Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Category: Emotions (page 1 of 6)

BL and AL – Do you use these terms?

BL and AL. What do these letters mean? What are their significance? I was going through my Facebook “Memories” today and noticed I was using these terms. I know I haven’t shared what they mean yet but I know many of you will know what they mean. As I scrolled through the memories for today, I was looking at the dates. Pictures and messages I posted on March 7th since 2009 were displayed and as I studied the pictures, I wanted to know…was this “before loss” or “after loss?” BL or AL?

I have had two miscarriages now so sometimes when calculating it gets a bit more complicated but I couldn’t help wondering, was the picture I was looking at before or after? I studied my face, the faces of the others in the pictures, wondered if I was happy then or could comprehend how my life was going to change or contemplating how far I have come, where was I on the grief journey or had it started yet? I sifted through maybe 15 photos before I realized I was placing them into categories, BL and AL.

Then I wondered, how many others do this? I am sure many of you do. What is the significance for you? What do you wonder when you look back at pictures or memories? Would you stop yourself from becoming pregnant if you knew? If you could warn yourself, would you? If you could change something, what would it be?

Here is a picture I absolutely love of myself. It’s a “before loss” picture.

Elizabeth Petrucelli 1

I had just quit my job and was about to being the police academy. I wanted short hair so I cut most of mine off. It was a happy time before my life was turned upside down. Little did I know that just nine months later, I would be mourning the loss of my second child…a daughter. If I could go back and tell myself something, would I prepare myself for the loss?

Here is a picture of me after two losses.

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This is a different angle and lighting but is anything different? I am obviously older. I can tell you that in this picture, I am about four months post loss (of Gus) and I had chopped off all my hair. I hated my hair. I don’t recommend chopping off your hair within the first few days (or even weeks) after a loss.

Let me show you. Here I am with long hair.

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Here I am after the hair stylist didn’t listen and cut off too much. I had explicitly told her my bang should be at my chin. They aren’t even close! This was two days after we discovered Gus was dead and he was still within my womb here.

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So the moral of the story is, don’t get your hair cut so quickly after loss. But I digress.

Do you find that you say this was before loss or after loss? What feelings does that bring up for you? I know for me, I do feel sad. I wish I could tell myself what is about to happen and how to prepare. I would want to go back and share as much as I could, telling myself that I will survive. I wouldn’t take the experience back. I wouldn’t stop the loss from happening (assuming I had that kind of power).

The loss of Gus and Ruby are a part of me. They don’t define me, but they are a big part of who I am and why I do what I do. I wouldn’t be able to do it as well if I hadn’t experienced their losses. So what is it for you?

Comparing Loss Serves No One

“Comparing Loss Serves No One” was originally published on December 2, 2015 at Doula Spot.

October 15th Miscarriage VigilRecently in a group, bereaved mothers were comparing the pain they experienced based on the age of their baby. One woman shared she had miscarriages so her pain could not be nearly as painful as a friend who had lost a baby at full term and the friend who lost her baby at full term could not possibly be in as much pain as the person who lost their baby at 2 weeks old. Even with those comparisons, another mother stated that the pain of losing her 24 week gestation child could not be as painful as someone who lost their living child.

The common denominator here is grief, the grief one experiences from a loss; however, there is a societal perception of the pain and grief one might experience based on the longer a person is alive, the more grief that one might experience. Here are some examples of what I have heard or seen regarding grief and pregnancy loss.

Women are told:

They should have nothing to grieve for the baby lost early (before she had a chance to love it).

The baby wasn’t born alive so why is she sad?

It is belittling to mothers who have lost living children for women to grieve a baby who never lived (the perception being that a baby in the womb is not living).

A miscarriage is not the same as losing a child.  

Then there are other comparisons:

A mother who birthed her stillborn baby through her vagina will experience more grief than a mother who had a c-section (as if she was somehow “spared” by not having to deliver vaginally).

These are comments and comparisons I have heard but what purpose do they serve?

Society allows and accepts a family’s grief for a baby or child who passes within the first year of life and beyond because there is a physical body with which they can see, touch, smell, and hear. We also see acceptance and validation for the grief within our own federal guidelines of FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act); however, there is no time allowed to grieve the loss of a baby not born alive. This gives society the perception that born alive = worthy.

When grief is compared or challenged based on the gestation/age of a baby, it can make women feel they are not worthy to grieve for their baby not born alive; whether they were born in the first trimester or later. It can make women feel ashamed about their very real feelings. Not all women will feel grief from a miscarriage and while that’s okay, it’s not helpful for one woman who was not hurt by her miscarriage to say to another woman “What’s the big deal?” It’s a big deal to her and she deserves support.

