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Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part II

Allergies word cloud

Three months after my food allergies were identified; I learned to live a life free of: apples, almonds, bananas, corn, all dairy including butter, all grains except rice, potatoes and soy.   Although I had made these changes, I didn’t learn about them in time for it to make a difference in my pregnancy. There I was, back in the office of Dr. M, my Naturopath, the doctor who had helped me identify my food allergies and MTHFR genetic mutations, copies A&C.

Though I was no longer pregnant, I was more determined than ever to get healthy enough to conceive again. In fact, the thought of having a baby to hold was what got me through most days.

I won’t say that I was excited about getting my results. I spent most days surrounded in a cloud of grief, my body still bleeding as my levels of HCG, the pregnancy hormone, declined.

At the follow up appointment, I was ready for the results of all my hard work.   Dr. M asked if I stuck to my diet. I replied I had, with the occasional unknown exception. I was bracing myself for bad news. I thought it hadn’t worked, I thought my efforts had left my values unchanged. I was surprised when Dr. M revealed the results.

proud-woman-in-red

“Your results certainly show you’ve been working hard. You’ve done as much in three months as some of my patients do in a year!”

I was so happy to hear something was working!

Although I was overwhelmed with grief from the loss of our child, this good news gave me hope that we might be able to conceive again one day.

It was two and a half months after our loss; and yet, my HCG levels had not yet hit zero; and so we were not allowed to try to conceive. Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, suggested we wait three months after my levels hit zero to avoid having sequential miscarriages. The idea of going through another loss was something I couldn’t even handle thinking about! After a D&C we waited three months before we even considered trying.

couple grieving

Those three months were a time of healing for us. We cried a lot. Sometimes we walked around as empty shells that just went through the motions of everyday life. We didn’t feel much other than pain. We did the best we could to put one foot in front of the other. Thank God, we had each other! I can honestly say I would not have made it through this time without the support of my amazing husband, Frank.

Just as we were getting ready to try again, I received a letter from Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, telling me he was closing his practice to help other doctors learn to treat patients with the respect and kindness for which he is famous.

I was devastated, again! There I was, about to get back on the TTC roller coaster, and my doctor was getting out of the NaProTechnology business!!! It was one of those moments that made me question my journey in life and whether I was following God’s plan for me or walking the path of my own desires and wants. I quickly reminded myself that while I am strong willed; I am not patient. The only reason I could have ever stuck on the TTC roller coaster after IUI, surgery for endometriosis, and a miscarriage would be because God was with me, giving me the strength to take each step down this path. I reminded myself of something I said to my dear friend, Jordan, a few weeks before she conceived her miracle baby: “God wouldn’t have gotten us this far, only to leave us here.” I wasn’t going to quit.

Still, I had a problem. I needed a new doctor. Thankfully, Dr. C had included a list of possible new NaProTechnology doctors in his farewell letter. I made an appointment for August and called Dr. C to request lab work. He authorized estradiol and progesterone levels to be drawn on peak plus 7, what we NaPro patients call 7 days after ovulation.

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

If you’re uncertain as to why my doctor ordered estradiol and progesterone levels, the short explanation is that based on those levels NaProTechnology doctors prescribe doses of ovulation assisting medications such as letrozole, to help compensate for any ovarian dysfunction. I was unable to conceive without this medication the first time, so I was fairly certain I would need to take the medication again.

The results of the estradiol and progesterone tests were very surprising. While I was previously unable to conceive without the assistance of medication, the initial peak plus seven blood draw showed that I wasn’t having this difficulty eight months after miscarriage. My post peak estradiol was 249 and my progesterone was 28.4. I was stunned. The test results showed my levels were above normal, they had reached the optimum range for conception. Other than my vitamins, I was taking no medications.

To put this in perspective, to conceive, the post peak level of estradiol should be above 120 and progesterone should be above 15. I had gone from sub-fertile to fertile!

My husband, Frank, and I were over joyed. It appeared that it would only be a matter of time before we conceived! We followed doctor’s orders, taking the vitamins, and mucus enhancers to compensate for the damage done to my cervix by years of birth control.

Month after month my peak plus seven blood draws continued to be in the optimum range. And yet we had not conceived. At my first appointment with my new NaProTechnology physician, Dr. R flat out asked why I was there with numbers like those.

Angels’ Playground

When I first learned we had lost our baby, my heart was broken.  Like any mother, I was so worried about where our baby would go, and what would happen until we get there.  I’ve often dreamed of the moment when I will meet that child and so many of my questions will be answered.  For now, this is the place where I believe our children wait for us, playing together, under the care of loved ones who have gone before us, until we are able to hold our dear little ones one day. 

angels playing 1

Angels’ Playground

 

Somewhere beyond the Pearly Gates in Heaven, past the choirs, and the altars, lies Angels’ playground: the place where Angel babies await their mommies and daddies. The benches are filled with Grandmas, Grandpas, Great Grandparents, Aunties, and Uncles who are charged with the task of caring for these little angels until their mommies and daddies arrive.

angel playing 4

There is laughter like the Earth has never heard as these beautiful angels swing, run, and play. They hang upside down from monkey bars and chase each other, all as they pass the time waiting for that magical moment when they can meet the people whose love created them.

