Leah, from Everyday Love, asked me to write a guest post about our Journey to Parenthood a couple of months ago and her request got lost in my brain (and in my email) until recently when she wrote me and gave me a date! I follow Leah on Instagram and have loved seeing little Avery grow up. I think this series is so awesome because parenthood is ALL a journey, no matter what your journey is, we all have one. I love reading about everyone’s journey, and sometimes experiencing it right along with friends/family, because our path to becoming parents is so different. No matter what your journey is, it helps to know there are others around who are on a journey too, whether they are about to have a baby or have a 6 year old. Sharing helps us come together as mamas and appreciate/celebrate our differences and I love that.
Tell us about your journey to parenthood.
Ian and I started trying to get pregnant around April 2010. On December 8, 2010 I looked at that little stick and saw two lines, after trying for 8 months. We were actively trying, exhausted and so happy to finally see something come of all our wishing, hoping and waiting. We were instantly parents, thought of the name Tinsel (since we were hanging tinsel on our Christmas tree the night I took a test) and called our baby blueberry from the moment we found out about her. We imagined her, planned our life around her, started taking monthly pregnancy pics and getting so excited. It never crossed my mind that anything could happen, other than me having a happy, healthy pregnancy and getting the baby of our dreams.
On January 22nd, 2011, I called a friend and went to the emergency room because I was bleeding. I assumed that nothing was wrong, called my doctor and they said spotting is common, and decided to go just for “piece of mind” but it was “probably nothing.” We had to wait forever, I had to pee so bad (they make you have a full bladder for an ultrasound, and when we were called back to the ultrasound room, I expected to see our baby on the screen, healthy and ok. Hadn’t we just seen her at the doctor, at 8 weeks, heard her beating heart? Wasn’t she just totally fine? Doesn’t your risk of miscarriage drop after you hear a heartbeat (at least that’s what I read)?
On the screen was our baby, hunched over and not moving. The ultrasound tech didn’t say anything, had me go to the restroom to empty my bladder to get a better look and again, there was our baby, at 8 weeks and 3 days, not alive. I was supposed to be 12 weeks and our baby was gone. It was the saddest day of my life (and I blogged about it here).
We were wheeled back to the hospital room where we met my mom and my friend and told them the news. We all didn’t understand, how could this happen? I had to lay through a full, painful and embarrassing check up and then was sent home to have a natural miscarriage with some painkillers. Later I received a huge hospital bill for nothing, they couldn’t even bring our baby back to us. They shouldn’t charge you for things like this.
We took a week off of work and there were a lot of days I didn’t want to get out of bed. I have never been depressed in my life, didn’t know what the darkness felt like but now I knew. We did a lot of crying, hugging, cuddling and leaned on each other. I had a natural miscarriage at home and it was a horrible experience, one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (I blogged about the details of having a natural miscarriage at home here, but I wouldn’t suggest reading that post unless you, or someone very close to you, is going through this. I wrote it because there was nothing out there like my post, nothing to tell me what to expect.)
In May of 2011 we started trying again. I wasn’t mentally ready before that and either was Ian, we needed some time to grieve. In November we found out we were pregnant again with our little Lemon and I was scared to death. I vowed never to compare pregnancies, babies and experiences and so we started anew, even though it was hard. Every day I expected to see blood, every day I tried not to dwell on the past – it was a constant struggle. We took one day at a time, celebrated the milestones and I gave birth to our little Lemon on July 2nd, 2012 (read her birth story here)!
What is something that helped you get through hard times?
You have to have a supportive husband and friends, without them I wouldn’t have made it. Surround yourself with people who love you. We closed ourselves off, it was just easier that way, and I felt like I disappointed everyone somehow. Try not to close yourself out, everyone just wants to help and share your grief with you. Don’t harden up, everything will get better and you will heal.
Take time off of work if you need it, your mental health is most important. Do something fun with someone you love. We took a trip to Sedona with a friend who flew in from out of town, went to the aquarium and tried to get out of the house. Do things together that will take your mind off things, even though you will never forget.
Lean on people. Share your grief. It took me awhile to realize that I wasn’t the only one who lost a baby that day, my parents lost a grand baby and so did Ian’s parents. It was hard on everyone but I was so stuck in my sadness I didn’t see it. I didn’t even see my husband hurting as much as he was. Share your loss with others. (My husband even wrote a post on my blog about his experience, it definitely helped him to deal with his grief.)
Find people and commiserate. So many women came forward, after our loss, to share their stories and it made me feel so much better. You feel so alone, so defeated, so angry and hurt – find others who have had a similar loss and know you aren’t alone. There is no reason to feel alone and like you failed, you didn’t, this happens to 25% of all pregnancies. It is more common than you think, take stock in that, and know that we have all been there.
