Friday, December 9, 2011

...thoughts on pregnancy loss...

this is such a sensitive subject.  not only to me, but to many of those i love.  a very dear friend of mine recently experienced pregnancy loss, and my heart still aches for her.  i've traveled this road, yet i feel so inadequate.  i don't know what to say; how to help and comfort her.  prayers of love and peace just don't feel like enough.  

i have pondered on this matter for so long, and still i sit here at a stalemate.  pregnancy loss is so misunderstood by those outside of its painful grasp.  i hope i can express how i feel in a way that can offer hope to those who have experienced it, and understanding to those who haven't.  i'm quite positive that we all have known someone who has dealt with such loss.

grieving comes differently to everyone.  some may bury the feelings, return to work/life the next day, and essentially move forward from the experiences.  some cry for days and refuse to get out of bed.  some question their god, most all question their body.  some blame themselves.  there is no wrong way to grieve.  i do believe there are healthy and unhealthy ways, but no wrong way.  (unless there is shooting up at a local baby's r us.  i would perhaps call that a wrong way to grieve)

addalyn was my first experience was pregnacy loss.  (20 weeks gestation)  in fact, on january 5th, it will have been five years since we said goodbye.  i struggled.  that first day back home from the hospital i was like a stone on the couch.  i remember my friend stephanie had to physically help me to the bathroom, urging me to at least shower.  i took time off work.  i laid in bed all day then woke up and tore apart my house at night.  i baked, i cleaned, i reorganized every inch of my house.  i sat in the shower and cried until there wasn't any water left in my body.  even when the shower turned freezing cold, there i sat.  in a daze.  trying desperately to design a short term plan that would get me out of the shower and dressed.  i couldn't think any further ahead.  i felt as if i was living from moment to moment, ready to shatter with any misstep. i blamed myself for her death.  if only i'd eaten better, or perhaps taken bed rest more seriously.  if i had only been a better mother she would have survived.  no matter what the doctors told me.  how there wasn't enough room for her.  enough blood flow.  how i didn't have sufficient hormones to keep the pregnancy viable.  it didn't matter.  i had failed miserably. 

the next three pregnancy loss experiences all happened at around 6-8 weeks gestation.  i became stoic.  i had no hope in a pregnancy ever coming to fruition and providing me a child.  with each positive we became less excited and eventually by the last miscarriage i didn't feel a thing.  this is where i began burying feelings as deep as i possibly could.  i felt like i was pathetic.  crying at the sight of a pregnant belly at target, or hearing of a friend's exciting news of adding a baby to their family.   on the outside i was rational and put together.  on the inside i felt like my soul was being melon balled out of my body.  to use meredith grey's words, i was, 'dark and twisty' inside.  

i've even punched a hole in the bathroom wall (this was during the loss of our second adoption)  now, this is something i don't recommend, as punching walls breaks fingers and hands.

these experiences were awful.  each and every loss took a piece of my heart and it has taken many years to find and repair the damage that has been done.  i hope that the following can help those going through the grief of pregnancy loss.  i also hope that it can help those who are trying to support their family/friends.  that maybe it can shed some light into what she/he/the couple is feeling.  it's such a tender subject.  egg shells.  shattered glass even.  it's hard to walk on so most of the time we just scoot around it.

for those who are/have experienced pregnancy loss.

cry.  don't try to hold it in.  i promise it will only make the pain worse.  it's been proven that crying is cathartic for the body.  it releases tension and helps promote healing.  even more important, you are hurting emotionally, and you deserve to cry.  don't let anyone tell you your time is up.  that you've cried enough.  cry until it's out for good.  i used to believe that crying was a sign of weakness.  i was wrong.  i see it now as a sign of strength.  it takes a lot to release those emotions.  if you don't like crying, like me, go cry in the shower.  turn on some broody music to bring those emotions to the surface and bawl your eyes out.  no one can hear you in the shower, and the steam helps with the puffy face part.  please, allow yourself to cry.

take time for yourself.  if you have children, find someone to take them for a while.  a few hours, a whole day, whatever you need.  lay in bed and watch a movie.  take a long, hot bath.  go shopping.  bake some cookies.  clean your house.  if you start to feel the emotions arise, find a quiet place to release them.  teach yourself to move through life with those tender emotions.  show yourself that you can survive.

