Decibel Insight

Monday, March 9, 2015

Silent Tragedy: A Mother's Love and Loss

Spring for many is a joyous time. The snow is melting, the sun is shinning, and the tulips are starting to wake. I used to love spring. I have so many great memories from my college days of spreading out a blanket on the campus lawn before settling in for a unproductive study session.

Now spring brings a roller coaster of emotions as it marks the anniversary of the absolute best day of my life, the day Grace was born, and the absolute worst, the days I miscarried my first two pregnancies.

Spring 2012

For far too long miscarriage has been a taboo subject. Women have been forced by societal pressure  to withhold their pregnancy excitement even from friends and family until the "magical" 12 week mark on the off chance that the unthinkable might happen. When a pregnancy ended they were still forced to put on a happy face and carry on with their lives as though nothing had happened. They were not allowed to grieve the death of their child.

I myself lost two pregnancies in the course of only 40 days in the spring of 2013. The experience crushed me and created wounds that still have not fully healed. And never will. I think about my babies every single day and imagine what they would be like today. As soon as I became pregnant I became a mother. I had hopes and dreams for my child's future just like any mother with a child who was born living. I pictured holding them for the first time, watching their first steps, taking family vacations, and opening presents around the Christmas tree. Then, all to soon, those dreams were abruptly taken from me. My child was gone, my family left incomplete, my future was forever changed, and my heart shattered. Yet, society told me not to grieve publicly. Not to let friends and family know what happened for fear that they may pity me or see me as less of a woman. This left me with no one to talk to and nowhere to turn.

Recently, women who have experienced miscarriages are speaking out in the hopes that their children won't be forgotten. They have been sharing their experiences and breaking down barriers. Every woman deserves the chance to grieve the loss of her child.

Disney World December 2012 right before we started our journey trying to conceive.

Here is my story....

Ever since I was very young I always wanted to be a mommy. Before Brad and I even got married we discussed having kids young. We wanted a family.

In February 2013, I became pregnant for the first time. I was so excited to see that faint line on the pregnancy test at only 3 weeks. I had been waking up at 5am every morning to take my basal temperature and knew the exact day to test. That day I started planning our future and researching baby items. I even made a couple purchases. Then I called Brad to let him know I was pregnant. A few weeks passed, and I was wrapped up in all of the fun and excitement that comes with being a new mom. Miscarriage was the furthest thing from my mind. I foolishly thought, "I have never met anyone who has had a miscarriage, and things like that only happen to people who don't take care of themselves or their babies." I would later found out that both of these beliefs were very, very false.

On Saturday, March 9th at 5 weeks pregnant, my worst nightmare came true. I began to miscarry. The next morning as my cramps worsened Brad took me to the ER. There a very nice nurse who had had several miscarriages tried to make me feel better, but it was hard to relax in such a sterile environment. Soon I would be in horrible pain and after an hour would pass my baby.

At this point, I was in shock. I could not cry, I could not feel anything. It would take several hours for me to completely comprehend everything that had just happened. In the ER I was handed a book on infant loss and told to go home, so that is what I did.

Once I got home, I crumbled. I was absolutely devastated that my whole future and everything I had been planning was gone. I went straight up to bed. I was so exhausted and so angry with myself that I was unable to cry. I was completely numb and would stay that way for 2 days. To avoid stirring up emotions Brad stayed downstairs trying to hide or toss any evidence that I was ever pregnant. I spent the next two days binge watching 3 seasons of Downton Abbey and trying to dull the pain. Of course no one warned me about the miscarriage episode. I did not want to speak to anyone, so for two days I laid in bed. By Tuesday I was feeling pretty good, so I got up and went back to my job as a nanny. As weird as it may seem getting back to work was oddly therapeutic. It helped me get my life back to normal quickly. Any physical reminders of the miscarriage were gone, and I was once again optimistic for the future. I figured that this miscarriage was a fluke and was excited to try for another baby as soon as possible.

