Thursday, May 29, 2014

Three tiny, wee little letters we just couldn't say

In my lifetime, I've met a few phantom babies.

Or rather, I didn't meet them.

They were the what ifs, could haves, wish it could have beens, once was, now no more babies. They WERE. But they weren't. All at once. Some I called mine. Others I never once had a claim on.

I've never seen any of my phantom babies. Not on an ultrasound, not in person.

And yet each and every one has a little part of my heart.

We met another phantom baby this week.

Well, we didn't really meet him. But we learned his first name. I knew he was 9 lbs, and scored an 8 on the Apgar test. I knew he was 2 days old, and I knew why he was being taken at birth from his mom. I knew he was healthy.

I knew that the moment I saw him, I would fall head over heels for him.

And I knew he could be my foster son the very next day if all I did was utter three tiny, wee little letters. "y-e-s."

I think Ryan and I both WANTED to say yes.

As soon as I got the call just before 6 pm, I woke Ryan up from his nap. And we started planning. There was no time to lose. We had just 3 hours to make our decision.

"Ok, could we use a pack and play in our room for the first few weeks? What will we need to get? When could he start day care if we needed it?" We texted our social worker, drilling her for answers to every question that came to mind.

Most people take years or at least months to decide to have a baby. Then they have an additional 8-10 months to PLAN and make room for said child.

We had 3 hours to decide. And less than 24 before he would be a semi-permanent place in our home.

As the 3 hours wore on, our questions changed.

"If Ryan is overwhelmed with taking on 2 training positions at work, how will he feel having to come home to a newborn, and not getting much rest at night? Will Rachel be able to keep up her momentum in her business? How will we cope if/when it's time to say good-bye? How will this impact Leyla and her high-needs?"

(Maddy, we knew, would acclimate pretty well. She REALLY wanted this baby. Her prayer that night was darling. "Dear God, please help all of us be really good parents to this baby [because she's a parent now??], and make tonight go by really fast so we can hurry up and get our baby brother. Amen.")

I felt somehow that meeting him might make it clear to me, so I asked our worker if we could go to the hospital to see him. (Maybe I was just hoping he would be so stinking cute, there'd be no way we could say no.) Had it been earlier in the day, we could have met him. But not then.

I knew it was just as well.

We prayed. We took time alone. We took time together. We called our closest family for advice and to ask for prayer. We got food to-go, and took the kids to the park.

I stared at the clouds, wishing an answer would just land on my heart. Some sort of assurance that whatever was God's will would become so apparent to me. The only thing I got was that God was really, really big.

No white dove came.

I prayed, "God, I want to do your will. If saying yes to this is saying yes to your will, by all means I'll say yes. If saying no means saying yes to you, then we'll say no. Please just make it clear!"

As I took Leyla in the stroller around Lion's Park, and watched a family of 5 closely as I strolled by. I longed to stop them and interrogate them. "Your kids are spaced like mine are. Tell me, what was adding the 3rd like? Can you handle it? Was it overwhelming? How did you cope? What advice can you give?"

Instead, I smiled prettily at their adorable family, and pretended that I wasn't making a momentous, life-altering decision at that moment and was desperate for their help. (Because they were experts after all on our situation. Having 3 kids spaced just so apparently made them perfect candidates for advice.)

When we packed up and came home, we put the kids to bed. We both were getting exhausted, but no closer to a decision.

We talked more to family, and the deadline was ticking up on us.

Closer, and closer, and closer the minutes turned to hours, and 9 approached us like a freight train.

And we were nowhere near ready for it.

9 came.

9 went.

Stress came and snuggled closely between Ryan and I. I could tell we were now on different pages. He was ready to say no. I still wasn't convinced.

As 10 came, I still had no peace either way. Ryan was disappointed to have to say no, but in his mind, there really wasn't any alternative.

I think I knew the answer would be no all along. It's just that I didn't want to acknowledge it. I didn't want to admit that maybe I couldn't handle it right now. I didn't want to tell this sweet little tiny baby that, "I'm so sorry you're being taken from your mommy right now, but we don't want to disrupt OUR little family either. So, I hope someone takes you in."

