i miss my babies today

ItsHurtingAgain_by_stanlowx

I woke up this morning aching. After the failed IUI and then learning I had a cyst that would prevent us from trying again this month, I haven’t felt the same. Even though I’ve resorted to all my usual antics to try and pick back up and stay positive, I feel as if I’m hitting a breaking point, one where the reality of what we’ve been through has finally truly hit me.

They say that after a miscarriage a women not only grieves the loss of her baby, but grieves the loss of her reproductive story.

I never quite knew what that meant. I understood the idea of grieving a reproductive story on an intellectual level, but I hadn’t quite felt that loss in my heart yet. I hadn’t grieved the loss of my reproductive story.

Until now.

I’m finally having that out of body of experience, where I look back at the last two years and I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I can’t believe how this desire to start a family turned into a nightmare, and one I can’t wake up from or claw my way out of. I can’t believe that this is my story. All the heartbreak, stress, tears, and loss is now my reproductive story. And it makes me so sad.

Last night as I laid in bed headed for sleep, my mind was still going and my heart still hurting. I had been feeling depressed all weekend, like I was suddenly struggling through fresh grief. I thought to myself, as I started to drift into twilight sleep, “What am I feeling, really?” And instead of words floating through my mind to answer that question, I saw the answer in images. I say myself in the ocean, in the middle of a violent whirlpool. I was trapped in its torrent. I was flailing my arms above water, towards the side of a boat, trying to lift myself up, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t grasp the edge of the boat to pull myself up. And there was no one there to lift me up. So instead I kept thrashing, trapped, alone, getting pulled deeper and deeper.

When I woke up this morning I mindlessly picked up my phone and opened Facebook, which I often do before getting out of bed. The first picture I saw was a photo of my best friend’s seven month old baby. The friend who shared my due date, before I lost my baby. With time, I’ve healed enough and grown numb enough to see photos of her baby without too much of a stabbing pain. When he was three months old, I even got the courage to go spend the day with him when I was visiting San Francisco where my friend lives. But this morning, I saw that picture and the loss just hit me.

He just looked so….old.

He was growing into a little person. He wasn’t just a little 8 pound nugget anymore, lying helplessly, swaddled in his blanket. He was becoming someone. Something my babies won’t ever get the chance to do. 

With that photo, and with that realization, I closed my eyes and let a tear run down my cheeks. I could feel my losses in a profound way. I could see what I lost. I could see what I lost getting older, growing into someone his mom and dad probably could never imagine their lives without.

I miss my babies today.

I miss the awe and wonder of knowing that they are growing inside of me. I miss the nausea and the fatigue and the changes to my body that assure me that they are in there. I miss imagining the people they would become, and who they would resemble. I miss envisioning the life we would all have together. I miss the promise that they held. I miss the joy I felt knowing they are in my belly, and that my body was busy creating a life.

Although I have faith that I will create life again, I will always miss my babies, always remembering how old they would be, always wondering who they would have been. But someday, I hope that maybe I can make peace with my reproductive story. Instead of feeling loss and sadness, I hope to understand what it’s given me. How it’s made me a better mom. How it’s forced me to never take my children for granted, and hug them just a little tighter knowing how hard I fought for them. How it’s given me more empathy for others who struggle. How in going to these dark places, I will embrace the light in a deeper way.

Today I may grieve, and I may miss my babies. But eventually I hope to understand, and find a deeper meaning into why this had to be my reproductive story.

hopeful but damaged

Flipping the channels the other morning I landed on Live with Kelly and Michael. I paused for a moment, thought about watching, then changed the channel.

That show reminds me of the waiting room at my RE’s office. For some reason, every time I’m there it’s playing. As I wait to get called into my appointments I stare at the TV screen; only half watching because my nerves are usually too much of a distraction to focus on anything.

Seeing that show flash on the screen in my living room, I immediately was flooded with how I feel when I’m sitting in that waiting room.

Hopeful but damaged.