The first week of April I found out I was pregnant again, and I was once again over the moon excited. I dug out all of the baby items Bard had hid during the first miscarriage and was in an absolute state of bliss. I reimagined my future with this new baby. I did everything I could to make this baby stick including going to the doctor every other day to have my blood drawn and my levels tested. Due to my elevated levels I was told that I was more than likely expecting twins. These were my rebound babies, the ones I was meant to mother. However, this pregnancy would end in tragedy as well and in a much more dramatic fashion.

One of the only pictures of I have from that spring - camping up north.

On the afternoon of April 25th at 7 weeks pregnant I was at work nannying 3 young children when I started to miscarry again. This time, there was no questioning what was happening. I knew immediately I would lose my babies. However, I was unprepared for how much more painful, both physically and emotionally, this miscarriage would be.

 After I composed myself I returned to the kiddos. I only had an hour left of my shift and by some miracle was able to keep it together for them. However, once I reached my car a wave of emotions came over me. I was angry and scared, and cried the hardest I ever have in my entire life. Somehow I made it home safely and between sobs explained to Brad what was going on. He told me to rest and we would see that midwife in the morning.

The next morning we went to see the midwife and they gave me an ultrasound right away. I was preparing for the worst when the tech said that she could still see one of the babies, and it had a heartbeat. However, the heartbeat was slow. She tried to reassure me that I may just be earlier along in my pregnancy than I thought and that the heart may have just started beating, but I knew better. I knew this was goodbye.

When I finally got to see the midwife I was told that 2 things could happen. My child would either be fine or my child would die and my body would eventually abort the fetus. I was given a picture of the ultrasound, and told to come back on Monday to see whether my child lived or died. I ended up tearing that picture into a million little pieces. Now I wish I would have kept that photo.

Again I spent the rest of the day in bed watching TV and having intermittent bursts of rage and overwhelming sadness. I searched the internet high and low for an answer. Fertility problems are something older women deal with not healthy 23 year olds. I was mad at my body, mad at my husband, and mad at the world.

That weekend I had planned on going to garage sales looking for baby items with my mom. So, while I carried  my dead child around in my uterus I looked at baby blankets and tiny clothes. I was in denial. While I kept telling myself that my baby was dead I was holding on to a glimmer of hope that on Monday we would find out that he/she had lived.

On Monday morning we arrived at the doctor's office ready to find out the fate of my Schrodinger child. Was he/she alive or dead? At the ultrasound we found out that the heart had stopped beating and it is very likely that we saw some of the baby's very last heartbeats on Friday. I immediately broke down at the thought that just two days earlier I had watched my child die right in front of me.

The midwife informed my that miscarrying naturally was the safest choice and I agreed. So, Brad and I left the doctor's office with me still carrying our dead child. I don't remember much about the rest of the day except for a stop at Target on our way home for 3.5 pounds of Sour Patch Kids that we inhaled over the next couple days. Nothing like candy to push away the pain and to help you gain 5 pounds.

Again I went back to work immediately, but this time it was much harder. I was still carrying my dead child and there were 3 little people who needed my help. To make matters worse my boss had just had a child 3 months prior. Nevertheless, it helped a little to keep my life as normal as possible.

That night alone in my bathroom my miscarriage finally ended. I had never been in so much pain physically or emotionally.  Physically the pain of the miscarriage was so much worse than labor with Grace. Emotionally, I was ripped apart. Even worse was that at some point my child, like most early miscarriages, ended up being flushed down the toilet. It kills me every time I think about it. By the end of the whole ordeal it was 3am, and with no one to turn to I went to bed, woke up, and went to work.

Happier times to come. Babymoon in Florida - 3 months pregnant with Grace.

For months after that miscarriage I was broken. I had flash backs to the pain and emotional turmoil. I cut myself off from the world. I couldn't go to church, there were babies there. I couldn't go to Target, there were pregnant women, a baby section, and happy couples buying baby items. Even Facebook was off limits with all of the happy pregnancy announcements. Every time someone announced a pregnancy I would become irrationally angry, jealous, and wanted to scream, "why you and not me?"   I couldn't go anywhere without holding back tears. I was absolutely devastated and the odds didn't help. Only .2% of women have two consecutive miscarriages trying to conceive their first child and many do not ever go on to have babies of their own.