I made Ryan text our social worker our decision.

Then I read it, didn't like his wording, stole the phone back, and wrote my own reply.

"I wish with all my heart our answer were yes. You know I would love to have a newborn baby in my home. But after talking about it with Ryan, and praying and talking to friends/family, we feel it's in the best interest of our little family to say no for right now."

I made him push "send."

And then I added ...

"Even though it kills me to say that."

And it did. As soon as we sent it, I wanted to unsend it. I wanted my words back, and I wanted to change them to a y-e-s. I wanted to be crazy busy trying to prepare my home for a newborn in less than 12 hours. I wanted to post on Facebook that we were adding someone to our family for a little while. I wanted to serve God and I wanted to serve this little baby.

But I couldn't forget that first, God has called me to serve the people I'm in relationship with NOW. Ryan and I made some big decisions recently about focusing on our family and getting US to where we want to be.

And if having this baby stretched me too thin -- or was too hard on Ryan -- I didn't want there to be this feeling of "YOU chose this for our family!" instead of "WE chose this for our family -- and we'll make it through."

And so, the text stayed just as it was.

And phantom baby has entered my life. He hasn't quite left it yet. And maybe he won't.

And maybe it's just as well, because it reminds me to pray for him.

As I drove to visit our new baby cousin yesterday, I could "see" baby J's newly installed car seat from the rear view mirror. I imagined hearing him cry during his first car ride. I imagined wrangling my two kids and him in and out of our errands yesterday. I envisioned holding him proudly as I chatted with my new business builder over coffee. I envisioned the messy diapers, the 3 am feedings, wearing him as I made dinner and tried to keep Leyla from some crazy accident.

I envisioned taking pictures of Maddy holding her brother. And Leyla trying to gently poke his eyes.

And I pictured the social worker appointments, and doctor's visits, and nutritionists and physical therapists, and all the other people we might need to meet regularly with, like we did for Leyla. And I envisioned packing him up to go visit his mom, then worry that he wasn't doing well there, but never knowing for sure.

And so today, as I packed up for play group and an Arbonne coffee date, phantom baby joined us too.

There was some comfort in his presence. Even if admitting all this makes me sound like a crazy person. He is the baby we almost had. He is the baby I wanted, but needed to let go.

I will never know the answer to what if.

"What if he was meant to be our son? What if the home that took him wasn't safe? What if he needed us? What if we were supposed to say yes?"

But at least I can know the answer to the things that I most assuredly need to know.

Can Ryan and I make a decision and respect each other's needs in the process?  Can we accept our limitations as a family?  Can we trust that God is bigger than us and bigger than our decision?  Can we rely on the support of our friends and family no matter what decision we make? Will we chose to make our marriage and our children our top priority over ministry?

Without a doubt, the answer to all of the above is a resolute YES.

We said no to a baby. But said three, wee little tiny letters to our marriage and to each other.


And maybe, just maybe one day, we can say those letters again to our marriage, our kids AND a foster child all at the same time.

In the meantime, phantom baby is still on my heart. And I pray for his wee little life. And I would ask that you do the same too.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Calling it for what it is

This. I'm doing this.

For whatever reason, today I just know I need to stop ignoring my inability to be on time ANYWHERE, no matter whether it is important to me or not.

I am tired of feeling overwhelmed at life.

I'm not even talking about grief here, or running a successful business, or any of the big stuff.

I'm talking about remembering to return library books without racking up a $25 charge every time. (Is this public service really supposed to be free???)

I'm talking about remembering to call the insurance to get my daughter her vaccines on time. (And I'm only 4 months late on that one.)

I'm talking about not spending at least an hour a day looking for missing keys, phone, wallet, driver's license, our cash budget, shoes, etc. (MY shoes btw. This doesn't even cover all the kid's stuff I lose, or they lose.)

