Thursday, June 5, 2014

One Day at a Time

14 weeks and counting.  This pregnancy is crawling by, but every day I get a little bit closer.  I keep the thought fresh in my mind of holding this baby for the first time.  Seeing her beautiful face and holding her in my arms.  I try to fight back the thoughts that haunt me of what it's like to see your baby take their last breath.  The fear is real and it is present.  I have to constantly battle with my feelings of anxiety and worry.  Now that I am in the 2nd trimester this baby has become much more real to me, which is exciting but scary.

Most pregnant woman have a slight fear of "making it" through the first trimester, even more so if they have previously suffered a miscarriage.  It is pretty well known that many pregnancies end before making it to the second trimester.  Those first 12 weeks are when it is most common to suffer a miscarriage.  It is now believed that one in every four pregnancies will end in miscarriage, which is a terrifying statistic, especially when you are pregnant.  Most woman wait until at least 12 weeks into pregnancy to announce their pregnancy.  Most woman feel that at that point they have entered the "safe zone".  While the statistics for losing a baby do go down after the first trimester their is unfortunately no "safe zone", which many families have had to learn the hard way.

Since I have gone through my losses it has slightly angered me that it is expected of families to wait until the 2nd trimester to announce a pregnancy.  By not announcing the pregnancy it's like confirming to society that it's not real yet.  So if you are to lose that pregnancy there is nothing yet to grieve.  That is simply not fair.  It's not fair to all of those woman that have to return to work or interact with friends and pretend that nothing is wrong.  I was that woman after losing my second pregnancy at 10 weeks.  I called into work sick and when I returned I explained that I had to have a small surgery but everything was fine.  I don't know if any of my co-workers suspected what was actually going on, but nobody said anything.  I returned to work on my daughter's first birthday and I had to jump back in like nothing had ever happened.  It hurt, it still hurts.

Now that I have been through a later pregnancy loss I am one of the many parents that knows there is no "safe zone" in pregnancy.  I have seen too many families lose their babies well beyond 12 weeks, some even making it to 40 weeks.  I also know what a later pregnancy loss looks like, and it's not pretty.  It's messy, painful and heartbreaking.  It is seeing your dead baby and holding them in your arms wishing you could do something to help.  Being pregnant again and finding myself in the second trimester is terrifying.  Everyday with this pregnancy I wonder if this will be the last.  I don't have the typical thoughts of an expectant mother.  Instead of wanting to buy clothes for my baby to wear home from the hospital I find myself thinking about what things I can buy that we will put in this baby's memory box if she dies.  

Outwardly I am excited and positive about this pregnancy.  I am sharing our news with the world and picking out baby names.  I am putting ultrasound pictures on my refrigerator and talking to my daughter about her baby sister growing inside me.  I do all this because what I am really feeling is too scary and morbid.  The thoughts of where to put this baby's urn and what the funeral will be like.  I try hard to push these thoughts away.  Every day I fight a little battle with myself.  "I will bring this baby home, I will bring this baby home, I will bring this baby home" is my mantra.  I take each day as it comes and I know that every day that goes by I am one day closer to bringing this baby home.

Monday, May 26, 2014

** 10 weeks

When I was pregnant with my first daughter I was nothing but excited.  Even from weeks 6 to 12 when the morning sickness was in full gear I just couldn't wait to become a parent.  I nibbled on saltine crackers and apple slices feeling sick as a dog, but the whole time thinking "This is going to be so worth it in the end".  Boy was I right!  The day Gwenevere was born was perhaps the happiest day of my life.  All of that nausea and heartburn was definitely worth it.

Unfortunately with my twins I learned a hard lesson that sometimes it isn't worth it in the end.  When I was pregnant with them my morning sickness was literally twice as bad.  If I wasn't vomiting I was laying on the bathroom floor writhing with waves of nausea.  After two weeks of being unable to even care for my 1 year daughter I started taking prescription anti-nausea medication.  They helped enough.  I stopped vomiting but I still had constant nausea.  I was only able to eat apple slices, crackers and baby food purees of applesauce and pears (only with plastic spoons, because the metal taste made me gag).  Through it all I kept up my mantra "This is going to be so worth it in the end".  This time I had the anticipation of bringing home not just one baby, but two and I was trilled beyond belief.  Sadly, all I came home with from the hospital were flowers and two memory boxes filled with trinkets donated by volunteers.  In the end it was not worth it.

