Tag Archive | pregnancy loss

Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part I

It’s almost a year after we conceived and our lives are forever changed. How could they not be? In one moment we were given everything we ever wanted, only to lose it a few weeks later. The weeks which followed our miscarriage were filled with the most raw, indescribable pain we had ever experienced. There was nothing we could do, we just held on while my body went through the process of losing our child. We were hopeful that things would happen naturally and at least I’d be able to avoid surgery. That was not to be. My body took forever for my HCG levels to decline. I ended up in surgery almost four months after the loss had begun.

couple grieving

Shortly before I learned I was pregnant I made an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor to investigate food allergies. Thanks to Dr. C, my first NaProTechnology doctor, I knew that I had a grain allergy; however I was suspicious that there might be other allergies which were keeping us from conceiving.

By the time of my first appointment, I was already pregnant. It was Christmas time, and we had received the best Christmas gift ever! There was nothing else would could ask for!

My appointment happened to be on Christmas Eve day, I went with the thought that good nutrition would be important during my pregnancy and whatever knowledge she gave me would make my pregnancy a healthier one.

At the appointment, my Naturopath, Dr. M, explained that there were two types of allergies: IgE allergies, the kind that result in anaphylaxis; and IgG allergies which are sensitivities and cause a high amount of inflammation in the body. When there’s inflammation in the body, conception can’t happen since reproduction is the first thing the body shuts down when it’s in distress.

She explained that by identifying the food allergies and removing them from my diet, my pregnancy would be easier, and my baby would be healthier. That was enough for me! My husband, Frank, and I had tried to conceive for almost three years; there was nothing that I would not do to ensure we had a successful pregnancy.

Pregnant woman rubbing her belly

I was a bit surprised to learn that there wasn’t any different in what she had planned for me than had I not been pregnant.  I still had to do the blood draws, identify the allergens, then return in two weeks to get the results and make a plan to get healthy. We celebrated Christmas and rejoiced in knowing that we would soon be parents. I ate even more than usual at Christmas dinner; as I wasn’t sure which foods would be off my plate after my allergy tests results came in.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­ Before I ever thought of visiting a Naturopath; I learned that I had an allergy to grains during my first visit with my NaProTechnology doctor in October of 2011. At first I wasn’t very sure about that, but since I had gained 24 pounds in a year, and no other doctor or nutritionist could explain why, I figured I might as well try to get grains out of my diet and see what happened.

It was hard, but I lost ten pounds, and found more energy than I’d had in a while.

Even though I had eliminated all grains from my diet, I still hadn’t lost the 24lbs of weight which I gained without any dietary changes. Deep down I wondered if I had missed something.

Since my, friend, mentor, and NaProTechnology sister: Jordan, conceived her baby after working with a naturopath, I figured it was one more thing I could at least cross off the list. If it worked, our prayers would be answered; and if not, we would know that we had done absolutely everything possible to make conception happen.

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 long list

After the New Year, my Naturopath presented me with the list of foods my body was reacting to; and I nearly hit the floor! I had been eating these foods forever! Because grains had already been eliminated from my diet, I was relying more heavily on other foods, and boy did my allergy results show it!

When a person is not allergic to a particular food, their sensitivity results will be below 2.0, any result above 2.0 indicates an allergy which is causing an inflammatory response.

My test results showed that I was allergic to:

  • Apples
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Casein (the protein in dairy—good by cheese and butter!)
  • Egg whites
  • All grains except rice & barley (no wheat, no oats, no sorghum, no amaranth, quinoa, teff, or any other grains)
  • Potatoes
  • Soy

After the doctor scraped me off the floor, I didn’t know what to say. How could I be allergic to these foods and not know it?

Dr. M had also done another test, CRP, which showed that the high levels of inflammation in my body were actually putting me at a higher than average risk of a heart attack.  I also learned I had a genetic mutation which needed to be treated through diet and supplements.  I have two copies of the MTHFR mutation, one A and the other C.  Dr. M explained that my healthy habits of exercising 3x per week, and abstaining from all grains had helped us to get pregnant despite these defects.  But there were still some effects of these mutations, such as constant fatigue, which I did not have under control.

There was no way that I was going to stand for all that, I was going to learn to live without those foods and take the supplements she prescribed no matter what! After discussing my already grain free diet with Dr. M, I explained that I had already developed my own recipe for grain free bread, and that eating it made me feel normal. Although it contained eggs, she gave me permission to continue eating it if that was my one and only cheat.

She explained that my health would not improve over night, but by  following her treatment plan, we would decrease our chances of miscarriage, and increase our chances of having a healthy baby.

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

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 —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.