I'm talking about remembering what I was saying, and being able to complete a sentence. Those of you who know me well, know that I often lose track of what I was saying and will more often than not, be unable to complete a sentence. Or a thought.

Or I will complete them with a word that has NO relevance whatsoever to what I was saying. For instance, the other day I was trying to get Maddy to pick up her back pack. I kept saying, "Maddy, get your jacket" (while pointing to the backpack.) Shoot. Wrong word. "Maddy, get your sweater." (still pointing. Still wrong word.) "Maddy, would you just get . . . . it?"

"Mom, do you mean my backpack?" she asks, following my finger with her eyes.

"Yes, that! Please get it."

It would be funny. Except it happens all the time. And sometimes the wrong word isn't just wrong. It's flat-out-embarrassing.

I'm talking about not walking into a room MULTIPLE times for something, but always forgetting what I need the moment I walk through the door.

I'm talking about being 100% overwhelmed by clutter in my home. I hate it, but I don't know how to deal. It's enough to send my into a "tight ponytail hair day." Paperwork is my nemesis. My ARCH-NEMESIS.

I'm talking about booking an important phone call, and remembering all day to do it, then 5 minutes before, forgetting and that important phone call is not made. This will happen over, and over, and over again. It's not just that it's important in general. I mean, this phone call MATTERS to me. And yet, I'll still forget.

I'm talking about having a friend I've known for years, then suddenly forgetting their name in the middle of a conversation. This happens. Often.

I'm talking about finally remembering to write thank you notes. And then losing them. And then finding them years later.

I'm talking about having NO sense of time.

I'm talking about the fact that I'm either a tornado, or a zombie. There is no in-between with me.

I could go on. But I won't.

I'm not trying to "create" a diagnosis if there is none. I'm just saying I'm tired of coping, tired of pretending I can function normally, when half the time, I'm looking at all of you with absolute wonder in my eyes. "How do you DO it??"
When my parents first approached me about it possibly being ADD (as it does run in my family), I looked at them like they had just each grown a second head.

I mean, ME?? ADD?? I was the one who always helped my ADD brother through his schoolwork. I was the one that always got A's in school, and was a "star" student. I'm the "over functioning" person that always juggles a billion things at a time.

But as Ryan and I sat down to go through the book they suggested, I started seeing it. I had Ryan take the test for me, and I scored pretty high. I took the test separately, and we both saw the same things.

So I've finally made up my mind. I'm going to pursue this. If it goes nowhere -- great. If it does go somewhere, then at least I know. At least I can maybe stop mentally beating myself up over every single time I'm late, forget something, forget a word, overdraw my account, lose my keys for the 4th time that day, and forget your name. At least I can start to figure out coping solutions.

You are so OK to comment. Please just don't tell me that I'm making this up, or that these behaviors are normal. Sure, they may be normal sometimes. But when these things interfere constantly with the quality of your life, it's really not normal. (And I promise, it's not due to sleep deprivation. My kids have slept through the night for the last 3 years.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

On making hard decisions and knowing when enough is enough

The last few weeks, I've had writer's block.

I know I SHOULD have written.

I should have written a moving post about being a bereaved mom on Mother's Day.

I should have written a loving tribute to both Caleb and Elliott as we "celebrated" anniversaries with them this month.

I should have written about our amazing family vacation at Great Wolf Lodge, one month post-adoption.

I should have written a review for "Return to Zero."

I should have written about how I overcame all the grief triggers and reminders of what I've lost when I went to our annual training conference in Vegas.

 But I find myself at a complete crossroads.

You see, I'm trying to move forward.

I'm not 100% what that looks like. I just know that I can't be THIS sad anymore. I can't.

My family can't handle it. I can't handle it. My business and team can't handle it. My girls can't handle it. My marriage can't handle it. My finances and bills can't handle it. My emotions can't handle it.

I just need to figure out some way to move forward.

I did make SOME decisions while at our conference. (And the conference, btw, is a completely different post that will take me much longer than the 10 minutes I'm currently allotting myself to write.)

I'm taking a grief break.

For me this is what that looks like.

