Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What I Would Like You to Know For This Day

                                               Image result for pregnancy loss awareness

I tried writing this post two years ago, before we became pregnant with Fox, and I was unable to even get through the post. I also searched for this particular post in my draft, and it apparently no longer existed. I must have deleted it. 

I think it was just too difficult for me to put my feelings into the words. It was a matter of not being ready, and guess what, that was okay. It was not the right time. I needed to work through stuff, and to begin to heal. 

So, why now? Why share it so publicly? I have a few reasons. Please do not take this away with you to think to yourself that I'm self-seeking for attention, or self-serving in such way of making myself out to be a victim (you know, woe is me, the world is against me, blah blah). One of those reasons is to reach out, and hopefully to make a connection with someone out there who may be going through this right now, or is still grieving for a loss that happened a few years prior, or wondering what can be done for their loved one who is struggling with a loss. 

Image result for missed miscarriage

This is a very painful topic. Some people get alarmed when I start tearing up while talking about what had happened, and they feel awkward. What to say? They feel terrible for causing pain of asking, or to witness such an emotional moment. People are comfortable with discussing about what they know, and understand; a death of a parent, a friend, a colleague, a relative, or someone you knew that had a life, because they understand that kind of loss. With pregnancy loss, it's harder to understand the pain that comes with it, especially with early pregnancy, because only mothers (and their partners to a degree) knows how it feel, since it is a physical experience. Not everybody knows what it is like to experience such a trauma of this loss. It is easier to place that burden on their shoulders, and sweep this under the rug. Once this event has passed, it is never really spoken again. 

This is what our society has taught us. We are uncomfortable with someone's pain. It is more comfortable to laugh, smile, and focus on the good. Of course, we should do that. At the same time, we also need to be comfortable with painful, uncomfortable, and possibly taboo topics. Pregnancy, infant, and child loss is one of those taboo topics. We may shirk away from someone's grief regarding this topic, wondering why that person has not moved on after so many months, or we end up fumbling for words to offer to the bereaved person. It is easier for people to not mention anything at all. 

We cringe when we hear the following statements: 

"Oh, she lost the baby." 
"She had a miscarriage." 
"The baby was a stillborn." 
"The baby has died."
"There was no heartbeat." 

No one wants to hear those words, yet they are still being uttered. Death can, and DOES happen. My oldest child asked me recently why do we have to die? My answer is simple. We have to make a room for new lives on earth. If we don't die, then there won't be a room for all of us to live here. Every living thing that comes into being must eventually end. When we think about death, we definitely don't apply that to unborn babies (or babies that are born but only lived for a short while). It is why pregnancy loss is very difficult. We are so full of hope. So full of anticipation. So full of love. So full of naivety. SO full of innocence. Then you get that statement that everybody dreads to hear. In that very instant: that hope, anticipation, love, naivety, and innocence are gone. Just like that with a snap of your fingers. 

With my older two boys, my pregnancies were very uneventful besides from Gestational Throcembeyenia. I carried them to term without any serious problems. I loved my ultrasounds with them. I loved documenting every minute of my pregnancy. I just LOVED being pregnant, even with being so sick in the beginning of them, and I cherished every moment of it. My labor and deliveries were quick. They came into the world, squalling and red in the face, as perfect as they could have been. I developed a thinking of "Oh, it will never happen to me. I've had two successful pregnancies with no problem. I'm young." 

Then our 3rd pregnancy happened. It was a surprise. We had always been a planner, and always wanted to plan everything from A to Z. The unexpected things had a tendency to jar me. I didn't like unexpected things. I had to prepare for everything. It was just how I functioned. But this happened unexpectedly, and earlier than I wanted, but that was still a welcome surprise. I knew I was pregnant the moment when I made myself a fried egg on a toast, and nearly vomited from the smell of it. I was sicker with this pregnancy than I was with other two. I had no reason to be worried. The older two, and Stu were sick with a stomach bug. Being a germaphobic, I pulled out bleach, and chlorox wipes. I obsessively cleaned the house around the clock, and quarantined the boys and Stu until they recovered. I was pregnant, and it was my duty to protect the baby at any cost. Plus the idea of being sick with a GI Bug on top of being sick from pregnancy didn't appeal to me. I did not honestly think of anything different. I was not obsessively on top of every little symptom I had. After all, this was my third pregnancy, and I had no worry. I had been around the block twice. I would have known if something was wrong. 

