In the Clouds

sunset-photo

In the clouds I dream
of you
The happiest place
for one who

Is warmed by
the light of your beautiful soul
Eternal love
our hearts aglow

From the earth
so far away
The wind brings you near
as trees sway

I breathe in deep
and remember you
From a small bump
and a lifetime too

In a matter of weeks
I saw it all
From first steps
to big and tall

The sun peeks ‘round
your home up high
I feel you there
one with the sky

I lie here watching
looking up
Being brave,
tearing up

But I will wait
And love you so
Until it’s time
for me to go

Away with you
and then you’ll know
Your mother’s love
Was infinite, so…

In the clouds you
are with me
The happiest place
I can think to be

 

Photo and poetry by CJE

Out of the Darkness, the Light of an Angel

light-in-the-darkness

There have now been many times in my life that I reflect on as my darkest hour.  Not just one.  Many.  Many, many hours of darkness.  Every pregnancy loss, every failed embryo transfer, the death of a loved one.  My third pregnancy loss left me feeling empty and hopeless like I was living in a blank space for a while.  Yet somehow as I crawl or walk or fall down or stumble through the periods of grief, trauma and pain that turn life colorless and dark, there is someone there reaching out a hand and bringing the light back.  I’ve worked very hard since my third pregnancy loss to make my world colorful and bright again.  But it wouldn’t be the same beautiful place without the gifts of light coming to me from my friends, my family and my husband.  This experience with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss has created new relationships.  Bonds created easily through similar experiences of loss and struggles to make a baby.  The online support group I joined (that I now consider a miraculous discovery) has brought some amazing women into my life.  One of whom reached out to me after my last miscarriage and sent me an open invitation to her home…whenever I was ready…whenever I needed to get away…whenever I just needed some girl time and a break from my life.  It took me about 4 months to take her up on that offer.

A couple weeks ago I flew to LA and there she was – my new friend, my sister in this journey, an open heart and an open hand.  A woman full of words of hope and support and encouragement.  A woman full of hugs that would carry me through another embryo transfer cycle and another set of holidays without a baby in my arms.  A woman who knew my pain and shared in it so deeply, her eyes would tear up when she talked to me about what I had been through.  A woman full of so much generosity and sincerity, she warmed my heart and re-filled my soul with her kindness and optimism.

There she was – The light in the darkness – An angel reaching out to me and her name is Carolina.

fullsizerender

 

fullsizerender-1

moon-angel

I captured this photo at the beginning of this year.  Thinking I was just trying to capture the moon, I somehow ended up with the image of an Angel.  The moon is her heart.  I can see her wings.  The light of our babies’ souls being held in her hands, preparing them to be angels too.

Everyone wants to be the sun to lighten up someone’s life,

but why not be the moon,

to brighten in the darkest hour.

Unlocking the Mystery of Miscarriage

sunset

For those of us who have suffered through miscarriage, one of the most difficult aspects to emotional recovery and trying to find peace after enduring the grieving process is that we can be left in a constant search for Why.  Quite often miscarriage is simply unfair and unexplainable, leaving us with a dangerous mind game of blaming ourselves…

  • I had some decaf coffee.  How much caffeine is in a decaf coffee?  What was I thinking?
  • I ate gluten, wait maybe I should be eating gluten.
  • I ate some chocolate, OMG I need to cut back on sugar.  Ooh, is that a cupcake?  Damn, this is all my fault.
  • I got in a fight with my husband and got really stressed out.  We got in another fight and I was crying too much.  I stressed out my body, it’s my fault.
  • I had a rough week at work and I was totally exhausted.  It’s my fault because I didn’t put myself on bed rest for the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Maybe I exercised too much
  • I didn’t exercise enough
  • I didn’t get enough sleep
  • I’m sleeping too much
  • I’m overweight and my BMI is too high
  • I had an herbal tea.  Oh shit, what herbs were in that tea?
  • My fears and anxiety over pregnancy caused me to lose the baby
  • God is punishing me
  • I didn’t love the baby enough
  • I should have been eating flax seed crackers instead of graham crackers
  • My uterus is uninhabitable, or tilted, or shaped funny.  Wait, what size and shape is my uterus supposed to be?
  • Does my cervix know what it’s supposed to do?  Is it incompetent?  Is it confused?
  • Oh crap, was I drinking out of a water bottle that wasn’t BPA free?
  • I ate some meat that wasn’t organic and grass fed.

If you’ve been through this, you know that the list can go on and on.  No matter how many doctors tell you it’s not your fault, when left with no medical reasons, our devotion to the role of motherhood can cause us to carry blame for the sake of protecting and mothering the baby that we lost.