1 -- Ryan and I are taking a break from trying to conceive. Once this cycle is up, assuming I'm not pregnant, I'll be starting birth control. For at least a year. (Pray we get this right, so it makes my hormones BETTER and NOT WORSE!)

2 -- I'm taking a break from our pregnancy loss support group.

It's not that they did anything wrong, or there are bad feelings -- so please don't think that. I actually already miss them! :) It's just that when I AM in a good place, and I go to the meetings, it all comes back. I go to meetings twice a month, so even though I'm not immersed in it -- it's still enough.

I also never took a break for myself to just heal, and not be supporting others in the process, with my last 3 losses.

Going to meetings also reminds me of how much I DO want to be pregnant.

So for the sake of my sanity, maybe, and to help promote whatever healing I might need -- I'm taking a break for a few months. I'm still technically on leadership -- it's just more like a personal leave of absence.

Thankfully, my friend, the director, was super supportive and understanding of my decision, and knowing I have her support has made the decision so much easier.

I took several weeks to come to the decisions I did -- praying, talking with friends and family and confidantes. Talking with the director.

I have been hesitant to tell you these things.


Well, first, I'm always hesitant if I feel like some of you are thinking, "FINALLY." See, family planning, as you know, is a very personal thing and for a very long time, ttc DID seem like the right thing to do for me and Ryan. I was making the best decisions I could.

Now, I've really come to appreciate (maybe that's not the right word?) what recurrent loss has robbed me of. And I'm ready to start claiming that joy, peace and contentment for myself.

Also, I've decided that I can only make a decision based on what I know, not on what I don't know. For so long, I've been making decisions on what I didn't know, like:

-What if next time it works?
-What if this is our only chance?
-What if the doctor's figure it out?
-What if this treatment works?
-What if I go into menopause soon?
-What if my eggs are already in decline?

And I don't know the answers to any of that.

But I DO KNOW that for me, for now, I've had enough. I cannot handle any more losses, any more completely anxiety-riddled pregnancies, without maybe having a complete breakdown.

So for now, I'm choosing to move forward with my family. With the business I am beyond blessed with. With the children I adore. With the oh-so-brief but tender memories of the children I didn't get to hold.

I don't know all that the future holds. And, yes, I'm secretly praying it still includes a healthy newborn in my family. But I'm choosing to be OK with where I'm at right in this moment.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fostering-to-adopt: Our story, Part 2

First, a very few important links you'll want to look over.
Find Part 1 of our story here.
Deanna, Leyla's first foster mom, wrote their version Leyla's story here:  Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 3.
I highly recommend going through all the posts before continuing here. Now, I know that sounds like a lot of reading before you get to, well, you know, reading . . . but it's really worth it. I promise. Deanna's even a good writer. :)

Ok, so without further ado . . . Part 2.

It's the first week of January 2013.

I'm still reeling from the failed, but hoped-for, foster placement of a newborn baby girl. We just had Christmas, Maddy's birthday, and the 1-year anniversary of our loss of Olivia.

I remember being invited out with some new friends to go dancing at a bar a few days after Christmas. Ryan encouraged me to get out of the house, and have something fun to do. (The dance at the bar was a different story entirely, but I'll suffice it to say I did very little dancing and was hit on by an Amish guy. Ask me the story another day.) :)

At dinner, one of the girls commented that I seemed sad. And I was. I was sad all.the.freaking.time. I really didn't know how to be happy again. And so I was totally honest about it all with them. I told them of the babies I'd lost (talk about an awkward "fun" night out) and I told them that it felt like my life had just been sucked out of me.

So, when I got the call to do respite for a 10-month-old baby, I wasn't really in a great place emotionally. But man, was I ready to have that baby in my home for a weekend.

The caseworker sent me Leyla's foster mom's email so I could check in with questions. As you could imagine, I had quite a few as I had never met this baby before and we would have her for an entire weekend.

