Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Encouragement From a Long Lost Friend

I recently regained contact with a friend with whom I was once very close when I was younger, but lost touch with over the past 10 years.  I saw on Facebook that she was expecting a baby, so sent her a private message to congratulate her.  To my surprise, she responded by telling me that she and her husband were very excited to be parents, especially because they had experienced 3 miscarriages in the past 2 years.  Three miscarriages???  In two years??  My heart fell into my stomach and I began bawling.  I felt deep despair -- for her and her husband and their families.  But also for myself, and for anyone else who has been through this horrible experience.  And then I started thinking that if she could survive such a terrible thing THREE times, and still go on to try again and eventually have a healthy pregnancy.... maybe there was a little bit of hope for the rest of us?

She was very kind in her message and went into great detail about all 3 of her losses.  As I read, I cried and cried and cried.  I couldn't imagine how anyone could go through all of this and come out on the other side, still standing.  She ended her message by saying:

I wanted to share with you my (long) story because although it was really hard to go through, I did make it through and now I am pregnant!  I hope your journey is not as long and as painful.  Everyone would say to me after I miscarried that this is the way for nature to get rid of a pregnancy that wasn't going to work, or a baby that wouldn't have been healthy.  Nothing anyone said would help me to feel better.  Months after I would still randomly get upset about it.  Right now though, I can tell you that it is all worth it, and I don't think about all that I went through.  I'm just enjoying now and I am so grateful for this pregnancy.

and then...

Take care of yourself and think positively!  Good things happen to good people!  It's the way of the world and what you deserve!

Reading her words made it sound so easy to try to think positively, though thinking positively seems impossibly scary for me at this point.  But, after learning what this woman has been through, I do feel a slight glimmer of hope.  And I feel encouraged that if she could be so very strong and brave enough to try again and again and again, and to maintain hope that one day she'd get her miracle baby, that at the very least I should give it my best to try to follow in her footsteps...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another AF = Officially TTC

This was the first month since our miscarriage that I honestly thought I might be pregnant again.  I've experienced a few minor bouts of queasiness over the past couple weeks along with a couple odd twinges in my abdominal area.  I hoped those were signs of fertilization and implantation, but, alas, good old Aunt Flo came for her monthly visit.

As if getting AF isn't annoying enough, this month's was abnormally painful and heavy.  I know that's typical for the first AF after a miscarriage, but this is my third AF, and it was much worse than my second {and maybe even my first, too}.  Which of course had me Googling and then wondering after reading random web posts whether I could have experienced a chemical pregnancy.  Apparently the bleeding from a chemical pregnancy can often be accompanied by more cramps than usual.  What I've come to realize though, if not accept, over the past several months is that there are some questions I will never have answers to.  In this case, I didn't take an early pregnancy test so there is no way to know for sure whether I could have experienced a chemical pregnancy or whether I just plain got unlucky with AF this month.

Regardless, I guess we're officially now in the bucket of couples who are "TTC", or trying to conceive.  I don't know why I dislike that expression so much.  I think it's because the very terminology implies that while we're "trying" we're really failing {or else we'd be pregnant}.  I might as well say we're "FTC".

Hopefully next month brings better results...  But knowing that the odds of getting {and staying} pregnant quickly aren't really on our side makes it hard.
  • According to this UCSF Medical Center, "In nature, 50 percent of all fertilized eggs are lost before a woman's missed menses."  In a study referenced on this miscarriage site, "in a study that found that 22% of all natural conceptions fail to complete implantation, it was also found that 31% of pregnancies confirmed after implantation end in miscarriage."  Those are not great chances.
  • According to this Baby Center post, of all couples trying to conceive, approximately:
  • 30 percent get pregnant the first cycle (about one month) 
  • 59 percent get pregnant within three cycles (about three months) 
  • 80 percent get pregnant within six cycles (about six months) 
  • This trend continues and by about four years, 93 to 95 percent get pregnant.  
I am bursting with disappointment and impatience after one month...  I can't imagine going through this for many months or, gulp, years without losing my mind.
Though the statistics can be a bit daunting to say the least, at this point we absolutely need to remain optimistic.  So, here's a cartoon to lighten the mood:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Not Broken

Have you ever instantly become drawn to a song, without knowing why?  When I first heard Pink's "Just Give Me A Reason" I involuntarily began crying as I listened to the lyrics.  The song is about a couple going through a hard time in their relationship, convincing one another to hold on and give it another try.  Does this apply to my marriage at the moment?  Absolutely not {thankfully}.  Then why was I so immediately smitten??  The tune is catchy for sure, but so are a lot of songs I don't feel such an emotional connection to.

