Category Archives: Meredith

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Learning to Love My Body Through Recurrent Loss

The title is aspirational, mostly. After infertility and recurrent miscarriages loving my body is a daily challenge. As a woman, I’ve struggled with body image my whole life. Too thin, too chubby, not athletic enough, way too short. My hips are too big and my head is too small. But there were things I appreciated about my body even as I picked it apart for its flaws. I danced for many years and felt strong and graceful. My legs were capable of walking me to work, to the bus, to the store, for many years living without a car. Even if I didn’t like it all the time, it worked.

Part of the brokenness of infertility and pregnancy loss is having your body fail at the most mundane of tasks. Getting pregnant, a basic function for many people, became an impossibility for me. “Where is your biological imperative!? Why can’t you manage this simple thing?” the voice inside my head angrily scolds my body, which helps nothing and changes nothing. Staying pregnant proved even harder. In moments of desperation I tried the opposite approach. “Please, please work. Please keep my baby alive. You can do it.” But my body doesn’t – can’t – meet that plea.

Some days I feel trapped inside this skin. Disembodied. Acutely aware that with every breath I take that I am coexisting with this shell I live in, the body that killed my babies. I feel hatred and guilt. If I could claw my way out I would, but there is no easy fix for this pain.

After each miscarriage I’ve slid into mistreatment of my body in a combination of grief and anger. Sometimes I eat only cereal for four days in a row. An entire package of chocolate candies in one sitting. Or I don’t eat at all, the hunger pains dulled by the emotional fog. When we start the next IVF cycle each injection, each ultrasound, feels like penance and punishment. This is what you get for failing again. More needles, more discomfort, more heartbreak. More loss.

When I prioritize “self care” it isn’t me I am prioritizing. It is easier to focus on eating well or exercising when I think of it as something I must do to maximize our chances of a successful pregnancy. I do it dutifully, like homework. Less than 50g of carbs a day, barre classes 3 times a week, a pill box overflowing with supplements and vitamins. Not to care for myself but to coerce my body into sustaining a baby. Trying to punish good eggs out of the scrambled mess of my insides. I am thin and hollow. I am afraid to fail.

Over time, I’ve tried to reconnect with my physical self. My therapist recommends deep breathing and mindfulness exercises. At first I couldn’t do them at all because the thought of being present in my body-prison was terrifying. With practice it comes more easily. Breathe in, breathe out. Center yourself. Hear your inner thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them pass.

Acknowledge them. “Wow, those are strong feelings. Do you really hate yourself that much? What could you have done differently? It’s not your fault, don’t blame yourself.” I come to my own defense. I rescue myself. I begin to think of that subconscious voice beating up on myself like a bully hurting my inner child. No! Be gentle to her. Nurture her.

I practice on other people experiencing infertility and loss, treating them how I wish I could treat myself. I’m not alone in these feelings of self-loathing. In my support group circle I’m the first to jump in: “You did everything you could. Don’t blame yourself.” I nurture and caress those scared inner children and try to help them heal to wholeness.

Not your fault. Not your fault. Not your fault. Not our fault. Not my fault.

I try to love them like I want to be loved, like I want to love myself. And slowly I reclaim my sense of self, and with it some of my self worth. It’s a work in progress.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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A Bouquet of You

I collect their birth month flowers. One for every month our babies should have been born.

Daffodil.

Gladiolus.

Marigold.

Iris.

A year of grief. A due date missed for every season.

I wear the flowers on charms around my neck. I gather a bouquet on every due date. I plan a tattoo to inscribe them tangibly on my skin forever.

Endless death that even the beauty of flowers can’t erase.

I only hope that one day there will be a flower among them to symbolize a living, breathing child for us to mother.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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Grieving in Reverse

These days I am reading a lot about grief and the grieving process and half the time it makes me feel worse. The atypicality of pregnancy loss grief only seems to underscore the magnitude of what we have lost.

Common grief advice is to tell a story about how you remember the person you lost. Or to do something that you liked to do together. To honor the person lost by reflecting on the good times you had or their most positive traits. With the loss of a child that hasn’t yet been born there are no concrete memories. In our case it was just the fleeting failure of pregnancies too new to even be properly celebrated.

