Category Archives: Meredith

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Pregnancy After Loss: A Letter from Quarantine 

Dear Baby,

Today is my 30th consecutive day of self-quarantine. With the exception of OB appointments and socially distant walks around the neighborhood, both of your parents have spent the last month inside and away from anyone who could potentially spread Coronavirus to our family. It is boring and hard and isolating, but it is imminently worth it.

With our last four pregnancies, we lost our babies not due to anything we did or didn’t do. There was nothing to be done, no action that could keep them safe and sound. With COVID-19, there is something we can do. We can follow social distancing rules – or the extreme version of them necessary for those at increased risk – and do our best to keep you safe in the midst of a global pandemic. It isn’t pleasant, but we are lucky enough to be able to avoid exposure and the potential for complications, no matter how small.  We are taking our first actions as parents in your best interest and putting your needs over our own wants.

This might not be enough. We know of course that regardless of these precautions that we might lose this pregnancy – lose you. The thought is terrifying. But if we do, we will know that we did everything we could to ensure your safety. It is the very least we can do for you.

Pregnancy after loss is hard enough in the best of times. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold any resentment about the circumstances and timing of my pregnancy with you. Why now, after nearly 4 years of trying, does our successful pregnancy have to fall during such a challenging and fraught time? In my less graceful moments it feels like a set-up, a personal attack designed to rob me of any joy. We may miss out on a lot of milestones I have dreamed about for far too long: a baby shower surrounded by loving family and friends, professional infant photos, and family visiting us in the hospital to meet you for the first time. But regardless, I am determined to do what I can.

So for the foreseeable future here I am, in our home, alone with my wife and our little family. Hunkering down away from our loved ones in order to keep you as safe as possible. While we can’t know what the future holds, we are hoping to welcome you joyfully in October into a changed but healing world.

Love always,

Mama

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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Every Precious Moment

March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month, so what better time to say it: I’m pregnant. Again. Not quite out of the first trimester yet and terrified after 4 consecutive pregnancy losses. Our baby has a strong heartbeat and is growing on schedule but the reality of pregnancy after loss is that the predominant feeling I have is fear. Every step of the way I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. For something to go wrong. I struggle with trusting my body to keep this baby safe.

But despite my fear, I’ve realized something these past few weeks: my history of loss also makes this pregnancy experience different in ways that can bring us new joy. We are doing things our way, trying our best to savor every precious moment. Typically people don’t do much to mark their pregnancies during the first trimester. The typical advice is to hold off on buying anything. Keep yourself from getting too attached in case it doesn’t work out. We have thrown it all out the window. The bottom line is that if we lose this baby it will hurt – a lot. It has every time. Nothing we do or don’t do during this time is going to make it hurt any less.

This shift in attitude has brought us some of the most beautiful moments of my life. I’ve found out our baby’s sex, sobbing through tears on the phone first with the embryologist who shared the genetic test results of the embryo we had transferred and then with my wife sharing the good news. Feeling so grateful to have one small piece of information about this tiny person I am growing. We found out our daughter’s sex only after her death last summer and I wanted to have this moment while our baby was still living …. in case we didn’t get far enough along to have it later.

We bought some adorable newborn clothing. Walking through the baby section at Target for the first time in years without crying in frustration and sadness. Excited to purchase something special just for this baby.

We told close family and friends knowing that we wanted them to share in our joy at this pregnancy, and our sadness and grief if it doesn’t work out. We don’t share that we have a baby coming in October 2020. We don’t know yet whether that is going to happen. All we have is today, and these incredible little moments that we will do our best to soak in and enjoy as long as they last.

In pregnancy after loss, like with many things related to infertility and miscarriage, there is both great joy and great sadness, each coming to the surface in a million little ways every day. I’m doing my best to honor them both in every precious moment.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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A loss by any other name

It’s amazing how the hierarchy of medical terminology can impact our perception of miscarriage. My first three pregnancies are medically classified as “chemical pregnancies.” Basically: they were lost too early for anything to be visualized by ultrasound in my uterus. Its a minimizing term. Diminishing. It has allowed so many people to invalidate my experience and my pain.

“It was only a chemical pregnancy.”

“Are you sure you were even pregnant?” 

“Chemical miscarriages don’t count as recurrent pregnancy loss. You can’t really say you have recurrent loss.” 

“It’s just like a period.” 

Whether it’s a friend, a well-meaning loved one or a doctor, those words hurt.

When my 4th pregnancy progressed to the “clinical pregnancy” stage I felt… relieved. It was official. At 5 weeks, 3 days we saw a perfect gestational sac, measuring on target. Proof that the pregnancy was really there. Proof that our baby existed and was growing in my uterus. Clinical sounds so much more official than chemical. My baby wasn’t just a chemical reaction gone wrong, but on its way to becoming a person. I assumed we’d have another loss, but I knew this time it was far enough along to “count.”

When the pregnancy hadn’t progressed enough to see a heartbeat and fetal pole by 6 weeks, 3 days I feared it was just an empty sac. A “blighted ovum.” Such an ugly term. It sounds like a medieval curse of some kind. Like I’d angered a wood nymph and been fated to barrenness. Maybe our baby wasn’t in there after all.

When we saw a heartbeat at 7 weeks and 1 day, too slow to be truly viable, I was relieved. I hated myself for that reaction. We found out that our baby was still going to die and I felt relieved to learn that there was something other than an empty sac to mark its existence. That the pregnancy wasn’t a blighted ovum. That it was a “missed miscarriage,” a pregnancy that was ending, slowly, but that my body hadn’t quite caught on yet.