angels playing 5

When you enter, you hear one unique sound among the others: it is a laugh your heart immediately recognizes. Among the hordes of little angels, one stops playing, turns to you and smiles. You recognize that face! It has Mommy’s eyes, Daddy’s nose and the smile you always dreamed you would see.

angel boy

You smile as your Angel runs towards you as fast as those tiny legs will carry them. You feel your baby’s arms around your neck and embrace your child for the first time ever. The love you have carried in your heart for years finally connects with the little person whom you have so dearly missed. Your heart melts as you hear those long awaited words for the first time, “Mommy, Daddy, I love you!” “I love you, Angel!” you say as you embrace your little one. The moment you have waited for has finally arrived. You have reconnected you’re your Angel who left for heaven so long ago.

mommy angel embrace

Counting My Blessings…

As we are once again about to embark on our TTC journey, I decided to write a blog post about all the blessings in my life that I am truly grateful for. Saying there are too many to count would dismiss the beautiful blessings that are in my life every day. So here’s a brief list of the blessings for which I give thanks every day!

cross

 

  1. Faith

This list would be incomplete without giving faith its rightful place here. I’m not talking denomination, how often worship happens, or where it happens; I’m referring specifically to faith in God. Notice I didn’t say my faith? My faith has been far from rock solid through all this. I have questioned God’s plan for me more times than I can remember. I have begged him to reveal his plan for me. I often find his answers to me coming from my mouth in conversation with other NaPro sisters and friends.

God would not have gotten us this far, only to leave us here,” was my response to Jordan my dear friend and NaPro sister just as she was finishing her year of TTC and wondering if she might never have a child. She conceived her beautiful daughter in her next cycle. What could strengthen my faith better than my own NaPro mentor conceiving her miracle baby? Later, during my pregnancy, when another NaPro sister and I were speaking about her miscarriages and whether she should continue to try to conceive another child, I said, “What if your losses were God’s way of telling you that you can one day hold a child in your arms? What if that was God’s way of encouraging you to keep going, when you were about to give up trying?” Faith in God, in his plan, and in his mercy have given me peace and a way to understand this journey.

 

crafting woman

 

  1. Creativity

Whether it is in the kitchen, in paper crafts, or in my ability to plan engaging lessons for my students, creativity blesses and enriches my life every day. The ability to create delicious foods from grain free ingredients has made it possible to remove so many allergens from my diet without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Sharing this creativity with others has blessed me with delicious meals, good company, and laughter that is often absent when one lives with the ghosts of infertility and miscarriage. I am blessed to share this gift with others.

 

Woman packing up boxes

  1. The circumstances which have caused me to leave the various school districts I’ve worked for.

As I am about to leave my school district, I can’t help but be thankful for the circumstances which have led me to this decision. As a matter of fact, each time I have left a district, I have grown in ways I never could have imagined. When I left my first district to go to the second, I was happy: the money was better, it was a more secure job, and then in my second year there, I pursued a masters’ degree in a discipline which I never would have considered had I stayed in that first district. When the second district eliminated my program, it was the pursuit of that degree that made me the most qualified candidate for the position which my third district was advertising. After being let go from the second district, I made the decision to continue my studies beyond the typical 30 credit hours required for a masters’ degree. The additional certification I earned, coupled with all the grueling work I did in the third district are the reason that I am able to move on this fourth and hopefully final school district. Like infertility, these circumstances are not blessings which I would have chosen, but there’s no denying the way each and every one of these unexpected circumstances have blessed my life

 

  1. Infertility

Yes, you read that right. I consider infertility a blessing in my life. It’s not as though it’s a diagnosis or phase of life that I would ask for; but I understand its purpose in my life. Had we been able to conceive with all the challenges we had three years ago, I would not have been healthy enough to be the mommy that I want to be. I would have been constantly ill with stomach aches that I thought were “nerves” or “acid reflux;” my endometriosis would have continued to grow and may have resulted in a hysterectomy at some point. I never would have known about my food allergies or allergies to petroleum based products. This would have meant that I could pretty much count on some type of cancer later on in life; either from an immune system that was weakened by constantly fighting endometriosis, from a gut that had been terrorized by allergens for decades, or by an endocrine system that was worn down and malfunctioned due to the increased amount of insulin and other hormones it needed to produce to try and digest all the undiagnosed food allergens as well as it possibly could. I am a better person because of my infertility.

 

4 dogs

 

  1. My furbabies.

For just a few cups of kibble a day, I am blessed with the unconditional love and companionship of four amazing furbabies. All of them have their own personalities and different needs. There is never a dull moment in my life because of them. Their antics, unpredictable surprises, and ever wagging tales bless my life with purpose, the ability to be a mommy, and an endless supply of snuggles and kisses.

Friendly Medical professionals

  1. My doctors.

It cannot be easy to pursue NaProTechnology, NaProSurgery, or Naturopathy. Traditional medicine which prescribes the pill, IVF, and the FDA’s latest diet as gospel, has a prevalent hold on our medical system. It is because of their efforts that we were able to conceive our child. It must take such a courageous person to stand up and make a career out of such fields which are familiar to so few. These amazing people pursue their passions casting aside their time, wealth, and even their families.   It is because of their knowledge that I have transformed from an infertile riddled with undiagnosed endometriosis, an innumerable list of undiagnosed food allergies to a physically fit fertile woman who continues to improve her health with every bite she takes.

