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.

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.

The secrets women keep (and why it’s not doing any of us any good)

Stereotypes say we talk; we gossip, we blab, we were born with a voice. And yet sometimes, it seems we shut up about the things we should really be talking about.

I’m here to tell you, staying silent isn’t doing us any favors.

This week, my husband and I found out we’d lost our pregnancy at eight weeks. Unfortunately, this is the second time we’ve heard similar news — it was an echo of a heartbreak we’d already suffered in April.

This Friday, I went through surgery for the second time, closing the door on our second attempt at creating a family.

Two people, hoping and trying for a child, now 10 months into the process and starting over.

Sadly, this happens more often than most people know. An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, but for whatever reason, we women feel the need to suffer these losses in silence.

Etiquette tells us to wait until you’re in the “safe zone” of the second trimester before sharing your happy news, should anything bad happen. But even that safety zone is a myth; too many women have suffered the devastation of a second trimester loss. The real truth is that we’re afraid to suffer those first trimester losses in the eyes of others. We’re operating under the understanding that early losses are to be mourned as a family or just as a couple, not shared with others.

It’s like we’re afraid it says something about our womanhood, about our ability to be a mother. In reality, early term miscarriages are rarely caused by any fault of the mother, but are rather an unfortunately consequence of a chromosomal abnormality. But even though miscarriage could be as common as 1 in 4 pregnancies, keeping silent means keeping each other alone in our suffering. No one talks about it, so it’s hard to know exactly how common it really is. People all around the world are putting on a brave face because they feel as though it’s not their right to burden others with their bad news.

But a burden shared is a burden lightened, and we’d all be better off remembering that. In fact, we’d all be better off remembering that:

Not all childless couples want to be that way.

Not all women who get pregnant get to bring home their child.

That just because she’s pretending everything is OK doesn’t mean it is.

That when you ask someone when they’re going to have kids, you may be speaking to someone who’s grieving on the inside.

I consider myself lucky in that I have family members who understand all too well what I’m going through. And it can work both ways: I know that discussing our first loss with my mother brought her some closure after nearly 29 years of not truly understanding her own loss. Nothing makes it easier, but knowing I’m not alone helps me continue to hope for a happy ending.

I think if we could all be a little more honest about how hard building a family can be, maybe we’d all feel a little less alone.

 

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please be kind to each other.