(Not) Alone in the Crowd

There’s a great feeling of loneliness that goes along with miscarriage and baby loss. With each loss, I’d look around and see pregnant women and babies everywhere. Of course I was (am) hypersensitive to that, but there they were nonetheless. And it made me feel as though I was the only one going through this. The only one struggling for a family, struggling to breathe. I don’t think I’m alone in this. The secrecy that shrouds miscarriage and stillbirths makes it seem like a private club where you have to know the password to enter, yet nobody speaks that password out loud, and the outside world is barely aware of the commonality of club members.

It became clear early on that most people don’t talk about it. Some because they don’t want to deal, some who are afraid, and others who are ashamed. Quite often we don’t speak about it because we think that our family and friends won’t understand, and truthfully, they may not. And yet it is this secrecy that perpetuates the loneliness for us as individuals and as a community.

With each loss, I became more comfortable talking about it—my experiences, my feelings and shattered hopes—to anyone who would listen, and likely sometimes to those who didn’t ask. I was amazed by how many people admitted to having a similar experience, or knew someone who did, but just don’t speak about it. Sadly, the stats around miscarriage and baby loss are so high, we truly are everywhere. Yet we don’t know who “we” are.

Sometimes it comes out naturally. Like when I was at last month’s BlogHer ’13 conference. Of the 10 people at our lunch table, seven us had experienced loss. Of course, that was partially because I had surrounded myself with other ALI bloggers, but others joined us and once they heard our stories, they shared theirs.

This really hit home at recent event I attended at The Blossom Method which featured baby loss survivor Sara Connell telling her story about her losses, and how her mom then became her surrogate (yes, you read that correctly, and you can read the whole story). But I digress. There were about 15-20 people there, mostly women and a couple of men, listening intently and knowingly shaking their heads. During the Q&A portion one person after the next revealed their story. Their struggle. The couple next to me just lost twins. So did another couple behind me. Another lost their baby late term. And so on.

Now I know that this particular event targeted women and men within the loss arena, but it made me realize that until people started talking, no one knows each others story. Sure you begin to see the telltale signs, something that Mel over at Stirrup-Queens pinpointed perfectly in relation to infertility in general. I find that when I’m in groups of people, I wonder if anyone has been where I’ve been. Maybe that’s a sick after-effect of going through everything I’ve been through, but really I wonder because I want to talk to them, and let them know “me too.”

It’s true that you never know someone else’s back-story until they start talking. I’m guilty of looking at someone with their big, round pregnant belly or beautiful baby and thinking how lucky they are to have such a perfect life. But in reality, who knows what it took to get them to this point. The more we start talking about our experiences, not only amongst others who are in the know, but the outside world, the less lonely each of us will feel.

What do you do to feel less alone?

The Blossom Method: You Never Know

Editor’s Note:
My participation in The Blossom Method’s You Never Know campaign is voluntary and I have not received any financial compensation. I’m participating because I believe in what they do, and Double A and I have both benefited from working with them throughout our journey. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

About The Blossom Method:
The Blossom Method is a therapy practice offering support, community, comfort and hope to women and couples experiencing issues related 
infertility, pregnancy loss, genetic complications, pelvic disorders, NICU preemies and postpartum depression. They can be reached at 312.854.0061 or via email.

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Mind Over What Matters

I’m on drugs. There. I’ve said it. This isn’t something that’s easy for me to admit to myself, let alone the world of the web. But I am. And I’m talking about it here because I realize if I’m uncomfortable with it, I know (or at least hope) that I’m not alone.

Right after we lost the twins, I had asked my OB to prescribe something for me to take the edge off. I was taking something to sleep, but truthfully, wanted something to make me numb and not feel the pain, anger and overwhelming sadness (even though I knew nothing could really take that away). He rightfully said that he wasn’t comfortable prescribing something that he didn’t know the best dosage and recommended I call my GP or therapist. I talked to my therapist about it, and she recommended someone, but at that time, calling a psychiatrist or even my GP and having to relive everything seemed like a lot of work. Painful work. So I didn’t, and just soldiered on.

Double A and I acknowledged the small victories of every day. Getting out of bed. Showering and getting dressed. Going to work. Getting out of the house on the weekends. Simple things, yet to us, being exposed in the real world, felt like huge accomplishments. In spite of doing this, and putting forth the brave face to others, I was still a puddle inside. Functioning, but not living.

It took me a while (read: 3 months) before I finally realized that I needed the extra help. It was not something that I was happy about, but I knew I needed something to help get me through, to take the edge off, and allow me to carry on. The thing is, I see nothing wrong with medication. Just not for me. To me, it is a sign of my own personal weakness. I should be able to get through this on my own will and determination, right? Wrong.

Let me repeat that, WRONG.

A single loss is painful enough, but multiply that by seven, where each time hope is dangled a little closer to your finger tips only to be yanked away just when you think you can feel it. People say to us all of the time, “I don’t know how you’re doing this. How are you still standing?” And when I think about it…really think about it…it IS a wonder. I guess I go back to my friend S’s saying, what else can we do?

I needed to figure out what else I could do. And the first thing I needed to do was set my ego aside. The first visit to the psychiatrist was torturous. Not only did I have to relive my worst nightmares, but then I had to say it out loud: I can’t do this on my own. Now, I was hardly alone, but all of the support in the world couldn’t have helped me at this point.

Double A came with me to that first visit and held my hand as I filled out the (first of many) postpartum worksheet: Yes, I’m having trouble concentrating. Yes, I’m not sleeping well. No, I’m not having harmful thoughts. And so on. I understand the need for this sheet, and hated filling it out all of the same. The psychiatrist is a kind woman with caring eyes. She listened intently, letting us tell our tale, and was patient as I peppered her with questions about going on meds:

Will I get addicted?I don’t want to be on meds.How long do I have to be on them?I don’t want to be on meds.Will they turn me into a zombie?I don’t want to be on meds.Will others know that I’m on something?Will they numb the pain?Will they make me feel better?How long do I have to be on them?I. Don’t. Want. To. Be. On. Meds.

While I knew there were not going to be any magic answers here, it was important to me to come up with a plan that felt comfortable to me. To know what I’d be taking, what it would—and wouldn’t do, and what the monitoring process would be. This allowed me to feel as though I had some control over what had not been controllable. And perhaps the biggest reminder/reassurance for me, was that I wasn’t going to be on these medications forever. This was a temporary fix to help me better live with the grief as I continued to work through the pain and sadness.

That said, I started on my new pill cocktail in secrecy. Most of my family and friends don’t know (…until now). I was embarrassed. Truthfully, there’s still a part of me that cringes when I think about it. The fact that I’m just now writing about this as I am tapering off of the meds says so. But you know what? It helped me. It helped me a lot. And it did so in a way that I still felt like me. I still had feelings. And sadness. And grief. But I was able to better navigate those feelings.

I’m not trying to advocate for drugs here. But what I am advocating for is to allow yourself to put your ego and/or preconceived notions of what you should or shouldn’t do to survive, aside. To take the advice you’d give a friend, for yourself. To look at doing whatever it takes for the sake of helping you heal yourself. It’s true that nothing can bring our baby(ies) back. But there are ways to bring us back to be able to survive in this new normal in which we live.

Did you have to try something outside of your comfort zone to help bring yourself back from functioning to living?