The Pep Talk

As I have mentioned in recent posts, I have been struggling to be a mother to a two year old as I grieve and recover from the miscarriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly thankful for Riley! Probably more thankful than I have ever been, as I am made acutely aware of just how much of a miracle she is, and how much we are not guaranteed that. I know that many women who have lost their babies to miscarriage do not have other children at home, and I cannot imagine how difficult that must be. I realize that I am incredibly blessed. This realization has caused me to squeeze her a little more tightly, kiss her about a million more times per day, and even crawl into her crib at night when she is sleeping, just to hold her and smell her and watch her breathe.

But that does not mean that it has been easy for me.

I have this picture in my head of who I wish I was during all of this: the mom who, in the face of tragedy and hardship, suddenly becomes super mom! The mom who does not let her babies see her pain, but instead makes crafts with them and takes them out on adventures and laughs with them outside. The mom who converts her grief into mommy energy.

I know that there are moms in the world who are like that. And honestly, I’m envious. I want to be able to do that. But instead of my grief giving me wings in toddler motherhood, it feels like I’m carrying around a huge yoke made out of lead while I slug through my day. The TV has been on far too often, and bedtime feels like a victory lap – I survived another day.

It pains me to admit this. But I also think that this is reality. This is what it means to live with grief and responsibilities simultaneously.

I have been so blessed to have offers from friends and family to watch Riley. I have taken several people up on their offers. It has definitely been helpful. There were times when I really needed that help, because my body was still physically healing and I could not walk or stand much. But now that I am feeling better, I have found myself wanting to still take people up on their offers – mostly because I feel like it’s better for Riley. I have not been quite the attentive, engaging mom I would like to be, so I assumed that it is better for Riley to be with someone who can give her more attention. Someone who can keep her away from the TV, or take her out to the park or give her more social interaction.

On Monday afternoon, earlier this week, I texted Jordan and said: “I need a good pep talk. I know I can do this. I can be a mom…” and the sweet husband that he is, he called me right away. I don’t think I will ever forget what he said.

He reminded me of a sermon that we once heard together. The Pastor was talking about how men often feel the strong need to provide for their families. But, he said, the most important thing for you to provide for your family is yourself. Jordan went on and told me that what Riley needs the most from me right now, is me. Me. What she needs is not playgrounds and play dates and crafts and activities; what she needs is her mom. And it doesn’t matter if I’m laying on the couch while she watches TV, or if I’m crying on the floor while she plays: she needs me. Even if I don’t have much to offer, she needs whatever little bit I can offer more than she needs someone else who has a lot to offer. My presence is the best thing that I can offer her right now.

He told me that if it’s for me, if I need the help, then I should absolutely take people up on their offers. But if the reason I am doing it is because I think it’s best for Riley, I need to remember that the best thing for Riley is her mommy.

And he is so right.

When I was six years old, my mom had cancer. It’s kind of strange that I don’t really remember it, because six years old is definitely old enough for memories. But I don’t really remember her having cancer. When my mom recounts that time to me, it is so strange. She describes it as a time when she had 3 kids but couldn’t do much of anything. My dad had to take a ton of time off from work to help out. She felt like she was barely able to be a mother to the 3 of us during those difficult days. But when I think back during that time, I don’t remember her struggling. My childhood memories of my mother’s parenting are all of her being super-mom! I honestly have always thought of her parenting with so much admiration. I remember her being so much fun, and most of all I remember her being there. She was always there, and I had a very enjoyable and secure childhood for that reason.

When I hung up the phone after talking to Jordan, I got Riley and I ready, and we headed to the park. We didn’t last more than 10 minutes (apparently Riley was just as overwhelmed by being around so many people as I was), but that’s ok. Because she didn’t need a playground, she needed her mom. And I was there. We left and headed to the grocery store where we made funny faces at each other, wrapped up in our own little world. And I could tell that it was exactly what she needed.

Best pep talk ever.

KM.

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Processing the Physical part of Miscarriage (and Hemorrhaging)

*The reason that I decided to write about my physical process of miscarriage is in hopes that it might help other women in similar situations.  When I came home from the hospital, I had no idea how to start processing what had happened and felt desperate for someone to understand what I was going through.  I googled it, and found one blogger who had gone through what I had gone through and was brave enough to write about her experience.  It was incredibly helpful for me.  It was helpful to know that my physical symptoms were similar to what someone else had gone through, helpful to know what I could expect, and perhaps most helpful was being able to identify with someone else in this.  Everything she described about her emotional and physical process hit the nail on the head of what I was experiencing. So if my unfortunate experience can be used to help anyone else in any way, I want to put it out there.

