Category Archives: Grief

Sad Woman

Emotional healing from traumatic births

When I posted this on Facebook, I was surprise how many women felt alone with their emotions. I decided to share this via the website so women will know they are not alone on this journey.

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Here at VBAC Facts, I focus primarily on facts, research, and logic. But as any mom preparing for birth can tell you, information is only part of the equation. Knowing the facts is important, but it’s not the whole enchilada.

Many women are carrying the emotional baggage of their traumatic vaginal or cesarean births. How we feel about our past pregnancies and deliveries influences our outlook for our future labors. This unprocessed anger and disappointment can negatively impact how future births unfold.

I interact with post-cesarean women on a daily basis and can personally attest to how important this work is. Women often feel betrayed and lied to by the medical establishment while simultaneously wondering if their bodies are broken and incapable of birth. Without trust in our care providers and confidence in our bodies, how can we birth?

At the 2012 VBAC Summit, Christy Farr of Seeds and Weeds Coaching offered practical and easy first steps for identifying and rectifying these emotional roadblocks.

For women who care to dig a little deeper, working within a compassionate, direct, and supportive framework like Christy’s can help free them from their past and pave the way to an unhindered birth.

Connect with Christy via her website or Facebook.

Get a flavor for how Christy communicates via her session, “Towards Healing: Unpacking the Baggage of a Traumatic Birth” which is available for download.

Coping with miscarriage II

Of all the people coming to this site, it is the women who come searching for information on miscarriage and grief that just really break my heart.  There are so many of us, so I wanted to bring attention to what Candice wrote as well as my response.

Candice left this comment:

My husband and I tried to conceive for over two years. We were so excited when we found out on Oct. 21st that I was pregnant. It was amazing how I could have felt so connected so quickly. Obviously, as soon as we found out we told all out family and friends. I began spotting on December 11th and my husband immediately took me to the ER. I knew right away that something was wrong. My husband, trying to convince me and him, continued to comfort me and tell me everything was going to be fine. They did an ultrasound and determined that the baby had stopped growing at 8.5 weeks. At 8.2 weeks, I was told the heartbeat was at 171. It absolutely hurt me more than words can say because it just seemed more real once I knew there was a heartbeat. I couldn’t and still don’t understand why this happened to us. I, like you, still get upset from time to time but try to “cover up” how I really feel for friends and family, even my husband at times. I just feel that he wouldn’t understand and I feel myself trying to pull away from him and I don’t want this to happen. He is my best friend and he has been there for me through everything and I know he wants to be there for me now, I just don’t want him to know how this has truly affected me. We do want to try again but I am so worried that it will happen to us again, that I am beginning to shut down. How do you overcome something like this? My mother-in-law had a miscarriage before she had my husband and she understands but to others it just like “ok, you had a miscarriage, get over it”. I feel so alone even when I am in a crowded room of family members. Thank you for sharing this piece with others. Although, I cried through the entire thing, I really did need to read that. I am very sorry for your loss.

Candice,

Please know that I’m speaking from the heart and from someone who has been there. Don’t turn away from your husband. He is your partner and it is very likely that he is hurting to. My husband deeply mourned our miscarriage. Men mourn differently than women. Please do not let this divide you. Comfort each other. If he was hurting as deeply as you are, wouldn’t you want him to tell you? Be honest with him about your feelings and fears.

Please be patient with yourself. It has hardly been a month from when you miscarried to when you left this comment. It could take several months for you to get to a place where you can think of it and not cry. And that is ok and completely normal.

Do you have any close friends who you can share this time with? If not, family or even a message board might help you feel less alone during this time. I think if you start to share just a bit amongst friends, you would be surprised how many women have experienced miscarriage. I know, a lot of people don’t understand why it’s “such a big deal.” But, honestly, I didn’t either before I experienced it. I could think about how much it could hurt, but I never knew what it felt like in my heart. Since they haven’t been there, they don’t understand.

When you get pregnant again, you might not feel that excited. You might feel a mixture of subdued happiness and fear. I know I tried to maintain some emotional distance, as much as possible, for the first three months. It is horribly scary to think that it could happen again. There are women all around us who have experienced multiple miscarriages and are still living life through their pain. I would look at women shopping at the store, walking down the street and think that some of those women had to experience miscarriage and that we all shared this pain. It gave me some peace.

This might seem out of left field, but have you looked into a local Holistic Moms or ICAN chapter? I’m certain that you would find others who have not only experienced miscarriage, but could provide you with loads of compassion.

I’m sending you a huge hug Candice. Please go to your husband, hug him, and let him comfort you. This is what we committed to when we married – for better or for worse. This is a hard time. You will survive it. I know it doesn’t feel that way now. You might feel like you will never be happy again. The only thing that will make this better is time. Please stay in touch and let me know how you are doing. I’m wishing you peace.

Warmly,

Jen

Coping with Miscarriage

I had completely forgotten that I wrote this piece until a month ago.

I was with a dear friend who is getting married and we were visiting with her mom.  We were talking about birth and her mom asked me, "You had a miscarriage, didn’t you?"

