Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

"When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan.  When a spouse loses her or his partner,they are called a widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them" - Ronald Reagan, 1988

This month has typically been a month when our loss of Reagan becomes all the more real, when her absence is felt so much stronger.  This year, we experienced more loss than we ever expected to.  Lucas in June, Baby B in September, and Noah on Oct 1.  Starting the month off Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance with a bang.  I find myself today wondering how different life would be if we still had all the babies I've carried here with me.  See, it's a little different when all your babies were conceived at the same time with IVF.  We don't get the "well, if you hadn't lost so and so, you wouldn't have so and so."  Not true, for us.  They've all been around.  Anyway, Reagan and Samuel would be gearing up for their 5th birthday.  Dean and Warren wouldn't be 4, they'd probably be 2.5?  Hannah would be less than 1 - oh, what sweet days those were.  And Lucas, Noah, baby B - all tucked away in the freezer.  And today?  Well, today would be another Sunday, a trip to the pumpkin patch, maybe an afternoon nap.  Today would be a blip on our busy schedule.  I'd causally scroll past the 1:4 statistics that pop up here and there on my facebook feed.

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1:4 pregnancies end before they really even begin, resulting in miscarriages our society has become so callous to.  1:160 end in stillbirth, delivery after 20 weeks.  I never wanted to know these statistics, much less feel like my life has been built around them.  I never expected to be the woman who loses babies.  I kind of thought our infertility journey was long and hard enough that I would somehow be excused from these statistics.  But life didn't work out the way I had hoped and dreamed.  And, I am living that statistic.  Defying it, really, to have so many different losses, never for the same reason.

Today has been declared pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.  This day has made such an impact on us in the years since we lost Reagan.  It's been a launching point for Reagan's Garden - exactly 3 years ago today we launched in Charlotte.  And 1 year ago, here in Winter Haven.  I don't even have all the statistics anymore, as HIPAA makes things hard to track, but by last count we have reached well over 100 families, not even including families who have used the cuddle cots we have at various hospitals.  Beauty out of the ashes. 

I am part of an amazing organization of women.  For two years now, I have been blessed to speak on this topic, to answer questions, to break the silence.  I am so thankful that women are asking questions, wanting to know how best to reach out and support their friends/family who are walking this dark path.  And this week, we have plans to make another 32 cards and 12 boxes, to prepare as we anticipate ongoing loss in our community.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Date Night

It's been quite a year.  Pretty awful, actually.  Two weeks into the year, we did our first IVF treatment, followed by months of painful shots, morning sickness, "taking it easy" as I missed special events with the kids to give Lucas the best chance.  All for nothing, as he died 6 months later.  In a world filled with grief and sorrow, we decided to trust God and take another step forward, and we did another IVF transfer.  I felt confident that I was going to have boy-girl twins.  I KNEW it.  In this eerie, weird sort of way.  I never had a single doubt about this transfer, never questioned our decision to do two, although our doctor warned us against it.  He continues to tell me that my body is a failure and I will only kill our children - what do I do with that?  But, despite all the statistics, we decided to move forward, to give our next 2 children a chance.  Only to have that end as well.  I'm at a loss, in this new place of bitterness, questioning everything I've ever thought is true.  I don't know how long it will take to move into a different stage.  I don't know how to ever trust this God that suddenly doesn't seem so good.  One day at a time, I guess.

I feel like I've become the face of loss.  The woman no one knows quite what to say to, how to act around, or what to do with.  I'm not sure exactly who I am myself, so I certainly get where people are coming from.  I can't be too sad, because then I'm not moving forward.  But I can't be too happy or smile too much, because then I'm cold and unfeeling toward the children I've lost.  No matter how I feel or what I say/do, I always lose.  It's this pressure I've put on myself, I'm not even entirely sure that's how anyone else feels.  But to me, it's a constant struggle.  Pull myself together - don't show up to school with mascara running down my face or wearing my PJs.  But don't be caught laughing - because how can I smile and pretend I'm not completely broken and crushed??

