26 April 2011

Know someone who has experienced a loss?

This is brilliant, and something that everyone should read if they know someone who has experienced a miscarriage or a similar loss. It's really hard to know what to say, even if you've been through a loss yourself. This helps. It doesn't all apply to me, but it all applies to someone.

PS - I promise to lay off the miscarriage stuff soon. I just need to get this all out there first so I can move on.

What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss: 
A letter from women to their friends and family 
by Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer 
I assert no copyright for the material. Please use it as you see fit to help women who have endured this terrible grief. Thank you. 

When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious - just misguided attempts to soothe. 

This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss. 
When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners: don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.

-Don't say, "It was for the best - there was probably something wrong with your baby." The fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out. 

-Don't say, "You can always have another one." This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between loosing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, "Where's the fork?" I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children. 

-Don't say, "It's God's Will." Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God's Will, that doesn't make them less terrible. 

-Don't say, "Be grateful for the children you have." If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father? 

-Don't say, "Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her. 

-Don't say, "Isn't it time you got over this and moved on?" It's not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not mine - or yours. 

-Don't say, "Now you have an angel watching over you." I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age. 

-Don't say, "I understand how you feel." Unless you've lost a child, you really don't understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently. 

-Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due-date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me. 

-Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, "Before the baby died..." or "when I was pregnant..." don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone. 

- Don't say, "It's not your fault." It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can't imagine. 

-Don't say, "Well, you weren't too sure about this baby, anyway." I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn't prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn't afford. I already fear that this baby died because I didn't take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn't know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn't the same as wanting my child to die - I never would have chosen for this to happen. 

-Do say, "I am so sorry." That's enough. You don't need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter. 

-Do say, "You're going to be wonderful parents some day," or "You're wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you." We both need to hear that. 

-Do say, "I have lighted a candle for your baby," or "I have said a prayer for your baby."

-Do send flowers or a kind note - every one I receive makes me feel as though my baby was loved. Don't resent it if I don't respond.

-Don't call more than once and don't be angry if the machine is on and I don't return your call. If we're close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don't resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while.

If you're my boss or my co-worker: 
-Do recognize that I have suffered a death in my family - not a medical condition. 

-Do recognize that in addition to the physical after effects I may experience, I'm going to be grieving for quite some time. Please treat me as you would any person who has endured the tragic death of a loved one - I need time and space. 

-DO understand if I do not attend baby showers/christening/birthday parties etc. And DON'T ask why I can't come. 

Please don't bring your baby or toddler into the workplace. If your niece is pregnant, or your daughter just had a baby, please don't share that with me right now. It's not that I can't be happy for anyone else, it's that every smiling, cooing baby, every glowing new mother makes me ache so deep in my heart I can barely stand it. I may look okay to you, but there's a good chance that I'm still crying every day. It may be weeks before I can go a whole hour without thinking about it. You'll know when I'm ready - I'll be the one to say, "Did your daughter have her baby?" or, "How is that precious little boy of yours? I haven't seen him around the office in a while." 

Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word "miscarriage" is small and easy. But my baby's death is monolithic and awful. It's going to take me a while to figure out how to live with it. Bear with me.

24 April 2011

2011 so far can suck it.

Yes, I've been away from the computer for a few months. I deleted my facebook and twitter accounts and ignored my blog. I'm slowly making my way back into it, so bear with me.

Here's what's been going on. It's a real bummer, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Kirk and I tried to conceive for two years. Over the past year and a bit I've had surgeries for endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes (twice - the first was unsuccessful). We did two rounds of Clomid with no luck, and decided to take a break from trying. We were both emotionally exhausted from the whole process, and I wanted to give my body and our marriage a break. Then we found out I was pregnant on January 10th, and we were so happy! No drugs or peeing on sticks involved! It was meant to be - a Christmas miracle! We told our families right away.

I had an ultrasound at six weeks to to rule out ectopic pregnancy, as the surgeries increase the risk quite a bit. We were both so nervous! But everything was perfect - the baby was in the right place, there was only one, and it had a strong heartbeat. Seeing that little fluttering heartbeat on the screen felt like such a relief! I finally let myself get really excited about this little life inside of me, and we told a couple of close friends about it. I'll never forget that image of our first baby's heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor.

At eight weeks we went for a check up with our fertility specialist, and she did another ultrasound. She told us that the baby had stopped growing pretty much immediately after the previous ultrasound and that there was no heartbeat. I was (and still am) devastated. We wanted this so badly, and I couldn't stop crying.

Because I've already had so much medical intervention our doctor suggested that I wait for a couple of weeks to miscarry naturally. If nothing happened by then, we'd try a drug to induce miscarriage. A D&C is a last resort for me, since I really didn't want any more surgeries on my uterus. Three in six months is more than enough.

I ended up choosing to take the medication to induce miscarriage on February 11th. Carrying a baby that was no longer alive felt horrible to me. It was too hard and stressful to wait any longer, and I just want to move on. The first dose didn't work and I felt SO frustrated! My uterus can't get anything right! But the second did, and the worst was over with in a few painful (in more ways than one) days.

February 2011 was definitely the most terrible month of mine and Kirk's life together, but as we discussed, if we can get through that we can get through anything. The most joyous day of my life so far, and the most devastating, were weeks apart. That's a lot to take.

I am still trying to accept that this baby would never have been healthy and it's for the best. I spent so much time dreaming about being pregnant, giving birth in September, what the baby would be like, and how our lives would change. That's really hard to let go of, even now. I feel like I should be 19 weeks pregnant now and I'm not. That really really sucks.

It also sucks that nobody ever talks about this stuff. If you're someone who knows me and/or Kirk personally, you probably feel a little uncomfortable right now. Sorry about that. I felt pretty alone during this whole thing. Yes, I had Kirk and my mother who are amazing, and a few friends reached out (I didn't always answer, but I appreciated the gestures just the same), but I don't feel like anyone really understands.

Things are getting better every day, but it's a long road, and I will never, ever be the same again.