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?)

“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.

Sharing Stories

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

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

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

(emphasis mine)

An Unexpected Gift

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

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

Pregnancy Loss Blog Carnival + Noah’s Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Noah Bell

I just returned from an annual craft workshop I attend with my family. On Wednesday evening, they have an auction as a fundraiser. In the auction was a “Noah Bell”—a special bell handmade in India that has a distinctive melodic, echoing chime. This particular bell at the auction had a strap woven by one of the workshop instructors. As soon as I saw the bell, I knew I had to have it. I decided I would go up to $50 on it. The bidding went up to $36 and I was getting a little stressed that I wouldn’t win it after all, but it stopped at $36 and I did win it. When they handed it to me, I burst into tears and had quite a bit of trouble stopping crying. I was sitting in the first row and so not very many people could see me, but I think I made the “auctioneer” and the people helping him a little confused! (she won it though, so why is she crying? And, it is only a bell, what’s the big deal?)

I love it and I’m trying to decide where to hang it up. I am thinking about the inner side of one of the posts on our back deck.

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!