Women should be allowed to grieve without shame just as they would grieve for the loss of their parents. Although I have seen people make others feel shameful for grieving the death of their aged parents (because they lived a long life, their death was expected).  Does a woman who just married her boyfriend of six months have the right to grieve? After all, she didn’t know him that long and if the basis for grief is length of time together (as some people have suggested), then she shouldn’t grieve nearly as much as a woman who lost her husband of 15 years. When approached from this angle, it doesn’t make much sense to associate time together with how much grief should be expected or experienced.

MiscarriageValidation that the grief is real and that they are worthy to grieve starts with us (society); sharing our stories of loss, and encouraging society to recognize that the grief from miscarriage exists. For many women, the moment they see the positive test they begin imagining all they will do with their future child. All those hopes and dream disappear in a fleeting moment, a flicker on an ultrasound that diminished too quickly, a kick or punch which faded away, a breath that emptied too soon. All are worthy of grief and mourning.

Shaming the grief experience by comparing grief experienced from pregnancy loss further silences this common experience and forces many women to hide. I remember feeling shame. It manifested in feeling foolish for grieving something I never had (a living baby); feeling silly for grieving a baby I couldn’t hold or see in their full form. I saw my baby on the ultrasound and I saw my baby’s heartbeat so I knew she was real but she was not real to many others. I also felt shame when I was excited to be pregnant and had a new life within me, though a fragile one, and announced it to the world only to have to tell everyone that the baby died.

Many women continue to feel more shame when they choose to hide their pregnancies until much later. Just because a woman doesn’t announce her pregnancy early, does not mean she is living in shame but some do. I have a friend who has already told me that should she become pregnant again, she will not announce until later…much later.

She does not want to have to tell people her baby didn’t make it, like last time. Months after her miscarriage, she is still asked about her pregnancy or what happened which adds to her silent pain; a pain that she carries but doesn’t allow the world to see. Her ‘status’ updates are make believe; pretending nothing ever happened. She buries her pain deep within her but still knowing how far along she would be.

Even I didn’t realize that she had the same thoughts as I do. We would have been pregnant together. We would have been due within one month of each other. I would be 38 weeks with a very ripe belly. My breasts would be preparing to nourish the child within me. I would be making frozen meals and completing the final tasks to bring home a new baby.

I would most likely be sharing with her all the things I have been doing to help her prepare as well; hoping she didn’t make a mistake or forget something I may have. We would be talking about names. And after our babies were home, we would be sharing milestones. Instead, we share death. We share our experiences of miscarriage which were very different yet the same; her entry into the silent club of pregnancy loss and my mentorship of having been through it…twice.

We do not know what is inside of someone else’s mind. We do not know what their experience of pain is. We cannot possibly comprehend someone’s grief based on society’s opinion, our personal opinions, our personal experiences, the experiences of others, etc. The pain and grief a person carries is their own. They may not fully share that pain with you either. Even if we know they had a loss, they may still remain silent which in turn, makes us feel they are “okay.” They might be okay or they might be deeply struggling.

When we know someone has experienced pregnancy loss, the most we can do is offer support. There are many ways to do that. Books and websites are dedicated to supporting families through loss. What we cannot do though, is much for the internal grief they will inevitably experience. We cannot speed up the grief journey; we can only walk with them through it.

Accompany one another with mercy. – Pope Francis

The length of someone’s life, the size of their body, the condition they are in, and the circumstances surrounding their death do not make grief more or less worthy. Grief is grief and is a person’s own journey. Please support them and others through any grief they are experiencing. Most of us have no idea if one experience hurts more than another experience. Can we stop comparing and just support?

Miscarriage

On this day, May 11

Memory Box for Miscarriage - Erika Zane PhotographyLast year, he was born on May 11. Silent and still on the ultrasound just days before, we knew his birth was inevitable. It was devastating. Our 4th and thought-to-be last child, gone so quickly. We were so excited to be pregnant with him, naturally and at our age. It was a miracle. But he was not to be. He was not to live on this earth, just a saint in heaven.

That’s what today represents for me. It’s Augustus’s (AKA Gus) anniversary. Today doesn’t feel much different, other than I know how I was last year and all I was enduring physically and emotionally. I think today feels mostly normal because Gus is in my life every day. The entire family talks about him and shares about him.  His candle sits on our table next to Ruby’s and his memory box (which you see to the left) is in our dining room.

Facebook has a timeline memory feature that can be so very cruel when it reminds you of events such as miscarriage, stillbirth or any loss really. When you least expect it, a memory appears. On May 11, 2015, I didn’t post anything about delivering Gus. I was very quiet about that particular day. So I imagine tomorrow my memory reminder will show information about our loss.

I was specifically quiet on Facebook that day. I needed one more day of the world thinking I was pregnant. One more day of me feeling like I was pregnant even though my body had birthed already our baby. So instead of a sad memory appearing in my Facebook Memory Timeline, I saw a post from May 11, 2011.

