Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Do's and don't's of what to say to someone who's had a miscarriage: a follow-up post

I want to start out by thanking everyone who read my last post and then through the blog, facebook, or phone opened up to me about their stories. I can't tell you how many people told me that they had gone through a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, or similar thing. It taught me that many more people than we realize are going through hard things like this but we are sure that we are alone in our experiences because a lot of people don't talk about it.

I know that everyone's experiences are different, but I want to tell you how much comfort and support I felt after posting that last blog. Hearing other people's struggles, journeys, and stories helped me feel so much strength, knowing that other's were dealing with or had dealt with and gotten through hard situations. I think we can all learn from each other's experiences, whether for future issues we will personally deal with, or for a loved one or acquaintance who goes through something similar and we want to be able to help and support them and empathize with them.

A few people have asked me what kinds of things would have been comforting and helpful for me while I was going through it, such as what to say. It made me remember a time several years ago when a good friend called me up to tell me she'd had a miscarriage and I could tell she was really struggling with it and longing for some comforting words and understanding from me, and I remember feeling at such a loss to know what to say. I'm sure everyone's different, but now that I've gone through it myself, here are a few things that personally would have been helpful (or not) when this was happening. If you have more/different ideas, I'd love for you to post them in a comment.


DON'T try to downplay the situation in any way.
"Good thing you weren't farther along."
"At least you know you can get pregnant and can have future babies."
"Is this the first time you've had a miscarriage? Oh, well my aunt had 4 miscarriages."

DON'T try to offer theories or ask for possible explanations as to why this happened.
"Do you think it's because you were on fertility drugs?"
"Why do you think this happened?"
"Everything happens for a reason."

DO acknowledge that this must be hard/scary/painful, and allow them to "be real" with you.
"I'm so sorry! What a tragic loss!"
"How awful; it sucks that this happened!"
"It seems like you are being super brave and going through this with such grace, but it's ok if you're not. You're allowed to be a mess if you want."

DO offer support and a desire to empathize and be a listening ear.
"I've never dealt with that, but I want to understand what you're going through if you're up to talking about it."
"I know you might want to be alone right now, but as soon as you don't want to be alone, I'll be here."

You can also help by bringing over dinner or offering to help out with something. Just be sensitive to the situation. There were some points when I didn't want to leave the house or couldn't, due to the physical process, so having someone be willing to go to the store for me would've been awesome. Yet other times I was wishing to not be alone and wanted a distraction, so when a friend got me out of the house to take me to a movie, it was such a welcome and appreciated thing.

As I mentioned in my last post, it's also important to be mindful of the husband; they go through their own healing process, but allowing them the chance to talk about it and what they're dealing with is helpful too.

This article is pretty good too, if you want some more insights as to what you can say or do:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

In which I describe my ectopic pregnancy: sorry for the intense post

Hello, World (er... the 2 people left who may read my blog again after a 2-year hiatus),

Yes it's been a long time. I'm not sure why. I think I started to get depressed when I realized half my blog posts were about cats. But then a friend texted me to say they wanted to see more cat pics and I decided, hey why not embrace the reality of my life. So here I am.

In all honesty, I think I was fine writing about my cats because I knew it was a temporary thing; that alas, someday, I'd be able to talk about my (human) babies instead, so I was fine pretending to be a crazy cat lady. But here I am, two years later, realizing that life is never how you expect it to turn out.

I definitely did not expect to struggle with fertility issues (does anyone?). Nor deal with an ectopic pregnancy. I know I've told some people about my experience, but I feel like it is important for me to talk about it publicly because when I was going through it, I was only consoled by talking to other people who had gone through it. And there weren't that many accounts out there online, but the experiences I did read about were a huge strength for me.

Joe and I got pregnant last August. It was really exciting to us because we were coming up on almost a year of trying without success to get pregnant, and the year mark is when you get the delightful term of "infertile" awarded to you. (For those who want to know, the problem is on my end; I have a hormone imbalance and don't ovulate on my own but was able to get pregnant while on Clomid).

I can't describe how it felt to be pregnant; it surprised me how immediately I felt attached to the idea of my future baby, and on so many levels. Physically, I knew I was pregnant just days into it and already started to marvel at how my body was changing. Emotionally, I felt such excitement and terror, etc. Because Joe and I had been planning on this for several years now, everything felt so right and like it was all falling into place. The timing seemed perfect, and we were so thrilled.

