Category Archives: Staff/Board Members

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Miscarriage on TV: This Is Us Was All of Us This Week

Photo source: This Is Us, www.nbc.com/this-is-us

Warning: This post contains spoilers from the Nov. 21st episode of This Is Us.

When you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss, as many of us on this site have, watching one on TV can be one of two things:

  1. Cathartic—It’s so nice to see the pain and loneliness captured on TV and know you’re not alone.
  2. Heartbreaking—It was hard enough living through it once. Remembering the pain is not fun.

Watching Kate and Toby experience a miscarriage was a little bit of both for me. This Is Us really was all of us this week.

As I watched Kate talk to her baby, touch her not-yet-there bump and smile softly to herself as she thought of her baby, I remembered doing all of those things with my baby in April 2016. From the minute the second line appears, that baby is so real—no matter how hard you tell yourself not to get your hopes up.

Like Kate, I was scared to hope at first. But we saw the heartbeat (twice!), told family, some friends and even some coworkers, and started to dream. But despite the dreaming, the nervousness persisted. I remember worrying every time I went to the bathroom that there might be blood, and being so relieved when there wasn’t.

Until one day, there was.

Just as Kate did, I asked myself, “How can I be this sad? I never met him. Or her.” And yet, he or she was already mine. I had so many dreams for the baby who would have completed our family. I loved him or her already. And though I only carried our baby for nine weeks, I was devastated when the pregnancy ended.

I, like Kate, am overweight, and I was sure it was all my fault. I wondered what I could have done differently. It took many weeks to remember that our first baby was perfectly fine, despite my weight, and when bad things happen, it doesn’t have to mean that it’s somebody’s fault. It wasn’t my fault. That was so freeing to finally believe.

On This Is Us, the doctor cavalierly tells Kate and Toby that there is nothing stopping them from getting back to their lives, as though a pregnancy loss is no more consequential than a cold. I remember a similar bedside manner from my anesthesiologist when I was getting my D&C, and I cried as I went into the procedure. It wasn’t simply removing tissue from my body. It was the loss of my BABY.

Fortunately, my experience was slightly different from Kate’s when it came to grieving with my husband. One perk of having to untell my coworkers was the support I received from so many of them who had also experienced pregnancy loss. One of my male coworkers reminded me that husbands are often overlooked during pregnancy loss. He suggested that I give my husband a big hug and let him know that I know he is hurting too, and we will get through this together.

And we did. But no matter how much time passes and what new blessings come into our lives, there will always be a space in our hearts for the baby we never got to hold in our arms.

Kristen Kessinger is a member of Through the Heart’s Board of Directors.

 

 

 

Category : Guest Bloggers , Staff/Board Members


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Separation of Church and Medicine

Five years ago today, I found out I was pregnant for the first time.

I was naïve. I didn’t know very much about miscarriage or other types of pregnancy loss and I knew even less about infertility and procedures such as IVF.

Then I went on a journey I never expected to take, one I still find myself in the middle of all these years later. I’ve learned what it’s like to be told your child has chromosomal abnormalities. I’ve learned what it’s like to go in for an ultrasound only to find out there’s no heartbeat. I now know what it’s like to sit in the waiting room of the reproductive endocrinologist’s office, sick to your stomach, because you feel like you’re broken.

I know jealousy, anger, pain. I’ve shed many, many tears. I’ve questioned why – why me, why us, why anyone?

Several weeks ago, I reached out to my church to see if it would be possible to include Through the Heart’s upcoming PAIL events in the bulletin, as they often highlight local nonprofits. After some back and forth, including discussion about possibly working with the school’s students to fulfill their community service requirements, I was told earlier this week that the diocese did not approve our organization. The reason? Somewhere in our materials we mention IVF and the church does not believe in the procedure.

My initial response was anger. I’ve never gone through IVF myself, but I came very, very close. I absolutely believe in the procedure. I believe that anyone should have the chance to have a biological family, not just those who have been blessed with fully functioning reproductive systems.

I started having flashbacks to when I found out that there were problems with our first child. It was too early to know the specifics, only that something was wrong. People said things to me like “The doctors don’t know anything, God will take care of it.” Really? I believe in God but I also believe in medicine and science.

Faith is difficult for me at times. I am probably not what would be considered a “good” Catholic because I don’t fall in line. To me, faith is about your personal relationship with God. It is about praying in a way that makes sense to you. It is not about doing things because you’re supposed to.

I sit through most Sunday masses not knowing the right response. I recite the Our Father, I share the sign of peace, I go up for communion. But to me the most meaningful and important part is often all those times in between. Those times when something during the homily strikes a chord or the sound of the opening music causes me to break down in tears. In those moments I am allowing myself to be vulnerable, to just let go. Those are the hardest moments, but also my favorite. To me, that is faith.

