Hey 2011: Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the A*s on Your Way Out

I had high hopes for 2011. And it started off on a great note. We began the new year in Sanibel, Fla. (where we had gotten engaged four years earlier) enjoying the sun, shells and tasty conch fritters with my in-laws. We headed to West Palm Beach and spent quality time with husband’s grandma and my aunt. Then, on the morning we were heading back home to snowy cold Chicago, we got that positive pregnancy test we’d been hoping for.

I remember us going down for breakfast that morning so giddy with excitement, yet having to hide it so my in-laws wouldn’t be clued in to anything. There were a lot of giddy moments in the next few weeks. And a lot of frantic ones with each spotting occurrence. Of course those were followed by moments of sheer relief. And there was the moment following our 14 week appointment that slowly but surely, our shoulders relaxed, we stopped holding our breath and started to believe that this just may happen. And then there was THAT moment. The moment of realization that our hopes and dreams, not only for 2011, but our family, had been crushed. Again. And suddenly, 2011 went into the crapper.

It’s hard not to be cynical and negative looking back at everything. Hard not to look at the cluster of events over the past 9 months with anything but pure animosity and hatred. Hard not to think of all the should’ves without losing it. Hard not to look for something, anything, that could have been done differently for a better outcome. And so now, as I look at 2011 coming to a close, I’ve never been so eager for a year to end. Yet at the same time, I also realize that there’s nothing to say that 2012 is going to be good, or even better. No Magic 8 Ball to say, “It is decidedly so.”

There’s some people out there who would say, well there has to be SOMETHING positive that has come out of all this. And to those people I say…well, I guess I shouldn’t say that, so I’ll just keep quiet. No, I won’t. I can’t. You see, there’s nothing that has happened since that point that I wouldn’t gladly give up at the chance to have a healthy baby with us today. I think there’s a perception out there that after a significant amount of time passes (insert here what you deem significant), that we should just move on. Let me tell you, there is not one day that goes by that I don’t think about what we lost and the pain, anger and frustration that coincides with that loss, or any of our losses. And while it does get easier, it doesn’t go away. It never will. This is something that my husband and I, along with the entire community of “survivors,” will carry on with us for the rest of our lives. I’ve accepted this. And I wish you would too.

That said, I am trying my hardest to end the year on a positive note. And by positive, I mean not negative. I look back on what we’ve been through and realize that my husband and I are f’in rock stars. We’ve seen it all, in ourselves and each other and we’re still here, together, pushing forward, pushing each other, not giving up.

We’ve seen the best in our families and the best (and, in some cases, the worst) in our friends. We’ve been hugged, loved, fed and offered up more than we could’ve ever imagined. We saw support and love and new-found closeness from those we always knew cared, but never saw it so clearly. And we felt the sadness and disappointment from those we needed, who shied away from us because of fear or not knowing what to say or do.

We’ve met unbelievably strong couples through our support group who also qualify for the f’in rock star status. We have been consistently amazed and moved at their strength, courage and determination, and willingness to share their stories, their grief. While none of us chose to be part of this community, we are lucky to have others who just “get it,” without having to say anything. We’ve shared each others’ pain and have given one another some hope.

One of the most cathartic things for me in 2011, was the launch of Will CarryOn’s blog and Twitter feed. Since our second miscarriage, I’ve said that I wanted to be able to help others going through miscarriage and/or fertility challenges. I even considered, for a brief moment in time, becoming an ultrasound tech specializing in fertility (which is more than a laugh considering my feelings toward math and science). But this gave me the vehicle to not only help myself heal and process what the hell happened, but it introduced me to what seems like a whole world of people who are, or have been going through this. People who share their thoughts and feelings as freely and emotionally as some people order up a coffee at the corner Starbucks. People who give back, only expecting (hoping) someone will listen. And then if you actually get a comment…SHAZAM! You’ve reached and perhaps helped someone! At least that’s how I feel. And that’s why I look forward to continuing the process. To sharing my ups and downs, and hopefully our progress and successes. To gathering the information and resources to help us and those behind us.  And to strive for not looking to right a wrong (I don’t live in a fantasy land…although sometimes I play there), rather not let a wrong define a lifetime.

The truth is, I don’t know what 2012 has in store for me, for us. It could include tales of pregnancy, adoption and baby, or *gulp* more loss (if I was superstitious, at this point I might say, kinna hora nit poo poo poo, slap your face, but…) What I do know, is that we won’t stop. Won’t stop trying to take away the taboo that goes alongside with talking about miscarriage. Won’t stop uncovering the people and resources to help the heal. Won’t stop trying for what we want, for what we know will be one way or another.

