Finding Joy After Pregnancy Loss
It's been years since I've written about our struggle to grow our family, pregnancy loss, miscarriages and my ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
Partly because it still makes my heart hurt, and partly because we are just too busy living live and having fun. Yes, we are having fun. I used to feel guilty saying that.
My babies died, and here I am enjoying life.
It all started years ago. After over a year of trying I'm finally pregnant. I'm already feeling sick and I don't care. I'm so happy!
And then I'm not, life starts to spiral down fast. I go every 2 days for blood work and ultrasounds. I have what looks like a baby growing in my uterus, but I'm also having pain on my side. I can take the shot to end the pregnancy because either I have a baby in my uterus and one in my tube (although we can't see it) or there is a baby in my tube and a “false” growth in my uterus.
I can't take the shot. I know I should, but I just can't. I wish I was braver.
Another week goes by and we tell our families about the baby. I justify it that no matter what happens it is a baby, and I love it, and I want everyone to know that it's real.
That afternoon I'm driving to the grocery store with my then 6 and 4 year olds. All of a sudden I can't breath, I feel like I'm being stabbed. I feel something tearing inside me… then I don't feel any more pain just pulsing. I think to myself… I might pass out.
I call Pete and he calls my Dad (to meet us and watch the kids) and then the Dr.
I drive back home the whole time on side streets (just in case) and I tell my 6 year old to push the emergency button on the car if I pull over and stop talking. I get home. We drive to the hospital. They are waiting for me. They offer pain meds because the pain is back. I decline because it's bad for the baby (denial). They prepare to do an ultrasound and there is blood everywhere. I start to understand. My doctor arrives. I lose my baby and my tube. It was an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. I could have died but I didn't. Even getting pregnant had been a struggle and involved 2 surgeries and I didn't just lose my baby, I also lost my last Fallopian tube. I couldn't “just get pregnant again”.
My baby died and now I want to die too.
Ten days later my Doctor calls… the pathology report says “normal fetal tissue”.
I ask when I will start to feel better and I don't mean physically.
Years go by. We do more rounds of IVF than I can remember. The baby (and babies) implant… and then I lose them. Numbers rise, bleeding starts. It's a horrible cycle and I slip deeper into a depression.
We decide to do a “throw everything we've got” cycle. Every drug, treatment… everything you can imagine and it still doesn't work. The baby is gone and I'm a medical mess. I can't walk, can't eat, can't focus, can't imagine living after this last loss.
And the worst part was that I felt like there was no support to help me through this. Pete and girls were amazing and they really were the only reason I kept on going. But they too were in pain, but we stuck together and it helped us all heal.
But everyone outside of our little family either didn't know what to say and said nothing, or the words they did say just caused more pain.
From “you can always have more” to “at least it wasn't a real baby” or my favorite was how I should be thankful for the kids I did have, normally followed by how the loss in their own life was much worse than mine so I should just be happy.
Even then I knew that there were those that had suffered much greater losses than I, those words didn't help to heal my broken heart.
What I really needed to hear were these things:
1. It does get better. It's not something that happens over night. In fact six years after my last loss I just now realized that I'm really happy again. This doesn't mean that I don't think about those babies and get sad. I totally do… but sadness doesn't consume me now.
2. Sadness is necessary. It helps lead you to happiness by aiding you in processing your feelings. If you don't allow yourself to feel it, you will never feel better.
3. You will be okay. You will be okay. You will be okay. When you are at your darkest moments keep telling yourself this. You don't need to know how you will be okay, just know you will be okay.
4. It was a real baby. It was loved. That is all that matters.
5. Yes, your baby died. This is so harsh, but I wanted someone to acknowledge this. It was alive with a heart beat, it died. I think people are scared to say this because admitting there was a death makes things more serious to everyone. But let me say it again, yes, your baby died.
6. It's going to be hard. Grieving is going to suck. You will make it though. Take it day by day. Push yourself to live life. Set goals. Make a plan to grow your family. There are a lot of ways to build a family. Look into all your options.
7. If something is funny, happy, silly or fun it's okay to smile and laugh. You can still experience other emotions and still be horribly sad and grieving. This is part of the process.
And six years later this is what my life is like:
I have that desperately wanted third baby. She is five right now. I am healed and out of that deep dark place. I don't want to say she healed me, because that is a lot of pressure for one little girl to hold, but she definitely helped… just like my other girls and Pete helped. The bad days are few and far between. It's been years since I've had a day that I was so consumed with grief that I couldn't enjoy life.
I treasure every moment. Seriously. Every happy day is something I treasure so much more than I ever did before.
I cry when I'm happy. I feel things more than I ever did. Happy commercials leave me sobbing in a good way.
I don't allow negativity into my life. My circle of friends are carefully chosen… I know how short life can be and what a gift it is. I don't waste a moment.
I keep those that don't value life like I do at bay. If they have to be in my life I limit the time we spend together and I build a wall internally to protect myself. I've come so far to let anyone break my stride!
I allow myself to day dream about my lost babies. I know how old they would be, I acknowledge when they would have started kindergarten and I think about what they would have looked like. I allow pain and sadness into my life to keep their memory alive, but I don't let it overwhelm me. I also imagine them in heaven with my other family members that have passed away.
If you are where I was six years ago, I want you to know that you are going to have to work through the pain and that it's going to be okay. Life goes on and it's beautiful and worth all the ups and (horrible) downs. Never give up, life really does get better.