Monday, July 23, 2012

Opening up about abortion

Have you ever had words on your heart that you knew you must speak, but dreaded actually opening your mouth?

That's a bit where I'm at tonight.

Since our pregnancy loss 7 months ago, there has been a topic heavy on my heart, but it's a sensitive subject. Well, "taboo" is probably a closer description.

I'm talking about abortion.

Where you find yourself

Now that the "A" word is out, I can already feel the lines being drawn in the sand. You are probably taking one side or the other, arming yourself with a defense as to why your position (whatever that is) is best for women, best for babies, and best overall. Perhaps you have a stance on when life begins. Perhaps you don't believe abortion is about when life begins, but about when freedom ends.

For those of us standing on any side of the fence, we often think about and talk about abortion in black and white terms.

Tonight I don't really want to talk in black and white. I just want to be honest about where I've been and what I hold to be true.

Where I find myself

Blogging is wonderful because you can reach so many people from so many backgrounds. But it's also hard for the exact same reason.

Will my viewpoint hurt you? Will I be able to be sensitive to my readers, who I care very much about, and all your many backgrounds?

I will be posting soon on why early pregnancy loss is important to the pro-life community.

But since there is no way for me to know where you are coming from, I will just have to be very honest and open about where I'm coming from. And hopefully from here we can have a good, honest conversation where there is no battle -- no lines -- no sides.

Maybe we can just be women who are honest and open about our past, our experiences, and our babies.

The beginning

Growing up, my parents taught me the value of life . . . starting with conception. My mom has served for years at crisis pregnancy centers -- sometimes speaking with women facing an unplanned pregnancy, at other times just cleaning and sorting all the donations of gently-used baby clothes and toys. She has worked tirelessly, and she holds my utmost respect for all the ways she has given back to women through the years.

In high school, I chose abortion as the topic for one of my research papers. I don't remember my thesis, but I remember feeling very strongly that abortion was never in the best interest of women. I felt (and still feel) very passionate about standing up for the value of the unborn.

And then . . . 

I got pregnant.

No, this was not from some rebellious teen romance.

I was married. I had a secure job. To the outside world, there was no reason why I wouldn't want this baby.

But I didn't. Not yet. Not this way. Not at this time. Having a baby was NOT in my plans. I had just started a new business. I had earned a trip to Mexico that I would now not be able to go on. I had just gotten married, and wasn't ready for true "adulthood" yet. My husband was still in school full-time. We weren't emotionally, financially or physically prepared for a baby. We lived in a tiny apartment, my husband's work felt helter-skelter, and my body didn't react well at all in the first trimester. (Or the second. OR the third for that matter.)

And you know what? Deep, deep inside, I wanted it to end.

Or at least, I thought I did.

I felt overtaken by an "alien." Even at 8 weeks, I had convinced myself that this "baby" was still surely nothing but a blob of cells. I remember feelings like "Surely there is a pill that would just take this all away." And then I would realize, yes, there actually was. And it was legal. I technically did not HAVE to be pregnant. It was called an abortion.

While I knew that I couldn't go through with it, I did still wish for some miraculous ending to my pregnancy. Perhaps I would just miscarry? Maybe it was all just one big mistake?

For those of you who know me, this could be quite shocking to read these words. Even Ryan might be surprised. I didn't disclose these feelings to others. I kept them safe in my heart, and merely loudly complained to others when I was sick, and announced our pregnancy with tears, and very few smiles.

 But you should know that during this time, I really wasn't acting like myself. (Or thinking, or feeling, like myself. Which is one reason I don't think it's a great idea to rush into abortion ever -- pregnancy hormones CHANGE you. How could I decide on the ending of a life when just trying to clean my kitchen could reduce me to tears?)

For the first time in my life, I finally understood why people get abortions. Here I was, married with a pretty secure future totally ANGRY and FREAKING OUT about pregnancy. If I felt like this, how must a teen feel? How would a girl who was raped feel? How would a single mom feel? How would a woman who couldn't provide for her child feel? How would an abused woman feel?

For the first time in my life, abortion made sense.

A change of heart

June 15, 2008, was a momentous day. It was my 26th birthday. It was Father's Day. I was 8 weeks pregnant. And it was the day I had a change of heart.

