Saturday, 27 September 2014

How much can I take? (published Pregnancy After Loss Support Page)

I feel like I’ve spent my whole marriage trying to get pregnant. 10 years ago, blissfully unaware of what was to come, we assumed our honeymoon would result in our first child being conceived. It didn’t quite happen the way we had planned. Two years of fertility treatment resulted in our amazing, beautiful blessing, Xavier. When he was 2 years old, with a 24 month battle with post natal depression fought and won, we decided we were ready to add to our family. I trooped back to my fertility specialist who insisted we try natural for 6 months before he would prescribe Clomid again. 6 months later, “I told you so” firmly in my head, we trooped back again. So began the hardest 6 years of our lives.
The first month we tried using Clomid I fell pregnant. I couldn’t believe our luck! But the HCG stopped rising, and I suffered what was to be the first of many miscarriages. 3 months later, same story, and 4 months after that, our third loss. Our fertility specialist wasn’t exactly the most personable of guys, and without even looking me in the face, declared it was all just bad luck and there was nothing he could do. Needless to say, I changed specialists!
Dr. Kate was my savior, because she was honest, empathetic and smart. We developed a plan, started injectable medications to induce ovulation, and started the next phase of trying to conceive–a little wiser, and far less innocent. Low and behold, month one, I fell pregnant again. I found out on New Years Eve, and I knew something was off. But we got past 6 weeks, when all our other losses had occured, and we thought we might actually get there. At 6 weeks and 4 days, I had agonising abdominal pain, on my left side. I knew straight away it was ectopic. By the end of the day I had lost another baby, my left fallopian tube, and my heart had broken yet again. Bizzarely, I had been pregnant with twins, and the twin that was in the uterus was a blighted ovum. If the twins had been reversed, the baby in my tube would have survived had it been in the uterus. I was crushed. 5 little angels gone. But the worst was still to come.
4 months after the ectopic/heterotopic loss, we fell pregnant again. 6th time lucky was our hope, and as our milestones rolled past, I dared to hope we might bring home this baby. 12 weeks, all ok. 20 weeks, all ok. Our scan showed a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I bonded with her. I felt her move. I felt her soul. I loved her with my whole heart.
At 29 weeks I had my 4th attack of an unidentified abdominal pain and some spotting. We rushed to the hospital, thinking finally my placenta had started pulling away from the uterine wall. Doppler showed an active baby, but no-one could manage to get a heart trace on our baby girl. After the 7th midwife came in, and again registered a heartrate of 75, and assuming it was my heartbeat, someone decided to put the heart monitor on me. My heartrate was 65, therefore baby’s was 75. Everyone panicked, and I was rushed off for a specialised scan with the head of Fetal Maternal Medicine. Our good run was done. Our daughter was diagnosed with 2nd degree fetal heartblock, a rare condition that attacks the electrical current coordinating the top and bottom parts of the heart. The only hope was a pacemaker fitted at birth, but at 29 weeks, she was still too small to have such an operation.
For weeks we waited, being observed almost daily, and slowly we watched out baby’s heartrate decrease. She was almost delivered at 34 weeks. But the decision was made to leave her for a bit longer and try to get to 36 weeks. I knew it was a bad idea. My biggest regret it that I didn’t insist she be delivered. Things might have been so different. Almost delivered again at 34+3. Then during our scan at 34+6, we knew we have made the wrong decision. She was in heart failure, and there was very little chance she would survive her delivery.
PoppyWe were wheeled off frantically for an emergency cesarean, meeting a pediatric heart specialist in theatre. At 2:17pm, our daughter was born, and she was still and silent, and I knew she was already gone. They tried for 20 mins to save her, fitting an external pacemaker, trying in vain to restart her damaged heart. But it was too late. We were too late.
Finally we met our longed for baby girl, and she was stunning. Perfect rose lips, porcelain skin, fine fingers. Just beautiful. But silent and still, not at all how it should have been. We named our darling girl Poppy, a pretty name for a pretty baby, and tried to decide how we would tell her big brother that the baby he had been waiting for was not coming home.
I decided on the operating table, holding my precious baby, that I needed to try again. Is that normal? I was terrified that if I didn’t believe I’d get this chance again, I might crumble and tumble away. We weren’t allowed to TTC for 6 months post c-section, so we had an imposed wait time in which we investigated Poppy’s condition and the likelihood of it reoccurring. Unfortunately there was evidence that 15-20% of siblings will develop the same condition in utero. But I had to try. I needed it.
Nothing happened for all of 2012. And half of 2013. “Time for IVF?” was the call of my FS. Round 2 brought that amazing phonecall: “You’re pregnant!” the nurse informed me, and I couldn’t imagine that anything bad could happened again. But it did. Miscarriage no 5. Cycle number 4 brought another positive, but 2 weeks later, with no warning, I miscarried again.
I wonder when I will decide we are done. How much loss can I take? How many times can I fail and keep getting up and trying to succeed? But I still believe in my heart that our family is not supposed to be 3 and 1 in heaven. I really believe that eventually we’ll be rewarded for patience. I just hope that it happens soon, because my broken heart needs some good news to help it heal again.
Photo Credit: Gavin Blue for Heartfelt

