Continuing the Conversation

I want to continue sharing other people’s stories or articles from around the internet, so here are three new voices to share.

Miscarriage: Expert gives tips on how to cope with it – A straightforward article out of India about things not to say to a couple going through a miscarriage

Please Stop Saying This To Women Who Can’t Have Any More Babies – An authentic (with profanity) blog post from a mom of three who wanted to have more children but biologically can’t.  This is a part of the community that, at times, I struggled to empathize with because I didn’t have any children, but articles like this broaden my awareness and shed an honest light on secondary infertility.  And some of the things she lists are things that resonate with my situation as well, as well as other parts of the community.

‘Opening the grief of miscarriage’ – BBC article that interviews one woman who shared her miscarriage experiences online and found a community of support.  It has some neat statistics of how the internet has helped and hurt women struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss.

If you have never experienced pregnancy loss or infertility, I can guarantee there is someone in your life who has.  While the above stories may not be the same experiences for everyone, they can definitely open that window to more understanding and empathy for what everyone goes through.  And for those of you who are in the midst of these unknowns or losses, you are not alone.  May these words uplift and encourage you today.

Do you have any posts or articles that have touched you or compelled you to share?

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Continuing the Conversation

I want to continue sharing other people’s stories or articles from around the internet like I did last week, so here are three new voices to share.

How Infertility Feels – The Struggle To Conceive – A beautiful blog about a woman on her IVF journey.  It’s uplifting and positive, but also honest.

‘To my baby that never made it earthside’– An article by a mommy blogger about her 6-week pregnancy loss.  Again, it’s beautiful and open.

Joanna Gaines Helped a Friend Through Infertility Struggles and Got a Sweet Tribute in Return – I love this story about Joanna’s friend and the rose bush.  It’s all about prayer and encouraging others going through struggles.  She had an article in her magazine last year about a friend who experienced pregnancy loss that was so wonderful that I ended up buying a copy at the grocery store (which I never do).  I love how supportive she has been to the pregnancy loss community in her own way.

If you have never experienced pregnancy loss or infertility, I can guarantee there is someone in your life who has.  While the above stories may not be the same experiences for everyone, they can definitely open that window to more understanding and empathy for what everyone goes through.  And for those of you who are in the midst of these unknowns or losses, you are not alone.  May these words uplift and encourage you today.

Do you have any posts or articles that have touched you or compelled you to share?

Continuing the Conversation

One of the things that I am most passionate about is the conversation about pregnancy loss and infertility.  It’s why I share my own experiences.

But I want to go beyond my own experiences.  So, I am going to share links to posts and articles that I have found that are keeping this conversation going.  I encourage you to read these articles, but I will also give brief thoughts or synopsis to each of the links.

How to talk to a friend who is experiencing infertility – An interview with Andrea Syrtash, who launched an infertility online magazine called Pregnantish.  The points in the article are accurate for both pregnancy loss and infertility.  Heavy emphasis on listening and transparency.  Also, I briefly perused the magazine.  It has some basic articles but also highlights families and their journeys through infertility.

Loss of sex drive women: I cried through sex with husband – This is a beautiful, raw, touching piece written by a woman who is struggling with infertility.  It has some language in it and it is adult in nature, but it is very open and vulnerable.  An excellent window into the struggle for a lot of women.

The Importance of Acknowledging Pregnancy Loss – This is a broad article the covers most of the basics about pregnancy loss.  I was surprised to see that abortions made the list for this writer, but I don’t doubt that there are some women who grieve those losses as well.  I just know that it can be a touchy subject and that the pregnancy loss world and the pro-choice world have collided at times.  Still, it is a pretty good article to share with those that have never experienced or know anyone (which they probably do and don’t know it) that has had a pregnancy loss.

Those are a couple of articles to get started.  I share these to get the conversation started, but also to show that this is a common conversation.  That if you have experienced or are experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss that you aren’t alone.

Do you have any posts or articles that have touched you or compelled you to share?

