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For this child, I have prayed…

I am not even remotely religious. Neither are my parents or my wife. I have rarely been to church. I have never formally prayed. If you asked me, I’d probably tell you I’m an atheist, though admittedly an agnostic-leaning one.

So why then, at nearly 26 weeks pregnant with a child I could only describe as a miracle, do I fixate on the Bible verse 1 Samuel 1:28 that begins “For this child I prayed…”?

Is it because after 4 miscarriages and countless medical procedures, somehow (there, but for the grace of God?) it feels like I magically willed this baby into existence? Is it because of the triteness and hollowness of language like “It was worth the wait!” and “This was how it was meant to be” just don’t ring true for me? I will never believe that suffering begets joy, or that things needed to be this way. I will never accept any conception of God that would allow innocent babies to die just to teach me some sort of a lesson in patience and virtue.

Instead, I think of all of the nights I lay awake sobbing without a sound. Of walking deep into the woods and screaming out in painted tears when no words would come. I think of the moments I silently bargained – and yes prayed – for a higher power to end the pain and give us the baby we longed for. Perhaps I don’t steadfastly believe in the God I reached for in those times, but I wished I had faith to carry me through when I couldn’t walk any longer. In desperation I mouthed the words over and over. Please. Help. I yelled in anger. I cried in despair. I hoped, oh, I hoped. And I prayed.

I tried to be a better person, more deserving. I tried to be an awful person, someone deserving of the terrible hand I’d been dealt. And all along, I pleaded. To be wrong. To be right. For a sign. For an end. For resolution.

I may be an atheist, but I prayed for this baby again and again. Out of desperation and fear, and also hope and even, maybe, a glimmer of faith. “For this child I have prayed” captures the rawness I felt, and often still feel. It also captures my relief and gratitude at this answered prayer… wherever it might have come from. And when I see or hear those words I feel at peace, content that the miracle growing (and growing, and growing!) inside me was hard fought and hard won. Thank you for this child.

I will probably continue to pray.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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Our Baby Boy

On May 2nd at 6am we arrived at the hospital and by 6:35 our son had arrived. While he came very quickly once we got to the hospital, the last couple months of pregnancy seemed to drag on forever.

While staying at home and keeping up with our 3 year old was physically tough, the anxiety of getting closer to his birth was weighing on me emotionally. Giving birth during such an uncertain time in the world caused me more anxiety than last time, but in the end, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.

Our hospital experience this time around was very different then last time. After our daughter was born, most of our immediate family was at the hospital within an hour of her being born, and no one came to the hospital to see our son. This time I stayed in the hospital alone, while last time my husband stayed with me almost the whole time (although part of this was due to our daughter being at home).

As much as I mourned the absence of my family being with us shortly after birth, it ended up turning out okay in the end. Our daughter rushed to the door as soon as we came home from the hospital and asked to see baby right away. She asked, “Where’s baby?” before I even got through the door. She has fallen in love with him and shows it everyday since he came home.

We spent a few weeks at home by ourselves before any of our family was able to meet and hold him. When they finally came over and met him it was wonderful, so much joy and happiness.

Having what most likely is our last child home with us has been both amazing and sad. Our journey to have children was a lot longer, and way harder then we expected it to be, and because of this we are probably ending our journey on expanding our family here. This is hard for me because I always imagined myself with a larger family of three or four children, but most likely the right decision going forward.

The pain of 7 losses over the last 7 years has definitely taken a toll on both my mental and physical health. I wish things would have been easier and starting a family didn’t take so long.

We are extremely lucky to have two beautiful children who are healthy and happy. Even though our journey here was tough, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Looking into my son’s eyes and watching my daughter dance around brings me so much joy.

Category : Amanda , Volunteer Bloggers


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Charlie’s Story

My story begins in July 2019, when I learned I was 6 weeks pregnant with my first child. My now husband and I were beyond excited for this little new addition. We soon learned that our baby would share a birthday (03/05) with my mother who had passed years ago. It seemed like a good omen.

The world where it was just the two of us was soon to become a whole lot bigger. Our mindsets changed from where we would travel for vacation to how many diapers a newborn goes through in a day, week, and month.  The months went by and all the joys of pregnancy were celebrated. At 20 weeks we found out we were having a baby boy! 

I spent an exhausting amount of time researching the best diapers, the best non-toxic plant based toys, the best stroller and the best swing. I spent months researching sleep training techniques and the best formula that mimicked breast milk (just in case). He deserved the best and I was committed to providing the best money could buy. My Google searches were flooded with questions about the birth process and what to do with a newborn all day. I ate well, exercised and sought Reiki for a sense of calm and healing. With our unusual work schedules, we coordinated child care early and put a deposit down for September 2020. We checked off every item on our “to do” list and then some. 

