Category Archives: PAL

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….

We did it!

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

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

Shortly after birth

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

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

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

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

Two weeks old

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

Family Pictures

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

Our whole family:

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

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?)

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.

Miscarriage Stories, Milestones (again!) and Pregnancy Loss Blog Carnival

I only have a few minutes to check in, but I had some things I want to share today. I’ve noticed that my attention is turning away from writing this blog to writing in my birth blog more often. I think this means I’m finally started to separate the intertwined experiences of my past losses, with my current pregnancy. I also have trouble figuring out where to write about my current pregnancy—if I write about it here, it is a “trigger” for those who are in the midst of loss and I feel like I should put “warnings” on my posts if I talk about my new pregnancy (for example, I’m going to include a picture in this post and feel like I should notify readers to expect that). However, if I write about it on my birth blog and include too many musings about miscarriage intermixed with my pregnancy feelings, then that may be “too much” for the average pregnant woman who comes to that blog looking for birth information. Of course, logically, these are my blogs and I can write about what I want, where I want, right? I’ve always been pretty sensitive to other people’s feelings though and I am having trouble finding the right “home” for my current feelings—maybe I need to start a pregnancy after loss blog?! The last thing I need is to try to maintain another blog though!

I wanted to share a link to a lengthy, detailed miscarriage story at Full Moon’s Daughter. I’ve shared several times about my frustration in not being able to find many nitty-gritty miscarriage stories. Hers was a very long process and she wrote about it in depth. I’m amazed by the wide variety of possible miscarriage experiences–-just like birth experiences are all unique, so are these little births.

Fertility Flower is having a pregnancy loss blog carnival in acknowledgment of Pregnancy Loss Week (August 23-27). I have lots of ideas to participate and hope to gather my thoughts/content from past posts together soon.

I’m 14w5d pregnant again today–-the same gestational length as when I gave birth to my Noah in Nov. After I move through today, I will be more pregnant than I’ve been since 2006 and I’m ready! Yesterday also marked the day that I entered into my weird-feeling time of having been pregnant at this time last year. There is a healthy baby fair in Sept. where I like to have an LLL booth presence. And, I am keenly aware that last year I sat there at that booth at 7 weeks pregnant. And, now, I’ll be there again and I’ll still be pregnant. It is strange and mentally/emotionally confusing. Something else very weird that happened is that while in North Carolina for the CAPPA conference this past week (during which I hit the 14 week mark), I had a UTI. It is only the second of my entire life—the first being when I was 14 weeks pregnant with Noah. When I had a follow-up appointment with my family practice doctor, she thought the UTI was the result of his death rather than the cause though, but I’ve always wondered. I found the timing to be extremely odd and also scary and I wondered if I had some sort of body memory/trauma that came back to visit me as I entered the same point in pregnancy that was so life-altering for me.

I know that PLENTY of people have UTI’s during pregnancy and their babies were fine and everything you read says they can cause premature labor if left untreated, but say nothing about miscarriage (or say they don’t cause m/c). However, based on my past experience I seriously felt like I was saving my baby’s life by calling the doctor’s office from afar and following my gut that I needed to get antibiotics (I kept going back and forth about whether it was my imagination or not that I had a UTI—but had this persistent feeling that I was racing against the clock and I had to do SOMETHING if I was going to save my baby, and so I went with my gut and called the doctor). My real doctor moved several months ago and I almost never need medical care, so I don’t really have a doctor anymore. However, I called the former office and they were extremely helpful and “priority” called in a prescription to the Spruce Pine, NC  Wal-Mart for me. I have been feeling annoyed with this office for a while and like I needed to find a new place to seek care, but this above-and-beyond help made me reconsider and have very positive feelings towards them!

Here is my 14 week belly picture. I’m doing this!

Milestones and weirdnesses

Today, I am 12 weeks pregnant. I feel excited to reach this milestone, but also find that my sense of anxiety is palpably increasing the closer I get to the 14 week mark. I really feel like once I pass 15 weeks, I will be able to “relax” into this pregnancy a bit more completely, though I do not expect to ever experience a sense of complete ease with it. After I reached 10 weeks (and had a 10 week ultrasound), I realized that despite my emotional shields and my not getting out maternity clothes and my “if this baby is viable” and “if I’m still pregnant on X day,” I am completely “invested” in this pregnancy and will be devastated if something happens. Before 10 weeks, I was invested and attached and would have been really upset (obviously), but now that I’m at 12 weeks, I just feel really invested. While it isn’t 40 weeks, it is still a significant amount of time to have been pregnant—to be used to the idea, to have started thinking about possibilities, to have gotten pregnancy books back out to thumb through, to be showing a little, etc.  The baby feels real to me.

Where the weirdnesses come in is that I’m rapidly approaching the day (July 28th) where I will cross a boundary into, “I was pregnant at this time last year too.” That makes me feel really strange. And sad and also confused kind of—like, I’m still here??!! I keep thinking about Halloween last year and how I had my little belly in my Batman costume. And, now here I will be on Halloween this year, “still” pregnant (I hope!). I haven’t gotten as far as thinking about what it will be like to be pregnant in November again. I am really grateful that at least I will not be at the same point in pregnancy in Nov. as I was before.

I still think about Noah a LOT and about the experience of birthing him—while it doesn’t come to mind every hour any more the way it used to, I still think about it at least 5 times a day (the physical experience—not grief really, just the memory of what losing him was like). It has been 8 months now and I’m surprised at how present the memories still are in my mind (though, I shouldn’t be surprised because being pregnant is a logical “trigger” to bring those memories up!).