Grief Without Faith

I spent some time reading pregnancy loss stories tonight. I have a lot to say about facing this kind of loss. But I’m going to leave it with these thoughts for tonight, because otherwise we’ll end up with a long angry ranty piece of work that I don’t really want any of us to have to read right now.  

 

I am thankful for all the stories my fellow empty armed mothers have shared. Despite the horrible reminder of what we’ve all been through, these stories also remind me that I’m not alone, and that the horrible cyclone of grief I experience daily is not abnormal. 

 

I have two issues with all these blogs and articles and stories…. 

 

1. It seems like all these women got to see their baby. I feel like a fraud. There was no fetus. He never made it that far. I can’t even frame a little picture of my alien strongbad looking baby in my womb. Because he never made it that far. All I got was emptiness. They didn’t even let me keep the picture of that hollow darkness. 

 

2. All these stories seem to be from the perspective of Christian women. I need to know how to cope and this view point does not help me. I can’t pretend to believe in a God I don’t believe in just so I can have some comfort. I need to know how to cope as a non religious, non christian, part time earth worshiping tree hugger, with atheistic tendencies. I need to know how to cope from a Non Religious standpoint. Where are the articles for people like me??

 

It’s hard enough dealing with pregnancy and child loss without feeling even further separated from the rest of ‘our kind.’

Where are the articles on Grief without Faith? 

Seriously, please, someone tell me. I’m losing my fucking mind.

 

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Saint Neville’s Day

When I found out that I was pregnant, I counted out the days until our baby would be with us. 

To my delight, my due date shared a birthday with my literary hero, Neville Longbottom.

For the past fourteen years, Neville has shown me what strength and friendship and love and family and bravery are. One of the greatest heroes to ever step from the page into my heart.

Today is Neville’s birthday. Today was my little bear’s due date.

I won’t be available for conversation today. 

But I won’t mind a bit if you raise your forkful of cake in Neville and Bear’s honor.

A Letter

Dear Baby,

 

I’ve been thinking about the future and in a non-morbid more-of-a-practical way I’ve been thinking about things like my immanent demise. Not like, (good gods I hope not), tomorrow or anything, but as I’ve learned ever so deeply this year, things don’t always happen how or when we think they will.

 

You haven’t even been conceived yet, but I’m thinking a lot about you. You see, your father and I want to meet you desperately. It took a long time after our great disappointment this past year to get excited about trying to meet you. It is scary and hard to trust that we might or might not get the chance.

 

You see, your older brother was supposed to be born next week.

 

I say brother because I am certain that is what he would have been. Of course, we will never know for certain. And I say supposed to because if everything had gone as planned, he would have been.

 

But as I’ve said, things don’t always go according to plan, or expectation, or hope.

 

But we’re finally managing to stay positive that you might someday arrive, and hopefully, that day will be soon.

 

As I said, I’ve been thinking about the other side of things a bit this week. Like, your daddy and I should each write a Last Will and Testament. I’ve never thought about needing one. But now that I have a husband, it seems so much more important. And if you come to stay with us it will be more important still. And then I started thinking just now, what if something happened to me after you arrived and you never really got to know me personally. You would have stories from your dad, and your grandparents, and your aunts and uncles. You would have stories from our friends. And hopefully you would feel like you had known me even just a little.

 

So I decided to write you this letter, baby girl. This letter is so that you know a few more things about me that you’d probably hear from your dad and some other important people, but I want you to hear it from me, too.

 

Because I assumed you would be reading this after I was gone, I had at first written it in past tenses, though perhaps it would be more comforting, though potentially more confusing, in the present tense. It might be a little muddled, but I hope it is ok.

 

Dear Baby,

Mommy was a dancer. She loved modern dance and ballet. Sometimes she even did belly dancing and ballroom dancing (which she learned with Daddy before they got married). She loved her pointe shoes, but they hurt her feet a lot. Hopefully some of them will survive so that you can see them. But don’t put them on your feet, because you might get injured if you do so before your teacher says you are ready. If you ask Nana, that is why Mommy’s ankles always hurt her so much. When she went to college, Mommy danced an awful lot and got very good at it. She even taught other kids to dance after she graduated. She doesn’t think she did a very good job at this, but she loved helping those kids enjoy dance as much as she did. There are a few photographs of Mommy dancing, and if you can find a VHS player you can even watch a video of her. Movement was very important as a mode of expression, as an art form, and as her voice, when words would not suffice. Mum hopes you will find that joy as well, whether in dance, or another artform.

