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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.

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Dear God, It’s Me Again

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Dear God, it’s me again, Denise RN. I know that I just asked for a miracle last week, for that VBAC, but I could really use your help again. The mom in 407 is only 19 weeks pregnant and her water broke. She’s laying flat in bed, with her head a foot lower than her feet, trying to keep her baby inside. Give her strength Lord. This baby will never make it. Grant her the peace to accept that her baby will not go home with her. Heal her heart so it will be open to another baby someday.

Dear God, it’s me again. It has been a week and 407, I mean Candace, is still pregnant. She has finished her IV antibiotic course and is showing zero signs of infection. I saw her smiling and talking to her belly last night. She has done everything we instruct. I see her hope growing. Why are you allowing her this hope? That baby won’t make it 4 more weeks.

Dear God, it’s me again. I’m amazed at Candace’s strength. She is tired of lying in bed, but she never complains. She would sit on a pin if I told her it would help. 21 weeks, everyone is on the countdown now. Hope is spilling out onto the unit. Why are you letting this hope continue to spread? That baby won’t make it 3 more weeks.

Dear God, it’s me again. 22 weeks! Are you kidding me? Candace is so tired, but full of joy. Thank you for this miracle. We are almost there. The baby is growing and mom still has no signs of infection. This is really going to happen, isn’t it? Since you are in such a gracious mood, can I get a chance to pee before noon?

Dear God, yeah it’s me again. Help me to not fall asleep driving this car. Today was awful. Candace went into labor. I tried to stop it, but the baby came anyway. He was so small and fragile. I laid him on her chest and they cuddled together while he died. She cried when I told her that he was gone. Why, why, why? Why didn’t you take that baby last month? Why couldn’t she keep her baby? Why did you let her have hope for a month and then leave her childless in the end? Give her strength Lord, she is in pain.

Father in heaven, I became a mother today. Thank you for this gift. My little boy was only with me a short time. I wish he could’ve stayed with me. You must have needed him more. When my water broke so early I thought I would never meet him, but he was so strong. Every day I talked to him. I told him how much I loved him. I told him his name is William, just like my dad. I told him about all the things we would do when he was older, and the places we would go together. I prayed every minute for his safe birth. I cherished every little kick and movement this last month. Thank you for those moments. Oh and please bless my nurse, you know which one. The one that pretends she’s not too busy to massage my achy back. The one who smiled encouragingly, while she checked Will’s heart tones each day. The one who helped me hold him when he was born. The one who pointed out all his little miracles, from his tiny toes, to how his nose turns up just like mine. The one who told me how much she loved the name I picked out, while she pretended that she hadn’t been crying. Bless her with peace. Bless her with strength. Bless her with the wisdom to understand she can’t save every baby.

Thank you, God, for my nurse.

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