A Year Ago Today

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I sat on this couch and said goodbye.

The previous couple of days, after we found out, I’d been gung-ho, all action. Rationalizing that it was better to find out now, to spare ourselves the heartbreak of finding out later on in the pregnancy or even at birth. Making arrangements. Speaking to friends and family, reassuring them that everything would be okay. I put on a brave face, smiled for my husband and my son. I oozed bravado.

But somewhere in among all that noise, two wise women in my life shared what they did before terminating their pregnancies, and their words hit home for me. I realized it was time to go within. Time to acknowledge the sadness that was welling up inside of me, even if I couldn’t quite name it yet. Even if I wanted to believe was somehow strong enough to transcend it.

So I sat on this couch, alone.

Alone not because there was no one around me, not because I didn’t have support. Alone because it was time to be alone. Because there was no one who was going to be able to get me through the next day but me. No one else getting wheeled into that operating theater. Alone because I needed to go within.

I sat on this couch with my hands on my tummy and I meditated.

I took deep breaths and grounded myself into the present. I let myself feel what was going on right then. The visceral, emotional experience – not just the words swimming around my head trying in vain to make everything okay. I felt the sadness, the beginnings of grief. The incredulous shock that this was happening to me, to us. I didn’t want to but I did it anyway. And I sat there with those feelings, for a few long, heavy moments.

And when I was ready to say goodbye, the sobs came right up from that place. As I hugged myself I explained why we had to do what we had to do, in my heart. I didn’t know who or what I was explaining to. I’d been trying to convince myself that this was just a pregnancy, a fetus. Not a baby and certainly not my baby. Yet I spoke with the voice of a mother. About how this was the only decision for our family, for GG. How we’d meet again, if that was even something that I believed in, if it was meant to be.

And somehow I felt better, that cathartic calm that comes after a good cry. I didn’t know then that the worst was yet to come, that I’d crash a month later, and then many times during the pregnancy that followed. But for right now – right then – I felt better.

Now I sit here on this couch, a year later. The same couch but in our new home, with our new baby cooing in her cot beside me.

Would a glimpse into the future that night have brought any comfort? The knowledge that this is how everything would look in the not so distant, only a year later?

Could be. All I know is I’m happy to be on the other side of this year.

Not All Sunshine and Lollypops

Not All Sunshine and Lollypops

A few weeks ago I heard some feedback from an old friend of my husband that kind of stopped me in my tracks. “Elana has a great blog,” he said, “but it makes me so sad.”

Damn.

So not what I’m trying to do here.

Since then I’ve felt this pressure to keep things light. I mention miscarriage and pregnancy loss in my posts, but I’ve shied away from really going into my grief. Pushed myself to write about other topics. Given a stronger voice to my optimistic side.

But there’s a darker voice that wants to be heard every now and then, too. An internal struggle. Even if it’s hard for others to hear.

The grief from those two pregnancies didn’t go away once I got pregnant again. It stayed and brought with it an old familiar friend – anxiety. And I know every pregnant woman has her worries, but those based on trauma seem to hold a little more clout.

Every time I go in for an ultrasound I’m half-expecting to get bad news, even though I feel her moving around all the time now and there’s really no reason that anything should go wrong. The odds are solidly in our favor. But those statistics don’t mean shit once you’ve been on the other side of them. One in 1500 doesn’t sound so comforting when you know what it’s like to be the one.

I went to the doctor earlier this week and he was making small talk. Asked when we’d be taking the baby to Australia to visit, and I was suddenly like – holy shit! He actually thinks there’s gonna be a baby! Maybe this time it’s gonna be for real. I keep getting surprised anew at how I’m still holding myself back from getting excited, at the mechanisms of denial at work in my head.

Talking about the pregnancy is hardly ever fun. I find myself looking blankly at gushing faces, wondering how weird they think I am for failing to make the proper high-pitched noises about having a baby girl. Trying and failing to explain why I feel no urge to make a stop motion film of my blooming belly this time. Mentioning the past pregnancies and watching people screw up their faces uncomfortably, with this “shouldn’t you be over this by now” look.

It’s not just the anxiety that something will go wrong and the hesitance to let myself get hopeful. That’s fading. It’s this weight of expectation on me to get excited. To let go of the past losses. To let this pregnancy replace them.

But I don’t want this baby to be a replacement. I want to properly grieve the pregnancies that didn’t work out, so I can separate this one out and experience it in its own right. And the reality right now is that there are moments when this pregnancy is just fucking hard. Full of mixed emotions and baggage and hopes and fears.

The good news is – thanks to good friends and therapy and even this blog – I’m working through it all and I know that when it comes time to push this baby out, I’ll be well and truly ready. There will be a rainbow after the storm – she’s just not quite here yet.