The lyrics speak to me in a different way...about our miscarriage.  This experience has been so hard -- more physically and emotionally difficult than anything else I've been through.  At times during our miscarriage I wasn't sure I could, or wanted to, hold it together.  But the truth is, we're not broken.  We still have one another.  We still have our love, and our marriage.  Together we can, and will, one day try again.  Shortly after our miscarriage I often thought about whether I would always be too scared or too weak to ever try again, or whether our first pregnancy experience would forever taint any future ideas or dreams about starting a family.  I was already so in love with our little one, even though I'd never even seen more of him or her than a blurry sonogram photo.  Losing our first baby was so much to bear, and although I am sure the pain will continue to lessen over time, I don't think it will ever completely disappear.  But now that a couple months have passed, I've realized it's like the song says -- we're not broken, just bent.  And we can learn to love again.

Now every time I hear this song, I feel a little bit of hope.

Just give me a reason
Just a little bit's enough
Just a second we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
It's in the stars
It's been written in the scars on our hearts
That we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again

Oh, we can learn to love again
Oh, we can learn to love again
Oh, oh, that we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Miscarriage Exprience

Have you ever heard that getting negative thoughts out of your head and onto paper {or in this case a computer screen} removes their power over you?  Well, this post is my way of investigating that theory.  I realized I've never written out my actual miscarriage experience.  As it was both physically and emotionally traumatic, I thought perhaps by writing everything down it might become less scary to recall or carry around with me as a part of my past.  So here goes...

Warning:  This post is a bit graphic and contains what some might consider TMI.  Proceed at your own risk!

There are multiple types of miscarriage... natural/spontaneous, induced through drugs, surgical.  In my case, I started miscarrying naturally, though was prescribed drugs to help the process along and ended up getting a MVA {a.k.a. Manual Vacuum Aspiration - similar to a D&C but uses vacuum aspiration instead of scraping to remove the tissue, and does not utilize general anesthesia so you're awake in the dr's office}.

When I started miscarrying, I was nearly 11 weeks along into my first pregnancy and didn't know any of this info.  Looking back, I don't feel that my OB gave me all the info I needed to prepare myself as much as possible for the experience, so I'm hoping by sharing my experience that I can help inform others' and maybe draw your attention to some different options.  Read how my scenario played out below.  {I've tried to keep the descriptions as "objective" as possible without a lot of emotional narration.}

Sunday mid-afternoon:  After getting out of the shower, I felt the urge to pee. I didn’t have any pains, but there was a certain discomfort in my pelvic area that made me want to pee before even getting my robe on. Looking down, I saw bright red blood come out in my urine stream and immediately my heart sank. I threw my robe on, screamed for my husband, hopped into bed and propped my feet up on pillows. The time was 2:30pm. I called my OBGYN’s emergency service line and anxiously awaited a return call. The on-call doctor happened to be the one I saw at my recent visits, and she returned the call within a few minutes. She asked whether I had fallen or had any cramps or pain {which I didn’t} and advised that unless I was soaking a pad an hour {which I wasn't -- the blood was really only coming out when I urinated} to wait until Monday morning to come in.  For several hours after that call I laid in bed, scared to death. I knew bright red blood could be bad, but I didn’t have any pains and the blood only seemed to be coming out when I urinated. Of course I spent the rest of the day searching for and reading info about miscarriage, and was generally terrified at the mere possibility.  I don't know if I was too gullible or desperate, or both, but I came across some posts online from women who experienced scary-sounding bleeding during pregnancies that ended up being totally fine.  And, we'd already seen a very healthy heartbeat at 8 weeks, so I tried to convince myself we'd also be fine.  After doing my online research, I slept with my legs up on a pillow and hardly bled on my pad at all at night.

