41 weeks, lungs & grief

I’m back again because something is holding me back from giving birth.  I fear that all my energy has been spent on keeping this baby inside my body and that now, when it’s  appropriate and safe, I can’t let go.  And letting go is what needs to happen.  I need to surrender.  I need to open to the fear of what might happen during labor and surrender to this process.

I have been unable to write or read anything related to miscarriages or pregnancy/infant loss for months – since my last blog entry at 17 weeks pregnant.  Occasionally, I would stumble onto someone’s story of loss and my anxiety would spiral even as I could not tear myself away from their words.  So, I intentionally took a break from all things pregnancy-loss related.  I feel so grateful and lucky that I was able to make such a choice.  And now I’m back… to see where all this fear began and how it might unravel.

I visited an acupuncturist as many said that acupuncture is a great way to “get things going.”  It’s not like a chemical induction, but for many women, acupuncture is a gentle way to induce labor – if the body and baby are ready.

The acupuncturist was warm and kind.  She smiled and took my pulse.  And then she began to speak of grief – of grief that I was holding in my body.

Grief and the lungs are connected, the acupuncturist said. And unresolved grief lingers in the lungs… and that disharmony in the lungs interferes with the vital energy (qi) in the body.  It’s that vital energy that is needed to open and allow for birth.  I need to be able to breathe deeply, all the way down to my uterus and birth canal.  But my pulse was telling her I was blocked.  By grief.

As she spoke, I felt the tears.  All this could be felt in my pulse?  Then I remembered she knew my story from my paperwork.  I had to write how many times I had been pregnant (4) and my number of living children (1).  And yet, as she spoke, I knew she was not making this up.   She could feel my grief.

She put the needles in (so tiny!) and I felt a few twinges of something almost like pain in some of the spots.  But mostly, it didn’t hurt.  And then she left me to sit in a recliner with my feet up, and as I sat there, sunlight streaming in through the tall windows, I felt it too: grief.  And it began to well up and I began to cry as I have not cried in months, as I did not even cry when we passed the one year anniversary of Julian’s birth – to think! I could have had a one year old by now…

But now the tears flowed.

And I thought, surely, tonight, now that I’m not holding on to this grief and blocking the free flow of energy and openness I need to surrender, I will go into labor.

Sure enough, later that night, I started to feel cramping.  Then came contractions.  And then, nothing.  It stalled.

So that’s why I’m here.  That’s why I’m re-reading my words chronicling my loss and grief.  Such a journey – so many cycles of grief and loss and hope and loss again, that may come to an end with the birth of this child.  And will I let it?

Tomorrow is the appointment in which I might learn I have to be induced.  I know that many, many women are induced.  It’s still not my preference.  I would like this birth to begin when the baby decides, but if labor doesn’t begin soon (tonight?  tomorrow morning?), that decision may be taken away.

And I know it’s not all me.  The baby is part of this process.  I also know that women used to be able to carry their babies longer… My neighbor carried her two children to 43 weeks, 40 years ago.  My own mother carried me to 42 weeks.  The medical model of pregnancy no longer allows for such variation in the length of pregnancies.  I am aware that it is possible the baby has not arrived yet because he/she is not ready.

But what if it’s not just that?  What if I’m also holding baby back, baby in, because I’m scared – to move beyond this comfortable place of holding and waiting?

I don’t know.  But I’m open to feeling the grief and that feels like a start.

 

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17 weeks and terrified

So, it happened.  The miracle of life started again and I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to conceive so easily. But here’s the shadow side: I’m so anxious, I have days when it’s a struggle to function.  Last Monday, I barely made it.  I struggled through work all morning and then called my midwife begging her to let me come hear the heartbeat.  I knew it was ridiculous and indulgent (notice: judgment) since my 16 week appointment was the very next day.  But I felt like I couldn’t wait.  I was checking for bleeding every hour and convinced the pregnancy was over… My bargain to myself was this: hear the heartbeat and if it’s there, go get some therapy.  But I was so convinced that I had to be right, that for the seventieth time, at least, during this pregnancy, it was over.

The midwife found the heartbeat (oh beautiful sound!) almost immediately.  My relief was immediate.  Suddenly, the cramping I had thought I was feeling disappeared.  The feeling of bleeding was also gone.  Poof!  It had all been the creation of an anxious mind.