The question kind of caught me off guard.  Funny how even though it had been 18 months, the pain was still faintly there.  During that time, I had my sweet HBAC baby, but when I think of that miscarriage… it still makes me sad. 

My friend’s mom, a psychologist, knowing that I have this blog, encouraged me so share something I wrote after the miscarriage and a recent post on the ICAN email list reminded me again tonight.  My friend’s mom said, correctly, that people don’t talk about miscarriage much and that many women, in trying to find a way to cope, are left feeling alone. 

I shared with her how months after my miscarriage, I was out with my in-laws and just broke down crying in the middle of lunch.  It’s hard because unless someone has experienced a miscarriage, they just don’t understand.  And this makes perfect sense.  While you may look ‘normal’ and ‘all better’ from the outside, you’re not.  Grief takes a long time to work through you.  It’s weird how this little bundle of cells, this little baby in the making, who I just became aware of two weeks prior, become so utterly important to me so quickly.

Other people want you to move on because they care about you and, I’m sure partly, because they don’t know how to make you feel better, or feel awkward in the presence of your grief.  So not only are you dealing with your extreme sadness, but you are uniquely aware of how uncomfortable other people are with your miscarriage, so you are simultaneously downplaying your feelings and/or trying helping them cope so they will feel comfortable around you.

My miscarriage was on September 13, 2006.  I will always remember that date because of 9/11 then my husband’s birthday is 9/12.  This is bittersweet. 

I wrote this on December 20, 2006 while working on our annual Christmas letter.  After I was done, and looked at my pain as it spilled out all over the page, I thought it probably wouldn’t make for good Christmas letter material.  On one hand, I wanted to be ‘real’ rather than the ‘Our life is just great here are the hundred reasons why’ material that usually makes up Christmas letters, but I didn’t know how to temper my pain.  Just saying, ‘I had a miscarriage’ seemed to short, to fleeting, but at the same time… I wasn’t ready to deal with everyone’s’ response.  My friends and a few family members knew, but most people didn’t.  Frankly I feel really uncomfortable when people feel sorry for me.  I want to say, "It’s ok," but it’s not… where do you go from there?  Obviously, I didn’t include my ‘manifesto of pain’ in our Christmas letter.  I included the typical happy stuff and left it at that.

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In September 2006, after many months of hoping, I was pregnant.  And for two weeks, I smiled with each wave of nausea and dreamed of K being a sister and eagerly awaited May 3, 2007 when our next baby would be born.  But it was not to be.  On the second day of our big Washington trip, my miscarriage began.

I never really understood how painful an early miscarriage could be.  I only knew for two weeks that I was pregnant.  How attached could I be?  It was amazing how painful this experience has been.  I sit here three months later, and I still cry.  I don’t cry everyday.  I try not to cry in front of K.  It is because of K that I have been able to go on without completely breaking down.  Her presence requires me to move forward with each popsicle on a towel in the living room and each pair of pee soaked Tinkerbell underwear.

When I was pregnant with K, I had no idea what I was in for.  I was working – conflicted on whether I would/should/could quit once she was born.  I was selfish.  I really thought I lived a busy life.  I really thought I had a full schedule.  I thought I understood stress, exhaustion, and hard work.  I was all the things people are before they become parents.  And while I was excited to have a baby, I could not possibly comprehend how she would impact my life and how much I would love her – desperately, deeply, completely.  How I would do anything for this little girl.

So when I was pregnant this time, I knew all this.  I knew how much work it would be, how hard it would be, and how much I would love this child.  And I was so excited for K to have a sibling.  I’m also more settled in my life now than I was when I was pregnant with K.  I’m no longer conflicted about working and am very satisfied and fulfilled by ‘just’ being a mom.  We were so excited about this baby.  (K has told us that she wants a baby brother.  It now breaks my heart to hear this request.)

So when I started spotting five days before that day in Seattle, I was at my parents’ house.  After several years of charting my cycle (daily cervical fluid, cervical position, and when I’m really motivated, waking temperature), I learned how my cervix feels before I start my period… and that is how it felt that day.  Even my lay knowledge told me that something was wrong.  My uterus preparing to empty doesn’t seem compatible with a pregnancy. 

I went to urgent care and the MD there told me everything was fine.  He told me to stop feeling my cervix, that I would get an infection.  This bozo sent me home with a condescending pat on the back, completely dismissing what I was saying about the state of my cervix.  I mean, I didn’t have several years of medical school, what could I possibly know that the MD didn’t??  I still intend to write him a letter informing him that I was not some hysterical pregnant lady imagining complications – that my little baby did died – and thanks so much for his time.  Sorry, the bitterness is still there. 

I continued with our plans for that day – meeting friends at Disneyland – but did so with a heavy heart.  I certainly hoped that the MD was right, but my instinct told me differently.  And for the next five days, I tried to curb my enthusiasm, which was hard.  We went out to dinner that weekend, as planned, with my in-laws and told them that we were pregnant.  I really tried to tell myself that the doctor was the expert, not me.  I should listen to the experts.  Everything will be fine.

