Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Category: pregnancy after miscarriage (page 1 of 3)

Use of a Fetal Doppler in Pregnancy

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions regarding this information and opinion on the use of a fetal Doppler in pregnancy.

I want to address this fear-mongering article from Bustle. In the article, This New Pregnancy Trend Among Millennial Women Could Seriously Harm Unborn Babies, the author makes some “serious” claims. First, I want to pick apart the title. “New Pregnancy Trend,” “Millennial Women,” “Seriously Harm Unborn Babies.”

This is not a new pregnancy trend. Unless “in the last 15 years” is considered a new trend. When I was pregnant with my now 14-year old, home monitoring devices were around. Back then, it wasn’t easy to find a fetal Doppler to use at home, but I had a home monitoring device called Bebe Sounds Prenatal Listener. I could listen to my baby’s heart, record it, and also play music to my baby. It came with headphones and an adapter for my mp3 player or Walkman. We have really come a long way in the last 15 years!

I remember thinking it was odd that no gel was needed to hear my baby’s heartbeat but once I was far enough along, I could certainly hear him in there moving and the little thump of his heart. It probably was far into my third trimester before we could hear anything. Fast forward 10 years.

I had experienced one miscarriage before I became pregnant in 2013. I knew how easy it was to rent a home fetal Doppler and I wanted one. I didn’t want to rent one so I bought one on eBay ;the Sonoline B. Guess what, Walmart now sells them and they are cheaper than the one I bought on eBay five years ago.

This is hardly a “new pregnancy trend.”

The next claim in the title is that this is by millennial women. I am NOT a millennial and many pregnant women in my age group (35-45) are not millennial either and they use fetal Dopplers. In fact, many of my millennial friends would never and have not used a fetal Doppler. I dislike the authors use of a generation.

Just plainly say “women.” Does this mean that only millennial women are so ignorant they could not figure out how to use a fetal Doppler?

And finally, the author’s fear-mongering statement, “Seriously Harm Unborn Babies.” Wow! That’s a catchy title and unfortunately, it’s click-bait. In the article, there wasn’t a single bit of information proving that using a fetal Doppler causes “serious” harm. Yes. I purposely removed the word, “Could” from my picking apart because I guess ANYTHING “could” cause harm. This article was meant to scare women from using the fetal Doppler.

This Pop Sugar article calls it a new “fun” trend, so not fear-mongering. It’s also almost a cut and paste of the Bustle article.  For me, it certainly wasn’t fun although there may be women who use a fetal Doppler for “fun.”

Do I recommend women use a fetal Doppler in pregnancy?          NO

Why? I don’t think every woman needs or should have one.

But to scare women from using one is a disservice. Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of Kicks Count UK, even has a petition to ban the private sale of Dopplers. I love Kicks Count and I utilize their brochures, cards, and documentation in my childbirth classes. It’s important to assess your baby’s fetal movements and this can be a very bonding experience for the parents. I don’t agree with banning a tool, where if a mother is trained properly, she has a tool which can help her immensely.

Let’s talk about training, because in the article This New Pregnancy Trend Among Millennial Women Could Seriously Harm Unborn Babiesthe author claims that women are untrained and speculates that no woman can or should be trained. Instead, the article warns women not to use this tool because it can cause stress which is harmful for a baby (due to not finding a heartbeat) and it can cause reassurance when there is actually something wrong (because the mere finding of a heartbeat does not signify health of baby).

If the author is mistakenly referring to ultrasound Doppler or even fetal heart monitoring on a strip, then yes, there is more training that takes place, but not years of training as the article states: “Midwives and doctors train for many years to interpret what they hear through a doppler.” I took a weekend class on reading and assessing fetal heart tones as a labor doula.

If stress is going to be cited as harmful for the mother and baby, raised blood pressure for mother and premature birth (which is a stretch to say the least), what about the mother who has chronic anxiety in her pregnancy because she is a loss mother and is in a constant state of worry over the health of her baby?

If a mother couldn’t find the heartbeat on her home fetal Doppler, she would have acute stress and need to see her OBGYN or midwife for reassurance (this is a good thing). Once the mother receives reassurance that the baby is okay, her stress would diminish. Many pregnancy after a loss mothers are under chronic stress. Chronic stress would more likely lead to raised blood pressure and potentially, prematurity. If a woman had a tool which could potentially reduce that chronic stress, wouldn’t we want that available to her? Now you are saying that doctors should then prescribe a home fetal Doppler. I will agree with you there.

The final concern is that a mother may “think” she hears the heartbeat when it’s actually placental flow, her own heartbeat, or hears the fetal heartbeat but there could still be something wrong and she is reassured when she shouldn’t be. This is the biggest concern for me and I have experienced this first-hand (although my baby was fine).