My husband and I were married in a Catholic ceremony. We vowed to accept children and raise them in the Catholic religion. At no time was it indicated that the children had to be given to us in a certain way. I have a hard time believing that my God would deny so many people the ability to be parents. People like to say “What Would Jesus Do?” Well, I think Jesus would believe in medicine. I think he would believe in biological parenthood, in families and in happiness.

Religion, like everything else, is not perfect. I accepted a long time ago that there are parts of the Catholic faith that I just do not agree with and never will. And that’s ok. But times have changed, society has evolved, and medicine has made so many amazing accomplishments possible. It’s time for the church to evolve too.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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The Innocence of Miscarriage

There are so many words that get used to describe miscarriage – ugly, painful, horrible, heartbreaking. For many of us, it is one of the most difficult things we will face in life. It hurts. It changes you. For some, it even destroys.

But as we struggle, as we grieve, as we try and find a way to heal, there is an innocence that continues on around us. Not everyone is privy to these inward emotions, sometimes not even the people closest to us. For some, it is a choice to keep information private. For others, they do not want to burden those around them. And for others still, they feel they have nowhere to turn.

My most recent miscarriage – my third loss overall – was different for me in so many ways. But above all else, it was the first time that I saw the effect in a new way. It was the first loss since my son Ryan as born last year. He was just 11 months old when it happened, too young to have any idea of what was happening, or what we were feeling, or the fact that his little brother or sister wouldn’t be coming in March like we were planning. His innocence was glaring.

Those first few days were the hardest. I didn’t have the opportunity to feel sorry for myself. For the sake of my son, for whom I am the primary caregiver, I had to try and continue with as normal of a routine as possible. But there were those times when I’d be sitting at a red light and my thoughts would wander and I’d zone out, the drivers around me unaware of why I was staring off into the distance as the light changed.

One day, as I put Ryan into his car seat, he looked at me and smiled like he usually does. He didn’t know that today was different, that yes we were just going to run errands but that I’d be fighting back tears while doing it. Later that day, as I laid on the living room floor, he climbed all over me and let out his laugh that I love so much. When he looked into my eyes, I thought for a moment that maybe he did have an idea of what was happening, that in his own way he understood.

A few days later I had to go in for another blood draw that would confirm the miscarriage.  As we sat in the crowded lab waiting room, I was mentally checked out. I just wanted to get this formality over with. Ryan sat in his stroller, legs kicking and a big grin on his face, making friends with people as he always does. The ladies working at the counter made the usual exclamations of “He’s so alert!” and “He’s so cute!” and asked his age. Strangers waved and cooed. I tried my best to muster up a smile while I politely made chit chat but inside I just wanted to be somewhere else.

Yesterday at church a family I’d never seen before sat next to us. They had a little girl who was maybe 6 months older than Ryan and an itty bity newborn baby boy. He was wearing one of the same blue and white puppy outfits we had for Ryan at that age. This little boy – the epitome of innocence at just a few weeks old – was also my trigger. I couldn’t look at him without a flood of emotions coming up, without thinking about the last baby we lost.

Sometimes I look at my son and feel as though we failed him. Not only did we lose a child, but now he has lost a sibling. Someday he will understand but for now, his innocence shields him from the pain.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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A Year of Love, Joy, and Hope

Today, as we celebrate my son Ryan’s 1st birthday, my heart is full. I know I am blessed to have this little boy in my life, and he reminds me every single day with his huge smile, his hugs, and his awesome dancing skills (the boy loves music!)

It’s impossible to celebrate this day without also reflecting on what brought us here. I can’t change the past just as I can’t control the future but I can embrace it and accept it. Ryan is the most important part of my life but he’s not my entire story. Having a living child doesn’t mean you don’t get to mourn the ones who aren’t here or to feel the pain of future losses or struggles.

While this past year has been full of happiness and joy, it has also put pregnancy loss into a new perspective for me. Before, the losses were more abstract. I could envision what my life with my babies would look like, but I didn’t know for sure. Now, I have a better idea. I can think of them as Ryan’s older siblings, the children who should be here with our family.

I hope Ryan can be a symbol of hope for so many of you out there. It was a long, hard journey to get him here, one that spanned 4.5 years and included 2 losses. But he is here and he is beyond amazing and I am so grateful that I never gave up. No matter how hard it gets, I encourage you to hang in there. Have no regrets.

Happy birthday to my precious little one. I love you!

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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And then there were three

Before my son was born, I had an identity as a woman who had lost 2 children. What I felt, what I wrote, how I looked at other people was tied into that idea of who I was.