I was busy raising two very little boys, and we had just moved to a new area. I did not know anybody, and had no friends locally in the town other than our family. I kept myself busy with a lot of walks, and chauffeuring the oldest to 3K. I had forgotten that I had a strange discharge the other day, which I had put it in back of my mind, and did not think of it since it did not happen again. It was just one of those weird pregnancy thing. Looking back, I should have taken that seriously, and have always regretted dismissing it. Looking back, the week before the ultrasound, all of my symptoms gradually disappeared. I had assumed I was getting better from my nausea, because I had no morning sickness with Forrest, and it lasted briefly with Franklin. I didn't think anything of it. 

Then we had that big ultrasound that I have always loved while pregnant with my older boys. 

I remember, and do not remember much of that day. It is funny how you recall some things, and some other things you just don't remember. 

I remember laying there, getting anxious, because the technician was taking too long. I remember telling myself half assuredly that I had a long, and tilted uterus, and how sometimes it take a while to find a little bean of a baby in there! I remember finally seeing the baby, and thinking, what a relief! There you are, baby! I remember the technician turning to me, rather abruptly, and telling me, "I am sorry. There is no heartbeat." The first emotion I felt was anger. I was ridiculously angry at the technician for being cold. Why was she not more warm? Why didn't she give me a hug? Why didn't she say something nicer? Anything but "no heartbeat". 

                     One day I had a great Step-brother who I loved and looked up to and the next day he wasn't my brother anymore...I have wanted to talk to him and tell him how much he meant to me and I still have never gotten the chance.

I don't remember sitting up. I don't remember getting dressed. I don't remember either Stu or my interpreter talking to me. I don't remember how I ended up in the exam room. I don't remember the wait. I don't remember any thoughts I had during that time frame. 

I remember my doctor walking in with a gray laptop in her arms. How gracefully she soared across the room. Her blue scrubs stood out at me. Her nimble fingers opening up the laptop, and turning it on. Her expressive brown eyes looking at me, taking me into her arms, and giving me a hug. I was struck by her compassion. She did not let me go even though I did try to break the hug. To have her tell me that it was all a mistake. But she didn't. She kept hugging. 

Then I don't remember what Dr. Mbah said. I don't remember how long the visit took. I just nodded my head, and allowed Stu to make decisions for me. I could not feel anything. Then I was told that I needed D&C the next day to rule out a Partial Molar Pregnancy. My doctor gently explained how serious the condition was, and how it could become cancerous. It was when Stu broke. He started crying. I remember that. I also remember my interpreter telling me how there was a song by LeAnn Womack playing in the background: 

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you will give faith a fighting chance
and when you get a choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance, I hope you dance....

I am not sure how I broke the news to my family. I don't remember that part. I only remember seeing a rainbow on way home, and somehow made a way into my bed. I stayed in my bed for a long time. Probably the whole night. I don't really remember that night. I don't remember if I had dinner. Or if I even ate. All I knew was that I had a dead baby inside me, and how much I had hated myself for killing the baby. I scrutinized every little thing I did; what I ate, how much I had obsessively cleaned, how I had been exposed to the germs, the exercises I did, and you know what? I really beat myself up. 