I sit in that room with all my wounds and scars. I take deep breaths to steady my heart beat and eliminate the pit in my stomach, driven by the expectation of bad news. I wearily eye the others sitting in the room, wondering what they’ve been through, and what’s ahead. I wonder if they’ve cried the same tears I have and carry the same dented baggage that I do. I wonder if their perfect composure belies the struggle that they’ve been through too.

But the waiting room also offers the entry to answers and to making our wishes come true. I’ve grown so attached to my doctor. I wish that when we finally do get a viable pregnancy, she could hold my hand through every ultrasound and at the end be the one who delivers my baby. I never want to leave that office. I find comfort there.

Sometime I just feel like people think that you have a miscarriage and you’re sad for a little while and then you’re over it, I cried to my husband once in a moment of self-pity.

But it stays with you! I continued through my tears.

It stays with you. I feel damaged sitting in that waiting room. I feel weathered and sensitive and like I’ll never be the same.

Sometimes I want to scream, just because I’m smiling does not mean I’m ok! Just because it’s been 8 months does not mean I’m ok!

There is a gaping hole in my heart, and it’s still so raw. And it can’t close because I still want this so bad. And everything around me reminds me of it.

I’ve gotten better at coping. And pretending. And managing my emotions. I can feign happiness at a pregnancy announcement, I can hold your baby and tell you how happy I am for you. I can even press ‘like’ on all the baby pics that flood my Facebook feed. I’ve learned how to shut down a part of myself when I need to. I can go numb. I can momentarily force myself to forget the pain.

But privately, it all comes out. I never escape unscathed. Nothing that I compartmentalize and pretend is ok ever just goes away. It always finds me. Finds me in the form of a tightened chest and a stubborn knot in my stomach by day, and then pillow smothered sobs by night. Or sometimes it’s a slow build, where I tell myself over and over I’m fine, until finally it swallows me and I have no choice but to let it out.

I feel traumatized.

I started out with so much happy faith and expectation, but was greeted with blood and loss and uncertainty and heartbreak and having to say goodbye to the babies I would never meet. And ever since, I spend my days fielding a land mine of triggers. This journey is so painful because we can’t hide from what triggers our trauma and our pain. We can’t hide from baby strollers and our best friend’s pregnancy announcement and our 2 month old nephew.

We are forced to face it every single day.

After my miscarriages, I was surrounded by expressions of concern and care and I felt like I could openly grieve. And I believed that all these empathetic faces around me really understood my pain. I’ve been lucky in that sense, and would never undermine just how much love I’ve felt from friends and family.

But time goes on. And I’ve been forced to keep living with that same amount of pain. My family and friends can’t scoop me up every single day, can’t give me a constant swaddle of affection and support. And I know people stop knowing what to say, as days turn to months, and months turn to years. And that’s when isolation starts to creep in, and the silent grief. Because the pain lives on.

And as we try to conceive once again, with faith and hope our only fuel, we ache. Every negative pregnancy test brings you back to that feeling of loss. You spend two weeks wondering, hoping, and imagining you are pregnant. Day dreaming of what that would mean. Loving this possible baby to be. I often rub my belly and leave my hand there, subconsciously  trying to transport the love in my heart to my womb. Please be in there, I plead. And with a trip to the bathroom and a three minute wait, it’s all over. 

My mom often tells me that after her brother had a baby, she got the baby bug in an intense way. I just had to have you, she’s told me, gushing, giving me hugs. Less than a year later, her wish came true, and I was born.

Imagine that feeling, I said to her, that longing, that feeling that if you didn’t have a baby now, you would explode. Now picture almost two years and two miscarriages later, with no baby or pregnancy to show for it….That is what I’m going through.  That is what I’m experiencing.

