Lauren’s Story – Part Two

I feel like this part of my story is well overdue. I know I don’t have avid readers that are waiting on the edge of their seat for part two of my story but when I started this journey, I told myself I would use it as a platform to share my full story in hopes that I can reach as many people that need support during an extremely difficult time. One thing I have learned, as a mom that has experienced loss, is that some miscarriage experiences are more difficult to write about than others. With my first miscarriage, while extremely devastating, it was more straight forward. After finding out my baby had passed things progressed as they should, so it wasn’t a long, drawn-out experience. With my second miscarriage, not so much. So here we go…

About a year after welcoming our rainbow baby to the world my husband and I were overjoyed and thrilled to have been given the opportunity to experience parenthood. We knew our little girl was a pure miracle because she was the strong little baby that pushed through when everything felt so hopeless. She showed us that there are rainbows after the storm and that dreams do come true. We so desperately wanted to give her a sibling and thought that maybe it was time. After just a short few months of trying we saw those two pink lines – positive! We were thrilled, excited, but obviously nervous. This go round I was much more aware of the fact that I could miscarry again but tried to suppress those feelings because my body had carried a full term, healthy baby so why couldn’t it do it again? I remember saying everyday to myself “the outcome of this baby has already been determined. Nothing you do will change that outcome.” It helped me to not dwell on whether or not this baby had already passed because I didn’t have the ability to change what was meant to be. I also had continued morning sickness which to most is super annoying, but to someone who has experienced loss it can be a positive sign of a healthy pregnancy. So, I welcomed it.

At 9 weeks I decided it was safe enough to schedule a peace of mind ultrasound with a private ultrasound place. We had seen this lady before for my previous miscarriage and my full-term pregnancy. She knew our history and was happy to see us for this pregnancy. We went into the ultrasound with hesitation but excitement. Just a few short minutes after she put the probe on my belly, I just knew. The baby did not look like a healthy 9-week baby. The ultrasound technician kept trying to find a better view of the baby to see if we could see a heartbeat. She kept asking me when my last menstrual cycle was so that just maybe I was off on my dates and earlier in the pregnancy than I thought. I wasn’t – you see, I invested in a band that I wore that was 90% accurate in determining my ovulation dates. I knew exactly when that baby was conceived and how far along I should have been.

After 45 minutes of the sweet technician trying to justify the look of the baby we left, and I looked at my husband and said I just knew it. The tears started to flow down my face as I thought “how could this happen to us again??” Later that evening I had to make the dreaded call to my parents – a call that no daughter wants to make, and no parent wants to hear. I said to my mom, “So I have some news to share with you. I am pregnant but don’t get excited. We went to an ultrasound today and things did not look good. I’m pretty sure the baby has passed but we will go to the OB to confirm.” My mom didn’t know what to say. I mean what do you say? She told me she was sorry and that she was sad. She told me that she was there for us and that she would do what we needed to help. I told her I couldn’t talk long because I was still going through the motions but that I would keep her updated. Ugh, so very heartbreaking.

I called my OB on Monday morning and told the individual on the phone that I was pretty sure my baby had already passed and that I needed to be seen earlier to confirm this information. I don’t think the scheduling lady on the phone knew what to say. It’s not every day you pick up the phone to schedule an appointment and hear from the individual that they needed an appointment only to confirm that their baby was in fact dead. She put me on hold and asked someone what exactly she should do. They brought me in later that day for a confirmation of pregnancy. For some reason this time I was so numb to the experience that I just didn’t feel as shocked or initially devastated. I felt like I had been there before and that I was just going through the motions of doing what I needed to do to move past this. In hindsight this was probably just a coping mechanism because I had no idea what was to come.

When I walked into the OB office, I wasn’t excited. I kept my head down so I didn’t have to look around at the excited women who would walk away with pictures of their growing babies. I checked in and waited with my husband to be called back so we could receive bad news again. It felt like forever but about 5 minutes after checking in they brought us back and performed all the normal check in items – weight check, blood pressure, etc. She asked why we were there, and I informed her that I had gone to a private ultrasound the other day and was pretty sure my baby had already passed but I needed confirmation. She apologized, gave me the gown and told me the doctor would be in soon. My husband and I didn’t talk – we just stared at the ground and waited. The doctor came in and asked the same questions – this was the third time I had to tell my story. It was so difficult. He told me to lay back so we could take a look. After a few short minutes he looked up at me and said “Okay, it does look like the baby has passed. I cannot find a heartbeat.” I looked down, held back my tears and said okay. What next?

