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Welcome, Zachary Jr.

Amidst the uncertainty and fear in the world today, we welcomed a new beacon of hope on May 28th. Our son, Zachary Jr., pushed his way into this world on May 28, 2020 at 1:14pm. 

We arrived at Lankenau hospital Wednesday night so I could be induced. We entered through the Emergency Department because we arrived late. We were screened for any coronavirus symptoms and then we were ushered through empty back hallways to the labor and delivery unit. The atmosphere was quiet and sort of eerie. It was so different from when we were there for my daughter’s birth just nineteen months before. 

Once we were checked in and set up in our room, the troubles of the outside world seemed to melt away. We felt so safe and comfortable. The previous few months were shrouded with anxiety. I had put aside my excitement and let the fear of the pandemic overtake me. Being in the hospital calmed me. I had made it. The baby, me, and my husband were safe and healthy. We were here to complete our mission of meeting our new addition.

The following day at 1:14pm our son was born. People had asked me a lot if I was nervous about having the baby during the pandemic. My answer was, “My plan is to get in there, pop this baby out, and get right back home.” And that is exactly what we did.

When my daughter was born, she had a short NICU stay, so we spent 6 days in the hospital. This birth was the complete opposite. We were in and out in 42 hours. Thankfully, everything went exactly as planned. For the past couple years, things going “exactly as planned” wasn’t something I was used to. After two miscarriages and a health scare with my daughter, my husband and I were accustomed to things not going perfectly.

My son is one month old now and I still can’t believe how smoothly it all went. I spent so much time and energy worrying about what it would be like and worrying about catching the coronavirus. I had seen so many reports on the news about pregnant women getting the virus, having emergency c-sections, and being quarantined from their newborns. I worried about bringing him home and how our families would react to us not wanting anyone coming over. Everyone has understood and everyone has agreed to our precautions.

Baby Zach has met both sets of grandparents safely in person and the rest of the family has met him through the window. It’s not the picture perfect introduction that we were accustomed to, but not nearly as stressful as I made it out to be in my head. Looking back, I wish I had spent less time worrying and more time enjoying the last few months of my pregnancy, but hindsight is 20/20.

Category : Kate , Volunteer Bloggers


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Superstition, Shame, and Science

When my husband was in graduate school for his masters in counseling, his school invited spouses to take classes for free. One that I signed up for was Educational and Psychological Measurements taught by Dr. Leonard Matheson.

Dr. Matheson is a neurorehabilitation psychologist who told stories of counseling people who have experienced trauma or who have traumatic brain injuries. He was the kind of expert who knew how to share his experiences, instead of hoarding them. He had a way of communicating advanced, complex concepts so they were easy to understand. His classes were engaging and compelling. I was a full time social worker and I landed in this room full of energy and curiosity, as opposed to the other 30 people who were full time graduate students and very, very tired. I had enough experience in my career to know everything he was saying was true and relevant, but I was new enough to still need and willfully soak up every ounce of wisdom he could impart. Even so, I never would have guessed any of it would have applied to me so personally and permanently.

One thing he taught stuck with me years later and I think about it often. It’s a simple phrase, almost like his tag line. And regardless of that day’s lecture, it always applied. Dr. Matheson would say, “our brains are pattern making, pattern completing, machines.” Twice a week for 15 weeks I heard this reminder. It became poetic and grounding.

He taught using stories of real people he had counseled, so he’d say this to preface or cushion a story about someone that was particularly shocking. Just when you’d start to judge someone’s condition as hopeless he’d throw it out there to help you wrestle with it all and realize how quickly everything can change. How quickly a healthy brain can be injured and how well a broken one can heal. It helps me understand myself better and be more compassionate with others, and today it is what brings me comfort and combats the critic in my mind.

For as long as I can remember, all of my thinking is in the form of a conversation. I’m not sure who the other person is (but it is not an audible voice so don’t worry about me – too much). This morning, the voice is (or I am?) ridiculing me for being superstitious about getting pregnant. Each month in the days leading up to the end of my cycle, I read into every feeling, twinge, or ache in my body as if I have hypochondria. Only I’m not worried about my symptoms, I’m hoping for them.

So when I think, “I’m on cycle day 28 and my last three have been 26. I must be pregnant,” I also immediately think, “that is the silliest, most illogical, thought you could possibly have. You know better and you know more about cycle length than to get your hopes up yet.” Then I mentally walk away dejected like Charlie Brown.