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Grief upon grief

I am not a stranger to grief.  We've been acquainted for some time.  We first met when I was 14.  I had lost a few people in my life prior to this, but this was when I got up close and personal with the raw, surging pain that was to be part of me forever.  My mother lost her battle with cancer aged 40 years of age.  For a long time I held off the my new friend, in a battle of wills that isn't really possible to win.  I didn't want to feel that immense pain, I just wanted it to go away.  And so began my dance with trying not to feel.  To be brave.  To be strong.

Years and years later I grieved again for my friend.  He died on this exact day 14 years ago.  Again much too young.  Barely a man.  And again I held off grief.  I was brave.  I was strong.

My grandmother died.  My grandfather died.  My good friend Helen died.  But I hid.  I refused to break.  I tried so hard to build up a wall around me so I wouldn't feel.  It hurt.  It felt uncomfortable.  It was scary to feel something so big.

Then I started losing babies.  The first and second miscarriages were very early, and I was disappointed.  The third was harder to deal with.  The fourth nearly claimed my life, and I was scared and hurt and sad.  It took courage and determination to keep going.  Always brave and strong.  That was what I needed to be.  Then came Poppy.

My pregnancy with her let me forget about my grief over her tiny siblings.  I lost them to keep her.  She was the one who was meant to come home with me.  I loved her more than anything, with everything I had.  I let down that wall and she was nestled against my heart.

And then she died.  God took her too.  I couldn't understand how I could be expected to still be brave and strong?  How?  My brick wall crumbled, and when Poppy died, she took my whole heart.  It hurt so much!  All those years of holding grief at bay, and finally I succumbed to constant pull towards the abyss.  I felt it.  I really felt it.  It was raw and painful and...beautiful.  There was beauty in this because it came from love.  Love is powerful and joyful and meaningful.  But it is also devastating and heartbreaking.

It took me a long time to open myself to the world again.  It's not that I wasn't living.  I went about my business.  But I was in a holding pattern, not going forwards but refusing to go backwards.  The possibility of more loss almost crippled me, so terrified was I of what it might do to me.  So I hid behind my hastily reconstructed wall and hoped for no more loss.  The problem is, you forget about love too.

Then we lost another tiny baby.  My body decided it wasn't ready to bring joy and delivered me more grief.  And it broke me again.  I lost hope.  I could see no way to be brave or strong.  I was a coward and I was weak.  I needed to rebuild, somehow.  My whole journey since I met grief was wasted because I couldn't be brave or strong anymore.  And then I realised:  What am I afraid of?  Am I afraid of grief?  Or am I afraid of love? Why am I battling against something that can not be conquered?

