Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thirty-nine: An Ode to my Thirties

I have officially embarked on the last year of my thirties. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I haven’t thought that much about turning 40. I don’t have any particularly bad feelings about it, but I also can’t say that I’m as excited about it as I was when I turned 30.

Maybe I’m just feeling a bit nostalgic because I’ve really loved my thirties. I made a lot of mistakes in my twenties, and I feel like I made up for it in my thirties. I really grew up and figured out who I am and who I want to be. I got my MBA, bought my first house and reconnected with my faith.

I grew in my career over the past decade and I took a lot of risks. I walked away from Corporate America to follow my heart and go to work for the church…and I went back into the corporate world and moved across the country to pursue fun new opportunities. I figured out what I’m good at and what I enjoy and, for the most part, how to combine those to find work that is fun and satisfying.

The majority of my thirties I was single and trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to have a lifelong partnership with. I cried more than a few tears as my heart ached to find someone who would add more love and laughter and adventure to my life. I went on a lot of blind dates and spent a lot of time with my girlfriends swapping stories about dating—the good, the bad and the ugly.

Then, of course, I found him. I enjoyed a whirlwind romance and the amazing process of becoming even more of myself just by being with him. I fell in love, got married and started yet a new chapter in NorCal. I learned a lot about wine and, well, sure enjoyed my fair share of it. I found unspeakable joy in getting pregnant and I discovered renewed strength in surviving a miscarriage.

So here I am with 362 more days to see what else might happen in this decade that has already seen so much. I’m sure that my forties will have their own list of adventures and struggles and events that further shape and define this little life of mine, and a year from now I’ll probably be ready to charge ahead.

Until then, though, I’m going enjoy these last months and do my best to squeeze every ounce out of them. (And not just the wine.)

Bring it, thirty-nine—I can’t wait to see what you have in store.

Monday, January 16, 2012

10 Things Not to Say

It’s not my plan to make this a blog that’s just about miscarriage/pregnancy loss, but as I said in the previous post, it’s not something you just “get over” and so it’s on my mind. A lot. I spend a little (and sometimes a lot) of time online everyday with some seriously fantastic women. From my own experience and from the stories I’ve read I thought I would put together a little list of things that you shouldn’t say to someone who’s dealing with a loss.

I want to throw out a caveat first, though. I can see how this could easily be misconstrued by people in my life who might have said some of these things to me. I just want to say that I really do get it. I know that most comments have the right intentions and I try to view everything through that lens. This isn’t me taking a shot at you.

I’ve been guilty myself of saying the wrong thing. And when someone’s heart is broken and grieving it’s really hard to know what to say at all. Hopefully this list will help someone out there to help someone else down the line. So…in no particular order, here we go:

1. It was probably for the best. (The best? For who? Doesn’t feel like the best to me.)

2. At least you won’t have an unhealthy baby. (I’ll love whatever child I’m given, thank you.)

3. God wasn’t ready for you to be a mother yet. (Really? Just really??)

4. At least you know you can get pregnant. (Right…but staying pregnant is kind of key to whole process, yes?)

5. You’re so stressed at work—do you think that caused it? (There’s almost nothing you can do to “cause” an early loss. And even though we know that, most of us worry that we might have done something to cause it. Just don’t go there—are you trying to make me feel guilty on TOP of feeling heartbroken?)

6. At least it was early. (I fell in love the day we found out. A loss hurts like hell no matter when it happens.)

7. Just try to forget about it. ( Ouch—really?)

8. What’s the problem? If you want a baby, just get pregnant again. ((A)I don’t just want “a” baby, I want the one I lost and B) I wish we could all just pregnant when we want to…it so doesn’t work like that.)

9. That’s so awful. Now let me tell you about the awful things going on in my life….(Sigh. I want to be there for the people in my life, especially when they’re hurting. But my baby just died, don’t ignore my pain and expect me to be able to focus on your problems right now.)

10. I know this sucks, but you’ll have your babies some day. (This is the one I’ve gotten the most and I completely appreciate the sentiment and where it’s coming from. But, as mentioned in #8, I’m grieving a baby that I loved and wanted. I hope I’ll have babies some day, but I wanted THIS one. It takes away from the baby I just lost to so easily replace him with another baby down the road. I also know at this point that there are no guarantees in the journey to parenthood, especially at my age.)

