People Mean Well, But…

Being in hiding for so long did have its advantages. Double A and I got to be in our own little world, without the bother, worry or excitement from others. This was our secret, and we had built a cocoon to protect us from the outer world. It helped that Chicago had one of its worst, and longest winters, which gave us the excuse to stay in and/or bundle in layers. We didn’t have to deal with the sideways glances, or people wondering why I wasn’t drinking. And when we were out, I knew that the focus wasn’t on me, rather Baby Boy, and no one was the wiser.

There’s something nice about not having to focus on it. Truthfully, we didn’t want to deal with the questions, looks of fear and pity, or over-excitement. We were unsure of what was going to happen, and to some extent, we still are. Not to mention, that while I’m no longer superstitious, there’s still a part of me that worries that if I say something, bad things will happen.

Of course there came a point where I was no longer able to hide. A point that we knew if we were going to see family and friends, we’d have to let them know. But we wanted to control the message and do so in a mindful manner. We allowed our parents to tell select family and friends with the caveat that they don’t go overboard with excitement or questions, and they don’t share, or G-d forbid, post something on social media. We told some in person, and sent others low-key emails. It’s terrible that something that should be shouted from the mountaintops, for us, has been relinquished to an “oh by the way” passing comment.

As we’ve slowly started to “come out” in real life, we’ve had a mix of responses, many of which go under the “people mean well, but…” category:

You’re pregnant AGAIN?!?
This response—which was the first thing out of some people’s mouths when we told them—comes across as a combination of shock and accusation. It has the What the f*ck are you guys thinking? undertones as if the only reason we’re doing this is to tempt fate, and not grow our family. This one often caught me off-guard, and unable to respond with anything other than a bite-my-tongue smile.

That’s OK that you didn’t tell us until now.
Really? That’s OK? Do we need your permission to tell us what we should do here? What an odd thing to say. I have no problem answering this one bluntly: Quite frankly, it isn’t up to you to give us the OK. We’re doing what we need to do.

You’re how far along? You’re into the safe zone! You’re totally in! You’re golden!
Yes, I wish and hope this is true. It’s just that I know too much. I’ve been through too much to be able to fully subscribe to this. My reply: We are grateful of where we are today, and hopeful that things will continue on this path.

Doesn’t that always happen? You adopt, and then you get pregnant!
I hear this one at least once a day, and it makes my blood boil. This is the equivalent to people saying, ‘everything happens for a reason’ to us after each of our losses. I don’t believe in that either. Sure BB is an amazing addition to our family, and has been a great focus and distraction from the anxiety and fear, but he is not the reason. Stress may have played a role in not being able to get pregnant, but I don’t think it played into not being able to stay pregnant.

More importantly, why say anything? It’s like people have to justify, and make sense of everything that happens in life. Well, let me tell you, life doesn’t work that way. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” I still haven’t figured out the best response to this one, and would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh thank goodness you’re pregnant, and you didn’t get fat!
OK, this one I just think is just hilarious. A dear friend said this to me, and then moved on. It was perfect, actually.

Throughout all of our experiences, we have been faced with people saying a lot of odd, sometimes hurtful, things. I know for the most part, people mean well, and they often say something—anything—to just fill the discomfort of empty space. At the same time, I wish they would think first, and realize something simple speaks much louder.

I have to say that while we’ve heard a lot of dumb comments, we’ve also received a lot of support, love and thoughtful ones. Overall people have been shocked and thrilled, but scared. Understandable. So are we.

What’s the best/worst thing you heard after a loss or when you announced being pregnant after loss? How did you respond?

Feeling Between the Lines: Finding Out

“How the hell did that happen?!?”

This was the response from Double A when I showed him the positive pregnancy test back in December. Staring at those two lines took us both by surprise, and has left us in a state of excitement, shock and worry. I won’t say that we weren’t trying as much as I’ll say we weren’t paying attention. We just didn’t think about it. We couldn’t think about it. After spending the last six years focused on tracking, timing, and unromancing, not to mention grieving, we were done. We were living, and being, and enjoying life with our son. (Please don’t say that’s when it always happens. I’ll be talking reactions to our coming out shortly.)