At 6 months pregnant we began constructing the nursery. We refinished the hardwood floor, put the crib together, and diligently stocked every drawer and every shelf. I stocked the baby bag (that I just had to splurge on!) with every essential item he may need. Every book was carefully placed. Every onesie and every blanket was washed with baby laundry detergent that I spent weeks researching. Every night I would turn on the air purifier, sit in the nursery chair, and prepare for his arrival. I wanted us to have a routine.

At my 37 week ultrasound I recall telling the ultrasound tech that he wasn’t as active as he had been the week prior.  She told me that he probably didn’t have much room left to move. She handed me a 3D photo of the baby and I waited for my regular appointment with my doctor. As I waited, I took the ultrasound photo and sent it to my family and friends. It’s strange how a single moment can truly change the course of your life. That moment happened when the doctor told me that my baby died. That his heart stopped beating. That I had to deliver my full term baby who had died days ago. 

I couldn’t believe it. I had just been given a great photo- everything was fine. Why would she give me a photo if the baby had died? Five months later and it is still the most frustrating memory that replays on repeat. I had two weeks left until my scheduled delivery. I was almost there and then I wasn’t. 

Thursday, February 13th marked the worst day of my life. On Friday, Valentine’s Day, we arrived at the hospital and our baby was born (still) on Saturday, February 15th. An eerie silence fell in that room. We all drowned in the silence when he was born. There was no cry, though I still expected to hear one. The only cries heard were those of other babies in other rooms with other mothers. We named him Charlie. He was really something special, even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. He had gorgeous full lips. I like to imagine that he had inherited his father’s green eyes. We spent time with him, we took photos of him and said goodbye to him later that night. We were handed a memory box that now sits on a shelf in his room. We were given a “Certificate of Birth” which is quite different from a Birth Certificate. It was like receiving “honorable mention” when all you wished for was “first place.” We framed it and put it among his belongings. 

So that was it. We walked out of the hospital, just the two of us. A couple passed us in the street; the woman was going into the hospital to have her baby.  I hoped the best for them and I hoped the worst.

I thought losing my mother at 23 years old was bad. This was far, far worse. When the autopsy results came back for Charlie we learned the the umbilical cord suppressed blood flow and caused a neurological stroke- something so rare there were only 6 documented cases the maternal fetal medicine doctors could find. Imagine that. I still can’t. 

So that’s where my story begins. It is isolating. It’s crippling. It’s lonely. It is unlivable. I have more bad days than good. I’ve thought every thought you’re thinking. Most of the time I just sit and stare at nothing, think about nothing, and feel absolutely nothing. It’s whatever you want to call it: complicated grief, depression, PTSD. Yet still, somehow, I remain hopeful. I’m trying to reroute and reset the best I can. I haven’t found the magic that will wash away the grief and sorrow, but I’m trying to just like you. 

Category : Andrea , Volunteer Bloggers


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The Isolation in Grief

I always thought I was an introvert, but dealing with this pandemic has shown me how much I really need and desire the friendship  and support of others. As a “high risk” person, I have only left my house for doctors’ appointments and to take walks in my neighborhood.

I used to not have a problem with isolation. I realize now that this was my choice, not something forced on me.  I remember coming home after my open-heart surgery exactly five years ago. While I was elated to be home after my seven-week ordeal in the hospital and rehab, I was not expecting the sense of loneliness and aloneness that eventually crept in. Once my husband went back to work, the days seemed to drag on forever. I was blessed to have visitors, but they were few and far between.

Now, as we must socially distance, I again feel this sense of loneliness. While some places have opened up, I am very hesitant to go out. I would love to go out to eat or even go to a store, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk. And I anticipate it will be this way for a long time. At a recent appointment with my cardiologist, I asked if he thought I could plan a trip to Walt Disney World in February to participate in a 5K. He just looked at me and shook his head no.

Grief also brings these same feelings of aloneness and isolation. I remember feeling so alone when we lost our grandson Liam. It was like my heart had been ripped out of me. I felt unmoored, unsure what to do and how to help my son and his wife.

Tentatively, I reached out to people and shared my loss. I was floored by the number of women who said that they too had suffered a miscarriage. They understood the pain and suffering I was going through.  I didn’t feel so alone.

Miscarriage had always seemed like the elephant in the room. Seen, but not talked about. In recent years Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Carrie Underwood, and Meghan McCain have all spoken publicly about their miscarriages, in hopes of breaking the culture of silence.1 This openness and sharing can only help us deal with the pain of loss and with the devastating psychological effects. A recent study published earlier this year found that 29% of women suffer from PTSD after a miscarriage, 24% have anxiety, and 11% experience moderate to severe depression.2

Know that you are not alone in your grief. Reach out to others so they too can not feel alone.

 

  1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/breaking-the-stigma-surrounding-miscarriage-jamie-stelter-dr-tara-narula/
  2. https://www.today.com/parents/lifting-stigma-miscarriage-one-voice-time-t173533

Category : Deb , Volunteer Bloggers


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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


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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