Miscarriage – Part 2

When Jenna shared her experience with miscarriage here nearly a year ago, I was eager to follow her post with one of my own, based on my own experience with miscarriages. But at the time I was pregnant, and my previous pregnancy had ended in miscarriage. When I sat down to write, I found it made me too anxious to try to share my thoughts and decided I’d rather wait until after my baby was born. Now that Pooter is six months old, here are my thoughts.

I remember having moments of crippling fear, back in high school, that I would one day get married and discover I was unable to have children. I don’t know where that fear came from, but it was very real and very upsetting. When my first pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, I felt like that fear was being realized. I felt that I had somehow failed in one of my most basic roles as a woman – that of child-bearer. My body had failed, and my baby had died. I blamed myself. Many years, one more miscarriage, and four healthy children later, I have come a long way and learned a few things I’d like to share with you.

For those who have experienced (or will one day experience) miscarriage:

There is no right or wrong way to feel. Some people are able to take it in stride, while others need to go through a grieving process. You are not callous if you feel okay about it, and you are not weak if it brings you to tears to think about it even months or years later.

People don’t know how to talk about miscarriage, and as a result you may receive some insensitive comments. Try really hard to be patient and understand that it’s unlikely someone is trying to make you feel worse by saying, “There was probably something wrong with it anyway.” or, “You can always try again.”

Take as much or as little time as you need to process what happened. If your experience was particularly difficult physically (if you had to have medical intervention, for instance), be sure to rest and recover.

Name your baby, if you’d like. After both of our miscarriages my husband and I felt certain of the baby’s gender, and we chose to name them Sophia and Thomas.

You may find some comfort in finding a way to remember your baby, whether it’s planting something in your garden in their honour, wearing a special piece of jewelry, marking their due date each year, etc. We say grace together every evening, and at the end we give thanks for each member of our family by name, and we include the names of our miscarried babies to show our other children that they are still part of our family.

If someone in your life experiences a miscarriage:

Tell them you’re sorry for their loss. Do not use the words “little loss”. While the baby may have been physically small, the loss itself is not.

If you know them well enough, you can ask if they would like to talk about it.

But let them talk. Don’t feel like you need to say anything. There is nothing you can say that will make them feel differently, so you don’t need to try.

You can also ask if they need anything, particularly any practical support. Especially if they have other children to care for, they may really appreciate a bit of babysitting, a load of laundry being put in, etc. When I had my first miscarriage, hardly anyone even knew that I was pregnant. But one of my friends who new I was miscarrying showed up at my home with cheeseburgers, salad, and chocolate. I will never forget that gesture of love and support. (As a general rule of thumb, in times of grief a gift of food is always a thoughtful thing.)

 

In a culture that so openly accepts abortion, it’s sometimes hard to talk about the loss of a pre-born baby as a loss that needs to be grieved. It’s sort of invisible, especially when so many miscarriages take place before the parents have shared their pregnancy with the world. Mothers are often left feeling uncertain of how to feel, or how to cope. We are accustomed to mourning the loss of people we’ve had the pleasure to know and spend time with, but a miscarriage is the loss of someone we had yet to meet – and yet still loved deeply.

I don’t know what your personal beliefs are, dear reader, but I will tell you mine: I truly believe that each lost baby is now in Heaven, I believe they are grateful for the parents who loved enough to bring them into existence, and I believe that they rejoice with the Father for all eternity. And I live with the hope of one day being reunited with my Sophia and my Thomas.

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Miscarriage – Part 1

Please join us in welcoming Jenna to Mama Might!

It was Friday, November 20th, 2009. I was sitting in an unfamiliar school gymnasium with my almost 2 year-old daughter and about 200 strangers. We were in line for her to receive the second part of the H1N1 vaccine. I had only brought one snack, raisins, and within 20 seconds of opening the container, they were spilled on the floor. I think the number we were given was something in the 90’s. We had hours of waiting ahead of us. The lovely lady beside me, a few decades my senior, graciously traded with me so that our turn would come sooner. She also gave my little girl a granola bar. God bless her. I remember getting up at one point to go to the water fountain and that’s when I knew something wasn’t right. There was no gush of blood. There was no pain. But I knew something was wrong. The rest of the wait was a blur, my little girl got her vaccine and we came home. I went to the bathroom and my worries were confirmed. I was bleeding at 12 weeks pregnant.