Some other fun thoughts I have (and by fun I mean ridiculous and ultimately painful) are:

“I’ll know I’m pregnant if my chest is still sore by cycle day 29. If it goes away by cycle day 28, then I’m probably getting my period.”

“Last time I got pregnant when I least expected it and I had wine the day before I got a positive pregnancy test. Plus I know stress can make it harder to get pregnant. I shouldn’t worry about it and just do what I’d normally do and enjoy a glass of wine tonight.” Followed by, “But that article I read last month said alcohol and caffeine can negatively affect the chances of conception. I shouldn’t have any wine ever again.”

Honestly, I was sitting on the toilet this morning when all this hit me. It’s Saturday, cycle day 28, and not a single sign of a period. Just desperately searching for a sign of being pregnant and wondering what I should be doing to secure it. All morning long, in the few minutes it takes to wash my hands, pour a cup of coffee, or turn the shower on, every single possibility has reeled through my mind. Which means their counter part, the critical voice in my head, has also been offering a commentary all morning long. The simplest decisions require an unreasonable, disproportional amount of mental energy. Nothing else in my life has caused me to think like this.

Feeling ashamed of my superstition and preemptively exhausted by where this train of thought was going, I was pretty defeated by 7:30am. Why do I do this to myself? I’m an intelligent person. Why do I even entertain these thoughts? I know better than to get swept up in old wives’ tales or base my experience off of a Yahoo! Answers thread from 2013. Why do I think if I burn through all the possible scenarios in my mind, it won’t hurt as much when I’m still not pregnant? Since when has worrying ever actually softened the blow? When did anxiety help me grieve?

And then out of nowhere this reminder flashed in the back of my mind, like a superhero flying unrecognizably in and out of view. Like a friendly hand outstretched and tugging me graciously back into the goodness of reality, I heard, “our brains are pattern making, pattern completing, machines.”

I sighed. “Thank you,” I whisper to no one. To God? To my gut? Telepathically to Dr. Matheson? No idea. In that moment I felt a little better about myself knowing that it’s only natural I’m trying to find reason and order in this process. Even if it can’t be found.

Searching for patterns and making sense of the world around us is self-preservation at its core. So where is the line drawn between old wives’ tales and cycle tracking? Sure, old wives’ tales are frequently debunked, and every once in a while when one turns out to be true we call it anecdotal or coincidence. And I’m not seriously trying to equate folklore to science, but I’ve tracked my temperature, cervical mucus, and symptoms for 14 months and I’m still not pregnant. I couldn’t tell you what I did “right” the last two times I did get pregnant. When something finally goes your way, it’s human nature to start guessing the reasons why it worked and then sharing them with other people as if they are now guarantees. I can understand how old wives’ tales get so popular and why they’re fun to entertain. It’s not like entering all my symptoms onto an app has gotten me any further. Whatever method you follow, it’s an attempt to take what you know about something, figure out the pattern, and use that to get the outcomes you want.

You can see this desperation clearly in gambling. A major component to the addiction of gambling (and the fun of it) is the absence of pattern. The brain wants so badly to do its thing and make sense of roulette or slot machines, but it can’t. When someone finally gets those three in a row they think “I’ve got it! I’ll just do everything exactly that way again.” But it won’t work. Even though people know on some level that it won’t work, they can’t help, but try to duplicate their efforts to get the desired result.

It feels like there are a lot of gambles in the world around me. I think it makes me appreciate the fact there isn’t one part of nature that is exempt from the predictability of science. If a seed is planted in the ground, something will grow. If I throw a ball in the air, it comes back down. Photosynthesis doesn’t take a break and gravity doesn’t play pranks on people. So as a healthy couple, for all intents and purposes, who is trying to get pregnant, it is likely we will. With all the information about us as a couple that money could buy and with perfect timing and an abundance of chances, we should eventually get pregnant. But that exact truth is what makes it all the more infuriating when we don’t. And when you’re not privileged enough to have every answer available to man, conceiving can feel less like science and more like a gamble.

This *should* be predictable. This *should* be a matter of increasing chances and expecting certain inputs to lead to outputs. But there are too many variables in my life and too much about my body that I don’t know with 100% certainty. Still, every month I spend valuable time trying to use very little, unreliable information, to predict something with a lower probability than a coin toss. You’ve not met a more superstitious person than a woman trying to conceive. Not a college football fan, not your neighbor who visits the casino each week, not even Pat in Silver Linings Playbook can think of the absurd connections we do.