This is where a little bit of training would be beneficial on the use of home fetal Dopplers. In addition, doctors and midwives who know their patients are using them, should have serious discussion about fetal Doppler use and when to be seen. I can’t tell you how many times I was told, “If you feel like there is something wrong, or your baby has reduced movements, come in.” Let’s not forget that there are plenty of You Tube videos out there to show women how to use a fetal Doppler.

I would have been in the doctors office every day, all day. 

It’s really not feasible or realistic for women enduring pregnancy after a loss. And with my insurance, after hours requires a visit to the ER as no urgent care is available for pregnancy so once 5-o’clock hits, it’s ER time or suck it up until morning (which can be fatal for a baby).

How about training women how to use the fetal Doppler. I know I have said this before. Instead of avoiding the conversation because you don’t want the mother to use the fetal Doppler and if you talk about it you will encourage her, have that difficult conversation and help her to know when something isn’t right and she needs to seek care.

It didn’t take much training for me to learn what I was hearing; my baby’s heartbeat (fast or about 130 beats per minute in my last pregnancy and 165 in my second living pregnancy), placenta (more of a whooshy sound with heartbeat), and what was my heartbeat (much slower or around 60 beats per minute). I was always sure I heard the heartbeat but just because I heard it, didn’t mean everything was okay.

We can teach women that just because they hear the heartbeat doesn’t mean everything is okay and that they should also seek care if there is a concern such as reduced fetal movement or their intuition tells them there is something wrong. I surveyed labor and delivery nurses, who work in different parts of the country, on how much training they received on the use of the fetal Doppler. It ranged from “on-the-job” training to “I don’t remember being trained in nursing school,” and “we had training in nursing school and on rotation.” Nurses did have a competency to complete each year while on labor and delivery.

The article implies that women are not trainable, nor should be trained on how to distinguish their baby’s heartbeat from their own or the placenta. I disagree and believe that fetal Doppler’s can be a very effective tool at lowering chronic stress in pregnancy after a loss or in any woman who is experiencing chronic stress in pregnancy related to the unknown of the health of their baby. Women should be directed to visit their care providers with questions on fetal health, with reduced movements (COUNT THOSE KICKS!) and if their intuition tells them something is wrong.

If we can combine the use of a fetal Doppler with the instructions women are already given in pregnancy on when to see their care provider, the use of a fetal Doppler can be helpful for the woman.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions regarding this information and/or concerns about your baby’s health.

Miscarriage and the Flu Vaccine

Several mainstream news sources, to include USA Today, have recently posted articles on miscarriage and the influenza vaccination. Newly pregnant mothers want to know, is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy? The flu vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women and women are told there is little to no risk in receiving the vaccination during their pregnancy. Yet many vaccinations haven’t been tested in pregnant women. 1 in 4 miscarriage

So let’s talk about it. This is the recently published study by the CDC that shows an increased risk of miscarriage after receiving the influenza vaccination containing pH1N1. The 2017-2018 influenza vaccination looks to have this virus in it. Here are the three viruses for this season:

  • an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
  • an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

The risk of miscarriage was only looked at for the 1 – 28 days following the vaccine and the woman had to have received a prior influenza vaccine which contained pH1N1 as well. The 2016-2017 influenza vaccine contained A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (I am only listing H1N1).  While the study authors stated that it cannot establish a causal relationship, the association of receiving the flu vaccine during pregnancy and having a miscarriage (SAB) was significant.

What we do know is that pregnant women ARE at a higher risk of contracting illnesses during pregnancy and the flu is one of those illnesses. I used to receive the flu vaccine but as I have aged, I have become allergic to the ingredients in many vaccines. Even if I weren’t allergic, I personally would not receive the flu vaccination, or any vaccination for that matter, during pregnancy. I was pregnant this year and in February, I contracted Influenza B. Not a single person in my family was sick or became sick. I was miserable and I did what I could to protect my baby.

I am not certain where I contracted Influenza B but I do work in a hospital so maybe that’s where I picked it up. My symptoms did not present normally. I did not have a fever at all but I felt very sick, headache, muscle aches, heart palpitations, and I felt like I was struggling to breathe. I put off visiting the ER, mostly because my husband did not want to take me in the middle of the night. In addition, we knew the visit would be costly and that is always a consideration.

It was not easy waiting through the night not to be seen. I couldn’t sleep and honestly, I wanted to be put out of my misery.  Instead of going to the ER, I asked for a walk-in appointment the following morning. When I arrived at the clinic, the doctor was upset I was there and not in the ER. While my oxygenation was fine, I was clearly struggling to breathe. Their concern was that I had been breathing rapidly (over 33 respiration’s per minute) for more than 12 hours and my body would give out and I would “crash.” That was their nice way of saying, die.