It was a simple post:

I actually helped save a life today and the person is extremely thankful. I feel amazed to be a part of his life.

It was a chilly morning that day; cloudy and rainy. I was managing the security department at my local hospital that day when I received a call there was a “crazy man” rolling around in the grass in the front of the hospital. Me and another officer went out looking for him. I ran out without a coat, as did my partner. Neither of us could find him and if I recall, my partner returned to the building to get his coat.

I found a man inside a car near the grass. He was hanging out his door but trying to start the car. He was wet and looked disheveled. I asked him if he needed help and he said he was trying to start his car but his speech was slurred. He didn’t look like he felt alright so I asked him to get out of his car and come in to be checked out.

He complied fairly easily but he seemed confused. As he stood up, I realized he was wearing only one slipper. He was also a very large man. Most likely 280lbs and about 6’5″. This was not a man I wanted to fight with but that was what was about to happen.

As I talked with him, he kept walking away. He would stumble as he walked towards the grass. I kept asking him questions but his speech was jumbling and he wasn’t making much sense. When I placed my hand on his elbow to try to direct him, he pulled away and then turned towards me and got in my face. He became aggressive. I contacted dispatch to call 911.

As I attempted to hold him off from hurting me, my partner arrived…just in time. He himself was big and burly and could stand up to him. We both were holding him back and trying to get him to calm down and just talk to us. Finally, I yelled at him, “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”

He looked blankly at me. He stopped fighting and just looked off in the distance as if he was scared because he could not form the words. I then called 911 and told them to send rescue. This man was having a medical issue. He was not drunk, he just couldn’t be. Something else was going on with him.

As I hung up, I could hear sirens. The police quickly arrived and helped us to get him under control and into custody. The ambulance arrived and assisted him into the truck and drove him to the emergency room. When he arrived, his blood sugar was 22 and it was dropping. Due to the cold temperature, his body was burning off more and more sugar and he was close to having a seizure or entering into a coma.

The hospital administered sugar and instantly this man came back to life. He was such a gentleman and apologized. He explained that he had just seen his doctor and was heading back to his house in the mountains but when he got into his car, he blacked out. He didn’t remember any of what had taken place. He was grateful we found him. He was admitted to the hospital for over a month and I visited him nearly every day I worked. He was such a pleasure and I wished him the best.

I hope he is still alive and well today. I know he had many medical issues that needed to be addressed. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Just like I remember Gus’s birth like it was yesterday. With Gus, the medical staff treated me kindly and were so empathetic to my situation. My husband was there and was so loving and supportive. It was a sad day but we made the best of it.

So today, I want to remember the life I helped save instead of feeling sad about Gus. I feel sad about Gus often, wishing he was here yet accepting that he is not and that I was chosen to carry him…even if for a short while.

If you have experienced a pregnancy loss and had talked about your pregnancy on Facebook, maybe even announced a pregnancy on Facebook, I recommend turning off Facebook memories. I researched “How to turn off Facebook Memories” and found the answer. Visit your newsfeed or “home page.” On the left side of the screen, scroll down to “Apps.” It will be the section under “Friends” but before “Interests,” at least that’s how it was on my screen.

You will find something called “On this day.” Click on that and you can make changes or turn off the notifications. I hope this helps and alleviates some of the cruel reminders that Facebook will notify you of.

12 Things I Needed to Hear from my Doctor After My Miscarriage

This article originally appeared at The Mighty on November 15, 2015.

I have miscarried two babies, Ruby in 2010 and Gus in 2015. I had two very different experiences with my miscarriage. In 2010, the doctor treated my experience as a medical event and was unemotional. It took months for me to be OK with how I was treated, and his treatment of me compounded my grief. In 2015 when Gus died, I was treated with compassion and given options. I was able to move forward more quickly because I wasn’t struggling with mistreatment from my healthcare provider.

Here’s what I wish I heard from that first doctor in 2010.

1. I’m sorry. Please tell me you are sorry or that you will be thinking of me during this difficult time. I know you see miscarriage happen often, but this is my first miscarriage. Even if I have had more than one miscarriage, I would still like to hear those words.

2. Offer a kind touch or a hug. I may be really sad, and it’s helpful to know you care. This is not a medical event for me — it is heartbreaking. Placing your hand on my shoulder helps me feel deeply cared for and will improve my experience.

3. Please tell me what to expect. I have never done this before, and I am scared. I don’t know what my body and mind will experience. It’s helpful to know if I will be in pain physically as well as emotionally, and I will need to know a little bit about how to handle that.

4. Please give me options. It may be hard for me to live with having a dead baby inside me. Please help me understand the best options for my body and help me understand why. If I am anxious, please help me through that with medications or resources. If I am in pain, please offer me pain medications or resources. I need to know you are there for me if I need help. I will also need some sort of timeline. If you don’t know how long this process will take, it’s OK to say that. Just help me understand what to do if the process is taking a long time.