I felt like a crazy person.

But with renewed energy and calm, I returned to work.  And it was all good.  I even called a therapist.  And, this is big, I passed the anniversary of my loss — the day in my pregnancy last fall when I miscarried my son, Julian (the reason I started this blog).  I thought that might be it for my anxiety.  I thought that now I am pregnant longer than either of my last two pregnancies, my anxiety would vanish.

How wrong I was.  Three days later, and the anxiety was back with a vengeance. Here I sit, a healthy woman nearly 17 weeks pregnant, in a world where atrocities have recently occurred in Beirut, Paris and Kenya – not to mention right here in North Minneapolis — and all I can feel and focus on are the recurrent sensations and thoughts that I am losing another baby.  It’s so bad, I even think at times that I would prefer it all to be over (yes, I know, what a terrible thought), that the anxiety and fear is so big and so real that I would just prefer to get the loss over with so I can move on with my life.

And yet, of course, I don’t really want that.  What I really want is a healthy baby. But the question is this: how do I survive the journey when I believe that devastating loss is one moment, one breath away?

Decisions

Ever since a series of text messages this morning (see previous blog entry), I’ve been walking around in a daze.  It’s been hours and I still can’t seem to snap out of it.  I feel like I could just sit still, staring at a wall, letting the hours pass and that would be perfectly okay with me.  It’s like everything in my life is distant and I can’t focus on anything that had previously mattered – my son, the dishes, walking the dog, you name it.

In an attempt to snap out of it, I drove to my office this afternoon in an attempt to get some work done.  As it’s a Saturday afternoon, no one is here.  Usually that would feel creepy, but it’s not bothering me at all.  I’m still in a daze.

Am I really this scared to try again?  And how do I even know that trying again will result in a pregnancy?  And do I kind of hope I just won’t get pregnant?  And what about our dream of moving to a different state – how can that happen at the same time as the imminent arrival of a baby?

Truth is, these past few months I’ve been focusing on moving as a way to shift from the pain of my most recent pregnancy loss in early March.  I decided that while pregnancy and birth are out of my control, moving is not.  So, it’s been mostly full steam ahead.

And then there was the death of a friend — sent me spiraling.  Brought up my grief that I thought I’d successfully buried.

There was also my response a few days ago to seeing an acquaintance and her newborn: I just wanted to get away from her.  The intensity of my feelings surprised me because I’ve really felt like I’ve been doing okay — some sadness when I see people with two or more kids, but mostly okay.  Focusing on the advantages to getting through the early years… Little Bear will be turning 5 in a couple of months… Only one more year before kindergarten… The hardest phase of parenting might well be behind us!

So what is going on?  Do we try again?  And how can we try again if I’m so freaked out by the thought I cease to think and behave like a functional adult?

Of course there’s the thought: is this normal?  Do many women feel this way when contemplating trying to conceive after loss?  I would take it as a sign that I am not ready, but the truth is, I don’t have time on my side.  If I were ten years younger, I’d give myself a couple more years (maybe), but I don’t have ten years.  It’s either try as soon as possible, or let it go.

And I’ve no idea which to do.

I wish I could say I had nothing to lose by trying, but I know that’s not true.  So much is lost when miscarriage happens.  And I’m guessing that much is lost when one tries and tries to get pregnant without success — not an experience I can speak of with any authority (yet), but I’ve heard others speak of it, and it too sounds incredibly painful.

Feeling lost and confused.

To try or not to try again: a conversation via text

Today 8:47 AM

Sweet Pea: I want to try again

Me: If only it didn’t mean giving up coffee… sigh.

Sweet Pea: LOL! If only it didn’t mean potentially giving up sleep!

Me: Or giving up coffee and sleep – for nothing!

Sweet Pea: Yeah

Sweet Pea: It’s only if we are both on board of course

Me: No, I want to try and I am incredibly scared.  You may have to be willing to endure sarcasm as I mask my pain – are you willing?

Me: I give up coffee and you endure sarcasm – sounds like we will both be suffering.

Sweet Pea: Lol. I am on board

Me: Ok.