That afternoon, as I stepped out of the car to go to my in-law's house, I felt a rush of liquid running down my legs and soaking my pants. I thought I had accidentally spilled water down my pants -- even though I was nowhere near water of any kind. But in that moment, I couldn't figure out what would cause me to get wet like that.

Well, a moment in the bathroom answered that question.

Blood would do that. A whole lot of blood.

I think I was kinda hysterical. My sister-in-law grabbed me some underwear and a change of pants. And at one point, the bathroom door was open with both my ashy-faced husband and my quite-concerned mother-in-law peeking in, handing me clothes and fresh pads, and cleaning up the floor as I sat sobbing on the toilet.

I didn't know what to think, but I was shaken to the core.

Later, as I sat frozen on their couch, trying to keep track of how many pads I was going through, the cramping started. Off to the ER we went.

The week before, we had our first ultrasound where I saw a little glob on a screen with a white little dot that was steadily blinking. I still resented that little bean, but at the same time, my heart warmed a bit to it.

But this time, in the ER, I remember being terrified of the ultrasound. What if that little blob -- who I now immediately started thinking of as a baby -- was gone? What if there was no heartbeat? 

I've had very few feelings since that time that were that intense as that time was -- waiting for hours for the ultrasound that would determine our future. Was our baby alive or dead? Those of you who have been there know this feeling. Hope mingled with absolute terror.

Looking back, I can't believe how sudden my change of heart was. I thought I had wanted a miscarriage. I thought I wanted our baby to be gone. I thought I just wanted it all to be one big mistake.

But confronting what could be the death of our baby head on, there was no relief. I could have cared less about my business, my plans or our tiny apartment  . . . All I cared about was seeing the blinking of a little dot on a little blob on an ultrasound.

When the ultrasound tech finally came, he wouldn't say much of anything. But, praise God, I saw that little blinking dot. Relief flooded my heart.

Our Dr. explained that I had unexplained hemorrhaging near where the baby was implanted. There was nothing we could do but wait it out. I was given a 50/50 chance of our baby surviving. I was to see my OB in a week for another ultrasound, and was given instructions in case the cramping and bleeding (aka miscarriage) continued.

So for 7 days, I waited. I put myself on bedrest (even though the Dr. told me there was nothing I could do at this point.) I just laid there, and prayed for our baby. And begged that he/she would live.

During that time, well-meaning people would warn me that there was probably something wrong with our baby. That this was nature taking its course. And that I wouldn't want to have to "deal" with a special-needs baby anyway.

(I will talk more about this in another post).

But 7 days later, we received the news we wanted. The bleeding had slowed. And that little reassuring blink-blink-blink was going strong.

Our baby made it.

A change of heart . . . .maybe? Or maybe not?

After hearing the good news, of course I was so relieved and thankful not to be going through a miscarriage. But I have to admit, I still didn't TOTALLY want a baby. For the next 9 months, I struggled deeply with resentment toward my baby and my body for this journey I was on. I still struggled, even as I was thankful we didn't lose the baby at 8 weeks.

Some days, when the nausea was really bad, I was just so angry that I couldn't eat. My unrelenting nausea made me desperate, angry, frustrated and resolved me to tears too many times to count.

I used all my sick leave with my miscarriage scare and my early nausea . . . I ended up becoming a very unreliable employee at work. I often got sick at work and had to take a lot of unpaid leave. Plus I had several more scares throughout my pregnancy, trips to the hospital, bedrests and a premature delivery. All of that adds up to more financial stress when we were already wondering how we could afford a baby.

Through my pregnancy, I still worried about finances. I worried about where we would live. When we finally moved when I was 28 weeks along, the stress of the move sent me into threatened premature labor. For the next 2 weeks, I sat around my new house with boxes everywhere, popping pills every 4 hours to stop the regular contractions. The medicine was awful and made me shake so bad that when I was eating, my food would fall off my fork.

When we went for the next ultrasound to determine the sex, I was upset to find out our baby was a girl. Here  I was pregnant, when I originally didn't want to be, and it wasn't even the right gender! Would nothing go right??