5. Prepare me for what I might see. I have never seen a very tiny baby before, and my baby may be so tiny that they aren’t very visible. Please prepare me for what to look for such as gray tissue or what the placenta may look like.

6. Please tell me not to flush. I may feel guilty and shameful if I flush my baby, so please give me something to capture my baby in and tell me where to keep my baby or what to do with my baby.

7. Tell me it’s OK if I do flush. If I do flush my baby down the toilet, please tell me that does not mean I didn’t love my baby or didn’t care. I need to know that many women have done this and it’s OK.

8. Explain my situation to your staff. If I have to share my story with your staff, they may think I hung up because I have become silent. Sometimes I cannot form the words, or my tears swallow my voice. It’s helpful if your staff already knows and can be comforting to me on the phone.

9. Help me know that I can bury or cremate my baby. I may want to bring my baby home, bury my baby or have my baby cremated. If you don’t tell me this is an option, I may not feel at peace about where my baby went, and I may struggle later. Please share the options I have for my baby’s remains.

10. Share with me that I can take time off work. I need to know it’s OK for me to take some time off not only to complete the miscarriage but to recover emotionally. If you don’t tell me this is an option and that it’s OK, I may go back to work and regret it later — especially if I spend the days crying in front of coworkers and clients.

11. Please don’t minimize my experience. I know not all women will grieve miscarriage the way I am, but that doesn’t mean my grief isn’t worthy or valid. If I call my baby a baby, please reciprocate. I didn’t refer to my baby as “products of conception,” “embryo” or “fetus.”

12. Let me know I will survive and move forward. Right now, time seems to be standing still. I can’t imagine stepping outside and seeing how the world is still turning while my world has been crushed beneath me. I need to know I’m going to make it through this even though it will be hard.

Want this sent to your doctor? Download Miscarriage Handout for Care Providers and send yourself or complete the form below for us to mail one on your behalf.

Antidepressants for Pregnancy Loss

Antidepressants are being prescribed by obstetricians to women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. Several of my clients have left the hospital with a prescription for an antidepressant and a few have questioned why. I have been scolded for my stance on this and told that prescribing antidepressants is very productive and should be a standard of care for all women.

I realize this can be a controversial topic and by no means is this post meant to offend women who were prescribed and took an antidepressant following their miscarriage or stillbirth. Many of my clients take antidepressants and some feel better doing so. This post is meant to bring awareness to why this may not be the best idea and why prescribing antidepressants for pregnancy loss should not be a standard of care.

When talking with some of my peers, some believe that women need an antidepressant for grief, that the loss of a baby requires medication. But why? Why would an antidepressant be needed for something that is considered normal? It’s a stigma and one that needs to be broken.

Let’s talk about what an antidepressant does. Antidepressants affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. Basically, the brain chemicals may be out of balances and an antidepressant can assist with balancing those chemicals. It changes the mood in the person but grief is not a chemical imbalance. Grief is a reaction, most commonly occurring from the death of a loved one. So if grief is not a chemical imbalance, why prescribe a medication that modifies the chemicals in the brain? Grief symptoms can mimic depression but this is where the psychotherapist or psychiatrist comes in.

  1. Are antidepressants appropriate for grief alone?

    I did some research on this topic to include talking to local therapists who specialize in pregnancy loss. Antidepressants should be utilized in conjunction with psychotherapy and should only be prescribed for depressive reactions to bereavement. This article at GLOWM states, “When medications are required, there is often prior major depression, serious personality disorder, or a history of trauma rather than solely a severe reaction to perinatal loss.” 1DSM-V states that ordinary grief is not a disorder and does not require professional treatment (therapy). 2 “Furthermore, contrary to insistent cries of alarm by some, “treatment” of post-bereavement depression need not involve antidepressant medication, except in the most severe cases.” So even the DSM-V does not believe that grief alone should be treated with antidepressants. The DSM-V allows access to treatment options even with a recent loss but that does not mean everyone should be treated with therapy or antidepressants. In fact, the article at GLOWM by Leon, I., states “The majority of couples appear to adapt within two years without psychotherapy, indicating that recommending extended counseling for all couples experiencing perinatal loss is unwarranted183 and may be detrimental based on findings challenging the universal benefits of grief counseling.70, 87

  2. Should the  obstetrician prescribe antidepressants for pregnancy loss?

    The consensus among some local psychotherapists who specialize in treating patients experiencing pregnancy loss is NO. Psychiatrist should manage and monitor a patients antidepressants as they are the experts or rather, the specialty for mental health, not the obstetrician. A patient who is prescribed an antidepressant for grief alone may not be monitored appropriately and according to the articles above, patients should be receiving psychotherapy when they are taking antidepressants. This is because antidepressants alone cannot “fix” the grief or depression. Antidepressants and therapy should be used together.

