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On Forgetting

I remember the day so clearly.  It had been 9 months since my daughter, Chloe, was stillborn.  I was triggered by something and immediately made my way to the closet.  I pulled out her box of belongings: clothes, blankets, scrapbook.

As I looked at the pictures, I couldn’t remember what it felt like to actually be pregnant or hold my daughter in my arms.  When had this happened?  That day in the hospital always felt like it took place yesterday.  Now it felt like a distant memory.

No one had warned me that I would forget.

I’m not talking about forgetting your child, the sadness or the events that took place.  I’m talking about physically forgetting; forgetting what it felt like to be in that room and with your child.

I know that this type of forgetting is a sign of healing and yet, a part of me wanted to go back.  To claw my way back to the intense grief and raw pain because that’s where she is.  The closest I will ever be to her is back in that hospital room.

No matter how tragic or traumatic the event, our lives continue to move forward without our permission.  Each day, I move further and further away from the day that I met and lost her.  That day is now a fuzzy black and white picture instead of a crystal clear image made up of vibrant colors.

When I got my Molly Bear in the mail I held it across my chest the way I had held my daughter.  I was immediately taken back to that hospital room, as though I could physically feel her again.  I broke down and sobbed the rest of the day.  I had never experienced a bigger trigger and shoved the Molly Bear in the closet on the top shelf, never wanting to see or hold it again.  I couldn’t believe the intense pain that had welled up in my heart.

But the day I realized I was forgetting, I pulled out that bear and was overwhelmed with a sense of relief.  That even if my memory was failing me, I would always know what 2 pounds and 10 ounces felt like in my arms.  I will forever be grateful for the physical reminders: the bear, the pictures, the clothes, the blankets.  Because years from now, when this experience is even more of a distant memory, I will want and need these reminders.

I’m writing this because I want other loss parents to know that a certain level of forgetting is a normal part of the process.  I don’t want anyone to be caught off guard as I was.  Unfortunately, this is a secondary loss that we will all experience at one point or another in our journey.  Not only did I lose my daughter, but I lost the crystal clear memories of her as well.

Christy has a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in counseling.  She has experience working with individuals with mental illness and in post adoption.  She is the Founder and CEO of the Pregnancy Loss Journey website and podcast.  Christy has been married for 6.5 years and has 2 children:  one lost to miscarriage and her daughter, Chloe, lost to stillbirth.

Category : Guest Bloggers


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Between light and darkness

My most recent miscarriage ( 5th in total) was in November 2016. I walked into the Ultrasound room on 11/14/16 for my 9 week ultrasound completely confident that this was going to work out as I had made it farther than others, yet at the peak of any anxiety I have ever felt as only 1 of my 6 children so far had been born alive.  As I walked over to lay down on the table, tears were just pouring from my eyes, I couldn’t control them. I didn’t feel on the inside what was showing on the outside yet there it was, stuttering and trembling hands and all. I had headphones on, listening to “I am not alone” by Kari Jobe, to keep my faith that everything would be ok and I would undoubtedly be seeing my new baby’s heartbeat soon, yet also to prepare my soul should I not.

It was worlds colliding inside of me. I told my husband I didn’t want to hear or see anything until I felt him touch my leg, I wanted him to be the one to tell me, good or bad. So I lay there, shaking, pouring tears, eyes closed, trying to focus on the song, while muttering desperate prayers under my breath and feeling unmovable in my faith that everything was going to be good. It was taking so long, I kept believing everything was ok and that soon it would all be over. I happened to open my eyes only to see the look on the technician’s face, eyes huge and glossy, a mix of emotions in her that scared me.

I started to breathe heavy, she told me not to move and held the ultrasound wand still. My heart sank so hard and fast I thought I may be having a heart attack. I froze. I looked back at her and she dropped the wand as though the strength in her hands failed her and literally ran out of the room. I was heaving and kept telling my husband something is wrong, they don’t leave unless something is wrong. She came back with another tech, she looked and whispered “yes” and left the room. I kept saying “something is wrong,” my husband kept asking “is everything ok, is the baby ok?” She said “I know you have been through this a million times, so I’m sorry, do you still want to see it?”