So I chose to walk alongside my grief.  And I found I could live with it.  I can feel it.  Because it is born of love, of joy, and I am equal to it.  Being strong is not about not feeling.  It's about being strong enough to feel your pain and not let it destroy you.  Being brave is just recognising fear and choosing to confront it.  Again and again, if necessary.

Last weekend we miscarried again.  It was scary and painful and traumatic.  But I will not run from the pain or try to hid it.  I will cry and feel like my heart and hope have been ripped out again.  Grief is not welcome here, but if it needed to come, I will not lock the door.  Because love is in my heart.  I can't lock it away forever.  I will bear the grief so I can enjoy the love.  I am strong and brave, though not in the way I thought.

I am equal to whatever comes.  I am strong.  I am brave.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Patience is a virtue...or so they tell me

So here we are; 2 years, 3 months and 22 days since we said goodbye to Poppy.  To be entirely honest, it still feels like it only just happened.  But facing facts, it's been quite some time.

I really thought we'd have another baby by now.  I realise I wouldn't have been ready to deal with another pregnancy, or possibly another baby, but when I think back to my thoughts in the minutes after we realised Poppy had died, my ONLY thought was, "I need a baby."

The decision to try again was made whilst I was still on the operating table during my cesarean.  We were holding our beautiful, silent, longed for baby, for whom we'd waited for 3 long years, and I just couldn't imagine all the preparation we'd been through to include a little one into our lives would be for nothing.  I needed to fill my aching arms.

As time went on, we realised we weren't ready yet.  We wanted it, but we weren't ready to handle it.  The truth is; grief is all consuming.  It feels like there isn't much room for anything else.  So we waited.  Then we kind of started trying again, and then took a break, then tried again, before throwing ourselves whole heartedly in the magical world of IVF.  It's been a year since we started to walk the IVF path.  12 months of invasive testing, painful procedures, meds that make me crazy, and a very harrowing and traumatic miscarriage.  And still, no baby.

All up, we've been trying to bring home a sibling for Xavier for almost 6 years.  6 friggin' years!  Are you seriously kidding?!  In that time we've been pregnant 6 times, and had and lost Poppy.  So the question needs to be asked.  Am I a glutton for punishment?  Will it ever happen?  Could I cope with life if it doesn't?  I've never considered not being ABLE to having another baby.  I've considered not wanting to TRY, and deciding enough was enough.  As in MY choice.  But what if...well...I'm done?  What if God has decided I've had enough chances?  What if I've been patient for nothing?

I'm not trying to be dramatic or anything, but I can feel a tantrum building in me.  Once again my FB news feed it filled with pregnancy announcements, new arrivals and the growing little sons and daughters of others.  I try not to be jealous, but I'm sure I look a little like the Hulk.  Green with envy.  Do I deserve all of this?  Am I so terrible a person?  I know I'm not perfect, but maybe I'm awful.  So awful I'm not worthy to be a  mother again.

I've kept the faith for a very long time that good things happen to those who wait.  But I'm not sure that's true.  I'm not giving up, not yet anyway.  But when does continuing this journey become lunacy?  When do I hit the point where it will take more courage to stop than keep going?  When will the past 6 years amount to only heartache and nothing else?

For now, I am still determined.  But each little knock adds to the myriad of blows we've already taken.  I'm a bit worried about the state of the mortar holding me together as it is.  Please, please, please let it be our turn soon.  I know we don't deserve it any more or less than many others, but I promise it will mean more to us than it might to some.  A baby who joins our family, who chooses us to be their family, will know love beyond imagining.  They will know a big brother who will truly value every minute they spend together because he didn't get that with his first sibling.  They will know Grandparents who know one more kiss and cuddle will never be enough, because they missed the opportunity with Poppy.  They will know parents who will endure all of the bad stuff, the worry and doubt, just for one moment of joy they have missed.

Please.  Please.  Please.  Let our patience be rewarded.