Miscarriage

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (and Baby Loss Awareness Week)

NB: In this post, I will be discussing my miscarriage, as well as my current, ongoing pregnancy.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in the US, and this week in particular is Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK, so I thought I’d write a little more about miscarriage. I’m fully aware that I suffered one of the gentlest forms of pregnancy loss. As I’ve written about before, I had a missed miscarriage last year when we were first trying to conceive. While I’ve mostly moved on from it, there will always be a part of me that was left behind with that baby that never came to be born, so I thought I’d talk a little more about the process of “moving on” as I experienced it and offer my advice to anyone going through something similar.

I felt like I had eons to actually process my loss, since I learned about the loss a week before I started any treatment to physically pass the pregnancy. And then, I didn’t actually pass everything and ended up being treated further two weeks later, with a further two-to-three-week recovery time. So, all total, I spent about six weeks from the time I learned of my loss to the final checkup where things were declared “back to normal.”

But of course, they weren’t back to normal. Even though I felt like I had healed enough to have the strength to write publicly about my loss and field questions. Even though I felt like an “old pro” at dealing with loss, I realized about a month after my D&C surgery that I was not “past” my grief by any stretch.

And I guess that’s my main advice: Don’t try to convince yourself that you need to “get over” your feelings. My primary mistake was not letting myself feel my feelings, and instead they started bubbling to the surface at the worst possible time. All of a sudden, I was finding myself fighting tears and even rage at work when I didn’t even realize I was upset. But I guess I was always upset, deep down, and while I mostly fought it down, eventually it would have to come up, like a soda that’s been capped and shaken. Eventually it will blow.

Unless you release the pressure bit by bit. So I started what I called my “grief meditations” where I would sit on my meditation cushion and just cry. Sometimes silently, sometimes not. It was a callback to when I was grieving the death of my father and found myself inexplicably sobbing during my weekly Zen sits. Giving myself the space to fully explore what I was feeling helped to release the tension of my grief and admit to myself that I wasn’t okay and that I might not be okay for a while.

It also taught me that you don’t really “get over” your grief. It is always with you. You just start finding more to life than your grief. It stops feeling like such an overwhelming presence in your life. But that takes time, and I don’t mean a month or two months. If it’s only been less than a year since your loss, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you listen to people who think you should be “over it” or telling yourself that you should be doing better. Even after I got pregnant again, I found that there was room in my heart to simultaneously welcome this new pregnancy while still grieving the old one. The new pregnancy didn’t take away one ounce of grief over the old one; it just gave me more in my life to focus on.

And now I’m also coming up on the one-year anniversary of that awful doctor’s appointment where instead of a cute ultrasound of a potato, we got an eons-long visit with the doctor explaining all our medical options, as well as going over the emotional ramifications. I suppose that’s my second bit of advice: There are doctors out there with the compassion and willingness to spend time on their patients’ emotional health, so if you feel like your needs aren’t being met by your doctor, it might be worth looking for a new one. My experience with my new-at-the-time OB practice really made me realize how amazing a group of doctors they are and made me so confident in my choice. And that has carried through into my current pregnancy.

So now I’m sitting here, almost a year later, and I’ve come up against another mental block: I offered to make a Reddit friend a red crocheted hat and cape for her Jizo statue. But I’ve found myself reluctant to start the project somehow. And I think it might just be residual feelings coming to the surface. So I’ll start the project this week, as soon as I don’t feel sick anymore, because it will be cathartic. But not because it will make the bad feelings go away.

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Miscarriage, pregnancy

Why I (Mostly) Didn’t Do Cutesy Announcements for My Pregnancy

NB: This post will contain references to my previous miscarriage.

Now, those of you who are my friends on Facebook know that I did, in fact, make a cute Facebook post with a photo of two regular sized teacups and a mini teacup. It was just the right level of cutesy for us, but not terribly over-the-top as “pregnancy announcements” go. And, other than that, I haven’t really made any fancy pregnancy announcements otherwise. But when I’m on online communities of pregnant ladies, I constantly hear questions from people looking for how to announce their pregnancies. So I thought I’d share my low-key announcements of various milestones, and a little about why I’m not into big, fancy announcements of everything.

As readers of this and my other blog know, I had a miscarriage the first time I got pregnant last year. That has definitely colored my experience with this pregnancy. While I’m absolutely excited and happy to be pregnant, every moment, especially in the beginning, becomes tinged with thoughts about what I should do now just in case I suffer another loss. So not only were we somewhat guarded about announcing to people, we also tried not to make a big deal out of any of our announcements. Even our “cutesy” announcement on Facebook was just a photo that I took myself and a post that we were having a baby. No videos or belly shots or anything.

But ultimately, I think there’s just too much pressure to be creative when announcing a baby (or a gender). You see news stories about announcements and reveals (and announcements and reveals gone horribly wrong) all the time, and it reminds me of how excessive wedding proposals get as well. I didn’t have a fancy wedding proposal and I don’t need to announce my pregnancy in an over-the-top way. Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert. Or perhaps it’s the remnants of my old minimalist tendencies showing. I’d rather be excited for myself than try to whip up all my friends and family into excitement for me, I guess (even though some of them sometimes seem more excited than I am).

