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?)

“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?