Now I find myself right in the midst of 1st trimester hell once again.  I am 10 weeks pregnant today, so I know if just a couple of short weeks the misery will be over.  I am once again on prescription anti nausea medication after being admitted to the hospital for dehydration.  I find myself wanting to go back to my mantra, but I can't.  I feel angry and bitter about this morning sickness.  I know that this could end in one of the happiest days of my life, or one of the saddest and I'm finding it hard to be optimistic.  I am ashamed to admit that the other day while crying I told my husband "I don't want to be pregnant".  It's not that I don't want this baby, I do.  It's just that I want to not be at this point.  Had our twins been born healthy and lived we would have been done having children.  I want to be there, not here.

I know that if we are able to make it to the end of this pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby I will fall so instantly and deeply in love all of this won't matter.  I will say that I would have been sick every day for a year if it meant having this baby.  I also know if this pregnancy doesn't result in a healthy baby my saddness and anger will just deepen.  I just don't know if I can handle that.  So while I can't really put my heart into it and believe, I will try.  "This is going to be so worth it in the end"!!

Healing a Broken Heart

Last week I read an article about healing from infant loss.  This is nothing new as I am constantly seeking out ways to heal my broken heart.  As far as I've come in the past 19 months, my heart still aches.  Unlike most of the articles I have read this one had a line in it that captured my attention.  It said, "If your broken heart is going to heal you have to give yourself permission to not think about your baby".  The article went on to explain that it's normal to think about your dead child/children all the time.  But sometimes it can be easy to become wrapped up in the what ifs. Since I read those words they have been whirling around in my brain.  Yes, I do need to give myself permission to not think about Penelope and James every day, every hour, every minute.  But giving myself permission and following through are different challenges. 

Several months after losing my twins it became pretty obvious that I was suffering from PTSD.  Whenever my eyes closed I would have vivid flash backs of the moments leading up to their death as well as watching them die.  I couldn't escape those images and thoughts.  I would often lay in bed at night fighting with my brain to just turn off.  I also became overwhelmed with anxiety that my living daughter would die.  Two months after we lost the twins my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to cashews.  Watching her sweet little face swell up with hives as I held her in my arms giving her an emergency breathing treatment in the urgent care was almost more than I could take.  Riding in the ambulance listening to her cries and feeling helpless.  For the weeks and months following her allergy attack I struggled.  I couldn't eat meals with her for fear that she would react to something.  I would constantly lift her shirt to scan her for hives and if I saw anything she got a benedryl. With lots of time and the help of a great therapist I was able to work through my intense anxiety.  I still worry, it's hard not to.  But the intense feelings have faded.

To help relieve my PTSD and anxiety I had to give myself permission to feel it.  When I felt the anxiety rushing over me I had to do the opposite of what I wanted to do, and just let it happen.  Instead of running upstairs while my daughter was eating I would sit at the kitchen table and  feel everything and let it run it's course.  I learned not to fight it, not to block it out, but to accept it.  By accepting the feelings, knowing that in a few minutes they would get better, I was able to get through it.  Now those moments come so infrequently that I have almost forgotten about it.

Now that I am through most of my struggles with anxiety I find myself trying to give myself permission to live my life.  This is a really hard step for me to take.  I'm sure it's a step that many people think I should have taken long ago.  But the truth is that up until this point I haven't been ready.  I knew from day one that this grieving process would be a timely one for me.  But I feel like I am there.  I am at the point where I am ready, not to forget my son and daughter, but live life like they never got a chance to.  I know it will still be a slow process.  I have begun to put little things away that remind me of them, which has been really hard.  In some ways I feel like I'm disrespecting them.  But I also know that they will always be in my heart regardless of how many photographs I have around the house.  Penelope and James were loved, they are loved, and they will always be loved.  I give myself permission to trust my love for them and not think about them.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Future

What I wouldn't do for a crystal ball right now.  I would love to look ahead and see what my life will look like in five or ten years.  I want to know what my family will look like.  So much of my stress and anxiety is spent worrying and wondering what direction my life is heading.  Will I ever have another healthy baby again?

If the answer is yes, I could rejoice.  I could relax and celebrate in knowing that we will once again experience the miracle of giving birth to a healthy beautiful baby.  I could relish these last few months/years of having my daughter as my only child.  Truly engaging in my life as it is and enjoying every moment.  I could stop the constant worry and wondering if she is it.  I could breath a sigh of relief and relax.  I could move forward with my life.