(Just to be clear . . Now that I know moms who've discovered at this point that their babies had died or had a fatal defect, and now that I've lost Olivia, I want to kick myself for my totally self-indulgent attitude. Who in the world cares about the gender? At least she was whole and healthy!)

If you have read my past posts, you might know that delivery did not go so well for me either. I actually wanted very much to have a natural childbirth without pain meds. Instead, I had an emergency inducement and unplanned C-section to get her out. I had developed a life-threatening complication, and well, Maddy wasn't doing so hot either. It all went very fast, and it all involved a LOT of pain on my part.

After 4 days in the hospital, I was sent home. I was physically better after 3 days, but was kept an extra day because I had an emotional breakdown. The Dr. ordered strict rest and no visitors.

I look happy here, but just 2 days after being sent home, I had another huge breakdown. At one point, I almost smothered Maddy to get her to stop screaming. (Looking back, this moment is probably the most terrifying of my entire life.)

I didn't know I was suffering from postpartum depression. I also didn't know I had symptoms of PTSD. I knew I needed help. I just didn't know how to ask for it.

Everything's better, now, right?

So, in the end, I'm still alive, Maddy's still alive, we have a new bigger house, and I'm staying at home with my daughter. So everything's all good, right?

Not so much.

I'd had a very traumatic experience that I didn't know how to sort through or share. I had a very needy daughter that screamed day and night due to awful reflux. I got no sleep, and I dropped weight until I was just 99 lbs. I was dealing with postpartum depression, but didn't know it. I had symptoms of PTSD . . . but didn't know that either.

This picture sums up Madelyn's personality as a newborn.

And that was my life for the next YEAR.

So where does this leave us?

Motherhood has perhaps been the single most defining factor of my life. Pregnancy has caused greater physical pain and discomfort than I have ever known before or since. Caring for a demanding infant has stretched me emotionally and spiritually to the edge. Caring for a demanding toddler has been almost as hard, but so far, it's gotten easier as the years have passed. Going on to lose a child in pregnancy has made me feel older than my years, and sadder than I ever knew I could be.

But you know what . . . I wouldn't take back either of my pregnancies. I'm glad that at least for me, abortion was never TRULY an option.

There's not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for my daughter Maddy. Especially after losing Olivia, I do not take one day with her for granted.

I'm so thankful God had a plan bigger than mine. A plan to give me the greatest blessings -- a blessing wrought through fire. I'm so glad that God's plan included little Maddy snuggling with me tonight. Her deep hazel eyes inches from mine, her sweet, toothpastey breath hot on my face. And the best words ever spoken softly to my heart . . .

"You are the bestest mommy ever. I love you SO SO much."

No matter how we feel, God's plan really is the best. This is my truth no matter what.

Back on topic

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I plan to talk a bit more about abortion in the future. It's something that's been heavy on my heart since starting this journey.

I know some of my readers have lost babies to abortion. I know some of my readers have thought about getting an abortion, but didn't do it. I know some of my readers have been encouraged by doctors to terminate the pregnancy. I know women who have had no choice (ectopic pregnancy) but to end a pregnancy through surgery or drugs. I know women whose babies had fatal birth defects, and were encouraged to induce early, knowing the baby would not survive.

So I want you to know, I know that this is not really just a black-and-white issue. I want you to know that on this blog, I will not be pointing fingers. I will not be judging.

I will be breaking some silence. I am breaking my silence

I will also share from my heart what I believe to be truth. And I will do my best to do so with utmost respect and honor to each one of you. And with respect and honor the God who created has created every single life.

From newborn . . . to now.

She was adorable (when she wasn't screaming.)  I was a stressed out mess.

When Maddy was 1.
She was still adorable. I was way too skinny.
 And maybe a little less of a mess.

At 2, things were getting easier.

The beginning was hard, but worth it. Her beautiful smile brings joy to my life!

At 3, things just keep getting better. I still have hard days,
but I love how creative and communicative she is.

Making goofy photos together.
A common pastime here in the Lewis household.  

Best friends for life!

The night she told me I was the bestest Mommy.
I love snuggling her!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Does time make it easier?