Here’s what I remember about baby L: after 2 years of trying we finally saw those two pink lines. It was after our first IVF embryo transfer. My wife and I stood by the bathroom sink staring in awe at the test delivering the news that we would be expecting our first child. Finally. Confirmation that this long process of trying and tests and IUI and failure and finally IVF was worth it. That success was possible. We dared to hope. We went to Target and for the first time in a year walked through the baby section without tearing up. We bought a onesie with a rainbow on it and a box of digital pregnancy tests. I took another test the second we arrived home. “Pregnant,” it read.

And then our baby was gone. Afterwards, I felt stupid for thinking it would work on our very first IVF attempt.

With our second baby, H, things happened pretty much like the first time, minus the unmitigated joy. I briefly wondered if the rainbow onesie we purchased previously could signify that this was our rainbow baby. That short pregnancy was clouded by fear and the longing for our first baby and terror that it would also end in disappointment. By the time I started to miscarry I already knew the signs well enough to know what was happening. Again. I tucked the onesie into the back of the closet where I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.

With baby O we were afraid to hope at all. We waited on pins and needles for bad news, and bad news came.

I will never know my babies or what they would have liked to do. I have no special memories to remember them by. Not even an early ultrasound. And worst of all, I don’t really have anyone besides my wife to share them with. To most people, it’s as if our babies never existed.

I worry I might break apart from grief. Three losses in less than 8 months is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Is grief supposed to get better with distance from the loss? My grief comes in reverse waves, aching more with the passage of time rather than less. All of the milestones we will never experience. The due dates that will come and go. The pain of never being able to meet our babies and watch them grow up.

They were my first children. But I almost never say that out loud. With most people, we don’t use their names. We really aren’t supposed to talk about them at all or it’s considered “fixating” and we are perceived unable to move past the losses in the socially acceptable amount of time. I get the message loud and blunt and clear: these babies didn’t matter to anyone but us. Let’s put them aside so we don’t have to keep being sad, or seeing your sadness and pain. Other babies will surely come, people say. (Unless they don’t, I think.) But even if they do, they won’t replace the children we lost.

The hollowness of missing someone we never got to know feels debilitating. The whole lifetime of memories we won’t ever make as a family. The hole in my heart that feels gaping and eternal. As time passes the loss becomes even more profound, counted in the months and years that stretch ahead. Some days I fear the raw emotions will swallow up everything else in my life until there is nothing left. To cope I do the exact opposite of what every grief expert recommends. I stuff my feelings down and crumple them up into a minuscule ball, so small that it can fit inside the tiny box carved by my grief and pain.

I’ll keep writing about them because it’s the only way I know how to soothe this ache and make sure they aren’t forgotten entirely. I miss them, but just as much I miss the version of me that I’ve lost in all of this pain and hurt. I will live with this loss for the rest of my life, no matter what happens next.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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What makes a mother? 

Yes, I’m a mother. This Mother’s Day I can’t sit by silently without acknowledging that fact.

After experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss I feel strongly that having a living child is not the only criteria that makes someone a parent. I am a mother by virtue of the focus of our babies in my life. My wife and I have made years worth of decisions based on our hope to become parents, and nearly a year’s worth of decisions and actions informed by our parenting of the children we have lost. Even if they aren’t here with us, I mother them daily in so many small ways.

I share their existence with others, even as the world tries its hardest to erase them. I think about them every time I comfort another loss mom or drop a savings deposit into our “next steps” account. When I see the closed door to the unfinished room that is meant to be a nursery. When we plan our calendar around the loss due dates, and the hope of potential due dates in the future. I imagine what we will tell our future child about their siblings someday.

I’m no less a mother because I couldn’t keep them alive. Or because getting pregnant was hard to begin with. I’m no less deserving of recognition because they didn’t make it here. Or because I lost them early.

I know it is a hard concept for many to grapple with, this identity I hold so strongly. Though it might be controversial to some I feel it with every fiber of my being. I’m a mom – their mom – and I won’t shut up about it just to make someone else feel more comfortable.

So while there will be no cards, no festive brunches, no kisses from sweet little ones to their mother for me this Mother’s Day I know in my heart that no one can take that label away from me. Mother’s Day is hard enough without trying to deny myself that.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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Today is not your birthday

March 15. The date is seared in my mind. Of course, all the milestone dates of this pregnancy that ended too soon get counted automatically in the background of my thoughts. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also know the dates when we would have first heard your heartbeat, when we would have found out your sex, and when you would have reached the official point of viability. But today is the day we should have finally met you.