I felt absolutely awful but I wanted to avoid the ER so I asked for any testing or procedures they could do in the office. They said they couldn’t test for the flu in their clinic and I would have to go to the ER for that, but they would give me a nebulizer treatment and see if that helped. I did not want to take any medication during my pregnancy but I needed some relief. I was convinced to take the treatment in hopes that it would help and I would avoid the ER.

It did nothing, so we were sent to the ER. I again received an ineffective breathing treatment and was sent home. I was told my blood labs were normal and that my influenza test hadn’t come back but they would call if it was positive. They had no explanation for my illness, other than I must have a bad cold (even though I wasn’t congested at all) and because I was “old” and pregnant, I was responding harshly to the virus. I later learned that my labs were not “normal” but the doctors didn’t believe my labs were indicative of anything.

During the 15 minute drive home, the doctor called my husband to confirm that I had Influenza B. I was surprised they didn’t admit me as my respirations were still horrible but they sent me home with Tamiflu. I hesitated to take the medication. There are no studies of the use of this drug in pregnant women but I needed relief. In addition, I had been symptomatic beyond the 48 hour window for the effectiveness of this drug.

I conducted a little research before consuming the drug. I had immense anxiety over this. I was well into my second trimester and  was passed the gestation where the defects could occur. There were three babies whose mothers had taken the drug who had defects (although some babies were aborted but according to the study, this was not statistically significant). 24 hours after taking Tamiflu, I began to feel relief. By 72 hours after Tamiflu, I was feeling well although exhausted.

I worried throughout my pregnancy that I somehow hurt my baby from the Tamiflu. Only time would tell and a future ultrasound did not show any defects with her heart. Once she was born “normal” I felt okay about taking Tamiflu although it’s still possible she could have been affected but we won’t know until later in her life. So far, all is well with her.

Despite the CDC study, women are still urged to get the flu shot in pregnancy. Why? The reasons cited are to reduce hospitalizations due to complications from the flu, morbidity and mortality, and to pass on antibodies to the unborn baby. This study shows that the influenza vaccine in pregnancy is 91.5% effective in preventing hospitalization of the infant in the first six months of their life (this does not say the infant does not contract influenza). I am sure my daughter has antibodies for Influenza B since I had it.

So what should a pregnant woman do? There is clearly a relationship between miscarriage and having received the influenza vaccination so it would be up to the woman to assume the risk. Do the research, make the decision. I don’t ever recommend just listening to a doctor. I want to be very clear in what I am saying; the doctors recommendation IS important; however, it should not be the only deciding factor. If a woman receives the vaccination and then miscarries, how would she feel knowing that ?

I know I would never forgive myself so I choose not to receive vaccinations during pregnancy and most especially during the first trimester. Only you can decide if it’s right for you. As someone who has experienced miscarriage twice, I worry so much during subsequent pregnancies about losing the baby and anything I can do to reduce that anxiety is helpful. Once the baby is born, I know there are many things I can do to help keep the baby healthy and I follow all those precautions and recommendations during such a fragile time.

Making the decision to receive or not receive the flu vaccine is difficult. There seems to be good research out there to help make an informed decision, although much of it is irrelevant if the baby does not make it to term if the flu vaccine causes miscarriage.

My Unexpected Pregnancy

When I received the positive pregnancy test, I wasn’t met with feelings of excitement and joy; rather, I experienced intense fear and anxiety. I had just been to my priest to confess that I had been having thoughts about abortion if I were to become pregnant again. Shocking, I know. If you know me, you will also be very shocked to see me write that. I am a devout Catholic yet there I was, contemplating abortion if I were to ever become pregnant again. I didn’t feel like I could handle another child.

Here’s why.

I was already extremely irritable and distant with my kids. I already felt run down to the max trying to care for them and to be there for them. I already felt extreme exhaustion trying to manage my household and enjoy my marriage and children. I had experienced suicidal thoughts and intrusive thoughts after I had my last baby. I did not want to suffer through baby blues and postpartum depression ever again. And I had just finally started to feel “normal” again after having lost a child the year before.

There were other concerns as well. My age was one. Being over 40 at the time was a huge concern and worrying about issues, disorders, and conditions with the baby and the risks of an older woman being pregnant, were among them. There was not much I would have control over either. I also wanted to retire at some point with my husband and have an empty home. Having another child would render that nearly impossible, especially if the child were to have special needs.

Much of my thoughts seemed to be selfish. I certainly wanted to be alive for my living children and a pregnancy at my age could cause my demise but most of my concerns were selfish. This was a motivating factor in seeing my priest. I just couldn’t handle another pregnancy so if I were to become pregnant, I told him I was considering abortion. I wasn’t pregnant at the time I confessed this. I had only gone in because my husband and I had not been careful the month before and I was actually relieved that I did not become pregnant. I was panicking though, because I knew that we would make another “mistake” in practicing natural family planning and we might not be so lucky the next cycle.