So I shot her off the following email:

Hi Deanna,
I'm just writing to find out about arrangements for Leyla's respite care.
What time should we take her tomorrow? Would you like us to pick her up, or are you planning on dropping her off?
Also, I was wondering if you would let me know about her normal eating/sleeping routine.
The notes said that she's been clingy and crying more. Is there anything that is soothing to her? Does she like to be in the Ergo carrier?
One last thing -- Depending on when you pick her up on Sunday (or we drop her off), she will be attending church with us. Is it OK for her to go in the nursery?
Here's an excerpt from her reply:
Hi Rachel, 
Leyla can be a pretty fussy baby and has a very loud cry when she is upset. But when she is in a good mood she is so sweet and delightful and a joy to be around. Her moods definitely swing though. Sometimes she likes the Ergo, sometimes she hates it. She loved it this week when we went outside for a walk. She loves to swing, so if the weather is nice a park visit would be a hit. She typically enjoys riding in the car or stroller rides. 
She generally sleeps through the night, after bath, a bottle, and some cuddles and stories. We usually sing to her and pray with her before putting her in her bed with a little music to put her to sleep. During naps we have a fan going in her room for white noise (it gets loud with two other little people running around!) and that helps her sleep longer for sure. We typically put her in a blanket sleeper at bedtime and naps, and she has a special blankie too. I'll be sure to pack that for you.
Typically she is up in the morning at 6:30, but the last few days she has been sleeping until 8:30. It's been insane and I'm wondering if she's gearing up for a growth spurt. Usually she is in bed by 6:30 or 7:00 pm, and she will definitely let you know if she is over tired.
We give her a bottle when she wakes up, then feed her some real food an hour or so later. She is typically ready for a morning nap about 2 hours after waking up, and then ready for an afternoon nap 2-3 hours after waking from her morning nap. She doesn't sleep so well in the carseat or being held; the girl loves a crib. (emphasis mine.)
We kind of play by ear giving her real food or a bottle depending on when she is awake and when the rest of the family is eating. She eats purees (we thicken with a little cereal) like a champ and devours cheerios and crackers. But she is struggling with squishy foods like bananas, steamed carrots, baked apples, cheese, etc. So we keep offering these things to her, and try to have her eat with the family and give her tiny pieces of what we're eating. The sweet child still has no teeth, so we do what we can. I was just at the doctor today and he was concerned a bit with her weight, so he wants us to be sure we offer at least 4 bottles a day. 
I'll pack you bottles, formula, baby food, clothes, pajamas, diapers, wipes, etc. Besides her blankie, is there anything else you need? Toys or spoons or anything?
Yes, church nursery is fine. With daycare, mops, and our church she is used to multiple caregivers and as long as she has attention, she is usually pretty happy.

So, Ryan and I got ready for our baby to enter our family for a weekend.

We didn't know she'd be staying the rest of her life.

I'll never forget the moment Deanna and Darin walked through our door for the first time. They brought in the cutest little bundle in a carseat. We small-talked in our entry way as we went over her routine again, and everything they packed (the poor family had to pack everything but the kitchen sink), and we talked about pick up plans on Sunday. Then they were off.

And facing me was a darling girl that was a little bit fussy. She had big, big eyes. (And a big forehead. But she's growing into it.) And a tiny, wee little body.

Leyla, a few weeks before we met.
For the first time in a while, I felt a lightness and a joy. Sometimes babies do that to you.

Ryan probably wondered what happened to his wife, as I quickly took her off to play. He may not really have seen much of me the rest of the weekend. :)

The first night, I totally (intentionally) disregarded the whole thing about just putting her in her crib. I never knew a baby that didn't like to be rocked, and I was ready to rock. The second night, before we put her down, I snapped this shot:

I remember thinking that her eyes looked a little empty. I later learned that this was all part of her coping mechanisms. Shutting down a little, sucking her fingers, and twirling her finger in her hair (or rubbing her forehead.)

As I rocked her, I noticed another odd behavior. She turned away from me, and covered her eyes with one hand.

I later learned that this is what she does when she's overstimulated.

It's just as well I didn't know. That girl was rocked, sung to, and generally loved on for a very long time.

