The Day that Almost Was

Tomorrow is significant for what it’s not.

It was the day that we thought we might have our first child. It was the day that I memorized immediately after finding out we were pregnant last February. It was my due date.

Now, it’s just Sunday.

It may seem silly to hold on to the date, like it once held some magic. Especially silly since most babies aren’t born on their due date. Truth is, the baby measured small at that first and only ultrasound. They probably would have moved the date about 4 days like they did this time around. But still, the anticipation of November 2nd has stuck with me.

In April all I could think was, “Oh G*d, I hope we are pregnant again by Nov 2nd, or I’m not sure how I’ll manage the day.” In truth, sitting here almost 6 months pregnant it does seem to ease a bit of the hurt. The loss. But I can’t shake the feeling that something was taken. That this day was supposed to mean something.

Sometimes when I get sad thinking about the first baby, I remind myself that I am grateful for the one inside me now. Maybe, just maybe it had to happen this way so that we’d get this particular little spirit, due on the very same day we found out we were pregnant with the first.

Sometimes I think I’m silly for mourning something that really almost never was. Just 12 weeks. But, in my heart I know fiercely that I felt that little spirit with me… And I felt them leave. It was like someone had left the room. Like the opposite of the feeling you get when someone is watching you, the feeling of absence.

Have a very merry unbirthday little one.

You are missed. You are loved. You were, and I will never be the same.

 

For more on our experience with pregnancy loss: 

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Self-Care after a Miscarriage

All of the views expressed here are my own. I have used “alternative” care most of my life and find it helpful in combination with western medical care, particularly in caring for my overall wellbeing.

SelfCare_ReadySetSarahBlog

1 Month Today

Today marks the 1 month point since I lost the baby. We would have been starting our 4th month of pregnancy today, and instead we are mourning and reflecting on 1 month since our loss.

Self-care is particularly important when my strength and resilience are stretched thin by a circumstance like this, outside of my control. I stay on the look out for ways to manage the stress and anxiety that flare up for me from time to time. But in a time like right now, when my emotions are high, and can come up unexpectedly, I find it even more important to make a concerted effort to maintain balance and practice thoughtful self-care.

A traumatic, stressful, sad life event is the perfect storm for making stress and anxiety hit a fever pitch, and I’m determined to get through this in a healthy reasonable way.

Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing to take care of myself since the miscarriage:

Scale Back.
One of the first and strongest feelings after returning home to Michigan after the miscarriage was that the feeling that family and home are the most important things to tend to in my life right now. This meant cutting back on outward commitments to save my energy for work, family and my personal care and interests. Sometimes getting out and getting active is a good thing, but right now it feels like all of the extracurricular commitments would just cause me to avoid my feelings, avoid thinking about things, avoid quiet moments to process our loss and grow past it. I decided that sticking to the things that matter most: my family life and health will help me heal more quickly and more fully so that when we are ready to try again I am balanced and ready.

Sure, I have had moments of guilt for dropping out of some commitments to groups I’m involved with. I tried my best to be respectful of their needs and communicated what was going on as promptly as I could. I just know that if I don’t take care of myself now, the grief will only come up later in disruptive ways. Right now, beyond my job, my main responsibilities and my all of my energy are dedicated to healing our family, tending my bond with my husband, and  caring for my physical and emotional health. These are my only and main concerns, and that is okay.

Get sleep.
Letting myself get over tired is a big no no when I’m under emotional stress. When I’m over tired everything feels harder and I get more reactive and it’s harder to stay positive. My negative thinking can get out of hand quickly, even in the best of times, and when you heap being over tired to the equation it’s a recipe for disaster.

Sleep is healing. I often work things out in my dream life. It’s really important to keep up a healthy sleep routine when emotionally tested. Not too much, not too little. I’m trying to stick with a solid 8 hour routine to keep myself on track. In the late hours if I’m not in bed and ready to sleep, the sad and longing thoughts of loss creep in, the arguments and emotional, irrational behavior pick up quickly. If you are anything like me, do everyone a favor and give yourself an early bed time and a regular wake up call. When that alarm goes off, get up and get going with your day.

Talk About It
If you need to talk about what has happened, go ahead and talk about it. Don’t wait for others to ask, or expect others to bring it up. Not to say you should share when you don’t feel comfortable, or all of the time, but I’ve found that most people are nervous to bring it up for fear of reminding me or upsetting me… so it’s up to me to bring it up if I’m feeling the need to share a thought or feeling about what has happened. It can be a dark place in the days after losing a baby, don’t spend your energy being upset with people for not asking, or being angry with them for something they don’t know.