8 week ultrasound expect image

  1. Our baby

Despite our loss, the grief that we feel is an expression of the love which we will forever carry. Though our baby only lived in my womb for nine weeks, his or her brief life forever changed the world by making us parents. We take comfort in knowing that the loss of our child was in no way due to our actions but rather the result of a genetic anomaly called a blighted embryo. From the moment we knew we were pregnant, I have given thanks every day for the beautiful gift of our child.

 

women hanging out

 

  1. My supportive friends, family, blog followers, sisters in NaProTechnoloy, and all those who have supported me during this loss.

At first it may seem strange to lump of all of these different individuals together, but for so many it’s impossible to distinguish who is more family than friend, or who might be a friend who is family. The lack of lines in between these groups is a true testament to the unconditional acceptance you’ve given me. This network of supportive individuals includes so many people with whom I used to have nothing in common; and yet God brought us together as friends through graduate school, the gym, work, church, other friends, or here on line. The unconditional support, friendship, and persistent silent companionship of these individuals has made me feel as though I am never without a friend on this journey.

husband

  1. My amazing husband.

My husband, Frank, has been my rock, my soulmate, and the yang to my yin. He completes me. His support and patience are ever present. When I need cheering on, he is there; when my own strength cannot hold me up, he gives me his; when there’s a new grain free recipe to try, he will at least always take a bite! He makes me laugh, holds me when I cry, and never lets me take things too seriously. He’s the best, and I am a better person because of his love.

 

Friendships Change After Miscarriage

women hanging out

Infertility taught me that I already had many of the best friends on the planet. They were supportive as we pursued IUI, still supportive when we changed course and pursued NaProTechnology. Then came pregnancy! They could not have been any happier for us! There were the usual conversations about how I was feeling.

When would we announce to the general public?

What would we want to name the baby?

When would we have the ultrasound to hear the heartbeat?

 

Then; came miscarriage.

Most of our friends were stunned. Those who had experienced similar situations were supportive and shared their stories. I never knew that I was surrounded by women who had experienced such losses. They became a supportive sisterhood who gave me their strength when I had none of my own left. Whether we were best friends, or acquaintances before; they treated me as their sister in loss and gave their support without question.

women crying

Other friends who had not experienced a loss like this didn’t know what to say. Some were courageous and even said things like, “I wish I knew what to say to make this better, but I just don’t know.” I truly appreciated their honesty and my response was always, “I don’t need you to do the right thing, or say the right thing. I don’t even know what the right thing is. I just need you to be my friend.” They patiently listened, gave shoulders to cry on, and made every effort to keep things as normal as possible. They didn’t treat me any differently.   Most did their best to let me cry when I needed to and take my mind off of it when I could.

The distractions and support of friendship were truly a Godsend during the first few weeks after our loss. When I was by myself, I bled and cried, cried and bled, and prayed that it would end as quickly as possible. I was thankful for every single phone call and visit that came my way. I would not have made it through our loss without the support of so many.

despair

I was walking around as close to a zombie as a person can get. The support of true friends and family members made me feel human for a few brief moments here and there. Then, there were those statements that just hit me like a knife to the heart. Although they were only words, the unkindness of some people scarred me as though they were a fiery iron rod pressed into flesh.

I remember being on the phone with someone whom I once considered a friend. After I told her our baby had passed away, her response left me speechless. “I’m sorry I had to hear that,” she said. “You just have to stay positive.” I could not respond to her. How could she ask me to stay positive? Did she not understand that my child, the very same child whom my husband and I had tried to conceive for almost three years, had died?

heart with words

Of all the people to respond this way, I never would have guessed she’d be the one. She had experienced infertility herself and after rounds of IUI had conceived her children. Although she had never experienced a loss like ours, she had experienced loss, grief, and she understood what it was to mourn.

And yet, she dismissed my loss casually. It hurt me so much to hear her say those words. It was as though I had told her I had lost something trivial like an e-bay auction item, and she was assuring me that another one would emerge soon. There is nothing positive which a grieving mother can find in her child’s death.

EMPTY CRIB

I didn’t know what to say, and got off the phone with her as quickly as possible. In the months that followed, there were other insensitive moments; too many to count in fact. I found it beyond hurtful that friends who always counted on me to be their cheerleader during difficult times and witness to their successes, could not hold my hand, send a card, or allow me to cry on their shoulder.

For whatever reason, they couldn’t handle the situation I was in. You know what they say, if someone can’t handle sharing in your sorrows, they don’t deserve to share in your joy. And so, I have fewer friends now.

friend meme

Some left of their own accord, others tried to connect months later only to wonder why I was not as eager to spend time with them as I once was.   They didn’t seem to understand what was wrong. I didn’t want to be confrontational, but I did want to give them a chance to apologize if they truly valued our friendship.

I drove to visit one of these  friends the same week that I was bleeding like crazy. It was April, and my body had gone from what looked like end of menstrual brown bleeding to gushes of blood every 6-12 hours for days. Still I drove to visit one of these former friends, desperately hoping that there would be an apology or some reconciliation.

During the course of our conversation, I told her that I had not attended her recent gathering because I did not feel comfortable attending. She had shared the news of our pregnancy and loss with her family without my permission; so I was not up for a parade of sympathies from her family when I did not want them to know in the first place. There was no apology, there was no acknowledgement of what I had said at all. Instead she offered me a glass of water. We finished our conversation; I left, went home and bled some more.

dishes

A month later she contacted me. I should not have replied at all, but I did. I told her I had been busy bleeding and recovering from surgery. She reacted as though I had not told her about all the bleeding the day we got together. It was so hurtful to think that she wouldn’t even remember that.