For quick reference, here’s a good read on the top reasons for miscarriage:

Reasons for Miscarriage

When I had my first miscarriage, I recall my OB/GYN saying that it was horribly bad luck.  It was like a lightning strike. (The first loss was due to a subchorionic hemorrhage at 15 weeks).  After my second loss, again it appeared to be bad luck.  I had become pregnant with identical twins following the transfer of one embryo.  It was perhaps the result of them competing against each other and I lost them around 9 weeks.  The third was twins again, following the transfer of two embryos.  I lost this pregnancy around 9 weeks and we were left with a mystery, confusion and hopelessness.  Testing was completed for all three losses and each one found to be genetically normal.  Is there something linking all three of these losses?  Something not yet detected?  Can it just be random bad luck three pregnancies in a row?  Or does each one have a different reason lingering behind the loss?

My husband and I were at a loss.  My OB/GYN was at a loss.  My fertility specialist was left speechless.  All of us shocked, hurt and not sure what to do next.  Following my third miscarriage, we were referred to a recurrent pregnancy loss specialist at Stanford Fertility and Reproductive Health.  What follows is a list of tests that I’ve been through following each miscarriage in case it is helpful to those of you in a similar situation.

Miscarriage 1:

Miscarriage 2:

No additional testing

Miscarriage 3:

  • Hysteroscopy
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel
  • C-reactive protein
  • Anti TPO Antibody
  • TSH (again)
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • CBC
  • Antiphospholipid Antibody Expanded Panel (includes the following)-See link below for article on Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS):
    • Lupus Anticoagulant
    • Anticardiolipin
    • AntiB2glycoprotein 1
    • Antiphosphatidyl ethanolamine
    • Antiphosphatidyl serine
    • Antiphosphatidic acid
    • Antiphosphatidyl glycerol
    • Antiphosphatidyl inositol

Out of all of these blood tests, did we find an answer?  Have we unlocked the mystery of my miscarriages?  Well, kind of, maybe…we have a clue but it could be inconclusive…but it’s a good enough clue to act on it.  The good news is that after all these tests, I know that I’m not diabetic, I don’t have an autoimmune disease, or thyroid problem and my uterus is in great shape!

While the results from these tests did not give a medical textbook answer, we did find a combination of things that could mean something and this came out of the Antiphospholipid Antibody Expanded Panel.  One of these (Antiphosphatidyl-inositol IgG) gave a result as “indeterminate” rather than negative.  You’ll notice in these lists of tests that there are several that relate to blood clotting factors.  During pregnancy, the blood thickens and changes in other ways that I won’t try to explain because I’m not an expert but this is all important in relation to blood supply to the placenta and survival of the fetus.  In my case, the combination of this indeterminate result with the timing of my miscarriages (15 weeks and 9 weeks) and the fact that all were genetically normal puts me in a possible diagnosis of Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS).  While this is not exact evidence of APS, there is enough reason to believe that I could try to become pregnant again with the treatment of Heparin and baby aspirin daily during pregnancy.  For details on APS, check out this informative article

The investigative work is not yet quite over.  I’m still going to be meeting with a perinatal specialist to go over all of this as well, but I have a feeling we won’t get much more information than we have now.  From there, this big question will continue to linger…can I mentally, physically and emotionally hold up for another try?

 

Appendix:

Since I took the time to look up my tests, here’s a list of testing done for IVF and FETs:

Pre-IVF:

  • Prolactin
  • TSH (repeated approximately yearly)
  • FSH (day 3)
  • E2, Pre-Cycle (day 3)
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
  • 17-alpha-Hydroxyprogesterone LCMS
  • FSH (day 3) repeated 2 months later
  • E2, Pre-Cycle (day 3) repeated 2 months later
  • Tested for various STDs
  • RPR/VDRL-Rapid Plasma Reagin, Qual
  • CBC (repeated throughout process of FET’s)
  • Blood typing, RH Type
  • Vitamin D (repeated throughout process of FET’s)
  • Cystic Fibrosis Profile
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) tested again

IVF cycle and FET cycles:

  • Follicular ultrasounds (repeated through cycle)
  • Estradiol (repeated through cycle)
  • Progesterone

Photo by CJE

The Unopened Gift

Blog_the unopened gift 042516

Trigger warning:  This post is about pregnancy loss

Last Tuesday we went to what was supposed to be our “graduation day” from our fertility center.  It was our 10 week ultrasound, one day early.  I brought a gift for my doctor.  I had framed the photo for him from  “One Little White Light”  as it was such a symbol of hope for all of us in the room.  With high anticipation and holding our breath, we looked for the baby.  But to our complete shock, there was no heartbeat.  Again, our happiness crashing down around us in an instant.  Darkness invading my mind.  My heart breaking into a million pieces.  Tears streaming.  Shock.  It’s not possible.  This can’t be happening. I can’t do this again.  I can’t do this again.  I can’t do this again.