 

 

First and only pregnant selfie so far this time ’round
My Muddled Up Sandwich of Grief

My Muddled Up Sandwich of Grief

Yesterday marked two months since I had the procedure to terminate my third pregnancy. My second miscarried at 6 weeks earlier last year. My first was about as successful as they get – GG turned two last week.

In the days that followed that horrible ultrasound, I was in shock. I cried and I was sad, but overall I felt okay. I talked a lot about gratitude, acceptance and counting my blessings. And that was important – to get me through everything I needed to endure that week. Somehow I eased back into regular life, unsure if maybe I hadn’t cried enough, felt enough, mourned enough.

And then a month later, there it was. A big-ass emotional crash. I cried more – a lot more. I was plagued by thoughts like “maybe there’s something really wrong with me” and “three years ago I was normal and now I’m broken” and plenty of “fuck fuck fuck, I can’t believe that happened!”

I was obsessed with giving it a name, explaining what was going on. I’d been fine and now I was losing my shit – what the hell? I kept googling the Stages of Grief and getting myself all muddled up, trying to figure out where I fell in the process. This cartoon I found in such a googling frenzy seemed to sum up the accepted process:

The-5-stages-of-grief1-e1373497045473

But it didn’t feel like that to me. I wasn’t going through stages – I was just grieving. Layers of sadness on top of denial spread with shock, and some acceptance sprinkled on top. It’s not a five-part course with an “over it” certificate at the end. It’s a grief sandwich.

I accepted both pregnancy losses pretty early on, straight away even – to some degree. And yet denial lingers. A part of me looks forward to getting pregnant again as getting “back on track” – rather than starting a totally separate pregnancy. I still wear maternity clothes sometimes. Okay, most of the time. I say they’re just more comfortable (and they are), but I wonder. It’s like I’m just holding my breath, hoping to put three pregnancies together to make one healthy baby.

That crash last month – that was depression. I mean, I would use the word sadness rather but either way, I was feeling the loss in my heart – and it made the whole world around me look horrible. It was a heavy, dark feeling in my stomach that bubbled to the surface and stuck around for a good couple of days. And with those feelings came a serving of anger, too – though it probably didn’t get directed at the right source. Sorry dear husband.

What I’ve realized in the weeks since is that the labels don’t matter. I’ve made an effort to create some space for these feelings to come up and play themselves out – time that I’m not at work or with GG. Lots of yoga and good food and even some time alone when I can snatch it. A quick getaway with my husband and this stunning view worked wonders:
 

Looking out over the Ramon Crater

It’s a weird kind of grief, this pregnancy loss. So disappointing and sad, and yet tinged with hope – for the next one. The truth is – I think my acceptance will only be complete once I have a healthy baby in my arms. Hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, this is where I’m at – still in the thick of it but better and better every day.

The Internet is My Best Friend 

The Internet is My Best Friend 

I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the Internet. There, I said it.

And no, I’m not talking about my work – that’s obvious. I’m talking about where I am as a person – a woman, a mother, a wife, a mindful being of sorts.

In the modern-day discourse on mindfulness, technology gets a bad rap – but it’s not that simple. With skillful use, I find the Internet can be an invaluable tool for growth, research, connection and healing. It’s gotta be used in moderation – like anything else – but seriously, the Internet is my best friend.

The Internet started making its way into this special place in my heart around the time I found out I was pregnant with GG. It was then, among fits of obsessive googling, that I began to connect with my tribe. On forums and blogs and Facebook groups I found women saying things that made sense to me. As I researched natural birth and delayed cord clamping and hypnobirthing and breastfeeding, I started to find my place in this jungle of information. I found trusted sources and voices. I came across points of view that challenged me to my core, opinions that aligned with my own and everything in between. I prepared for what was to come.

And then when GG was born, and I became couch-bound for hours at a time while breastfeeding – the Internet was always there for me. Whether it was texting with two close friends who also had babes in arms, sending photos to my family and friends back in Australia or continuing with the new mother version of the previously mentioned obsessive googling – again, this technology was a lifesaver.

The relationship developed in the months that followed – I shared video clips of first foods and first steps and first words, researched imagined diseases then calmed myself, and found resources for sleep training and night weaning. The Internet was a library that was always open and accessible.

But it was when things got rough that the Internet was really there for me. When I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse, when I miscarried and most recently when I had to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons – those were the times when the true healing power of this medium were became apparent to me. When Facebook groups and blogs took on the role of therapist and support group rather than just a friend with all the info.