The D&C itself went well. I had a wonderful staff of nurses, and an amazing doctor who were there for me. Stu was a source of my rock. So many people poured support, and love. It was very humbling, and touching. I could not have asked for a better support system. I was very thankful (and still am) for all the comments, love, and support. I was fortunate that the initial suspicion of molar pregnancy was ruled out, but I was left with no answers why my baby died. I really struggled with not knowing why, and the lack of closure. When we got a medical bill from the hospital for that surgery, I was smacked in the face when I read SPONTANEOUS ABORTION. Logically, I knew it just meant sudden expulsion. In my case, it was anything, but that. It was not spontaneous. I had carried that baby inside me, not alive, for a possibly week without knowing it. It was certainly not an abortion. My body held on to that baby as if it was desperate to remain pregnant, desperate to believe that the baby could be retrieved, and desperate to continue with the pregnancy. 

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What surprised me the most was HOW MANY people came forward to tell me that they also had lost their baby, and sometimes, how they lost their babies one after other. I had no idea that they experienced this. I had no inkling that they struggled with infertility only to lose their baby, or that they gave birth to a baby that sadly did not survive, or that their baby passed away in their sleep a few weeks later. I had no idea. That floored me, and not in a good way. It was not a wonderful "floored" kind of emotion. I felt terrible for not knowing, and how common it was for us to remain silent after our losses. 

Let me tell you something. I blamed myself for a very long time. After the surgery happened, I lost it. I really lost it. All the sense of normalcy, denial, shock, and detachment were sucked out of me, and what took its stead was a terrible darkness that left nothing but a raw pain. There were days when I felt that I did not only fail our baby, but I also failed our older two. I sat there on the sofa, frozen by grief, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Forrest often patted me on my back, played with my hair, and put blanket on me as I laid there. First two weeks were incredibly difficult. I kept telling myself to get up, survive the day, and go back to bed. It was all I did. I had no recollection of what I did during those first two weeks. All I knew I was empty, and I failed so badly at everything in life. My kids were what got me through the days while Stu worked. I worked so hard to pretend that all were fine when I went out. I didn't want to appear vulnerable, weak, and sad. I worked hard to appear strong like how I always had been for my entire life. I was stuck in the limbo for 12 weeks as my HCG slowly dropped to zero, and waiting for my first cycle. I was secretly glad to not have to go to my OB clinic, and to go to a hospital for lab draws instead. I was unable to bear to see pregnant women, and unable to bear to see babies. 

I had no anger toward pregnant women. It was just so sad. So sad. It was difficult. I had no strength to face them. I hid myself away from the public, and from Facebook. I even ended one of my acquiescence with one of the pregnant ladies, because she was treating her pregnancy so badly with abusing drugs, eating bad food, and not exercising. It angered me, because why was she still pregnant with everything she had been doing wrong, yet I did everything right and lost mine? I desperately wanted to be pregnant again. Then I learned that my brother and my sister in law were expecting their first baby shortly after we had our loss. It was such an odd feeling; I was beyond thrilled to be an aunt, couldn't wait to meet my niece, and to spoil her yet at the same time I was also sad about the idea of not having my baby grow up with her. Later in the year, we found out we were pregnant once again! 

My pregnancy with Fox was emotionally difficult. I dreaded every ultrasound, and cried at each one of them, thinking we would find him without a heartbeat, and go through hell again. The first ultrasound was difficult, because I had started spotting, and needed progesterone to get through the next 14 weeks. The first ultrasound, there was a heartbeat, and it was the best thing ever. Then we had another, and our specialist was wonderful. He bid arrivederci with a smile on his face, and told me that my tears better be one of joy instead of sadness, because all looked fantastic with our Fox. The rest of my pregnancy with him were great, even though I held a lot of fears that something terrible would happen to him, and when he was finally born, I felt like I didn't fail him. I was so scared the whole pregnancy that something would happen to him. So for him to be born safely, and be here with us was a relief. With him, I began to heal. His coos, smiles, and twinkle in his eyes kept the oppressive pain away. When I felt overwhelmed, I just picked him up, and held him against my chest. Then I looked at our two older boys, I felt such gratitude to be able to keep them, and to be their mommy. 