I was two days away from celebrating my last intra-muscular injection.  I was in so much pain from those injections and was so close to this milestone.  I had been counting down the days for the past two weeks, willing myself to get through each one, knowing it was best for the pregnancy.  And then suddenly there was nothing to celebrate.  Coming home from the doctor appointment, I had the gift bag in my hand and there is no one to give it to and there is no longer a reason to open it.  What do I do with it?

And so it begins… the un-doing of a pregnancy and the dreams that came with it.  I have to tell my friends and family that know I’m pregnant.  Canceling doctor appointments, figuring out how to write the email to my work to let them know I won’t be back for awhile.  Phone calls with my OB, a grueling confirmatory ultrasound, and calls with the hospital to schedule and prep for another D&C.  Fighting the agony that comes from every image and thought that I’ve had in my head over the past 6 weeks since we got the positive pregnancy test.  Realizing my morning sickness is quickly disappearing and fully aware that the hormonal changes coming my way are going to feel like crap.  Watching my husband grieve but I can’t help him because I’m in too much pain and I can’t stop crying for hours and hours and hours.  Letting go of how happy I felt every day waking up pregnant.  Now faced with the fear of waking up in the night forced to realize that my baby is gone.

I had become so attached to an online support group for women who had become pregnant after their long time struggles with infertility.  In the six weeks I was with the group, I had seen several babies born and several more were very close to coming into this world.  There was a list of due dates going into December.  There must have been at least 30 of us, with mine listed as November 16.   November 16.  Another date to add to my list of haunting dates.  I had become attached to their stories, their daily posts about food cravings and appreciated discomforts, and birthing plans, and what to put on a registry, and photos of nurseries, and photos of newborns and simply the unwritten word that we all just understood each other…And I had to say goodbye.

In the doctor’s office after getting the news, my husband and I were left alone for awhile to deal with our new reality.  I kept telling him, “I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to go back to the way it was before.”  I had crossed the line from infertility and TTC to Babyland.  I loved it here in Babyland.  I did not want to go back to the stories of struggles and pain and suffering and what if’s and waiting and loss and heartbreak.  I didn’t want to go back.  Please don’t make me go back.

The framed photo I brought for my doctor was now an image that tore through my heart like the most cruel joke that could be played on me.  I had wanted to hang that photo in our nursery.  That day on the beach…it was our beautiful gift.  Now, never to be opened.

 

GIVE VOICE: #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday 2015 Banner

The Resolve.org #GivingTuesday topic for October is “Give Voice.”  It’s about sharing our Infertility Story.  For this topic, I’m re-posting a previous blog post titled, The long, long wait.

The long, long, wait

I was first married at the age of 31. I married my high school “sweetheart” after we had been together for about 15 years or so. I remember in those early days of marriage and through most of our married relationship, we’d get a lot of questions about when we would have kids. Sometimes questions were direct, and sometimes they were subtle hints. Sometimes it was not subtle at all. I remember a family camping trip where the in-laws snuck into our tent leaving behind baby shower signs. I thought it was kind of cute and funny at the time, not knowing I would still be childless so many years later. In the beginning, these questions didn’t really bother me. It was definitely on my mind, but following high school, we had both been very driven with our college education and our careers. Once we were ready for marriage, there were travel plans to fulfill before babies. I wasn’t quite yet ready for kids, but I also knew that time was ticking and I didn’t want to end up regretting it later because I had “missed my chance.”   In that dual income, no kids relationship, we were fortunate to travel to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Amsterdam, France and Greece. It was truly incredible. I’m thankful for those opportunities and the memories of seeing lions, elephants, zebras and monkeys in the wild, glaciers in New Zealand, and sunsets in Santorini. When I turned 34, the clock was ticking loudly and I thought we better not waste any more time. But here’s where infertility hit without actually being an “infertile couple”. It just takes one person in the relationship to decide that kids were no longer in our future and bam…you can no longer make a baby. And that’s what happened. And during this time, I had my first experiences avoiding the comments…

”When are you going to have a baby?”

“You better not wait too long or you’ll miss your chance”

These questions and comments tore through my heart. I was now facing a decision of staying married with no kids or divorcing with the hope of still having them in the future. It was then, that I started realizing how hurtful these questions can be. I hadn’t even touched the surface of infertility at this point in my life, but this is when I realized, even hinting at parenthood could be a painful topic. I myself had been guilty of asking others these questions without any idea that it could be such a difficult topic.