And a really strange thought came to me as I rocked.

This little girl is mine.

I didn't want to admit the thought to anyone. After all, we didn't know much of anything about her case, other than why she was in care and how long she had been with first family. The child even came with a picture book that said "My Family" on it, with pictures of her with her foster family on the inside.

Even as my heart assured me this little one had a place in it forever . . . . my mind thought I was being a little ridiculous. Maybe it was just the grief talking? Maybe I was so desperate, I was a little crazy?

All I knew for sure was that I was crazy about this little girl.

Leyla rocked to sleep in my arms
 the first of many, many times.
That night, I marveled at how tiny she was in that great big crib that stood empty for so long. A mere 15 lbs, and sleeping kind of folded over, she barely even made her presence known on that grand mattress.

But I knew she was here.

I couldn't sleep that night. Not because she was a bad sleeper. Quite the contrary, she slept through the night. I, on the other hand, was a hot mess. I was so worried that something would happen to her. She survived the night (as did I, albeit much more tired than she) and we pressed on through our weekend.

She had just learned how to crawl, and it cracked me up watching Ryan try to "wrangle" her into just staying in one part of the house. He even set up pillow barricades . . . all to no avail.

I was sure that her first foster mom was missing Leyla, so I sent quite a few texts and photos to her during the weekend. We ended our time with her by taking her to our grandma's birthday party at Anthony's.

I'm not going to lie. I held that baby, fed that baby, walked that baby like she was mine. Because secretly, I really wanted her to be.

A few of my Facebook posts from that weekend:

"Enjoying my 6 o'clock time in the rocking chair! I forgot just how peaceful it is. Hoping one day soon we'll have our own placement, and can make this an everyday kind of thing."

"A very good morning."

"Treating Maddy. She did so well helping with the baby!"

First family let us know that they would be needing some more respite soon since Deanna would be doing some more travelling. I couldn't wait. It was the hope of the next visit that helped me get through some of those darker days.

For me, when Leyla came into our home, a light started shining in my heart.

It did not erase the pain of loss. It has not protected me from further loss or heartache.

But God used her little presence to start some healing in my heart.

Funny. I always thought it was the children themselves who were broken and we were supposed to fix. Turns out, I had the equation all wrong.

Stayed tuned for Part 3: The big reveal!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Andrea's Story: Empty arms after recurrent miscarriage

Andrea's story is heartbreaking. I know all the stories I post on here are heart-wrenching, but if you are continuing to read -- I really appreciate you. Every bereaved mom deserves to tell her story!

So often with miscarriage -- no matter whether it's a loss at 4 weeks, or a loss at 19 -- people have an idea of what you've gone through. I really appreciate that Andrea has chosen to share that not only is miscarriage the death of a child (as though that's not enough), there is a very real, physical and sometimes scary process of delivering the child.

I also appreciate that she's chosen to share what has brought her some peace and some resolution in her losses.

So, thank you, Andrea . . . for writing to me, for sharing about Aaron, Jamie, and Caris, and for helping another momma on my blog who may be able to relate.


My name is Andrea. Back in December of 2010, my husband and I decided to try to get pregnant. I saw my OBGYN and was given the green light.  

By the following March, we were pregnant and very excited. Things were going really well.  Ultrasounds looked good; the visit to the high-risk OB was good; everything was good.  

On the morning of June 26, 2011, at 15 weeks, I went into pre-term labor. My water broke, and without hope that he would survive, my son, Aaron, was born and died. I nearly lost my life as well when a uterine tear caused me to bleed.  

It was, obviously, a truly devastating thing, but I wanted his remains tested to find out what went wrong. We actually didn't even know he was a boy until after they took him away. Everything came back normal, and after a D&C the next day, it was just a matter of waiting until the doctor said we could try again.
Things did not really get any better. In less than 2 years from the day we lost Aaron, we got pregnant 2 more times. The second pregnancy resulted in a true miscarriage at 7-8 weeks in March,2012. For my own sanity, I named the second Jamie, a relatively unisex name.