So the question remains, how should grief for pregnancy loss be treated? With compassion and empathy. The grief journey is one that needs to be experienced in order to get through it. It should not be suppressed. We know that grief is normal and it is even healthy. The family enduring the grief should find a supportive and empathetic bond, free from the boundaries that society places on how long they feel the family should grieve.

There is no timeline on grief. It changes and morphs. Families will learn to live with the pain but it may never disappear; their child will never be replaced by another child and they will not forget. Friends and family can be extremely helpful on the grief journey by providing support (meals, childcare, taking care of chores, etc) and not imposing their beliefs on the family. Helping the family know what to expect is also important and this can be achieved by hiring a bereavement doula or loss doula.

Am I saying that antidepressants should never be prescribed following pregnancy loss? Absolutely not. For grief alone, the consensus is that antidepressants should not be prescribed at time of discharge. Without proper follow-up and monitoring, there is no way to know if the medication needs to be adjusted or stopped altogether. If the obstetrician believes that there is an underlying condition or mental health disorder which requires an antidepressant, the patient should be referred to a psychiatrist and begin therapy. Referral to the proper medical profession is imperative.

 

 

Erich Fromm

REFERENCES

1. Leon, I, Glob. libr. women’s med., (ISSN: 1756-2228) 2008; DOI 10.3843/GLOWM.10418

2. Pies, R.W., Bereavement and the DSM-V, One Last Time., December 11, 2012

The Miscarriage Due Date

Gus' Last UltrasoundI have been thinking about you so much lately. Right now, my belly would be ripe and we would be prepared for your arrival. Your due date is only a few days away. Joey was born a few weeks early and Timmy came on his due date so we would have either had you by now or you would be arriving any moment. It’s really hard to believe that you are gone and won’t be joining us this Christmas.

We were so excited to know you were created. God gave us your life and we are blessed for it. I carried you as long as I could, your whole intended life. You were our special creation and meant to be our last child but now that you were not meant to be born alive, we don’t know what to do. We seem a bit lost and go back and forth on whether or not we should have another child.

This is no different than the planning we went through with you and for Timmy for that matter. I know that if I were younger or my life had been different, we would have more children. In mass today, Father Ed talked about life and how we should be fruitful. I know that he wasn’t just referring to children but that is the most common definition of fruitful (be fruitful and multiply. – Genesis 1:28).

I sat between two families today who had small babies. They both had 1 year old boys and an older child. As I watched the two children within the families interact, I began to imagine you. The age difference between the children was about the different you and Timmy would have been. I would have two little ones. Two boys competing for my lap at church. I became sad.

Over the month, I had decided that another child really shouldn’t be in our future. We are approaching an age where it’s probably not fair to that child but when a mother walked down the aisle today with her newborn in her arms my heart just ached. Ached so deeply knowing that I won’t have that. I imagined holding you, carrying you in the Boba, nourishing you, sleepless nights, your crib in our room, and doing things more effectively than with Timmy.

Most of all, I would make sure we didn’t try cry-it-out with you and damage you like we did Timmy. I hurt over that and we only tried it a few times but those few times did the damage as well as keeping him in his own room when I know all he wanted was to be with us. There is so much guilt there.

But I can’t stop thinking about you and what we are missing here on earth. I know I will see you, we will see you, but it still hurts that you are not going to be here with us. We don’t get to kiss you, say hello, see your smile, or watch you grow. Instead, the last six months have been filled with “what-if’s” and “I would be’s” as we wait for your due date.

The due date that will come with nothing to show of it. The due date that seemed so far away yet is now upon us. The due date that needs to come so I can move forward; so I can know that it has come and gone and never will be again. I haven’t been stuck the last six months. I am sad every now and then but these last few days and the coming days, are filled with a deep sadness over your loss and all that we continue to lose because you died.

On Monday, December 7th, daddy and I will make the journey to your gravesite. We will release a balloon and say a prayer. We will probably leave a small toy for you but this won’t bring us what we prayed for. Visiting your grave will not bring you into our arms or make you feel my embrace. It will bring us a small feeling of peace, knowing you are with the Lord and will never experience pain, fear, or evil.

My little Augustus Jude, I love you. I love you so much and I miss you. I miss all you were going to become. I want to see you. Please come to me in my dreams. Please let me see you and know what you would have looked like. I can see Ruby but I can’t see you and I really want to .

You are my son. You are mine. ‘Till we meet…

The Monthly Miscarriage

What is The Monthly Miscarriage? Is this really such a thing? For many women, especially women struggling with infertility, it absolutely is a thing and it can be devastating. I have experienced it myself although not monthly as my cycles were not that close together but it is a horrible experience to say the least. So let’s talk about it.

