Saturday, October 11, 2014

What to do after someone has a miscarriage

People ask after a loss, "What can I do for you?"

Here are some general guidelines that have worked for me.  Keep in mind, they won't apply to every woman/family.

By the way, I use the pronoun they most of the time, because I am referring to the woman who miscarried, her partner and family as miscarriage is a loss for them all.

1.) Ask if it's okay to come by, and let them tell YOU when and how.  Visits are...difficult.  When
you're feeling like the world turned upside down and is resting on your chest, you don't really like to sit and chat.  Also, depending how the miscarriage happened, she may be in pain or waiting to complete the miscarriage.  They aren't going to want company if that's the case.
Also, don't bring anyone they aren't expecting even if  it's a close friend or family member.  They probably don't really want to hang out.  It takes a lot of emotional preparation to interact.  Think of it this way-someone very precious and dear to you just died suddenly and you are also so sick you can barely move-would you want people popping in?

2.) Bringing food is good. It's awesome. They are not going to be thinking about cooking and may not want to go out to get food. Just don't linger unless they seem like they want to talk.  You could ask if you could leave it on the porch or if you should come inside.

3.) When they start going to social events, don't be awkward around them.  They know when you're avoiding eye contact or trying not to have to talk to them, or over compensating by trying to be funny.  They may act weird, but that's okay.  Let them act differently.  Grief is not just sadness.  It is denial and anger and all of those things that people don't like to see.  It's a lot of emotions all mixed up together that are expressed in ways that aren't always socially acceptable.  Love them anyway.

4.) This may not be an issue for others, but I personally have a really difficult time with the question, "How are you?"  When people ask so many times a day, the pain emerges to the surface.  It is a simple question.  A polite question.  It's a reminder for some going through a miscarriage of just how crappy they do feel when they are trying desperately to somehow fit back into a world that seems to be spinning out of their control.  It's a reminder of how much sadness overwhelms them constantly.  It's not a bad thing to ask, but it can be seen as a silly question since obviously they are not doing well at all.  Then again, I've never been one for small talk.

5.) Try to avoid asking questions.  Remember, they don't want to be the one to educate you on this subject at this particular time or maybe ever.  It's not her or her family's responsibility.  And she doesn't necessarily want to give you details about what pain (physical or emotional) she is in at the present time.  If she wants to talk about it, she will.  And let her.  One of the worst things to do is stop her from talking if she wants to open up.  And listen letting her know you are sorry for her loss.  This is terribly painful and excruciating to talk about. She is questioning herself constantly and doesn't need a reminder from you of all of those questions that have no answers.  And on that note, try not to say things like, "This is common.  You'll have a healthy baby one day."  or "Just give it time.  You'll feel better."  Those things could be true...but not helpful when their hearts are torn in two.

6.) Telling stories about what you've heard from others or on the Internet may be your way of connecting, but isn't always comforting.  No situation is the same, not even when the same woman has multiple miscarriages.  It's understandable that you want to make them feel better by doing this.  However, it could actually be the opposite of comforting.

7.)  Go to the funeral/memorial service if they have one.  This demonstrates how much you support them.  How you validate the life that meant so much to them and was suddenly ended.  I can't reiterate this enough.  It's a funeral.  It's the funeral of their child.  Pay your respects.

8.) Keep on giving support to them months later.   Just because some time passes, doesn't mean they're going to be back to normal.  This was an enormous loss of hope.  It's going to take time to regain any sense of normalcy.  Let them know you still pray for them.  The pain may still be very real for women who have had miscarriages years or even decades ago.

9.) Remember it may be difficult for them to be around babies or pregnant women for awhile.  Be sensitive to this.  Let them know ahead of time if you are able that those expecting or with newborns will be at social gatherings.  Then they can decide if they can handle it and not feel taken off guard when they walk in to see a glowing pregnant woman or newborn.  It's going to happen, and they may have a hard time with it.  Let them have a hard time with it.  They aren't upset someone else is happy. They are grieving the hole left from the absence of their deceased child.