If the answer is no, I could handle that.  I could grieve a little bit more and start to focus on enjoying my family of three.  I could really spend every moment just enjoying where we are and taking in everything.  I could stop wondering when I ovulated and when I should take a pregnancy test.  I could prepare myself for mothering an only child and stop worrying about how old she'll be when we bring a new baby home.  I could plan trips, big trips.  Not having to wonder if I might be pregnant and if I'll be on bed rest.  I could give away our enormous stock pile of baby gear.  Empty the nursery and turn it into a reading room.  I could drink wine whenever I wanted to and not worry if I am maybe 3-4 weeks pregnant.  I could move forward with my life.

Instead I am stuck in the wondering.  In my mind I am constantly bouncing back and forth between two people.  The person that will once again welcome a baby into our family and the person that has to accept that our family is complete.  I know there is no real reason to believe that I will not be able to have another baby.  I have done it once, very successfully in my opinion.  I carried a baby to 39 weeks with no problems.  But it's so hard to forget the other pregnancies.  The three pregnancies, four babies that ended with empty arms and tears.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Back To Square One

*This post was written 2/2/14

Eleven days ago I found out I was pregnant.  I paced back and forth in the kitchen waiting for the results of a home pregnancy test.  When I checked it there were the two pink lines.  Not being one to always trust just one test I bought a digital test the following day.  There in bold letters was the word "Pregnant".  This was it, we were actually pregnant once again.  To say it has taken a lot of courage to get to this point is an understatement.  It took my husband and I over a year following the birth and death of Penelope and James to even think we were ready to try again.  But here we are, ready to face the fear.

For about two days I felt optimistic about this pregnancy.  Surely with everything we've gone through this would be okay.  Then on Saturday morning, the panic set in.  I woke up at 3am with thoughts racing through my head.  I knew I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep to I went downstairs, made a cup of Sleepy Time tea, lay on the couch and settled in for a mini marathon of "The League".  After several hours I drifted back to sleep and what seemed like moments later was woken up by my husband asking why I wasn't in bed.  I then went to the bathroom and my heart sank, I was spotting.  I remembered having some spotting with all of my other pregnancies so I tried not to panic.  But I also prepared for the worst.  It was the weekend so I knew I couldn't talk to my OB without calling the emergency line.  So I cried a little and just went ahead with my weekend hoping for the best.

By Monday morning the spotting had stopped and I decided to call my OB anyway.  The nurse recommended having my levels drawn just to check and make sure the pregnancy was progressing as it should.  I had my blood drawn on Monday and again on Wednesday.  Each day that went by I felt increasingly confident that maybe everything would be okay.  Thursday morning I got a call from the nurse with my lab results, they didn't look good.  My hcg was going up, but not nearly at the rate that they would like it to.  So they sent me in once again to get my blood drawn on Friday.  I was given a number that I could call that evening to find out the results.

All day on Friday I kept bouncing back and forth as to whether or not this pregnancy was viable.  In some ways I was already grieving, assuming that this was a miscarriage.  At other times I was hopeful, thinking that maybe my numbers were just a slow start and surely this lab would show a great increase.  I called the number at 7pm, right after getting home from my daughter's first dance class.  The woman on the phone gave me the my number, my hcg had gone down.  My mouth got dry and I felt a lump in my throat.  I said thank you and hung up the phone.  I went downstairs and told Micah the news.  He hugged my for at least two minutes.  We didn't say anything to each other.  My three year old continued to play in the family room completely oblivious to our loss.

Today I am feeling many things; sadness, disappointment, anger, unfairness, numb, relieved. Mostly I find myself wondering why.  Why did this happen?  Because this loss happened so early I am not really mourning the loss of a baby.  This was most likely a blighted ovum, which means the fertilized egg implanted but never started developing into a baby.  I am mourning the fact that the small amount of hope I had left seems to be gone.  We will try again, but I have very little faith that we will have another healthy baby.  I know that logically it is possible, but right now it feels hopeless.

Friday, December 13, 2013

'Tis The Season

December is perhaps my favorite month of the year.  Despite the freezing cold weather and treacherous driving conditions I find it to be a magical time of year.  The month of December rings in with my daughter's birthday, this year she turned three.  Then later that week is my husband's birthday as well and St. Nicholas day.  Then the next three weeks are filled with anticipation for the big day, Christmas.  I love the birthday celebrations, the shopping (online mostly), the beautiful snowy weather, decorating the house, drinking hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies, marking the advent calendar, and enjoying time with my family.