And then Ryan was born and it was as if someone hit the pause button on that version of myself. I suddenly became a woman not just with two children in heaven, but with one here on earth. I began to understand things differently, to view people and situations in a new light. I had made it to the other side.

Then, just like that, someone hit the play button again.

Two weeks ago, I miscarried. I was just past 6 weeks pregnant when I woke up to bright red bleeding. I tried to calmly and rationally tell myself that it didn’t mean anything while simultaneously calling my doctor’s office to schedule an ultrasound. I knew in my heart I was losing this baby.

It was about as textbook as a natural miscarriage could be…which is to say it took a huge emotional toll. As I waited for the bleeding to stop, I felt as though my life was moving in slow motion. Why couldn’t this just be over already? There was no hope to cling to, no chance that maybe everything was going to be ok after all.

I’m now settling in to this new identity as a woman who has had three pregnancy losses. I’m trying to sort through a jumble of emotions and thoughts and figure out how to heal.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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The Cupcakes

I remember the weeks leading up to June 24, 2013 being painful.

It was my due date with my first child, a baby girl. We had said goodbye to her a few months earlier and each passing day was another reminder that she wouldn’t be joining us. The date was always just looming in front of us, the biggest hurdle in a year of milestones. Sean and I took off of work that day, made a trip to Lowe’s, and planted a lemon tree in our backyard as a symbol of remembrance and of letting go. It was a difficult day, but one that also brought some relief as we no longer had to think about what was ahead.

In the years since, June 24 has become a slightly easier day, but one that still brings some sadness and angst. Instead of dreading the date for weeks or months, the quiet doesn’t set in until a few days before. Although we celebrate the day as a birthday and try our hardest to make it a happy event, there’s always still a solemnness to it. Because to be honest, there’s nothing joyous about singing Happy Birthday to a child who isn’t there to hear it or eating cake with candles you blew out yourself.

Yesterday as I shopped for a birthday treat, I walked around looking at a variety of desserts and found myself being indecisive. I gravitated toward a box of cupcakes, looked at the price, and balked. As someone who is usually very budget-conscious, these were a little more than I typically would want to spend. And then a voice in my head said “These are for your daughter’s birthday.” In that moment I felt a twinge of guilt and shame – I would not think twice about spending many times that amount on a cake for my living child, but I am seriously debating this right now?

I bought the cupcakes. When I got home, I left them on the kitchen counter and every time I saw them throughout the day, I felt the weight of their presence. Year after year June 24 comes and goes. It’s an important day for our family but not in the same way it should be. The birthday celebration is small, quiet, private. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – there’s something special about the intimacy of it all. But at the end of the day it’s just different. There’s no guest list, no invitations, no fanfare. It’s raw and emotional.

I don’t know if this will ever get any easier, but really, it doesn’t matter. We don’t have to forget the ones we’ve lost, there’s no rule that says we have to move on or grieve or remember in any certain way. I like our tradition even if it’s not an easy one, because the little girl who would have been 4 today is a part of our family. Those cupcakes represent her spirit and our love, and they deserve a place on the kitchen counter, with candles aglow.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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When Mother’s Day becomes complicated

All week, I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say about Mother’s Day. And all week, I’ve struggled.

This is my first Mother’s Day with a living child. I am beyond blessed to have this little boy – he is the light of my life and I am overjoyed to be able to spend this special day with him.

But I also know how hard this day is for so many – people who have lost children, people who are struggling to become parents, and people who have lost their own mothers. For some reason, the polarization in emotions about this day seems to be even more prevalent this year than ever before. Am I just more aware? Are others just sharing more?

I spent this week reading stories and watching videos about women for whom this day is so painful. I empathized with them. I understand their struggle, their heartache, their agony. It hurts my heart that a day that is designed to be full of love and joy can have the opposite effect for so many. How do we address this? Is there any way to make it better?

As the co-founder of an organization that helps people who have experienced pregnancy loss, I feel it is my responsibility to be vocal about the sensitivity of this day and how society, as a whole, can be respectful of those mothers who have lost children. Over the past four years of being a childless mother on Mother’s Day, I’ve shared my thoughts (here are my blog posts from 2015 and 2014).

But this year is different for me. I do have a child to celebrate with, a reason to be happy and to enjoy the day.  I also remember what it’s like not to. Where does this leave me? I feel almost guilty writing about my child and how I’m looking forward to Mother’s Day because I know this post is being read by so many who are hurting so badly right now.

I’m having a hard time coming up with words right now that are meaningful in any way. I know that nothing I say – or anyone else says – can change the circumstances for you.

So I’ll just say this: whatever you are feeling, however you decide to recognize (or ignore) this day, know that it’s ok to not know the answer. I’m letting myself accept the fact that this will always be a slightly complicated day for me. I hope you will too.

Category : Karen , Staff/Board Members


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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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