ask for help.  being strong doesn't mean doing it alone.  this was probably one of the hardest things for me.  it's hard to accept help, especially when you feel so pained.  if you need a shoulder to cry on, if you need an ear to listen, confide in those who have offered and who love you.  if you just need someone to sit there with you so you aren't alone, ask.  i also highly recommend, if you feel you are in need, to seek out a good therapist.  this changed my life and helped me deal with and heal from my losses.  sometimes if helps to have someone witness your pain.  a therapist is trained and can help you.  a lot of times friends and family want to provide this for us, but lack the knowledge.  let neighbors bring you dinner.  allow others to serve you during this time.  it will benefit all involved.  if you feel that medication is needed to handle depression or anxiety, ask your doctor.  they are there to help you through this, too.

validate your feelings.  you are already experiencing so many emotions that there is no need to throw guilt on top of all that.  what you are feeling is validated, and it's good to remind yourself of that, even if you don't believe it.  you will come to believe eventually. 

give yourself time to heal.  people are going to tell you it's time to move on.  (which is insane, but they will)  yes, you will need to get back to life, but if you still have moments of pain, find a quite place to work through it.  these things take time, and wounds that are so gaping don't heal over night.  be patient and kind to yourself.  you are healing both emotionally and physically.  if you rush this, it will come back to bite you.  i can tell you that from experience.  

surround yourself with those who truly love you.  you  need a support system.  you need to be loved.  find only those who can provide that and stick with them.  if others fall away, that's their problem.  you need the strongest family/friends possible because you are most likely ready to fall apart.  

you are loved.  you are strong.  you will get through this.

for those who have friends/family who are dealing/have dealt with pregnancy loss.

do not minimize their grief.  i don't care if they were three weeks along, three months, whatever, it is not your place to say, 'at least you know you can get pregnant' or 'you can just have another baby.'  they don't want another baby.  they want this baby. you'd be surprised how far an, 'i'm so sorry for your loss' can go.  it usually comforts them more than any other phrase can.

do not compare their situation to your friends/brother's aunt/best friends dogs situation.  no two pregnancy loss experiences are the same.  she doesn't want to hear, 'oh, well my friend lost her pregnancy as such and such weeks and is feeling fine and got pregnant so and so weeks/months later.'  i can promise you they will want to punch you in the ovaries/testicles/shins.  this is not your place.  if they ask if you know anyone who has been through a similar experience, then please, express that story to them.

do not offer answers.  unless your name is followed by 'MD' and you have a phd on your wall in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, do not offer answers or conjectures as to why the pregnancy was lost.  trust me, they are already doing this themselves.  please, don't tell them that there was probably something wrong with the baby and it would have been a mess if that baby was born.  that one is a low blow in my eyes, even if you don't mean it to be.  she doesn't need answers.  she needs love.

offer the support you can.  if you feel you don't have anything to offer, step aside and let others take over.  this isn't written to offend anyone.  these are intense, hard experiences and sometimes it's hard to know what to do, how to help, and can be stressful for those who are in the gallery.  let them know you love them so they don't feel abandoned.  check in on them from time to time so they know you are still there.  if you do offer some type of support, follow through.  if you say, 'you can call me anytime.  even at 3am' mean it.  most of the time 3am calls aren't made, but if they need you at 3am, be there.  send a heartfelt email/note.  remind them that they aren't alone.  

respect anniversaries.  some women have a hard time when the date of their pregnancy loss and/or their due date come around.  they often think, 'my baby would have been 3 today.'  let them grieve on these days.  

love them.  there are going to be hard moments.  they might say things they don't mean.  stick with them. 


i know there is so much to say on this topic, and i would love any comments/thoughts you all have on the subject.

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11 comments:

Layla said...

"it is not your place to say, 'at least you know you can get pregnant'" - I've heard this so much in the past two months that I am almost immune to it. It's supposed to be make me feel better, I suppose. You know, I can have another. And maybe I can. But "I'm sorry" would be much more supportive than telling me that. So, thank you for writing this. And thank you for sharing your experiences. You get me through more things than you even know. <3

The VerNooy's said...

I think its also just as important that the father allows himself to greive. It was/is his child he loved just as much as the mother.

But, men should not blame the women for the unfortunate happenings. They should stand together, support eachother, and greive together.