I’ve never had to end a friendship before, I don’t know if there’s a right way to do it. Maybe there is a more courageous way to do it than I did. I just know that it hurt so much to have people whom I had helped so much, and shared so much with decide that our friendship’s only function was to serve their needs. And so I have not responded to any other contacts from that person. My trust has been damaged in such a way that I have no interest in ever repairing these friendships because I don’t believe they were true friendships in the first place.

Reflecting on My Identity After Miscarriage…

Sometimes I just can’t find the words to express all that is going on. One moment, I’m okay, the next moment I’m falling apart. With infertility, there were moments when I would tear up unexpectedly, and those still continue. Now, after miscarriage, there are moments when I just want to run away and hide.

The other night, my husband, Frank, and I were visiting friends at their campsite. We were having a nice time, hanging out, drinking wine, and eating delicious food. As we were getting to know the other guests, the dreaded question came up, “Do you have any kids?” Wow. There’s nothing that can take me back to that place of terror, fear, failure, and inadequacy like that question.  It was a total “deer in the headlights” moment.

deer in headlights

I don’t know how to answer that question. I hope one day I get to a place where I can be one of those moms who has children to gush over. But for now, as a mom without any living children, it’s a tough one for me. My standard answer is, “Our kids have cold noses, four legs, and tails.” After an initially puzzling moment, most people figure it out. If they have any tact whatsoever, they usually leave it alone. Thank God our new campfire friends didn’t pursue it that evening!

We had a great time at the campfire. Everyone was welcoming and the rest of the night went smoothly. We couldn’t have asked for a better evening.

campfire

The next morning, I got to thinking about my response to the question, “Do you have children?” My initial reaction was one of stone cold fear and terror. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of! So, why was I afraid? I was afraid of being judged. I felt that saying we don’t have children was the same as telling them we’re struggling with infertility.

 

Like it or not, infertility and miscarriage are looked upon as defects and eyesores which can be fixed as easily as any dent or bent fender. Not so.  Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Like heart disease, cancer, colitis, depression, diabetes, or any other legitimate medical condition: treating the symptoms won’t cure the disease; the disease itself must be treated! There isn’t a quick fix to this. It’s a long road we travel.

long road to travel

 

Many couples never experience a successful conception. Others conceive, yet never hold a child in their arms. The physical and emotional trauma we experience all for a chance at having a child, is not something that words can express. In my case, being a NaProTechnolgy patient adds two extra elements to this:

1. I’m in overall better health because of the treatment plan we’ve chosen; and

2. It’s even more difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t know progesterone from potatoes.

Perhaps that is why I have trouble answering that dreaded question, “Do you have any kids?”

Experiencing a miscarriage in January 2014 created a wound which will forever scar our hearts. It was as though we had been given everything we had ever wanted only to have it ripped away before we could even fully experience all its glory, joy, and splendor.

 

couple grieving

As painful as this was, and honestly still is, it has nothing to do with my identity as a woman, my self-worth, nor is it anyone’s business. So, why do people feel the need to ask if we have children? If we did, wouldn’t we share that information? I don’t ask people if they have pets. I let them tell me about their family.

 

If I ever want things to change, I have to be part of that change. That means, I can’t be afraid or ashamed when asked that question. I shouldn’t feel as though I need to make excuses or that I owe anyone an explanation. I need to be able to confidently say, “No, we don’t” and leave it at that.

Adivce for Those in Miscarriage Land

When we learned our baby had passed away it was as though we were instantly transported to miscarriage land, the place where our worst nightmare became reality.  We were distraught.  In between the agonizing pain there were moments of numbness which were a Godsend.  Not feeling anything at all was preferable to feeling as though we had been rubbed with sandpaper inside and out.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-image33560972

There we were in miscarriage land with no knowledge of what to expect.  Our NaProTechnology doctor shared an overview of what might happen, explaining that it would be like a “double period.”  He did his best to share a brief overview of what might happen.  He expected that I’d bleed for a week or two and within 6 weeks my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels would reach zero.  We’d have to wait three cycles before trying again. And then we’d resume our prior course of treatment.

He referred me to a local gynecologist who explained the three possible options to me.  I could either let things happen naturally, take a drug that would induce the expulsion of the contents of my uterus or have a D&C.  I chose the natural path.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-confused-woman-puts-her-hands-head-image26175683

The next phase of my journey included many things that my doctors didn’t tell me.  Maybe they didn’t know, maybe they thought it was best I discover them on my own, maybe they thought it wasn’t their place to share them.  Thanks to some amazing friends who helped me along the way, and my therapist, I’ve managed to make it through this without losing my mind.  I’ve put together the most helpful information I can.  Some are things I was told, others are things I picked up along the way.  If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer them as best I can.  Or find answers if I can’t answer your questions on my own.  You are in my prayers!

If you find yourself in miscarriage land, disoriented and not knowing where to go, here’s some information you might find useful…

*There is no flight plan for miscarriage. No natural pattern. (I was shocked to learn this)  As long as your HCG levels continue to drop week by week, you are okay.  Unless, like me, you are three months into a natural miscarriage, and need a D&C.
*You have to decide what is right for you. You may chose to have a D&C because getting this phase over is of the highest importance to you. You may want to take medication which forces your uterus to contract and expel its lining; you also have the option wait for the process to occur naturally. It takes a long time, and it is often frustrating, but it will preserve your fertility without side effects.