Just like before he gave me the same three options – wait for it to pass naturally, take Cytotec to induce the miscarriage, or schedule a D&C. Because the Cytotec option worked for me in the past I decided to go with that option again. He told me to schedule an appointment in a week to make sure everything was okay and that he was sorry. I am sure he said more but I was ready to leave. I was over the small talk at this point and just wanted to cry in my car.

We were in the middle of COVID, so my husband had to rush back to work. We are a military family, so the pharmacy is on base and full of many different people. I had to wait a long time to get my prescription and when I finally walked up to the window to pick it up the lady promptly asked me “Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?” I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said, “well I am pregnant, but my baby has died so I guess I’m not anymore.” She looked at me, apologized and handed me my prescription. I walked out, drove home, cried, and after an hour of being home took my first dose of Cytotec. With my first miscarriage I took the pill orally and it worked just as it should. This time I was told to take it vaginally which was weird to me, but I did it. I followed the instructions and waited. While things started to work, and I started to pass things I also passed the Cytotec pill. Because I hadn’t taken it vaginally before I didn’t know if that was normal or not. I waited and proceeded with my next dose. The same thing happened – things started to pass but I also saw the Cytotec pill in the toilet.

After the 3rd or 4th day I still hadn’t passed the baby. I had a feeling things weren’t right so I called the nurse on call at the OB and explained the situation. They prescribed me another dose of Cytotec pills. I had to pick them up in the pharmacy again and again the lady asked if I was pregnant or breastfeeding. I cried again – this time more and for longer. My first miscarriage wasn’t so drawn out. I didn’t have to tell random people my situation multiple times. I didn’t have to relive the devastation over and over again. After two doses of Cytotec I went back into the OB office a week later. They checked me to see if I had passed everything – I didn’t. The baby was still there. Still dead and in my body. I went home and that night I had a melt down to my husband. I was devastated. I was angry. I kept telling him that he had no idea what it was like to carry a dead baby around in your body for weeks and not have any control over it. I told him that I didn’t understand why my body didn’t know what to do. Every time I miscarried it would hold onto the baby for weeks while it had already passed. How could you not be angry at that? I felt like my body had failed me once again. And this time it failed me in such a huge way. I was so very angry. I just wanted it to be over, but my body wasn’t doing what it needed to do to make that happen and I just couldn’t understand that. I kept telling my husband that my daughter would be an only child because my body was broken and could never carry a baby again. I…was…angry.

They prescribed me another dose of Cytotec – this time orally and things started to happen. While absolutely devastating, I was so happy to see things were progressing the way they should, the way I remembered. I went back to the OB a week later and he confirmed that the miscarriage had completed and that I should wait for my period to come in a few weeks. I left that day relieved but still angry, confused, and hopeless. Four weeks passed and shortly after my first period came. It was light and only lasted a few days, but it came. While I was thankful I finally got my period I also noticed some other symptoms I was having that were not normal for me.

After a few weeks of feeling off with my body I called my OB to be seen again. Thankfully the OB I was seeing was super responsive and agreed to see me throughout my journey. I was grateful for this OB – he listened to me. He let me advocate for myself. And he never gave up. I went into the OB and informed him that I was having vaginal itchiness that I felt was uncommon for me. I was also having weird vaginal discharge that I had never had before. I felt off and that something was wrong. He performed a vaginal ultrasound, took swabs of different areas and did a urine collection. I went home with no answers but felt hopeful that I had found a doctor that was willing to listen to me. Two days later (and a week and a half after finishing my period) I woke up and noticed some bleeding. I thought nothing of it because my body was all messed up with hormones and periods and I had just had a vaginal ultrasound. I brushed things off and went through the day. As the day went on the bleeding continued to get super heavy, the blood was bright red, and it was painful. I was going through pads very quickly and things just didn’t seem right.

