Saturday, August 30, 2014

Time, Love and Tenderness

... a continuation of my miscarriage journey...


Michael Bolton once sang a song that included the lyrics: you think your world is over, baby, just remember this -- nothing heals a broken heart like time, love and tenderness. This post includes some deeply personal thoughts and beliefs that are sacred to me. I would not be honest if I didn't include them, but I ask that, if you read to the end, you will respect them as such.


Last Sunday, as I was preparing for and attending church, I did a few self checks: energy level? almost normal, pain? none, uterus? not quite normal, sex drive? none, emotions? focused in other directions (I have plenty to distract me right now), spirituality? in tune. Later, as I wrapped up yet another lesson on Temple Blessings and Eternal Families (during which I wanted to stand up and ask just how many women in the room were living in a life situation that fit the ideal because we have many divorced and single sisters in our group) and prepared to sing the closing hymn, I was completely unprepared for my very tender response to the words of the song:


God Be With You

  1. 1. God be with you till we meet again;
    By his counsels guide, uphold you;
    With his sheep securely fold you.
    God be with you till we meet again.
  2. (Chorus)
    Till we meet, till we meet,
    Till we meet at Jesus' feet,
    Till we meet, till we meet,
    God be with you till we meet again.
  3. 2. God be with you till we meet again;
    When life's perils thick confound you,
    Put his arms unfailing round you.
    God be with you till we meet again.
  4. 3. God be with you till we meet again;
    Keep love's banner floating o'er you;
    Smite death's threat'ning wave before you.
    God be with you till we meet again.
In all honesty, I was weeping so deeply before the chorus even began that by the third verse, I was praying the song would end soon -- uncertain of just how many verses there were or how many had been sung.

Very few of the women around me had (or have) any idea of the source of my sadness. In fact, so few people read this blog, it can be like writing a journal -- keeping a record just for me -- but, I knew I was safe, I knew I needed to allow myself the unexpected tears and depth of grieving I had obviously been pushing through, and well, if you can't weep in the middle of a church meeting, where can you do it? 

My thoughts about this little one are something that I'm not sure anyone else would understand. I believe in the eternal nature of life, in an individual and progressive way. Having felt the spirits of my children embraced in the warmth of my womb -- separate, unique, and so very close to me -- I feel strongly about the divinity of each person that lives here, the ones who have passed, and the ones who have not yet come.

There are promises given to those who are sealed together in matrimony by the Holy Spirit of Promise. I do not enjoy these blessings or promises within my own marriage by my own choice. Neither of us were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when we married and, consequently, could not enter the House of the Lord. I have since made other choices that feel more like myself -- how thankful I am for the gift of the Atonement! -- including baptism and becoming worthy to hold a temple recommend, but my husband hasn't followed. So, even though I know that God the Father holds us all in His hands, I also have no assurances at this moment. I have nothing to tell me if this spirit will be able to try again for a body, if that attempt will be with me, if the amount of growing it did was enough for its progression to the next step, or if things will work out in a way that I will have the opportunity to raise him or her on the other side of the veil...my sister tells me she had a dream where Jesus came and lifted her little one from her arms before she went in to surgery and that this is the only reason she felt calm about her own miscarriage. (Naming and keeping dates within our family records of stillborn and miscarried births is something we're counseled to do.)

As I said, I have no assurances of this kind for me. Acceptance and trust are something I choose. I served in the temple yesterday and felt joy -- a rare emotion in the midst of so much turmoil (this little one is not the only loss I am facing) and I am thankful for it as much as I was for the tears breaking free so easily.

On a physical note: I ovulated this week. I am feeling it for days when it happens. Several months ago, I told myself this was the progression of age. Now, I wonder if there is actually a space between the clips and the ova is finding its way through it. (It is amazing to me that the smallest things internally can cause such pain.) My well-meaning sister said (very lovingly), "You're doing something to prevent that right? I mean, you made the decision to have your tubes tied for a reason." Yes, she actually said that -- see note on sex drive.