Tonight I find I'm struggling with insomnia again. That seems to have happened a lot more this month, and I'm not sure why.

Today I was blessed in that my mother-in-law took Maddy for a good part of the day. I've been accustomed to having help with Maddy 2-3 times a week so I can work (thanks to a teenage family-friend we pay as a "mommy's helper!"). But this is the first day in a week and a half that I had a long break from Maddy during the day, and I think I really, really needed it.

But I do tend to be an overacheiver. So of course during that long break today, I completely cleaned my house and accomplished a lot for my business, instead of giving myself any kind of breather.

I tried to take some time this evening for myself, but even that wasn't really working. Maddy kept interrupting, dishes still needed (correction, need) to be done, and I was still trying to be "productive" by catching up on correspondence while watching my show. It was 9:00 at night, and I still felt like my to-do list was piled up against me.

All of that was enough to make me cranky, and not really enjoy my show, and just generally feel a bit resentful. Because I just wanted an hour to do what I wanted to do. Ad for some reason, I had a hard time communicating that need to my family, and I didn't make it happen.

About the time I should be going to bed, I see that I have a message. It's a heart-breaking message because it means that a sweet friend is now on the same journey as me. "Does it get better with time?" she asks.

With all my heart, I want to just scream, "Yes. Absolutely. Time will take care of it and make it so much easier!"

And maybe other people are able to give that answer, but I just can't say that unequivocally.

In some ways, yes, time has made it easier. In other ways, no, the passage of time has actually made it harder.

I wrote much more to this friend, but I think this just about sums up how I feel about time and grief . . .

"Grief is still there, but it has changed. It is my constant companion. But it's something I'm learning to try to live with like an old, worn-out friend whose company I must patiently endure, rather than as an evil foe whom I must swiftly conquer. . . .

 "I'm learning to navigate this journey better, maybe just because I am quite familiar now with the feelings. They aren't as scary as they once were. I'm learning to recognize them for what they are. And recognize what I need in that moment to get through it."

And for this moment, I think what I need to "get through it" is to stay up till 3, blog and cry a bit. I need to give myself time for ME, and just live with the fact that my house will not be perfect tomorrow for my 9 a.m. appointment. I need to remember those first hours and days after we found out we were losing our baby. I need to think of my friend, and her baby, and this journey she's embarking on against her will.

I need to think about how I'm going to spend August 4, Olivia's due date.

I need to come to the grips with the fact that my body had a freakish cycle this week that for whatever reason made me super upset. I need to come to come to grips with the fact I will not be pregnant by her due date. And that other people's due dates are also fast approaching. Soon I will have other people's babies in my life, and not just pregnancy photos. (I can't decide which will be easier.)

I need to process the story Maddy made up today about Olivia . . . how "Princess Olivia" was grown up like me, and she loves "sghetti" but has to eat all her "vegebales" first before she gets more "sghetti." How Olivia loves to swim at the pool. But then Maddy closes her made-up story of  "Princess Olivia" reminding me how she was just "inky dinky" in my belly. But she's not there anymore.

I have to say, I enjoyed listening to Maddy's description of what Olivia would be like if she were big. Sometimes make-believe is the best.

Sometimes make-believe feels like that's all I have left in growing my family.

10-year struggle with infertility, a loss and a hope-filled ending

Someone emailed me 2 weeks ago their story that they put to video. It's the story of a 10-year-long struggle with infertility, the loss of one baby, and a miracle ending for another.

For some reason, I just found the email tonight.

Tonight, I also heard of another baby who was taken too soon. :(

So perhaps, just perhaps, tonight was just the night I was supposed to post this video.

For those of you who have struggled with infertility, I think you will totally be able to relate. Same for those of us who have lost a pregnancy.

And a thank you to the woman who has opened up about her journey in hopes of encouraging someone who finds herself wondering "why?" "when?" and "how could it be?" I hope your baby's legacy will touch many lives.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

What a positive test won't tell you

I took a pregnancy test this week.


I can't say I was surprised. But just in case it had been positive, I had given myself a pep talk before that epic first pee of the day.

"OK, even if it's positive, you have to understand, that doesn't mean you are having a baby. What that means is that a sperm met egg, and SOMETHING happened. Don't get any hopes up, because a positive test doesn't mean anything."