You see, we don’t use any form of contraception. We have been tracking my cycles for 19 years. For 18 of those years, we were trying to become pregnant. We finally became pregnant for the first time after seven years of marriage. I was mostly infertile for those 20 years of marriage but we always joked that God would somehow make me fertile in my 40’s. Apparently, we were correct.

As I got older, I became more fertile and this became a challenge later. Since every cycle was purely another attempt at conceiving, we found ourselves in a precarious situation when we all of a sudden needed to avoid sex during the most fertile time. I will say that it is an extreme challenge and we felt shameful that we had never mastered this. After all, we were in our 40’s so we should have this mastered. In our 18 years of marriage (at the time), we had only used a condom once and that was a horrible experience.

Having always given our full selves to each other, using a barrier made us feel sick and used. Instead of feeling close to each other, we felt like we were selfish and used each other as a pleasure toy. This did not go over well in our relationship but since both of us felt the same way, it was something we vowed we would never do again. We would have to master avoiding each other during our most fertile time.

After my confession, I left feeling empty. I did not feel good like I normally did. I felt like something was missing and I remember walking through the parking lot thinking to myself, “That was pointless.” I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe I wanted him to tell me no? Maybe I wanted him to tell me some amazing story about how I will be converted to being open to life again? All I remember him saying was that women my age struggle with this and I wasn’t alone. That didn’t seem helpful at all.

As the next few days progressed, my fertile time came. It was impossible to avoid. We were like teenagers who could not hold ourselves back. It doesn’t help that we are intrinsically designed to desire each other during the fertile time and that it is the time where it is the most pleasurable. God wasn’t dumb in making this so.

I prayed that I would not conceive. I worried that I would and prayed hard that I wouldn’t. As the days progressed though, I went through times of panic about having to choose abortion and times of openness to life and feeling like I could do it if I were pregnant. By the time the pregnancy test was positive, I had experienced a conversion. I was at peace with being open to life despite being extremely scared and anxious that I had found myself in this position.

I messaged my sister right away and told her I was pregnant but that I couldn’t do this. I didn’t feel like I could but I knew I couldn’t kill the new life inside me. I tried to justify it though, thinking that I was only 3 weeks 4 days pregnant and it’s not really anything but a ball of cells. I thought about not taking vitamins, drinking alcohol, not taking progesterone supplements, and other things that could potentially be harmful but I knew I was only hurting myself and of course, not providing for the baby inside me.

I struggled. It was hard. I didn’t think I could love the baby inside me. I was concerned with loss and how I would manage another loss. I thought a lot about and planned this child’s funeral. I had plan, after plan, after plan as my pregnancy progressed. If the baby dies at this gestation, I will do (blank) and have (blank), and ask for (blank) and plan for (blank). It was a constant planning for the death of this baby.

I talked with my sister numerous times about how I didn’t think I could do this but somehow I was doing it. I never really thought past going to the hospital. This brought on some anxiety about if I would love my daughter, how I would fit her into our life, and I was extremely scared about baby blues and postpartum depression.

I wished she would just die inside me in the first trimester. I knew how to plan for that. I knew how to manage it and I knew how to grieve that loss. Morning sickness was horrible and I blamed her for it. I almost hated her for it but then I took solace in it because being sick likely meant she was healthy and growing. It was such a roller coaster. Yes, there were times I was excited. The kids really made me happy because they were excited. They were overjoyed and hubby was ecstatic about another baby. When we discovered the baby was a girl, he was over the moon and just wanted her out so he could be her daddy.

Those were the times that really helped me to feel better about the journey we were on. My pregnancy was so hard. I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t even walk. I was pretty much bound to my couch and even my couch hurt. I sat in the chair in my room more than anything because it was one of the only places where my pubic bone didn’t hurt. I blamed her for that too. I am surprised she lived but I knew she was strong. Because she was strong, I needed to be strong.

I made plans with several care providers to help reduce the baby blues and depression but I didn’t know if they would work. I had back up plans for back up plans. But as I worried about these things, I didn’t think I would be taking a living baby home. My prayers began to change because as she grew, I wanted her to be born alive. “God, please let me bring this baby home alive.” The plans for combating the depression really helped and we worked with a doula to help with my concerns about labor.

We also came up with postpartum plans and hired a postpartum doula. These were imperative to helping reduce baby blues and postpartum depression. Hubby knew I would need daily naps and he was prepared to do what was needed to keep me mentally sound. If he wasn’t so supportive, I don’t know where I would be headed.