*This will put strain on your heart, mind, and spirit in ways that are indescribable, find some way to express yourself as you go through the process. This may mean hiring a therapist, picking up an interest or passion that has gone by the wayside, or delving deeper into something you already enjoy. Keeping your feelings locked inside you is the worst thing you can do, it will cause you to hurt even more than you are hurting now.

crafting woman

*This will last much longer than you expect it to. And just when you think it’s gone, you will find something that will trigger your feelings and bring you back to that place of indescribable loss. However terrible the anguish, pain, and sorrow you feel during these times, they will pass. They will become less frequent, and you are allowed to have fun in between!

*People may criticize or comment on the way you are going through this process. Screw them. Don’t waste your time or energy explaining this to them, they don’t have to understand to be your friend.  They just need to be your friend.  If they don’t get that, it’s okay for you to move on without them.

Lost and Confused Signpost

*People will not know how to respond to your loss. You may want to tell them something like this, “There’s nothing anyone can do to make up for the loss we are experiencing. We don’t expect that you will say the right things, or do the right things, just being our friend, and being there for us is all we ask”

*People may ask how you are feeling. I found this particularly offensive. I wanted to say, “Seriously my child died, let me tell you about the particular level of my own private hell I’m experiencing today.” I found it better to say, “I’m as okay as I can be” or “I’m hanging in there”

*There is no wrong way to go through this. You have to do what is right for you. Try to lean on those whom you know you can count on. It’s okay to accept support from friends, family, and even weird NaPro Bloggers like myself. No one should go through this alone, it doesn’t make you heroic if you try to keep a stiff upper lip, but you will have those moments where you have to put your grief in a box to get through the day.

angel baby

*It’s okay to honor love and remember your baby daily. Every life, no matter how brief, leaves an indelible mark on this world, especially on the heart of a grieving mommy and daddy.

You are in my prayers.  If you have questions, or just need to talk you can reach me by commenting below or going to my facebook page.  You are not alone in this.  Love, Catherine

Miscarriage & Insensitivity

I am continuously surprised by the insensitivity of others. If there is nothing nice to say, the least someone can do is say nothing at all. Not in our family however. We kept the news about our pregnancy discrete deliberately because we didn’t want to have to deal with everyone knowing our sorrow and holding it up to our faces when we’d rather grieve in private.

couple grieving

This is something that is not uncommon. Many couples don’t disclose their pregnancy until they are in their second trimester because of the very same reason. Our culture doesn’t have a place or even a word for a parent who has lost a child, so grieving in private is how we cope.

About a month and a half after our miscarriage, I was on the phone with one of the few people who knew of our pregnancy and loss. We had made it clear how important it was not to disclose the news until we heard the heartbeat, and when we didn’t we thanked everyone for not sharing our news as we did not want this to be broadcast to the rest of the world. So, when she told me that she disclosed our miscarriage to a distant relative whom I haven’t seen in a decade, I was more than hurt.

woman crying on the phone

I couldn’t help but interrupt her at that point. How could she share our private business with the world as if it were her own?

I lost it. I raise my voice and expressed my displeasure at her choice to share my personal information without my permission. Her response was stunning, “it’s over now” Over? Over? I was still bleeding at the time of this conversation. I hadn’t had my D&C and I was pretty raw.

I couldn’t believe she thought it was over. For me it wasn’t over, it isn’t over. I’m still mourning the loss of my child, feeling raw inside and out. As shocking as it was to hear that she thought it was over, the next few minutes of our conversation took her coldness and cruelty to a new level.

oh no you didn't

Grieving mother: “How could you share my private business with her? I asked you not to share this with anyone!”

Insensitive individual : “So I can’t tell anyone then. Will I be allowed to tell people when you’ve had a child?”

Grieving mother: “Seriously? This is not about you! You do not get to make this about you! This is my personal health and well-being, this is not your business to share!  Never mind the fact that you have no respect for me and the process I’m going through”

The conversation ended shortly after that. It has been almost two months since then. I have not spoken to this person once since. And if you’ve been following my blog, this is the same person who was cold enough to mention nothing but babies the day Prince William & Princess Kate’s baby was born, and the same person who ditched me in the middle of a crisis.

Family or not, I’ve had enough. This person needs to find someone else to bother. I haven’t heard from her in more than two months and I don’t feel the need to involve her in my life. ON the one hand I should have made that decision long ago. On the other hand, having waited this long, I feel no guilt, no remorse. Instead life is better without her and her negativity.

The Never Ending Miscarriage

Just when I thought my miscarriage had ended, there I was, back in the throes of uncertainty, and waiting to see just where my wheel of fortune would land.

A while ago, I was positively elated.  After nearly 90 days of bleeding, I thought my miscarriage had ended, and I had what I thought was period.  At the moment I can’t really tell you if that was truly a period, all I can say is that I had the normal crescendo pattern that is characteristic of menstruation:  light bleeding which builds up to a heavy red flow, then tapers to medium, then light, and finally very light brown bleeding.  However after that “period” ended things started to get really weird.