10.) Be there for them in the way THEY need.  That means respecting their wishes.  Pray with them.  Love them.  Send cards, e-mails, texts and messages of encouragement letting them know you are thinking and praying for them. And... pray again and again.

Those things will most likely make them feel loved while expressing how much you care.
Just remember, you can't fix grief.  Be honest, open and real.  It goes a long way.

Friday, October 3, 2014

My Miscarriage Story: Part 2

I love happy endings, and I'm hoping this is going to be one.

The past few weeks I've been going to get my blood drawn weekly in order for the doctor to see that my hormone levels get back to 0.  I would get to the doctor's office as soon as possible, with my 1 year old in tow.
If I was the first one there, I could be the first one out.

Last week, I expected the level to be 0 as it had only been 7 the week before.  It was bittersweet to think that there was no more of the hormone in my system that would sustain a pregnancy.  I desperately wanted the whole ordeal to be over with.  On the other hand, it was a final confirmation that what once was, was no longer.

But, my level wasn't 0.

It was 25?  What?
Could I be...?  Does this mean...?

I wasn't given any answers that day-only told to come back a few days later to check the level again.

I was so nervous.  All of the terrible questions surfaced.

What if I'm pregnant, find out early, and then lose the baby?  Would it have been better to have never known?

What if...I'm pregnant?

As I made the phone call a few days later to see what was happening, my heart pounded in my chest, and I felt as if I'd never catch my breath.

I waited a moment while the lab tech retrieved my information while the heavy silence weighed on me like a boulder.

She very nonchalantly told me my level was 221.  I asked if I was pregnant.  She wouldn't say whether I was or not, but that I needed to come back to check levels in a few days.

I finally called the nurse a little later to ask about another appointment I was going to have that week.
Butterflies filled my stomach when she said, "You're definitely pregnant."


Wow.  I'm already pregnant again?
God, you are quick!

But then, my fears quickly re-emerged.
When I said to Eric, "What if people judge us, because we got pregnant so quickly?", he simply responded, "So."

And, I love that response.

People have their opinions.  We live in a country where you have every right to them.
But don't let ignorance or fear drive your opinion. It has been too much of a factor in the way I viewed my pregnancies, my life...and I'm done with it.

I embrace the Love that created this child-the God from whom all most precious things come.

We are so happy to have another little one to love, whether we enjoy most of their life this side of heaven or not.  God chose us to be parents again.  What an honor!

I am enjoying every day I have with this little pumpkin seed. :)

We celebrate another life.  We celebrate God's intricate creation.

And those are the reasons we are telling the world at only a month pregnant.
Our baby is alive and growing and thriving.

I want the world to know that.
I thank God for this miracle, and I want others to know so they can thank God, too.

Our new baby is on his/her way!

Praise the Lord.  Praise his Holy Name!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Miscarriage Story

I preface this post with a bit of a warning.
This is a detailed account of a miscarriage.  It's messy.
It's honest and real.

I posted a blog a few years ago about our first miscarriage.

I later deleted it.

I'm not certain why.
Maybe because it was painful to read.  Painful to know it was out there.
Painful to acknowledge, I guess. It was hard not to get stuck there.
Stuck in despair and hopelessness.

We recently experienced our second miscarriage.
Both babies died around 7 weeks, yet the way things happened was very different.

With our first loss, I began to bleed early on, at about 5 weeks.  We saw the baby's heartbeat twice before we went in for a 10 week check to see the baby had died.
Four days later, the baby passed from my body.  After the bleeding became very heavy, I started to have terrible cramps that lasted an hour or two.  A large, round gray mass came out of my body as I sat on the toilet. I scooped it up quickly half screaming, half crying.  I slumped down on the bathroom floor sitting in a large, bright red puddle of blood continuing to scream as Eric ran into the bathroom.

I had no idea it would happen like this.