When I labored with her, I didn’t think I would actually see her alive. Her heart was beating like crazy but I still felt like apathy towards the whole situation. I questioned why my induction wasn’t working and felt like my emotional state and how I felt about this baby was blocking my induction from working. I literally would have contractions for an hour and then they would fizzle away. Pitocin would be turned up. I would contract for an hour and they would again fizzle. Up the Pitocin, repeat. Up the Pitocin and repeat.

I wasn’t even in labor with the Pitocin. I would contract but they weren’t that bad and if I did have any contractions that were remotely uncomfortable, they didn’t last. Labor was enjoyable and we had a grand old time. Once things picked up, I literally had her within 35 minutes.

Somehow, the moment she was born and I placed her on my chest, everything was perfect and right. Yes, I placed her on my chest. My husband caught her, the doctor untangled the cord, and she was passed to me where I set her on my chest and instantly, all was right with my world. ALL was right in my life. I was at complete peace and there were no worries about her, about me, about anything. For some reason, I felt like I could handle it all now. I would have to but I wasn’t feeling pressured or like I was being forced. This was my calling. I was now the mother to a daughter. A daughter so strong and fierce she could withstand my power. A daughter whom I know, will change me.

She already has.

I’m back!

My blog has been quiet for months. I apologize for that and will try to get it back on track. Several things have been keeping me from writing. First, I have a writer’s block. I have it very badly. Ever since I unexpectedly became pregnant last year, my mind has been blocked and was overly focused on growing a person. Now my mind seems to be blocked and overly focused on raising that little person. I am certain less sleep is also contributing to the slow down in writing.

Second, I had to step away from loss work during the pregnancy. I stepped farther away during this pregnancy than the last pregnancy. Part of it was just the pure sensitivity of the issue but the other part was I did not have the energy. My body was literally so focused on growing the baby I had no energy. Being three months postpartum, the energy is slowly returning.

The third reason, is that the pregnancy was extremely hard. It wasn’t just hard physically, it was hard emotionally. I don’t think I truly believed I would be bringing a baby home. I was pregnant in my 40’s and the risks were so much higher. My body fought the pregnancy. I was very sick in the beginning but the pregnancy was also very unexpected. All of my previous pregnancies had been planned. This pregnancy came out of nowhere.

I have never experienced an unplanned pregnancy and I did not expect to carry some of the feelings I was having. I won’t go into detail on those feelings in this post but I will say that the genuine excitement many women have during pregnancy was not there. When I was nauseated and couldn’t eat, I blamed the baby. She was so strong to put up with all the thoughts and feelings I was having. She grew despite the feelings and I am glad and so blessed that she continued to grow.

This was my third pregnancy after a loss. I have five children but only three are here with me on earth. No matter how many pregnancies you have, I think that pregnancy after a loss is still very difficult. The worries and concerns are still there. I know that with this pregnancy, I felt “right” from the very beginning. I felt like she was “protected.” Maybe that was because of all the details that surrounded her conception (I will write about that later) or maybe I was naïve but I only felt anxious and nervous a few times during the pregnancy, instead of the entire pregnancy.

The times I worried, made sense. I also purposefully postponed some ultrasounds because they almost always made me anxious so postponing them during this pregnancy really helped to reduce that anxiety. I had two in the first trimester instead of one every week and I only had two because during the first one, while a positive ultrasound, the baby was measuring a whole week behind. I had a brief thought that this was similar to Gus’s pregnancy so I thought the baby would also die but she obviously didn’t.

The 20 week ultrasound was fine although I kept having thoughts that something was wrong with her heart. There wasn’t anything to base that on, other than I had a client during that time who terminated because of a heart condition with their baby and then several posts on Facebook showed people who had babies with heart conditions. This was a big factor in me stepping away from loss work while I was pregnant, more so than I had in past pregnancies. Those were the only times I really felt anxious or nervous about the baby. Oh, except this one time where the baby wasn’t moving.

I wanted her to be born at 37 weeks to prevent stillbirth. That was something that made me anxious and nervous, but not the pregnancy. I just wanted her out. I wanted her safe in my arms where I felt like I had more “control” over her surviving. It’s silly to think that I have more control. I don’t have any control, but getting her out was important.

Induction scared me too but that’s only because of my work and the stories that people tell. Ultimately, my doctor would not schedule an induction earlier than 39 weeks. I was scheduled for induction at 39 weeks merely because I am advanced maternal age but even my doctor didn’t rush that. She was open to me waiting even longer. I couldn’t. I needed her out as soon as I could get her out. Knowing that they wouldn’t schedule an earlier induction, prompted me to have my due date adjusted.