If I'm protesting to be honest in this post, I actually need to back up a bit and admit something. I haven't always wanted babies. Wanting babies isn't something that has come naturally to me. It's not that I don't like babies or that I'm a super intense career person or something and think they'll get in the way of a job or ambitions or something. But I've had some irrational fears of being pregnant and giving birth. My mom had some rough pregnancies and I had heard all her horror stories, so maybe that is part of it, but only part. I guess I always felt a bit out of the secret female loop of other women who were dying to have babies. I know I want kids, to have like, posterity and such, but I feel like I was not given the "natural" female instinct to want babies. I do feel like I'm a nurturing person. And I think and hope I'll make a good mom. But getting the desire to have kids has definitely been a long (3+ year) struggle for me, full of praying, pondering, and researching. I think that's another reason I did not expect to have problems getting pregnant. I figured that once I finally got up the guts to want children, God would be so relieved that he'd send them along in a snap. (I even had a dream one time that because I waited so long to have kids, when I finally did get pregnant, God sent me twins as payback.) Ok guilt resolved for admitting that. Back to my miscarriage:

Joe had a business trip to Germany in September and I had decided months earlier to go along with him. But two nights before we were supposed to leave, I started bleeding (I was 6 weeks pregnant at this point). I tried not to over-react but knew inside this was a really bad sign. I went in to the doctor the next morning and they ran all sorts of tests. They weren't able to give me tons of answers and weren't sure of what exactly was going on, but strongly advised me to not travel. It was sad and hard, but an easy decision to stay home, though hard to be without Joe. After more tests and over several days, the doctor thought it was an ectopic pregnancy. I didn't know a lot about what that was at the time. But basically, it means that the baby itself is probably fine, but is growing in the wrong place. It's sometimes called a tubal pregnancy because the fetus starts growing in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. It can be scary because it can rupture the fallopian tube (which obviously negatively affects future fertility), leading to dangerous bleeding for the mom. There are super rare occasions when the baby can still be carried full term and delivered. Like 3 people ever. But usually the baby needs to be aborted for the life of the mom. This was a big blow to find out. In a matter of days, I had gone from being so excited and planning on a future with my baby, and excited to go back to Europe on a vacation, to losing the chance to go on my trip and knowing that I would be losing my baby. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears. I hadn't even told my parents that I was pregnant yet, so that was a pretty rough phone call to make to tell them in the same breath that they would have been but now again aren't going to have a new grandbaby.

I was also terrified of what would come next: I was advised to either surgery to have the fetus removed (similar to a D&C but a bit more risky since it could rupture fallopian), or to take methotrexate, which is basically used in abortions or as a form of chemotherapy in high doses. Both options terrified me. And it appeared that my body could already tell something was wrong, so I decided to wait a bit to see if I would just miscarry on my own. That is what ultimately ended up happening, which was a huge blessing for me because in the end, the fact that I miscarried mostly on my own absolved the possibility of rupturing my fallopian, which especially concerned my future fertility. I also felt such relief that I had started bleeding before I left on my trip and that I was advised not to go, because the next few weeks were hellish, and I can't imagine trying to miscarry a baby anywhere but in my own home.

Ok now I'm going to get real and describe some stuff that may be unpleasant. Because I literally had no idea what having a miscarriage was like before I experienced it myself. Granted, my experience was very possibly more intense since it was an ectopic situation. But either way, I feel like everyone needs to hear more details about the physical and emotional experience of miscarriage.

Emotionally, I felt so much grief and inexplicable sadness. I wasn't myself and I felt so much irrational sadness and self pity. I didn't tell many people about it while it was happening because I didn't want to talk about it. I felt like no one could understand what I was going through. I was in a pretty dark place. I think I must've been having some postpartum depression, which I didn't even realize was a thing for a miscarriage.  A friend gave me some good advice and told me to just allow myself to really cry as long and hard as I needed to and allow myself to grieve. It was only once I was able to do that that I really feel like my body was able to miscarry what it needed to; like once I emotionally/spiritually told my body it was ok to let go of the baby. Luckily, I feel like I only dealt with the depression for a couple weeks. And even in the darkest moments of it, I felt love and support and comfort from God and loved ones who I knew were praying for me, and I'm so grateful for that.

Physically, I bled ("bled" being a loose term for all the "material" that came out of me) and cramped for weeks. Like, I have pretty severe menstrual cramps normally, but those were nothing compared to this. I'm sure if you've given birth, you've experienced cramps (contractions) of this level, but otherwise, there is nothing I can think to compare it to. People don't understand that you have real contractions when you are having a miscarriage. Your body basically births the tissue and fetus, but it is by yourself, with no drugs, on the "comfort" of your toilet. Granted, I haven't birthed a live baby yet, and I'm sure that is more intense, but that is also a shorter experience; a matter of a day or two. Miscarrying my baby took weeks. After a couple of weeks, it stopped. But after going in to the doctor, they told me all the tissue was still not gone and that I would need to proceed with the drug or surgery. I opted for the drug, and with it came another two weeks of intense cramping and bleeding. There were days when I would just live on the toilet because it was a joke to try to get anything else done or focus on anything else. Other days, the bleeding wasn't as bad, but the cramping was so severe, that I would literally watch one movie right after the other to distract myself from the pain because the moment a movie would end, I would be conscious of the pain immediately. Ibuprofen and Tylenol helped, but I wasn't given anything stronger. I remember on two separate occasions, I had gone back to work and was sitting at my desk when the most intense pain I've ever felt struck so hard and fast that I couldn't breathe or speak. I couldn't even breathe enough to tell anyone what was happening, I just left and drove myself home (which was probably not the best idea, but I only live 5 minutes from my work). It felt as though my body was being squeezed through a 6-inch tube.