Kristin said...

Nothing was so emotionally or physically painful for me as having a miscarriage. My heart goes out to your friend. It's such an isolating experience. I just wanted to be left alone. After a week, David and I went to see my Big Fat Greek Wedding and it was so nice to forget about everything and laugh.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Kenna. Words of wisdom and so true. I find comfort in knowing I am not alone in the feelings you've described. Love you.

Amy

thatonesister said...

I just love you.

Lechelle said...

Kenna, I just have to start by saying this is prob my favorite pregnancy loss post ever, you did a beautiful job sharing your thoughts and advice. I am so sorry for your friend. I lost two babies in 2008, my healing came best through time and Bo. But even after Bo came home, I had unexpected tears as I realized he was going to miss out on those older siblings.

A couple days after we lost our second, a car ran a stop sign and just missed my husband Kelly and I. In the moment that I thought we were going to be smashed, I looked forward to being with my babies again. It wasn't that I wanted to die, it was that I found a reason to be ok with dying, maybe even happy with it. I needed to find a reason to stay. And I did. When we gained a testimony that we had a kid coming through adoption, I couldn't dream of leaving this world knowing I would miss out on him if I did.

I recommend throwing your dishes out the second story window over punching holes in the wall. There's no broken fingers and there is a pleasure that comes watching each dish explode and hearing that beautiful noise. Word of warning tho- if you live too close to your neighbors, like the townhouse I live in, they may call the police.

You talked about not giving answers for the loss unless you have MD at the end of your name. I would add to that - do not give spiritual insight on the loss unless you are that person's spiritual advisor and feel inspired to, like if you are their pastor, bishop, stake pres, or prophet. Or if they ask your opinion. Otherwise, leave it alone and let them share their own feelings about it if they feel like it and then support their feelings, or give them an uplifting book about it. No one has to be right. My answers might not feel right to someone else and vis versa. We each have to come to our own answers and our own peace and trust God to work it out eventually. Amen to all of your other "do not"s.

I know this comment is way too long, I just loved this post. And I totally adore you Kenna!

Heather said...

Thank you Kenna. Your comforting words came at the perfect time for me. The day we found out our baby no longer had a heart beat. The myriad of emotions you go through is insane and you captured them perfectly. I keep reading them to find comfort. Once again I love you cuz.

Sell...Party Of 4 said...

This experience has been so eye opening. Thank you for the post, and for checking in on me, sending a box, and just being awesome.

Brianne said...

Have I told you lately that I love you? This week will mark the due date from my miscarriage in May and I have been feeling so emotional. I wish that baby could be celebrating Christmas with us this year and it hurts that we have no baby. I hate hate hate it when people say, "at least you know you can get pregnant" because yes, with the fertility treatments, I can get pregnant, but keeping the pregnancy and delivering a full term baby is not something we KNOW is possible for me as I've miscarried multiple times, but never been able to hold my baby in my arms. Everything you said is spot on.

Leslie said...

Spot on is right. Even as someone who has experienced pregnancy loss and been the receiver of insensitive comments, I think that I have been guilty of offering unsolicited advice or saying things that I personally would not have wanted to hear. How quickly we forget sometimes. It was good for me on several different levels to read this.

Also, I really, REALLY think you should write a book on this subject.

Val'n'Ben said...

Here is the best advice I ever got after any of my pregnancy losses. Like most of my best advice, it came from my sweet sister who is wise beyond her years.

"There are steps to grief. You know that.

I think we get ourselves into trouble when we start thinking we SHOULD be feeling something different than we're feeling. But, really, when we're angry it's OKAY to BE angry and to feel it fully.

When we're sad it's okay to BE sad or scared or any other emotion.

Sometimes we really do have to look all of that in the eye before we're ready to be humble or prayerful or any of the other 'positive' emotions we associate with healing. Sometimes just being really angry and swearing up a storm and asking a million angry questions can be very healing. Sometimes that's exactly what we need."

I've been so fortunate for all of the negativity that has been thrown at my pregnancy losses, that Heavenly Father has seen fit to surround me with wonderful, loving and comforting people who have been gentle with me when I wasn't able to be gentle with myself.

I'm so glad your friend has you. I don't know how I would have made it through all of my losses without you.

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