I didn't want to let go.  I wanted to see my baby.  I wanted to open up the sac, but we didn't.  What if I ripped up part of the baby's body when I did so?  How much more guilt would that cause?

We didn't know what to do.  We lived in an apartment. We had nowhere to bury the baby.
We took the baby to the doctor.
They acted nonchalant when we dropped off the body of our precious child.
We later read, they incinerate "tissue" like that.

A few years later, we had a beautiful, healthy baby girl that we thank God for every day.

A couple of months ago, we found out we were pregnant again.  We were very excited.  We always knew we wanted more children.  The thought of another miscarriage was always present, but not so much since our last pregnancy was so textbook.

Everything seemed fine.  No bleeding.  I was nauseous and exhausted as expected.  I even started developing a baby bump.

Then, at 9 weeks, the spotting began.  I was somewhat worried, but thought maybe it was nothing.
I called the doctor, and the nurse stated it could be from picking up my 1 year old so much but to come in for an ultrasound.

I knew.
I knew as soon as I was alone in the bathroom "emptying my bladder" getting ready for the ultrasound.  This isn't right.
The tech's silence confirmed my fears.  Especially when she asked if I was sure I was 9 weeks along.

Then, we saw him.  We saw the body of our little angel.
Still.  Motionless.
You could see his little arms and legs.  His little head.

The tech didn't say anything except to get dressed and wait to talk to the doctor.
I started crying. I knew what all of this meant. I'd been through it before.
Before we left the ultrasound room, I stole the picture from the machine that had printed of his little body in my womb.  Guess she didn't think I'd want a picture of a dead baby.
This was the only picture I would ever have of the child I carried for two months.

It was confirmed when we talked to the doctor.  She asked if the tech told us.
Nope.  You get that honor.
I don't remember much of what she said except talking about how cute our daughter was.

We opted to have the baby at home like the first.
No D&C.  No medication unless it was necessary.
We walked out into a waiting room of pregnant women.
I held a piece of paper in my hand confirming the baby I was carrying was dead.  I had a death grip on my purse that held his picture.
That was it.

That was a Monday.
It was Thursday before the contractions got really bad.  They'll call them cramps, but I have been through labor.  They were contractions.  They began earlier in the week, but got increasingly worse that day.  I almost opted for the medicine inserted to speed up the miscarriage it was getting so drawn out and painful.
I didn't, though.  I wanted the baby to come out in one piece if possible.
It was as painful as when I was dilated 7 or 8 centimeters with Sarah.
I knew the baby was coming when I started bleeding so heavily blood came out on the pillow I was sitting on.  I just stayed in the bathroom from that point on.

The contractions got closer and closer together.  Bright red blood flowed out of me like a faucet.
Then, after an hour or so of this, the large clots started coming out.
I started pushing when I would feel a contraction just like I did with Sarah.  All of this on some Tylenol, which didn't do anything for the pain.
I realized what felt like the baby  was coming through my cervix.
It was stuck.  I kept pushing with each contraction until the gray tissue came out in one big piece.

I had my baby.

I very carefully put him in some Tupperware, and Eric put him in the refrigerator.  We knew better this time than to take him to the doctor's office.  We were going to bury him in the mountains where we had a memorial spot for our other miscarried baby.

I tried to clean up.  Exhausted.  Empty.  Still bleeding.

These are things they don't tell you at the doctor's office.  How painful physically and emotionally the ordeal is.  Yet, for me, it provides closure and the visual reality of the life I carried.  That's why I choose to have my babies this way.

We buried our sweet one the next day.  We stood there with Sarah over two graves with large stones encircling them and a flower planted on top.  We stood there with our three children.

We had a beautiful service at our church to honor our child.  It provided so much closure for us.  It was a validation of his life.  God created this baby, and we had the opportunity to share in his brief life.

The second loss was different in many ways.
I realized that this was labor.  I was in my bathroom alone pushing this baby out.
Knowing what to expect didn't make it easier.
I also had to go back for more than the one post ultrasound since I started bleeding again.  If all of the tissue doesn't pass, sometimes a D&C is necessary.  Thankfully, it wasn't in my case, but just the thought of it caused some serious anxiety.