In addition to letting each other grieve (when we can't actually find the empathy within ourselves to mourn with someone in mourning), I've decided that no one should ever ask questions about your fertility and/or family plan and/or lack thereof. For everyone that ever went through the heartache of infertility, miscarriage, misconception, or even the joy of adding "another one" beyond what someone else believes is the "right" number...please, hold your tongue. If you are the one being asked, I promise you have every right to say "That is not your business."

Meanwhile, do not fear tenderness. This may be the first time in my life when I am not fighting against the grieving. Oh, there is plenty to do that distracts me from it a few hours or days at a time, but embracing the sad, angry, numb, etc. of exactly the moment I am in is a great gift. I have yoga practice to thank for that capacity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Returning to Normal After Miscarriage

The title of this post may be too soon. I don't feel normal, but I am getting back to life. A miscarriage is one of the health issues protected by the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). However, as the only breadwinner in my family, in the process of foreclosure, trying to have enough to move my family of seven into a new place, I just couldn't request the time.


Back to work.


I am lucky to be working an office job. There is a great deal of sitting and air conditioning. I am also lucky to be working with many women who are being quietly understanding of what has happened. Today is my second day back. I ache all over. My uterus burns and my thighs are worn out. I feel like I've run a marathon, but I didn't win a medal and there's no t-shirt -- no color or mud-splattered photos to mark the intensity or endurance.


Yesterday, one of our client's sitters canceled at the last minute. She brought her three month old baby girl with her to her appointment. Sophia just cooed at me before going back. So, when she began to cry enough to disrupt the meeting and they were almost done, I offered to take her out and keep her entertained. She gazed at the fluorescent lights with her big brown eyes full of wonder and I smelled like baby for the next hour. I hadn't thought of how I would feel when I offered to be helpful. Not that I regret being helpful. But, I was doing so well to keep myself distracted trying to catch up on a week of missed work. After that, I sat in the hall and got teary-eyed.


I think I kept it together pretty well knowing I didn't want to explain it to a colleague or a client.


I definitely don't feel "normal" yet. There is still pain and weakness physically and I still feel... both raw and disjointed at the same time emotionally. Staring down all of the havoc that is currently my life yesterday, some part of my brain almost dared to say, "Maybe it's for the best." That was not what I was ready to hear, even from myself, and I began sobbing on my way to work. What prompted the thought, I believe, was an article I read about how often miscarriage occurs and why -- mostly citing biological trouble with the developing (or undeveloping) fetus. I'd had a headache, non-stop, for weeks. I was chalking it up to stress. (I was chalking all of my pregnancy symptoms up to stress.) I had only just acknowledged the pregnancy. I had only just prayed to ask if something was wrong that was causing the headaches. (The only other time I'd had an ache like this was when my third pregnancy began to be toxic - preeclampsia.) Something was wrong.


And now, even though my body has done the "right" thing and seems to be doing it normally and well, my thoughts are in limbo...I feel like I've pressed pause so I can function and smile and help others and be kind and do my job(s) even though I'd very much like to go home and go back to bed and sleep until the pain goes away in every way.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Afterpain

It has been a few more days. I have been pretending things are normal again. I even went to church yesterday and taught a Sunday School lesson on King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29-30). But, that doesn't mean this is over.

The process known as "involution" is when the uterus cramps down tight like a fist in order to return to its pre-pregnancy size. It's not so bad after the first pregnancy, but increases in discomfort with every birthing process. I find it ironic that these cramps have been come to be known as "afterpains". After pain? I'm still in pain. Granted, it is not the same type of pain. These contractions are literally a different format. The uterus is a pretty incredible muscle/organ considering the very little control we have over it. There is no exercise we can do to make it stronger. Which means there is nothing I can do now to make this part go more quickly.

Well...there's not "nothing". After giving birth to a baby, kneading the fundus is imperative in helping the body expel tissue and prevent clots. Doing this yourself -- before the nurses get to you -- can save you from a lot of pain. Trust me. I've been working on this myself, but it is difficult at this stage of the pregnancy because the fundal height was still so small. It may be this smallness that is throwing me off still. I have given birth several times and am underestimating the process of miscarriage.