Our “announcements” were mostly text messages and phone calls. We announced to our parents after we had a good ultrasound at 8 weeks, and announced to our siblings via text/Facebook message a few weeks later after a clean NT scan. The Facebook post went up around 14 weeks and that was probably one of the most nerve-wracking two weeks of my life, since I didn’t have another doctor’s appointment for another two weeks and was convinced I would need to announce another loss right after.

And other than that? We’re not announcing the gender. In fact, we’re mostly keeping it to ourselves because I don’t want people to let their choice of baby gifts be colored (literally) by gender. I want to give my kid equal opportunity to wear dinosaurs or tutus. I think it’s basically impossible to be “low-key” when you’re pregnant (heck, I update this blog 2-3 times a week!), but this is about as close as I get to low-key, and I’m okay with that.

Miscarriage, Second Trimester

On Pregnancy After Loss, Part Two: Post-Quickening

Note: This is a post about coping with previous pregnancy loss, so once again if you don’t want to hear about my anxieties and fears, please enjoy this photo of my cat being adorable:

I thought I’d write again about how I’m handling the emotions of being pregnant again after an early miscarriage, now that I’m feeling my baby move on a regular basis. Last month, I shared my fears and complicated feelings that came up when I first found out I was pregnant. I shared the relief I felt when our first ultrasound went well, and my continued anxiety that something could still happen. I mentioned that I’d heard that things get easier once you can feel the baby move.

“The quickening” is an ages-old term for that point in a pregnancy when you feel the first movements. It happens at different times for different women, and it tends to start as ambiguous flutters in the belly that some mistake for gas. As I’ve gone through the first half of my pregnancy after having a missed miscarriage, I’ve had varying levels of anxiety due to the fact that, the last time I was pregnant, I didn’t know anything was wrong until the doctor told me. This time, everything has gone smoothly, so far, but I still have that nagging feeling in the back of my head. It did help that our anatomy scan last week went well.

Also, for the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling the baby move on a fairly regular basis. And it is comforting. But here’s the thing about the first movements you feel while pregnant: They’re not consistent or regular. So even though I find it comforting when I feel my baby move, the fact that it’s still somewhat early to feel consistent movement means that I get just as worried when I don’t feel the baby move for a while. But it was nice, especially while I was traveling, that I could come back to my hotel room and almost immediately feel movement, even after doing something that had me slightly worried that I’d hurt something, like overexerting myself or getting a bad cold.

So my anxiety is slowly but surely getting better, although this week seems to be a week where baby is hanging out in a part of my body where I can’t feel the movement as much. I need to remind myself that I just felt a giant kick this morning when I get to work and don’t feel the random fluttering, flopping movements that I often feel anytime I sit quietly at my desk. So I’m hoping that, as the weeks go on, eventually I’ll get to a place where I can sit down, feel for movements, and feel confident that I’m feeling the right amount of movement. For now, I’m still trying to remind myself that everything has looked good so far.

Miscarriage

On Pregnancy After Loss, Part One: Pre-Quickening

NB: This post discusses pregnancy loss. If that will upset or trigger you, please enjoy this photo of my cat instead.

I wrote a while ago on my original blog about my missed miscarriage last fall. If you’re interested in all the gory details, I spared very little in writing that post because I firmly believe that pregnancy loss should be talked about and I felt up to writing about it at that point. But one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the feelings that would come up after getting pregnant again. At the time I wrote that post, I had just barely gotten my first period after my loss and wasn’t sure how I felt about trying again right away. I wanted to try again, but at the same time I was scared of having to go through that again.

As the months went on past that, we did start trying again, pretty much right away, and I found that the fear faded a little. I realized that I got through my miscarriage once and I could probably get through it again. But none of that prepared me for the level of fear that would bubble up again once I got pregnant again.

When I first got a positive test, I spent the first weekend convinced that it was going to end in an early loss. When that didn’t happen, I relaxed a little, but I made sure to schedule my first ultrasound for after my show closed, just in case. Just in case I got news that might make me not feel like going on stage the next weekend. I waited for the other shoe to drop. And I’ve kind of spent a lot of this pregnancy waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When the nausea hit me, early, fast, and hard, I was miserable, but also kind of relieved. It was much worse this time around. Dan even commented that he was glad I was so miserable because it was a sign that maybe things would be different this time.

And they were. I think I was holding my breath when the ultrasound tech started my scan the first time. When the screen showed a baby in my uterus, and then movement, and then a heartbeat, I cried tears of joy and relief. When I had my NT scan at 12 weeks, I felt the same way, and when the doctor first measured the heartbeat with Doppler later that week.

The ultrasound technician at my NT scan warned us that the scan would reassure me, but the fear would set back in eventually, and she wasn’t wrong. Now, at 16 weeks, with a doctor’s appointment later this week, I’m finding myself back in the mindspace of setting myself up to deal with potentially finding out that something has gone wrong.

I think the main thing I’ve realized about experiencing loss is that now I know what can happen, even if it’s not statistically common. By interacting with other women who’ve had losses, I did find support, but I also found out even more ways things could go wrong. I wish I didn’t know about these things, or at least I wish I could still rely on the statistics to reassure me. But I can’t.

I’m trying the best I can right now to just breathe and not look to a bleak future before it happens. I’ve started meditating a bit, and I’ve even let myself get excited about baby stuff a little. I wonder what will happen when I get to the point where I can feel the baby move, if that will help reassure me more. But for now, I know that I’ll be able to breathe a little easier after my appointment this week, if only for a little while.