Another Year, Another Perspective

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I joke a lot that people should be forced to work in food service, because it makes you a better person. It gives you a perspective that can’t be duplicated elsewhere – you see the best and the worst in people and it changes you, makes you more considerate and more understanding.

When it comes to understanding others, most of us can sympathize – empathize, even – but unless you’ve been there, you can’t really see things from their perspective. Perspective is something you can only learn through experience.

Of course, not all perspectives are welcome, or easy to learn.

For me, one particular perspective has been over two years in the making.

Two years ago, I first broached the subject of miscarriage on this blog.

Two years ago, my first post on the subject came from a raw, painful place. I was reeling from our second loss and struggling to come to terms with the fact that this very normal, though very painful, journey was the journey we were on.

Last year, I wrote from a calmer but still anxious place, as we were just over a month away from meeting our little boy, but still harboring fear that something could always go wrong.

This year? This year I’m writing from a place of such disbelief that I’m not even sure words can describe it (but obviously, I’m going to try, otherwise what am I doing here?).

The past year has been a whirlwind, watching this tiny person I hoped for arrive, thrive and grow, making my heart simultaneously overflow with love and tremble at the sheer immensity of what we’ve done. I mean, we created a person that we are now wholly responsible for, and for the most part, have no idea what we’re doing.

And this person – this tiny little person – has all but erased the memory of what it was like, two years ago, to be writing a post to tell our friends and family that we were hurting.

How, in such a small amount of time, has he changed everything?

And how is it fair that I was given this perfect little person, while so many people never get that reprieve?

This is the part where people usually say things like, “everything happens for a reason” or “you are where you’re supposed to be.” And while those comments are generally well-intentioned, they’re not particularly helpful. Yes, I’m grateful to have this beautiful child and yes, for me, the pain has subdued, but when these seemingly harmless platitudes are made to women and men who aren’t currently holding their silver lining, they can be downright hurtful.

I will never say I’m grateful for the experience that brought us Franklin. Going through three miscarriages while we waited for him to arrive was gut-wrenching. What it did, though, was give me a not-so-unique perspective into what so many people are going through behind closed doors. And by talking about it, I’ve been able to open a dialogue with friends and family, many of whom have confided in me their own struggles.

So once again, I remind you that tomorrow, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. At 7 p.m. in your local time zone, join me in lighting a candle for an hour to participate in an International Wave of Light to remember those lost too soon through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or as an infant.

Though their lives may have been short, the mark they leave on our hearts is real.

Keep your clichés and give me coffee.

Can I get real with you for a second?

This mom business is freakin’ hard.

Everyone tells you it’s tough, but it’s worth it. That your life will change in so many ways, but that ultimately, becoming a parent was the best thing they ever did.

I’ll agree, but I’m also calling bullshit.

I’m calling bullshit because they say it’s hard, but they don’t tell you how. They say it’s tiring, that you won’t sleep, but they don’t tell you what eight months (or a year, or two) of broken sleep really looks like. They sugar coat and gloss over the hard parts, making cliché comments like “the days are long but the years are short” and “don’t blink, you’ll miss it.”

But I wouldn’t do that to you.

Let me preface this by saying I love my kid. He really is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t give him up for anything in the world (most of the time). Watching him grow and change over the last few months has me in awe, wishing time would both speed up so he can learn more and slow down so he can be small forever. So in some ways, I agree with all those isn’t-parenting-the-best-thing-evarrr people.

But if I’m being completely honest, I’ve been completely blindsided by how hard it was going to be.

I didn’t expect the stress and anxiety I would have after he was born, leaving me incapable of focusing on anything else, 24/7, for at least, like, eight weeks.

I didn’t expect that the lack of sleep would leave me short-tempered and hotheaded (yes, mom, even more so than normal), picking fights with a husband who is genuinely doing his best to help.

I didn’t expect that eight months later, I’d still be struggling to get dishes done, or clothes put away, or any number of things that responsible adults are supposed to be capable of doing.

Having Franklin has been simultaneously unifying and isolating, giving me something in common with the millions of parents out there, but making me feel like I’m alone in my seeming ineptitude. Surely everyone can’t have a house this messy? Surely other people somehow manage to adult better than this? Am I the only person who doesn’t know what the hell their kid is crying about?