Me: I will have to continue moving toward our goal of moving (or get clarity with you on whether we are actually going).  I can’t put all my eggs (no pun intended!) in one basket.

Sweet Pea: I think we can do both

Sweet Pea: I want the ocean

Me: I’m unable to focus – literally shaking by the decision to try again.  I want to – I took a prenatal vitamin and texted X – but I can’t stop shaking and I am literally unable to make a pancake for Little Bear – about to throw out the batter I tried to make.  I think I’m having a trauma response.

Sweet Pea: Oh honey.  Just remember that we don’t have to.

Sweet Pea: Our lives are full enough

Me: I want to. And I’m having this response.  Shit.

Sweet Pea: Yeah. I wish I could help.  I wish I could do it.

Me: We are at Modern Times. Wish you were here.  Still all shaky and out of it. Gave up trying to make pancakes at home.

Sweet Pea: Glad you had a back up. Sorry this is so hard.

Me: It’s crazy.

Questions

What would it be like if I trusted myself right now?

If I could allow what is happening to happen… one moment, grief; another moment, happiness; another moment, rage; another, sadness.

When the dominant cultural discourse comes in, can I ask myself, is this true?  Is this true for me?

By “dominant cultural discourse” I mean the messages mainstream society tells me, like:

brush it off;

push through the sadness and the exhaustion;

don’t let yourself feel ‘down’;

it wasn’t meant to be;

this is nature/God’s way of ensuring healthy babies are born, so don’t feel too badly.

Essentially: don’t feel, look on the bright side, keep working, try harder.

Are these messages true? For me?

What would it mean to live now? — not for when I have a baby or IF I have a baby, but now.

What would it be like to live *now* and listen, truly listen to the call of my soul and my heart?

Raw – another loss at 10 weeks

I dared to hope.  I dared to try again, against reason, against despair.  And here I am again: another loss.  Another miscarriage. This time, we will not hope again.  This time, we’ve decided to give up hope and turn our hearts toward all we have: each other and one beautiful boy.

In one day, I gave up the dream of my son having a brother or sister.  In one moment, the dream of a second child dissolved like the honey I stir into my tea.

This time, the loss does not hurt so badly.  This is my second miscarriage in 6 months.  The luck I have in falling pregnant on the first try feels like fool’s gold.  Who cares if I can get pregnant on a dime if it all goes down the toilet? Who cares if it all leads to this, these red rivers of loss?

I remember now that the first few days were okay, after my last loss.  I wasn’t actually okay: it was shock.  But once the shock wore off, the grief woke up and took me for a wild ride.  Will it happen again? Will it slam me down with the force of a thousand horses? Or will it be less intense? At least this time, I didn’t hold my baby’s body. At least this time, there is no body to bury.  But does that make it easier?  Or worse?

I am not compelled to name this baby.  I did not learn his or her gender; no one did.  But I dreamed of this baby.  I dreamed of a girl this time, with brown eyes and brown hair.  I dreamed of her birth, over and over.  I imagined her plump wrists and smooth cheeks.  And because of these dreams, I felt calm.  I felt confident. I dreamed none of these things when I was pregnant with Julian, my son I lost in my fourth month of pregnancy. With Julian, I carried a sense of dread, a fear of loss I couldn’t shake even after we passed the first trimester.  While I was devastated by his loss, I could recall my sense of foreboding and it gave a sense of inevitability to his death.

But not so, this time.

This time I feel confused.  What about my calm assurance? What about the sense of peace and calm I received while doing Chi Gong at the meditation center — a sense that could let go of my grief for I was going to have a baby and it was all going to be okay?  What about that?

Perfect lunch

Today, in the break room at work, a colleague looked at my lunch and said, “What a perfect lunch for a pregnant woman!” I smiled at her blankly and continued to prepare my food, planning to eat at my desk.

“What?” another colleague asked.

I ignored everyone and walked out of the break room (see previous post, “11 days after” about this same day in which I give myself permission to avoid eye contact).

Later, I told the woman who had made the comment about my lunch about my pregnancy loss. She got teary eyed and gave me a hug.

Later, that same day, another woman pulled me into her office and closed the door.  Three miscarriages, she told me, and no one knows.  Only you.