The miscarriage begins. It begins with that “inkling” that there may be a baby brewing within your womb. The place where you aren’t quite sure but think you might be. We question every twinge, cramp, emotion, or feeling and try to place it as an early pregnancy symptom. Desperate to know, yet scared to confirm. All the signs could merely be the beginning of the next cycle but they also might be the beginning of the rest of your life.

For here, there is where your life changes. You may pee on a stick. You may hold your breath as the stick holds your fate. Will there be celebration or the feeling of defeat? Will there be excitement or fear? What will this little stick share with you?

So you put it off. You wait and hope for a particular outcome. Maybe delaying the test will give me another day of hope? But what if you don’t really want to be pregnant again? What if you don’t really want another baby? Yet you know you will feel utter disappointment when you pee on the stick and it reveals you are not pregnant.

Those feelings and emotions can also be very confusing. You thought you were done or could no longer have children. Maybe you were planning your family and it’s not the right time but it seems a life may be desperate to get here and you have been chosen. You have been chosen to carry this new child.

But you still haven’t confirmed it. This is where it starts. Those hopes and dreams; that possibility of your life changing. You begin to imagine. You begin to plan. “If I am pregnant, I will…” “If the test is positive, I want to…” “I will tell my husband by…” “I will share with my children when…” “I need to purchase…”

You visualize the pregnancy, your life within you, and can see this child after they are born. You wish, you hope, you pray. Then, you pee on the stick. It was time. You needed to confirm it. You could no longer hold out for what you know is coming. If you are not pregnant, it’s better to find out this way then to see the redness on the toilet paper.

The blood is a sad reminder of what isn’t going to happen. You would rather a stick tell you. So you pee on it.

You hold your breath. You wait. But you can’t not look. You watch and hope to see a line. But nothing comes. You put it in the trash and say you won’t look at it again. That all those signs and the thoughts in your head weren’t real. That the disappointment you feel is silly and shouldn’t be felt. “I don’t have the right to grieve what I never had”, you think to yourself.

But later, you return to the stick in the trash. You look. You stare. You hold it up to the light. You take pictures of it. You reverse the pictures digitally, hoping it will reveal a line. But you can’t see it. You share the picture, desperately hoping someone else will see a line, but they don’t.

You are sad. You mourn. You are angry. You grieve.

Because what you really see is “Not Pregnant.”

Negative Pregnancy Test

Then it comes. The red on the paper. The monthly miscarriage. Your devastation confirmed.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Naivety vs. Faith in Pregnancy After Loss

Photo credit: Mike Hansen

Photo credit: Mike Hansen

I had an immense amount of faith during my pregnancy with G. When G was stillborn, I lost all that faith. I couldn’t understand why this happened and more importantly, why this happened to us. We were devout Catholics. We prayed for this baby. How could God have taken this baby? So when we became pregnant after G, I struggled with my faith. I couldn’t deal with the feeling that I had no control and attempted to control what I could (within reason). When L was born, I thought my faith might return but it didn’t come back quite like I expected. Am I changed forever? A.M.

What is the difference between naivety and faith? Did A have faith or was she living in the world of naivety which nearly every pregnant woman who hasn’t experienced loss live in? I have blogged about the loss of innocence before and this post really isn’t that different except I am using different words; Faith and Naivety.

Let’s define both.

Faith – Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Naivety – Innocence or unsophistication.

actually had both faith and naivety. Her first pregnancy was full of innocence. Innocence that bad things don’t happen to babies. Babies don’t die. Faith that babies don’t die, that her trust in God will bring her a living, breathing baby. There are both aspects here but something happens when we lose a child or experience great loss. We lose the ability to channel that faith and the innocence is complete gone.

A may struggle to have complete faith again. This is not a lack of trust in God but a lack of trust/confidence that her Divine Father will provide her a living child. Her Father will provide but what will the provision be?

A will likely never enter another pregnancy naive or with that innocence that all will turn out well.

Channeling our faith with subsequent pregnancies can be difficult but we must try. If we don’t have faith in God, if we are spiritual but not religious, if we carry no spiritual beliefs at all, then have have faith in the child within your womb. They are there, present in this moment and we must carry some faith in that living being will continue to grow and be born alive.

Faith does not equal control, nor does faith equal religion/spirituality. Even though faith is most often associated with religion/spirituality, please don’t think that this post could not relate to you or your experiences. It is a belief, a trust, and faith that we will have a living child following our pregnancy.

But let’s return to A for a moment. To answer her question, she is likely changed forever. Most of us who are touched by pregnancy loss are changed forever in much the same way people are changed after losing a child of any age. We look back, we worry, we wonder, we protect, we question, we are cautious.