I hadn’t even fully processed what was happening before my mouth said yes, she turned the screen toward me and I immediately saw there was no heartbeat. I cried it out to my husband and covered my eyes, he kept saying “what, what do you mean?” He couldn’t process it either. He had walked in more confident than I had. I asked her, “there’s no heartbeat?” hoping she would tell me I was wrong. She said she couldn’t directly tell me, but pointed to where the heartbeat should be and said “that’s where the heart is, where the beat should be.” I only remember kicking my legs out, screaming, and falling. Like there was no ground or sense of time, my soul just plundered into darkness.

She left the room and my husband came over and collapsed in my lap, just holding me, crying like I have never seen him cry before. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a whole new emotion I have ever felt before, that I cannot describe. Those words fade in comparison to the feeling that you feel when you know your child has died. It’s this strange death you yourself die, pain and transition included, yet you go on living. You get dressed, you open the door, you ask where the bathroom is, they show you, you pee all the water you’d been holding hoping to see your baby for the 1st time. You look up into the mirror while washing your hands to see the new you for the first time in all your tear-stained, numb-eyed glory.

I got home, handed my mom (who had been watching my daughter) the ultrasound pic, and told her, “Here’s  your newest dead grandchild” and walked away. I heard my daughter’s voice, it sounded sweeter than ever, I didn’t think that was possible after having lost 3 before she was born alive. But it did. Yet it cut me to my core. Because I now knew exactly what I had lost. I could not look at her. I walked to my bedroom and lay down in darkness and silence. My husband came in after me and did the same. We did not speak, did not touch. It was too painful.

I knew the moment my mom told my dad because from down the hall I heard him say “What?!” in this strange loud yell whisper that was shaking with tears. My own 2 siblings were lost to miscarriage, so while he was getting this news for the first time, for the 5th time, for the 7th time, it had a horrible familiarity in its pain. It spoke everything that needed to be said at that moment.  No one can understand this hideous contradiction of emotions that is so strong it becomes it’s own new indescribable emotion if they have not felt both life and death simultaneously in their womb, in their heart.

Two days later I went for a second opinion, just for the peace of my heart before I began considering the next steps. This time, seeing my baby floating lifeless in my womb, already being prepared for what I would see, I was able to savor that time and take in the beauty that this was my baby, and he/she is real, my pain is real and justified, and that I loved him/her. I felt a flood of love and joy that this baby was in my life for however short a time, that he/she would be waiting for me in heaven, that I was a momma for the 6th time.

Yet I was numb. No tears, no words. It was a missed miscarriage this time. The baby had died a week before, and it took 4 more weeks from that day before the miscarriage process began, and that process lasted over the span of 5 days. I suffered. I contracted. A strange blessing to feel natural contractions as my living daughter was born via c-section after a failed induction. And a curse to suffer these contractions that I knew were in vain. I bled, and stopped. And bled and did not stop. So much tissue and clots and placenta and blood, by the time the baby came I did not have the strength, emotionally or physically to continue to dig through the contents of what I had passed yet I knew it was him/her by the size and the relief I felt.

Holding it in my hands was joy and accomplishment and empowerment (my doctors wanted a D&C but it was part of my personal healing process to deliver naturally) and overwhelming, soul crushing anguish. Relief and an emptiness that made me question whether or not I could ever recover. I was thankful to God that I did not need a D&C, yet so angry that He had allowed this. It was a time of being completely dependent on Him for my sanity and also wanting Him to just leave me alone. I looked at my husband and felt so bonded to and grateful for him, so glued to him I didn’t want him to leave my side for a second, yet wanted to run from him so I didn’t have to see the pain and disappointment in his eyes. That ugly new conflicting emotion again.