Then again, how absurd is it? Well, the idea that “if I avoid going to the bathroom then I won’t get my period” is the definition of absurd, which I am guilty of for sure. But trying your hardest to make sense of all the little things that led to your last (successful or failed) pregnancy and trying to duplicate them? Relying on the few personal experiences you’ve had to give you hope? Praying that every trip to the bathroom for the next few days will be the first of 9 tampon-free months? I think that is just our brains. As much as I try not to give in to those reeling thoughts, sometimes I just cannot help it.

Complex and miraculous as they are, our brains are still predictable, studied organs that do the same function over and over our whole lives for better or for worse. Which is to make and complete patterns from what we observe and experience in the world. That is certainly not absurd and nothing I am going to spend time being ashamed of.

Category : Angela , Volunteer Bloggers


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Beauty For Ashes

I was only five weeks along when my husband and I miscarried. We were just about to hit our one year anniversary. I remember feeling numb, confused, unsure of what to do next, and flat out sad. I remember even having a hard time praying. So, I prayed The Lord’s Prayer as a way of still staying connected with God during my grieving. I knew I needed to stay connected no matter how difficult it was. I knew GOD was the only thing that could get me through. Eventually The Lord’s Prayers turned into prayers of thanksgiving, and before I knew it I was back to prayer warrior mode.

Healing isn’t just a process, but it is also a journey. It’s a journey that can bring renewal, peace, and wisdom. Going through multiple miscarriages has been some of the most painful moments in my life. As painful as they have been, I wouldn’t change this journey for anything. Not because I wouldn’t love to have our babies alive and well, but because God’s love has grown me in ways that I cannot even explain in words. I’m not who I used to be, nor is my relationship with God. My relationship with Him has grown LEAPS and BOUNDS. I’ve learned to seek FIRST the Kingdom of GOD and to find peace and joy in all of life’s ups and downs. I honestly can’t say I would have learned these heavy lessons if it weren’t for the pain I have endured through the years of grief and loss.

I think that’s the beautiful thing about God, right? His ability to bring beauty out of ashes.

“He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

If you are finding yourself in a place of despair, remember that joy comes in the morning. His beauty WILL shine through. Take a deep breath, be still, and know He is God. It is in the stillness that we can truly know who He is.

Here is a prayer if you are finding yourself unsure of what to pray. It’s simple and true.

“Dear Lord,

Thank you. Thank you for the life I carried inside of me, even if it was just for a moment. Thank you for choosing me to be my child’s mommy. I will forever love, cherish, and pray for him/her. Thank you for Your Goodness! Thank You for being near.

In Jesus Name,

Amen”

I am praying for you sister. Through the pain. Through the healing. You are loved.

Category : Cryssie , Volunteer Bloggers


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Until We Meet Again Grandma

My grandmother passed away on June 6th, 2020. She was 91 years young. She was a God-fearing woman and she spent her entire life serving the Lord and taking care of her family. She raised 3 boys and 3 girls, and had a hand in all of her 18 grandchildren’s upbringings. She has been present in my life from day one. She took me to school. She cooked for me. She cared for me when I was sick. Beside Bible stories, she loved watching the Honeymooners, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Cojack and Columbo. The classics. Sometimes we would catch a late late movie and watch it together. She talked through the whole movie, trying to guess what would happen next and how it would end. Other than that, she rarely talked about her life. Every so often she would let something slip, but you had to be alert to pick up on it.

As I sit here now and think about her life, she loved children. Not only did she raise her children and her grandchildren, she was a care taker for other families while I was growing up. Every day was Sunday school with her. She sang hymns and taught bible stories. She was a patient and faithful woman. She took her time to care for those in her care. She put her whole heart into it with no complaint.

Many years ago, she shared with me that she had 7 kids. One passed away after birth. I do not recall the details that surrounded the baby’s death i.e. stillbirth, premature birth, but I remember she shared this detail of her life with me. I wonder how she coped. But as I write this and think about it, I know that she would have said to me that she found comfort and peace in God. But I know that she went through that alone. She did not have best friends. She did not have tea parties and get togethers with the girls. She focused on God and family. I know part of this was of her generation and another part of her relationship with God. As woman there is so much we hide from the world. We internalize so much pain and yet smile to the world. To know her and her love for children, I know this was a painful experience, but you would have never known it unless you asked. But she truly had a strong faith that I know she found comfort in her pain. She lived her life in so much love and joy, trying to raise all the children in her care with love, grace and understanding.