So, to 2011 I say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.” And to 2012 I say, “Don’t slam that door too hard because you don’t know what’s behind you.” I doubt that 2012 is officially the year of hope and perseverance, but in our household, it is.


Eight Teary Nights

Perhaps it was a defense mechanism, or just pure denial, but I actually thought I was going to be able to make it through the holidays without getting upset. Yeah, I know…as I write it now, I realize how silly (not to mention stupid) it sounds. There have been several posts on the subject of getting through the holidays. Heck, I’ve even posted articles on it. And many of these articles focused on Christmas. But what happens when you have eight nights of Hanukkah? Eight days of lighting candles as a couple, yet not the family you were supposed to be?

Since when does lighting candles lead to tears?

Well, for me, every night when we light the menorah (or in our case, Menorah since we have a collection and can’t just decide on one), I’m left feeling sad and teary eyed. It’s another reminder of the “should’ves.” You know, we should’ve been watching our first-born look at the Menorahs in awe of their glowing lights. We should’ve been spoiling our little one with her first Hanukkah with presents she’s not yet aware of, let alone care about. We should’ve been heading off to family gatherings to show off our little one and share this experience with grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We should’ve. But we’re not. Again.

Each night, my husband tells me that if it upsets me, then we shouldn’t light the menorah. And yet, it is tradition, and one that I’ve always enjoyed, so I can’t not do it. I used to love this time of year. I loved deciding which Menorahs we would light each night. Loved walking into my aunt and uncle’s house and seeing my uncle frying up the latkes. Loved going down to State Street to look at the decorated windows with our friends. Loved seeing our neighborhood all lit up. It’s just that now the concept of “happy holidays” seems to just be “holidays.” Where the fun, joy and excitement is gone, and is replaced by sadness, tears and a feeling of being numb. Not much to get excited about and look forward to. Will that feeling ever go away?

Regardless of what you celebrate, the bottom line is, when you’ve experienced the loss of a child (or children), this time of year just blows. Plain and simple. It’s the realization that the hopes and dreams you imagined from the moment you saw the positive pregnancy test are yanked away from you. For me, I tried to think, “THIS TIME it’ll work,” only to be turned into another Homer, D’OH!

Sometimes I think, shame on me for getting my hopes up and getting attached. That I should’ve known better since we’ve been burned before. What was I thinking? But at the same time, without that hope, I wouldn’t be able to carry on. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed and face the world. I wouldn’t find the strength, determination and courage to be able to fight and make sure that loss doesn’t define us. Quite often, hope is all I have to go with.

Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things...

So I have no choice but to blink back the tears and continue to light the Menorahs to honor our losses, keep some sense of normalcy and to put a pun on it, perhaps shed some light on our road ahead. And to those of you who share in our experience of loss, I hope you find the strength you need to make it a “holiday.”

Vacation All I Ever Wanted & Other Crazy Superstitions

Full disclosure: I’m writing this from Hawaii. Kapalua, Maui to be exact. So I’m sure you’re thinking, what the hell are you doing writing a blog when you’re in paradise? And while you’re right, it is 5:30pm, and we spent the morning learning to Hang 10 with surf lessons followed by an afternoon basking in the warm sun. But I digress.

I am extremely superstitious person. Always have been. Not to an OCD, level, but a knock on wood (or my head) and say my grandma and aunt’s infamous modified Yiddish saying, “kinna hora nit, poo, poo, poo, slap your face” any time something is said/done that may “ruin” something, level. I’m also big on signs. And when it came to my 4th pregnancy, not only was I doing everything by the book (again), I also did it with fingers crossed, wood knocked and grasping at any sign I could that THIS time, everything would work out. Like the time we were on the way to our final appointment with the fertility doctor before “graduating” to the regular OB, and Baby Hold On To Me, by Eddie Money came on. This was a song, particularly the lyric, “Baby hold to me, whatever will be will be,” that I sang to the baby often. You see, I had started spotting around week 7, sometimes lightly, but more often heavy, and each time I’d panic while trying to remain positive…thus the singing. So I took the fact that this song was playing on our way to “graduation” must be a good sign. And it was. We graduated with flying colors. Then there was the time at the doctor’s office waiting to get an ultrasound after a night of heavy bleeding, and ABBA’s Dancing Queen came on (a song of great fun and significance to my college friends and me) “Oh, that means the baby is fine.” and sure enough, shortly thereafter we saw the baby dancing on the ultrasound to the tune of a healthy, strong heartbeat. We cried, thanked anyone who would listen, and rubbed the red ribbon.