We had already purchased a memorial wind chime urn, so the next day we had a home cremation in our outdoor fireplace (the mortuaries could not do it for us as the contents were so small. Though we chose to  do this, I do not necessarily recommend it as it was a harder process physically and emotionally than we anticipated). As I watched the light of the flames against the backdrop of the pitch black December sky, I felt the heat of the fire on my face and the cold winter chill creep up my back. I saw the strength of my husband as he pushed back tears and fed the flames, and simultaneously the fragility of his soul in the way he avoided my stare. And as I looked into my daughter’s eyes, innocent eyes that had no idea what had happened, I saw the reflection of the flames that engulfed the remains of her sibling and realized what was in those flames, had they lived, would have and should have grown to be like her, beautiful and breathing.

And yet, those flames also could have been her in the opposite way,  she was the one of 6 who was given the privilege of life. And I felt blessed and cursed all at once. An overwhelming weight of joy and grief that just sat on my chest. And a painful sense of hope, still peaking its terrified little head out even in the midst of all this sorrow.  Now, as I navigate this new life between light and darkness, it is hard to know what each day will bring, The only thing I do know is that I will continue to navigate, and I will do my best to find the light when nothing but darknesss, and will have faith when there is darkness in the light.

As painful as the memories are, they are mine, as crazy as it is to want to want to try again (I know most reading this know exactly what I mean by this) I do. This life between light and dark, it’s painful and rough and so so confusing, but it can be beautiful at times. I have 6 little miracles, 1 of them here in my arms that is Heaven on Earth, and 5 for me that are just Heaven. Just like there is that hideous new emotion made of ugly and beautiful, there is an astounding one also made of that same ugly and beautiful. Over time it makes you love life deeper and more freely, makes you more grateful for the things that do go right. Enables you to mourn with those who have not yet found the light side of the darkness yet and lead them there.

I cannot pretend to have this down to an art, I still need to be led more often than I’d like, I am simply learning on my way to my new normal. I have good and bad days. I am striving to find the balance and embracing the reality that I cannot change what has happened, death has touched my life. But it does not have to consume my life or stop me from living my life. Death has been defeated and my treasures that are my babies are stored for me in heaven. It’s ok to have been dragged through grief and still want hope afterwards. Not everyone will want to, and if that’s where their journey has brought them, that’s ok, but I want to want to try again.

Category : Sheila , Volunteer Bloggers


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Meet My Rainbow

Karen posted for me last month letting people know I was dealing with some complications that would require the early arrival of my son. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes right after Thanksgiving, but was able to manage it with diet and excercise alone. Despite being super grouchy about not being able to have chocolate and feeling left out during the holiday gatherings, I felt pretty confident about my management of this particular pregnancy risk. But, as life has taught me, things are not so simple.

Shortly after receiving my diabetes diagnosis, I began itching at night. It got so bad that several nights a week I was only able to get a couple hours of sleep. I figured it was symptoms from not meeting my blood glucose limits, but decided to research it anyway. I discovered that hormone levels could affect the function of the liver, similar to what causes gestational diabetes, in what is called cholestasis of pregnancy. Unlike diabetes, this posed a great risk to my baby. After the 38th week of pregnancy, the risk of stillbirth increases enormously. With my history of loss it was hard not to panic. I did bring it up with my midwife, and she had me try some over the counter antihistamine, then prescription strength. It didn’t help as much as I would have liked, so I finally pressed to have the testing for cholestasis done. Around 32 weeks I was diagnosed with it (because why would anything pregnancy related be easy for me??)

I was put on a medication called ursodiol and began having weekly appointments for non-stress tests and ultrasounds. As stressful as everything was, I was excited to be hearing and seeing so much of my little guy! By mid January I had been going to my weekly appointments for only a couple weeks. We were expecting to be induced at 37 weeks, or around Feb 1. I got a call the morning of the 16th that the blood work for my liver was somewhat alarming, and they were starting to look at a 36 week delivery instead. By now we were panicked, as we were nowhere ready for a baby to come home in a week. I had a non-stress test at the clinic that afternoon where my husband and I discussed how we would handle an even earlier birth. Unfortunately our little man was not moving as much as they liked to see, so we were sent to L&D triage to repeat the test at the hospital. On the way we stopped at Sonic (we figured a little sugar would wake him up) and joked about having a baby that afternoon.