**If you don’t want to read anything about blood, don’t read this post.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It is ironic that in my last blog post, I talked about how helpful it is in the midst of mourning a miscarriage to have “normal” days.  I had typed that post a couple of weeks before actually publishing it, when I had yet to go through the actual physical process of miscarrying the baby.  Once that process started, “normal” was no longer an option for a couple of weeks.

Let me back up a little bit.

When we found out on January 3rd that we had lost the baby, I was told that I had two choices in how I wanted to miscarry: I could have a D and C; or I could try to have a “spontaneous miscarriage” where I would let my body take its course and miscarry naturally.  I opted for the later.  I have had several friends miscarry naturally in the past year, so it seemed normal to me.  Also, I had read that there is a small chance that having a d and c could potentially cause infertility issues, and I didn’t want to risk that.

Little did I know, I was actually taking a much bigger risk with the choice that I ended up making.

Monday January 13th turned out to be one of the most surprising and scary nights of my life.

On Monday the 13th, I started bleeding very heavily.  In a note that the doctor had given us at our last visit, we were told to contact the on-call nurse if I were to bleed through more than one pad per hour for more than one hour.  Well to spare you the details, let’s just say that I was bleeding significantly more than that all night.  From 9pm until 12:30 am when we finally went to bed, I had been in major pain and had ruined several outfits from the bleeding.  Jordan reminded me about the note from the doctor and wanted to call the on call nurse.  I don’t know why I was so stubborn, but I didn’t want to call.  I just assumed I would be ok.  I told him that if this continued into the next morning, we could call.

Although we went to bed at 12:30, I never fell asleep because of how heavy the bleeding was.  Finally at 2am, I got out of bed to change again, and the strangest thing happened.  I started sweating and shaking, I felt dizzy and nauseous, and a loud ringing noise was in my ears.  I suddenly knew that something was wrong.   I started yelling for Jordan, and came back into the bedroom to find him.  Good thing he saw and heard me, because as soon as he got out of bed, I passed out.  He called 911.

The paramedics arrived and took my blood pressure.  It was 74/39 (incredibly low).  They told me to change my clothes and get into the ambulance so that they could connect me to an IV and bring me to the hospital.  This is how I remember the events from there:

  • Arriving at the ER by myself (Jordan was finding someone to come stay with Riley so that he could join me), and feeling very confused.  Honestly, I was kind of in a haze and didn’t really understand what was happening or the severity of the situation.  Apparently I even texted Jordan and said something like: “I don’t even know why I’m here, I don’t need to be here.”
  • The doctor coming in and sitting down across from me, telling me with compassion in his eyes that he was so sorry for my loss and so sorry that this was happening.  I really appreciated that.  It is awesome to have a doctor who makes you feel important and cared for.
  • Jordan coming in, and being so thankful he was there with me.
  • Shaking uncontrollably and feeling really cold and weak.
  • The nurse constantly having to change my bedding and my clothes, since I was bleeding through everything every 10-15 minutes.
  • My blood pressure lowering, and being given more fluids through an IV.
  • Being given morphine and feeling really weird.
  • Telling Jordan that I felt like a puffy marshmallow, I guess from all of the fluid.
  • Exams being done.
  • Not being able to walk, and being wheeled to each different room in a wheel chair.
  • An ultrasound that revealed that I still hadn’t passed the sac yet, a concerning fact given how much blood I had already lost.
  • Being told that my body couldn’t lose any more blood, and that they were going to take me to the OR to perform a d and c operation.
  • Talking to a really nice anesthesiologist about the general anesthesia he was about to give me, and feeling ready to go in for surgery because I just felt ready to stop bleeding and feeling so weird.
  • Waking up, having no memory of anything after talking to the anesthesiologist. I then realized that he was the one wheeling me into the recovery room,  and I remember thanking him for giving me the best sleep of my life and asking him if we could do it again  (I was still pretty drugged at that point.  But it really was amazing sleep…)

After the surgery, they kept me on fluids for a few more hours to continue to try and get my blood pressure back up.  By 12:30 that afternoon, I was discharged from the hospital and Jordan and Riley came to pick me up.  I remember feeling exhausted and hazy, and asking for some Panera mac & cheese.