Find the people you feel safe talking with about your feelings. It doesn’t have to be everyone, but find a few people you can share your thoughts with and go ahead and talk. Telling your story, recounting memories, sadness, and concerns can be a release. Hearing about the sadness other people I love are experiencing has also helped me feel that I’m not alone in my grief (not that I want anyone to be sad, but it is validating to know I’m not the only one grieving the loss of the potential life of our little one).

Assume that people mean well. Many people don’t understand, can’t understand what it means to lose a child early in pregnancy. Many will say things that can be a bit upsetting… assume that they mean well and move on to find people who will support you in the ways you need. I found that speaking out publicly about our loss allowed me to find other people who have been through pregnancy loss. Sharing with them and discussing the deep feelings of grief and fear has been really helpful. Knowing that they understand that this was a child we lost, and not just a blip on the radar is comforting.

For me, sharing in writing has been as cathartic as sharing in person (and is available whenever I need it). You can read my story, and some of my musings about the miscarriage herehere, and here.

Physical care.
I saw my OB Gyn in the first weeks after the miscarriage to make sure I was medically ok. That was the first step and the minimum of what I could do to care for myself physically. I’ve written in the past about developing a meditation practice, and my forays into acupuncture (you can read about those here and here).  Acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage have been really helpful ways to support my wellbeing.

In the week or two right after the miscarriage I suffered from severe lower back pain and headaches. I’ve read that these are common symptoms after a miscarriage due to dropping hormone levels and the body readjusting and the uterus shrinking back down. The physical memories of the pregnancy and the pain of the miscarriage were overwhelming and often led to emotional pain. While some of this just had to be endured, I decided to take initiative and fix what I could.

The chiropractic office I go to, Optimal Wellness Family Chiropractic, has been a great source of support and care during my years in Royal Oak. I discovered Dr. Michaela through a Groupon for a massage at her clinic and have been going back since (Brian, my husband, now goes there as well). This office happens to focus on pregnancy and pediatrics, so I felt this was a good place to go for post-miscarriage care. Sure, it was a small splurge to get Brian and myself each a massage, but it was worth it to provide my body with the physical relief and relaxation after such a traumatic event. The chiropractic adjustments, caring concern, and listening ear that Dr. Michaela provided in those first few days alleviated not only some of my physical pain and discomfort, but also helped me feel cared for and safe in my grief.

Exercise and healthy diet. 
We are taking this new-found pre-babies time to work on my physical health. I gained some lb’s over the winter and  during the pregnancy I couldn’t make any drastic changes in exercise routine and diet. Now that I have the time (whether we want it or not) I’m committed to taking care of my body as much as possible. I’ve been following the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge as a way to manage my diet and “reset” my eating behaviors that led to the weight gain (you can read more about that here). Brian and I have also been following a 30 day ab challenge to work on toning up, and we are taking advantage of sunshine for long walks with our pup.

These things not only make me feel happy because they are things I like to do, but the exercise and healthy eating make me physically feel great and boost my overall mood. Sure, there have been times I’ve wanted to eat my feelings during the last month, but I’ve decided to not engage in self-destructive behaviors that will only make things worse. I can’t take the chance right now of pushing myself even deeper into grief, and a potential depressive episode. Right now, I’m going to do everything I can to lift myself up.

Check yourself (before you wreck yourself)
Don’t risk traveling down the road of spiraling negative thinking. It takes a lot of work and practice to learn to recognize negative thought patterns. Knowing what to look out for and how to turn your thinking around is a great place to start learning how to check yourself. I’ll admit… I slip up all of the time. Just last night I was deep in a cycle of spiraling negative thoughts, I was near the edge emotionally and it was not good. I let my deep feelings of sadness spin into negative feelings about my life, relationships, and everything in-between. I was deep in it before I realized I was in a spiral, and by then harm had been done. With the tools of self-reflective thinking, support from my husband, time, and a little sleep, I was able to pull myself back up a bit to make it through today.

It’s a constant process of catching myself on my way to, or in a place of anger, bitterness, or self-pity, and then purposefully and thoughtfully drawing my mind away from those destructive thoughts. Here are some resources that talk about how to recognize negative thinking, negative self-talk and how to “talk back”:

Things aren’t great. Bad things have happened. I choose to keep going, I choose to focus on making our lives better and fighting for the chance to try again, even if I’m scared shitless about what could happen if the unthinkable happens again. I’m going to be a fighter. That’s my choice.

