Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chronicles of My Miscarriages

The question is when do I get to finish grieving for the life that would have been that just died inside of me? I've been bleeding for 51 days from this miscarriage--and it hasn't stopped yet.

In our society telling anybody except your close family and friends that you are having a miscarriage is still considered to be ill advised. By whom though? Mostly by unsympathetic people who do not want to be bothered by actual introspection about how our hearts really feel as we go about our day to day activities. A miscarriage is considered no big deal. It is not a big deal, except by maybe the woman still with pregnancy hormones circulating through her body as it tries to rid itself of what doctor's term unwanted tissue.

Very vividly at the beginning of my marriage during our first pregnancy I recall a close family member being horrified that we were telling family we were pregnant before we’d gotten past the magic 12 week, first trimester, race ribbon. Oh to be young and na├»ve again. When I pick up those early pregnancy pictures hidden away in my jewelry box with my treasures, a shy smile still comes to my lips as I recall how excited we were to have a new life inside of me. We were in the military and moving from the East Coast back to my home state of Alaska when we decided to tell family as we visited them on our cross-country drive. Isn’t this joy something we should be able to share with those we love? (I’ll get into the trauma of this miscarriage later—because it involved several middle-of-the-night emergency room visits and ended in an emergency D&C , because I was bleeding too much, too fast.  And the grieving from this miscarriage at a new post, far removed from any close friends or family?) My husband and I heavily leaned on one another as we strived daily to make it appear that everything was just fine in our lives. Five pregnancies later what we've found is that we share our early pregnancy joy with the people in our lives who care.

If you’ve never lived on a military post in housing, then I’m not sure how to explain being surrounded by new babies and pregnant women. It feels a little Stepfordish at times, especially when you don’t have a close heart friend yet, because all of the “how are you doings?” are out of nicety, not real concern. And, God forbid, if you answer, “I feel like shit,” will you get someone to stop and choose to listen to why you're heart is aching. Instead, so often you see a smile pasted on their face, as they nod their head and turn back to the conversation with their “friend” about how tired they are of the cold and shoveling snow. Unfortunately, now with our third miscarriage—and the loss of our fourth angel baby—it’s no better living on post now. We are blessed this time to have been at this post for a half a year, and I've found my heart friends to share the burden of this mess. They've been here to help with my kids and bring us meals as we struggle through these up and down days. But I still have to interact with all of the other people whom we know on post, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it's difficult to even carry-on mundane conversations. 

At first I had the insulation of caring for our then 18month old (he just turned 20 months last week), our six year old, and my daily effort of hour and a half workouts. In the 48 days of continuous bleeding after that long night of initial heavy bleeding when we thought I'd passed all the tissue, every morning I'd wake up hoping this was the last day of bleeding. Throughout this time I've strived while I bled daily to be as I usually am: strong and in love with the complexities of daily life. I've went about mothering, working out, and day-to-day activities with a smile pasted on my face. Only my husband, close friends, mom, and mother-in-law knew what was really going on beneath this false facade. After the ER trip on day 49 of miscarrying though--my physcial weakness has led me to this point. There really is something going on and it hurts. I need to write and paint in the spare time when my kids are not here to grieve and acknowledge that the life that was inside of me was real. And, that it is a big deal to us.

I’ve now been bleeding for a continuous 51 days. 

In terms of understanding exactly what this means lets extrapolate these abstract numbers to help drive home the point—that’s going on 8 weeks of bleeding. Post-partum after a live birth is 40 days when you should take it easy. However, this is a miscarriage. This miscarriage was the earliest yet—at 6.5 weeks. No big deal, right? With the birth of my two boys, I recall bleeding for much of the 40 days. But that’s a good bleeding, and a return of your womb to its former small, compact state. Want more numbers? I’ve been changing pads 4 to 6 times a day for 51 days. This means I’ve went through between 204-306 pads. What size pads? Both regular and overnight pads. Regular sized hold about 5mL and overnight’s hold 10mLs. Here’s a secret that I’d never tell my doctor—sometimes I had to wear tampons too with pads just because of the heaviness of the flow. And this doesn't account for the night of sitting on the toilet on September 24th. Nor for the previous bleeding on September 21st. That's a lot of waddling about in pads.

I think I’ve decided to start writing about this latest experience, because not enough is written about natural miscarriage. Both of my previous miscarriages ended in emergency (i.e., not scheduled) D&C’s. They were emergency, because I was gushing blood and clots filling an overnight pad in less than an hour for a few hours in a row. I thought I was going to avoid the trauma of the emergency room this go round. I felt more prepared to handle all of the blood, because I am secure in the knowledge of my body's strength to birth naturally without medication or interventions.

