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When there is No Rainbow after the Storm

I have a large family, by current standards.  I am the proud mother to five beautiful children.  I conceived all of them easily, had uneventful pregnancies and easy vaginal deliveries.  Sounds like a dream come true.  Not exactly.

My husband and I always planned to have six children.  We were happily pregnant, with our caboose baby, when all my good pregnancy mojo disappeared.  We lost our sixth baby at 12 weeks gestation.  I was devastated.  After a few months I became pregnant with my  Rainbow Baby.  I was a few weeks pregnant with baby number 7 when my former due date arrived.  I mourned the loss of my last baby again as that date passed, but I was comforted and reassured by the new baby growing inside me.  My seventh pregnancy only made it to 7 weeks.  A new storm overtook me.  I almost lost myself.  It seemed strange to many people that I was so sad.  It is hard to explain how it feels.  I felt selfish for being so sad, especially when I have friends that struggled to have even one child.  I know that my children are a blessing and I am grateful.  It was impossible to talk my heart into understanding that I should feel grateful and not miserable.

After two losses, we decided to not try for any more rainbows.

I have secondary infertility due to hormone imbalances.  Although it is possible for me to become pregnant, it is difficult to sustain the pregnancy.  When I learned my body was the reason my babies died it felt like my heart had been sucked from my chest.  I hated myself for ignoring every physical symptom that seemed so glaringly obvious in hindsight.  My mind replayed, on a loop, every possible time I could have been diagnosed prior to becoming pregnant.  “If only” became my nemesis.  I mourned my lost babies.  I also mourned my shattered body image.  I had trusted my body.  I owned a strange pride in my ability to conceive and birth perfect babies.  I rocked at baby making.  I gave birth like a boss.  I was a wizard at lactation.  That sounds bizarre perhaps, but I enjoyed my fertility and all the happiness that it brought to me and my husband.

I still have days when the “if onlys” sneak into my mind.  I sometimes think about what those babies would be doing now, if they had lived.  Those times are getting less frequent and I am grateful.  More of my minutes are spent in awe of my amazing five.  More kisses, more hugs, more cuddles are given to the ones that stayed.  

I did not get a rainbow after the storm.  

bookends

 

My rainbow started with my first son and ended with my sweet baby girl.

This rainbow was made bigger and brighter with each of my five children.

It is not what I imagined it would be, but it is the most beautiful thing in my life.

Perinatal Loss Resources:

https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org

http://www.bandbacktogether.com/miscarriage-resources/

http://www.mymiscarriagematters.com

http://www.ahearttohold.org/blog-2/

 

 

 

 

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Why October Sucks

A year ago today I was happily pregnant with my 6th baby and easing into my second trimester. Within 24 hours I knew that my baby was dead. I became pregnant again after 6 months of sorrow and grief. I was over the moon happy and put aside my fears of losing the new life growing within me. I lost my seventh baby by 8 weeks of pregnancy.

Since I work in labor and delivery, each day is a constant reminder of the two little holes in my heart. I’m beginning to see women come in with the due date I should still have. I literally bite my tongue to not cry sometimes when I place the fetal monitors on their growing bellies. When I teach childbirth class for new parents, I can’t watch the birth videos. I thought about leaving this area of nursing, but I couldn’t do it. It’s my life work and I’d be even more empty if I left it behind.

I just discovered that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss month. I had no idea. My first reaction was a little incredulous. Parents don’t need a special month to remember their loss. All they need is for it to be any day of the week or to get a well wish from someone who still thinks you are pregnant or seeing a TimeHop from about your happy “I’m pregnant” Facebook announcement you couldn’t bring yourself to delete. I have been thinking about it over the last few days, as the one year anniversary of my first miscarriage is closing in on me. Maybe it’s a good idea to have an awareness month for perinatal and infant loss. Maybe it’s a blessing to have an excuse to talk about our wee ones that aren’t with us. Most people don’t want to be “that person” whom is constantly talking about their dead baby. It’s too depressing although incredibly common.