So when I woke up that morning in Seattle, a thousand miles from home, and saw bright red blood, I tried to justify it every way I could.  "I spotted with K and she was fine."  "It’s not that much blood."  But this was more than just spotting.  Even though I had to put on a maxi-pad to cope with the bleeding, I was still trying to justify and deny what was happening.  T and I were at breakfast, a couple hours or so after we woke up, and the bleeding was intensifying, not decreasing.  It was surreal.  We decided to go to the emergency room.  I got up from our table and walked into the lobby.  I asked the front desk clerk where the closest hospital was and requested that she call a taxi.  I asked if the hospital was a good one.  I really thought, "I’m going to feel so dumb when we get there and they tell us that it’s fine."  When the cab driver asked if K was ok, I meekly said, "I think I’m having a miscarriage." 

The people working that day at Virigina Mason ER were amazing.  I was wondering how we would be received based on my experience just a few days before.  They saw us almost immediately.  The nurses were so nice, gentle, respectful and the MD was very candid when he told us that he and his wife had experienced this as well.  No medical speak.  Just three human beings connected through pain.  I thought I saw a heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor and for 30 minutes I really had hope.  Long story short – there was no baby.  I will never forget T’s face.  The doctor came in the room to tell me and T was just outside the door watching K as she ran around in the hall.  The doctor said development had stopped "some time ago."  T heard what the doctor said and we made eye contact.  Thankfully, I didn’t need a D&C as my uterus was already almost completely empty. 

We left the hospital a few hours later and I will never forget how physically weak I felt.  How emotionally numb I was.  I sensed the profound sadness deep inside my heart, but it felt far away.  It was as if I looked through frosted glass and could see my fuzzy, deformed, vaguely familiar pain. That was the part of me that didn’t want to deal with it.  I didn’t want to deal with what this all meant and ruining our much anticipated family vacation where we would attend a family wedding that weekend.  (Thankfully no one but my parents knew I was pregnant.  I don’t think I could have gone if I was receiving continual condolences and sad sideways glances.) 

We walked down the beautiful hill towards our hotel and contemplated, "What next?"  I certainly didn’t want to go back to the hotel.  And do what?  Cry?  Lay in bed and look at the ceiling as 2 1/2 year old K lost her mind trapped in a hotel room?  Wow, sounds like a great time.  No, I didn’t want to do that.  I wanted to walk.  So, we did.  Slowly, gently planting one foot firmly before picking up the other, holding T’s hand as he pushed K, my sweet girl, all bundled up in her stroller.  We walked by beautiful window displays.  We walked to Pike’s Place.  We spent several hours there.  Slowly walking.  It was a crisp day.  It was nice to wear a jacket. 

After we got back to the hotel, T took K to the pool at the hotel.  I laid in bed and looked at the ceiling.  Looked out the window.  Looked at the TV.  And I cried.  I cried loudly.  It was the first time I could really let loose and let it out.  I didn’t want to upset K, so I had tried to keep everything ‘under control.’  So with each wail, I tried to push the pain out up and out of my mouth.  Hoping that if I just got all the pain out, I could feel better.  I wasn’t going to let this ruin our vacation.  We had plans to go to the zoo, the Children’s Museum, the Space Needle… and damn it, I was going to have a good time.  And I would smile.  Even though my sadness, I would enjoy my family.  So after that cry, I put it in the back of my mind – to deal with later.  Later, after I stopped thinking I’d get pregnant again as soon as possible, after we got home and I saw my friends with their sad faces.  Later when I could face my pain.  And, when we got back, I did cry a lot.

Even now, there are times that I cry.  It’s hard how the pain doesn’t miraculously disappear.  It just goes beneath the surface.  I hate the phrase, ‘Move on.’  Only people who have never experienced a great loss would have such a cavalier attitude towards grief.  As if once all your pain goes away, once you ‘move on,’ then you are ‘all better.’  What the hell does that mean?  You don’t think about it?  You don’t cry?  You are never sad again?  Please.  The pain never goes away – it just isn’t so raw anymore.  The jagged edges of my pain are worn away and I don’t think about it all the time.  But just because I’m still sad sometimes, doesn’t mean I’m not still doing laundry, potty-training K, and enjoying my life.  It just means I’m still sad.  It means I wish I was writing you 5-months pregnant, but I’m not.  And that sucks.  And it’s quite all right, thank you very much, if I’m ‘still’ sad about it. 

A friend of mine who has experienced miscarriage twice told me that it was totally weird – no one will mention it to you.  People will act like it never happened.  And being on the other side of it, I know what it feels like to not want to upset someone.  To not know how to bring it up or what to say.  To simply be uncomfortable in the presence of someone else’s massive loss.  But now being the one ‘it’ happened to – it’s weird.  I’d talk about it if someone asked me.  But no one does.

I share this personal pain because I hope that someone else will find comfort, knowledge or understanding.  I don’t pretend to presume that I could have this power.  I just know how much strength I have gained from my brave friends who have shared their pain with me.  If it wasn’t for these friends, this could have been a very lonely, isolating event but instead I learned to share a quiet, communal understanding with women who have walked this painful well-worn road before me.