Monday AM:  Woke up, checked for blood. There was a little bit on my pad but no clotting and no pains.... yet.  By the time I got to my doctor's office at 10am though I felt the cramping pretty badly {similar to period but more severe}, and felt the bleeding worsen. Upon arrival at the office, my OB confirmed the embryo was not detectable in the uterus and I was miscarrying. She advised me to try to let the process complete naturally, and sent me home with 4 pills of Methotrexate to take every 6 hours over the next 24 hours to help the process along. The pills caused my bleeding to worsen and the cramping to be VERY severe at times {especially for about 1 hour after each dose}. I've never given birth so I can't say for sure that the pain was like contractions, but it seemed like it to me. Thanks to the pain, I barely slept at all that night which honestly made everything a lot harder to handle.  My OB underplayed the pain I would feel from these pills; had I known I would've tried to time the pills differently so I could've tried to get at least some sleep during the night.  {Side note: I ended up passing a large clot-like tissue in the middle of the night which was about the size of a flattened prune, which for some reason I decided to put in a jar during my hysteria after seeing it because I think I had read something about doing that on a message board. This was VERY traumatic to go through at home, but the tissue sample ended up being used for lab analysis and it was determined that chromosomal abnormalities were the cause of my miscarriage.  So, although this was a very painful thing to have gone through and have seared into my memory, it helped provide me with information that confirmed the miscarriage was not a result of anything I did wrong.  Therefore, if possible I'd advise other women who have the opportunity to do this as well.  My doctor never mentioned the possibility that this could happen, which I feel was a very important omission.  Seeing something like that come out of me is something I'll never ever forget.  It was something I feel I should've been more prepared for by my doctor, not some random online message board I'd once skimmed after finding out I was pregnant.}

Tuesday: After all that physical and emotional trauma, my OB didn't think the progress was significant enough because my uterine lining was still "too thick" for her liking, so she scheduled me for a MVA for Wednesday AM and sent me home with more RXs to take "in order to prepare for the procedure".

Wednesday:  Had to take Misoprostol pill {plus some antibiotics} 2 hours prior to my MVA.  The instructions were to insert vaginally but luckily I had the guts to ask my doctor on Tuesday if there were any other possibilities, and she told me I could put it under my tongue.   {Another thing I would've appreciated her being more forthcoming about!}  At the time I didn't know the side effects/reasons for taking the Misoprostol; I thought it was required for the MVA because she didn't really explain any other reasons for taking it.  However, it had an effect on me similar to the Methotrexate, though without as much cramping pain {but definitely some!}. Since my own experience, I've read up on these drugs and I now know that both the Methotrexate and the Misoprostol are not necessary to take prior to a MVA or D&C -- they're usually used instead of the surgical options.  After taking them, it is also typically recommended to wait anywhere from 1-3 months before trying to conceive again, which was not disclosed to me by my doctor.  I don't know that I would've refused the scripts, but it would've been nice to have the information prior to picking up the pills from my pharmacy and being blindsided, while experiencing severe physical pain and sleep-deprivation.
{Read about my MVA experience here.}


So, what started out for me as a "spontaneous" natural miscarriage ended requiring pills, more pills, and a surgical intervention to complete.  Those 3.5 days were exhausting.  The good news is that about an hour or so after the MVA procedure was complete, the cramping and pain stopped, which was a huge relief.  I was able to take an additional 2 days off from work, which allowed me to sleep, mope and cry at will, and watch TV to try to take my mind off of what I'd been through.  Asking for that additional time off was a good decision.

In sum, the miscarriage process can be hard on your body and emotions, and all treatment options have their pros and cons. It is a personal preference whether you prefer to be at home in private, whether there is someone who can stay with you at home in case of emergency, whether you just want to go the surgical route and get it over with quickly but with the caveat that there will be lots of doctors and poking and prodding involved, etc.