I talked myself out of worrying too much because I had friends who had experienced similar symptoms at the same point in their pregnancies and everything turned out fine. Unlike with my first pregnancy, I had chosen to be followed by a doctor instead of a midwife. As far as I knew, there was no one to call about my condition on a Friday night. I decided to wait until Monday and call my doctor.

That weekend at mass, I remember thinking “this could be my last time receiving communion with this baby in me.” I felt sad and worried, but tried to remind myself not to worry until I knew there was a real reason to be concerned.

The Monday morning, I went in to see my doctor. I don’t remember most of the details of this day. There was a lot of waiting in between moments pregnant with worry and grief. They gave me an appointment for an ultrasound. ”Are you sure of your dates?” she asked. “Hmm” she said. She didn’t smile. Neither did I. We were brought to a room in Emergency to wait. I cried the whole time. After what felt like hours, a doctor came in. Upon seeing me, she said “I guess you already know…[very. long. pause]…there’s no baby.” I felt pain. I felt angry that she would tell me in this way. There was no compassion, no empathy….just an assumption that I already knew. And then she said we could stay as long as we needed to and she left. And I cried. I cried out. Loud. I had never felt, nor have I since, such deep physical, emotional and spiritual pain. I already knew that I had lost the baby. I really didn’t need her to tell me, but hearing the words “there’s no baby”….it not only seemed like the worst way to tell me, but it ripped away any shred of hope I had left to hold onto that maybe everything was fine. I don’t know how long we stayed. Thinking back, it could have been minutes or hours that I sat there and cried. I have no memory of leaving or driving home. My only memory from when we arrived home was calling my best friend, and sobbing “she said there’s no baby” into the phone. My friend said the right thing, whatever it may have been. I kept crying.

Later that evening, I remember thinking “this was God’s plan for this baby…for our family. I truly believe this.” I don’t remember telling anyone else what had happened (but searching my email account today, I can see that I sent out a message letting my friends know what had happened). I don’t remember anything from the rest of that night or the following day. I do remember not saying a single prayer for

the rest of the week. And I also remember the immeasurable amount of grace and faith that was poured into me throughout the following days – thanks to the countless prayers of others, I presume.

I have always had an easy time with faith. From the moment (while listening to a Chris Rice song) I realized there were people in the world who knew God personally, I just knew I could trust in His plan. Suffering a miscarriage was the first time I guess you could say my faith was tested. It didn’t really feel like a test, though. It just felt like an opportunity to confirm what I already believed.

In the days that followed, I received many emails and phone calls from people expressing their condolences. One friend emailed a link to this prayer which played a huge role in our healing process. After reading it, I began to see our miscarriage less as a cross to bear and more as blessing for which to give thanks. We had – we have – a child in Heaven. She (we believe our baby is a girl) stands before our Heavenly Father. She prays for us, her family still on earth. We will be united one day and every day until then we can look forward with hope to meeting this little soul who has gone ahead to our forever home.

It was somewhat startling to move from the depths of grief and pain to the heights of healing and hope and gratitude in such a short span of time. I am forever grateful for the power of our praying family and friends – I have no doubt that they carried us through those hardest days. I am forever grateful for those who reached out in the weeks that followed and expressed their condolences. We had experienced a great loss, and I appreciated those who acknowledged it. But we soon learned that we were blessed with an even greater gain. I weep with gratitude at the memory of developing a clearer understanding of what it means to have an eternal perspective. To know that I am called to live my life on earth as a gift knowing that the greatest treasure will be found when I leave this world and move onto the next – and I have an extra special gift waiting for me, there.

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Jenna Gernon is a wife and stay-at-home mom living in a [very] small town outside of Ottawa, Ontario.  Her faith journey was jump-started the day she listened to Chris Rice’s Clumsy; she joined the Catholic Church in 2004.  Jenna has a passion for photography and loves having her children as live-in subjects.  She jumps at the chance to take photos for others and is always looking at the world around her as potential photo shoot locations.  Aside from photography, she loves all things crafty, cooking good food, being with her family and friends and soaking in Canada’s four beautiful seasons.