Part of coping is moving on with life and a lot of people are trying to do this every day. But this month is set aside for awareness and it’s not taboo to talk about perinatal loss apparently. So today I will cry while I’m blogging and share my feelings and remember my two little babies I won’t see grow up. Tomorrow I’ll paste on a smile and try not to relive all the horror from a year or six moths ago. Next month will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas and I’ll pretend that my heart isn’t broken, because there isn’t another stocking to be hung up for Santa. Eventually I won’t think about it every day or even every week. It will get easier, but it never goes away.

 

My Facebook pregnancy announcement 1 week before my miscarriage.
My Facebook pregnancy announcement 1 week before my miscarriage.

 

 

To remember and honor the little ones who left us too early, reach out to a parent this month and let them know you remember their baby and are thinking of them. Having someone acknowledge my baby’s existence, near my due date or the anniversary of the miscarriage, has been the most helpful thing anyone has done for me.

 

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When Yes Turns into a No

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I hate the word “miscarriage”. Miscarriage sounds like an accusation that the mother didn’t do something right. It may be true, in some cases, that a woman’s actions cause her baby to die in the womb or be born too early to live. This is not the case most of the time. Perinatal loss is a better term, but I’m not quite satisfied with that either. It should be called the-hardest-experience-a-woman-goes-through-that’s-unrecognized-by-society.

I spent 4 months crying by myself. I listened to well meaning people  discount the loss of my baby. To the outside world my baby was all theory. For my husband and me this new life was already a reality. I spent three months holding my baby, thinking about her, planning for her, and making sure I was being healthy for her. Three months is a long time. People fall in love in three months and get engaged or even married. Three months is plenty of time to fall in love with your own baby. A few people did understand my grief and I appreciated their empathy. I also felt incredible guilt to feel that sad when I had 5 beautiful and healthy children. I had so much more than so many women.  I felt selfish and miserable.

I don’t know if my baby really was a girl, but that’s how I think of her. I held her in the palm of my hand, grey and lifeless. She looked like a tiny baby. She had the faintest hint of fingernails, but not a bit of hair. In contrast to the grey of her skin her lidless eyes were dazzling blue. Those blue eyes are what stay with me. To my grieving soul they were an undeniable testament of personhood for my baby. My husband buried that tiny love, under a tree, in the yard. We struggled for awhile before we decided on that route. Our society and culture doesn’t have rules or customs to guide us in handling these tiniest of human remains.

The next time someone asked me how many kids I had, I stumbled. I wanted to say six, but that didn’t make sense. I only have five and the one that wasn’t anything to anyone, but me.

I started thinking of all the women I knew with losses. Surely I couldn’t be the only one who’s felt this severe grief. We seldom talk about it as women. In a world where nothing seems taboo anymore, a common and terrible life event is blatantly ignored.

As a labor nurse I’ve taken care of countless women who were actively losing and grieving their babies. I hope my words and actions helped. I thought I was sensitive, understanding and helpful to those women. That was before I knew for myself the real pain. The knowing is so much worse. Now I reflect on the past and see how futile my actions were to soothe those women.

I remember one very sad case. A woman was losing her baby in the second trimester. The baby had already died and the mother had to have her labor induced. The mother was of course distraught. When it came time to push she couldn’t, wouldn’t do it. No amount of gentle but firm coaxing could convince her to push out her dead baby. As long as she didn’t push she didn’t have to accept the truth. Her cervix eventually started to close and the induction process had to be started again. I felt appropriately sorry for her at the time. I helped her feel comfortable and eventually she was able to push. If I had that patient today, I wouldn’t feel appropriately sorry for her. I would be devastated. I would cry and whisper in her ear how much my heart hurt for her.  I would tell her how strong she was to push and how beautiful her baby was sure to be.  I would urge her to make just a couple more pushes and we would be able to meet her baby together.  I would wrap that precious one in a blanket and help her to look at every beautiful thing about her baby. It wouldn’t be enough to heal her hurt, but it would be a memory that she could hold in her heart.

I’ve been changed forever. Not many things or people in life can truly change a person. One tiny person changed me. It’s a shame that we don’t talk about how these babies affect us. I would love to hear all your stories. Share your sweet and sad memories. Together we can celebrate, mourn and remember our tiny ones.