Buy yourself flowers
Or whatever small acts that make you feel joy.

SelfCareFlowers_ReadySetSarahBlog

Pregnancy Weeks 10-11: The last weeks

I promise, this won’t be the only thing I talk about on this blog forever, but for right now it is what matters. Breaking the silence about pregnancy loss allows me a place to think things out, and has allowed others to share their stories with me and find support, so we can lean on each other. That is part of why I continue to share. Thank you for listening.

Love, Sarah

Weeks 10-11
It’s finally getting warm! Which means a return to active living. Going for a walk is the best cure for any discomfort. At my new job I have a friend from grad school and previous jobs who I can go for walks with around Ann Arbor’s (A2) downtown. I’m so happy being back in A2 where I went to school and first loved Michigan. I can’t wait to get settled and look into maternity yoga classes, prenatal groups and eventually take advantage of all that A2 has to offer for families and children.

It’s been a little nerve-wracking switching jobs, health insurance, and providers right in the middle of the first trimester. I can’t wait to get it all settled and have our next appointment. I wish we had gotten a picture from the first ultrasound at 7 weeks, but soon enough we’ll see our little one again.

Symptoms: Still have eczema patches that showed up with conception. Crazy pregnancy dreams are a norm, and occasional nausea and dry mouth are still a part of day-to-day life, but the main symptom is still exhaustion.

Sitting at my desk all day has been a bit uncomfortable, but I was happy to adopt a stray stability ball that found its way to my colleagues office. Sitting on the stability ball has really helped my back and comfort when sitting at my desk all day. Although I’ve been told it’s a nauseating to talk to me as I bounce on the ball. 🙂

Finally, my trip to California arrived! I couldn’t be more ready visit with my family, celebrate my sister and her pregnancy, celebrate Passover with our families, and host my best friend’s bachelorette day in Napa!! I am a bit nervous to fly for the first time pregnant, but as long as I stay hydrated and calm it should be okay.

Since we’ll be 12 weeks on Sunday, April 20th (the day we fly home to Michigan) we have decided to start telling the rest of our families and close friends while we are home and can tell them in person. I can’t wait to see their faces and talk about the future with them. It’s awesome because there are a number of new babies in the family living in the Bay Area, and soon there will be a few more!

Dinner with friends and family during week 11, before the loss.

Dinner with friends and family during week 11, before the loss.

Adorable baby clothes I've collected at Mom2Mom consignment sales for my baby niece!

Adorable baby clothes I’ve collected at Mom2Mom consignment sales for my baby niece!

My childhood home. I love this place. My mother will be selling it this year and this could be my last trip home to say goodbye :-(

My childhood home. I love this place. My mother will be selling it this year and this could be my last trip home to say goodbye 😦

Counting Silver Linings: Dealing with Grief and Loss

SilverLinings_ReadySetSarahBlog

Obviously, Brian and I would prefer the alternative. We would much rather be happily awaiting our baby-to-be, rather than trying to find the silver linings in this awful situation. Never the less, I have found it really helpful today to focus on all of the small positives that remain as a result of losing the baby. They are a sorry alternative, but I’d rather focus on gratitude for the good stuff, rather than linger on the loss and all of the “why’s” and the anger, sadness, and pain.

So, this is what we are left with. My list of silver linings:

  • I am grateful to have more time to settle into my new job. I was pretty nervous about having to take maternity leave during my first year with a new company, even though I am pretty sure my new employer would have handled it fairly.
  • I am grateful that I will have more time to get our finances in order before attempting to bankroll childcare. With only 28 weeks to go, the cost of going back to work was really starting to give me heartburn. We would have made it though.
  • I am grateful that I will have a chance to get my body healthy again before becoming pregnant again. It was a tough winter on my waistline and it can’t hurt to get a little more fit and active before the next go round.

Right now, this is pretty much all I can think of. It hurts a bit to think of anything good… It is strange to process mentally and emotionally that we aren’t actually pregnant anymore.

In the first trimester so much of the experience is mental and emotional. Despite the blatant side effects and symptoms, a lot of what grows in those first 12 weeks are your hopes, dreams, and expectations. The baby books and apps all recommend taking time each day to develop a connection, a bond with the growing baby… than, immediately when it’s over everyone starts telling you not get too attached, and that it wasn’t really a baby yet (or at all if it terminated because something was wrong genetically). Like it’s that simple.

It’s not that easy to make the cognitive leap to believing whole heartedly that a little human is actually living inside of you and will someday be a person you know, talk to, and love… it’s even harder to reverse that.