In spite of my pep talk, I still know inherently that more that a positive test does mean SOMETHING. But it doesn't mean what we all assume it means . . . that a healthy newborn baby will be in our arms in 9 short months.

I think before someone has a pregnancy loss (or maybe for someone who has not intimately known someone who's had a loss ), if they get a positive test it just means "HEY! I'm having a baby!" That positive test feels like a PROMISE.

That promise is what makes some women run out for an abortion because they didn't just pass some test -- it means there's a baby at the end of the deal, and for whatever reason, they aren't ready for that baby. For other women, it's a promise of a beautiful nursery, baby showers sparkling in pink or blue, and of course, a baby to lovingly sing to and rock to sleep.

For some women (like for me when I was pregnant with Maddy), that promise felt like a cruel joke and made me feel out of control. A baby was not in MY plans, at least not yet, and I very much rebelled emotionally from the little "alien" inside that caused me so much discomfort and completely usurped my plans. (I'm very happy and thankful for that "alien" now . . . it just took some time -- OK, all 9 months -- to accept this new plan.)

I think no matter how we FEEL about that promise, it still feels like a promise in the end.

Or maybe I should say, felt.

It doesn't feel like a promise of anything anymore. Except maybe that no matter the outcome, my heart is deeply involved, for better or for worse. And no matter if we end up with a baby or with heartache, my life will change.

Sometimes I do wish pregnancy tests would tell us more. Something like:

"So, you have a positive test. But . . . just so you know, in about 6 weeks, you are going to lose this little one. So you best be prepared, and don't get too attached."


"Yay, it's positive! And you are actually going to keep this baby! Yep, everything's healthy as can be, the baby's in the right spot, and things are moving along swimmingly. So, get your life in order, because there will be a new addition to your family that you are actually going to keep!"


"I hate to be the one to tell you this, but while you are pregnant, and you are going to go full-term, your baby will not be going home with you. Start reading greiving books. Find a support group of women that have been through this. And by all means, bond with this little one as best as you can, because your pregnancy will be the only memories you will be making with this child. "

But the truth is, ALL OF US who get pregnant get the same positive test. We all all believe (or at least desperately want to believe) that we will have a healthy little newborn that we can proudly hold, dote on, and dress up in the cutest Gymboree outfits we can afford.

I know for me, I felt like I was given the same promise as everyone else around me this past December. And so it's no surprise that I planned, I dreamed, and I acted as if I would have a newborn baby who should be arriving here in 3 weeks. And it's no surprise that since then I've felt empty and broken inside, like a part of my has been forever lost.

Because when I took that test, all it told me was that I was going to have a baby. And that positive test sure felt like a promise.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A day of rememberance.

Today, one of my readers is facing her due date, but not facing the arrival of a child. Her baby didn't make it this far. Thinking of her today and of her precious baby that was taken too soon. No matter how brief, that baby's life is important and their place in this life will never be taken by another. If you pray, please lift up a prayer for this momma. Rachel

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Ryan and I have come to a crossroads about what we want to do with foster care: Continue with training (mass loads of training) to keep our license current. OR . . .  let our license go because we know that we aren't ready for a placement now.

I just don't feel peace either way.

I don't want to give it up because WHAT IF we try again, and have a failed pregnancy, and foster to adopt is the only way to extend our family? What about my strong desire to help hurting kids? What about all of the time, money and energy we've put into getting licensed in the first place?

But then, I'm TERRIFIED of another loss, and losing a foster child to another home would probably send me over the edge. Because I've increased my working hours, it will be harder to do even respite care. I suck at paperwork and organization. And I frankly don't know if this is even a good WAY to adopt and expand our family.

My mom suggested I do it when it's not with the intention of having more children . . . but just with the intention of helping other kids.

And that seems like a great idea . . . except that that is lightyears away.

I seriously don't know what to do. Try desperately to find babysitting for 36 hours in the next two weeks so I can attend training during the day -- when I would normally be working Arbonne? OR just let it go, and relicense when it's the right time (whenever that is).

Sometimes, I hate making decisions.