Red ribbon? Yes, let me explain. Right after we did our 6th IUI to get pregnant for the 4th time, we were in Florida visiting my husband’s grandma. On one of the days she wanted to go to the cemetery to “visit” his grandpa. Now, there’s a Jewish superstition against pregnant women going to cemeteries for fear of life being taken from their unborn baby. And even though we didn’t know if I was pregnant, and since nobody knew I might be, we couldn’t say anything and not go. However, there’s also the thought that red ribbon wards off evil (I think I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the drift). So off we went and picked up red ribbon from the wrapping paper section of Walgreens (my husband’s a genius) that I proceeded to tie little pieces in strategic places on both my husband and me (if it protects me, putting some on him is bound to mean double protection, right?) I held on to one of those pieces of ribbon, keeping it with me at all times after that, rubbing it for luck, with each doctor’s visit, and each scare. And it worked…until it didn’t. In fact, I remember the exact moment when I realized it was over, and how I dropped the ribbon from my hand.

It was Sunday morning, April 10 about 5:30. I woke up to go to the bathroom, and when I got there, found that I was bleeding…again. Not a huge deal since I had bled most of the pregnancy to this point, but still alarming since it had stopped for a few weeks. Just go back to bed, I told myself, and we can call the doctor later. As I lay there, I continued to have the on-again, off-again what I thought was bad gas pains move through as I had since the night before. Again, I thought it was uncomfortable, but probably a normal thing to happen as the baby was growing. Never in a million years would I have thought they were contractions. After a few minutes, I realized I couldn’t lay there much longer, and just as I got up, I felt a gush between my legs. I called to my husband as I quickly made it to the bathroom thinking I was really bleeding this time, only to realize it was clear. I called the doctor and told him that if I didn’t know any better, I think my water just broke. When he told me to meet him at Labor & Delivery and not the ER, I knew it was bad. And yet, sensing it was over, I still held onto that red ribbon, rubbing it tightly the whole way my husband sped to the hospital. But when we got there and they had me change into a gown for an ultrasound, I let go of that ribbon for I knew it wasn’t doing anything. The ultrasound showed that while there was still a heartbeat, there was no fluid around the baby, and that, combined with the fact that I was already dilated, meant there was no hope for our baby to survive. Delivery was my only option (but that’s a post for another day).

After that, I questioned everything. My whole belief system, G-d, the universe, family members who had passed whom I had always thought were watching over and protecting us. I mean, what could there be in this world that would allow this to happen to us time after time after time after time? Each time we’d say, well, this is the worst that could happen, and each time we topped ourselves. I no longer believed in superstitions and signs because I realized they don’t matter. I did everything as I was supposed to and was overly superstitious, and STILL didn’t get the right outcome.

So what does all of this have to do with Hawaii? You see, we were supposed to take this trip — free airline tickets my boss gave me as a thank you for a huge event I busted my butt for — back in March. In fact, we were to leave on March 12, the day we were to hit 12 weeks…the “safety” point. A point I hadn’t made it to in my prior 3 pregnancies. But the night before we were to leave, I started bleeding heavily. Now, even though I had been spotting throughout, it worried me, but I thought there was hope. Long story short, that was the Dancing Queen story above, and we happy to postpone our trip because the baby was fine. The trip was rescheduled for April 12, and the beans were spilled because our family and friends knew we were going on the initial trip. Everyone was elated and I was hoping it was ok to have told, even though we were supposedly “in the clear.” Needless to say, we lost the baby on April 10, and Hawaii — not to mention life in general — was put on hold.

We were zombies for a long time after that. Going through the motions of life, but not actually living. Trying to heal ourselves emotionally and physically. All the while knowing we needed to escape this “real world.” The trip was still out there for us to take, but each time I thought about going to Hawaii, I associated it with bad things happening. This is Hawaii I’m talking about, the land of warmth and sunshine, amazing snorkeling and greenery so fresh and smells so sweet. The place my husband and I went our our honeymoon when we were blissfully ignorant of what was to come. And yet, I couldn’t get myself to book the trip. Back and forth we went on where and when and how (having a baby, especially one that you don’t get to take home with you is expensive, but again, that’s a post for another day.)

Finally, my therapist and acupuncturist said something to me that resonated: Superstitions only have power over you if you let them. Hmmm, what a concept. After much thought, I said, let’s do this. Let’s return to the Maui we once knew, and hopefully the people we were 4 years ago (even if just for this trip.) And while there was still a little part of me that was nervous, I knew it was something I HAD to do to ensure that I was moving forward. On some levels, I think it is this “forcing” of myself that has allowed me to return to life, albeit a new and different life, and to be ok with trying again. Am I terrified it’ll happen again? You betcha. Am I willing to take that risk to get the family we want? I have no other choice. So, while I’m not sure if I believe in superstitions, or if they’ll come back into play in my world, this Hawaii trip has been pretty great, and the newlywed in me thinks I can handle what’s ahead. (maybe there will be a sign to show me I’m right…)