Posts Tagged ‘emotional health’

Expecting Great Things: A Toast to the End of 2010

I believe in a God that can bless and teach through tragedy; not a God that causes tragedy. For me, 2010 was not a year of tragedy. It was a year of blessings in disguise.

I am a much happier person today that I was one year ago. The scary thing is that one year ago, I didn’t realize I was unhappy. I had a great job, great house, great husband, and I was making a great decision to procreate. Unfortunately, I was hinging my happiness on my great job, great, house, and great husband and the anticipated greatness of having a baby.

When losing just one piece of a ‘perfect’ life can send you spiraling downward, it quickly becomes very clear that not everything is perfect. You see, I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I had the miscarriage. This year, I discovered just exactly how dark my perfect life was.

When I look back on 2010 and ask myself, would I do it again knowing what I know now, the answer is “yes.”  I’ve come to realize that the experience of losing a child is one of the best things that could have happened to me. My miscarriage saved my life. Bear with me as I explain.

The miscarriage revealed to me just how small my world and my perspective had become. I always thought I was a person of faith, a person that believes God is good and that there is a heaven. This year, I discovered how ignorant I’ve been.

My short glimpse at motherhood, and my long glimpse at loss brought me to a place where I can say I know one thing for sure: there is a difference between thinking you are person of faith and truly believing that faith can save your life.

I learned this year that you simply cannot be a happy person without having God in your life. You can think you are happy. You can think you have it all together. You can have the perfect house, the perfect job, and the perfect bank account. Hell, if you’re lucky, God will let you live in that state of ignorance. I lived there for 30 years.

And then I was blessed. God used my miscarriage to reveal to me just how much I was missing out on and through my loss, brought me to a better understanding of what it means to be happy.

You might be thinking, “Wait a second sister. I’ve read your journal and there are quite a few places you sound hurt, and angry and bitter.”

Yep. Guilty. However, for each journal entry, and each minute, hour, day, week, and month of hurt, I’ve been blessed a thousand times over. I just had to open my eyes and look for it.

On many occasions, it came from you: words of complete strangers who read and follow my posts; women who send notes of encouragement and support as if they are my sisters.

In other instances, it came out of experiences that that only could have happened because I wasn’t pregnant: a trip to Colombia to help victims of abuse and prostitution; a white water rafting trip where I met a friend I can’t imagine ever not knowing; a new job that allows me to use the skills I’ve been developing over the past decade…

My husband and I are stronger as individuals and as a couple because of our shared experience. There is something about losing a life that you created together that strengthens the bond of marriage.

Those are just a few examples. I could write a book telling you about the relationships I’ve developed, the personal growth that has allowed me to take a deep breath and put my trust in God, and the happiness that comes from knowing that by this time next year, I’ll have even more light in my life…baby or not.

Life After Miscarriage: Who is that in the mirror?

There are days — and thankfully fewer and far between — when I look at my reflection and I don’t know who is staring back at me. I’m surprised by how “normal” I look.  I don’t mean that to be funny; it’s just that if what appeared in the mirror was a reflection of what was going through my mind, or my heart, then it would be ashen, bruised, exhausted.

My best friend gave birth a week ago. I was looking through her pictures and saw life in her eyes, color in her cheeks and a joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on her face. It’s the kind of joy that’s in your eyes and in your soul. Unmistakable. More than just a smile. What’s funny about joy is that you can recognize it immediately. But pain—well that’s a different story.

That’s because pain hides behind a smile and behind, “I’m good.” Pain hides behind normal. Pain won’t show up in the mirror.

You can hide pain and you can fake joy. I’ve gotten pretty good at both. It’s an exhausting existence though. Also exhausting is the battle between joy and pain when they exist in the same space. When I look at my friend’s pictures, I am simultaneously caught in her joy and suffocating from pain. It leaves me craving and dreading. Thirsty and saturated. Full and starving.

I want to celebrate and love and at the same time it feels treacherously deceitful to my feelings.

I pick up the phone to call her because I want all the details and I want to hear how she is, and how the baby is. I want to gush and God, I miss her.  But every time I pick up the phone, I freeze. My heart skips a beat and I’m reminded of what was lost and I can’t breathe. Joy. Pain. Joy. Pain. Joy. Pain.

I will call…soon. But at this moment in time, this is how I show love and joy:

Welcome to the world Aiden James and my sincerest love and congratulations to your wonderful parents.

Life After Miscarriage: Eight Weeks Not Pregnant

Early June will mark 8 weeks since my miscarriage. Eight weeks was how long my baby lived inside of me. In eight weeks, nearly all the organs in my baby’s body had started forming.  Its eye lids were sealing shut. It had hands and arms, and legs. It had a beating heart. And then, it was gone.

So here I am, 8 weeks not-pregnant. It’s almost like a dream; something that I’m sure and certain seemed so real but there’s nothing that exists to prove it to me.  I would question whether it all happened, but the empty place in my heart tells me it did.

My best friend is well into the second trimester of her pregnancy. She is exactly where I would have been. She sent me a message the other day after hearing her baby’s heartbeat for the first time. When I opened the message I simultaneously had two reactions. The first was one of excitement for her; her first true sign that life exists inside. The other reaction was one of sheer shock.

Since the miscarriage, it hadn’t occurred to me that pregnancy ends in anything other than a miscarriage and here, in my life, written in a text message on my phone, was an example of how it does.  

That was a confronting moment and I spent a few seconds whimpering and trying to stop my face from contorting into the expression that ends with tears and gasping.

I couldn’t do it. I cried on my husband’s shoulder, soaking it with tears and begged him to help me understand why. “Why not us? Why not our baby’s heartbeat? Why did this happen?”