Lost and Confused Signpost

On Monday, the first day of my April Vacation, I took a late shower and decided to spend some time taking care of my body.  As I was getting dressed, I felt water on my leg.  This was odd, because I remembered drying off fairly well, just a few moments before.  I didn’t think much of it until I felt more moisture accumulate and run down my leg.  One glance told me it wasn’t water, it was blood.

Immediately, I ran to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and watched way too much blood pour out of me.  I stayed there for a few more minutes as I bled, then grabbed the thickest pad I could find and got myself situated so that I could leave the bathroom.  I was stunned by the amount of blood I had left on the bedroom carpet, but forced myself to ignore the stains so that I could call Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor.

woman crying on the phone

I reached Dr. C’s answering service.  It was just after 12:00, and his office had closed for lunch.  I left a message explaining my circumstances.  Thankfully, I had been given the low down on bleeding numerous times during my miscarriage.  I set the timer on my phone, knowing that if I completely filled the sanitary pad within the hour, I would have to head to the ER.  I was beyond scared as I waited.

I bled and waited; waited and bled.  I doused the carpet in disinfectant and blotted it with a rag, trying to remove the blood.  Finally when the phone rang it was doctor C, my NaProTechnology doctor.  Dr C, is the amazing doctor who is responsible for us getting pregnant in the first place.  When other doctors said it could only be done via IVF, Dr. C helped us conceive naturally.  Despite the way our pregnancy ended, I will be forever grateful to him for helping us conceive.

Although my miscarriage had been handled by my local OB, Dr. C remained well informed of what was happening.  All my labs were copied to him, so he was aware that nearly three months after the baby had passed away my HCG levels hadn’t yet hit zero.  When he asked about the bleeding, I explained that I had what I thought was a period about a week prior to the unexpected heavy bleeding.

doctor on the phone

That’s when he said it, “It sounds like you’ll need a D&C.”  I had been through so much while trying to preserve my fertility and avoid unneeded medical intervention, only to be forced to the OR?  I wanted to vomit.

I asked if he was 100% certain, of course, he said no, and encouraged me to connect with the local OB.  I contacted the doctor with whom I had been working only to learn that she was on vacation.  The doctor covering for her asked that I go for yet another HCG blood draw.  We were hoping that it would show my levels had hit zero and that this gush was the grand finale of my monster miscarriage.

Twenty-four hours after the blood draw, I learned that my HCG levels had not hit zero.  They were still at 32.  Because I had experienced a period, we didn’t know if they were on their way up or down.  When I inquired as to the next steps in this process, the nurse said I should get another blood draw in a few days, and then have an ultrasound if there was still HCG in my blood.

I could see this headed towards a D&C.  Dr. C said it earlier, and I’ve never known him to be wrong.  I didn’t want to wait for another blood draw; I wanted to expedite this process.  I asked if it was possible to do the ultrasound instead of waiting.  After receiving the on call doctor’s permission to do the ultrasound, I made the appointment.woman having an ultrasound

 

By this time the heavy bleeding had stopped and started again.  It established a pattern of 6-12 hours between gushes.  The gushes included large amounts of heavy bleeding with clots of blood or tissue.  They continued through the day on Tuesday, into Wednesday, and through Thursday.

I’m not someone who waits around.  I persistently called the doctor’s office, telling them I was still bleeding, leaving messages for nurses, and asking for the ultrasound results. On Thursday, three days after I first called the office and informed them of the heavy bleeding, they finally told me I’d need to see a doctor.  They were darn lucky I hadn’t bled to death in the process.  Although, perhaps they were waiting for my situation to worsen and lead me to the ER so it wouldn’t be their problem.  I can’t ever know, but looking back on all this, I’m thinking it’s time to find another OB/GYN office.

Male doctor talking to couple in waiting room

Earlier that week, Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, told me I’d need a D&C, and I was pretty sure that that’s what I was going there for.  Sure enough during my appointment, we scheduled a D&C for the following day.

Miscarriage —The Day We Learned the News

The morning of our second ultrasound was almost like any other.  To begin, I was a bit nervous because we had been told our baby’s date of conception had been miscalculated by 11 days.  Our first ultrasound appointment didn’t go as we expected.

Instead of learning our baby’s heart rate, and leaving with a picture, we left knowing that our baby was in the right spot and that the baby was just “small” in comparison to the size of a typical 8 week old baby in the womb.  We didn’t know there was a heartbeat.  I had two choices:  fixate and worry myself sick for ten days; or try to take my mind off the situation.

distraught

There was no way I was going to let myself fixate and worry, I’d never forgive myself if something happened to the baby.  I’d always wonder if my intense worry had in some way caused it. So, I tried to keep busy.  I applied for jobs, interviewed, cleaned the house, and spent time with our furbabies.  The time passed with as little worry as possible.

On the morning of our second ultrasound, I took care of our dogs and played with them for a bit.  I couldn’t focus enough to work on a craft, so I watched TV and spent time playing and letting them in and out numerous times.  The last time I let them in, something was different.  My oldest furbaby, the princess of our house, came through the door with something in her mouth.  I thought perhaps she had gotten into the trash and had found something disgusting like a chicken bone.  I wish it had been something so banal.

dog with tail hanging out of its mouth

As I approached Princess, I noticed something was sticking out of her mouth, and it wasn’t a chicken bone.  It was a thin black tail!  At that point I turned into a 7 year old girl, and screamed!  She didn’t quite understand this, because mommy screaming is something that doesn’t happen in our house.  She misinterpreted my screams of terror as signs of joy.  Her response was to jump up at me with the tail still hanging out of her mouth, providing me with an even closer look at the disgusting, vile, thing!