I have to go back weekly to the same office with all of the pregnant people to get my levels checked since I still have the pregnancy hormone in my system.  It's like getting stabbed in the heart again and again to find out I have to go back yet another week.  It's an additional fun fact about miscarriage.

So, why am I writing all of this?  Why not keep it to myself?

I am more open about talking about the subject, because if I don't, more women will continue to feel alone in their grief.  Maybe this post can provide some clarity.  I know I searched the Internet for hours trying to find other stories that would help me cope and know what I could expect.

If I write about it, maybe it will help someone.  I had no idea with my first miscarriage what would really happen and how painful and shocking it would be.  They don't tell you that.  In my case at least, it was really minimized what it would be like both times.

Miscarriage. Really. Sucks.

But, I believe there is hope.  There is so much a loss like this can create in one's heart.
The list could go on.

Yes.  I get mad about it.  My heart feels like someone is branding it sometimes it hurts so much.
But, I'm not going to get stuck in a place full of bitterness.
I am so thankful to have the privilege to carry three human beings created by God. One I get to kiss and cuddle with every day, and the other two I will hold soon.

I have to thank my husband before I end this.  He most certainly provides the support and strength to help me even though he grieves, too.  With our most recent loss, he took several days off of work to help me and watch our daughter.  He is a father to 3, as I am a mother to 3, and he is awesome at his job as Daddy.

We know that one day, we will see our family altogether in heaven.
No more pain or sadness.
Just light and life.
For all eternity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Groundhog Day: A Day in the Life of a Mom

I wake up to the sound of a little one in her crib, and then, lay there for a minute hoping maybe she will go back to sleep.  Nope.

Mommy is up to get her ready for the day and start breakfast.  Let the cat in.  Feed the dog.  Get that coffee started.  Breakfast.  Dishes.  Play time.  Lunch.  Nap.  Try to get some work done around the house or for my job during nap...or maybe get a shower.  Up from nap for a snack and play time. Daddy comes home, and I'm out the door to my part time job.  Try to make it home for dinner.  Give her a bath and get her to bed so Daddy can get to sleep before he gets up for work at 3 a.m.  Wind down time or straight to sleep.  Depends on the night!

Do it all over again the next day.  

Lately, I've felt like Bill Murray in the movie, Groundhog Day.  I wake up most days and the routine rarely changes.  I know all too well that structure is needed for my growing toddler.  So, I try to make sure she has that structure.  Yet, somewhere between wiping off her high chair for the 3rd time and giving her another cup of milk, I'm not really there anymore.

I wonder if I'm losing myself?  I used to see the results of my contribution in this world more when I worked full time.  There were other adults working on the same issues with me.  I saw what my work meant in people's lives.  Of course, I realize my consistency in my daughter's life is an amazing contribution.  I know the long term benefits are more than I realize.  

But, in the here and now, it's hard not to start feeling like a robot who washes the same dishes, cooks the same meals and folds the same clothes day after day, week after week.  It can be a very lonely place.  A place where you give constantly every day, and before you know it, your well is depleted. 

Yet, that precious little being still needs you.  Your partner still needs you.  Your family still needs you.  And friends... Well, you want to be there for them the few times a year you actually see them. There seems to be no time or room for you to be filled up again.  That's the challenge.  How do we find balance, so that the well is filled back up?

I think we have to start saying, "No."  We have to schedule time for ourselves, and time with other people with little ones.  Others that are in the middle of trying to figure out what to do when their little one isn't sleeping, won't eat certain foods, is biting other kids...others who know the challenges of juggling finances, work schedules, friends, family and a marriage.  

I think my identity has changed.  I am a mom now.  That does mean I have to sacrifice a lot more.  It also means, I need to make time for myself and other relationships.  My daughter will suffer if I don't.  Her mother will become a numb robot that she won't respect.  