 

Mommy loved to make costumes. She loved to sew and to knit. She loved playing make-believe and she loved fairy stories. But really she liked to be practical too. Sometimes these things worked very well together.

 

Mommy hoped that you would love Harry Potter like she did and that you will always be brave even when you are really very scared. Mommy hopes you will read To Kill a Mockingbird so you can understand about courage from the words of Harper Lee and Atticus Finch.

 

Mom liked to cook and to bake. Well, she Loved it, really. But it took her a long time to find the confidence to do it. She was often afraid she was messing everything up but was particularly giddy when something turned out just right, because that made it seem like it was really beyond perfect.

 

And Mommy loved you more than all of it.

 

So, now, little baby that hasn’t even been conceived, I hope you know a couple important things about your mother now. I hope you will never have to read these things to know them. I hope you will know them from me personally. Because I want you to help me to sew pretty clothes for you. And I want you to help me measure the flour for biscuits. And I want you to dance with me and your daddy, and laugh, and read fairy tales, and be brave warriors. I want us to do all these things together. But in case we can’t, now you have this little letter, from me to you.

 

Love, Mum.

Unholy Days

A lot of holidays have lost most of their meaning for me in adulthood. I am not religious, but I always celebrated a mix of secular-religious days as a kid, including Christian, Jewish, and Pagan traditions. I’ve had Jewish Seder and Easter egg hunts all in the same weekend. We had a Christmas tree in the living room next to the menorah. I used to drag a fallen branch out of the forest and tie ribbons to it, making a May Pole in the meadow behind our house.

In college, however, my separation grew. We worked through every weekend in the theatre and had class on every bank holiday, so I almost never even remember what day is which and when. The ones I tend to remember (and the ones that never change) are holidays like New Year’s and Christmas.

Even so, holidays have gotten to be progressively harder for me over the past four months. 

Just three weeks after our early November wedding, my husband and I found out we were expecting. The excitement and wonder didn’t last more than a month when at our first prenatal exam we found out that I had a condition called a blighted ovum – which you can read about here. The conclusive pronouncement happened two days before Christmas, crushing any hope I’d had of celebrating my favourite holiday with joy. 

We had told our families on Thanksgiving, the loss came at Christmas, and now at every Holiday I have to muster all my strength not to hide in the bedroom with the door locked when it’s time to go celebrate.

Yesterday was Easter, and we arrived at my in-laws at about 12:00 noon, and sat there at the end of the driveway for at least ten minutes. I could not even open my car door. Nic sat with me holding my hand reminding me that everyone inside loves me and that no one is judging me for what happened – for what I cannot stop myself thinking is my greatest failure, despite my absolute knowledge that there was nothing to be done to change the outcome of that pregnancy and its inevitable loss. I still feel like I lied to them. That I should have waited. That I should have known better than to spread a secret without knowing how much of it was true.

I keep going over every moment from the time we found out until the agonizing final physical loss and on into a future of uncertainty and fear.

A future of should-be-bright holidays.

So many of those days are kid-centric. Like Easter. There were all the cousins’ little ones running around the yard picking up colored eggs filled with chocolate in the bright hot April sunshine, and there was I on the deck, laughing at the antics of these kids that I adore, trying to suppress the ache in knowing that their expected playmate won’t be coming for at least another year, assuming all goes well next time around.

What little connection I had to these myriad holidays has been replaced by sadness and shame, all excitement for these events replaced with anxiety and fear.

Everyone kept wishing me a Happy Easter, and I tried to make it one. But honestly, it was really hard, and as for mainstream holidays, I don’t think I really care anymore.

I think perhaps we’ll just have to make our own holidays from now on. Ones that only my household will celebrate. The days we triumphed personally.  

Our anniversary. The day we met. Our next vacation. Our next adventure.