One by one, often as I shared my experiences, friends and friends of friends introduced me to the most amazing support groups on Facebook – most notably one for pelvic organ prolapse and another for trying to conceive and pregnancy after loss. Whether I’m asking questions and hearing back from other members or passively following threads, these groups make me realize that I’m not alone – on a daily basis. I feel instantly supported just knowing that there are women going through similar things to me – all over the world. At all different stages in their lives and journeys.

And in the blog world too, brave women sharing their beautifully written stories have sent out a virtual embrace. Whether its reading about their losses – some similar to mine, some different, all painful and real and raw – or stages that are yet to come for me, there’s a bond of womankind that flows through these digital pages. I’m so thankful for it, and proud to be a part of it.

This online community also reminds me of the importance of my ties with real-life women offline. From reading stranger’s stories I’ve come to understand my friends better – a miscarriage is not a miscarriage; there are many different ways that these stories can play out. I’ve also learned how telling my story can encourage others to tell theirs – and the beautiful connections and conversations that flow from there.

So I guess really it’s these women who leave traces of themselves out there on the Internet for others to find – they’re my real best friends. The words of women who have grown from grief and adversity give me the strength to look forward to the path ahead – to keep a positive outlook and find happiness in the here and now.

The Internet is just a brilliant vehicle.

Miscarriage… and Somehow Life Goes On

Miscarriage… and Somehow Life Goes On

I had a miscarriage last month. It was early, around six weeks, and resolved itself naturally. It was a two-week emotional rollercoaster – telling our parents and a few close friends that I was pregnant and then in a matter of days finding out that the hormone levels had plateaued and the fetus didn’t seem to be developing. A little scare when some tests indicated that it might have been an ectopic pregnancy, and then a huge relief a day later when my doctor calmed our fears and my body started to pass the pregnancy.

Two weeks later, and I’m so at peace with it that I find myself worrying I’m in denial.

It’s just… okay. It’s not a tragedy – it never felt like one to me. I felt like we lost a pregnancy – not a baby. Maybe because it was so early, or because we never even saw the heartbeat – there probably never was one. Or maybe because we have a beautiful toddler running around, full of life and joy and silliness, and to be honest even if we never have another kid it will still be okay.

As well as looking at my life, I’ve constantly been thinking of the strong, resilient women around me who have gone through so much tougher challenges in their childbearing journeys. And honestly, each and every one of their situations seems so much harder than mine. So I’m mindful that a big part of the reason this miscarriage didn’t knock me flying was that really – it just could have been so much worse.

There’s something about statistics that kept running around my head, too – we’ve all heard the numbers about how common miscarriages are, especially at this early stage. One in four or five according to most sources. There’s something very grounding about the realization that I’m just as normal as everyone else – just as susceptible to the forces of nature.

Of course, there were big emotions – don’t get me wrong. I was beside myself for an entire day, an uncontrollable sobbing mess. Just when I thought I had my shit together a new wave of grief would rush over me and I’d be down for another hour. Thick, heavy sadness. Plain and simple.

And there was a bunch of fear, too. Fear of what would happen to me physically, fear of how nervous I’ll feel if/when I get pregnant again. And a mix of fear and sadness for some sort of lost innocence, a chipping away of my formerly formidable trust in my body. My husband helped me out on that one actually, gently correcting me when I’d expressed a fear of what would happen to my body – instead urging me to think about it as something my body would do. So spot on. From that moment I was oddly looking forward to the bleeding, to get that reassurance that my body was sorting it out, completing the process of terminating a pregnancy that wasn’t working for whatever reason.

The next day I was a mess for about half the day, and then only a couple of hours the day after that. And then the beginning of the week rocked up and I went back to work, figuring that worst case scenario I could jump in a cab and come home if I started feeling uncomfortable – physically or emotionally. And indeed there was a weird sensation about being at the office – like, why am I having benign conversations around the water cooler while I’m in the middle of a miscarriage? But it still felt like the right move.

Because what was the alternative? Sitting at home and dragging out the drama, holding onto painful emotions, making myself feel bad when for the most part I felt fine? When the sadness crept back in I felt it, respected it, and just let it pass – and it always did. Happiness always settled back in – along with anger and annoyance and all those other everyday feelings, of course.

So eventually I had a few days of bleeding with mild contraction-like cramps – not much more than a heavy period, really – and it was done. I had a couple of tests, got the all clear, and I feel good now. Inside and out. Liberated, somehow. Like I got through something massive and waddayaknow – I came out the other side okay, and maybe even a little wiser for it. As is often the case, the fear turned out to be so much worse than the reality.

I hope I can keep this calm, level feeling with me into another pregnancy in the near future, as an antidote to the anxieties that inevitably accompany the fertility and conception process. To keep in mind that even if something does go wrong, I – we – can handle it. Mindfully, honestly, and with as much ice cream as necessary.