Tag Archives: loss

Remembrance

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

I only know what it is like to lose a pregnancy. I’ve lost two.

The only evidence of a child who was much wanted and lost. RIP Babies Jaffe, 3/12/2006 and 3/6/2010.

How to put into words what it’s like to lose a pregnancy? It laid waste to my world. Twice.

In February of 2010, I found out Darcy and I had conceived a child on our own.

The discovery was so specifically wonderful: I loved being a mother so, so, so much. I was thrilled. But I was scared. I knew how easily pregnancy could be snatched away from me: I’d had a miscarriage in 2006 before the twins were born. A “chemical pregnancy,” whatever that is.

It didn’t feel like a chemical pregnancy to me. It felt like the very ruin of my life, the ruin of hope, success, my very lifeblood. We visited Rhodes shortly after, and I was struck by the stark, crumbling, ancient city battlements. They looked like how my soul felt.

The best moment of that trip was when I discovered beautiful flowers blossoming in the cracks of the ancient, war-torn, forlorn walls of that citadel. Somehow, joy finds a way. A way to survive.

I remember. I remember our lost children. I remember the blossoming of the love we both had for the world, for the future. I remember how much I loved Darcy: how much I wanted our love to endure. I remember hope.

I remember, because if I don’t, no one else will. I remember, because I want to tell you all, the 1 in 4, you are NOT alone. We all remember. I remember, because these brave women have inspired me to remember.

I remember, because love is never wasted. It will endure. I will love those children for as long as I am here, on this earth.

I love them. And I always will.

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Filed under Miscarriage

My Top Post: The Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility Series Begins

If you are a longtime reader, you probably guessed Faces of ALI would be number one with a bullet 😉

I wrote the post about The New York Times which called them on their inferior coverage of Adoption, Loss and Infertility. And I started to write about each subsequent article they published.

After a while though, I felt like it was trying to nail Jello to the wall.

My dad suggested I try to provide a solution, instead of just identifying the problem. I mulled that over.

In the meantime, I realized I needed to catch up on one of my best blogging buddies’ backstory. So one night, I started reading Bodega Bliss’s blog from start to finish. It took several days and I became really emotional as I read her story in one take, essentially. I thought, what if I could tell her story in one post? How could ANYONE walk away from reading her story without ANY empathy for those who have gone through recurrent loss? I wanted to compress her story, but also tell it in her words, which were so powerful.

And so, the Faces of ALI series was born.

Here’s the series so far.

The Devastation of Pregnancy Loss: Bodega Bliss
Infertility and Adoption: Sarah in Three Acts
Living Childfree/Childless After Loss: The Memory Keeper

Tomorrow: ???

As always, please share the stories if you are comfortable doing so. Here’s my favorite public comments so far:

“I was startled to see that there were many coincidences between Loribeth’s post and my own history – in timeline and our situation and subsequent outcome, and the choice we made not to pursue adoption. Even down to our hobbies.

It is a funny world that we live in and the wonders of the internet enable us, regardless of geography to read and share our thoughts, even those really personal to us, with others in similar situations. It is simply nice to read and realise that we are not alone.”

“Thank you for this story. I feel alone and guilty day after day. Mothers Day is the hardest for me. I can’t make myself leave the house nor go to church. It saddens me that other women are suffering like me.”

“This is a very well written piece of heartbreaking reality and, it needs to be shared with as many as possible. The costs involved are ludicrous to me. There is enough suffering here anyway without the health care system adding financial punishment as well.”

“As Court’s mother I am so moved to read your story about our daughter. She is truly a wonderful, beautiful woman and we are blessed to have her. You may not know but I can relate to a lot of this heartbreak because I too experienced a miscarrage before we had our beautiful Courtney. So you see she is truly our miracle and we cherish everyday that we have her and her sister. Thank you for writting such a beautiful article and keep up the wonderful work. I agree with all of you that this story needs to be told because it angers me that only the rich are given the very best of care when EVERYONE deserves the same opportunities. Thank you again.”