If not, if it’s really this hard for everyone, WHY DOESN’T ANYONE TELL YOU THAT?!

Granted, my kid is alive, healthy and happy. And my dogs are alive and reasonably happy with their new, lower status on the totem pole (and extremely happy with the fact that Franklin has started solid foods). But really — is everyone else just pretending that they’re good at this?

Because I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty damned inadequate sometimes.

Sure, my Instagram is filled with his smiling, adorable face, because he smiles a lot and is generally happy.

But it’s also because pausing to take a picture when he’s screaming his head off mid-diaper change is a bit impractical.

And because damn it, if I’m working this hard, you better believe I’m gonna show him off.

Part of me knows that the good stuff, the really good stuff everyone talks about, is yet to come. That he’s developing into a tiny little person that will eventually do more than need held up, picked up and stopped from eating dog food. And that one day, I’ll look back on this time with my well-earned, rose-colored lenses, and tell some struggling mama I see at the store to cherish it, because the time goes too fast.

But right now? Right now I’m just keeping my head above water, dodging the two-week-high pile of laundry in my bedroom and ignoring the stack of dishes in my sink because the tiny little human who owns my entire heart wants up.

Or down.

Or up again.

IMG_5611

Sigh.

My goodness, I love this boy.

I suppose everything else really can wait.

Oh, what a difference a year can make

It’s crazy, how a little bit of time can pass and everything starts to look a little differently.

Take today, for example. Today, I went in for my routine pre-natal checkup. I’ll be 24 weeks tomorrow and everything today looked great — Baby Manet’s heartbeat was chugging away and I’m measuring on track (actually, a week ahead).

Everything is as it should be. And did I tell you, Baby Manet is a boy? A beautiful, healthy baby boy.

Baby Boy 20 weeks

Baby Manet 4 weeks ago at our A/S.

In fact, I’ve been blessed this time around by a completely boring, run of the mill pregnancy, and the incredible miracle of that fact isn’t lost on me. I’ll never take a boring appointment for granted, because I know too well what a non-routine appointment looks and feels like.

So today, I smiled throughout my boring appointment. I gleefully reported the “All Good!” to my husband, my mom and my sister.

When I got home, I turned on the TV and scrolled through the usual stuff on my phone to catch up: Facebook, Instagram and Timehop.

There, one year ago today and stored on my camera roll, was the picture of the positive pregnancy test that told us we were expecting what would turn out to be our second loss.

One year ago today, I was going through the ups and downs of excitement and fear, not knowing whether this would be it (but thinking, surely, it had to be).

That loss turned out to be more devastating than I could have expected. We had tempered hopes — we’d been down that road before — but never had any inclination anything was wrong until our first appointment at almost 11 weeks.

That was nearly nine weeks of blissful ignorance; nine weeks of thinking it was our turn. Nine weeks to find out it wasn’t, to discover that boring then wasn’t what boring is now, followed by months of waiting for the all clear to try again. Months of being tormented by anger, grief, sadness and helplessness.

All of that started, one joyful moment, one year ago today.

Yet, as I sit here typing, our baby boy is bouncing around inside my belly, reminding me this time that boring means everything is OK. That boring is a good thing, a wonderful thing, and I can’t help but be so incredibly happy.

I’ll never forget the past year, of course, but being only 16 weeks away from meeting this little guy is making it sting so much less. Blurring the edges. Making it all worth it.

It’s only been a year, but oh, what a difference a year can make.

Holy crap, it’s really happening.

I guess now that I’ve been out in real life for about a month now, it’s probably time for me to announce it on here…

I’m pregnant!

I almost can’t believe I’m finally writing a happy post about this topic, but here I am. I’m 14 weeks today and feeling pretty great, aside from some lower back/hip pain over the last few days.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me give you the lowdown of what’s been happening the last few months, and I apologize in advance for being a bit wordy.

How we got here

If you’ve read any of my other posts about our history, you know it’s been a bit of a bumpy road over the last year as Darrell and I tried to grow our family. We took some time off from trying after our loss in September (per doctor’s orders) and in January, unfortunately had another loss.

Since we reached the medical standard for recurrent pregnancy loss (3 consecutive losses), we decided to reach out to a local Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) to start recurrent loss testing.

