I've been thinking a lot lately about who actually reads my blog. Who am I talking to when I write? Who am I hoping will read this and feel something (hopefully positive) towards my words? Who am I trying to reach?
Over the course of the last few weeks, a couple of women I know announced their third pregnancies. Both of these women were pregnant with me, both times, so our kids are all about the same age. When they announced their forthcoming new babes, I expected to feel sad, jealous, or disappointed that I wasn't pregnant with them again.
A while ago (maybe a month or so) I realized that I've seen lots of quotes, articles, memes, etc. of women speaking to women about miscarriages and how it made them feel and how they handled it. It occurred to me that I have never seen anything from the male perspective. Men talking to men about the loss. Men are equally affected by the loss, and yet I couldn't find anything where they discussed it or how they dealt with it.
Considering it's been 2.5 years since our miscarriage, and the fact that this pregnancy has been textbook good, one might think that I would be relatively worry-free and just happy about this. One would be wrong. Very very wrong.
We heard the heartbeat when we saw the baby at our first (and so far only) ultrasound at 7w1d. It was the most amazing sound in the world and it put me at ease for a little while. I thought we'd get to hear it again at our next appointment the following Friday, but my OB said it was too early for her Doppler to be able to pick it up. I was thoroughly disappointed.
I've spent the last 4 weeks straining and praying to feel the baby move, so I'd know everything was OK. I'm pretty sure I felt movement a couple times, but it's so early that I manage to talk myself out of believing I really felt the baby. Today was my light at the end of thee tunnel. Well, honestly, it's more like a check point in some seriously long, life altering tunnel. I kept telling myself "no signs of trouble, and you'll hear the heart in a couple weeks/days/hours". Didn't really relieve my stress at all.
When the doc came in, she visited for a couple minutes, talked to Connor, asked how I was feeling, but she knows what pregnant mommas are looking for when they come, so she got down to business. Connor got a little nervous when she first started rubbing icy jelly and the Doppler around on me, a combo of loud sounds and weird visuals, but he got over it quickly. She moved around, relocated, pushed down harder, lighten her touch, adjusting...adjusting...adjusting. Never a good sign. I know what I'm supposed to be hearing, but I'm not. I just hear my heart. In my head, I'm trying not to freak out, playing out how this will go, how will she tell us, how will we tell everyone else. Please, keep in mind that this is all running through my head in 2 minutes or less. She says "I hear it, but it's hiding and mixing in with yours. I'll try and isolate it." That gives me a little comfort, because if she can hear it, then the baby must be OK. Another minute ticks by and still nothing. Then, like a goddamn miracle, I hear it. That rapid little thump thump thump of a happy, healthy baby heart. I instantly relax and start crying. My doctor chuckles, "wow, you were really nervous." She's been with us from day 1, so she knows my history and she remembers how stressed I'd get with Connor. She just smiled and let me listen for considerably longer than "normal." It was perfect.
Traditionally, I'm not an anxious person. I can take things as they come and handle what needs doing. Until it comes to pregnancy. Thanks to starting off on the wrong foot over 2 years ago, I am literally always stressed about the baby. I know it will be easier when I can feel the movement and know that everything is OK in there, but that is still (more than likely) weeks away. Fucking miscarriage. Ruins things even years and years later. I'm so grateful this is our last pregnancy. I don't think I can handle this stress again.
On December 31st, Hubby and I found out we were expecting our second (and final) baby. The news was met with mixed emotions: exhilaration, stress, excitement, fear, nervousness, and a bit of nausea. I was 3 weeks and 4 days (aka 3w4d) when we found out. Considerably earlier than when we found out with Connor.
Today (Jan 8th), i'm 4w5d and most of the fear has faded. I had my first OB appointment this morning. Hubby and Connor both came with me. It took 3 hours, 5 vials of blood, a urine sample, and a near blackout, but I'm definitely pregnant! At this stage in my pregnancy, we haven't told people. My plan is to wait until our dads' birthdays in mid-Feb (I'll be about 10 weeks by then) and announce it as their birthday presents. We'll see if I can actually hold out that long.
This pregnancy has been drastically different from Connor already. With Connor, I didn't get nauseous until the second trimester. With this one, I've been feeling sickly ever night for a week. I'm exhausted all the time (which was true with Connor too) but thankfully, my sweet little boy still wants to take two 2 hour naps everyday, so I get to relax and sleep as much as possible.
I posted about miscarriage PTSD (at 4w2d) and I have to say, that fear and dread of going through that experience again is debilitating. I honestly have no idea how I'd be able to handle losing another baby. Which is one of the reasons we haven't told people yet. That and I think it would be fun to announce with an actual sonogram picture. Since this is our last planned baby, I want to make sure I don't skimp on any of the fun stuff. I was vigilant in savoring every moment with Connor because he was my first. I intend to be the same way with this one.