But, for 2 hours on Wednesday, I was a person.  I was simply Meghan, wife of Andrew.  Not the face of loss, not grieving mommy.  I was able to go on a date with my husband.  A work function, but only the second time we have found ourselves without kids since Lucas died.  The first time since we lost Noah.  I was able able to focus on something other than my pain, to do something fun.  Sure, it was technically a work event, but I found myself in a room full of people who cared.  Who knew what we had endured and were willing to show me grace and allow me to drink a glass (or 2) of wine, paint a picture, and call it a night.  It was nice to feel like a human being again, to enjoy something - as meaningless as it may be.  An, though this artwork will never replace what is on our walls, it felt good to FINISH something.  A task I have struggled with immeasurably in the past 4 months.

"Moonlight Path"

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Survival

Ugh, this week has been so hard.  So hard.  I'm not entirely sure why the tears are coming so much easier this time.  It's like my pain threshold has been blown away and I'm feeling all the things I've hidden away over the past nearly 4 months.  And there is so much anger.  I used to be this lighthearted person who didn't really have a care in the world.  I used to laugh when I talked and sing in the car and dance around the house.  I'm not sure I'll ever get back there.  Can I be too broken?  I just feel like I've reached this point of no return.  Where I can hardly muster the strength to answer the phone, much less leave the house for something that isn't required.  And the thing is, I did this to myself.  My doctor said he didn't think my body was capable of carrying another child.  Thought I was setting myself up.  Turns out, he was right.  I had so much peace about our decision, I was so confident that we were having those boy-girl twins.  But, what does one do?  Should I leave my children in limbo world??  Frozen, stuck forever in this weird place?  I certainly can't do that.  And, there are 6 more.  But, how much heartache can one person take before it crushes you completely?  I have a feeling I'll be testing the answer to that question.

In the past week, we've ordered a few things for Noah.  He had 1 item - a canvas basket for his nursery that we would fill with his books.  Reading to my babies is one of my favorite things.  I picked it out while on my date with Dean; he approved too.  So, in the coming days, he will also have a frame for his ultrasound pictures and an ornament for our tree.  But, that is as much of a physical impact he will have.  I think that's one of the things that has made this so difficult - there was no moment of joy.  With Reagan and Lucas, I was able to birth them.  I had memories of them kicking and smiling and waving and sucking their thumbs.  I was able to hold them and kiss them and say goodbye.  With Noah, nothing.  One day he was there, heartbeat fluttering.  The next, he was gone.  "There is no sign of intrauterine pregnancy" is the way the news was delivered to me.  (Well, actually, I saw the empty ultrasound by myself because they wouldn't let Andrew come along and didn't think to turn it away from my sight.  But "officially", those are the doctors words).  We found a beautiful sign on Etsy where you can put multiple names and dates of birth of babies who were gone too soon.  As Andrew and I talked about ordering it, we came to the same realization.  We better wait.  Because, chances are, we'll be here again.  Three in 5 pregnancies have now ended in death.  How can it be that I've only had 2 live deliveries?  Only 1 born in the right trimester??  While it seems the rest of the world goes on with their continuous stream of healthy, full term babies?  I have never felt more alone, more isolated.  But the thing is, I don't even know how to be a person anymore, how to interact with other adults.  I'm just barely hanging on with my kids, able to pretend for brief moments each day.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Noah

Some days are just hard.  Some situations I just can't understand.  I'm sure I will never know why we are the ones on this journey, why our pain continues as I buckle under the weight of it all.  Some days, it's just too much.  So many questions, and no answers on this quiet night.  Now, that number of heavenly babies has increased to 10.  I don't quite know what to feel, what to think.  I don't feel surprised or shocked.  This is what I know now.  Loss.  Death.  These are my new normals.

The day started like any other, completely normal.  No  pain, no sign anything was going wrong.  As we're walking out the door for church, I start feeling pain.  Enough that Andrew thought I looked bad and probably should stay home and rest.  Before they even got out of the neighborhood, I had to call him back home.  I knew something was wrong.  We called the doctor, who said go to the ER. We called the fertility specialist, who said go to the ER.  We waited it out a bit, but things were only getting worse.  I needed that confirmation.  We knew from the boys that it was possible to have bleeding and continue being pregnant, though this seemed different.  Much more painful.  I didn't want to cling to hope only to have it ripped away tomorrow.  So, we headed to the ER, where we spent long periods of time waiting before I ultimately delivered our tiny baby in a plastic kidney dish.  Which they then sent off to pathology.  The whole process is terribly cold, unfeeling.  Not a lot of compassion in the ER.  A stark contrast to labor and delivery, so at least I have that to be grateful for with Reagan and Lucas.  A few more hours of waiting, ultrasound confirmation, and we were sent home.  That was all.  I think there are some ways perhaps Reagan's Garden could expand to help with this, though I haven't thought into what that would look like just yet.  We just deserve better.  Our children deserve better.