Recurrent loss testing, at least in our case, consisted of several blood tests for common concerns like blood clotting disorders and antibodies, a full genetic karyotyping, and a saline sonogram to check the shape of my uterus and the general health of my reproductive system.

After being poked and prodded (me much more so than Darrell), everything in our bloodwork and ultrasounds came back completely normal.

The doctor was disappointed to not have a problem to fix, but Darrell and I were both thrilled that nothing was wrong. As we’d always assumed, our losses were simply attributed to bad luck, and the doctor told us to call when we were pregnant again.

In March, we very happily (and anxiously) made that call.

Our RE had me come in for blood draws to check my beta-hCG levels (aka the pregnancy hormone) and brought us in around 6 weeks for my first ultrasound.

6 week ultrasound

6 weeks!

Perfect! Everything was perfect and we were even able to see and hear the baby’s heart beating. It was the most amazing feeling as we’d never been able to see a heartbeat before, let alone hear one. We were over the moon, almost in disbelief that everything seemed OK.

Of course, it was still very early, so the feelings of relief and happiness didn’t last long. Luckily, we had another appointment just two weeks later, where we once again saw baby, who was measuring slightly ahead and had a good, strong heartbeat of 174 bpm.

8 week ultrasound

8 weeks!

The RE said he saw no cause for concern and “graduated” us, updating my due date to November 24th and sending us off to be monitored the rest of my pregnancy at my regular OB.

Baby Manet is really on the way!

Since leaving the RE, I’ve been able to see my OB, hear the heartbeat again and go over all the standard paperwork and bloodwork. My doctor, being the awesome person she is, even offered to let me come in for a heartbeat check any time I wanted, something I took advantage of once and have since reined in the crazy on.

It’s such a relief to finally be considered just a normal pregnancy patient, but the wait between appointments is torture! We won’t get to see the baby again until we go in for our anatomy scan, which seems so far away. But, all I’ve wanted was for this pregnancy to be normal and boring (meaning no scares, no issues), so I guess I can’t complain that I’m getting exactly what I asked for!

Tomorrow I have my 14-week checkup, which I assume will be just another heartbeat check with the doppler and a quick review with the doctor. Even so, I can’t wait for the reassurance that everything is fine, baby is growing, and we’re getting closer and closer to meeting him or her!

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts as I’ve shared most of this story with you. It’s been a long, hard path, but I know in the end it will all be worth it. I know I’ll never be able to fully relax, to just enjoy being pregnant like someone who has never gone through the pain of loss, but at the same time, I think going through everything we have has brought us closer together and has prepared us to be the best, most loving parents we can be.

Or at least, I hope that’s true. I guess now is when I start freaking out about actually becoming a mom, right?

Oh boy.

Or girl.

I guess we’ll find out.

November baby announcement

Can’t wait to meet you, baby!

Grief is weird

So, you guys remember how I applied for that Damn Fine Words scholarship?

Turns out, I won!

I’m excited about this opportunity to help develop my writing skills. You know, seeing as how I work as a writer from time to time. Classes started yesterday, which means precisely two things:
1. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me over the next 10 weeks.
2. I’m going to have to figure out something to say over the next 10 weeks.

So what should that be?

I’ve gotten quite a bit further into my personal life here than I ever thought I would, but it’s turned out to be a pretty good thing. I know that since I wrote about the struggles we’ve been having over the last year, I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve found solace in their own losses. That’s all I could have ever asked for, that maybe by being open about how absolutely awful this whole trying to start a family thing can be, that maybe someone else would feel a little less alone.

But of course, that also means that practically everyone knows what’s going on in my life, in my head, and that’s a bit trippy. Questions that were once polite conversation starters now take on such a somber tone, as if people are afraid I’m going to break down at any second.

“So, how ARE you?”

“Anything new?”

“How have you been doing, you know, with everything?”

I know that talking about this is difficult for people. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or be insensitive. But here’s the thing: If I want to talk about it, I’ll talk about it. If I have news to share, I’ll share it. If I’m on the verge of some mental breakdown, you’ll sure as hell be able to tell.

More than anything, don’t pity me because my life went a little off-track this year. As low as the lows were, there were also some pretty great high points this year, too.