The bottom line is that I think people need to stop thinking of miscarriage as a solitary event. Like, when someone says they had a miscarriage, I think people imagine that it was like, an event that took an hour or two on the toilet and then it was done. I mean, maybe that is the case for some? But that definitely wasn't my experience. It was a painful, long, arduous, and devastating experience that I cringe to think that I used to not take seriously or fully empathize or understand the weight of when I heard about it prior to my experience.

I also want to let you know that it can be very sad and devastating to the husband as well. And in some ways is worse for them because they don't know what to do or how to comfort the woman. And though they may feel just as depressed and the same feelings of loss as the woman, they don't usually receive the sympathy that the woman does. I think Joe struggled with it a lot, and I know it was hard for him to watch me go through this and not know what to do for me. He felt so bad for the pain I was going through, and he dealt with some depression over the situation himself. It was so out of his control, which is a really frustrating feeling.

Even after this was all over, for months afterward, it was really difficult to hear about other people getting pregnant or having babies, especially when that type of thing is plastered all over Facebook. But I didn't want to play the sore loser or person who couldn't be happy for other people due to being so consumed by my own grief. But there were definitely days that I wanted to delete my social media accounts or throw my computer across the room. Putting on an excited face for people when they announced their pregnancies was a true test, and I fear I didn't always succeed.

I finally feel, 6 months after the fact, that I am "over it," as much as one can be, anyway. I don't feel constant depression or bitterness. I feel hope that I'll be able to get pregnant again and deliver a baby to full term. I'm grateful that I was only 6 weeks along, because I'm sure miscarriage would be far worse later into the process. I'm grateful to know that I can endure something like this. In some aspects, it makes me feel stronger and braver for when I will actually (hopefully) deliver a live baby. I feel like if I could go through this, I can go through that. I feel more in touch with my body and listening to its needs and confident in my ability to do that. I feel grateful for the family and friends that were so patient and understanding toward me, even when they didn't know what to do or say, especially Joe, and Kara, who was on her mission but who I felt literally mourn for me, thousands of miles away. I feel wonder at the amazing miracle that is the creation of a baby, when so many things can potentially go wrong; I marvel that it ever works all right and that our species continues to perpetuate in spite of the crazy process that is conception, pregnancy, and delivery. I hate that I had to go through this experience to be forced to be more understanding and sympathetic to other women who have gone through similar things, but am grateful for that increased humility and understanding. I'm grateful for the way it brought me closer to God, realizing how dependent on Him I am for my life and every good thing in it.

Sorry for the intensity of this post. But I hope it helps someone better understand and be more sympathetic to those who go through miscarriage or postpartum, or that hearing my story will help someone else going through this not feel so alone.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I saw thee weep—the big bright tear*

at another cat post.


So, after we got Keats, it was only a month or two before we realized that despite his adorableness, his bipolar hyperactive psychosis was going to drive us crazy. So we did the only logical thing there is to do when you have one crazy cat... get a second cat. And ever since we got Byron, it has helped calm Keats down a bit.

Byron is the complete opposite of Keats. He has great talent; great passion; a distaste for society and social institutions; a lack of respect for rank and privilege (although possessing both); being thwarted in love by social constraint or death; rebellion; exile; an unsavory secret past; arrogance; overconfidence or lack of foresight; and, ultimately, a self-destructive manner.

Oh. Sorry. I was mixing up my cat Byron with the "Byronic Hero." But who could blame me with their remarkable similarities. Ehem. Byron my cat is the complete opposite of Keats. He is fat, orange, fluffy, calm, sleepy, dirty, purr-y, needy, whiny, asthmatic, declawed, ungraceful, wimpy, innocent, and lazy. His favorite pastimes include sleeping, munching on Kleenex, rolling around on his back, purring, meowing, hiding from Keats, and going outside. He'll paw at the back door for minutes at a time, until we let him outside. Then, he'll paw at the front door to come back in. At which point, he'll walk across the living room, to the back door, and paw at it to go right back out. And who could blame him; he is the constant victim of Keats's obsessive compulsive cleaning/murdering habits:



... I could put more, but you get the idea.

Cautious and Chionophobic Cats

Byron likes to purr. It's almost like that's just how he breathes. Like, he only purrs on the out-breath. He even purrs in his sleep.

Midnight snack

Hello, sir. Lord Byron at your service

His choice of beds are, at times, questionable...

...but always serene.

His fur color is remarkably well-suited to backyard stealth and camouflage. Well, if you're colorblind. 

Behold, Lord Byron; sovereign of both yard and closet. Bow before his majesty.