4 Comments

Filed under Adoption, Faces of ALI, Infertility, Miscarriage

Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility: The Memory Keeper

Some families are just plum lucky. They have a member in their midst who is an archivist. These special people remind their clans of past ties: whether to family, school, places they’ve lived or events they’ve taken part in. If you are fortunate enough to have a talented documentarian in your life, they can present you with such treasures as scrapbooks detailing milestone events like baby showers or weddings. Or they can do the hard work of piecing together the long and winding road our genes can take us upon.

These historians are essential to society because they preserve what has happened in the face of time and tragedy and life changes. They are our “memory keepers.”

Loribeth is a memory keeper.

***

Every day, Loribeth and her husband wake up at 5 A.M. They drive together to their local station, then take a commuter train to the same stop in a large city in Canada. They walk to the same building and enter the lobby together. At the elevator bank, they say goodbye to each other and say “Be good” (a habit they fell into after watching E.T. in their early courting days) and “Be careful.” (Something they added after 9/11.) Then they take an elevator to offices 59 floor apart. They work until 4:30 P.M., then leave together, coming home at 6 P.M. after a long commute. They usually eat dinner at home, except on regular Saturday date nights. Loribeth often works on her scrapbooking or genealogy projects, or writes her personal blog in the couple’s home in a leafy suburb. They both voraciously consume books, which they both consider to be their biggest extravagance. On the weekends, they often see a matinee and they usually peruse the local bookstore. They sometimes attend their Anglican church services. They meet up with family and friends.

It’s a good, productive, fulfilling life. But it didn’t end up the way they planned. Because most Sundays, they visit their daughter Katie at the local cemetery.

“Even after ten years, there is not a day that goes by (& often not even an hour) that I am not thinking about my daughter & what happened to us in some way shape or form. She continues to be present & influence my life. We will visit her niche at the cemetery just about every weekend. It’s often just a brief visit (one particularly blustery day last winter, we didn’t even get out of the car) but it’s a ritual that gives us comfort.”

***

Loribeth was born to very young parents who didn’t have a lot of money. They were proud to send Loribeth on to college, where she met and married her husband. She and her husband both completed graduate school.

“We were fresh out of university, starting entry-level jobs that didn’t pay very much, with student loans to pay off, and a bare apartment in an ‘adults only’ building to furnish. I felt a responsibility to make use of the expensive education my parents had paid for, and find a decent paying job in my field. I was far away from my own family, and my mother in law was dead, so I knew I would have little in the way of practical and emotional support in taking care of an infant.

And so we postponed starting a family, until we became better established, financially and careerwise. We felt it was the responsible thing to do.”

They waited ten years, at which point they were comfortably settled into a house they owned in a family-friendly area. They did not anticipate any problems: they knew personally of many women in their thirties getting pregnant and the news was full of celebrities giving birth in their late thirties and early forties. They began to TTC (Try To Conceive) and consulted their family doctor when it took longer than they hoped. “Don’t worry, it will happen,” he replied. Finally, after two and a half years, it did: at age 37, Loribeth was pregnant. She and her husband were thrilled.

The year was 1998.

On Sunday, March 22, 1998, Loribeth took a pregnancy test. There were two blue lines.

“ ‘Whaaaa…. OH MY GOD!’ I shrieked. Dh came running. I showed him the stick. I started to cry. We sat on the floor of our bedroom & held each other. Was this really happening? After so many years of waiting, planning, hoping?”

Loribeth immediately called her mother, who was overjoyed.

“ ‘When, honey, when?’ my mother asked. I told her I wasn’t quite sure yet, late November. ‘Oh, a baby for Christmas!!’ she sighed rapturously — a sentence that still haunts me today.”

Loribeth experienced some spotting early on, which subsided. But almost a month later, there was bright red bleeding and Loribeth went to her local emergency room. She got an ultrasound, which quickly located a heartbeat. She was also told that she had a bicornuate uterus. The doctor on call assured her that this would not be a problem. The bleeding subsided again, and soon it was Mother’s Day 1998, and Loribeth was three months pregnant and had announced her good news to her workmates, her friends and family. She was thrilled.

Image courtesy of “A Road Less Traveled.”

