Early + Recurrent Loss

>> Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Here's a continuation of our Actively Trying story. I'm sure you guys understand, but I've been delaying writing this post for a number of reasons.

  • First, though my pregnancy seems to be going well, I always feel like I'm never going to be out of the woods. It's this nagging feeling, and it's gotten worse the more my belly has grown. 
  • Second, I have wanted to make sure I can convey the right sensitivity to the subject -- the experience and emotions a woman (or couple, family, etc.) goes through can be vastly different. 
  • Oh, and please count this as a disclosure because as much as I never intend to offend anyone, it happens somehow regardless. 
  • Third, well, putting words to my feelings -- despite how it might seem -- isn't always easy. I've worked hard to "move on," so to speak, from this period. The thing is, it will always be a part of me and my story.
Here we go.

There are times when I feel like claiming stake to three miscarriages isn't totally fair to others who go through far worse. I said it. After all, my first miscarriage happened only months into trying, only days after my expected period. At the time, it was a bummer -- but surely isolated, right? The third, some 12 months later, was also within that mere fifth week of extreme early pregnancy. It's easy to disregard these pregnancies or diminish the hurt by telling myself the science.

These clusters of cells, embryos, never had heartbeats. Check. I never saw them on an ultrasound monitor. Check. And I never knew the sex, etc. Check, check, check. While that's all certainly true, but they still hurt . . . tremendously.

If you've TTC-ed for any amount of time, you know that tied to each cycle, there's this overwhelming feeling of hope. When you get that so-faint-it's-almost-white positive pregnancy test after months or years of trying, you get that buzz. You immediately start dreaming up what that little guy or girl will look like. Would he have thick, curly hair like Stephen? Would she have short, stubby legs like me? Looking up the due date: How wonderful it will be to have a fall/winter/summer/spring baby! Cue the images of impossibly adorable newborns -- your newborn -- wearing Santa outfits or sibling coordinated Halloween costumes.

The life your imagination starts painting from those initial moments is bursting with color and joy and you feel quite invincible for a short period of time.

You did it.
You created life.
It's growing inside you.
This thing you've wanted for so long is finally happening.

And when you find out that life is gone . . . no matter how soon . . . it digs deep. You start asking why. Wondering what you did wrong. You can't take comfort in the cold statistics or knowing that likely something was wrong with the baby's chromosomes, no matter how many times well-meaning friends or family say "it was probably for the best". You mourn the life that was but really wasn't. You bleed and cramp and hurt. And then you have to somehow reset and train your attention and emotional energy on trying again.

Another month of uncertainty.
Another month of agonizing waiting.
Another ride on the roller coaster.
I'll tell you, when months add up -- each day can feel like eons.

Last spring's miscarriage has been heavily weighing on me lately. I suppose it's because I remember so well at this exact time last year knowing that our baby was slowly fading away. With each OB visit, the heart rate would be slower. Our little guy or girl was hanging on, but we knew almost immediately we'd never hold him or her. I sat paralyzed in bed and stared at the wall a lot. At the time, I was beside myself and so confused.

Do we terminate knowing what's happening? (To which my old midwife informed me "Well, Ashley, that's abortion -- we don't do abortions here" and I sobbed at her: "Do you seriously think that's what I am asking for?!") Do we wait and see if there's a miracle? Do we all of a sudden decide to ask God or some higher power for help? Would a higher power even do this to us again?

And once we knew it was truly over, there was another long list of considerations to make. Do I wait for nature to take its course despite being violently ill? Will a D&C impact my future fertility? Will it hurt? Am I dishonoring the baby? Should I really wait three grueling months before trying again? Will this process ever result in a live baby? Will I ever stop crying?

I never thought I'd have two miscarriages in a row. That just doesn't happen to people like me. Never. I was 30 when we started to try for number two. 31, last March. Healthy. Fit. Diligent about medical care. I haven't partied in years and go to bed most nights by 10:30. So many friends -- both in real life an online -- came out of the woodwork to share that they, too, had had a miscarriage. They went on to have healthy pregnancies right away. Surely this, too, would pass.

And those three cycles of "break" from TTC were good for me. It was nice to not think about getting pregnant for a while. I got some mental strength back. I was so ready to start up again last June, so when it didn't happen right away . . . I seriously lost my mind. I started thinking about how unfair the whole thing was.

Two miscarriages?!
Where's my first-cycle-of-trying-again miracle baby?
Why am I so unlucky?
Why is that TEENAGER 40 weeks pregnant?
Why is that SMOKING person in her third trimester?

Judgements abounded, I assure you.

After the third, I'd read online of women who had seven or more miscarriages or stillbirths or infant loss and put myself in check. Was I making too much of all this? Was I just being crazy? But -- also -- is it really fair to compare stories? So much of my mental state was taxed with questioning. Analyzing every step, every symptom, every lifestyle choice, every doctor's recommendation . . . and if you've been there, I think you can understand how it just. takes. over. everything. EVERYTHING.

Surviving early and recurrent loss isn't something I think I did particularly well. I don't have any tips or tricks to share. I, well, merely s.u.r.v.i.v.e.d in the most basic sense of the word. Since my "fix" was a laughably simple cocktail of baby aspirin and progesterone, I do look back and wonder if these babies -- all of them -- were healthy. If my body was the attacker. I blame myself. I'm working on it, but I can't lie and tell you I don't think often about how I could right now be holding an eight month old, a five month old, or even be 5 weeks closer to my due date than I am now.

I mean, that's just insane to think about. I try my best not to go there.

As dramatic as this all sounds, I don't weigh all of these thoughts on my daily life at the present moment. I give them a place. I probably let loose once a week or every two weeks -- sometimes less frequently -- and allow myself to dwell in those moments. To muse over what might have been, but try to believe somehow there's a plan. Maybe?

There are the unexpected times when, say, I'll go to the doctor and go over my medical history . . . the whole "you've had 5 pregnancies?" thing definitely raises a few nurses' eyebrows, almost always followed by embarrassed, overly sympathetic "oh, I'm so sorry." Or when people ask now when I'm due and make a crack about how "wow -- hah hah -- you must have planned that baby perfectly with your husband's school schedule!" Or make a comment about how "something's in the water" because many of the moms in Ada's preschool are also pregnant. (I actually sometimes want to say "in my craziest moments -- I DID consider if SOMETHING in our water was causing all my miscarriages -- thank you!")

I choke back some tears and quickly compose myself. Like I said, as much as I put it all in a box, early and recurrent loss will always be a part of my story. What I've learned is that there's never a "too early" when it comes to pain of loss. There's never a "right" or "wrong" way to feel. So if you're going through this . . . let yourself feel. Let yourself mourn. And let yourself move on without feeling guilty. I'm working on that last part, but I think it's something that will happen in time.

Thanks for reading.

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