At the first ultrasound, the baby measured a week behind but I knew my dates. I knew when she was conceived. I had charts showing this so even if she was a week behind, technically, I should be correct. All babies gestate at a different rate and implantation can certainly affect the gestation and growth but I wanted my due date to reflect the conception period. After much debate and several conversations with my doctor and the maternal fetal medicine specialist, I was allowed to change my due date. I was given two options, one based on last menstrual period, and the other number was in between.

As much as I wanted to take the earlier date, I knew that I ovulated a week later than the average woman so I went with the date in between. Although my entire pregnancy I felt she would be born on May 25th, my induction was scheduled for May 22nd. She wasn’t born on either of those dates.

I will share my labor story later as well. It’s a pretty amazing one and I loved every minute of my induction. Yes, I just said I LOVED my induction. Inductions can be horrific or they can be great. Just keep an open mind (which is what I focused on most).

As I progess over the next months as a mother to three living children, I will write more and share more about my pregnancy and birth of my first living girl. It’s been a ride for sure and one thing I really want to address is the difference in pregnancies from becoming pregnant after trying to be pregnant to becoming pregnant when you didn’t want to be pregnant; an unexpected pregnancy. I had no idea there was a difference in feelings and I was shocked at the thoughts I had. I have a newfound respect for women who have had unintended/unexpected/surprise/oops pregnancies.

For now, keep checking back! I have other posts written that I haven’t shared but I wanted to get this out there in case you forgot about me. I haven’t forgotten about you!

Pregnancy After Loss – Bargaining

Day 1 - miscarriageWhen you pee on that stick and see the positive, you are elated…usually. Even in pregnancy after loss, there are moments of excitement which appear immediately upon seeing the positive test but it isn’t usually long until the worry and anxiety sets in. It’s almost as if entering pregnancy after loss means restarting the stages of grief.

Bargaining!

We will do whatever we can to ensure this baby will come home. That includes delivering early either by c-section or induction. I’ve been there, begging my OB to induce just so I could bring my baby home alive.

Hiring a doula – Some women will hire a doula immediately after peeing on the stick…as if to say, “there, now the baby HAS to come home alive with me because I hired a doula.” We know this isn’t true, but absolutely feels like this can be a sure way to ensure a living baby at the end.

Testing – Some women have as much testing as possible and others refuse all testing.

Ultrasounds – Extra ultrasounds, one each week or more is another way to “bargain.” If I see the baby more often, I might be able to pick up on something that is wrong earlier and hopefully correct it.

Creams – Progesterone creams or other hormonal treatments can be another way women bargain with the universe to keep their baby.

Herbs – Special herbal remedies were definitely something I explored. I remember trying False Unicorn Root during my pregnancy with Ruby. I just KNEW I would get to keep her because I was taking it. She died only a few weeks after starting it.

Prayer – If I pray more, go to adoration more, attend church more, etc…God will give me this baby.

Heck, I would have hired a drummer to come into my home and drum on a daily basis if that would have guaranteed I would bring my baby home. But we know, nothing can guarantee that.

Sometimes it’s about rituals; appointments at the same time and on the same day of the week.  Or still others have avoidance rituals:

Never returning to the same doctor/hospital/clinic.

Not purchasing anything for the baby until they are here.

Not announcing the pregnancy until very late in pregnancy or not at all.

These are all forms of bargaining. It’s a way for us to feel a sense of control. We desperately need to feel in control. We need to feel that we can do something, anything to bring home a living baby because the opposite of that is so extremely painful we feel we won’t survive again. Another loss feels as if we would surely die.

I think deep down we know that it’s still out of our control but we really need to feel a sense of control so we do things. Things that can confuse others and sometimes even ourselves. It’s not wrong to do these things. Some of them may help but at the very least, they help us feel better and as long as we are not putting ourselves or our babies at risk, then why not?

How Far Along Are You?

early pregnancy testWhen a woman discovers she is pregnant, the inevitable question is immediately asked.

How far along are you?

I will say that we had known for weeks before we shared with a few select people and waited even longer to share with the rest of our close friends and family. Some, were kept in the dark longer. I really enjoyed keeping the secret and once it was out, it was a bit disappointing. The pressure also began. The pressure to be farther along than I was so that this baby would matter if this baby died.

The constant question “how are you feeling?” by the people who knew brought on the anxiety but the question, “how far along are you?,” would stop me in my tracks. I had to think about it for too long. Sometimes adding days or weeks to the gestation, just so the baby would mean something to the person asking.

It’s an innocent seeming question but for someone experiencing pregnancy after a loss, this is a loaded question. In all honesty, it feels judgmental.

How far along are you means, I want to know if you are “really” pregnant.

I assure you, there was a second line on the test, I am pregnant.

How far along are you means, I want to know if you are far enough to in the safe zone.

There is no safe zone.

How far along are you means, is the pregnancy far enough to be a considered a baby yet?