Here is what the recovery process has been like for me:

  • I felt drugged and exhausted, nauseous and swollen for about a day after coming home from the hospital.
  • I had bad headaches throughout the week after that, especially when I woke up in the morning
  • I felt pretty weak for the rest of the week.  Small tasks would wear me out, and I really struggled to be a mom.  Laying down helped.  Standing or walking would often make me feel lightheaded and dizzy.
  • If I stood up too fast, I felt like I was going to pass out
  • I bled lightly for about 5 days post-surgery.  Then the bleeding stopped completely, and started again a week later
  • I also started having moderate cramping a week after, which surprised me and caught me a bit off-guard.
  • One thing that was really challenging for me  emotionally, was that I felt a strong need to get out and about with Riley and do fun things with her.  The thought of visiting children’s museums, parks, and scheduling play dates sounded very appealing!  It offered me the hope of a normal day with my daughter, as a normal mom.  Only, I couldn’t.  Because I could barely walk across the room without feeling lightheaded. I was told that it would take a while to replace my blood volume and that it might be weeks before I feel better.  I’m glad that I knew what to expect, but it was so discouraging to me.  I longed to give Riley the type of day that I felt like I was depriving her of for weeks.

One thing that is difficult to explain about the physical part of a miscarriage to anyone who hasn’t had one, is the feeling that your body has betrayed you.  I felt completely out of control.  I couldn’t keep the baby alive.  I couldn’t stop my body from bleeding.  I couldn’t play with Riley or help Jordan around the house.  I felt so discouraged and helpless.

In struggling with this, one thing I would cling to was this idea that I was going to take charge of my body again!  Soon, I was going to get it back.  I was going to get back to eating clean and I was going to get into yoga.  I felt like yoga was going to help me to re-unite my body and soul, which have felt at war with each other the past few weeks.  I also thought that perhaps it would give me more respect for my body again.  I went to my first yoga class and while I was in it I was thinking, “Yes, I am going to get strong again!  I CAN do this!”  But as soon as the class ended, I started feeling lightheaded and dizzy.  I came home and ended up in bed for the rest of the day.  I also started cramping and bleeding again – something that hadn’t happened in a week.  I felt so angry and emotional.  Once again, I felt that my body had betrayed me.  Once again I was forced to realize that I am not in control.

Another thing that I want to mention is that the physical part of miscarriage feels very lonely.  I can’t really explain it, but the more my body would go through physically, the more isolated I would feel.

Jordan is obviously the person that I am closest to, and the person who most closely understands what I’m going through.  We are both going through the same tragedy.  But I am the only one going through it physically.  I feel like no one really understands what I am feeling physically, and how frustrating it can be.  It is an experience that is unique to me in this.  It drives the despair into deeper places, and forces me to ask for help, which makes me feel even weaker.

For a few days after the yoga class, and I continued to feel pretty weak.  I tried to take it easy. I started (and still am) taking iron supplements, and eating a lot of spinach.  Now I’m just trying to figure out the line between listening to my body and resting, and figuring how much I can push my body as I try to get back to “normal.”

Obviously, I’m still in the midst of this, trying to figure it all out.  But I did want to offer a few tips in retrospect, to other women going through the same thing.  Sometimes, it just helps to have someone else tell you that what you’re feeling is legitimate, and give you permission to take care of yourself.

Suggestions for surviving a hemorrhaging miscarriage:

  • Say “Yes” when people offer help
  • Be honest with people about the help that you need, and don’t feel bad asking.
  • I highly recommend chocolate therapy.  And bubble baths with wine.
  • Normally I wouldn’t encourage emotional eating.  But you know, during this time I realized that it is a sweet gift from God that food can offer the comfort that it does.  So many amazing friends and family found joy in being able to provide us food, and it nourished us deeply.  So feel the freedom to enjoy food and find comfort in, say, a Chipotle burrito bowl 😉
  • Read books.  I found fiction helpful.
  • In general, pamper yourself a bit.  Don’t feel bad.  It can be challenging to take care of yourself.  Give yourself a manicure or pedicure, watch movies in bed, go out with a girlfriend for brunch, use bath salts, sit outside and soak in some sunshine, or put on a little bit of makeup.  Even though it’s temporary, it will make you feel better and you and your family will benefit from you giving yourself a little bit of special care.
  • Give yourself the freedom to live in survival mode for a little while (you may not have a choice anyway).  But don’t beat yourself up for using the things you need to rely on to get through the day (TV, movies, extra coffee, naps, babysitting offers, etc).  And ask your close friends or family to remind you of this.

If anyone reading this is in a similar place and needs someone to talk to, or if you are considering a d and c or a natural miscarriage and would like to know more of my thoughts after this experience, don’t hesitate to contact me.  You can find an email address in the “About Me” section of this blog.

Broken.

(Please don’t re-post this blog with getting our permission first)

When 2014 arrived, I remember seeing “Flipgrams” from so many of my friends that I follow on Instagram, documenting many of their sweet moments from 2013.