There was a lot of commotion, more of mommy’s screaming, and finally she spit it out.  At that point I really lost it, because laying there on the floor in front of me was a dead black wet rodent!  I am not someone who stays quiet in the presence of rodents.  Simply put, I do not like them nor do I tolerate them.  When I was a teenager and the child I was babysitting brought his hamster out, I suggested he put it away before I taught it to swim.  I do not do rodents.  And there was one…dead…in my house!

I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to scoop up the rodent using our long handled dustpan and carry it out to the trash.  It took almost an hour before I could calm down.  On the bright side, I wasn’t freaking out about the ultrasound during that hour.  Just about the time I stopped freaking out, my husband came home from work, and we got ready to make the trip up to Dr. C’s office.

couple in car

We made small talk on the way up.  We talked about whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, and how relieved we’d be to hear our baby’s heartbeat.  We agreed that we had each been on edge a bit over the last ten days, so hearing the heartbeat would bring us both much needed relief.  I didn’t mention the rodent, I couldn’t bear to relive those moments.  Besides my husband wouldn’t have been able to drive with all the laughing he would have done.

After arriving at the hospital, we checked in at the radiology department and waited our turn.  The technician showed us to the ultrasound room and we got ready for the procedure.  We were so excited, and couldn’t help but ask about our baby.  She told us that before she looked for a heartbeat, she had to measure my uterus and ovaries.  After time had passed, we asked about the heartbeat again.  She explained that she wasn’t allowed to say anything.  Out of desperation, I asked for a picture, okay I didn’t ask, I begged in between the tears I was trying to hold back.    I needed to have a picture of our baby.  I needed to feel like a normal mom, I needed to leave with a picture of our baby.

woman having an ultrasound

We took our picture and headed up to Dr. C’s office with a copy of the radiologist’s notes.  We waited for our appointment and held hands hoping that the ultrasound would show signs that our baby was healthy.

After a few minutes we were led to the exam room and waited to meet with Dr. C.  The nurse who checked my chart and asked how I was feeling inquired about the baby’s heartbeat.  She reacted neutrally when we told her that we didn’t yet know.  The nurse excused herself and took the radiologist’s notes to Dr. C.

Male doctor talking to couple in waiting room

When Dr. C. entered the room, he told us he had just gotten off the phone with radiology, and that things were not as we had hoped.  Instead of getting bigger, the baby had gotten smaller.  The radiologist was unable to detect a heartbeat.  We should have seen a fetal pole, the beginning of the spinal column, but that had not developed.  At some point over the last ten days, our baby passed away.

I listened politely and felt my body go numb.  I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, this couldn’t be happening to us.  I felt so numb that it didn’t hit me at first, but after a few minutes, I started to cry.  These were the most painful tears I had ever cried in my life.  Our baby, the one we had dreamed of, the one we had charted for, planned for, and spent almost three years longing for, our miracle baby, had passed away.

doctor and couple

Words cannot describe the pain I felt at that moment, or the pain that would hit me during the coming week.

Always the patient caring practitioner, Dr. C explained what would happen over the next few weeks.  He explained that I needed to stop taking the progesterone suppositories, and that in a few days I would begin to bleed.  It would be like a double period, and should end within a few weeks.  He excused himself, so that we could have some time alone to process all this.

I don’t remember much about that time, I remember being delirious with tears, I remember Frank holding me and expressing his sadness.  I remember us trying to compose ourselves for Dr. C’s return.  We didn’t know what to say or do and we really needed to know what would happen over the coming days.

Dr. C was amazing.  He spent over an hour with us, sharing in our sorrow, sharing a story of his loss of a child, and confirming that our baby was already with God so that we didn’t have to worry.

After spending more than an hour with Dr. C, reviewing the options that were available to us, and making an appointment with a local surgeon in case I needed a D&C if the bleeding got too bad, we composed ourselves enough to go home.

supportive husband

I don’t remember much about that night.  I know we cried more than we ever had in our lives, I know that we called our parents to share the sad news with them.  They took the news as hard as we did.  They expected we’d call to give them the heartbeat and tell them everything would be okay.   None of them had ever been through a loss like this before and other than “let us know if there’s anything we can do” there really wasn’t much to say.

All I could do was ask for their prayers as we went through the process of losing our baby.  There wasn’t anything we or anyone else could do, we just had to let the miscarriage happen, and make sure that I stayed as healthy as possible during the process.

Miscarriage, Honnoring the Child We Lost-Part III

Here I am, a month after hearing the news that our baby had passed away.  There is no way to describe what has transpired, except to say it has been an unpredictable rollercoaster filled with ups, downs, and moments that I do not care to ever repeat again.  This is without a doubt the hardest most draining experience of my life.  In addition to the physical experience that is still occurring inside my body, there’s the loss of our child, the loss of the joy we had experienced, the loss of all we had hoped for this child, and the loss of all we had dreamed for us as a family.  We always knew that there was a risk that we’d lose the baby; but with Christmas coming right around our six week mark, we decided that would be the time we’d share the news with our immediate family.  This is the story of the most joyous Christmas I have ever had; thank you for allowing me to share this beautiful memory with you.  Love, Catherine

After learning we were pregnant, there was nothing in the world that could compare with the joy we felt!  Not only had my leave of absence been successful, but we’d be able to tell our families that we were expecting on Christmas, what could possibly be better than that?