Overall, I'm numb.  I'm still very much grieving Lucas and working through the raw emotions of that.  I didn't expect pregnancy to change the grief I felt for our sweet boy at all.  I knew it wouldn't, because I lived that with Dean and Warren after Reagan died.  I knew this baby would never take his place.  I just don't feel like there's space in my heart for more grief, to process another loss.  But I know I loved this sweet child.  I know that, no matter what I told myself, I had hope.  I'm telling myself I expected this, and to some extent I did, but deep underneath it all was a hope that all my fears would be for nothing.  Tonight, Warren asked if next time we could have a baby that came home to live with us instead.  How do I even respond to this??  How do I help them understand when I cannot myself.

Today is the start of infant loss awareness month, it's the month of Reagan's birthday, and now it is also the birth month of a child we will never know.  A child we have 4 single images of, and will never get a new one.  A child I never even got to feel kick inside me.  A child we have known about for 5.5 years and laid eyes on for the first time exactly 1 month ago.  A child we call Noah.



Bittersweet

9/28/17

Oh, to be back here again.  Another sweet little baby Savant has gone on to heaven.  I now have 9 babies away.  Five of them I knew about for only 5 days.  Two of them lived inside of me for less than 7 weeks - I have a single picture.  I will never get another.  I never really got a chance to know them.  And of course, two of them I carried and labored and birthed and held, then ultimately had to say goodbye.  There is so much grief here.

Today was ultrasound day.  Less than a month ago, two babies were there.  We had no signs or indications that either of them would be lost.  I was actually really confident that my next pregnancy would be twins.  Boy-Girl twins to be exact.  And maybe this pregnancy was, but I will never know.  Because there on the ultrasound, was one baby.  Only one.  My doctors tell me this is the best possible outcome with my history.  I'm sure, medically, they are right.  But emotionally?  Well, how is it "best" to have a baby die?  Again.  It doesn't feel right.  There is no sense of relief that I won't go through the twin thing again.

BUT...there was one baby.  One little heartbeat fluttering inside a little gummy bear.  Sweet baby.  But, I was measuring on the small side of normal, which has never happened before.  We grow big babies here (well, relative to their birth weeks anyway), so small has never been in the cards.  And the heart rate wasn't where we'd like it to be, a bit on the low end.  Still considered "normal," I've been told not to worry, but I can't help but let my mind go there.  So, this little one needs some major prayers.  Because, honestly, I don't have the strength to do it myself.

Sweet little peanut <3 

Pregnancy after loss

9/9/17

Pregnancy after loss is a beast.  The emotions are not what they should be for this stage of life.  There's not a lot of joy, not a lot of hope, and definitely no planning for the future.  It's like I have somehow convinced myself that it won't hurt as bad if I try to keep these babies at arm's length.  Right... With all my other pregnancies, I started secret pintrest boards right away.  With Reagan, well, she was my first and we were BEYOND excited.  And super naive.  Didn't have a clue, really.  With the twins, we were assured in those early appointments that stillbirth was so rare, it would surely never happen again.  I can't say there was a lot of joy in that pregnancy with all the complications surrounding it, but stillbirth wasn't really on the radar.  Then came Hannah, and for once I got to see what a normal pregnancy was all about.  No complications, no bed rest, no bleeding.  It was wonderful.  Lucas went along the exact same way.  We had no reason to doubt.  So, I still feel a whole lot of that initial shock, because we just didn't know to expect anything.  I was told "it's like getting hit by lightening twice."  Along with that comes this feeling of complete distrust.  Because no matter how normal the pregnancy, no matter what week we reach, my body may still fail.  My babies may still die.  They've actually said that I have a 1/20 chance of it happening again.  5%.  That almost seems like too high a percentage to ever try this again.  Almost.