Before anyone gets all uppity about how "PTSD is for victims of war and violent crime", think about it. PTSD: Post TRAUMATIC Stress Disorder. Miscarriage is one of the more traumatic things any human being can experience. It definitely qualifies.
I woke up in a full-blown panic attack at 6am. If you have panic attacks, you know how terrible that feeling of completely lack of control and unadulterated fear is. My husband, bless him, knows the best way to handle it is to try and keep me calm and just ride out the storm. I love him for that. There's literally nothing else to do, so he does that (like a pro).
I had a dream (more appropriately, I had the mother of all nightmares). In the dream, I was newly pregnant (hadn't told anyone yet) and I noticed some spotting. Bright red. Instantly, my blood was icy and I was having trouble breathing. I pulled my mom and sisters into a room and told them what was going on: I'm pregnant and on the verge of losing it. Then I replayed all the things I'd done over the last couple of days and how it was my fault I was losing the baby because I should've been more careful, played less with Connor, rested more, etc etc. I went to the bathroom and it happened. I "passed" the baby, as they say. That's the moment when I woke up. Crying, coughing, couldn't catch my breath.
It's been 2.5 years since our miscarriage. I thought I was over it. I thought I was ok. Turns out, you're never really over it. Now, as I lay in bed (afraid to go back to sleep), I'm wondering if we should have a second child. Maybe one is enough. I don't know if I can handle going through another pregnancy knowing it could abruptly end at any second, that the baby we'd love so fiercely could be taken from us in a heartbeat.
I'm jealous of those who don't have this paralyzing fear. It must be nice.
Today is the anniversary of our miscarriage. I'm not nearly as sad about it as I thought I would be. That could be because I've been chasing a toddler around most of the day. Or because, while he was sleeping, I was busying myself with my Scentsy business and cleaning the house as much as I could. Or it could just be that time really does heal all wounds.
That doesn't mean that I haven't been sad, or that I haven't thought about it. Exactly 2 years ago, the baby was gone, we were back home from the Urgent Care Center and I was debating drowning my sorrows or going into a self-induced coma.
Exactly 1 year ago, I was cuddling our 2 month old son, trying to stop crying. I know that part of that was postpartum hormones and crap, and part of it was real grieving.
This year, I've been more ok with what happened. More zen, if you will. If we hadn't lost that baby, we wouldn't have our amazing son. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can't imagine my life without him. It also helps that I've spent the last month (off and on) working with one of my best friends to design a tattoo in tribute/remembrance of our lost baby. Hopefully we will be putting needle to skin very shortly.
Miscarriage breaks your whole being: mind, body, and soul. But, I've learned, if you can accept it, not forget but not dwell, then you can come out of it a stronger, more compassionate person.
This month is Miscarriage and Infertility Awareness Month (along with other things.) I don't talk about it too much, but I think about our lost baby everyday. Usually it's just a small thought, "I wonder if it would've been a boy or girl", "What color hair would it have had?", "Would it be speaking a lot now, or just little words like Connor?", etc. I love my son, and I know I wouldn't have him now if we hadn't suffered that loss 2 years ago. I'm in a decent place with regards to that loss. I'm not happy about it, and I will never be, but I've accepted that it happened and there's nothing I could've done differently. I will always love that baby.
Yesterday (10.15.15), we participated in the Wave of Light movement, lighting a candle to honor the baby we lost, as well as all the other babies lost in miscarriage, born sleeping, or who passed shortly after birth. It was a worldwide movement to help bring awareness as well as pay respect to those that were lost. It was meant to go from 7-8pm, but I couldn't bring myself to put the candle out until I went to bed around 1230am.
I have had numerous conversations about miscarriage since I made our loss public about a year ago. I kept it a secret for while, refusing to talk about it, hoping that the pain would just disappear. I know now that talking is cathartic. It doesn't make the pain go away, but it makes the loss more real and (for me) that made it easier to deal with. Keeping it to myself made it seem like a secret, or like I was ashamed. I blamed myself for a long time, but I know now that there's nothing I could've done differently. That's a hard truth to accept, but it is true and there's something comforting in accepting that reality. It wasn't my fault. I literally had no control.
Talking to my husband helped my to understand the science of what happened to us. Talking with my international moms group/facebook family helped me to accept it and adjust to living with the loss. They were also very comforting throughout my pregnancy, because (as anyone who's lost a pregnancy can tell you) I was scared the entire time, expecting the worst every single day. I love those women and I don't think I would be the same woman I am now if not for them.
For the past 11 years, October and I have had a terrible relationship. I give and give and it just takes. Everything.
2004: took Mema (grandma on my mom's side)
2005: took my first long term relationship, beginning my spiral into drugs and alcohol and all that that entails and ending my first attempt at college.