I remember calling the doctor’s office the next day and the nurses screaming, “Erin and Aaron are pregnant! Erin’s pregnant!” It was great that they were so excited, I just didn’t know what to make of being pregnant again. Was I up for this? Could I handle it? What if it happened again? So many emotions. So many unknowns. Double A and I were as excited as we were terrified. We still are.

When we first met with the doctor (same head of Maternal Fetal Medicine for one of Chicago’s best hospitals), I said to him, “I know what I’m about to ask you is not fair, but I need you to play G-d, and tell me everything is going to be alright.” I knew he couldn’t do that, but I wanted him to reassure me, and to guarantee that all would be OK. No, I needed that. Of course that didn’t happen. But what did happen was a frank, and ongoing, conversation about options and possibilities.

According to Doc, the biggest things that we had going for us was that this baby was conceived naturally, and there was just one. Our first two pregnancies were the only ones conceived naturally, and they both ended early, likely chemical pregnancies. We knew that the hormones used in fertility (in our case Follistim with the IUI) sometimes thinned out the uterine lining and caused issues, and since there was never anything else to point to why we lost Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin, our hope was that “spontaneous conception” as they kept calling it, was in our favor (our 3rd loss was genetic due to chromosome 17, and 5th, the triplet, was likely genetic as well).

Great. Now what, if anything, can we do differently?

I try to not do too much with Dr. Google, as I know that can lead to a black hole. But I did do some research, and spoke with some friends who had experienced similar issues. Doc welcomed our questions, and provided us with a medical answer, along with his opinion/recommendation on everything we discussed. This enabled Double A and me to make informed decisions, together with Doc.

We talked about a cerclage, and the super cerclage (aka the transabdominal cerclage, or TAC), but the risks for me seemed to outweigh the benefit, especially considering cervix issues didn’t seem to be the problem in the past. I know I brought a lot of other thoughts and questions to the table, but can’t remember them all.

We netted out on 17p progesterone shots starting at week 16 through 36. This fell under the camp of, can’t hurt, and may just help, as there are some studies that show it prevents preterm labor. (This also fell under the camp of, holy crap that’s expensive, what do people without insurance do, but that’s a rant for another time). We also decided that weekly visits, initially to measure baby growth, and then to check the cervix length and closure was what we were all most comfortable with.

From all of our experiences, we learned the need to advocate for ourselves: to stand up for what we want and need, and not stop until we feel comfortable. Finding the right doctor, who is willing to listen to our thoughts and needs, and develop an evolving plan with us, instead of for us, has given us some control in a mostly uncontrollable process. Knowing that we could go in at any time, daily if we wanted—without judgement—also helps ease our minds.

Each week, we’d go in with bated breath. Would there be a heartbeat? Is he growing properly? Are there any genetic issues? How about medical issues? The fear of losses past, never subsides, and I’ve had to choose to deal with that fear in new ways every day.

From the start, we knew we couldn’t look at this pregnancy as a 40-week journey. We needed to break it down into more manageable bits of time. So, for us, it started with getting to—and past—the time of each prior loss. And as we hit each of those dates, it was a combination of relief, with a dose of sadness for the baby who didn’t survive that date. When we surpassed Sarah and Benjamin’s date, it was the sadness, along with shock that we had made it so far. But what really threw me was hitting 24 weeks: possible viability. I remember crying to Double A over the fact that if the Little Guy were to arrive, the doctors would actually try to do something to save him.

On some levels, I think that I have been blocking out everything out: the fear, the hope, and the possibilities. Maybe it’s a survival tool. It isn’t that I haven’t accepted or acknowledged that I’m pregnant, but focusing on it, and the possibility of another loss is just too much for me to think about. So we hid. And I felt guilty about hiding. Not about the people we were hiding from, rather guilty we were hiding this baby we are so in awe of, and excited for.

Early on, Double A and I talked about going back to therapy, and even talked with the psychiatrist about the possibility of me going back on meds (something neither Double A or I thought was ideal, but we wanted to be prepared for anything). But in the end, we’ve been able to talk one another through, and down, as needed. And yes, Baby Boy has been a great focus as well. Truthfully, it all feels surreal.