See, here's the problem.  I believe life begins at conception.  I always have.  So, this means my embryo are my children.  That is how Andrew and I talk about them.  These "freezer babies" are just as much ours as any of the children I've birthed.  What was it about Lucas that made us love him so much?  It wasn't that he snuggled up to me, it wasn't that he was a "good" baby, it wasn't that he told me he loved me or stopped crying when his mommy held him.  No.  What made us love Lucas was simply that he was ours.  He is my son.  That is all that we needed.  So, I feel the same way about our freezer babies.  They are my flesh and blood.  I was chosen to be their mommy.  For however long that may be.  And so, we took a giant leap, and I now have 2 babies growing in my belly.  We don't know for how long, we don't have guarantees of tomorrow.  But for today, they are there.  Some moments I am paralyzed with fear, some moments I am distracted enough to not think about it.  How's that for a start to life, babies?  Ugh.  It will get better.  And, though I am instinctively trying not to connect, I know I already love them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Expectations

Today was a tough one.  Exhausting, emotional, full of disappointment and mountains of mommy guilt.  I survived, but not with much grace.

Grief is hard.  It's exhausting and unpredictable.  Some days are okay.  Never good, but okay.  But then some random trigger comes and throws everything off.  And it's so hard to get your footing back.  Today, I wanted so desperately to celebrate Dean.  Four years ago today, we brought his tiny little 5 pound self home, nearly 3 months old.  We were scared and unsure.  I remember holding him in the rocking chair for the first time with tears streaming down my face.  Though, not quite tears of joy or gratitude.  More tears of grief, recognizing all at once a lifetime of little memories I would never have with Reagan.  Knowing all the more that, no matter how many children we had, no one could ever fill the hole she left behind.  Today, I wanted Dean to feel special, to feel loved, to pick out a special lunch, dinner, dessert, and activity.  And instead, I spent much of the day fighting with doctors offices, trying to get things working again after the hurricane, and sick in bed.  I felt like a failure as a mommy.  I had great expectations, but I disappointed him.  And yet, we snuggled in tonight, in that same rocking chair, and read books.  And he called me back in for just 1 more goodnight kiss.  Children, well, they are full of grace.  My sweet Dean.

Today had the added emotion of being the day we expected Lucas to be born.  I remember Reagan's due date coming and being a wreck.  I was newly on bedrest with the boys, just discharged from the hospital, and told to come home and call when "it" (aka my miscarriage) happened.  That's how sure these doctors were.  I had to be medicated to get through the day.  It was bad.  With Lucas, his due date meant nothing to us, we didn't even put it on our calendars.  But, we had this c-section planned.  For today.  This morning, I fully expected to walk into the hospital and calmly tell the nurses that I was there to have a baby.  We had it all planned and thought out.  Countdown was on for THIS day.  And so, today I was reminded yet again of how I failed another child.  I keep going back and trying to figure out what I could have done differently.  Wondering if we missed something at our ultrasound that Monday.  Was there any way we could have prevented it?  I tell myself no, but I just don't quite believe it.

I sat for a bit in Lucas' nursery today.  Looked at all his things that he would never use.  Wondered what it would feel like to hold him again.  To hear his cry.  Hannah woke up right after this and cried out for me - what would that be like?  Then she wrapped her little arms around my neck and settled in for a post nap snuggle.  All these sweet and tender moments we take for granted.  Would Lucas have sucked his thumb too?  Or would he have been addicted to his paci like his brothers?  I'll never know.  What would it be like to hear him call me mommy, to hear him say "I love you."  Right now, he should be about 12 hours old, not 3 months.  Now, I should start the sleepless nights and feeling so overwhelmed with figuring out how to balance the needs of a newborn with the vulnerability of a toddler with the growing curiosity of a pair of preschoolers.  Instead, I am sitting in this empty space.  All I have left is a hurricane-destroyed garden planted in memory of my son.  I am broken.  Still angry, confused, hurting.  But mostly broken.

And here is where I would normally say something about peace and God's grace.  Only today, I am not strong enough.  I KNOW Lucas is being loved and cared for, and I wish that brought me more peace than it does at this moment.  Right now, I just want him with ME.  Selfish?  Sure.  But that's where my heart is, just longing and missing my sweet boy more than anything else.  I'm tired of the grief, of the reminders, of knowing all that I will be missing.  I know the road ahead, because I was STILL walking it with Reagan when Lucas died.  I don't quite know how to be me anymore, how to go forward from here.  It's all just so hard.