I spent several hours in triage, where they continued to be unhappy with his movement. After an ultrasound, they discovered the fluids inside my uterus had suddenly become low (another risk for stillbirth). I was finally admitted and induced just after midnight on January 17. After 42 hours of labor we welcomed our son into the world! Besides staying an extra night to treat jaundice, our 35 weeker did great and we brought him home January 20.

A week later he began vomiting a bright yellow liquid, and we were advised by our pediatrician to take him to the ER. We assumed we would be seen and quickly sent home with a prescription for reflux medication. When we arrived, he was hypothermic and suffering from apnea. He was admitted to PICU and received a lumbar puncture, two antibiotics, an NG tube, and was on constant temperature and breathing monitoring. He did well enough that night to be sent down to pediatrics, but we ultimately stayed in the hospital for 10 days. We discovered he had a urinary tract infection with two different bacteria. He began having trouble eating, and we weren’t sent home until he began gaining weight again and we were taught how to place and use an NG tube.

If you’ve made it this far in my post, I’m sure you’re feeling as exhausted as I felt by the time I took my son home for the second time. This was nowhere near the birth experience I envisioned all those years I struggled with recurrent loss. I’ve definitely had to mourn losing the last month of pregnancy (I wasn’t ready for that experience to end so quickly when I had worked so hard to get there). There have also been other struggles related to having a premie, especially with feeding. I had my heart set on nursing but had to bottle feed him for the first month. I pumped around the clock so he would have enough to eat and resented the fact that it took time away from establishing a bond with him.

If it weren’t for my experience with loss, I don’t think I could have handled the past month as well as I did. Nothing went according to plan, and I had to give up a lot of what I wanted my first few weeks with my baby to look like. I kept reminding myself that I had spent several sad nights swearing I would accept any circumstance to have a child. All in all, my family is so fortunate. I’m grateful our baby is here safe and healthy despite his rough start. We’ve even begun to establish breastfeeding, and I’m getting those bonding moments I’ve dreamed of for so long. Even if I did have to wait just a little extra longer for them.

Category : Stacey , Volunteer Bloggers


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When Faith Hurts

Ever since I was a little girl it was my dream to be a mom. I have always had a strong sense of God in my life and I felt it was my calling, a passion He Himself must have given me. I have always had something of a Christian faith, but it did not take full form until I was 25 years old. My whole life finally made sense. All of my dreams and passions, the intricacies of people, events, and intertwining finally painted this whole big picture of who I was and where I was going.  I found joy in Christ and power in my faith. No one and nothing had forced me, I chose this. And I was at peace.

That peace has been tested. Five times over 4 years.  My husband and I miscarried our first child while we were dating, our second shortly after we were married. After that second miscarriage, I clung to God, clung to hope, as gutted and crushed and confused as I was I refused to let go. A few months later, I was pregnant again. This had to be it, I told myself. The answer to my prayers. I miscarried again. I broke. On the toilet in the midst of one of the more painful cramps, I reached down and wiped the blood off of myself, my husband was standing outside of the bathroom door praying. I opened the door and shoved the bloody tissue inches from his face and screamed “this is what your God does!”  I collapsed in a heap of broken heartedness not knowing which hurt more, the loss of my baby or that moment of feeling I had lost God and everything I had given myself to, my dreams, my faith. Maybe I had not understood God like I had thought, maybe His promises weren’t as I had been taught. Maybe He was cruel.

I went on an intense journey for answers, and to find out if the God I had so loved, was as good as I had hoped. I went through a time of calling out to Him, studying, learning, questioning, begging Him to draw near. To lead me to the answers I needed, medically, mindfully, and spiritually. A new journey had begun in my life, and I knew it, and I welcomed it.