Hopefully, I will see, like Bill Murray did, the blessing of the things right in front of me.  The beauty in what is in my life.  Who I am is not determined by the results I see. This is a season. 

It is a season full of joy as I see my little girl growing every day.  It is also a time when the person I am could be swallowed up in the to do list.  No more last minute decisions to trek off to Europe.  No more last minute anything. 

Right now, I know I have to find my adventures in the sameness.  What I see every day is my daughter learning new things.  Discovering the world.  That is so amazing.  That is what makes all of this worth it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Hurting Heart After Miscarriage

My heart aches, burns.  I feel I can barely breathe.  My chest is a fiery furnace of smoldering embers.  So, tired.  Pain that returns, twice as strong pounding from the inside.  I feel it pushing behind my eyes.  Pushing against my ears like hot steam about to explode under pressure.

I don't want to feel all of this again.  Just go away.  Do I have to feel all of this?  Won't it be the same? The same as when my dad died?  The same as when my step-dad died, or my grandmother died?  The same as when our other baby died?  Because that was like all the rest combined.

What more must I learn, God?  What more?  My heart has been tenderized to a bloody pulp. Please, have mercy on me.  I have no energy right now.

I know what lies ahead.  Tears that well up until they burst out like an angry flood.  Silent but screaming nights.  Lonely days where the world keeps going, but I haven't.  I just don't want to go through it all again.

I still have hope.  I still have faith.  Please help me to ever see your face- no matter this pain.  I don't understand.  I really don't get it, but I believe in your plan.  One that is good no matter what happens.  Please, help me keep my eyes on you.  Help me be a better person, wife and mother.  I know this is an opportunity for me to be more like you and to love you more.  I really want that.  I don't want to get caught up in myself so much that I reject you and those that love me.

Water.  I'm just asking for a drop or two.  Just enough to take the sting away for a moment.  So well acquainted with grief am unwelcome visitor that I cannot refuse and whose length of stay is unknown.  I cannot control the veil that covers me now, but I know you want me to see things I have not before.

Separation from the world.  To better understand just what this life is all about.
To sit in the stillness with you.

God, my God.  Come sit with me here as I am shrouded.  Heal my heart again.

I am your servant.  I am but a lowly girl with nothing to offer, but I accept your gift of love and peace.  I can do nothing apart from you.  I can change nothing apart from you.  All is not lost.  I am but a blind child who has limited understanding.  I must trust you to hold me close when it is dark, damp and scary.  I must trust you to lead me by still waters when all I hear are raging seas.  I must follow you when I don't know where the path will lead.  I know in my heart the path will go to a place far beyond my dreams.

You are my God.  You are Father, Savior, Spirit, Truth.

I will see my babies again.  I will hold them and kiss them just like I do our baby here.  They will be in their perfect bodies.  What a sweet reunion!  What a blessed day.  To meet my Savior and babies all at once!

God is good.  He is just.

Hallelujah to the great I AM.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Lessons from Parenthood

Being a Mommy, is nothing like I thought it would be.  I really didn't think about the daily ups and downs when I was dreaming of holding a baby in my arms.  It's true that you really can't fathom parenthood until you are smack dab (the southern girl is coming out) in the middle of it.

I sit here refreshed after a long shower where I didn't hurry and actually shaved my legs.  It was heavenly.  It has been several days since I showered (tmi?), and my body reeked of dried throw up since my daughter was sick yesterday.  That part of parenthood, may have been spoken of before we had our little one, but the reality of it was nothing I could understand at the time.

It sounds disgusting to be a parent, huh?  I was taking care of her by myself since my husband was working, and it was mostly great.  It hurt my heart to see her sick, but holding her, stroking her hair and loving her brought me so much joy.

I was recently asked what it's like to be connected to a little one her age.  I gave some type of answer about loving it when she rests her head on my shoulder.  I thought more about it later, and realized there are no words.  Nothing can describe the moment you first lay eyes on them, when they smile at you for the first time and belt out a little giggle.  No words can measure the burning love you feel for them while you hold them, rock them, sing to them, feed them...while you love them.