The first Christmas following the birth of my first born was perhaps the most magical.  I was a new Mother in a constant state of awe and bliss.  With the help of my husband I had created and given birth to another person, a beautiful little baby girl.  I couldn't have been happier.  On Christmas Eve we dressed our daughter up in an adorable red velvet and white fur trim dress and took pictures of her under our Christmas tree.  I couldn't have imagined a better Christmas present than a new baby.

My daughter's second Christmas was a mixed bag of emotions.  I was so happy to be celebrating another holiday season with my husband and now one year old daughter.  But the pain was still fresh from my 10 week miscarriage over Thanksgiving weekend.  I was still mourning the loss of that tiny baby, wishing I was still carrying a life inside me.  We pushed forward and celebrated as usual, with the pain of our loss always present.

The following December was even more difficult.  We were four months out from the loss of Penelope and James.  December was their due date and we couldn't help but wonder what this time of year would be like if they were still with us.  We tried to find ways to include them in our Christmas celebrations.  We put their names on our Christmas cards, hung stocking from the fireplace for them, made a special Christmas ornament for each of them and lit candles in their honor at our Christmas dinner.  It didn't really matter how many things we did to remember them, the pain of missing them was in our faces all the time.

Now it is approaching our daughter's fourth Christmas season.  She is full of excitement and anticipation at the arrival of Santa and presents.  We have begun to decorate our house, the stockings are hung, the Christmas cards are sent, the lights are up, and our Christmas tree is in the works.  This year my heart is lighter.  The heavy ache that I felt last year has lightened, though it is still there.  We will continue to honor our babies by hanging their stockings, placing their ornaments on the tree, honoring them in our Christmas cards, and lighting candles for them. These are traditions that we will continue for as long as we feel the need to.

Even though over a year has passed since our loss, this time of year opens the wound a little bit.  It is a special time a year, a time for family and celebration.  I think anyone that has lost someone they love misses them a little more at these special times.  We are reminded of what this time should be like if they were still here.  As I continue to prepare for the big day it hurts as I buy gifts for only one child and donate money to The March of Dimes instead of buying toys to fill my twin's stockings.  It hurts as I take only one child to go visit Santa at the mall.  It hurts to know that my son and daughter will never know the joy of celebrating Christmas with their family.  I miss them everyday, but this time of year I am missing all that could have been.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Only Child

Since the day I lost my twins I mourned not only for my loss, but for my daughter's loss.  She lost a brother and sister that she would never even get to meet.  I had imagined so much for the three of them.  The twins and Gwenevere would have been almost exactly two years apart, and Gwenevere would get two siblings in one shot, not an opportunity that most of us get.  I figured that with two new siblings in the mix she would have been able to build a lifelong close relationship with at least one of them, hopefully both of them.

Growing up I was an only child to my parents for nine years.  To be perfectly honest, I loved it.  Although, by the time I was eight years old and my parents told me that I was going to be a big sister I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to have a baby in the house, hopefully a sister.  To my delight, three months after my ninth birthday we welcomed a baby girl into our family.  Anna was adorable, but not much fun in the beginning.  There was lots of crying, much less attention for me and not much sisterly bonding.  There were fun times too, eventually.  Helping her eat, giving her baths, playing with her as she got older.  Now as an adult I can't imagine my life without my wonderful sister.  She has grown up into an amazing, strong, intelligent, witty woman and I love her.

While I want Gwenevere to have a sibling to share memories with and build a lifelong friendship with that is not enough of a reason for me to have another child.  In fact there is no guarantee that she will even like any other children we have.  Our next kid could be a real dick, you never know.  Most of my friends have at least one sibling.  Some have wonderful relationships, others dread having to see their siblings at family get togethers.  Just because you have the same parents doesn't mean you are going to be best friends.  Having spent half of my childhood as an only child and half as a sister I can say that it's pretty fun both ways.

I just wish our society didn't place such a stigma on the only child.  Yes, it is wonderful to have someone in your family that you have shared experiences with.  Someone that is tied to you for life.  But isn't it also wonderful to have a childhood filled with undivided parental love?  Never having to share a bedroom or babysit for free.  The role of the only child is drastically underrated in our society.  

I don't know how long Gwenevere will enjoy the role of only child.  But I am confident that for now she is thriving.