What Alice Forgot: A Review

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What Alice Forgot
by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an adult contemporary set in the year 2008 in Sydney, Austrailia. The protagonist, Alice, wakes up on the floor of a gym after a nasty fall, having lost her memories for the last ten years. She thinks it’s 1998 and that she is 14 weeks pregnant with her first child, newly married to her husband, Nick. When in reality, she has three children and is estranged from said husband. The story continues as a mystery that slowly reveals the last ten years, through flashes and pictures, strong feelings, and the anecdotes of her friends and family.
What I did not know going into this book was how much of it was also about pregnancy loss and infertility. Alice’s big sister, Elizabeth, is almost a second main protagonist, who is the first person that really shows up after Alice is brought to the hospital after the fall at the gym. She helps Alice navigate through some of those first memories, but finds it hard because it means that she also has to relive a lot of those memories as well. And her story is pregnancy loss and infertility. And it is so accurate from my own story. I related so much to her experiences and her thoughts. I mention this without really spoiling anything as a trigger warning, but I found this part of the story also therapeutic. This is what made the book a five out of five for me.
The writing jumps from three different perspectives. Alice is told in the third person, though we are privy to her thoughts and feelings, they weren’t always dependable and accurate. When trying to piece together the last ten years, she goes down a couple of dead ends. Elizabeth’s perspective is told in first person journal entries to her therapist. Of course, this is also limited by only what Elizabeth actually knows about Alice’s life as well. The third perspective is from their surrogate grandmother, Frannie, who gives a little more insight, but not much. It’s in first person correspondence as well, as her point of view is in the form of letters to an old flame, recounting her experiences in her retirement community as well as what is happening to Alice.
For the most part, the plot moves pretty quickly. The clues and glimpses kept me continuing with the story, wondering not only what exactly happened in the past, but how the future would turn out as well. And there is a lot of character transformation, especially with Alice and Elizabeth. As Alice looks into her present life from her younger self, the fresh perspective helps her evolve, and it also helps Elizabeth evolve as well.

There is profanity in the book, but not much, and I felt like the profanity was there to show how much had changed in Alice’s life – almost for a shock value, but a necessary one.
As far as sexual content, there is mention of sex and there are a few kissing scenes, but nothing really graphic or detailed. Since pregnancy was one of the main themes, I think it was also something necessary to mention and discuss.
And as far as violence, there are a couple of deaths mentioned, but nothing, again, in graphic detail. It focused more on the grief from death or loss.

I would recommend this book with the caveat of the fact that a good portion of it deals with navigating life with infertility and pregnancy loss. But I think it handles that subject really well. I didn’t really know that I would like this book as much as I did when I picked it up, but I’m really glad I did!

Friday Rambles: Respecting the Journey

I began this week talking about something that is quite controversial in the pregnancy loss community, and I guess I’m going to end the week with something that is also quite controversial.

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After I lost my first daughter back in 2014, I was invited into a private group for women of pregnancy loss.  In the first few weeks after she died, I was in a state of shock, and there was this decision of whether or not to give her a name on the death certificate.  For some reason, I didn’t want to do it.  I couldn’t settle on a name, and I didn’t want to (I would end up giving her a name a few months later as I processed my grief).

About a week after I got home from the hospital, I posted this to the forum:

“It has taken me a couple of days to really get my thoughts together of what to write on this post. Last week, November 26th, I delivered my stillborn daughter. Technically, it was at the 24 week mark, but I know she had passed probably about a week and a half earlier, when I stopped feeling her move. We hadn’t really decided on a name yet, and weren’t sure if that was something we wanted to do. Are there people who don’t name their stillborn children?”

I was met with a variety of answers, although most of the consensus was “If you loved your baby, you would have named her.” And I spiraled.  I mean, I slammed my laptop shut and walked away, thinking of how awful of a mother I must be that I couldn’t give my baby a name right then and there.  But then, a beautiful woman responded to all of these other comments this way:

“I really prayed over naming my babies but never felt a peace as to what name to give them, I really hope that doesn’t mean I don’t love them as much as my children here on earth with names. A name is a very special thing and if someone isn’t feeling at peace with naming their child of loss then that is between them and God, I doubt anyone who chooses not to does it without a lot of prayer.”

She gave me the grace and space I needed to heal.  She listened to the pain and courage in my words without judgment, and I learned that day how I needed to treat other women in this community.  Even within the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility, there is unsolicited opinion and advice everywhere.  I know that these words are coming from a place of hope, but more often than not, they land in a place of hurt.

“Have you tried this treatment/diet/medication?”

“You should go to my OB because they are better.”

“Just have faith that God will give you a child.”