Because I am choosing to do this naturally, from home, the miscarriage gets another name "expectant management". Again, an ill-chosen name. As an expectant mother, I am having a miscarriage because there was nothing I could do to manage the pregnancy and prevent the loss. I'm not managing anything here. I'm just watching it all happen. It is a trauma suffered from inside the body because I have no control or input about what is happening. I can only breathe and watch and wait. I feel a psychological disconnect in many ways. It is unbelievable. My body has never not carried a baby to term. I don't understand the level of physical pain. I'm surprised by it.
I was also surprised by the diarrhea. For two days, my body purged nearly every which way it could. I was afraid it might be a sign of infection or something gone wrong, but discovered it is a normal response to the intensely fluctuating hormones. Remember when Shania Twain made feeling like a woman so sexy? Yeah. Not so much right now.

I am crying again today. I didn't cry for a couple of days, but there is no baby. There is only pain and weakness. When the tight, burning cramps of involution occur, there is no little one suckling for milk to distract me -- no small, perfect face to gaze on nor soft fuzzy skin to touch and breathe in the amniotic newness of. I am disappointed. I am relieved. I am angry. I am sad.

Disappointed that the little one I've been dreaming about for over a year isn't coming.
Relieved that, as bad as this is, it has happened naturally without the need for surgery.
Angry that it is happening at all.
Sad.



 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Things to Know About Miscarriage: the First Few Days

A recent search for "miscarriage" in a medical link online recently found this gem of counsel that "women who miscarry in the first few weeks of pregnancy often do not know they've miscarried. They may only experience heavier bleeding and cramping than usual."


Really?


Thanks for that. I had looked it up wondering what a friend of mine might be experiencing. Little did I know that by tucking this information away for myself, I would completely underestimate my own situation a few short months later. Many women don't talk openly about their miscarriages, but I've decided to break that silence. My own experience began about 4 days ago. While there might be women who don't realize they are miscarrying, many of us do, and it isn't easy. Because of the wide range of individual experiences, please know that I am not pretending to write a comprehensive list here.


Physically:


You may feel a burst or trickle of fluid from the vagina. This is the amniotic sack. Early on, there will only be a small amount and you may dismiss this as urine. Note that amniotic fluid is clear and has a "sweeter" smell than urine does. If you have already met with your OB/GYN, you may collect this and have it tested to be sure.


Nothing may happen for another 24 hours. Or,  you may experience bleeding and cramping right away. For me, I began to bleed approximately 12 hours later without any cramping (I began to believe that medical site).


"Cramping" vs. "Contractions" -- If you've never given birth before, you may chalk what happens next up to the worst cramps of your life. But, having given birth naturally before, I recognized the painful, rhythmic contracting of my uterus. For me, it was sharp, tight and focused. This may have been due to the comparative size of the uterus during the birthing process. Some women experience back labor at this time as well. Just like full-term labor, these contractions will build and ebb, like a tide. Take deep breaths through them to give your body enough oxygen to send endorphins where they are needed. They will get closer and closer. If you need something to do, time them. (I had plenty to do trying to keep my head and explain what I could to my family.) This part of the process lasted about 36 hours for me during which time I had difficulty sleeping, eating or drinking.


Post delivery: weakness and uterine care. Even though your skin, uterus, and hips didn't have the chance to stretch and strain under the weight of a fully developed life, you must plan to be gentle on yourself physically. Taking time off of work, having dinner delivered, and not lifting more than 10 lbs. for a few days may be necessary. I'm a pusher with a large family who tried to do things too soon. Bad idea. It is also important that you knead your belly downward toward your pelvic bone. Depending on how far along you are, you may be able to feel the hard edge of the "fundus". Kneading this down helps reduce blood clots, cramping, and reduces your uterus to its normal size. I'm still working on this part.


GET TO A DOCTOR if you experience fever, chills, heavy bleeding, or a tremendous amount of pain.


Emotionally:


Welcome to grief. There may be shock, denial, bartering, anger, sadness, acceptance, and/or a mixture of all of the above and these may happen at any time in any sequence whether you were planning and hoping for baby or if this pregnancy was a surprise. I have found myself deeply confused by myself this week and by the responses of others around me.