After talking with my husband, we thought it was best for me to head to the ER just in case. I was seen by a military provider that was the most unhelpful person ever. She downplayed my issue, my miscarriage experience and told me that it was normal to bleed like that after a miscarriage. She told me to follow up with my OB and sent me on my way. I was frustrated. I knew in my mind that something was wrong but had no idea what it was, so I went home and waited to call my OB. After a week of heavy bleeding, I finally got an appointment with my OB and explained to him what had happened. He was open to finding answers and told me the best course of action would be to take a biopsy of my uterus to see if they could get some answers. He also scheduled me for a pelvic sonogram with radiology to get more detailed sonogram pictures and hopefully figure things out. I got both procedures done and waited. And waited some more. It took almost a week to finally get all the results and hear back from my doctor. I had retained tissue from the miscarriage, and it was making my body sick. All the symptoms I was having were fully explained by the retained tissue.

My D&C was scheduled for four days later and pre-op started with blood work and paperwork. Thankfully even with COVID running rampant my husband was still able to accompany me to the surgery. We walked into the hospital, they set me up in a room and got me prepared for surgery. It took a few hours to go back and go through the surgery but thankfully we got the good news that everything was removed and that it all looked okay. After four months of going through my miscarriage, I had finally reached the end. It felt like a lifetime, like I had been dealing with this for so long. I didn’t think I would ever reach the end and be able to start the grieving process.

Throughout this entire process I can remember many nights where I would just cry, randomly. My husband would remind me that it was all going to be okay, but I didn’t think it would. I never thought I would be okay again – I felt like I had given up on my body and the dream of having a second baby. I didn’t trust my body anymore and it would take a while for me to be ready to try again. After 2 weeks I went into the OB for a follow up and got the green light to try again, when I was ready. They confirmed that everything in my uterus looked good – no more left-over tissue, no fibroids, cysts, or anything abnormal.

I took a month to mourn the whole experience, and decided I was ready to try one more time. On our first try we got pregnant and in April 2021 we welcomed our second rainbow baby. While I am thankful that I was given my two rainbow babies, they do not replace my two angel babies. I often think about what life would be like with those two babies. I think about what they would look like, what their personalities would be. One day I will meet my babies and will get the gender reveal of a lifetime! I named our two babies because they were real, they were alive, and I will always say their names so that they are never forgotten. Baby Hope (5.7.2018) and Baby Gold (3.9.2020).

Live in the Moment by Deb

I must admit I am a worrier. I needlessly worry about what might happen in the future. After my daughter-in-law miscarried Liam I worried about whether or not she would be able to have another child. I worked myself into a state before my open-heart surgery, worrying about things like the breathing tube, chest tubes, and whether or not I would even survive.

But my worries proved to be unfounded. My daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful rainbow baby boy who will be two this year. And I did survive surgery—I found it ironic that the things I worried about never materialized; it was the things that I never considered that did!

I am slowly learning to live in the moment—not to dwell on the past or worry about the future, but to appreciate today. This is so challenging when dealing with grief or illness. We often resort to a “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” mentality. But today is all we really have.

I’ve come to realize that each day brings its own set of challenges—why add to them by rehashing the past or worrying about the future.

Finding some quiet time in the day can help us refocus and recenter ourselves, bringing us back into the moment. After my surgery, I spent a lot of time in my recliner in the den. My husband placed a birdfeeder right outside the window where I could see it. I just got lost in time watching the birds come to feed.

Finding joy in the quiet has helped me through my struggles. After Liam’s loss I felt paralyzed. My heart ached for my son and his wife. We all experience grief differently and at various times. But you don’t need to deal with your worries and struggles alone–reach out to friends, find a therapist, meditate, practice gratitude–whatever you need to help you.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

Book review of “All the Acorns on the Forest Floor” by Kim Hooper

What a beautifully written book. Kim Hooper  poignantly tells the interconnected stories of mothers and daughters by opening the window on their own decisions, choices made for them, and how they chose to react to foreseen and unforeseen events in their lives. I was drawn into the characters’ lives from the beginning and was impressed by how the author expertly wove the characters’ lives together as their stories unfolded. The characters are introduced, drift away, and reappear in another vignette. Hooper touches on loss and motherhood in all forms. The unexpected twists and turns in the book come off as entirely believable and possible, thanks to the author’s superb storytelling ability. I loved her insights into the hardships, struggles and heartbreak we all endure but keep bottled up inside. Hooper speaks to the uncomfortable issues of life in a non-judgmental way.