Baby Pictures

I know it’s just a little thing, but I worry a lot, so I wanted to clear up any doubt I might have accidentally dribbled around.

Yes, I am sad and disappointed that I am not going to have my baby this July, as planned. I sometimes get very very sad looking at other people’s announcements and baby updates and whatnot.

But, I will never tell you to stop showing off your beautiful family.That would not at all be fair. In truth, I adore many of the photos I see and the excitement I know you are each feeling at the fortune and fabulousness that you have received and worked so hard for.

Sometimes that’s not so true. Sometimes I hide your posts. But it isn’t because of you. It isn’t that I dislike you or your pretty baby. It’s that I can’t look right now because I am thinking of the baby I won’t have and the longing overtakes my joy for you and I have to hide your pictures and posts or I will lose my calm completely.

Today I’m in a pretty good place. I still get teary and choked up at odd times and in response to certain stimuli, but overall, I am in a very good place. So today I did look at all your pretty babies and I smiled and I even laughed with glee at how gorgeous these children are in all their chubby cheeked muddy kneed goofy grimacing glory. I am so happy for each and every one of you. You have been so fortunate to bring that child into the world. And I hope someday to join you as a parent. It might not be today, but it will be someday, and I am very much looking forward to it. And I am so happy for you. So happy! Thank you so much for sharing and keep those updates coming. 

 

xoxo

Hollowed

It has been a while since I posted. But I have something really important to say, so I’m going to say it here, and hope that it reaches a lot of people, because it’s something we don’t talk about, and that makes us not want to talk about it, even when what we really need is to talk about it, so that it’s not so fucking scary and we maybe don’t feel so goddamned alone.

A friend just posted the following link on FB and I have to say, I think it’s really well said.

Why Miscarriage Matters When You Are Pro-Life

The entire post made me think a lot about pregnancy and the various outcomes. And I think I’m finally able to say my part.

Perhaps I ought not have to say this, but I also feel I should, so that you understand I am not in any way preaching, but rather sharing something that I experienced, in hopes that more people understand. The other author was able to present her viewpoint with grace and without judgement, and I hope I can do the same.

I am Non-Theistic.

I am Pro-Choice.

I believe that choice is each woman’s right. But I must be clear that this belief does not stop me from being extremely envious of those of you who had the choice to make. To those unfamiliar with what being Pro-Choice actually means, the following might seem less Pro when compared to how eloquently the other author explained the Pro-Life side of things. I assure you, just because I would have kept my baby does not mean that I think anyone should be forced to carry to term when they do not wish to.

The following gets a little rambly. But that’s how my brain is these days.

I had a miscarriage and it hurt and continues to hurt like Hell, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally.

My baby, our baby, never even had a chance.

We had a pregnancy condition known as Blighted Ovum. I say ‘known’ but the truth is that not very many people know this is even a possibility. We didn’t, and most people we have told haven’t heard of it either.

I am still shocked, stunned, and brokenhearted.

A blighted ovum occurs when the genetic material is somehow messed up. This seems to be the problem causing a huge number of miscarriages. Everyone we talked to simply stated that ‘it’s most likely a problem with the chromosomes’ but no one has ever explained what that means. No doctor, midwife, nurse, article, or blog entry has ever explained why, when the egg and sperm were able to create a pregnancy at all that they could be so . . . . dysfunctional. And that hurts, too. Not knowing hurts. Not understanding hurts.

So what happens when the chromosomes are all effed up? When the gestational sac forms, the fetus simply doesn’t. The material simply does not come together. It does not form. And you are left looking at an ultrasound of a black empty space in your womb where your baby should be.

And then you go home and you cry harder than you have ever cried. And you shake. And you nearly hyperventilate. And you scare the shit out of your dog, and probably all your neighbors. And you figure they probably think you are being murdered, because how can anyone still be alive after wailing so loud for so long and crying until there can’t possibly be anything left to cry out.

And you are left to shakily write an email to your far-flung family members telling them the news that you cannot possibly say out loud during a phone call which you will never ever get through because you’d have to speak with words that someone might be able to understand. Words that in your mind equate to, “Sorry, I’m a big fat liar.” or perhaps, “Just Kidding! LOL.” But in truth, they are words that crush your soul. And you have your husband hit the send button because you can’t bear to do so – to make it real.