“You should do these things every year to honor your child, if you want to grieve the right way.”

“You should do x, y, and z, if you don’t want to regret it later.”

I know all of these are meant to help.  Just like the unsolicited comments that we get outside of the community.  It’s hard not to want to help, but just because you’ve been through something, it doesn’t give you the right to decide how someone else will go through it.

If this journey has taught me anything, it is to not judge the other person’s pain, suffering, or path.  I have realized that no person has ever shared their entire journey with me.  But I don’t have to know their entire journey to know that they deserve love and respect.  Some parts are too painful to relive.  Some are too shameful.  But I don’t need to understand the entire person to give them the ability to grieve the way they need to grieve, to hope in the way they need to hope.

Every woman has every right to celebrate their pregnancies in the way that they see fit.  I don’t know how long or how rough the road was to get there.  But on the other hand, every woman has the right to heal from their loss or their struggle the way that they need to heal.  I don’t know what obstacles lay in the path of every woman, but I don’t need to in order to know that they are beautiful, valuable, worthy creations of God.  And every road does not end with a healthy pregnancy or a child to raise, but I do know that the faith of these women inspires me each day to live boldly and speak boldly and write boldly.

My friends in the trenches are beautiful, strong, kind, loving, caring women who are grieving while living one day at a time.  They are incredible human beings, and I am so, so blessed that I can call them sisters in this community.

An Addendum to Advice for Next Weekend

I’m writing this on Saturday and posting on Sunday.  Today (Saturday) marks the four year anniversary of our first miscarriage.  Over these last four years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with family, friends, and strangers about pregnancy loss, children, infertility, etc.  In fact, three years ago, I wrote a blog post about some of the awkward conversations I had after my first miscarriage.  While I have seen more compassion and understanding in the community than I did that first year, I have a few more things to add to that list.

So here is what not to say to a woman without kids during Mother’s Day (or any time of the year for that matter).

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1.  Do you have kids?  I understand I live in suburbia, and 9 times out of 10, she will probably have kids, but if you ask me, the answer will always be “yes, I have two daughters that have passed away”.  And then there is that awkward pause, or the I’m sorry, or usually, lately, it comes back that they have a sister or friend who went through the same thing.  I don’t hate the question, don’t get me wrong.  But I know that women with infertility or pregnancy loss struggle with it because, frankly, it’s kind of a downer to talk about children who have passed away.  As much as I love my daughters, it’s a sad story (even though I know where they are and that gives me hope).

But even if the person does have kids, I think it can be a bit of a boring question.  And that’s because I was asked the most fabulous question a few years ago.  It has stuck in my brain as a brilliant conversation starter.  And that question is “What drives you?  What is your passion?  What gets you up in the morning?”  For a mom, that could be her kids, but it also gives a mom another option.  I know moms that love their kids, but their passion in life, what drives them, is something different.  And that’s okay.  And it’s okay to be passionate about your kids too!  And for someone like me, who isn’t raising any kids right now, I can share the other things in my life that get me out of bed in the morning.  Particularly this face, because he whines every morning at 7 a.m. to go out.  Every.  Morning.  He is my alarm clock.

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2. Have you thought about IVF?  Clomid?  These are drugs and procedures more for people dealing with infertility.  I don’t actually have infertility, although I may have it in the future.  Infertility can happen after pregnancy, pregnancy loss, or a number of situations.  But there is no indication that has happened to me, yet. The medical research that has positively affected infertility has been amazing.  Even so, none of these are quick fixes or absolutes, and unless you are willing to go deep into that conversation, you might want to be careful bringing up things that may have worked for someone you know but may not have worked for the person standing in front of you.

And a lot of the time, I get the sense that people assume my OB or any of the doctors I have spoken to would not have talked about these things with me already.  Especially since my particular case has been unexplained.  I have amazing doctors who are passionate and knowledgeable in their field.  They are blunt with me and talk me through whatever questions I have.  I have been tested so much, had sit-down meetings with a genetics counselor and with my high-risk OB (perinatologist).

My body didn’t malfunction when I carried or gave birth to my daughters.  Neither of my daughters was in distress on their ultrasound, just days before passing.  Our first daughter was autopsied.  How far down the testing do we need to go?  I’m not saying this because I’m angry.  I’m willing to have the conversation.  But for most parents, this is a painful conversation, and I would caution assumptions and comments in this area, especially with strangers or acquaintances.