I went through my 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and there I was in my early 30’s wanting a baby.   But now the person I had married was taking away an irreplaceable dream.   My high school sweetheart turned out not to be so sweet. This was the first time in my life I had to go through the grieving process of not being able to have a baby. By the age of 36, I was going through a divorce. I had no idea if I would marry again, have a baby, or if I would even have issues trying to get pregnant.   I remember thinking, “how could I possibly meet someone, fall in love, get engaged, get married and have a baby while I still actually have good eggs? Who knows how long this could take?”

A year and half went by between my separation, finalized divorce and magical eHarmony wink. And there he was. We went on one date and fell in love. So, that accelerated my imaginary timeline to baby quite a bit. Five months later we were engaged and a year and a half after meeting, we were married.   I was 38 when we got married. Let the baby making commence! Well…not so fast. We determined at the beginning of our relationship that we were one of those 1 in 8 couples. Three months after we were married we had our first round of IVF. In early January of 2013 I found out I was pregnant. Two days before my 39th birthday, I miscarried at 15 weeks. From there our story continued with a second miscarriage of twin girls and now I am moving toward our 8th embryo transfer at the age of 41. I’ve been married twice, yet I’ve never had the chance to try to conceive naturally.

I’m 41 years old and still trying to have a baby. But trying to conceive at 41, brings a lot of blessings in addition to the heartache. At 41, nobody asks anymore, “when are you going to have kids?” Nobody is on our case about having a baby.   Nobody says, “you better hurry up”. Baby showers become a rarity, since all of our friends already had one or two kids years ago. By the time 39 slipped away from me, baby making peer pressure that had previously existed, simply faded away.

Where that’s helpful when faced with infertility, it’s also scary because you start to realize that perhaps there’s no longer a reason for anyone to ask those questions. I worry that people may think we are crazy to try to have a baby so late in life.  Or may not even believe it is possible. While I see other women in their 20’s and 30’s going through the challenges and emotional pain of infertility, I realize in some ways I’m really lucky. When I was in my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s, all of my friends were having babies. But all this was happening at a time when I wasn’t faced with infertility and the pain associated with that journey. I went to a lot of baby showers and played a lot of baby shower games. I bought a lot of baby gifts. I could enjoy walking into a Baby Gap and buying some cute little outfits. I was able to be there with my friends not just for baby #1, but also for baby #2. And I loved all of it. I was able to be emotionally there for them and to watch their joy and feel their joy with them. I was able to be a friend and really care deeply about their move into mommyhood and was able to fall in love with all of their children. I have nieces and nephews that I love dearly, but I’m also an “Auntie” in several other households. I’m known as Aunt Cookie, Crispy, Auntie Chrissykins and Auntie Nasty. My husband even acquired the nickname, Uncle Cupcake this summer. I’ve been able to watch these kids grow up without the cloud of jealousy due to infertility. I didn’t have to back away from being a part of those growing families because I had just had a miscarriage or another failed embryo transfer. Those things didn’t start to happen until after my friends had their babies and for that, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that even though I’m doing this so late, those same friends are there to support me in my struggle. They are there to offer me words of encouragement when I can’t take the emotional pain anymore. They are understanding and allow me to follow my own path. They are compassionate. At this point in life, my good friends have had the life experiences to know what words to say or how to offer sympathy and kindness.  They have the strength to feel my grief with me.

While I never expected to wait so long to have kids of my own, I have had a journey that has changed my life. It has taught me how to survive deep emotional pain and grief and allowed me to support others in their journey as well. Through all the heartache, it has taught me that hope and faith still do exist. I haven’t given up yet. I’m still waiting for my baby…but oh, does it feel like the longest wait ever.

Angel Baby Keepsake

IMG_7003Having gone through the heartbreaking experience of two miscarriages (15 weeks and 9 weeks), I wanted to create something for other women experiencing this type of grief and loss.  The words “Miscarriage” and  “Pregnancy Loss” do not equate to the trauma experienced.   At any stage of pregnancy, we have already become parents.  We have fallen deeply in love with our unborn child.  We have experienced hopes and dreams and ideas about what this baby will be like, how our lives will change, and the future we see for ourselves as a family.  It is a loss that stings so deeply and it is a grief that some may never find peace with.  It is a loss that many people do not talk about, but so many experience.

IMG_7009While first trimester miscarriage is common, there are those that have lost their baby during the second trimester.  There are those trying to pull their lives back together after a stillbirth.  I simply can’t imagine a pain so deep that would accompany these tragic losses.  But those going through this heartache need love, support and acknowledgement of their grief and their baby who’s life was so terribly short.