I followed where He led. Where answers led. I made mistakes. I hit the mark. I lost hope. I gained hope. Through it all the one thing that was certain, was God is for me and I need only ask, listen, and follow. I came to a place where I felt He and I could not be any closer, could not be any more real, I had questioned Him and he answered. I sought and I found the core of my beliefs. I had been attacked by darkness, and started to emerge in the light. 9 months in and I fell pregnant again. Staring at that positive was complete terror. For the next 9 months I fought through the ups of believing in miracles and the low, low downs of fear and doubt.

I found the comfort of God in even more ways than I thought possible. My faith carried me through it all.  My daughter was born. Alive and healthy. I had this confidence back that I didn’t ever think I could have again, I felt that my dreams were restored and my prayers were answered not only for a baby but that possibly I was healed of whatever was causing my miscarriages. A year and a half after she was born, we wanted another baby. It could happen! My daughter is proof. I miscarried 4 days after I found out I was pregnant. My confidence – gone. My heart – crushed. But I still had my faith. I wiped my tears and we tried again.

I was pregnant again 2 months later. My 4 miscarriages had all ended by 7 weeks. Only my living daughter made it past that. So when I hit the 8 week mark, my confidence began returning and I started getting excited. Maybe another miracle was going to happen! At 9 weeks we went for our ultrasound. No heartbeat. I internally crashed, without me meaning to as my husband and I held each other I said “why does He keep doing this to us?” I knew better. God was not doing this. It’s a fallen world, and it was not meant to be this way. God was weeping right along side us. But it just slipped out of my mouth. I was silent all night. In my mind and with my body. The next morning, I woke up early and went into our front room, I had a picture frame with my favorite bible verse, I took it and smashed it to pieces. I wasn’t even angry at God. Just angry. I sat and cried and asked Him to just be with me. It was a missed miscarriage. My baby did not come out of my body for 4 more weeks after that, and he/she had already been dead a week before I found out. I went through fury, I smashed my favorite mirror across my bedroom wall, overwhelming grief, frustration, guilt, hopelessness in ever having another baby. That dreaded question, ‘why’?  But this time, in all my immeasurable pain, I never came close to losing my core faith. Because I knew what I believed and why I believed it. I had lived the reality of it long enough to run to it, not from it.

For those of you who question God at times like these, I want to tell you it’s ok. It’s ok to be angry and disappointed with Him. It’s ok to ask Him questions, and to question what you believe. This heavy load of death is too much for us to carry alone. It wasn’t in the original plan, so we aren’t made to carry it without the help of God and He knows that. When you find out you’ve lost your baby, it’s the whole pile all at once. We have to make the choice to give it to Him. To allow Him to give us some of those answers, and have the will to endure through seasons of silence.  If you have never had a faith and find yourself wanting to pray or to find out if this is all real, that’s ok too. Sometimes people have the audacity to scold those who only cry out when things get tough. By all means, cry out! And if you are in a place of not being able to believe in or understand God right now, or you started out with no belief and now are even further repulsed by it, if that’s where you are, being honest is never wrong. I just want you to know that this faith, this knowledge, is what has carried me through.

For me, I don’t simply believe in God to get what I want or when it’s convenient, I don’t only believe when things are going my way, I don’t expect the human experience to be perfect including the spiritual one we go through here on earth.  I believe because from my research and experience, it’s true, whether it unfolds as I’d like it to or not. While this journey has almost torn me from what I believe, it has also led me to an unshakable faith that holds me together. I don’t have all the answers I asked. I’m still broken and afraid, but I have an underlying peace. I’m slowly trying to put myself back together, trying to get the courage to try again. And God is gently leading me to that next step, one day at a time.  I could throw in the towel and say to hell with this, and have every right to. This pain could still crush me to death if I move my eyes too far to the left or right. Or, I could pull from supernatural strength and embrace this journey for all it’s pain and beauty. I don’t know what the future holds. I only know, that I want to know. I want to make the most of this beautiful mess, whatever that may turn out to be. And my faith is what will lead me there.

 

 

Category : Sheila , Volunteer Bloggers


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What I’ve learned in 6 months of parenting after a loss

Today, my little guy is 6 months old!