2006: deployed my second long term relationship to Afghanistan. That relationship wouldn't last another 2 months.
2008: crazy, drunk guy with a knife episode in our home.
For a few years there, nothing dramatically bad happened. I was starting to believe the curse of October was over. The best day of our lives (to date) happened in October.
10.10.2013: positive pregnancy test.
I wished I'd known then that October was just getting his kicks and getting me back, 10 fold, for being so "nice" for those middle years.
10.20.2013: the worst day of our lives, to date. Miscarriage.
October is a bastard.
Then, just to rub it in or for emphasis, last year, on the anniversary of the miscarriage, we got news that one of my dad's brothers had died the night before.
This year, it feels like I'm just waiting on pins and needles for the next bad thing to hit. What's it going to be? Am I going to lose another person I love? Am I going to get hurt? Physically or emotionally? I've been in a crappy mood most days, so far, this month. I'm just waiting for the next big bad to come kick my ass.
The worst part is that I still love October. The changing leaves, cooling weather, pumpkin flavored everything, rich oranges and browns all over, Halloween. I feel like one of those girls; I keep coming back to this dead end, abusive relationship because he's so gorgeous and I keep thinking "maybe this time..."
October, you're a bastard. There is no other word for it.
October 10th, 2013 was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the day we found out we were pregnant. We'd just started trying the month before and I didn't really expect to get pregnant right away, but I was so thrilled. I cried reading "pregnant" on the little digital screen. Hell, I took 3 pictures of that damn thing.
We told our parents within a couple days. Our siblings by the end of the next week.
October 13th. I was visiting my sister and hanging out with her kids when I noticed some spotting. She had 3 kids, so I asked her about it and she said it happens, not to worry. So I tried not to worry.
I called my OB later that week to schedule my first OB appt and mentioned the spotting. They said "don't worry, it happens" and to call if it turns red or if I have any cramping. Ok. Don't worry. Got it.
October 20th. Hubby leaves for work. I get up to use the bathroom. Red. Bright, scary red. Call the OB. It's Sunday, so they're closed, but I leave a message on the emergency line and my doc calls back within 5 minutes. "It could be nothing, but go to an urgent care center just to be sure." I push her a little more, because I'm terrified at this point, and she confirms my biggest fear. I could be losing the baby.
Call hubby. He comes right back home, picks me up, and off the the urgent care center we go. I'm cramping, and crying my eyes out because I know what's happening and there's literally nothing I can do to stop it.
The nurse at the UCC sucked. She was short and rude and kinda pushy. She took blood from my hand, leaving a giant bruise that lasted for over a week. Just what I needed, right? A constant reminder of what I'd lost. The doctor and ultrasound techs were really nice. The ultrasound tech confirmed that I had been pregnant, but that I must have passed the baby already, because there was only "small evidence of conception." I appreciated her using medical terms and cold-ish language. "Conception" rather than "baby." It was taking everything I had not to breakdown right then and there.
They didn't rush us out, which I also appreciated. They were very kind and honest with us.
By far the worst day of my life. I still cry thinking about it. I cried on the day that baby should have been born, even though I was 6 months pregnant with my son. I cried on the anniversary of the day we lost that baby, as I cuddled on the couch with my 2 month old.
Miscarriage. It's one of those "clubs" that no one wants to belong to, but once you do, you can never leave. I found a lot of family and friends who had lost a baby and I never knew until I told them about mine. I had made the mistake of telling my students and coworkers that we were pregnant as soon as we found out. Un-telling people is one of the hardest things. The look of pity is worse.
We got pregnant with Connor about 8 weeks later. I was so happy and so terrified. I now knew the worst could and very well might happen. I was checking for blood several times a day. I'd get so anxious and nervous before every appt because I'd have a sinking feeling in my gut that something was wrong and we'd lost this baby too.
If you've never lost a baby, you can't imagine just how nerve-wracking and terrifying pregnancy can be. I wouldn't wish this kind of fear on anyone. I never really got to just relax and enjoy my pregnancy. I always worried that something would go wrong.
That's what miscarriage does to a person. It changes your entire perspective on things, and it alters who you are. Forever.
It took me a long time, and a lot of research and reassurance from my wonderful husband, to believe that the miscarriage was not my fault. I didn't do anything wrong, and there wasn't something wrong with me. Sometimes babies just aren't viable or healthy, and the body rejects them as soon as possible to save you from the pain and heartache later on. I know that is the truth, but it still hurts sometimes.
Miscarriage is one of those "taboo" topics that we don't talk about because it's sad and no one wants to think about it. I don't like thinking about it, but for me, and for the other women I know who've lost a baby, it's not something you can forget. The pain fades, but the thought it always there, in the back of your mind. Always.
Get your daily Nerdy fix by following us on Instagram
Writer and Contributor for the Motherhood Community