physically)—the babyloss experience, the actual birth-miscarriage experience, and the experience of the loss of being pregnant. I have coped with my own strong, strong feelings about miscarriage as a birth event by referring to my own first miscarriage experience in writing as a miscarriage-birth or a birth-miscarriage. For me, this modifier makes an important point. However, it is cumbersome, not in popular use, and I want something else! Any ideas?

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.