There was a time that I did not want children. I did not know how to define family. I was completely tainted by life’s hard balls. I was bruised and hurt by disappointments and abandonment. But when I met my husband, his upbringing was hard and yet he reminded me of my grandmother, someone who did not let life’s hard balls keep him down or destroy his spirit. Being around him, I saw how loving he was to his nieces and nephews, and even his coworker’s kid – he dressed up like Spiderman, climbed over the fence and  and surprised him at his birthday party. I trusted him and our strong foundation helped us get through hard times together.

There is never a parental manual you get with a child or motherhood. Lucky for me, I had a grandmother who was the best care taker. Her strength and compassion about people especially children runs through my veins. As a woman she experienced so much from losing a child to losing her husband to cancer at a young age to take care of her family as the matriarch for the last 35 years. Through the highs and lows, she continued to press forward on her life journey always praying, singing and witnessing. I realize that everyone has a different coping mechanism and it is important to have one in place so we can get through the hard times so I encourage you to review your own coping mechanism and make sure it can help you get through life’s heartaches. My grandmother was a beacon of light her entire life and I will lean on her strength and teachings to help me continue my life journey.

Category : Tracy , Volunteer Bloggers


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A pregnancy loss becomes part of you

No matter at what stage a woman has a miscarriage, the experience is very profound and should not be diminished or dismissed. It remains present in situations when she misses a period or spots unexpectedly. Any deviation from a “normal” cycle, automatically my mind questions, “Am I experiencing a miscarriage?” Since the birth of my second child, I decided not to use birth control. I have PCOS, which contributes to my periods being irregular and heavy. I track my period and it’s on its own schedule now so I am pretty comfortable with my “normal” cycle. Except last month.

When I miscarried three years ago, my body was still in pregnancy mode. I selected to take the pills and let my body naturally remove the baby. Even with my experience with PCOS, this experience was very painful, excessive, and long, but I endured through it. Once my body recuperated, I continued on my fertility journey. But the experience never leaves you and it manifested into anxiety and paranoia during my entire pregnancy. There was a time I didn’t feel any movement and I panicked and went straight to the doctor’s office. When they did the ultrasound, the tech said he was turned away from my belly, mostly towards the bottom of my back, and moving around just fine. Even after the birth of my second son, it’s a lingering feeling. A brief prick in my spirit from time to time.

But last month, while cooking, out of nowhere, I started to bleed profusely and the cramping soon followed. This is not my normal. I know my body. This is not right. I did not share my initial fears with my husband until the third day as I was balled up in a fetal position on the bed. Normally I would have called my doctor and scheduled an urgent appointment, but due to COVID19, my anxiety of the outdoors and unknown froze me. I was scared. Finally I told my husband that I was going through a similar experience like when I miscarried. Being supportive, he said to call the doctor in the morning and he slipped in if it is a miscarriage, he doesn’t want to know. He is so sensitive. I know that was his fears talking.

So in the morning, I spoke with one of the nurses and she advised me to come in asap. She went over the protocols in place that I will need to follow: arrive early, come alone, and wear a mask. When I arrived, I wore my mask and latex gloves. At the pre-check in, my temperature was taken and I answered some preliminary questions. Given the green light to go into the office, I checked in and was immediately seen. After some lab work and an ultrasound, my diagnosis is fibroids. Definitely a concern to address, but I was relieved and I called my husband from the car when I left.

I share this story, although somewhat TMI, I think it’s important that we stay vocal about our health, women’s health. Before my afternoon visit, I told my coworker I was logging off early to go to the doctor and afterwards, I informed her of my diagnosis and opened up with my initial concern that I thought it may be a miscarriage. She then confessed to me that that possibility crossed her mind when I first told her because she too had experienced a miscarriage. Another layer peeled back as we continue to learn more about each other. And this is not my first time sharing an experience with another woman and finding out that we have pregnancy loss in common. It brings a sense of intimacy within a relationship, a heightened level of compassion and trust.