IMG_7013But what do you say to someone who has experienced the loss of their pregnancy?  The loss of their baby?  For those of us who have had this experience, we are left with a loss that has nothing tangible to hold on to.  We rely on the memory of the feeling of pregnancy and the bond and love that so quickly developed.  There may be ultrasound images that we can save but are now so hard to look at.  If you have not been through this type of loss, you may not know what to say or how to help.  But here are some do’s and don’ts that I have found helpful and that I hear repeated in the community of women that have experienced miscarriage:

  • Please acknowledge our loss.  Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen.
  • We are grieving deeply.  There is no quick recovery.
  • If I’ve named my baby, it feels good to me to hear his name.  To recognize that his life was real, that he is my son, and that I became a mother.
  • It’s ok to acknowledge our loss on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to let us know you are thinking of us and know that we are heartbroken that our baby is not here.
  • Know that important dates are traumatic:  the planned due date, the anniversary of the loss, the date we found out we were pregnant.
  • Be aware that for those dealing with infertility and experiencing the miracle of pregnancy through medical intervention, the loss is terrifying.  We are not sure if we can ever get pregnant again.
  • Don’t say things like, “It was God’s Will”, or “It was not meant to be”.
  • Do not assume there must have been something wrong with the baby.  (All three of my angel babies were genetically normal).
  • Do not insinuate that the mother and/or father did something wrong or that it was their fault.
  • Recognize that the person grieving may not be able to attend baby showers, or visit a friend or family member who recently had a baby.  Give space without pressure or expectations in these situations.

IMG_7019In order to help those witnessing a loved one who is experiencing grief after the loss of their baby, I’ve created a gift that can be given to the woman or the parents of the unborn child.  If you do not know what to say, this gift will provide the acknowledgement of the loss while also providing something for them to hold on to.  I have created a hand made Angel Baby Keepsake gift box and card.

IMG_7021The outside of the gift box includes an ivory satin ribbon and silver angel charm.  Inside the box, is a card decorated to hold their baby in memory and love.  Included is a poem and pewter heart.  The box can be further customized by the parents to add items such as an ultrasound image or to write notes to the baby or to add little items in memory of him or her.

To order:  Visit my Etsy shop

Card Chic by CJ

Two Year Anniversary, Missing Jaxon

Jaxon 1 year flowers2 Jaxon 1 yr flowersToday is the two year anniversary of losing our baby Jaxon. I think the worst of the memories and heartache hit me last week and over the weekend. We spent all day Saturday planting flowers and it was a great way to distract myself and enjoy the time with my husband. It was good for us to both have some beautiful, bright colors to look at. And in the midst of all of our planting, we discovered that when our dog gets to spend that much time in the yard slightly unsupervised, she loves to dig. I gave her a treat and she spent so much time digging holes, burying it, unburying it, digging again…and again…and again. It was hysterical to watch because she would dig the shallow hole with her paws, and then bury the treat with her nose. Lots of pig-like snorting going on. A simple, sunny day in the yard was just what we needed.

That got me through Saturday, and then Sunday was just downhill all over again. Anniversaries of tragic events have a way of physically and emotionally consuming you from the inside out. I find that I have to face it head on, in order to move through the day in hopes of being stronger at the end of it. Today is a day we will honor his memory, but I’m just not sure how we want to do that yet. But first I will write.

After losing Jaxon, we had him cremated. As heartbreaking as it was to pick up his ashes, I had quite an amazing moment right in that instant. The man that we had worked with from the funeral home was named Alan. Which instantly gave me some peace, as that was my Dad’s name. Alan. And everyone called my Dad, Al. And we had named our son Jaxon Alan. We met Alan, the funeral director outside of a service that was just beginning. As my husband and I walked up to him, someone else was walking up to another man, saying “Hi Al.” I felt like I was surrounded by “Al” and I felt my Dad’s spirit washing over us at the moment we were handed our son’s ashes. I couldn’t bring myself to share this realization out loud to my husband until we had been sitting in the car for a while together. But as soon as I started to tell him, he said, “Yes, I know, I heard it too.”

My husband and I decided to spread Jaxon’s ashes in the ocean near our home. I was out for a walk one evening and decided to take a short detour off of my normal route. It was there I discovered a giant rock with the number 13 painted on it right by the water. And I realized this was the place we needed to spread his ashes. My husband has a birthday on the 13th. Jaxon was supposed to be born on September 13, 2013. The number 13 just jumped out at me. So this was the place.   It just felt right.

We decided to pick a song to play when we spread his ashes.   There was a song that repeatedly played on the radio that summer and although we had not yet shared this with each other, it turned out both of us thought of Jaxon every time we heard it. It was “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips. My husband and I climbed up on the rocks and we waited for the best wave to come up and help take his ashes away. And it was all so perfectly timed with the water and the words in the song. So perfect in fact, that we felt our baby with us so strongly in that moment. After we let him go, we just stood there on the rocks holding each other.

https://youtu.be/oozQ4yV__Vw

On the one year anniversary, we returned to our number 13 rock. My husband created a little bouquet of flowers from our yard and we placed them there. This is the photo you see with this post.