Sunday, September 21st, during my son’s sixth birthday party I began bleeding. I was six weeks pregnant, and my two close friends at his party already knew of the pregnancy. In the last 8 weeks I have been to the hospital 2 to 3 times a week for HCG blood titers and ultra-sounds. That’s about 20 visits to the hospital, because of the chaos inside my body for this baby—when in the last two years the only time I’ve been in was for my children’s vaccinations, well-baby, and well-child exams. We’re a very healthy family and rarely get sick. I don’t count those first few hours as part of this miscarriage, because they weren’t. I saw and heard our baby’s heartbeat after that second blood draw during that first ultrasound. My HCG count was continuing to go up, 51,000 to be exact, and the only thing of concern was the subchorionic hematoma.

During my youngest son’s pregnancy I taught and did Zumba 6 days a week (yoga on the 7th day) up until the week before his birth when I had switched to water running and swimming 4 days a week with 1 day of Zumba, 1 of yoga, and 1 rest day that week. Before realizing I was pregnant with this last pregnancy my workouts consisted each week of: 1-2 hours of heavy resistance training 6 days a week, along with 2-3 Zumba workouts, and bellydance on my rest day. All I was told after seeing our baby’s heart beating when they discovered the subchorionic hematoma was I needed to back down a little on the heavy lifting. No more 35 lb single bicep curls, or 115 lb decline bench presses. So I backed off the really heavy lifting, and threw in some aerial yoga and a massage to help with stress management. I attribute my mostly vegetarian (I eat meat maybe 1x/week) diet, daily exercise, use of doTERRA essential oils, and Vega workout products as the reason why I'm not anemic throughout this ordeal.

After heading to the emergency room two days ago and losing over a liter of blood within a few hours, I am writing about this miscarriage. It is a big deal. I’m still bleeding. My miscarriage is not over, even though I started miscarrying 51 days ago. However, I do believe as the nurse was cleaning up the blood that was spattered on the floor, the rivulets of blood that had run down my legs, and changed the bedding and hospital gown twice because of bleeding through it—despite hospital grade granny panties and pregnancy pads…that amidst all those quarter and golf-ball sized clots—I saw what they call, “tissue.” That was our baby in its embryonic sac. After nursing our 20 month old at about 3am this morning, I sat up in bed wide-eyed realizing without a doubt, that gray globby human tissue amongst the dark maroon and black hunks of clots--that was the beginning of a life that we can now start grieving. 

How do I know for sure? Every wipe and every dark blob that settles down in the pot everytime I'm in the bathroom I've had to look at---for 51 days. I know the difference between a clot and tissue now. And, most likely, it's why I'd bled for so long. Once the baby's heartbeat stopped, my uterus began the work of sloughing off to get the "other" tissue out. All my HCG counts each week, ultra-sounds & cervix checks (I'm so over internal ultra-sounds and uterus checks by the OB) have shown that my body is doing what it's designed to do in a miscarriage. Lucky for me instead of taking less than 2 weeks or so...I'm one of those "other" cases where it just takes a lot longer.

I’m writing today, because my husband has had to take off work these last two days to help get my son ready to get on the bus for school. I’m writing, because my now 20 month old is in daycare for a few hours and my husband took him, because I’m too weak to lift him. I can't lift my kids, my dog, or clean the house, or workout. Normally I'd power through the pain. However, today I'm taking the time to sit and write through the physical pain. So I can continue healing. Even though I haven't stopped bleeding yet. 

I’m writing, because of my weakness. My weakness in not being able to go about my normal daily activities of taking care of my men by feeding, cleaning, and loving them. I’m writing, because it hurts too much to go to the bus stop in the morning and stand with indifferent moms—some pregnant, some with newborns, some not. I’m writing, because I hope in my weakness of wanting to be able to share my heart and be transparent with the pain I’ve been keeping bottled up it will help others grieve their own losses, or help others who’ve never had to go through the tragedy of a miscarriage to understand that it is a big deal. The loss of life and of dreams to come, it matters. 

Now do you understand that when I ask you how you are doing today, I really do want to know? I want you to know I understand loss. It can cripple you at first, but breathing through it and being okay with the pain, even though it hurts--that weakness--I am here with you to help you be strong. It is a beautiful life, mess and complications included. 

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