Grief is such a strange emotion. It isn’t something you carry around at the front of your mind, all day, every day. Sometimes it takes a back seat to the wonderful things going on around you. It lets you appreciate the good things, the sunny days or the goofball dog at your feet, and it gives you a break from feeling sad.

And on those good days, seeing pity in your eyes doesn’t do me any favors.

I don’t want this to come across as a list of dos and don’ts, because quite frankly, it’s not so simple as that. There are no hard and fast rules on how to get through this, not for me and certainly not that can be applied across the board.

So if you want to know how I’m doing, ask, but know that it might be a longer answer than “fine.” Trust that if there’s something I want to tell you, I will, and don’t assume there’s anything wrong unless I say so.

Who knows, I might even have good news one of these days.

Farewell, ’14, you’ll (sort of) be missed

Keeping this post devoid of clichés is going to be rough. It seems all I’ve heard for the last 12 months are one-liners from motivational posters:

All in due time.

Keep your head up.

When it’s meant to be, it will be.

By every measure, 2014 was a hard year. We lost family members and family friends, our careers were in constant flux and, after two miscarriages, are ending the year without the child we thought we would have.

I’ve spent more time than I would like to admit feeling sorry for myself, and I don’t want to start 2015 with that same mindset. So, for sake of argument (and my sanity), let’s focus on the good stuff and send 2014 off right.

In 2014:
We ate at some of the best restaurants in the city, drank silly amounts of local beer, saw a play (my first!) at a local theater and even made our first trip to Churchill Downs.

Rhinegeist

Checking out Rhinegeist for the first time.

We went on multiple fantastic family vacations, including a trip to Las Vegas, Fourth of July at Lake Cumberland and a long weekend in Gatlinburg.

Lake Cumberland

Kim & me on Lake Cumberland

We rocked out at several concerts, ranging from Lionel Ritchie (yes, it’s true) to Panic! at the Disco, and were even upgraded to VIP for free at Bunbury Music Festival.

Bunbury Music Festival

So many wristbands, so little time at Bunbury

We traveled to see friends, had friends come to see us and spent countless hours reliving the reasons why we’re all so close no matter how far apart we are.

Detroit Zoo

Quick photo op in the Detroit Zoo parking lot.

We got to meet our new niece Brynn, who is as adorable and sweet as can be, and watched our nephew Lincoln develop his growing personality, cracking us up and melting our hearts along the way.

Brynn

My new niece, Brynn!

So yes, in 2014, we spent a lot of time grieving, but a lot of time celebrating, too. If you had asked me a year ago today what I was most looking forward to in 2014, I would have said, without a doubt, starting a family.

Turns out that’s what I’m looking forward to in 2015, but you know, 2014 wasn’t too shabby either.

All’s well that ends well, they say.

Damn. I guess one cliché snuck in after all.

Oh well. Bring on the new year.

Life on hold

It’s been a little over a month now since our loss, and while I wish I had positive news to report, I’m afraid that life has been temporarily put on hold.

At our post-op follow-up appointment, where I was sure we’d get the all clear to start trying again, we learned that the pathology report had not come back yet and that the pathologist suspected a potential molar pregnancy. Once we heard back from the lab, that suspicion was confirmed: Our loss had been a partial-molar pregnancy, and I would now need to be monitored for persistent disease.

I won’t go into all the details here, but essentially, there’s a chance after any molar pregnancy for what’s called persistent Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD). GTD presents itself by keeping hCG (aka the pregnancy hormone) levels elevated even after a pregnancy has ended, so the monitoring consists of blood tests to measure that hormone. While all things are looking good so far through weekly blood draws (yay, negative numbers!), we’re on hold until spring before we can start trying again.

I think hearing this diagnosis sent me reeling back several stages in the grief process. OK, I mostly just hurtled back toward anger and lingered there for a few days (ahem, weeks), but at this point, I’ve more or less accepted that waiting is the only option. Luckily, with a partial-molar pregnancy (as opposed to a complete molar), risk of disease is extremely slim. And since my numbers are already negative, all we have to do is wait and confirm that I’m in the clear.

Wait, and wait, and wait. Patience is a virtue, right?

Yeah. If anyone who knows me is reading this, you probably know patience is not a virtue of mine.

It’s going to be a long, long winter.