Today, 2 years later, we continue to love you, adore you and miss you…our baby Jaxon. Your heart forever in ours. Love, Mommy and Daddy.

Photos by CJE

Are you brave enough to look in my window?

paris love windowWhile reading other blogs about pregnancy loss, I’m reminded that this type of tragedy often leaves us feeling isolated in our grief.   It is not a grief that is easily understood unless you’ve experienced it yourself. And I know that I could have never imagined that a journey like this would take me to such dark places. And I know I was not able to say the helpful words or offer the support needed to anyone else in this situation until I lived through my own terrible miscarriages. While in this space of grief, I go through the day facing people at work and in my life like it is just another day. And I smile and look normal. But on the inside, it just hurts so badly and only certain people know it’s there. And keeping it there for so very long is just plain exhausting. This has a lot to do with why I started writing. This blog is my grief that just sits and waits on the inside. The grief that nobody sees as they just walk on by. My words are the window that I’m opening for you to see my story. Are you brave enough to look inside?

While time heals grief and loss, there is something so different about losing a baby, no matter how early in pregnancy. There are just too many things to grieve. It is not just the beating heart inside of me that I fell in love with that is no longer there. It is every thought that entered my mind while pregnant that showed me a picture of that baby growing up. That showed me the sound of what it would be like to say their name or hear them giggle. A million beautiful, exciting, hopeful thoughts enter my heart and my mind and I think that maybe this time, I will be lucky. That this time I can experience the joy of pregnancy, instead of the fear of it being taken away. The grief is so raw and confusing when these lovely thoughts are so abruptly and shockingly halted and stripped away so violently and unfairly. And then there is another reason to grieve…that thought that never goes away…What if this is one step closer to me never having a baby? That is the fear that is sitting with me now.

Sometimes I can tuck the grief safely away and enjoy the present and everything else that my life is about. I will certainly not give up on happiness. Having a baby is not all life has to offer. But sometimes it is all consuming and overwhelming and while in this space, I just need to feel it. I need to let it be what it has to be until I can find my own way out of that darkness.

I have to give the sun a chance to shine through my window until the smile you see on my face is a real smile and what you see on the inside shines back again.

Photo by CJE – Paris

Subchorionic What? My Birthday balloons for Jaxon

birthday balloonsWARNING: This is a detailed account of my first pregnancy loss.

Now that it is so close to the 2 year anniversary of losing our baby Jaxon (at 15 weeks pregnant), there are some things I wanted to write in hopes of being able to let some of the pain go. If I can write about it before we hit the anniversary date, maybe it will come and go a little easier. In previous blog entries I have written about losing Jaxon, but I haven’t written about the details of what actually went wrong. This is the story of the last week or so my first pregnancy.

March is such a beautiful month here by the coast. And there is something really special about the breeze and the air and the sunshine as we go into early spring here. And with that beauty, comes the distinct reminder and those painful memories cutting to the front of the line, screaming at me to let them out.  I lost my first baby on March 23, 2013.

About a week or two before losing Jaxon, it all started with sudden bleeding. Very, very heavy bleeding. It was terrifying and there I was alone in a bathroom stall at work and I could not understand what could possibly be happening. When I was able to get myself together, I called my husband and I called the doctor’s office. After going over all of my symptoms over the phone with the nurse, she thought it might be a subchorionic hematoma.   What the heck is that? What does this mean? Will my baby be ok? She ordered an ultrasound but we were not able to be seen until after 4pm. The waiting was torture. But we were soon relieved when we saw the baby in the ultrasound looking just fine. We saw the source of the bleeding and the nurse was right. It was a subchorionic hematoma. We could see a large dark spot in the ultrasound next to the placenta where the bleeding and clotting was taking place.

I found this link and it gives a better description than I can:

http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/complications/subchorionic-bleeding.aspx

I was told that this is not that uncommon in pregnancy and usually they heal on their own without impacting the pregnancy. I was sent home and instructed to take it easy (I could still work, but no exercise) and that it should heal in 2-3 weeks. This was very good news out of what initially appeared to be completely terrifying.