“(After some pointed hints from me) Dh gave me a card & a Boyd’s Bears figurine of a pregnant mama bear, called Momma McBear. We’d started giving each other Boyd’s Bears figurines as gifts & I absolutely loved this one. I put it on the night table on my side of the bed.”

May blended into June with some routine doctor’s appointments. On day 122 of her pregnancy, Loribeth had a triple-screen bloodtest. There were some minor red flags, so her doctor scheduled her for a lengthy ultrasound. The news was ambiguous and somewhat frightening.

“He said he couldn’t tell us for sure that the baby was OK — but he also couldn’t tell us for sure what, if anything, was wrong. On the other hand, the baby was smaller than normal & so the technician was not able to see as many details. I was about 18 weeks along, but the baby was measuring behind schedule, at 15 weeks. The amniotic fluid was low. There was something — a spot or a mass on or beside the placenta. It could be a tumour (oh, lovely), it could be a clot. The baby also had an ‘echogenic bowel.’ It showed up bright on the ultrasound. In 90% of cases, this turns out to be nothing — but it could mean one of five things. Our baby could have cystic fibrosis. It could be an infection of some kind. It could be a blockage of some kind. It could be a marker for Down’s syndrome. Or it could be ingested blood. (This made sense to me, since I had spotted all through my first trimester.)”

On June 26th, Loribeth came into a clinic for an amniocentesis on her 139th day of pregnancy. She was dreading doing the procedure but it was highly recommended in light of the last ultrasound.

“I don’t remember a lot about that day. I remember they did an ultrasound to see where the baby was positioned, & I saw the baby wave its arm, as if it was waving at us to say hello. I tried not to look as the doctor got the needle ready, & then plunged it into my stomach. I gasped, & then burst into huge, wracking sobs. ‘Oh baby, I’m so sorry. Mommy is so sorry,’ I sobbed, over & over again.”

There was a long wait for the amnio results. Finally the call came in:

“Shortly afterward, I got a call from a woman in his office. ‘The chromosomes are normal,’ she said.

What? Normal?? Normal??? ‘Oh my God,’ I said, starting to cry. I remember saying to her, ‘Not that it matters… but can you tell me if it’s a boy or a girl?’
‘It’s a girl,’ she said. A girl!! Dh & I had always wanted a little girl.”

Ever since Loribeth and her husband had gotten married, they had dreamed of one day having a daughter named Katie.

With this good news delivered, Loribeth and her husband went to purchase Katie’s layette. On July 25, they went to Sears and found a Classic Pooh (not the Disney) bedding set that they loved. They bought it and ordered a matching wallpaper border.

On August 5, 1998, Loribeth went in for a regular checkup to monitor her progress.

“Eventually I got called in to see Dr. Ob-gyn. He’d been on vacation, of course, and it felt like a long time since I had last seen him. We chatted about the amnio results and I told him that those three & a half weeks of waiting had been the absolute worst weeks of my life.

Then he took out his stethoscope, & went to listen for the heartbeat.

He kept moving the doppler over & over my stomach. He’d had problems finding it before. I showed him the spot where he usually found it, but still nothing, except — for one brief, hopeful moment — a sound that turned out to be my own heart beating. The minutes ticked silently on — & on.

He asked me whether I’d been feeling any movement. ‘Yes,’ I said, trying frantically to think of the last time I’d felt that baby move. ‘Lots and lots?’ he said, just a tad sharply. I had to admit I hadn’t.

Finally he said, ‘Well, you can wait for the ultrasound you have scheduled this afternoon — or I can send you upstairs right now. But you have to be prepared for what they might tell you.’ ”

The ultrasound provider was unable to find any heartbeat or sign of life. It was over. Katie would never have a first day of kindergarten, she would never jump on a trampoline or hold hands with the next door neighbor’s girl, a baby born a few months later.

“We drove home. Dh called his brother & dad, while I made the hardest telephone call I’ve ever had to make in my life, to my mother.

My mother said to me, through her tears: ‘We’ll always remember we had a little girl.’

Of course, Loribeth now needed to deliver her beloved Katie. So she checked into the hospital and was given pain relief. In just a few hours, the birth took place.