I had thought that by the time we reached this milestone, I might have some profound insight and wisdom to share about the experience of parenting after a loss. But you know what? I don’t.  Because what I’ve realized is this: for me, parenting after a loss has been no different than, well, parenting.

How do I know? Well I don’t for sure, since I’ve never had the experience of parenting without experiencing a loss. But as I reflect back on the last 6 months, there is nothing that stands out to me as different.

Do I worry about my child? Of course. But not in a way that is, as I would imagine, any different than any other parent.

I’ve actually found myself lax about some things that are kind of surprising, like the other night when I wasn’t fazed by the fact that my child was playing with a cat toy (and when I say playing, I mean attempting to eat, because everything goes in his mouth now). It didn’t occur to me that this should bother me until my husband pointed out that the toy had been in the cats’ mouths, the same mouths that are used to clean themselves. Oh yeah. Whoops! Maybe the baby shouldn’t play with it after all.

So here is what I have learned in my first 6 months of parenting after a loss: parenting is the easy part. The pregnancy that follows the loss is the hard part. The REALLY HARD part.

I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy. I was physically sick for the entirety of it and the anxiety and worry was emotionally taxing. I kept thinking something was going to go wrong.

Now that my son is here, safe and healthy, I am able to enjoy him so much more than I was before. Is it always magical and amazing? No, of course not. But in the grand scheme of things, this parenting gig isn’t so bad, and even on the roughest of days, it still makes everything we went through to get here totally worth it.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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The ultimate goal of parenting

Four years ago, we lost our first child, a daughter we never got to know. She was very loved, very much wanted, and very sick. We knew that if she were able to survive to birth, she would lead a life of pain and suffering. We made the gut-wrenching decision to terminate at 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

Since then, I’ve often wondered who she would have been.  I’ve also thought a lot about the choice we had to make. They always say no parent should ever have to bury their child even more so no parent should ever have to decide if their child dies. Even when you feel you’re making the best decision, it’s still a burden you carry forever.

Although I don’t doubt that we made the right decision, I do sometimes wonder if we could have handled some aspects differently. Should we have given her a name? Should we have seen her? Should we have kept the lone ultrasound photo we had – the one where she was horribly disfigured, the image that was our first sign that something was wrong – the ultrasound photo that hurt so much to look at?

At church yesterday I was brought to tears when, during his homily, Father Rob reminded us that

“The ultimate goal of parenting is to help your child get to heaven.”

I had already been thinking a lot about the meaning of today for us and in the context of these words, it finally occurred to me that I had done all I could and all I needed. I do believe my daughter is in heaven. No matter what choices were made, what doubts have arisen, what pain I feel in my heart, I achieved my goal.

As the mass continued, I kept repeating that sentence over and over in my head.

For those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss, there are often so many questions. We sometimes feel as though we’ve failed as parents even though it was not our fault. We have so much love and so much hope for our child that when things don’t go as planned, we search for a reason. Many times there isn’t one.

It’s been four years now and days like this never get any easier. I might not feel the pain on daily basis anymore, but I do feel it. I will for the rest of my life. But I also know that it’s ok to let it hurt today, next year, and every year while also taking comfort in knowing that she is where is she belongs.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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An update on Stacey

So you might be wondering why I’m sharing an update of Stacey instead of her giving it – but as it turns out, she is going to meet her rainbow baby sooner than expected!

Knowing that she probably wouldn’t get a chance to write a post, Stacey asked me to share this info with you. I know many of you have been following her journey for the last several years and are ready to see her happy ending!

Last week, she received the news that she has cholestasis of the liver. Because this leads to a high risk of stillbirth after 38 weeks, she will be on near constant monitoring each week then induced at 37 weeks around Feb 1 (quite a bit earlier than her Feb. 21 due date).

So join me in sending your positive thoughts and best wishes to Stacey and her family for a safe and healthy delivery!

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


Welcome!

If you've come to this blog, it likely means you have suffered a pregnancy loss of some type. We are so sorry you have found yourself here, but hope the stories of life after loss can help you on your road to healing and recovery. Remember, we are all in this together!

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