It was a baby from the moment of conception (for me anyway).

How far along are you means, you are trying to legitimize my feelings of grief should this baby die too.

My grief is legitimate no matter how far along I am.

How far along are you mean,s that the farther along I am, the bigger the baby, the more worth the baby has.

My baby has worth no matter how small or early he/she is.

As I get bigger, how far along are you, takes on a different meaning.

I am closer to delivery yet still not quite there. Will I make it with the baby alive?

I know the question, how far along are you, seems innocent. It seems like an inquiry and a supportive question but it’s not. It’s loaded, it’s dangerous.

Because if I lost the baby, I will have lost everything I have already dreamed of with her. Yes, her, because I imagined the baby to be a girl. So I have already seen pink and purple, flowers and butterflies, protective big brothers, dancing and singing, a love of reading, nurturing of a girl, bringing out my girly side, dresses for her baptism, communion and wedding. And, I have even imagined her children. Oh and yes…her name.

Call me naïve, stupid, crazy for even beginning those thoughts but it’s impossible not to. It’s impossible to pretend the baby, her future, doesn’t exist or will never exist. I am already in love. Her father and brothers already love her. And if she turns out to be a boy, we will love him too, just the same. So if this is only an “inside baby,” this is what is lost. It will hurt. It won’t hurt because of how short or long I was pregnant. It will hurt because I have loved and lost.

So when you ask “how far along are you? The answer is, it doesn’t matter. Because I am pregnant and I love this baby.

This is pregnancy after a loss.

Viral Rainbow Babies Photo

Rainbow Babies - ok.ruSo many of us have seen this set of photos. The Huffington Post wrote an article about these photos entitled Viral ‘Rainbow Babies’ Photo Post Brings Emotional Topic To LightIn that article, author Caroline Bologna shares that Chastity Boatman posted this set of photos on her blog in order “…for women to help support and heal one another. For women to know that they’re not alone in their struggles…”

It is a beautiful photo and I love that it depicts “rainbow babies” which are babies born after a pregnancy loss but…and here’s my butt…it really scares me.

Here’s why.

If people want to emulate this and create their own rainbow babies pictures what if a baby doesn’t make it? Stillbirth occurs in 1 and 160 pregnancies. Women participating in this kind of a photo shoot may experience a loss and then what? What will replace the woman and her intended baby in the subsequent photo?

I don’t want to be a negative nelly. I love this photo. I think it’s awesome, although the original photographers did not intend for these photos to depict the “rainbow babies” we have defined here. It certainly depicts all we hope in our pregnancies after a loss. It has been shared all over Facebook in many of the loss community groups. I was overjoyed to see it and thought it was an amazing concept that would bring awareness but…

I held my breath. I became fearful. I wondered if others would try this and where it might lead.

So what would a photographer put in the place of a mother experiencing a pregnancy loss between photo shoots? Would the mother still participate? Would the photographer have “fill-in’s” that would be photoshopped into the original if there was a stillbirth or infant death in between photo shoots? Would they incorporate another image or some other way to represent the mother and her lost child?

I hope we don’t find out. I am sure there will be photographers that will emulate this. I think it’s a wonderful concept and a great tribute to pregnancy after a loss. It just scares me that a baby won’t make it.

 

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

To Kiss and Untell

You kiss a guy and then run around and tell everyone that you kissed him. That “hot” guy that you had been hoping to go out with. The guy you had hoped would notice you and he did. You are absolutely giddy with excitement over where that might lead you two. As you are sharing the story with one of your friends, she asks, “Did you guys tongue-kiss or just peck each other on the lips?”

Couple Kissing

You think to yourself, “If I didn’t use my tongue, is it still a kiss?” You tell your friend it was just a peck. It was a very nice peck on the lips. You start to justify, “I felt his lips fully against mine. They were so soft and I got tingly everywhere. It was amazing. It was a kiss!” But your friend tells you, “It’s not really a kiss because you didn’t use your tongue.”

You feel embarrassed now. It wasn’t really a kiss. So you explain to your friend, “I guess I have to ‘untell’ everyone.

Let’s talk about the word untell. What does that even mean? The word untell doesn’t exist in any dictionary but I found a definition of it online, here. The word untell means, “to make as if not counted.” It’s a nullification. So in the above scenario, to untell about the kiss would be to tell others it didn’t “count.” In other words, it wasn’t real.

Now let’s relate this to miscarriage. My last post was about announcing a pregnancy early. Many women are scared to announce early because of the chance of miscarriage. It’s definitely a chance but so is stillbirth. Should women wait until the baby has been born alive before announcing? I am sure some women have actually done this and they needed to do it for their own reasons. There is nothing wrong with it but I bet most of you reading this wouldn’t wait until the baby was born before announcing to everyone that you were pregnant and this time the baby made it.