Where Are Your Stories?

**Please join us in welcoming Stéphanie to Mama Might**

Where are you, you women longing to pour out your hearts, express your anger, your desperation, and your grief?  You women longing to bring forth a life, but to whom nature has been unkind.  You, who have been told by your doctor that you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, anxiety, or from some other gynecological issue.  You, who have been told by society that your problem isn’t real, and that it must be all in your head.  (After all, you just need to relax, right?)

After eight years of struggling with infertility, I am still searching for these women.  Thank God, some have chosen to reveal themselves to me.  It is thanks to them that I am able to understand my own struggles more fully.  It would seem, however, that most of us choose to remain hidden, cloaked in desperation and shame.   Unfortunately, many of us feel abnormal, misunderstood, and worst of all, alone.  Instead of shaking free from our prison of misery, we choose to stay closed off, wrapped in our grief, plagued by emptiness. It is rare to find someone willing to share their story of infertility with the world.  However, I believe that the world needs to see and hear us, and more importantly, that we need to see and hear each other so that our burden of isolation may be lifted. This is why I have chosen to put my experience into words; not only to lend my voice to those who need to be heard, but also to help those close to them more fully understand their struggle. This is my story.
I would describe my infertility as a state of exile.  My spirit searched obsessively, not only for a way to escape my despair, but also for a way to be included in the miracle of pregnancy.  During this time I began to question and lose faith in every detail and aspect of my being.  I was suspicious of the food I ate, the vitamins I swallowed, and the drugs I was prescribed.  Worst of all I began to distrust my own body which seemed to betray me month after month.  Why, it couldn’t even do something that should have been as natural as breathing!  In the same way that I lost faith in my body, I also began to lose respect for it.  I embarked on a journey of painful fertility treatments that came with a broad spectrum of horrible side-effects.
In addition to the physical toll of infertility, my exile also greatly affected my social life and my relationships with others. Since it was difficult to watch other women easily achieve my most elusive dream, it was painful to act normal around them and be sympathetic as they described their pregnancy woes.  Little did they know I would have given anything for leg cramps and heart-burn! Their beautiful, round bellies became demons that haunted me, whispering to me what a failure I was. I began to avoid places where pregnant women might be, or where families with multiple children were present.  As a result, it is not surprising to me that my infertility destroyed some friendships.  I lost friends by avoiding them during their pregnancies or, even worse, by poorly expressing the way I was feeling about their pregnancies.  It became a vicious cycle of heartbreak that began once I learned that yet another friend was expecting, and ended with the greater pain of eventually losing that friend altogether. I dearly miss those friends, every day.
Just like a lonely prisoner who dreams of being rescued, each of my monthly cycles would begin with a small glimmer of hope.  But as the cycle progressed, that small, bright bit of hope would gradually fade until the tiny spark was extinguished in a flood of disappointment.  “Making Love” became “Making a Baby”.  This beautiful act became a means to an end, and a source of deep anxiety.  Once the period of ovulation had passed, my anxiety would become nearly unbearable.  Sleep, my only reprieve from the stress, would vanish during those two weeks of hellish waiting.  When my cycle began again each month without fail, I would again be forced to accept that the dream of motherhood had evaded me once more, and I would feel like an imbecile for having the audacity to even hope that it might have been different this time. I would tell myself that enough was enough, and that I was through hoping, through trying.  But each time I told myself I had given up I would quickly forget my resolve to stop trying, roll up my sleeves, put my faith back in God, and  pick up the fight at the beginning of each new cycle.  Thanks be to God for the gift of this beautiful faith!  I believe with all my heart that one day a second child will come as a gift from my Lord, just as my first child was.
Despite the years of suffering and the loss of several pregnancies, my deepest happiness was the delivery of a little gift which miraculously arrived from the Lord five years ago.  My husband and I waited for this miracle for three long years.  And we have now been waiting for four years for a little brother or sister to join our sweet angel.  Only God knows when this second miracle will arrive, and I remind myself everyday to have patience.
I am deeply thankful for our first little blessing, and filled with sympathy for those who wait for one of their own.  With the help of God, and other women like you, I eventually made peace with my cross.  Beautiful round bellies and all the other wonderful gifts of pregnancy no longer haunt me.  All I can say to those of you who are waiting for your first, second, or third child is please don’t lose hope.  Know that you are not alone.  And above all, don’t be afraid to share your story so we can know, pray for, and support one another.