For the most part, I have to say that I’ve been relatively calm, having only had two major panics resulting in me going in for heartbeat checks. These panics were completely mindf*ck driven, with no real reason…other than five prior pregnancies and seven babies who didn’t make it home. Of course there have been smaller panics and bouts of being overwhelmed by the all the feelings. Nights tend to be the worst, as that’s when my mind seems to wander to those places.

I’ve found that the further along we get, I am hopeful. At the same time, I’m not able to let my shoulders down and breathe easy. I know that’s something I won’t be able to do until he’s here breathing, screaming, and healthy, hopefully at 40 weeks. I’ve accepted that. At this point, I’m just trying to focus on today, and be grateful of where I am because all I really know, is that at this moment in time, he is OK, and that’s what I have to hold on to.

On the Podcast

Double A and I are honored to have been asked to share our story on the Zen Parenting Radio podcast. We had a great talk with Cathy and Todd Adams that is going to be shared over the next two weeks.

We hope you’ll listen to us, and then continue to tune into Cathy and Todd because they have a lot of interesting people, stories and insights to share. And perhaps the best part is that you don’t have to be a parent to listen in. While it parenting is in the title, it is more about helping individuals become better selves in both practical and spiritual ways.

Photo courtesy of Zen Parenting Radio.

Photo courtesy of Zen Parenting Radio.

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Thank you to Cathy and Todd for allowing us to share our story and help break the silence of miscarriage, stillbirth and baby loss. We hope you’ll listen, and would love to hear your thoughts.

No More Hiding

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror a few weeks ago, and I was taken aback. I stared, taking myself in from head to toe and back again. And each time I’d pass a mirror that day, I’d do the same thing, trying to figure out who this person was. Of course it was me in the mirror, but I didn’t recognize myself.

This time, it wasn’t me looking at my reflection, feeling sorry for that person with the sad, tired eyes, and drawn-out face. I wasn’t looking for the person who existed before. It was me noticing me for the first time, in a long time. And it was me finally starting to embrace who, and where I was at that moment: nearly 25 weeks pregnant.

It’s unfamiliar territory. I’ve never seen myself this pregnant. I’ve never had the protruding belly (not to mention the boobs!). I’ve never felt a baby move before. And I never thought I’d be here again, let alone this far.

Even still, it has taken me three more weeks to bring myself to write about it. Up until the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent my time hiding. Hiding behind flowy tops and scarves. Hiding with fear and from hope. Hiding from family and friends, and the people in this community who have been so supportive every step of the way. And hiding behind silence.

Silence! The biggest thing I try to advocate against.

Sure, there are many reasons for me to hide. In fact, there are still plenty of family and friends who don’t know (perhaps until now). Outside of telling our parents, we made a conscious decision to keep this pregnancy to ourselves for as long as possible. The thought being that we didn’t want to deal with looks and thoughts of fear, pity, or what the f*ck are you thinking. On some levels, I’d like to stay in hiding until this Little Guy arrives, hopefully breathing and healthy around 40 weeks. But at the same time, I understand the importance of sharing experiences to embrace support and provide hope. I need those shared experiences of support and hope to get through this. And my hope is that there are others out there who need it too.

Lately, I’ve felt like a coward for hiding. Sure, five prior pregnancies resulting in the loss of seven babies has earned me the right to do whatever I need to. But at the same time, I started Will CarryOn to be a voice. To end the silence, and get people talking about the too-often taboo subjects of miscarriage, stillbirth and baby loss. And so now I’m taking a leap of faith to add talking about pregnancy after loss to this mix. I don’t intend for it to be the focus of Will CarryOn, but I do think this is an important aspect that needs to be discussed. I’ll be sharing more of the story, my thoughts, feelings and the reactions we’ve received soon. It felt too much for one post, and I wanted to embrace the courage of “coming out” while I have it.

I don’t know what lies ahead in the days and months to come, but I’m trying to stay positive and hopeful, while keeping the fear and anxiety at bay. It’s been a long 28 weeks, but I am here now, finally ready to talk about it.