For a couple of days, it seemed like my body was healing and the bleeding seemed to be slowing down. I was hopeful that I was on the mend. I remember very distinctly on that Wednesday, just a few days before this all came to a crashing end, that I had a doctor appointment with my OB. It was great timing, as I really wanted the check-in and hopefully reassurance that the baby was going to be ok.   By the time I had the appointment I was experiencing a stronger, burning pain throughout my uterus but the doctor did not seem too concerned. She did not do an ultrasound but listened to the heartbeat and the sound, as usual, was lovely to hear. But that night, things took a turn for the worse. I can remember it so clearly because I was in so much pain. I’ve never been so incapacitated by pain before. I could not move, I could not get out of bed. I knew I could not walk. There was pain pulsing through my lower back and lower abdomen. It was terrifying. In hindsight, I should have gone to the hospital with that much pain. But having never been through anything like this, my instinct was to wait through it at home. I just couldn’t let myself think it was getting worse and if I went to a hospital I would have to admit to myself it was getting worse. But I did wait it out and the pain did subside. I thought I was in the clear. By Thursday night, I was experiencing pain again. Not as severe, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through it.

This lead up to some wonderful birthday plans for my 39th birthday. My husband and I had planned a weekend get-away for just the two of us at a Bed and Breakfast about 2 hours away from home. I felt well enough Friday to get packed and ready to go and we decided to go forward and enjoy our weekend. I figured as long as we were taking it easy and just relaxing, everything would be fine. We enjoyed our drive along the coast and made some fun stops along the way to check out some produce stands, and jam and candy stores and take some photos.

When we got to the darling Bed and Breakfast, we checked into our room and decided to relax there and rest. The kind owners had provided a couple of birthday cupcakes for us. My husband surprised me with a birthday flower and balloon bouquet and some specialty chocolates from the area. We were off to a great start and I had a lot to look forward to on Saturday where we had plans for a massage and dinner at a fancy, ooh la la restaurant.

That Friday night we went out to dinner and it was really enjoyable. But then I noticed I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and the pain in my lower abdomen was building. We had to leave dinner early and head back to our B&B. I was in quite a bit of pain on and off throughout the night and by 6am, the pain was so out of control, I had to wake up my husband to take me to the hospital. I was scared and confused and the pain was so severe I could not stand up straight. I remember, it was so hard to move, to get dressed, to think. We were very lucky that the hospital was just a few minutes away from where we were staying and when we got to the emergency room, it was rather quiet and we were seen right away. However, we were seen by someone who was not an OB or pregnancy specialist and he was at the end of a very long overnight shift. He did not seem to be thinking too clearly at this point either, so that made our experience even more confusing. They gave me an IV of Tylenol. I told them it was not helping; I was still just in too much pain. They finally gave me morphine. The doctor wheeled over an ultrasound machine and we quickly could see the baby. In that instant of seeing my baby moving and still alive, I was so relieved, but in a split second I was horrified and had to look away because he seemed to be frantically moving, like he was being pushed and bounced around almost violently. I will never forget that image. The OB specialist was on-call and we had to wait for her to arrive. In the meantime I was asked all kinds of questions, had blood drawn and urine tested. The urine test came back with a result that seemed to indicate infection but it made no sense to me as I had just been tested a few days prior with no issues. I knew it must have been contaminated due to my bleeding. Instead of letting me provide another sample, they insisted on a catheter. Those were words l did not want to hear. I had never had to have a catheter before but it just sounded awful.   And it was awful. But I was thankful when it was over. For those of you who have been in an emergency room before, you know there tends to be a lot of waiting for the “next thing” or the next doctor, or more test results. It goes on and on and on. And part of that “on and on and on” was me lying there with a catheter wondering, “when the hell is somebody coming back to take this out?” Finally, several hours later the on-call OB arrived. And she was very sweet and helped calm my nerves. She checked my cervix and thankfully it had not dilated. The pain was under control due to the morphine. But what did this all mean? She did not have an exact answer but the diagnosis was “threatened miscarriage.” She encouraged us to go back to our B&B to rest as recovery outside of a hospital setting is so much better and staying there may just cause more stress. We left with a prescription for Vicadin and we were on our way. But I was exhausted and I knew this birthday weekend was over. No massage, no fancy dinner, no celebrating. I would be in bed until we felt like it was safe to drive home. And I did not yet have a feeling for when that would be. But I knew driving all the way back home was not safe at that moment. While my husband was out picking up the Vicadin, I could feel the pain coming back. I was there alone at the B&B in bed and scared again. Earlier that day, we had called our B&B caretakers to let them know I had ended up in the hospital. They were very concerned and supportive. She brought me a heating pad to help with my back pain. My husband finally came back with some dinner and the pain medication. We tried to sit in the kitchen to eat, but by now I was in a lot of pain again and could only sit there for a few minutes and had to return to bed.