*This post has been translated from its original French by Amanda Winsor.*

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My name is Stephanie and I am a wife, a mom, a teacher and an owner of a (very small) tutoring/educational products business. I have three passions in life: my husband, my son and teaching. My life is filled with blessings and I do my very best to live it according to my faith.  Here is my post in its original French.
Ou sont passées toutes ces femmes qui voudrait raconter, crier leur rage, leur desespoir leur chagrin. Ces femmes qui veulent mettre quelqun au monde, mais qui ne sont pas choyées par la nature. Qui se font dire par les médecins qu’elles ont un problème d’hormones, d’anxiété ou d’autres problèmes gynécologiques. Qui se font dire par la société que leur problème ce n’est pas un vrai problème parce que ça se passe sûrement dans leur tête. Après tout, elle n’ont seulement qu’à relaxer!
Suite à 8 ans de bataille avec mes propres problèmes d’infertilité je cherche toujours la plupart de ces femmes. Dieu merci, certaines ce sont dévoilées et c’est grace à elles que je peux me comprendre un peu mieux. Il me semble que la plupart semblent rester cachées dans leur désespoir. Malheureusement, la plupart d’entre nous se sentent anormales, incomprises et seules. Au lieu de sortir de nos chaînes de misères nous restons emmitouflées dans nos couvertures qui empestent la faillite. Rares sont celles qui partagent leur combat avec le monde entier. Le monde a besoin de nous entendre, mais plus important encore, nous avons besoin de nous entendre pour que notre sentiment de solitude puisse au moins être effacé. J’ai choisi de penser sur papier pour aider à celles qui ont besoin d’entrendre et pour aider à leur proche à les comprendre. Voici ce qui se passe en moi:

Je décrirais mon infertilité comme un état d’exile. Un exile ou mon esprit obsède sur un moyen de s’en sortir ou plûtot d’y entrer….entrer dans le miracle de la grossesse. Mon être entier perd confiance et doute tout ce qui l’entoure: la nourriture que j’ingère, les suppléments que j’avale, les médicaments qu’on me donne et pire encore mon propre corps qui me déçoit cycle après cycle. Mon corps ne peut même pas accomplir un acte naturel comme l’est ma respiration, ma digestion ou mes battements de coeur. Comme la confiance est minimisée, j’ai l’impression que le respect que j’apporte à mon corps est conformément perdu et je m’embarque dans des traitements qui sont douloureux et qui viennent avec un baggage d’effets secondaires.
Mon exile attaque également ma vie sociale et mes relations. Parce que c’est très difficile de voir plusieurs femmes atteindre facilement mon plus grand rêve il est pénible pour moi de vivre impédueusement autour d’elles. De mon côté je prie pour les douleurs et les maux de coeurs. Les belles bedaines rondes deviennent des démons qui me hantent et qui murmurent à mon âme que je suis une faillite. J’essaie donc souvent d’éviter les endroits ou plusieurs femmes enceintes peuvent s’y retrouver ou plusieurs familles nombreuses sont présentes. Ce n’est donc pas surprenant que mon infertilité a détruite des amitiés. Ces amies ont été perdues car je les ai évitées pendant leur grossesse ou parce que je n’ai pas exprimer mes sentiments de façon appropriée lorsque je me sentais au bas-fond en leur compagnie. Je les manques beaucoup. C’est un cycle vicieux qui commence avec des pincements au coeur de voir ces amies enceintes et qui se termine par de plus grands pincements au coeur de les avoir perdues.
Tout comme une exilée qui voit un mirage, chaque cycle commence avec une lueur d’espoir. Au fur et à mesure que le cycle avance, l’atteinte du mirage devient de plus en plus obsédante. “Faire l’amour” devient “faire un bébé “. Le geste devient un outil et devient angoissant. Une fois l’ovulation complétée l’anxiété devient pratiquement insoutenable et je me touve à rêver à pouvoir dormir pendant ces deux semaines d’enfer pour ne pas avoir à faire face au stress qu’apporte l’attente. Finalement, au bout du cycle je realise que ce n’était encore qu’un mirage et je me sens idiote d’avoir espéré au rêve. Je m’y suis fait prendre encore une fois. Je me dis que c’est assez que je ne m’y ferai plus prendre… mais j’oublie rapidement, me remonte les manche, met ma foi en Dieu et je recommence mon manège le cycle suivant. Merci pour cette belle foi. Je sais qu’un jour ce deuxième enfant me viendra du Seigneur comme l’a été le premier.