Miscarriage stains everything around you. It spoils the joyful path to pregnancy. It leaves you unable to feel happiness for friends you love who have growing bellies. It causes you pain when you hold someone else’s baby in your arms. It even takes a silly show, like Live with Kelly and Michael, and taints it with its loaded association. Bringing you to that place…where pain still lives but yet you’re hopeful. Hopeful and damaged.

embracing the dark

“Just think positive.” Well meaning advice I heard over and over, but those words made me cringe, grating on my grieving heart. I grew tired of that cliche during my short-lived pregnancy following my first miscarriage. Feeling positive was a risky place. How could I let myself feel positive, only to feel soul crushing disappointment if the pregnancy didn’t last? Wouldn’t feeling positive make the fall that much harder? I thought that if I could somehow manage my feelings enough I could make the grief of a second miscarriage less devastating. I wavered between not wanting to get my hopes up, counting on my inner pessimist to keep me grounded, and daydreaming of our baby, full of hope that the next ultrasound would show us exactly what we wanted to see. Feeling negative wasn’t going to make another loss any easier, I decided every once in a while, and would slip into another daydream of when we would get to make our pregnancy announcement.

Once I miscarried a second time, I still received the same advice. “Positive thoughts! Third times a charm!” It was true, when you’re carrying the grief from a fresh loss, choosing a positive outlook makes you feel like a strong person. That this blow wasn’t enough to rock your faith in the world, that it couldn’t take you down. But somehow getting that advice from others made me feel like they didn’t truly understand what I was going through. That they didn’t get how hard it is to trust that you will get your healthy baby one day. Or what it’s like to harbor the increasing fear that something could be truly wrong, that this could happen again and again, and perhaps ultimately end with childless arms.

In my darker moments, I would confide in those closest to me that I did not think I would end up ever being able to have a child.  And of course, everyone told me that wasn’t true. I would have a child. But just because they thought that didn’t mean I wasn’t embroiled in my own dark grief, believing that I was facing the reality of motherhood lost.

Eventually, I came to feel positive and hopeful, with only sporadic pockets of fear and pessimism. But I couldn’t be told. I didn’t want to feel like everyone else thought all it takes is positive thinking to overcome this battle. I knew it took embracing all the negative emotions first. All the fear, the anger, the despair and the grief that have led me to my darkest place and shaken me so hard I wanted to explode. I needed to sort through these feelings, let them have their place and time, and then when the time is right put them away, and breath in the positive thinking that would ultimately carry me through this.

parallel pregnancies

With my first pregnancy, my best friend and I had due dates two days apart. After our positive tests we shared giddy glee, bewilderment and amazed that we would get to experience this side by side. I miscarried four weeks later. The grief following a miscarriage is intense; it will double you over and you’ll find yourself clutching your heart between your deepest sobs. When you realize you’ve been left behind, that the closest female in your life will go on to experience and have what you’ve just lost and so desperately want, it becomes unbearable.

A situation like this is truly complex and heart wrenching. You feel like you should still be able to feel only happiness for your friend, despite your deep pain. Isn’t that the definition of strength? To rise above your own misfortune to be able to relish in the joy of those you love? “You’ve been through a trauma,” I was told. “You can’t expect yourself to be able to do that.” I battled my conflicted feelings in the days following my miscarriage. I wanted my best friend’s support during my toughest days, to tell her everything I was experiencing and cry out the pain. But I couldn’t go near her. In my moments of strength I thought I could. “Update from my ultrasound today. I’m actually 11 weeks along right now, not 8” her text read. “Congrats” was my weak reply, before sobbing into my husband’s arm. “She didn’t even take her folic acid!” I wailed, knowing I sounded ridiculous. At our ultrasound two weeks prior we saw a slow-developing embryo, just three days away from it’s final heartbeat. I would have done anything to learn I was actually 11 weeks along, just one week shy of the desirable 2nd trimester.

As I focused on how difficult this was for me, she slipped away. Hearing of my misfortune, the agony and pain I’d been in, hit too close to home. She didn’t want to see her worst nightmare, personified in the form of her best friend, reflected against her own growing belly. She had too many of her own fears as she navigated pregnancy for the first time, and felt it was best if we stayed separate during this time.