I really believed that if we had our rainbow baby, then everything will be all right in my world once again. In a sense, it was true. Fox helped to narrow the hole in my heart. When I held Fox in my arms for the first time, I had a stark realization that my heart held such contradiction, it was still broken, but it was also whole, because we had a new life in our arms. Fox helped the pain to become softer, and more bearable, but the pain still remained. 

Two and half years later, I still do wonder about our angel baby. If you ask me today, then I will tell you how old our baby should be today. I should have a soon to be 2 year old running around. If you ask me, then I will tell you how much I wish I had that baby with us along with our other three. If you ask me, then you will know how conflicted I feel when I think of our angel baby, because as much as I want that baby, then that means we may not have had Fox. Why can't we have both Fox and that baby? If you ask any parent with a pregnancy, infant, or child loss. They will tell you the same thing. They always know. 

The pain has changed. It is softer, and no longer raw. Instead of darkness, there is sorrow. When I come across a post of a bereaved parent lamenting their loss, I give them words of solace with that quiet empathy, and wish them nothing but love. When I meet someone who shares their story with me, I give them a small smile, and in our eyes, we acknowledge each other's pain. When I learn that a friend, no matter how significant the friendship is to them or to me, I send them a card with money for food. It is a club that we all belong to. The instant knowing in our eyes. How we reach out to each other. We sit with each other in silence as tears come. We say the words that many people lack. We are brutally honest by telling them that there is no antidote for the pain, yet we are gentle with how we carry their pain until they are able to carry it themselves. 

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This is something I wish people would know:

The pain doesn't go away ever. It just gets softer. So please don't tell someone to move on no matter how long ago the loss occurred. Grief has its own timeline. Allow them commiserate their loss in their own way.  

Don't devalue early losses. They matter, and hurt as much as late-term losses does. 

It is okay to sit in silence with them. No need for words. No need for anything, but a physical presence. Please don't feel uncomfortable with the tears. They can be very healing, and cleansing. 

It is okay to also ask, are you doing okay? If they capitalize on the question, and start talking, then let them. If they don't, then that's okay too, and change the topic. Just let them know you are thinking of them. It's also okay to say, "I don't know what to say, and I am sorry that it happened to you. If you need me to listen, then I am here. If you need my shoulder to cry on, then here's a tissue box, and I will sit with you." 

Remember dads/significant other hurt too. They just hurt differently. Don't forget them. 

If you are close to someone who have had experienced a loss or recurring losses, even if they go on to have a successful pregnancy after their loss(es), then remember that underneath their smiles, they are scared to death. 

I still struggle. There are some days when my anxiety gets so bad that I just sit down, close my eyes, and try let it pass. I worry so much about my kids, about things I can't control especially when it comes to death. I can't bear the thought of being an executor, and kill a living being with my hand while knowing that I had somehow 'killed' off my baby. There are many people who struggle with  similar feelings.  

Sometimes I don't know what to tell you when you ask me how many children I have. Should I say 3? Should I say 4 without explaining? Should I say I have 3 living kids, and one in heaven? Should I just say I have 3 kids, and spare you the confusion? 

When I sit in the office for my examination, I have to be reminded that I had four pregnancies. Not three, yet I only have three children to show for it. 

Not everybody will be as open as I am. Some people will be more private about their loss. Some will be a lot more open. Some may share pictures of their stillborn, or have pictures of them in their homes, or on their social media sites. Some may have nothing to show for their loss. Some will talk about it. Some won't. There is no right approach to this. 

I wish I have a picture of my 3rd baby. I desperately wish I do. I have nothing to show for that baby. I struggle to wonder if that baby ever exist. I have no grave, or the ashes. I have no pictures. I have nothing, but my memories. My account. My experience that I am currently writing about. 

I struggle with whether my grief is excessive, or appropriate for an early pregnancy loss. After all, our society places more value of a loss on if a person is further along, or had a baby. I may have been almost 9 weeks when we lost our baby, and understand that we saw our baby, and our baby did exist. This struggle feels very isolating at times. 