With the added level of social distancing and quarantine, do not allow it to bury you further into aloofness. Pick up the phone. Set up a video chat. Write in a journal. Chat with a friend. Talk with your spouse. Call your doctor. Just don’t stay silent whether in your sadness or pain. Life is still happening to and around us. Every day we are getting older and our bodies are changing. Continue to listen to your bodies and take care. Stay safe.

Category : Tracy , Volunteer Bloggers


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What Plans?

The people who know me best in life know that I am a mix of a confusing group of characteristics. I am an extreme planner. My first pregnancy, I was due in September and already had the maternity ward tour scheduled in May. The nursery was done at the beginning of August. Everything was washed, labeled, and ready to use. Those same people know that I am incredibly disorganized. My kitchen counters and dining room table are full of clutter. I don’t mind it because I tell myself I can easily find something that way.

I found out about my second pregnancy three years ago on May 22, 2017. I was determined that whatever gender this baby was, the theme of their nursery was going to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I went to a craft store and sifted through bolts of fabric picking out red, yellow, and green that I would ultimately request my mother in law to sew into a quilt. I went to Kohl’s and found a “Big Sister” shirt for our daughter and some fairly unisex clothes. I planned our baby announcement for 4th of July. I started a Pinterest board for welcoming a second child home and how to deal with sibling rivalry.

And then things happened that I couldn’t have planned for. When I started bleeding, it was incredibly faint. I heard that many women have spotting early in their pregnancy and I was only six and a half weeks along at that point. The pregnancy test was very clear and bright, which I thought meant a strong pregnancy.

I write this post during this time because we are all dealing with things we couldn’t have planned for. Most of us are at home. Some of you are spending your last trimester in solitude, instead of having in person baby showers with family, friends, and food. Some are currently in the fourth trimester, aching for the company of loved ones during these precious times.

What I’ve learned in the last three years since our loss is that we can plan all we want, but sometimes life or a higher power just has different plans for us. There is no shame in grieving the loss as long as you need to. Whether that is the loss of maternity shoots, newborn shoots, baby showers, visitors in the hospital, or the other dozens of things that we now can’t control, disappointment is a valid feeling.

The other thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t allow yourself to have those feelings when they’re happening, they will build and build and explode one day. I still struggle on certain days with meaning (the day we found out, the day we lost, the day I returned the Big Sister shirt) but in those moments, I give myself some grace and allow tears to fall or wine to be consumed.

When we’re dealing with the unthinkable, the only plans we can stick to are the ones where we plan for nothing at all.

Category : Jessica , Volunteer Bloggers


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The Very Unmerry Month of May

We are certainly living through difficult times, perhaps one of the most challenging in history. Covid-19 is wreaking havoc across the world and our country and shows few signs of letting up. With no therapeutics or a vaccine, venturing outside has become frightening. I limit my excursions to early morning walks with my dog Kovu, given that I am a high-risk individual. For the first time since New York’s lockdown, I ventured out with Keith to take in Albany’s tulip fest, albeit from the car. I actually felt carsick from not having ridden in a vehicle for such a long time.

For many, May has always been a difficult month. Mother’s Day and the surrounding festivities can be extremely hard for those who have lost their moms or for moms who have lost a child. It can also be tough for those who, for any number of reasons, did not have the mother they deserved. Mother’s Day often brings a sense of profound loss.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. We tend to push mental health issues under the rug. Much like certain other illnesses, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t seem to exist. While many experience some depression or feelings of loss during this month, daily life in the face of a pandemic can exacerbate these feelings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely brought many changes to how you live your life, and with it, uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures, and social isolation. You may worry about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last, and what the future will bring.

Many are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And if you are predisposed to mental health disorders, they can worsen. It’s important to learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope.

While professional help is certainly available, there are ways you can help lessen stress. Here are some helpful tips recommended by the CDC to managing stress and coping with change in our daily lives:(1).

• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
• Take care of your body by taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating; by eating healthy, well-balanced meals; by exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep.
• Make time to unwind. Start with activities you enjoy like painting, knitting, or reading.
• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

For me, sticking to a daily routine has helped keep me busy and away from all the “what if” thinking in this uncertain time. I also try to focus what I can do, not what I can’t. While I am unable to hold my newborn grandson Rory, I am able to see him from a safe social distance. I know his brother Liam is watching over him from above. But most of all, try to stay positive and find the beauty in each day.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Category : Deb , Volunteer Bloggers


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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