The third pregnancy was our agreed-upon last try. My due date was slated in July, which was close enough to Aaron's birthday for me to just know that God was giving me a sign, that this would be it. My husband had already said he believed she was a girl, and we were going to name her Caris.  

December 4, 2012, I was 9-10 weeks along when I went to see the OB. I'd had a perfectly normal pregnancy up to that point, with the appropriate morning sickness and constipation. My husband didn't even bother going with me because none of us anticipated that it would be anything but normal.  My doctor was happy with my reports and it was ultrasound time. No heartbeat. 3 additional ultrasounds, just to make sure. No heartbeat. My hormone levels were still good, and everything looked perfect. No heartbeat.  

My second D&C was scheduled for the morning of December 7, 2012, and in those days between, I begged for a miracle. It wasn't a matter of if He could make it happen, but would He? And there is not an ounce of me that believes my Father God did not want me to have any of my babies.

I still struggle, though. I still think of all of them. I don't have final resting places for my three to visit and mourn. My body is their graveyard, and I have chosen to mark it as such, in my own way. 2 months after losing Aaron, I had a dragonfly tattoo designed and placed on my right shoulder, with his initials in the wings. Another tattoo is planned, with a flower for each of their birth months: Aaron -- red rose, Jamie -- yellow daffodil, Caris -- purple narcissus. In this way, there will always be a place for me to go, no matter where I am, to think about them.

Sometimes I think I understand why.  After the second D&C, there was another tear, and I had to be kept under sedation for an hour and a half longer than normal because I was bleeding so badly. God could have let me keep Caris. He could have given me my miracle, but there are always consequences. And if the same thing had happened at 15 weeks as had happened with Aaron, I might not have survived. Maybe it's not the reason, but it makes sense to me, and it has helped me find some peace.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

SAS's Story: Four pregnancies and one child.