In early days of loss, time has no meaning. Even if you don't know what to say, or do, then just show up. Be there. Give money for take out foods, or even better, make home made food. Or just sit there, and acknowledge the silence. Acknowledge the tears. Help with child care. Help with chauffeuring. Trust me, they won't be thinking about those things, or just going along with motion. It's probably one of the hardest things I had to deal with in those two weeks. 

Parents may become fiercely protective of their living children, and of their rainbow babies, mainly because they have been touched by a loss, and have come to a realization that life is fragile. There are some actions I take with my children that could be interpreted as overprotective, and it is because I can't bear the thought of losing them. 

A pregnancy loss is not a competition. It doesn't matter how it happened. It doesn't matter how far along the person is when a loss occurred. Do not devalue one's experience just because someone else had a different experience. What all of those people share in a common is that they have been touched by a loss. 

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This is something I wish people would not say: 

At least you were not that far along. 

No matter how far along you were: 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks. That's a lifetime to that baby. This platitude offers a lack of empathy. 

At least it was not a baby. 

It was a baby. From the minute we got a positive pregnancy test, we celebrated the new life even though it was surprising. We developed the idea of a little third set of pitter patter keeping up with the older brothers'. We started brainstorming names. The nursery room was already being devised in our minds. We fantasied about how we will announce to the world, and how to break the news to our boys. Will the baby be another boy? Or a girl? You see, that baby was wanted, cherished, and celebrated. We saw the baby on the large ultrasound screen. It was not a specimen. It was not a blob of cells. It was a baby. Most of all, it was a loss of dreams we had for our baby. 

You can always have another. 
You can always try again. 

We wanted that baby. 

At least you didn't know your baby. 

 We may not have had a full term pregnancy that ended up in having our baby placed in our arms. We did know our baby. My belly grew. After losing our baby, we didn't just lose an unborn baby. We lost our 6-month old baby sampling food for the first time, a year old taking an unsteady steps, a five year old saying goodbye as he/she runs into the school for kindergarten, a 10 year old smiling shyly at us, a fifteen year old expelling a huffy breath and rolling eyes, and a 18 year old walking across the stage with a diploma. It's the milestones that you see with your living children that will be absent with that baby. In your heart, you know how old that baby will be. Always. 

There must have been something wrong with the baby. 

While statistically many early pregnancy losses are a result of chromosomal defect, low progesterone, immunity issue, pre-existing condition, or infection, it is not helpful to hear the statement about whether the baby was healthy or not, or if the mother was healthy or not, because mothers blame themselves so much. In some cases, like mine, we don't have an answer why it had happened, since my surgery did not yield any answers. Many of us, more than not, would love to have that baby, even if there is an extra special touch to them that may make them different from other babies. 

Be grateful for the children you have. 
At least you have others. 

Should you be grateful for your other relatives? Your other parent who is still living? Your other siblings? Should you be told of this if you lose your parent, a sibling, or a relative? If you find yourself shaking your head no, then don't say it to someone who have had experienced a loss.    

             Grief never ends... But it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith... It is the price of love.

Having said all of this, I want you to take away from reading this blog post by remembering why today is such an important day for many of us. If you are dealing with a loss, then I walk with you, and carry you until you have steadied yourself. If you are still grieving for a loss that has occurred a few years prior, then I hold your hand, and acknowledge you. If you're someone who loves a person who has a loss, and have no idea what to say; admit it, and tell them you don't know what to say, and that you're there for them. Sit with them. Lend them your shoulder. Listen. Check on the Dads, and Moms, who are bystanders, to their wives or girlfriends going through a loss. They grieve too. Just in a different way. Don't forget them. Most importantly of all, don't forget the babies even if they've never been born, or lived briefly on Earth before departing.

Tonight, I will be lighting a candle for our angel baby, and for all the others who have gained their angel wings.  Would you do the same?