“A little while later, two nurses appeared at the door, carrying a bundle of blankets. ‘Here’s your baby,’ one of them said to me with a smile. She unwrapped the blankets & handed me a tiny white, nearly weightless bundle. ‘Oh my baby!’ I said as I looked at her.

She was wrapped in a blanket, but over that, she was wrapped in a beautiful white crocheted shawl & a tiny crocheted cap was perched on her head. She was so very tiny (no wonder it didn’t take very long — I didn’t have to dilate very much for her to get through) — and very red — but her little facial features were perfectly formed. Her little head was larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball. The crib card the nurses later gave me said she only weighed 125 grams, or about 4 ounces — definitely not your average six-month baby.”

After having a chaplain present to name and bless the baby, pictures were taken.

“I remember looking at her & thinking, ‘Look at what we made together! We did this!!’ She was dead, but she was a real baby — just a very, very small one — and she was a child of God. She was beautiful in her own sweet, sad way, and I felt a sense of pride, as well as sorrow….I took one more look at that wee red face. ‘Goodbye, baby. Mommy loves you,’ I said. I kissed the tip of my finger & pressed it to her forehead. It was cold as ice.”

The date was August 7, 1998.

***

Loribeth’s family held a small funeral for Katie on August 19th. Just a few immediate family members were present for the short service, and their parish priest said some words and said some prayers. They then drove over to the cemetery. The funeral director handed them each a pink rose, broken off a wreath that had encircled the urn at the church, and each of them placed one inside.

Then Loribeth’s husband walked up to where Katie’s urn had been placed, in a special niche. He placed a toddler’s board book beside it, a Classic Pooh book called Pooh and Some Bees.

“ ‘After all,’ he said to me when he bought it a few days earlier, ‘she would have grown up in a house full of books.’ “

***

Loribeth soon found that after Katie’s passing, many people, both friends and family, didn’t know what to say. One firmly told her: “Lori, it’s a tragedy.” One friend told her: “Well, you know, Lori, you’ve had a pretty easy life up until now.” One relative brought her some towels as a gift, hugged her and said: “We won’t talk about it anymore.” (And she never has.)

Loribeth returned to work after Canadian Thanksgiving in October:

“…people dropped by my office to say hello. Some of the women asked questions about what had happened. Most of the guys, looking uncomfortable, just said, ‘Glad to have you back’ & left as quickly as they could, lol.”

***

Loribeth was determined to move fast to try to get pregnant once more: she was not going to listen to her family doctor’s laissez faire advice again. She began testing, was referred to an RE’s practice and then she and her husband began fertility treatments. She went through three IUIs, then had to choose whether to pursue an IVF cycle. Her husband was against it: the chances of success were not good, and he was worried about Loribeth’s health. Shortly after her last IUI, she suffered a scary episode where she felt her chest tighten and she had to rush to the emergency room. The doctor diagnosed her with anxiety: the stress was becoming too much.

“I said I was 85-90% of the way there. I know we could do more — more IUIs, IVF — but emotionally, physically, mentally, I’m not sure I can do it anymore. I said I still wanted to keep the door open crack. And I said I needed a holiday!!”

They took a holiday, visiting Cannon Beach, Oregon among other places.

“We took long walks along the beach, explored the quaint little shops in town, sat around bonfires on the beach, watching the sun set over the Pacific, & enjoyed the company of my extended family. When we returned home, it was with the perspective and courage to say ‘enough’ & farewell to further treatment.”

For a myriad of reasons (the cost, their ages, the further complexities involved in “just adopting” and the general exhaustion from struggling with Katie’s stillbirth and the infertility rollercoaster, a ride that had lasted six years), Loribeth and her husband decided to not pursue adoption.

They decided to take “The Road Less Traveled.”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference
Robert Frost

***

Loribeth’s “less-traveled road” has not always been easy.

“The decision not to have children — for whatever reason(s) — is extremely personal and complex, and not well understood by others in our highly pronatalist society — even within our own ALI community where — we know — we are some people’s worst nightmare come true. It’s extremely difficult to go against societal norms, not to mention our own biological impulses. For all the positive and wonderful advantages of childless/free living (& there are many), it can be a lonely place to be sometimes.”