He didn’t have an answer. No one does and believe me I’ve asked: doctors, nurses, friends, and yes, God. The same thing I hear over, and over, and over again is “Everything happens for a reason.”

OK. I can buy it. I get it. It makes sense. But what’s the reason it happened to us? Answer me that and should I be fortunate enough to have a successful pregnancy, I’ll name my firstborn after you.

Questions After Miscarriage: Where Do I Find Support?

Between social mediums like Facebook and Twitter and websites like Craigslist and MeetUp, connecting with people who have similar interests and experiences has never been easier. Don’t believe me? Head on over to Meetup.com and try this experiment. Search for “working moms.” There are more than 3000 groups worldwide that meet under that topic. Now try “stay at home moms.” More than 4000 groups meeting!

Try this same experiment with “pregnancy loss” and you’ll likely receive the same message I did: “Sorry, no matches found for ‘pregnancy loss’ within 100 miles of your zip code.” Well I’ll be darned.

Not having luck with finding local support groups, I decided to head to a bookstore to look for books about coping with pregnancy loss.

The woman at the service desk in Barnes and Noble looked nice enough and I thought I could trust her with my secret so I said, “I’m looking for books about miscarriage.” I waited for her to grimace or flinch under the weight of that awful word. I had imagined her look of pity. Instead, I got nothing. I might as well have asked her where I could find the dictionary section.

She led me to the back, far corner of the bookstore. I followed her thinking, “How appropriate. A corner where I can browse through my tears for the perfect book on how to cope with the loss of my unborn child.”

The section also had books about other taboo subjects like menopause and anxiety. We were able to find exactly one book. One. “Really?” I asked. “There’s no other section? Maybe near the family planning area?” She offered to go check the inventory while I stood there and scoured the shelf thinking maybe she missed it.

For all of the information on conception and pregnancy, there is a fraction of information available on the topic of miscarriage. A search for pregnancy books on Amazon yielded nearly 24,000 results. A search for miscarriage books yielded 901.

The woman came back and said, “I can order one for you.” I declined.

At home I logged into my local library website, something I was avoiding because I have overdue fines from the prenatal yoga DVDs I checked out and was late returning. The library carried a small selection of books (more than I thought they would considering it’s not a well-funded or large library). “Oh good,” I thought, clicking on the first title.

“Due on May 13,” flashed on the screen.

“What? Whaaaat?” I clicked on the next title. “Due on May 13.” The third title: “Due on May 13.”

The library had 3 books and they were checked out! There was a woman, somewhere in my locality, who had checked out these books. Where is she? Who is she? Will she be my friend?

Desperate for a connection, to hear from other women who have been through this experience, I continue to search for local support groups and to lurk on online pregnancy loss boards. I have what seems like thousands of questions. When? What did you do? How long did you? What did your doctor say? What were your HCG levels? How long did it take you to? How did you? Who did you? What did she say? What about?

I don’t know where I’ll find my answers, or my comfort for that matter. It just seems that I shouldn’t have to look so hard.

Life After a Miscarriage: Finding Clarity On A Leather Couch

My favorite time of day is the five seconds between when I wake up and when my brain becomes aware of reality. If I’m lucky, I’ll make it to ten seconds before the haze of what the day will hold lifts and I’m wide awake with the choice to lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, or get up, pull myself together and get on with the day.

It’s been just a few days since we found out that the baby had no heartbeat; three days to be exact. When I asked my husband how long he thought it would take for us to start to feel better he said, “Well, I use the rule of 1 day for every month you were involved.” According to his theory, we’d feel better today.

I guess I feel better than I have for the past two days. Using tears as a marker, I cried only once today and it wasn’t a heaving, sobbing, snot running out of my nose cry. It was a much more subtle misty-eyed cry, a cry of acceptance that life goes on and so we must as well.

I decided to take advantage of my employer’s participation in a program that provides psychological counseling free of charge up to six times a year. I called to make the appointment and it was the first time I used the word ‘miscarriage’ in reference to myself. It was painful to say and even more painful to try to explain that I hadn’t yet had a miscarriage but was going to in the near future. “No, I’m not worried it’s going to happen. It IS going to happen.” Sigh.

Sitting on the psychologist’s couch I had two realizations: One–I am in the wrong profession. This woman sat with me for an hour as I iterated my innermost feelings, frustrations, and fears. She asked about four questions in the course of an hour and I talked. Two–Going to a psychologist is highly underrated. I said things to her that I had been thinking but unable to articulate to anyone because I thought they would sound ridiculous. She never commented or judged. She simply asked questions that led me down a path where I was finally able to admit to myself that my feelings are mostly ones of frustration.

When I commit to something, I’m in 100 percent. And so it was with this pregnancy. From the moment we made the decision to start a family to the weeks and days I waited to take a pregnancy test, to the first, and second, and third positive, I was fully committed and invested in the idea of being pregnant and having a baby. And then from the first appointment with the OB coordinator to the moment I started spotting, to the first time we saw the baby on ultrasound, I was obsessed with sustaining the pregnancy and convinced that statistically-speaking, IT wouldn’t happen to me.

In my head, I had already made the transition from yuppie to mommy and was committed to what that future held. I had already started divesting myself from work and being more committed to my home life – a real change from being an over-achieving work-a-holic. Most importantly, I had made peace with those two things and was excited about starting a new chapter of my life.

Now that there is no pregnancy, what I can’t get my mind around is that I have nothing I am 100 percent committed to and invested in. I had all my eggs in one basket and the basket is gone, at least that’s the way I feel.

I have a follow-up appointment with psychologist on April 16. That would have been the end of my first trimester. I know that sometime between now and then I will naturally, or with the help of medication, miscarry. What I’m hoping is that by the time these two things happen, I can find something else to be committed to, even if it’s committing to simply relaxing and being kind to myself.

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