I not only grieved the loss of my pregnancy and the loss of the baby I thought I would have, but I grieved for the loss of my best friend. I grieved not being able to be a part of this time for her, not being able to be her cheerleader, the way we both were for each other’s weddings. I became paranoid I was suddenly a pariah to pregnant women, as if somehow they would think what I went through was contagious. I thought I just needed to get pregnant again, to fill the void and mitigate the pain and jealousy. But it became so much more complicated than that.

The night of my wedding, as I was pulsing with love and appreciation for everyone who traveled to central Mexico to see my husband and me get married, I grabbed onto my brother’s soon-to-be wife. “I think we’re going to be pregnant at the same time!” I whispered to her delightfully, with all my innocence and naivety intact, giving her a booze-fueled hug. I knew she and my brother would be trying for a baby soon, just as my husband and I planned to. During my second pregnancy I had strong suspicions that she was finally pregnant. We spent three days over Thanksgiving nauseous and exhausted, complaining but never acknowledging to each other the culprit. I miscarried shortly after, at nine weeks along.  A few days later my husband walked into the kitchen and held me. “It’s true,” he said gently. It was something I already knew but still hit me like a thud in my gut. “She got pregnant the same week as you. She has your due date.”

I had wanted to be tough this time, to avoid the deep pit of emotional wreckage I experienced following my first miscarriage. But with these words,  every bit of displaced emotion emerged, and I collapsed into my husband’s arms and cried, sobs coming from a deep and broken place. “That’s MY baby!!” I wailed over and over, knowing I didn’t make sense, but believing it nevertheless. “She has my baby! That’s my baby, that’s my baby,” I cried, not knowing why I was saying it. “Where is my baby?” I finally asked my husband faintly, feeling overwhelmed with heartbreak that this question couldn’t be answered. I had tried to convince myself that this time it was easier, an embryo had never developed – there was never a baby to be lost. But in that moment I knew it didn’t matter. That familiar grief filled my body as I crumpled with the same heavy sadness.

Again, I anguished over the way I was feeling. I had looked forward to being an aunt for so long. I loved my brother and sister-in-law so deeply and was devastated that I would feel anything other than happiness that they were expecting. Their pregnancy announcement became about me, not wanting to cause me more pain, not quite sure how to share the news. I had robbed them of one of the more exciting parts of getting pregnant – sharing the news with loved ones. Once again images of them at their ultrasound getting good news, your baby’s heart is beating and is growing right on track, something we had yet to experience, filled me with that same sick feeling, the envy that pulsed through every bit of my being, the ugly pit in my stomach I had grown to hate. I knew from experience that time doesn’t dissolve these feelings; as she becomes more pregnant I will feel more and more empty.

I don’t understand why I had to endure such a difficult situation twice, why one of the more painful aspects of my first miscarriage had to replicate a second time with my sister-in-law. It seemed cruel, and unfair. But I knew I needed to use what I learned through the first experience to keep my relationship with my brother and sister-in-law healthy and loving. I knew the best way to make it through would be through love and communication. And I knew with silence comes misunderstanding. You start to project what you think the other person is thinking and feeling, always assuming the worst. She’s mad because I’m not going to her baby shower, I had thought of my best friend’s silence. She doesn’t understand what I’ve been through. She has no empathy! When we finally spoke I found the opposite true, she had been harboring feelings of sadness and guilt throughout her whole pregnancy, often so deep she had trouble maintaining contact. Because of the distance I felt the first time with my best friend, I immediately started grieving the loss of my brother and sister-in-law. I thought they would slip away too, in a blurry mess of awkwardness and not knowing how to not cause me more pain.

I know I’m being tested, and I know that I will need to harden myself enough to not let the seeping pain control me and cause me to experience the loss of more people in my life. I’m going to be an aunt and I’m going to let my love for my brother’s unborn child, my future niece or nephew, help me get through this.