I experienced something similar as A. I became extremely faithful during my pregnancy with Ruby. Because I felt like I would lose Ruby at any moment, I thought that prayer could save her. I somehow believed that a lack of prayer could result in her being taken from me so I prayed more than I ever had in my life. It was my “control” and if I didn’t pray enough or the right way or even the right prayers, I was not worthy and my baby would be taken.

So when Ruby passed, I was not only devastated but found myself feeling unworthy of God’s love. I prayed, but he took her anyway. I was not “good” enough. I was His daughter who didn’t try hard enough. I wasn’t faithful enough to Him so He would allow her to stay with me and be born alive.

But that’s not what faith is about. Even if we remove the religious/spiritual aspect of faith, merely having it, does not mean that what we believe in, hope for, trust in, will happen. Does that mean we should no longer have faith? No, but it’s definitely more difficult to have faith when faith had been crushed in the past.

So how do we gain that faith back when we journeying through pregnancy after loss? How do we love again? How do we have hope again. Ah, those words.

Photo Credit: Flickr (Andreanna Moya Photographer)

Photo Credit: Flickr (Andreanna Moya Photographer)

We start small. We have to come to an understanding that we don’t have control over much of our pregnancy and how our baby develops. We embrace the things we do have control over (choosing a doctor, choosing a place for delivery, choosing a way to monitor our baby, choosing how many ultrasounds, choosing which diagnostic testing), and we bond anyway. That bonding is oh so very hard but we must try to bond anyway.

It will not hurt less if we don’t bond for we are already bonded. It’s hard to lower that wall of vulnerability, of opening our heart to such hurt if our baby dies anyway but we must try. We must try to show our baby, this new baby, all our love no matter how scared we are and how hurt we are.

I know it’s easier said than done. I have been there. I walked that journey and lost another. But I left that loss journey with better coping and more love for my child than I could have ever imagined. One of the ways I encouraged bonding was I committed to writing a note to my baby every day. I wrote whatever came to mind. I didn’t think too much about it.

I decided I would write the note to my baby on a white erase board. I then took a picture of the note on the board which ended up being our son’s memory book. This is an easy project but you must commit to it. This made me think each day about my baby and what I would want to share with them. It was perfect and if I were ever to become pregnant again, I would do this again.

There are other ways to bond, such as taking a bath, listening to music, taking a walk, getting a massage, etc but when you do these things you commit to thinking about your baby, talking to your baby (even if only in your head), sending vibes/energy to your baby, positive thoughts, etc. It’s not easy and the first few times might feel awkward and forced. This is okay. Just keep trying.

You may not ever feel normal again during pregnancy after a loss. You may not ever return to the innocence that you made it to a “safe zone” and you will bring home a living baby. You may not ever fully have the faith and trust in the pregnancy process but have faith in your child. Have faith that the child within your womb is yours and is meant to be there no matter how long or short that time is. You were chosen to carry your child. That is honorable.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Exclusively Pumping Breastmilk – Weaning

Exclusively Pumping MilkYou have sat at my table for almost 27 months. You have been a part of my daily routine since my son was born. There were times I hated you, times I loved you, times I cried over you, times I needed you, times I resented you and I will never forget the time when I wanted to throw you out my window and crush you to pieces. We have been across the United States together, visited some amazing places together, traveled in our camper together, used on highways, in hospitals, other peoples homes, and on the back roads. We have spent over 576 hours together.

But here we are, nearly 27 months later and I am so sad that our relationship is coming to an end. I certainly never thought we would be together this long. 13 months maybe, since that’s how long of a relationship I had last time but 27 months seems like forever. I almost hate to say goodbye, really, even though I hated you for many months. I don’t love you, but I love what you help me provide.

I have provided 265 gallons of milk to my son and at least 25 other babies and 1 man, other than my husband (yeah, we can talk about that some other time if you want). It is magical when I think about it, all we have done together but the end is near and I am struggling.

Over the last week, I have gradually shortened my pumping time. I have only been pumping twice a day for about 15 minutes for around 18 months so I dropped to 10 minutes. I saw a dip in supply the first day but then it seemed my breasts caught on and pushed out the milk fast. I can still hear the spray on the inside of the flanges. Fsshh, fsshh, fsshh.

I became discouraged when the milk wouldn’t stop flowing. So I dropped the pumping time to 5 minutes and was sure I stopped mid flow. I woke this morning with a sore spot in one of my breasts but continued to stick with the short pumping time and then it happened tonight. 4 oz.

That’s all I got, even with the breast massage. No strong flow. Only dribbles. The end of my exclusively pumping journey is near.

My heart hurts. I am screaming inside to get this milk flowing again; to see the sea of golden liquid pouring from my motherly, yet intimate parts. But I know, the end is near.