When I think back on this week and all the pain I was in, I know that at the end I was experiencing contractions. But it had been too early in the pregnancy to have gone through any Lamaze classes, or to have gained any understanding on what to expect during childbirth. I was lying in that bed realizing that the cycling pain must be contractions but I tried so hard not to believe it. I was there in that bed for so long hoping and wishing that it would pass and everything would be fine. But late that night the pain suddenly worsened and I had to go back to the hospital. My husband had fallen asleep so I had to wake him up which in itself felt impossible while in that state of pain. Once he was awake, I had to somehow get up again, but it was so hard to do. And I recall that in my husband’s state of panic, he kept saying things that seemed so irrational and unimportant to me. Saying things like making sure to grab my jewelry or to put shoes on. It even seemed unreasonable that I should have to get dressed. Nothing was important to me at that moment, other than to just get to the hospital. The pain washed over me so violently and I had no control. I vomited from the pain. Somehow my husband was able to get me out to the car. Those few minutes in the car were excruciating. My body did not want to be in a seated position. While in the car as we approached the hospital, I could actually feel my cervix opening. I knew I was going to lose the baby, but I could not bring myself to speak the words.

This time the emergency room was packed with people. While trying to get admitted, I was in so much pain, I could not speak. I was crying and moaning and had to point at the picture chart of how much I pain was in. Definitely way beyond #10 on the chart. They put me in a wheel chair but they did not take us back right away. I remember thinking how badly I needed to tell someone I couldn’t sit there. It was too painful, but I couldn’t speak. We had to sit there in the waiting room while I was crying and at this point screaming in pain. Everyone was staring at us. It was humiliating. My husband called my mom to let her know we were back in the hospital and all I could think of was, “get off the phone, I don’t want her to hear me in pain like this.” The contractions were so strong and I felt them switch from a cycle to a constant stream of excruciating torture. Finally, they took us to a private room and got me into a bed and undressed. They gave me morphine. We were there about 15 minutes. We were alone in the room. And I lost the baby. I don’t think my husband could have comprehended that losing the baby would actually happen. He was shocked and horrified when we did. While I felt everything, he saw everything. All I saw were the lights in the ceiling. He saw all the blood and he saw the baby. He ran to get help. But now it was over. He was so scared and thought I was bleeding too much. He kept checking my pulse. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, other than continued contractions that would not stop but were a bit muted by the morphine. Again, now waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. It was the same doctor from the morning. She was so sorry to see us there again. She was able to take the baby and clean him up. She gave him to us and I held him as long as I could. But again, with him lying there on my chest I couldn’t feel anything. There were no emotions. I couldn’t feel.   We were left there with time alone and we named him Jaxon Alan.  At some point later, a nurse came in to take Jaxon away. It was at that moment of him leaving my arms that I felt everything again. Every emotion. Deep grief, heartbreak, gut-wrenching loss. My baby was gone. My mind cannot accept this is happening and I screamed for him and reached my hands out for him.

I had to have surgery. My body would not pass the placenta, so I had to have a D&C. I remember feeling relieved right before falling asleep that the contractions and physical pain were finally put to an end.   The surgery was probably around 10 or 11pm that night. Following the surgery, I would sleep on and off but it was scary to wake up because I had to realize over and over again what had just happened.

That morning when it was light again, I was so struck and saddened by the feeling of my shrunken belly. So much emptiness.   I still couldn’t quite comprehend or believe what had just happened. But then there were questions…What should we do with Jaxon? What do you want to do with the remains? Do you want to have him cremated? My husband had gathered all the information that morning while I was resting but we had to act quickly. How are you supposed to make these decisions when you are still in such a state of shock and confusion? We wanted our baby and we wanted to be able to have him cremated. But before leaving, my husband had to contact one of our local funeral homes to find out if they could actually drive to this hospital and pick him up.   Thankfully they were able to do this for us.

The caretakers at the B&B packed up all of our things for us. My husband went back and picked up everything while I was still at the hospital. When he came back to to get me, he let go of the birthday balloons and watched them float away as a gift to Jaxon.

It was like my 39th birthday did not exist. We left the hospital on Sunday and that Monday was my birthday. But I couldn’t celebrate. I couldn’t even acknowledge birthday wishes from friends, as we hadn’t even been able to share the terrible news yet. I never did celebrate my birthday that year.   But I will always in my heart, celebrate the short life that became Jaxon Alan.

Two Girls

heartTwo girls. Today we received the genetic test results and found out that the twins were normal (no genetic defects found) and were female. I thought the hardest part was over, but somehow hearing those words and realizing I had lost what could have been two baby girls made my heart break even more. I loved the names that we had picked out for girls and that stings a lot too. Finding out that they were “normal” made me even more confused as to why they had been taken. I guess it’s just random bad luck, totally out of our control. It’s so hard to live with that. It still feels impossible to let go, even though they are already gone…but the love that remains is worth holding on to.

Photo by CJE