Même avec ces années de souffrances et la perte de plusieurs grossesses. Mon plus grand bonheur est l’accomplissement d’un petit miracle que le Seigneur m’a envoyé 5 ans passés. Mon mari et moi avons attendu pratiquement 3 ans pour notre amour. Voila maintenant quatre ans que nous attendons pour un petit frère ou une petite soeur pour notre petit ange. Seul Dieu sait quand un deuxième miracle nous sera envoyé. Je l’entend me dire… patience. Je suis reconnaissante pour notre première bénédiction et je suis remplie de sympathie pour celle qui essaie d’atteindre leur première accouchement. Tout ce que je peux avouer à celles qui attendez pour votre premier, deuxième ou troisième enfant ne perdez pas espoir et souvenez-vous que nous ne sommes pas seules. Dévoilez-vous pour que nous puissions nous reconnaître et s’entraider.

A Gift for This Year

Every year when our church celebrates Epiphany, the ushers stand at the front of the church holding baskets filled with little slips of paper. On each brightly-coloured paper is a word, a gift that God wants to give each of us that year. Before the words are drawn by the members of the community, they have been prayed over by our pastor, asking that we will be guided to draw that word which will show us what God wants to give us, or a word that shows us how He wants us to grow.

My word for 2013 was happiness. I laughed a little when I read it, then teared up a little, and finally just said, “I’ll take it.”

A little history:
2012 was not a good year for me. (2011 wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows either, but let’s just talk about last year for now.) 2012 is going down in history as a year of loss for me. In February, I started to lose my hair, and my the middle of May I’d been forced to shave what was left in hopes of starting over.

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In July I lost my maternal grandmother, a woman I’d been extremely close with through my entire life. I was her first grandchild, and my Princess was her first great-grandchild. Baby Belle was given my Nana’s name as her second name, in honour of a woman who taught me so much about loving and leading a family.

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Then in December, I miscarried at 11 weeks. We were crushed. Much like the loss of my hair, this loss really struck me as a woman. I felt like an utter failure as a mother, and I mourned the loss of our baby very deeply. We named him Thomas.

So when I pulled happiness from the basket, I was relieved. I thought that was God’s way of letting me know I was in for an easier, happier year.

And now we’re nearing the end of June, and already I’ve begun to lose my hair again, I lost an aunt and wasn’t able to travel to be at home for the funeral, and – by far the worst – my closest friend recently lost her two-year-old in a tragic accident. Once again, it feels like my year is being defined by loss after loss.

So where is my happiness in all of this? When do I get the easy-breezy, carefree happiness I thought I was promised on Epiphany?

Oh, it’s there. The happiness, that is, not the easy-breezy part. The grief and the sadness threaten to swallow it at times, eclipse it at others. Those dark emotions are the proverbial squeaky wheels. They demand attention, they cloud my vision, impair my judgment, and threaten to drag me down.

But the happiness will not be defeated. My happiness comes from above, from Him who created me. I delight in my beautiful children, who teach me daily to have even more trust and reckless abandon in the arms of my God. I am happy with my husband, who serves our family so selflessly, a glimpse of what Mary’s life with St. Joseph must have been like. I am happy to be held up and supported by family and incredible friends who share love and encouragement at every opportunity. I am happy in our home, living out my childhood “dream job”.

I suppose instead of the happiness just coming easily, the gift I’ve been given is instead the ability to find the happiness. To search for and cling to those threads of happiness that wind their way through my days, through the mundane and even tragic. The happiness isn’t as loud or as feisty as the sorrow, but it’s bigger. It’s brighter. I clutch it tightly to my breast. It sustains me and moves me forward. Thank you, Jesus!

~Jaclyn