3. Have you thought about adoption?  I want to make clear that not everyone who has talked to me about adoption has been inappropriate.  I’m thinking of the conversation I had back in January with a complete stranger who asked if I was cleaned out after my miscarriages (not realizing that my pregnancy loss was stillbirth).  The next thing on her lips was “have you thought about adoption” as if adoption was some quick fix.

First of all, adoption can be a long and very expensive process.  And it comes with its own set of emotional rollarcoasters. You aren’t guaranteed a baby in a certain timeline.  I’ve heard of situations from friends trying to adopt who had a baby and then the birth mother decided to keep it.  It’s heart-breaking.

Second, adoption is not a replacement or a quick fix to my loss.  I still have three children.  One precious child lost way too early and two precious daughters.  And any child we have in our family is not a replacement or a consolation prize, but one that God placed in our lives with purpose.

I know that this is complicated and heartbreaking.  It happens to one out of four women.  And something I would say to women who are going through this Mother’s day without her children with her is this:

You are not a fluke.  Your children were not a fluke.  You are beautiful.  Your children are beautiful.  You have purpose and worth, and so do they.  You are an honored mother, loved by her children.  No matter where you are in the journey – take just that next step, breathe the next breath, live in that next moment.  Love others fiercely and with compassion.  God loves you as his daughter.  And I love you as my sister in the trenches.  Hang in there.  God’s got you.

Women of Infertility: Sarah

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For my February goal, I’m studying the women of infertility in the Bible.  This week, I’ve been reading the story of Sarah, and I wanted to share with you some things I’ve learned.

Sarai was in her 60s when she and Abram traveled to Canaan.  When famine brought them to Egypt, and they stretched the truth about their relationship to Pharaoh (because they were technically half-siblings), they received a lot of livestock and servants from the Pharaoh during their stay there.  Because Sarai was that beautiful.  This is more than likely where Hagar enters the picture because it’s noted that she was an Egyptian maidservant to Sarai.

When they returned to Canaan, after separating from Lot, Abram settles in Hebron, living near a friend, Mamre the Amorite.  God made a covenant with Abram there, telling him not only that he would have countless descendants, but he even foretells when Abram’s descendants would go to Egypt, become slaves, and leave Egypt to inherit the land that God was promising to Abram.

I don’t know how much Abram told Sarai about the covenant between him and God.  But up to this point, Sarai isn’t mentioned in the promise.  This is when Sarai offers Hagar to Abraham.  This was a common, culturally acceptable practice for the wife to use a maidservant to have children.  Perhaps Sarah knew about the covenant and thought this was how it was meant to be.

But whatever the reason, as soon as Hagar knew she was pregnant, it got chaotic.  Being the mother of the heir meant something, even if she was still Sarah’s slave, Hagar’s grab for power was evident.  Sarah doesn’t respond well.  First, she tries to get Abraham to resolve it, but he throws the ball back in her court.  Sarah has to deal with this on her own, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been to see someone get pregnant so easily by her husband.  And by a woman who would try to levy power because of this pregnancy.  So, Sarah begins to mistreat Hagar in response.  Hagar runs away, a pregnant slave which was dangerous, but comes back and has Ishmael.

Following this, in the covenant of circumcision, Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and it’s foretold that she will have a son.  This is the first time Sarah is specifically mentioned in the covenant between God and Abraham.  At this point, though, Ishmael is 13 years old.  A decade has gone by since Hagar became pregnant.  When the Lord reveals this promise to Sarah, she laughs.  I’m not really surprised that she would laugh.  She had come to terms with her barrenness a long time ago, and Abraham already had a son with Hagar.  But one year later, Sarah would have a son.

God did something extraordinary in the life of Sarah so there would be no doubt that it was He who was in control.  There was no doubt that the promise given to Abraham was directly from God.  In Galatians 4, Sarah and Hagar represent the Law and the Promise.  If we try to do things by our own power, we are slaves to that power, and it will never be enough.  It can even bring us into chaos and strained relationships.  But if we are faithful to God’s promise, he can do extraordinary things in our lives, things that can’t be explained away.  Like Sarah, I want to work towards faithfulness, humility, and submission to the will of God, even if it’s hard for me to understand, even if it makes me laugh.