Don’t compare. When you are pregnant again, after a loss, it is so hard to be happy and not spend every day worrying. Try. Don’t compare pregnancies, babies or anything else. Start fresh. These are two, separate events, they are not the same. Try to be happy.
Stay positive because that’s all you can do. Think happy thoughts, think healthy thoughts, plan for the future (even if you don’t want to because you are afraid). Envision the family you’ve always wanted, you will have that family, it just may not be in the way you originally thought.
Let go. I found that after I lost the baby I got really controlling of my second pregnancy, and even know, in my parenting. It’s hard for me to let someone help, let others do things (even my husband) because I feel like I couldn’t control that situation but can control this one. It is really hard to change this habit I’ve developed and I’m not sure how to do it. Losing our baby was the first time something was totally out of my hands, and I have trouble letting go to things I can control now. Do you know what I mean? It’s so hard to explain.
It’s also hard to get attached to Lemon, and it was extremely hard before I met her. It has come more, with time, but while I was pregnant and probably for that first year – it was really difficult. I just felt that if I got too close to her she would go away, something would happen, and she would be taken from me suddenly. So I let myself stay kind of detached and it was hard to connect. I think it was a defense mechanism that was hard to reverse, kind of like what I mentioned above. Try to attach, have faith that everything will be ok.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone on their own, unexpected, journey?
Trying to have a family is a journey, just like finding that person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, that was a journey too. And just like that journey, everyone’s journey to being a parent is so different. You can’t compare yours to others and you can’t dwell on the past, you have to stay positive and only look towards the future.
Everyone has a journey and it’s when you realize that, your journey gets a bit easier. Whether it takes you years to get pregnant, you have twins, you adopt, you have a miscarriage (or a few) – it’s all part of your journey and everyone has one. We all have a story to tell and you aren’t alone.
And, guess what? After you have that family you’ve always dreamed of (and you WILL), it doesn’t stop. There is more to your journey and it’s tough at times and crazy but so worth it. Hang in there, and stay positive – we can do this.
We are all in this together whether we are just starting our journey as parents or if we have kids already in high school. Moms have to stick together, work together and encourage each other instead of shaming each other or offending each other. So many times I have felt like someone was against something I was doing, for my family, and I thought – “shame on them.” Only you know what is best for your family and you have to trust your gut. Your instinct will tell you what is right for you, not anyone (and definitely not google). Listen to your heart, you know what to do.
Is there anything you wish you would have done differently or is there anything you would change, looking back?
am the type of person where I would rather know next time than not
know. I think the hardest part for me was that my blueberry had died
weeks before I knew and weeks before my body let her go. Our next
pregnancy, with Lemon, at the advice of a friend, I bought a doppler on
eBay for $50 and listened to Lemon’s heartbeat every night starting at
12 weeks. It brought me comfort and helped me to connect to her, even
though she wasn’t with us just yet, in our arms.
I wish I
would have known about blueberry early, that she hadn’t survived, so I
could have had a D&C instead of having to wait for months then days
for my body to finally figure it out. The waiting was horrible because
once we found out, I just wanted it to be over. It was an immediate
feeling like I am done with this and want to start healing – but I
couldn’t. I had to be patient and it killed me. I would have opted for
a D&C if I would have known sooner and wouldn’t have had to
experience a natural miscarriage (even though I’ve read it’s better for
your body to do it naturally).
How did your journey affect your marriage (positive, negative or both)?
I think that losing our blueberry definitely brought my husband and I closer together. In grief we built a fortress and no one else could get it, it was impenetrable. And even now, sharing in that experience, we know we can get through anything – together.
Was it always like this? No. My husband was sick both physically and mentally for years after losing our baby, he attending therapy and even has pain (physical pain partly from stress) now, years later and even as a happy new dad to our one and a half year old. It never leaves you but you learn to adjust and cope, and you stick together when the going gets tough. Lean on each other. Help each other and when someone is too weak to stand, lift them up.
How can you help a friend who is going through infertility or loss?
It’s hard to know what to say when someone experiences something like this, even after having gone through it myself. The only advice I ever give is – there is light at the end of the tunnel. All of those days I didn’t want to get out of bed, or those dark nights I thought would never end – they did and I saw the light again.
You will have the family you always wanted, don’t give up. You just may have to let go of the “how” and the “when” of it all and just have faith that it will happen as it is supposed to happen. I am not a very religious person but I do have faith and I do believe that things happen for a reason. I was taught, out of my experience, to let go and trust. And I did and have the family I wanted. I can’t control everything, I can’t do everything and sometimes life throws things at you that you never even imagined. But, have faith that you will get what you want, it just may not be how you always imagined it.
But, when it does happen, it is how you always imagined it, you just didn’t know it before.
Peace, light and love to all of my sisters who have gone through infertility or loss, or who will in the future. I hope this post, this blog, my blog and others like ours can help you to know you aren’t alone. We’ve been there and have survived and you will too. I know it. Hang in there.