All the Acorns on the Forest Floor is definitely worth a read. Mostly, it is about life’s connections—those that we make and those that we happen upon. You will feel like you know the characters and you may even see yourself in one.

-Submitted by Deborah L. Flaherty-Kizer

Grief Never Ends by Lauren

Filling out medical history has always been something I never really loved doing. While I never had anything overly crazy to report I just hated having to remember specific dates and information about my past and my family. Now, after my miscarriages, it’s something I dread entirely. It provides a moment of pure grief while you fill in the section of pregnancy history and the D&C you got under procedures.

Recently, while filling out medical documents for a new primary care physician I got to the pregnancy history section and found these options: total pregnancies, full term births, premature births, abortions-induced, abortions-spontaneous, pregnancies-ectopic, pregnancies-multiple births, and living. I thought to myself okay, lots of options and I started…Total pregnancies: 4. I’m grateful that in the full-term births I am able to put two.

As I scroll down the list looking for the section to inevitably report my miscarriages, I couldn’t find it. I read the options over again. Abortion. That was my option. While I fully understand that the medical term for pregnancy loss is abortion, to me that implies that I had a choice. While abortion is not defined by having a choice, I feel society has demeaned it as something we do because we have a choice to end the pregnancy. To me I never had a choice. I walked into the doctors that day to see my baby, to hear a heartbeat, and it wasn’t there. My baby died. I did not abort it, it died.

I refuse to categorize myself as someone that has had an abortion. I had a miscarriage. Totally different in my eyes. To finish filling out the section and show my distaste in their verbiage, I crossed out the word abortion and wrote in miscarriage. I marked in the number two and continued down the list. After finishing the documents, I sat there and felt the grief. I thought about both days when I found that there was no heartbeat. I cried. I mourned, again. And then continued on. Grief never ends. It visits you randomly and in many forms.

-Lauren

Remembering by Deb

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Three years. Three years ago this month since my beautiful grandson was a stillbirth. The memory of that day came back vividly; like I was living it all over again.

I remember hearing the phone ring in the morning and noticed that it was from my son. I thought that was weird since he rarely calls. I answered and all I heard were tears and commotion. “We lost the baby,” he sobbed. My heart sank and I felt numb. I didn’t know what I could do, but I knew they would need all the love and support we could give.

I offered help making the arrangements, since I unfortunately had experience with this having recently buried my mom. My husband and I went with them to the funeral parlor where we met outside the parking lot for a long, tearful embrace. Words failed me.

When I looked at little Liam in the reposing room my heart just broke. He was so very tiny and was dwarfed by the teddy bear lovingly placed next to him. He would never get the chance to play with his older sister or be a big brother. He would never play sports, go to a prom, or graduate from college.

I am in awe of the strength my son and his wife showed during this time. Thank goodness they have a solid marriage and helped each other through their pain. We were overjoyed when they were blessed with a rainbow baby boy the next year.

Thank goodness for organizations like Through the Heart to shower support and love to grieving parents and their families. I was blessed to hear about them through a friend who had lost a child. I also came to know about Angel Gowns, a volunteer organization that creates gowns from donated wedding gowns for little angels. I was honored to donate my gown and my mother’s gown.

A lot has happened these past three  years. I have delighted in seeing my granddaughter and grandson grow. But I still, however, hold Liam in a special place in my heart.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

Forever my baby by Lauren

I follow many social media accounts that support you through the dark periods of miscarriages and life after. I see posts that I can relate to and oftentimes I give the post a “like” or share it to my Instagram story. This post, however, hit me so much harder than any other post. I read it, read it again, cried, and sent it to my husband. I told him that this post summed up so much emotion that I had about our miscarriages. It said so much that I just didn’t know how to put into words.