I have learned so much in the past year.  The most valuable lesson is that I can do nothing in my own strength.  Raising a child has taught me that only frustration will come if I don't bow before the author of all when I have no idea what else to do.  For now, it's trying to get her not to be such a picky eater, but I know in years to come there will be so much more that is out of my control. And I can't fix it.

It's such a great privilege and responsibility to be a parent.  I know that my responsibility is to always pray for and with her.  It's to teach her the way she should go so that when she is old she will not depart from it.  That means I need to step up my game.  I need to be mindful of my own faults and limitations and lay them before the throne.  I need to ask for what I lack.  God gives so graciously if we only ask.

Sometimes, I tell my husband, "I'm afraid I'll mess up our daughter".  I am limiting the power of God and the redemption of Christ's blood.  When I say that, I am thinking of my faults and not the God I pray to.  He is the one that gave us this beautiful child, yet I seem to forget he is here to guide us as we raise her.

I am grateful for this moment of cleanliness and quiet while she naps.  I am grateful that God is so patient with me.  May I learn from him-especially if she wakes up grouchy!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Am I Teaching my Daughter to Hate the Way she Looks?

As my daughter was splashing and laughing in the bathtub tonight, I found myself looking at my reflection in our medicine cabinet mirror.  I'm not sure why I was staring at myself for so long.  But there I was, analyzing the person I seem to just be getting to really know.

The first thoughts in my mind were critiques as I stretched my neck closer to analyze my thirty something face.  "Ugh, those laugh lines don't disappear."  "How many more gigantic pores can I get?" " Why did I have to stay out in the sun so much when I was younger?  Now I have sun spots."  "Is my skin starting to droop under my chin?"  I would smile and frown over and over again watching the crow's feet around my eyes stand their ground.  I stared into my eyes looking at a woman starting to age, not the girl that once stared back at her.  Gazing at my reflection, I began to see more than time marching across my face.  The woman staring back was someone I realized I respect.

As I looked at her, I saw maturity that had never been there before, and that's not because I have gray hair (not yet, anyway).  There was wisdom there that was missing a decade ago.  There was more composure, grace and confidence.  I thought to myself, "I like this me a lot more."

What a foolish woman I can be!  I get so obsessed sometimes over what I look like.  My husband gets tired of hearing me fret over wrinkles and dress sizes.  I tire of it.  And what bothers me most is that I will be teaching my daughter to hate the way she looks if I don't stop the nonsense.  She imitates me every day.  It would break my heart immensely if she were to one day look in the mirror bashing herself like I do.

I know that most women do this to some degree.  Looking like the women on television and in magazines becomes our goal.  Isn't that what the articles in the magazines at the grocery store check-out are about?  They tell you how to lose weight to look like your favorite celebrity, and how to get your hair, make-up and clothes to look like people that live in Hollywood.  Because if you are just like them, you will be happy and accepted.  Right?

The problem is, it's never good enough.  You can never have a perfect body that never ages or changes as you have children.  Once you have the perfect outfit, someone else has one more perfect.  We aren't Barbie dolls.  We are humans that are most beautiful in our original form, without the make-up to cover our flaws.  We aren't immortal.  We will not stay forever young.  We're fallen creatures in need of our God to make all things right.  That's why even the stars in Hollywood, with all of their money and botox, still need God.  Nothing apart from Jesus Christ will ever truly make them know joy.

With this in mind, I am making a conscious effort to model for my daughter an appreciation for the way I was made in hopes that she will appreciate herself.  Though wrinkles reproduce, I will embrace them as a reflection of life lived.  I will remember that God made me, and what He sees is what I caught a glimpse of in the mirror tonight.  That's what I want my daughter to learn about beauty.  You may not recognize it until it is revealed.  And that's the life of Christ I want her to see through me.