The end must be near. Logically, it’s been almost 27 months, well past the American recommended age of providing breastmilk for one year. I have endured criticism from medical professionals, family and friends for continuing to provide the milk to my son. “You know, there is no medical benefit,” they say. “If you were breastfeeding, that would be really gross at this age,” they say. “You know, he is only doing that for comfort,” they say when hearing he gets breastmilk and not understanding it’s from a bottle.

Thanks for your opinion, but I know what’s best. I certainly don’t enjoy being tied to the pump. 

More logic, my pump parts will need to be replaced and I can save money by weaning, my hands free bra is so worn it’s no longer considered hands free, I seriously would like a large portion of my counter back, and finally, I am sooooo tired of washing parts and bottles.

So the end is near. I am actually at a place where turning around and trying again might bring heartache because the milk may not increase at this point. But I do worry about a few things.

Will my son sleep without the milk? Will my fertility remain? Logically, I shouldn’t be that fertile while pumping but I often wonder if this was part of my fertility renewal and I worry my fertility will dwindle even as I struggle with the decisions that come with the fertility.

So here we are, you and me. What do we do? Is it really time to say goodbye?

I was hoping I would have some special words. Words of wisdom or just a parting statement, but I don’t. You got me where I am today and I nourished my son for 27 months because of you. I was able to enjoy the looks of satiety as he drank my milk from the bottle, rejecting anything else we put in it, only accepting the fresh milk and not the frozen. I was able to see him grow and develop because of this special nourishment. I can still envision him drinking that liquid gold and enjoying it.

“I want milk mama,” is what he says now. “No sweetheart, there is no more milk,” I reply. He begins to cry, “I want milk mama! “I know, no more milk, would you like a pacifier?” I reply. He begins to wriggle and kick a bit, unable to truly comprehend what this means. No milk for now or for all time? He pushes me more, “I want milk mama!” The longing in his eyes digs deep within my soul, reaching inside to force an expression that I cannot provide.

“No milk,” I say and I begin to shush him and rock. I rock as he cries for the milk. I cry too. Because as much as I want to stop, I want to keep going. He starts to settle a bit but the wrinkles of distaste remain on his face…until sleep finds him and he becomes weightless.

STATISTICS

32,083 ounces of milk over 27 months. Roughly 250.6 gallons of breastmilk provided. I pumped for 34,568 minutes or 24 days straight.

Breastmilk Pumping Chart

The Urge

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

WARNING: SEXUALLY PERSONAL (TMI)

There is this intense urge that I experience every few months. Most women experience this urge once a month but as stated in previous posts, I do not have regular cycles. No one told me I would experience this. It’s not something I have read about in books either and of course, having no biological direction on fertility as a child, I never heard of this phenomenon back then. Everything that I have read talks about a subconscious desire or discusses a drop in oestrogen that leads to testosterone becoming the prominent hormone but I can tell you that what I feel, is NOT subconscious. Hormonal, maybe; subconscious no.

So what gives women an overwhelming urge to get pregnant while ovulating?

This could be considered a survival mechanism. I read a few websites that talk about how this is purely biological in nature in order for the species to survive. Other websites discuss how the cervical changes and fluids make a woman’s libido go into hyperdrive, but what I am experiencing doesn’t really fit into some of these categories.

My “drive” isn’t really sexual in nature. I don’t desire to be with my husband. It’s not about being “horny.” This is deep. This is purely, “I need your seed.” Maybe that seed turns into something? Maybe it doesn’t? But my body is SCREAMING and it only gets louder as we approach the big O day! The O is ovulation by the way!

So what do we do? We just buried Gus. I wasn’t even sure my fertility would return and as awesome as it is to know it’s still there, I secretly hoped it would not return because I am again faced with the “should we or shouldn’t we” question. So here we are…with the NFP challenge before us. This is what separates the practicing Catholics from the non-practicing.

It would be super easy for hubby to slip on a condom or for me to pop a pill. It would even be easier for me to alter my fertility through the use of an IUD or a surgical procedure but there is no way we could do it. The one time we used a condom was just awful emotionally. We both felt horrible and as if we “used” each other purely for pleasure.

Sure, sex is awesome but that’s not all that sex is about. It’s not merely for enjoyment much to society’s belief. And I am a Catholic which I know isn’t popular so I truly believe that sex is way more than enjoyment.

I am learning to embrace my fertility. I am learning to embrace something I have never experienced before. I am working my way through these challenges through faith and prayer. 22 years of infertility and I know my body well. I know when my body ovulates and that is freakin’ awesome but this urge. The urge that is SURGING throughout my body, through my arms, through my legs, through my head and into my heart is telling me…PROCREATE!

But I know, that in two days, when ovulation has passed, I will feel happy. I will be thankful that pregnancy and another baby is not a possibility. At least, not right now. This is my test right now. This is my test to see if I truly want another child or if this is merely a physiological process and God’s divine plan for our bodies.

Can hubby and I keep our hands off each other?

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