My experience was a combination, so I can now see the pros/cons of the different options. But, all of the steps I experienced occurred at the direction of my doctor -- I was in too much shock to really ask any questions or ask about other options, I just followed orders blindly and cried. The only thing I'm thankful for is that I somehow thought in a moment of panic to capture the tissue sample I passed at home in the middle of the night, because that was the only tissue able to be tested for genetic abnormalities. {There was no useful tissue collected from the MVA.}  That one event ended up being really helpful in my process because it provided some type of information and some form of an answer to explain what had happened.

My advice to anyone out there going through this is to take care of yourself, lean on friends and family for support, and follow your instincts.  Do what feels right for YOU and ask lots of questions until you get the information you need.  Once it's over, take time off from work if possible to rest and try to heal emotionally and physically after the medical process is over.  Nobody should have to go through this -- sadly, too many of us do.

Monday, August 5, 2013


"Motherhood is a state of both the mind and the heart, a sacred place that is yours no matter the distance between you and your child. Not even death can take it away." ~ Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

I live in a large apartment complex, so frequently share the elevator with neighbors from my building.  Recently, I shared the elevator with a little girl, who looked about 2 years old, and her mom.  At one point during the elevator ride from the comfort of her stroller, the little girl looked at me, pointed up at her mom and proudly announced "my mommy".  She then looked around, saw that I was the only other person in the elevator, pointed at me with a bit of confusion and asked "someone else's mommy?" several times, while curiously looking back and forth between her mom and me.  I couldn't quite make out what she was saying at first, but after the second or third time of her repeating the question, I caught on.  I can only imagine how my expression changed, from a friendly smile into a face of stone, likely.  The mom laughed nervously and I just stood there, speechless.  It felt like I was punched in the gut.  How I wished I was someone else's mommy.

Back in June, after I first told my BFF about our miscarriage, she sent me a message encouraging me to take whatever time I needed to grieve and to not let anyone tell me that I don't have a right to mourn my lost baby.  She went on to tell me that "I am a mommy now and no one can take that away".  I remember feeling so stunned upon receiving that part of her message.  Up until that point, I hadn't thought of myself as a mommy.  In fact, part of why I was so angry and scared is that I thought I might never have the chance to be a mommy.  But after thinking about it, I realized that I was a mommy... a mommy without a baby.  At the time, I didn't realize that it was okay to feel that way.  I'd never held my baby -- I'd never even seen him or her except for the shadow on the screen during my first ultrasound.  I hadn't even heard his or her heart beat, though the sonogram tech did.  Medically speaking I didn't even know if I technically ever had a baby; I knew I had an embryo and possibly a fetus {depending on various opinions of when the embryo becomes a fetus}, but could I legitimately say I carried a baby?

It was only after discussing with other women who had been through similar losses that I felt comfortable thinking of myself as a mother without a child.  That phrase sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact it perfectly describes how I feel.  Before my pregnancy and before my loss, I hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about miscarriage.  Of course I knew people who'd experienced miscarriages, but I never stopped to think about how truly horrible such a loss would feel.  I am ashamed to admit this, but I guess I always assumed that miscarriages that occurred in the first few months wouldn't be that  hard or that  traumatic.  I always knew it would be sad, but didn't know it would be life-changing.  I didn't know how utterly in love you could fall for someone so tiny, so fast.  Logically, how could the loss of a 10.5 week old fetus hit me as hard as the death of my 91 year old grandfather, whom I loved for literally my entire life?  I guess I used to assume that since you didn't "meet" the baby before an early miscarriage that it wouldn't be as devastating.  But it was.  It truly was.

Coming to the realization that I am a childless mother in a way helped me admit to my feelings instead of trying to deny or rationalize them away, even if only to myself.  Only then did I feel like I could openly and honestly begin to grieve for my lost baby.  A baby I never did, nor will I ever, have the chance to meet has changed me forever.  In that brief period of 10 weeks and 5 days, I became a mother.  And now, a part of my heart will always belong to my first unborn child.
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