She often comments on articles from the mainstream media on her blog: some about the “selfishness” attached to not parenting and messages in society that a woman’s worth is only or mostly based upon whether she is a mother. Mother’s Day can be a very difficult time for Loribeth and others like her.

But mostly she shines a light on a little known world that needs more attention: the world of those who are childless, not by choice. She is an inspiration to many because of her witty and warm writing, her clever critiques and her fascination with documenting the universe she knows. She works hard, keeps meticulous records for future generations, she dotes on her nephews. She enjoys nothing more than spending time with her husband, the love of her life, whether listening to Bruce Springsteen together on the way to work, looking forward to the possibility of an early retirement or spending Christmas with him and her family.

“If there is one thing that has helped us as we made the transition to childless/free living, I think it’s the certainty both of us felt, right from the beginning, that we could still have a good life together, just the two of us — because we already did. And I think it’s important to know that in your bones, to truly believe that, if you are considering a childless/free life, for whatever reason.

…The hard truth is, not all infertility stories end with a baby. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a happy ending. Maybe it’s just a different kind of happy ending than we’ve all been programmed to expect.”

And she keeps the memory of her beloved daughter alive.

“There is a part of me that loves to write/talk about my pregnancy & my daughter. She is still (& always will be) a part of my life and, on a certain level, it brings me a wistful pleasure to think about her, even if her story is ultimately a sad one.”

To visit the extraordinary Loribeth’s blog, please click here.

Image from http://winniethepoohpictures.blogspot.com

42 Comments

Filed under Adoption, Faces of ALI, Infertility

For Research: What’s the Most Hurtful Thing Someone Has Said To You About Infertility or Loss?

Straight-up survey, yo.

I discovered today a “new” way people who are infertile are marginalized and/or left out of social discussions. I had never heard this discussion before. And it was painful.

It was: where did you conceive your child? Answers were varied, but mostly of the planned romantic trip variety: Oh, Paris! Egypt! The Plaza! The Carribean! After our home team won a big game!

I stayed silent. Because, yeah. I didn’t get to do that. Not the bottom of the barrel of things I’ve ever heard. But a subtle reminder: I’m different.

What is the worst thing anyone has said to you, deliberately or “on accident” or just in a conversation that made you feel really badly as someone who is infertile/gone through loss? Please respond in the comments section.

Thanks!

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Filed under Infertility, Miscarriage

Flattened

February has been an especially cruel month to this community.

First, was the awful tragedy Marwil endured.
Second was the cruel loss of Wordgirl’s brother-in-law.
And finally, Mo. Please click here and here for the latest.

Thank you, all of you, for your kind words for Mo. I keep going over and over these words that Amy shared, over on Rachel’s blog:

I don’t know why, but I’m a little shocked at how flattened I am by this news – I’ve mostly lurked at Mo’s blog for a long time, and she’s commented on mine once or twice at most, I think. Not a lot of interaction, really, but I am totally failing at my no-crying-at-work rule. Just goes to show how powerful the community is and how meaningful sharing these ALI experiences is – all of our hearts are breaking for her, I know….so much love to her, Schmerson, and Schmaby.

Esperanza wrote a post that bravely questioned why we are so, well, flattened by these awful tragedies.

The truth is, we are all friends. Real friends, not just “Internet friends.” Even though in most cases we have never met face-to-face, it’s like we are in the same sorority or dorm floor in college. Separated from friends and families, we share our histories (about ALI, instead of the douchey guys my friends and I used to obsess over at University), we listen to each other’s stories, we laugh. And when one of us is hurt, we cry.

And today we are thinking of our friend Mo, and our hearts are broken. I want to dedicate this poem to the tremendous Mommy Odyssey, her gorgeous husband and their beautiful baby boy. We love you, we ache for you, we are so angry that you have to endure this and we send all of our strength and kindness and all the best parts of ourself to you. We know it’s not enough, dammit, not even anywhere near enough.

Funeral Blues, WH Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

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Filed under Sad