It gave me an idea. I couldn’t quite do it on December 31, or even on January 1st, but once we had our ultrasound on January 3rd, I was going to post my own Flipgram. It would have a caption that said something like, “The Maroons in 2013… fun announcement at the end!” At the end of all of the adorable pics from 2013, there would be our pregnancy announcement: The picture of Jordan, Riley and I sitting together outside while Riley excitedly looked at her new “Big Sister” book. I couldn’t wait for all of the excited responses from friends.

Carolyn Marie Photography

Carolyn Marie Photography

We had found out the weekend before Thanksgiving that we were expecting our second child; a discovery that caused so much rejoicing and excited planning. The timing was great, since we were able to tell each of our families in really fun ways over the holiday.

The months of November and December were filled with excitement and hopeful planning. We talked about baby names, living arrangements and having two kids, all while I was nauseous and tired with food cravings and aversions that strangely made me glow because they led me to believe that everything was going right with our baby’s development.

But on January 3rd, instead of seeing a 10 week old baby with a strong heartbeat, we found out that our child didn’t make it.

I (unfortunately) have several friends who have had miscarriages over the past year. I grieved with them and mourned with them, and listened to what they were experiencing. Now I know. Every single word that any of them used to explain the pain now shoots to the core of my being, flooding me with understanding. Now I am one of them. One of many women to experience the heart shattering death of her child before ever getting the chance to meet them. It is a group of women that offers an extraordinary amount of love and support, but a group of women I wish I were not a part of, nonetheless.

It aches in places I never knew possible. I have never known a pain quite like this. I keep expecting, hoping, to wake up from a terrible nightmare only to find that everything is ok and this baby will be in my arms by August after all. But I never wake up. It is a nightmare that I will have to live for the rest of my life.

The worst part is that from a secular, medical perspective, people may tell you that it was never a baby. We were told that it wasn’t a baby. Many people are confused at this type of mourning because they don’t consider life as beginning at conception, and they don’t understand how you could love someone that you’ve never met. I think this is why miscarriage is often referred to as the “silent loss.” In a culture that makes you feel like it’s not that big of a deal, women end up managing the pain quietly, without many people knowing. There are so many women around us walking through this silent, excruciating battle, because not enough people are telling them that it is normal to grieve.

The statistics are sobering and cruel. When I hear, “One in three pregnancies will end in a miscarriage” what I sometimes hear is a declaration of normalcy and an accusation for mourning something so common. As if losing a child is as normal as buying a house or having a job.

But even if the statistics were three out of three, there would still be nothing normal about it. There is nothing “normal” about losing one’s own child. No one was ever supposed to experience this kind of loss. This is not the way it is supposed to be.

Recently, I read this in a blog about miscarriage: “Before I had a miscarriage, I thought about it as just that, a miscarriage… but I didn’t identify with it as MY child.” It is so true. Until you go through this (and I hope you never do!), you truly don’t understand the loss. I didn’t.

For me, the grief comes in waves.

There are times that I actually feel normal. I am able to do normal things, like empty the dishwasher or put on makeup or make the bed. And I feel guilty during those times. I feel guilty that I can do normal, as if it is offensive to our lost little one. One day, I made a funny comment on a friend’s funny Facebook status, and then beat myself up about it the rest of the day. “You are terrible for making a joke at a time like this,” a taunting voice haunted me.

But then there are times that I fall apart. Times where I can barely breathe because the heaving sobs are choking me, and I don’t know how I will ever survive this. Times where all I can think about is the fact that I will never feel this child kick inside of me, I will never hold him (we believe he was a boy), or hear him say “mommy” or tell me that he loves me, or watch him fall in love, or attend his wedding. During those times, the normalcy and constant motion of the world seem like they are mocking me, and I wish I could numb the pain.

Those times make me realize that I need the normal times too, otherwise I really wouldn’t make it through this. I think it is a gift from God that both the normalcy and the soul crushing grief dance together in our day to day lives.

There are whole days where all I can do is lie in bed and cry, and whole days where I mostly am a mom and get things done, with only a few bursts of tears. The grief would be unbearable without the normal, and the normal would feel cruel without the grief to honor our child.

Being a mother to a two year old during this time is an incredible gift, but at times incredibly challenging. There are times when I am so obsessed with Riley that I smother her with affection, desperate to feel her breathing in my arms. And then there are times when I don’t know how to engage in her child’s play because my heart aches too deeply to think of my child who will never play like that. Times where it is hard to even get off of the couch to change her diaper or make her a sandwich because I feel crippled by sadness.