I have heard so many stories from friends, family and even strangers about their miscarriage journey. Some have had a similar experience to me where they lose their baby around the 8-10 week mark. Others have carried their baby until later – 14 weeks, 16 weeks, 20 weeks – and I always say I can’t imagine carrying them for that long only to have to give birth to a stillborn. I often times downplay my experience because having a later term miscarriage has to be worse, right?

Wrong. This post said it perfectly – it doesn’t matter how long I carried you or how far along I was when I lost you, you will always be my baby. You were a baby. You provided me with hopes and dreams and when that was taken away I had to mourn that just like I would a 9 week old baby or a 20 week old baby. A miscarriage is tough, no matter what stage you’re at, and this post has reminded me that it’s okay to feel that way.

– Lauren

Believing by Kate

Christmas is the season to believe. That can be  pretty much impossible to do when grieving. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that pain and lived that confusion and anger.

This photo is a picture of my rainbow baby, Lucy. She is marveling at the decorations in her grandmother’s house. I watched her the other day and I was struck by the wonder and belief in her eyes. Her spirit is so full of the season.

I can remember standing in that room just a few Christmases ago feeling damaged and lost. I wanted nothing to do with Christmas that year.

Here I am now, with my spirited little girl. I think this photo embodies what it means to believe in the season. Remember to marvel at the simple things. Take comfort in the warmth and support of a relative’s home. Do whatever you can to keep believing.

-Kate

Autumn by Deb

Autumn is here. I have mixed feelings about this season. On the one hand, Autumn in upstate New York is glorious. The leaves burst forth in color and there is a freshness and crispness to the air that I love. On the other hand, as the season progresses the trees get bare, and darkness seems to take over. Days are shorter and signs of winter quietly appear such as the first falling snowflakes.

In Chinese medicine,  Autumn is considered the season of grief and that is very  fitting. With the end of the year fast approaching, we reflect on the past year and our lives. We tend to think of those we have lost and what might have been. Grief that we long thought dormant may rise up.

I  find the seasons to be a good analogy for life and death. We have no control over them. Every year we have the repetitive cycle of birth, growth, closure, and death. This quote from the Avengers: the Age of Ultron–“A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” –speaks to the cycle of life. Without Autumn there would be no Spring.

Our grief changes over time. I find that my grief surfaces as the seasons change and during the holidays. Many people particularly struggle with grief over the holidays. We don’t just grieve those we lost, but what might have–and what we think should have–been. I find myself thinking not only of the meteorological seasons but of my life seasons. Each season not only brings back both happy and sad memories but provides the opportunity to remember how we got to where we are today. It blesses us with the courage, fortitude, and gratitude to move forward.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

It’s the White Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Karen

On Halloween afternoon, I was sitting with my kids watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, when my husband asked me if I knew the symbolism of a white pumpkin. Nope! He heard on the radio that it was a symbol for pregnancy and infant loss. What? I had never heard of that!

Now I’ve been a part of the pregnancy loss community for 8.5 years and I feel I know a decent amount about these types of things, but this one had slipped by me. A quick search of the internet confirmed that white pumpkins are indeed chosen and set out in honor of the babies who have gone too soon.

Huh.

I am a lover of fall and pumpkins and we currently have 5 white pumpkins in our house, a few of which my younger son picked out at the pumpkin patch earlier this month. Next year, we will look for a way to incorporate white pumpkins into some of our activities. It seems like it would be great to pair with my candle for the Wave of Light.

Did you know about the symbolism of white pumpkins? Do you have any special traditions with them?

Karen Kelly is the co-founder and President & CEO of Through the Heart. She & her husband Sean lost their first child in February 2013 when they terminated for medical reasons at 20 weeks and lost their second due to miscarriage at 12 weeks in June 2015. The couple welcomed a healthy, beautiful baby boy in August 2016. After another miscarriage in July 2017, their second healthy and equally beautiful baby boy joined them in July 2018. Karen is an avid sports fan and enjoys traveling, baking, and 90s alternative music. She lives in Edgewater, MD, with her husband, sons, and 2 cats Smokey and Plinko.