There are plenty more (and if you’ve been through it and want to add to the list, please leave a comment!).

So what should you say? Say that you’re sorry. Say that you hate that we’re hurting so much. Say that this is unfair and that it sucks. Offer to be there for us if and when we want to talk. Pray with us. Treat it like you would the loss of any other family member or friend. Keep reaching out with calls or texts or emails—just a note that you’re thinking of us does wonders to keep us going. Just be there and let us know that while you might understand our exact pain, you love us and want to do whatever you can to help us while we grieve. Don’t be afraid to ask us how we’re doing—you’re not going to remind me of it, we already think about it all the time.

And to those of you who loved on me over the past few months—thank you for caring and taking such good care of us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Then Came a Baby who Would Never Use a Carriage

I said in my last post that I wouldn't be announcing that I'm pregnant, and I'm not. But I guess that's only part of the story because I was. I've debated for a while as to whether or not I should share this story, but it might be the most significant thing that's ever happened to either of us and I don't want our baby to be a secret.

We never hid the fact that we would start trying to get pregnant as soon as we got hitched. Um, we're old by the fertility world's standards, right? We knew that we wanted a family and we also knew that we needed to jump right in cause the clock is ticking. 

On a run of the mill Wednesday morning in early September it happened--I took a test and saw the second pink line. It was pretty faint and M wasn't so sure that he saw it, so I tested with a digital and that beautiful word popped right up: Pregnant. I screamed and he ran back into the room and I jumped up and down and we laughed and cried all at the same time. 

Then we went to spin class. (Cause we're uber romantic like that).

We fell in love that day with the little life inside me that we called Beanie. Over the next weeks we talked to "him" and told him stories about how excited we were to meet him and all the plans we had for playing and learning and all the things we wanted to do together as a family. I had no idea how quickly and completely you could love someone you've never met and was no larger than a raspberry. I started having symptoms and looking at maternity clothes. We talked about names and what we might want to do for a nursery. They were the happiest weeks of my life.

Then the symptoms went away. If you know me in real life, you know that I'm a realist (and maybe a little neurotic?). I spend way too much time on the internet and I don't do much that I haven't already researched. Unlike a lot of first time moms, I wasn't really that naive. I knew the stats on miscarriage and have a painfully long list of friends who have experienced loss. When the symptoms subsided I knew something was wrong.

Two days shy of 9 weeks we had our first appointment including an ultrasound where we desperately hoped that my instincts were wrong and that we'd see a heartbeat. We didn't. We saw a beautiful little baby on that screen who looked perfect. But he measured a week behind and was no longer alive.

There are no words to describe that moment. I was initially in disbelief and made them bring in another doctor to take a second look. The outcome was the same. In an instant I was both numb and experiencing the most intense pain I could imagine. There is no question that it was the worst day of our lives, and it was one drawn out nightmare until I actually miscarried a week later at 10 weeks.

It's been almost 3 months now since we said goodbye to Beanie. And yet, I know that in many ways I haven't been able to say goodbye. I've learned a lot in these painful weeks. I've learned that I had no idea what it was like when my friends were experiencing their losses. I've learned that I said all the wrong things to them when I was trying to say the right things. I learned that unless you've been through it, you can't understand this pain (and I'm so glad that most people in my life have never had to experience this).

But I also learned that I have an amazing support system. The few people who knew we were pregnant jumped in and just loved on us. The people that I opened up to and told about the loss jumped in and loved us, too. I learned that I married the absolute perfect man for me. He has been amazing and we are so much closer and stronger as a result. I also found an amazing group of women through an online support group and in our shared experience they have helped buoy me along on some of the darkest days.

Pregnancy loss is, unfortunately, still a very taboo topic in our society. I think most couples don't share because so many people don't understand, and therefore don't legitimize, an early loss. It is a silent grief that affects 1 out of 4 pregnancies and there are, undoubtedly, men and women all around you going through the motions of work and life and play keeping their pain inside. Maybe we're afraid of what people will say (as I mentioned before, many people with the best of intentions still say things that sting). It's a loss that you don't just "get over."

So I write this post for them. For me. For the many who will experience loss in the future. And I most of all, I write it for Beanie. 

We love you, sweet angel baby and can't wait to meet you in heaven some day. You will always be our first baby, and while we hope we'll have another chance at a successful pregnancy, it will never replace you or mean that we wouldn't give anything to have you back.