We wanted everything to be so special for our families.  If they could only feel 10% of the joy we felt then it would surely be the most spectacular gift we could ever give them.  This would be the first grandchild for my in-laws, and my mom.  My dad has other grandchildren, but he’s a sucker for kids, so it’d be pretty special for him as well.  We decided that we’d surprise everyone and tell them on Christmas by presenting them with special gifts.

snow flake ornament

I spent almost two weeks pouring and painting plaster ornaments in the shape of snowflakes.  I painted them pink and blue and added some glitter for a great “pop” of sparkle.  On the back I wrote, “Miracles happen at Christmas, and 8 months after.  Awaiting baby Sterling, August 2014”.   I also put together a paper magnet with a poetic pregnancy announcement that read:

Good things to come as we await

Baby Sterling’s arrival date

Two little hands and two little feet, one sweet baby we are waiting to meet

With hearts full of love and heads full of dreams,

We patiently await August 2014.

 

Our families were beyond thrilled when we shared the news.  To say that jaws hit the floor would be an understatement.  There were tears of joy, screams of surprise, and so many hugs.  We knew how special this would be, and  made sure to arrive long before the other guests.   We made sure they understood how early in the pregnancy this was and despite wanting to share their joy with everyone on Christmas, they agreed to keep our secret.  As excited as we all were, we knew that there existed the possibility of losing the baby, and that if it happened it was something we would not want to discuss repeatedly with the extended family.

christmas presents

 

Everyone wanted to know when they could share the news, with all that we had been through we wouldn’t be waiting until the 3 month mark.   We did ask that they wait until January 6th,  the day of our first ultrasound; when we expected to hear our baby’s heartbeat and see our very first baby picture.

 

It was our best Christmas ever!  We had given our families a gift like they had never received before!  I had one of the ornaments on our tree and a magnet on our fridge, and was filled with hope and expectation each time I laid eyes on them.  Just watching the HCG levels climb week by week, watching my body change, and feel the ever growing pressure in my belly was truly amazing.  We waited with anticipation and excitement to share our news with the world!

 

We dreamed of how we’d tell our extended family and how excited they’d be for us.  We dreamed of next Christmas, when we’d have a 3 month old baby.  There was no limit to what we dreamed for the future of our baby and our family.  Of course, we prayed daily for our baby’s health.  Since I was on leave of absence at the time, I prayed hourly for our child.  Every time I felt pressure, or got unusually tired, I’d pray that these were good signs that our baby was growing and developing properly.

couple in car

On January 6th, we made the long drive up to Dr C’s office.  My husband, Frank, is known for his work ethic: for him, taking time off work is no small deed.  Despite his commitment to his job, there was no way he’d miss the ultrasound.  Together, we checked in to the radiology department at the hospital and were so excited to see the first picture of our baby, hear the heartbeat, and make that first guess as to whether our baby would be a boy or a girl.  We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we couldn’t help it!

 

When it was finally our turn to have the ultrasound, the technician led us into room where the procedure would take place.  I undressed from the waist down and got ready for the procedure.  Having had transvaginal ultrasounds before, I was familiar with the routine.

woman having an ultrasound

The probe went in. The technician took measurements of the uterus, ovaries, and everything.  When we asked if we could see pictures, the technician told us that she “couldn’t say anything.”  When we asked about the heartbeat, her response was the same.

We were worried about an ectopic, or some other complication.  We remembered that Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor,  requested that she print out her notes so that he could interpret the results of the ultrasound at our appointment which followed the ultrasound.

 

While we waited to meet with Dr. C, we poured over those notes trying to find some meaning in them which we could understand.  Neither of us have any medical background, but we were able to decipher that it was not an ectopic pregnancy.

Male doctor talking to couple in waiting room

We waited patiently to meet with Dr. C.  Thankfully, he read the technician’s notes and contacted her at the hospital before he met with us.  When he sat with us he explained that the baby was smaller than expected.  Instead of being the size that a baby is expected to be at 8 weeks, it was the size that a healthy baby was expected to be at 6 weeks, 6 days.   Everything else was fine.  By his understanding, all that had happened was that we had miss-dated the time of conception and so our due date would be a little later.  The baby was in the right spot and everything else looked normal.  We made an appointment for another ultrasound two weeks after that, when the baby would be developed enough to hear a heartbeat and we would get our first baby picture!

8 week ultrasound expect image

We were thankful that the baby was okay.  Although we were disappointed that we didn’t get to hear the heartbeat, we didn’t get bad news.  As far as anyone knew the baby was just conceived later than expected.  My family is known for a propensity towards tardiness, so on the ride home we joked that this was an indication that our baby was taking after my side of the family.

Our parents were on pins and needles over the news when we shared it with them at Christmas.  They had barely been able to hold their tongues over Christmas and New Year’s.  That night we made calls and notified them that they’d have to wait another two weeks before sharing the news.  They were surprised to hear this, but like us they took it as a sign that things were developing normally.  They said they’d continue to keep us and our baby in their prayers and that they wanted to be informed the moment we knew what the heartbeat was!