One gentle warning I received yesterday is the possibility of post-partum blues. I plan to write again and keep writing until I'm through it. Life is a process. I plan to honor it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

10 Oxymorons of Womanhood

I woke up this morning staring down some of the incongruences of  life and just thought I'd jot down ten. I'm sure there are plenty more where these came from to be laughed about as we go.  
  • Manicures and Dishes
  • Padded Bras
  • High heels & Pregnancy
  • Feminism & 50 Shades of Grey
  • Wearing makeup to accentuate the positive while knowing you are actually trying to cover your "flaws"
  • Expecting validation for your body-type, lifestyle, experience  perspective while judging others who are different from you
  • Demanding your husband "man up" while cutting him off at the knees with criticism
  • Doing everything you can to protect and provide for your family while lashing out at them under the strain and stress
  • Telling yourself you're in the right when you are acting self-righteously
  • Asking for a miracle and trying to make it happen




Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Critics

The first time I read The Rise and Fall of Silas Latham and heard the story of William Dean Howells, Henry James, and Mark Twain, I thought in my head that will be me. I knew in that moment that I would write my stories, true. And, eventually, some would be published. But, for the most part, I would become the trusted editor and critic. Every creative person needs one to hone the gift of fire the muse grants them into a viable art and I am good at it.




Yesterday, I was invited to watch a video montage of a young, local actor whose work I greatly admire. The invitation came with the question, "is there anything to improve before NYC?!" Now, I must confess, I was hard-pressed to find anything.  This young man has impeccable timing, genuine facial expressions, the ability to connect with the character and use movement and ad lib lines to bring it to life, and...his voice. I was absolutely floored with his vocal abilities at such a young age to not only fill the technical requirements but to do so with realistic and expressive emotion. Stunning.


The mode of invitation, while not public, included several people including the actor and his director. All of the comments were of tremendous, but non-specific praise. The actor himself was uncomfortable with the post (and portions of his performance). Since no one was being very specific about what they liked and he seemed more and more uncomfortable at not receiving any honest feedback, I gave him some -- two points, actually. One *very* minor and the other, a vocal technique that could mean all the difference in the length and power of his career.


This morning, the director had removed the video with its comments and posted a scathing rant regarding critics and unnecessary feedback.


Ugh. I'm bored with this post already.


I just wanted to say, buck up.


If you are the creative type. If the muse is speaking to you through whatever medium you express, be ready. Be ready to hear the criticism. Be ready to open yourself up for feedback. You may discover your own blindspots. You may learn a new technique or approach you hadn't thought of before. Perhaps, after you get good at hearing the critics, you'll gain enough confidence to recognize when the feedback you're given would inherently alter the very thing you were attempting to create and not accept it whatever the current cost may be to your career. Good for you.


Know this, the critics are watching your work and the worst ones are in your own head.

Conspiracy of an Eight Year Old Girl

Around her neck
a beaded choker of indigo
and gold. Pearlized plastic
too loose for her wrist
too tight for her throat.
She wears it proudly for the big sister
whose little sister didn't want it.
A regifted token
singing out - you mean the world to me!
and she would pay it back too
or forward
or to anyone who would accept
a token bought with two shiny quarters,
three pennies and a nickel.


SNAP


The skin on the inside of her wrist
pulses purple red as rubber bands
woven
pulled back
catapult flinging self-hate
       I do this when I baby talk
or pick my nose
Everyone told me to stop
and hurting myself helps
make everyone happy


well...not everyone


just Melissa and Gay-Barr
and the sixteen other people who don't
like me for me


SNAP


Welts building, swelling
where veins pulse blue, less
angry than the crowd of mad critics
(Oh, that maddening crowd)


I can do anything
when I am ten years away from being
eighteen


Figure out the answer
this equation of carrying scissors
and boiling her own macaroni
-easy on the cheese-
Posters about truth and story
boards filled with the evolution
of bird people
and why
oh, why
is a creature with a brain
the size of a nut
given wings


When she sits there on hardwood
with a sharpie and her dreams
     scribed
word for word.


SNAP