I withdrew from many people I considered good friends because they were pregnant and I wasn't. I was happy for them, but needed my own space to grieve. Some of them knew why I disappeared, and others did not. Society told me not to talk about my loss, so I didn't except to a few select people. While some people understood that the best thing to do was just lend an ear, others were not so understanding.  They tried to make me feel better using phrases like, "At least it happened early on" and "You're young, you can try again."

My advice for anyone who knows someone going through a miscarriage is to listen. If they want to talk, and they most likely will, listen to them, but if they don't that's OK too. Understand that if you are pregnant your friend may withdraw for a while because they are grieving and cannot see you right now without being reminded of their grief. Be patient and they will slowly make their way back into your life. Lastly, if you are going to announce a pregnancy and a very close friend has miscarried or is having fertility issues it is always nice to give them a heads up in an email. They can digest the pregnancy news in the privacy of their own home without the worrying about their reaction in front of you or a group of people.

Luckily in June I was able to become pregnant with Grace. Unfortunately, my emotional wounds lingered. When I saw the positive pregnancy test I wasn't happy or elated like I was with the other babies. I was numb. As much as this baby was very much wanted I could not feel anything. If I did it was fear and anxiety. It even took me several hours to find the courage to tell Brad I was pregnant. In my mind, telling him meant acknowledging the pregnancy, and once again setting myself up for heartbreak.

34 weeks pregnant with Grace.
Throughout the entire pregnancy I lived on the edge of my seat. This pregnancy was constantly haunted by the previous two.  I refused to buy any baby items until I was 12 weeks along, and didn't tell anyone I was expecting until almost 20 weeks. I was scared I would lose Grace as well.  I obsessed over every cramp and squeezed my breasts hourly to make sure they were still sore. Every ultrasound started with me shaking uncontrollably in the waiting room.  When I got to the second trimester I hated that Doppler machine. It would always take a second or two for the midwife to find the heartbeat and my mind would go to dark places.

However, there was something that kept me going. It was the strangest thing, but throughout my pregnancy there were at least three or four times that I was very unsure about the outcome of the pregnancy. Whenever I had these feelings I would look up to the sky and see a rainbow. It was like my babies were sending them to me from heaven telling me everything was alright.

The rainbow outside my bedroom window the day before I found out I was pregnant with Grace.

It was not until Grace was born that I realized how much my anxiety ruled my pregnancy. It is easy to say that it was silly now since everything ended up well, but I am not sure how I would have handled another loss. Due to this anxiety I had a very hard time bonding with Grace in the womb. Afraid she would be taken from me as well, I refused to let myself bond like many mothers do. Naturally, I still couldn't help but picture our life together including trips to Disney World, birthday parties, and high school graduation. However, in the back of my mind I kept a wall up. I could not picture her birth or me holding her in the hospital. In fact it was not even until the 3rd trimester when I eventually realized, "Hey, I am going to have to birth this kid." This is totally against my nature since I am such a research nut and planner.


Disney Cruise 3 months pregnant with Grace.

After some of the most stressful 42 weeks of my life Grace was born weighing in at 8lbs 14oz, but I did not feel an instant connection to her. It probably didn't help that she spent so much time in the NICU when she was born. After months of living with heartache and in a state of denial it was time to finally accept that I had a baby.

The first few months with her were difficult. Because of my pregnancy struggles I did not feel like I was ever allowed to complain about my pregnancy or lack of sleep, and that I should just be happy I have a child at all. Of course now I realize how stupid these feelings were, but at the time they were very real. It may haven taken me several weeks to fall head over heels for her, but now I am so glad of the journey I took. I still wear the scars on my heart from those spring days. There is never a day that goes by that I do not think about my other three babies, and am reminded of how lucky I am to have Grace in my life. Even though I never got to hold my precious babies they had a huge impact on my life. I am a much stronger person now, and a better mom because of them.







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