And you have to put away the toys you and your husband stealthily bought at Christmastime, and the irreplaceable and probably handmade present sent from your sister wrapped up with a little note “For ???” (the place holder ‘name’ you had given your little Zygote when you first told everyone you were expecting with an adorable family portrait of the two of you pointing to your hidden belly with your dog in the background looking jealous), and the books on pregnancy, and the prenatal workout dvds, and the prenatal vitamins, and the nausea suckers, and the positive HPT, and your hopes and your dreams.

And you have to go on. And you have to find the strength to either tell everyone what you can’t bear to say aloud or suffer in silence pretending everything is all right because you cannot explain it again, you can’t say it out loud.

And you have to wait. You have to wait for that babyless mass in your uterus to decide it knows it no longer belongs there. You have to wait, knowing you are going to miscarry.

You can choose to abort. But then, the doctor could have been wrong. And even though all your symptoms of pregnancy have stopped, you still hold on to that fragment of hope, that tiny little mustard seed of faith, that you might just might have been less far along and maybe your baby will show up soon. Maybe it’s still going to happen.

But then one day you start to bleed, just a little at a time, and for a week you bleed, and you wonder when you’ll stop. Because the midwives and nurses told you that you would probably just experience a heavier than normal period.

[Boy were they fucking wrong.]

And then a week after you started bleeding you wake up at 2:45 in the morning with cramps that feel like a knife is stuck in your SI joint. And you go to the bathroom, and get back in bed, and climb right back out again because you can’t find a position that is comfortable, and then you spend the next 8 or 9 hours basically in labor, mostly sitting on the toilet because the waves of tissue extracting themselves from your uterus just keep on coming. And you crouch, sobbing on the floor between contractions. And you have to, in the middle of all this, call your clients to cancel their appointments for that day and they want to know when they can rebook and you want to say, “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW HOW ABOUT WHEN I AM NOT VOMITING MY LOWER INTESTINES OUT OF MY VAGINA,” but you calmly try to find your pocket calendar and reschedule on a day you hope that you will be able to stand upright again.

And then your pelvis hurts so much that you can barely walk, and your thighs hurt in a bruised sort of way like they’ve been beaten because of how long you sat on the toilet, and you give up your ideas of a perfect natural birth someday, and go to the pharmacy and pick up your narcotics to try to dull the pain of what just happened to you.

And then, slowly, you start to make a list of things you can do now that you are no longer pregnant. It’s a list to try and find some happiness. Ours includes travel, and weight loss (I was 20 lbs overweight when we conceived and I plan to be way healthier before we try again, for my own sake, if for no other reason), and drinking every bottle of my favourite wine that I can get my hands on.

And there is so much fear. Will it happen again? Statistically, probably not. Will something else go wrong? Possibly. There is no way of telling. I did everything right during this pregnancy. No alcohol. Balanced diet. Exercise.

It didn’t matter. There was nothing we could have done differently to prevent it. Nothing.

That doesn’t make it easier.

I have struggled with depression and anger and guilt. I do every day. Every day.

I’m not going to get over it. I am hoping I can get through it.

I hope you never have to experience this first hand. I hope to whatever power is out there that you never have to experience this first hand. It sucks. OK? It sucks. And I am not okay and I won’t suddenly be okay. So please don’t expect me to be.

Know that I am extremely grateful to my amazing husband who has been my stability, my shoulder, my co-mourner, my heart and my light through all of this.

There are a lot of articles on things you should never say to someone in my position and I recommend you look them up real quick before you respond to this or anyone else’s story.

FYI, I don’t take sympathy well. It makes me queasy, to be honest. And advice can go jump off a bridge. Seriously. So, just don’t.

But now you all know a fraction of what I’ve been experiencing for the past two months.

And why when I say I am pro-choice, I mean it with as much of my heart as I can muster.

And yes, it still makes me choke that I did not get that choice.

But everyone deserves your respect and your sympathy, whatever your views have been on abortion and miscarriages. Please just try to spare a little love for every single being, whether they ever made it or not, for whatever reason.

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