It isn’t your birthday, although it should be. I really wanted to recognize you out loud today, baby L, and for some reason the words haven’t come easily. What do we even call this day, the day you weren’t born? How can I speak of it when we don’t have any good language to describe this type of day?

It’s not a loss anniversary. That won’t come until July, the year mark of the date we found out that you were gone. And that date will be a hard milestone to pass. But your estimated due date is about something else. It’s not about losing you as much as it is about what we are missing now that you’re not here with us.

For the last 9 months I’ve thought a lot about what my life would look like on this day. Would we be expecting another baby? Or would we still be slogging along with IVF almost a year after starting? What would I be doing at work during the time I was supposed to be out on leave? What about our marriage? Has it weathered losing you? Are we struggling? Will we ever be able to feel happy and fulfilled again?

Truthfully, not a lot has gone according to plan. It has been harder than I could have imagined. In these 9 months we’ve transferred more embryos. We’ve lost two other babies and have had other embryos never implant at all. As each treatment cycle comes and goes I wonder if we will ever parent a living child. I wonder if we will make it through to the other side. I wonder if we will drown in this grief and never recover.

L, we wish you were here. And I wish we had a better word to describe the significance of this date, your would-have-been birthday. It’s a day I know I won’t ever forget.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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Pregnancy loss after infertility: My story

At the beginning, we were just gay. A run-of-the-mill lesbian couple who knew we’d need some extra ingredients to have a baby. That was 2.5 years ago. Now I’m the mother of two babies lost in early pregnancy, with no living children so far, and my wife and I are continuing with IVF treatment to build our family.

Make no mistake, the “social infertility” of not being able to conceive with your partner in a same-sex partnership is a unique experience that comes with its own challenges. We resented needing to find a sperm donor, the costs of conceiving and the arduous second-parent adoption process my wife would need to go through when our child was born.

But that was before our long (and ongoing) battle with infertility and pregnancy loss. That was back before I truly understood that sexual orientation has no bearing on medical infertility or the ease of someone’s path to parenthood. All I saw around me were happy lesbian families celebrating a parade of births of beautiful new babies, most of which were conceived at home. Ease and joy. Procreation, with a little bit of help (but just a little) from science.

Pregnancy loss was not what we expected on this path. If I’m being honest, we were so distracted by all the other aspects of the infertility process that we forgot to fear the possibility that a pregnancy might not last. I fixated instead on the other losses we were experiencing along the way – the inability to have a baby in an act of physical love with the life partner I’d chosen, the loss of dignity knowing my wife would need to legally adopt our very wanted child through a lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption, the loss of privacy that comes with involving donors and doctors and legal advisors intimately in your attempt to have a family.

When we realized that we’d spent more than a year trying to conceive at home with not a single hint of pregnancy, I began researching how the infertility coverage mandate worked in the state where I work. What I found felt like the biggest hurdle I could imagine: my insurance company defined infertility differently for same-sex couples than for couples where the partners were of different sexes. Rather than trusting that we had done home inseminations similar to a different-sex couple trying via intercourse for a year at home, we would be held to a different standard of needing to “prove” that we tried 12 times by doing 12 IUI procedures with a reproductive endocrinologist, all paid out of pocket despite the fact that my insurance offers full coverage for infertility services. Aside from the fact that this standard was outside of accepted clinical practice guidelines for infertility treatment, it would have cost us almost $24,000 to comply with this requirement between the cost of donor sperm, medications, and the IUI procedures.

Luckily I’m a pretty determined self-advocate and health insurance is something I have a lot of professional experience in! We fought the insurer’s discriminatory standard legally, and we won. We were over the moon. We’d fought what we thought was the hardest battle, and we had coverage for IVF. It felt like the hardest part was over and a baby would soon follow.

The losses and failed IVF cycles that followed caught me completely off guard. It felt doubly unfair to have had to fight so hard for access to IVF only to have it end in such a heartbreaking way. But pregnancy loss doesn’t care what else you’ve experienced or how challenging the hand you’ve been dealt has been for you thus far. The causes of pregnancy loss don’t pick and choose to haunt certain people. It isn’t about who deserves a baby or fought the hardest for it. It isn’t about whether you’re gay or straight.

That’s why I’m here. To share my story and represent a different side from the happy and easy lesbian baby-making narrative that has left me feeling isolated and alone as we have charted these seemingly unnavigated waters. I know I’m not alone and if your story is anything like mine, now you know you’re not alone either.

Category : Meredith , 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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