So, in talking with other women about announcing early, some women say they wouldn’t announce early (they would wait until at least 12 or 20 weeks) because they don’t want to have to untell people about their baby/pregnancy. Knowing what the unofficial definition of “untell” means, what is this really saying about our pregnancies?

  • I wasn’t really pregnant.
  • My baby wasn’t real.
  • My baby didn’t count.

Those are just three that come to mind. What comes to your mind?

I first heard the term a few weeks ago at a support group. The woman used the term when she was talking about how she announced but now would have to “untell” everyone again because she had a miscarriage. I cringed hearing it for the first time especially in this forum because I felt it invalidated my own personal experience with miscarriage. I knew she meant no harm. They were merely her words used to describe how she felt about her miscarriage. As I thought about that, I felt sad that she didn’t feel worthy of calling the experience what it was. Someone must have said something to her that invalidated her baby/pregnancy. Maybe the infamous, “it’s just a ball of cells?”

I didn’t think much about it following the group until I heard the term again. Oddly, in relation to my last post. “I don’t want to have to untell people, so I wait.” Not the exact words but pretty close. I was curious what the word “untell” meant to her and probed but never received a response. I returned the next morning to see she deleted her comment and feel horrible that she did that. She probably unliked the page as well and I hope she comes back because I was genuinely interested in discussing the term in hopes to help her feel worthy of her pregnancies/babies.

We often want the language surrounding miscarriage to change. I certainly don’t like the term spontaneous abortion when referring to miscarriage but that’s the official medical term. So let’s try to help others not use the term “untell.” We aren’t nullifying our pregnancies that end in miscarriage. We aren’t “not counting” our pregnancies that end in miscarriage. I am sure each of you can count all of the miscarriages you have experienced and you remember them with great detail.

So let’s call “it” what IT is. It’s miscarriage. “I was pregnant, and I had a miscarriage.” It validates our pregnancy and our baby. It validates our experience. It gives awareness to what we have been through and might be suffering through. We don’t need to continue to suffer in silence and hide our grief because of how others might feel. We don’t need to hide our pregnancies and suppress our happiness because it’s early and we might experience a miscarriage.

We are pregnant in this moment. A line is a line as my last post said. You are pregnant. You are expecting. If it ends in miscarriage, that doesn’t meant the pregnancy/baby didn’t exist (your doctor will certainly count it in your chart). We tell people about our miscarriage. We share our story because that is what will help the next woman who experiences it. When she does, you won’t feel like it’s “untelling.” You will hold her and carry her through this.

Can we change this language amongst our struggling sisters?

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Announcing an early pregnancy

early pregnancy testMany women are hesitant to announce their pregnancy early. Some wait until a blood test confirms. Others wait until they see a heartbeat. Some wait until they are twelve weeks and beyond but why? Isn’t a line a line? Doesn’t pregnant mean pregnant?

Here is an early pregnancy test. It was taken 11 days after ovulation. The second line is faint but there is no doubt a line. The second line signifies pregnancy. It’s a positive pregnancy test. A line is a line right?

Well, that depends. It’s a cautiously optimistic line. This pregnancy test detects HCG in the urine at 20miU. So the line doesn’t determine the “level” in pregnancy, just that the level is high enough to show a line. Some want the line dark and a test the next day may reveal a darker line but it may not. Every test is different. So, a line is a line. PREGNANT.

“I am pregnant,” she announces.

The next response is…”How far along are you?”

Why is that question asked? Does it mean that if I am 3 weeks pregnant that I am not “pregnant enough?” Is 5 weeks along “pregnant enough?” What about 8 weeks? Is that “pregnant enough?” For those of you who are announcing an early pregnancy, did you feel compelled to lie about it? Did you feel compelled to say you were farther along then you really were? Why?

I know I did this. I know I told people I was farther along in order to justify my pregnancy. But what am I really justifying? I think it’s grief. I think we justify the pregnancy in order to justify the grief we could experience should we have a miscarriage. A line is a line.

We shouldn’t feel like we need to justify our grief but we do, because we know we will probably suffer in silence. Announcing an early pregnancy is hard. It comes with excitement and anxiety. The moment we pee on the stick, we start dreaming and imagining a life with this child. But the toilet paper checks begin…immediately.

It’s okay. A line is a line. Go ahead and announce. Announce it to the world or whoever you want to and if your baby doesn’t survive; if your baby dies through miscarriage or stillbirth, it doesn’t change the fact that a line is a line. You are pregnant, in this moment. It’s okay to share. It’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to be anxious. You are pregnant.

UPDATE: This was my pregnancy test, taken on March 27th, 2015. My HCG level was 32.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

 

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