Dear SweatAndStilletos . . .
Thanks so much for sharing your story. As I was reading parts of your story, friends came to mind who I know could relate. I know there are others who will be touched by your babies' lives, no matter how brief.
Your thoughts on failure so relate with me. I felt as though I could have been writing those words.
Thank you again for sharing.
I’ve been wanting to write this for awhile but haven’t been able to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be.
I’ve written about my last two miscarriages but in a different way. I’ve written more from the perspective of how I felt in the moment, the physical pain and the shock I was experiencing. Today, I’m going to write about my journey through infertility, loss and coping with the cards I’ve been dealt.
I never imagined I would have difficulty getting pregnant. I was more concerned about getting pregnant before I was ready. I also never thought having a miscarriage was possible. That’s not exactly a fair statement. I never even gave infertility or miscarrying consideration. It wasn’t something on my radar at all. Perhaps it should’ve been given some family history, but it wasn’t.
I was living blissfully in the land of "I’ll start a family when I’m ready and I’ll have two kids. Husband wants 4 but I want 2.  He'll have to figure out how to give birth to the other 2 himself."
Now I’ve had three miscarriages. Three. Four pregnancies and three miscarriages. I’ve been told I cannot have more children. Well, actually, I can have more children but it would be a huge health risk and it could cause irreparable issues. How’s that for crappy?
I do have the option of doing more costly fertility treatments. Actually having the egg fertilized in a petri dish and then planting it in my uterus. Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Even with that, there is a very slim chance my body would actually accept the egg and carry to term.
I’m often asked when we will have more children or some variation of that. It’s an innocent question and typical for society. The other day was the first time I answered with, “We can’t.”
I felt a little bad for the person asking as I could tell she felt bad and apologized. For me it was a stepping stone. I was finally able to verbally admit that I can’t.
Failure is something hard for me. It’s easy to say this isn’t failure. There’s a gazillion reasons why you would be right. But for me it is failure. My body won’t do what I want it to.  It doesn't matter what pills, exercise, food, wishing or demanding I do, my body just will not cooperate.
It's difficult when my son asks why he can't have a little brother or sister.  He's so good with younger kids and he's asked for a sibling since he could talk. He's so loving and helpful and they all look up to him. How do you explain to a 10-year-old that "it just can't happen, that I'm truly sorry and it breaks my heart each time you ask." 
You can't. I have to recognize his feelings and try to put it in 10-year-old terms that it's just not something Mommy can do and that adoption isn't something I'm ready for. 
I never wanted him to be an only child. I am an only child and I long for the connection I see between siblings. It is truly something special. I didn't want him to ever have to navigate life alone. His Dad and I will not always be here. Hopefully it is many, many years before we leave him, but someday, we will. 
When my husband first wanted to try infertility treatments, I fought him on it. I always believed that if we were meant to have more kids, it would happen. That God would make it happen. We had many conversations on why we should do it and I listened to his many reasons and I agreed. 
Though I agreed, I still believed that when the time was right, it would just happen. After many tears and devastating months of negative tests, I finally agreed to give it a try. It was not easy, it was a commitment, it was uncomfortable and my body still wasn't cooperating. It didn't produce enough even with the drugs, and neither treatment resulted in a positive result. I was continually reminded of my inabilities.
It's so hard to let myself and my partner down month after month. It's devastating to read a negative result on a pregnancy test month after month for years. It got to where I didn't even want to have sex because if I wasn't, there was no possibility of getting pregnant which meant I couldn't let myself or my partner down. (I do not recommend this way of thinking.)  
After my first miscarriage, I was destroyed. I chose not to lean on anyone and only told those that knew I was pregnant. I didn't share much with friends and didn't talk about my feelings. I tried to grieve alone.
I now see that as a mistake. I should have let someone be there for me. I should have let them hold me up because I could not hold myself.   was broken. I buried my feeling and pulled myself up by my bootstraps and tried to not think about it. I got very depressed but kept stuffing it down. Eventually I stuffed it far enough down that it wasn't constantly there yelling at me. It still affected me by leading to depression and other issues, but it wasn't in my face anymore. It was behind the scenes pulling the strings.
It wasn't until my second miscarriage that I realized how much the first had affected me. By this time, I had a couple of friends I told and tried to lean on. Neither of them had been through one and couldn't relate. They tried to be there for me but didn't know how. Who does? I've been through it and I still don't know what to say or do except to admit it sucks and it hurts and you will get through it.  You'll never be the same, but you will survive. 
After each time, I didn't know how I would have the strength to try again. Not that we were actively trying to prevent pregnancy, but in my mind we weren't trying to get pregnant either. I had no emotional strength left. I couldn't keep doing this. 
At some point I gave up. I don't know when exactly it was but it happened. I fell into an acceptance that this was my life and I could be ok with it.  I write more about this and my ectopic pregnancy here.
I still get emails from a site I joined when I was pregnant with my son. I updated it when I was pregnant the second time and the third time. It kindly sends me updates on my child's birthday and information on their developmental stage. I'd go and delete my information from the site, but I just can't bring myself to go to it. So, I just delete the emails, take a moment to reflect on my experiences and move on. 
I still get a pain in my heart when I see a pregnant woman, a friend greets me with her exciting news, or a small child is near.  I recognize it but don't dwell on it. It doesn't mean I am any less happy for them. It just means it affects me on multiple levels. 
I'm still healing from my three losses and I am forever changed. I'm stronger, smarter, braver and so much more than I ever believed I could be. I'll forever hold those three babies in my heart. I will never have a daughter to plan a wedding with, get a pedicure, and discuss her first love. What I do have is a son that lights up my world, gives the best hugs, whose laugh is contagious and is too smart for his (and my) own good.    
So to you reading this, that either is or knows someone going through this type of loss, I urge you to let them know you are there. 
Make them a meal, take them a coffee or cookies or anything. Be an ear or a shoulder or just a person that is there. Hand them a Kleenex and make them feel comfortable being a crying mess. They may not feel like talking or even having anyone around but knowing you are willing is huge. 
You don't have to have "the right words" just be present. Be that person that says "This sucks and I'm here for you."