Missed miscarriage. That didn’t seem quite right either. With all the early monitoring of an IVF pregnancy the miscarriage hadn’t been *missed* at all. I was graphically aware at every step that our baby lived and when it started to die. As if the betrayal of my body was a betrayal of my baby’s life too. That I’d “missed” their passing without a hint. I didn’t miss it, I lived it.

After the D&C I needed a rhogham injection because my blood type is RH-. They handed me a card for my wallet in case I ever needed verification I’d received it. On the front of the card there is a list of reasons for getting the shot. “Pregnancy termination” was checked. In my online insurance portal my claim for the procedure read “missed abortion.” My diagnosis quietly and officially changed in my medical records to “habitual aborter.”

No one thought to warn me about these changes. Each time I noticed this harsh language I’d cry. (Sometimes I still do.)

Let me be clear: it isn’t that I don’t want to be categorized with those who have terminated electively- the procedures we usually classify as “abortions.” But my story is different from theirs. Using the same words to describe them, no matter the medical accuracy, feels wrong on a visceral, emotional level.

So I cling to the words that feel more right: pregnancy loss, miscarriage, baby loss. It’s the smallest comfort, but it feels validating to be able to define what happened to me on my own terms.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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In ritual, we mourn

We walked out to a remote clearing in the woods. The sound of birds chattering loudly surrounded us. The wind whispered gently. The brook babbled nearby. The sunlight filtered down through the trees.

In silence, we laid out the things we had brought on a makeshift altar, a blanket we used in our engagement photo shoot and a silk scarf that bound our hands together during our wedding ceremony.

 

Two ceramic birds.

A silver bell.

Stones for four birth months.

A sculpture of a windswept tree.

A candle infused with crystals and essential oils.

An ultrasound photo.

A book of poems.

 

We meditated. Tears rolled down my face. We held each other. We lit the candle.

The officiant who married us opened the space with her words, chosen so perfectly for us in our heartbreak.

We read what we had written, each of us, with tears in our eyes. There are no words big enough for grief; we tried.

I read a poem by Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods.” There in the woods the words captured the moment we created for ourselves and for our babies.

“To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.”

Our officiant wraps our hands in the softest knitted blanket with the colors of the rainbow. Rainbow for pride. Rainbow for love. Rainbow for her hopes for our future – hopes we don’t dare to hold for ourselves anymore.

We sob. The light filters through the leaves. The brook runs softly. The birds whistle their songs.

We ring the bell. Snuff out the candle. Pack our things. We walk back to the road in silence.

In this sacred hour we achieved what we could not do on other days. We created some ritual from our pain. Space to grieve that the world has not given freely to us. We recognized each of our pregnancies, and each of our losses. We honored our babies in our own way.

On October 1st I put a filter on my Facebook profile picture for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Sometime this month I’ll make a(nother) post about pregnancy loss and the fact that it has touched my life. I’ll share our story to remind other people that we exist, and that our babies did too. I’ll light a candle on October 15th at 7pm for the Wave of Light. But those actions have never felt like enough. That lack of “enoughness” is what drove us to design the ritual in the woods for our babies, the space we needed to grieve, in our own time, for ourselves and our family.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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It’s Personal and it’s Political

The irony did not escape me. On Wednesday, June 19th, the day we were supposed to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time, we instead were told that her development had stopped. Also on Wednesday, June 19th, the Reproductive Privacy Act was finally passed and signed into law, enshrining in the Rhode Island legal code all of the protections of Roe v. Wade. When I campaigned for this law I never imagined that it would come to fruition on the day we learned our fourth pregnancy was (also) not to be.

I am grateful that my ability to access reproductive choices allowed me to opt for a D&C procedure to remove our baby from my uterus rather than trying to collect the remains myself at home for testing. Haven’t I been through enough without that added trauma? Insurance paid fully for the procedure. Having access to that D&C is the reason we know that we had a daughter, and why she died. I wish I didn’t have to be grateful for that.

It’s a complicated thing to fight for reproductive choice even as the choices you’re left with to decide the fate of your own family are bleak and hopeless. Even as women with my experiences are left out and left behind over and over by a reproductive justice movement that largely shies away from the most wanted pregnancies of all.

The Reproductive Privacy Act doesn’t include any safeguards for people who are using IVF to (try to) grow our families, technology that would be at legal risk if Roe v. Wade were overturned. I took it up with the Senate sponsor at a house party once and she told me it wasn’t as important as the other protections at issue in her bill because it impacts fewer people. In her (flawed) analysis IVF was not at risk no matter what the Supreme Court decided so there was no point in making those protections explicit. I was annoyed, but resigned. As hard as I fight for the reproductive freedoms of others it seems mine are content to be ignored. I smiled anyways when the Privacy Act was signed, even though my heart had been permanently shattered earlier that same day.

The Friday before I had the D&C was the last day of the 2019 Rhode Island legislative session. A bill near and dear to my heart died that day as the House refused to take it up even after it had been passed unanimously by the Senate. The Rhode Island Parentage Act would have provided updated protections to families who conceive with assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and especially to same sex couples who are subject to particularly burdensome processes for second parent adoptions in the state, a process that unnecessarily takes months and costs thousands of dollars. With that bill’s death so died my remaining hope, that small glimmer that by the time our baby arrived we would have heightened legal protections and less arduous hoops to jump through – after all, haven’t we been through enough already?

But our baby is not arriving, and we were again left behind. I’ll keep fighting but I wish we didn’t have to.

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


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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


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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