We have been so blessed by the incredible community in our life. Family, friends, and neighbors have shown us so much support and love during this time. We have had family and friends watch Riley, order us pizza, bring us home cooked meals, chocolates, cards, flowers, Chipotle and Starbucks gift cards, and pamper me with bubble bath and salts and luxurious lotions. All of these speak my love language. I told Jordan that flowers have been really helpful because flowers are something you give to families when they lose a loved one. So the fact that people are giving us flowers validates the sense of loss that we feel, and I deeply appreciate that. The food has been nourishing to us in more ways than one. With each bite that satisfies our taste buds and our appetites, we are reminded that we are not alone and that we have many people surrounding us and taking care of us in this.

But perhaps one of the greatest gifts to us has been those who have wept with us. It might sound weird, but receiving texts or phone calls or emails from family and friends that say things like, “I am sobbing right now,” “I am weeping with you today,” or a friend who leaves a voicemail where her words are undiscernible through her tears, has been one of the most helpful things for me. It assures me that this little life was worth weeping for. That this little life mattered. And that it is valid to ache for our child.

I think that one of the most helpful things that anyone has said to us is a friend who told Jordan something along the lines of: If death is really what we think it is… what we say it is, then you should be falling apart. You should be having a hard time being a good friend, a good husband, a good wife, a good father, or a good mother. Riley won’t remember this time, but if she did, it is probably good for her to see that you had a hard time caring for her. Because it shows her that the loss of her sibling is real, and it is painful. It makes it hard (almost impossible) for life to move on. Death affects us. We are not strong enough to handle it. And if we try to act like we are, we are ignoring what death really is.

I also found this extremely helpful and comforting, from the book “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist: “It’s sloppy theology to think that all suffering is good for us… All suffering can be used for good, over time, after mourning and healing, by God’s graciousness. But sometimes it’s just plain loss, not because you needed to grow, not because life or God or anything is teaching you any kind of lesson.”

I think in America, and especially in Western Christianity, we have no idea how to grieve well; how to lament. Even though our scriptures are full of soul agonizing cries and lament, we haven’t seemed to figure it out. We either deny how deep the pain is, or we want to tie some sort of big Christian bow around it, assuring that everything is going to work out eventually and we’ll look back one day and see purpose in everything. We don’t know how to just mourn, and allow others to mourn.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Ashley Woodiwisses (who has been through a lot of tragedy in her family) said, “Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.”

Our hope is not that one day every circumstance in our lives will fit together like a puzzle and make sense and bring good. I don’t believe that I will ever look back on this miscarriage and think, “Oh now I see why I had to lose my baby! It all makes sense! I’ve grown so much in my faith!”

No. Our hope is an eternal one. The hope that when heaven and earth meet, we are forever restored in a permanent future with our Creator. In that day, I imagine I will meet my son for the first time. I believe that I will have the chance to get to know him and to show him my love for him. I long for the day.

But until then, our family will not be whole. This child was and always will be our second child.

I have been terrified of entering into any sort of social situation. I’m scared of what people might say, or what they might not say. I’m dreading hearing things like, “Everything will work out eventually!” or “God has a plan and a purpose in all of this, and His plan is always best!” or “You’ll get pregnant again soon and then all of this will go away!” or any form of “You know, I recently read about how _____ (processed food, soda, cell phones, sugar, gluten, oxygen) has been found to cause miscarriage.”

Even worse, I’m scared of people seeing me and pretending not to notice or turning and walking in the opposite direction, not wanting to deal with it. Or people acting like nothing ever happened and acting like everything is fine, not addressing it at all.

I know what it’s like to be scared to say the wrong thing. I feel that way 99% of the time when I know someone who is going through something difficult. As a matter of fact, I’m sure I’ve been the one who has said the wrong thing before or who has walked the other way. But I’m learning that “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say,” is always an excellent response.

It’s painfully ironic to me that I used to have a hard time with the ways that having Riley had changed my body. Now it pains me to think that my body has no physical trace of this child. I have stretch marks that prove that I carried and birthed Riley, but the only marks that show that I carried this child are the marks on my heart.

I will never be the same. The marks on my heart may not be seen externally by the world around me, but they will be with me forever. They are now a part of my identity. And they will forever impact my life. A piece of my soul has left forever.

*I do want to mention that I am simply writing about my experience. This is not necessarily representative of everyone else’s experience with miscarriage. It also is not necessarily representative of the way that my husband has been processing it, although it has been an incredibly painful experience for him as well.

*At some point soon I also plan on writing pretty openly about the physical process of miscarriage (which was pretty traumatic for me). I hope that it might help other women who have been through the same thing.