1 in 4: My Story + Ways to Support a Grieving Friend

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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As you may be aware, October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It's not something most of us really want to think about or talk about, but for about 25% of women, it's reality. Before I had my own personal story to tell, I knew family members and very close friends who had suffered the loss of a baby during the early, middle, and late stages of pregnancy. In fact, last month's "Women Who Inspire" feature woman, Stephanie, lost her daughter after her due date had passed (precious Madeline was stillborn), and our August feature woman, Shannon, and her wife lost their twins shortly after they were born at 24 weeks gestation. I can think of more than a handful of examples of people dear to me and I'm sure you, too, know families whose lives have been forever changed by the loss of a pregnancy or infant. It's one of those things that I feel is important to acknowledge, honor, and learn more about so we can better help ourselves and others.

My own story is one of a very early miscarriage, which is so much more common than I think people know. In the late spring of 2015, Steve and I decided we were ready to try for baby #2. We always knew we wanted more than one child, but I loved savoring Carrington as a baby -- and it wasn't until she was about a year and a half that I felt ready to give her a sibling. Once we decided we were ready, I wanted so much for it to happen right away. We had no trouble getting pregnant with C and knew how lucky we were, and hoped for that ease the second time around. Sure enough, that very month during our annual beach trip, I felt exhausted and moody and had a wicked headache. I thought, hoped... maybe? We were pleasantly surprised when I got a very positive pregnancy test the day before Father's Day! 

We were seeing our immediate families on Father's Day for dinner and we couldn't hold in the exciting news, so we had Carrington draw pictures for our parents and my brother that said "I'm going to be a big sister!" on them. I scheduled my first ultrasound for the day after my birthday, and a couple of weeks after Father's Day, we gathered with my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) to celebrate my birthday. Even though we hadn't had the first ultrasound, I figured it was the very next day so it couldn't hurt to tell everyone the happy news while we were all together. After everyone finished the "happy birthday" song and right before I blew out my candles, I said "My wish has already come true because Carrie's going to be a big sister!" (Cheesy, but that's how I roll!)

The next day we had our first ultrasound. Steve and I brought C along, but on the way there I just couldn't shake a nagging feeling. Steve asked what was wrong and I said, "what if this is one of the worst days of our lives?" So pessimistic and morbid, I know. Even thinking about it now gives me that pit in my stomach. After the ultrasound began, I so clearly remember our doctor's face -- searching, concerned. She told us she didn't see a heartbeat yet, but it could just be early. The timing could be off. She told us to try not to worry.

One week later (the longest week ever) we went for a follow up ultrasound, which showed the beginnings of what should have developed into a baby. There was a fetal pole and a yolk sack, but things had stopped progressing beyond that and there was no heartbeat to be found. I was crushed. I remember telling Steve that I didn't want to be that woman walking out of the OB's office crying, the person everyone pities. Isn't that a strange reaction? I can't describe it. I just felt confused, self-conscious, helpless, sad.

My body didn't rid itself of the signs of pregnancy quickly or easily, but with my doctor's ok, we decided to let it go the natural route anyway. I remember walking around the mall one afternoon and feeling the cramping begin, and thinking to myself "all of these people don't know I'm having a miscarriage right now. We never really know what's going on in people's lives." I went home and collapsed into Steve's arms. That night the pain of passing what was left woke me from my sleep -- it was absolutely awful. After that, it took over a month of going for blood draws every few days for my HCG levels to fall to zero. There's something particularly cruel and painful about going for test after test to confirm each time that, indeed, your hopes of a pregnancy and healthy baby are less, and then less, and then less, until they are completely gone.

As you all know, two months later we went on to conceive our beautiful, healthy, perfect Hadley. 

It's an odd thing to try to find the positives and "luck" in such a dreadful situation, but I can't help it because I know that despite our miscarriage, we are extremely fortunate. Where others have had trouble conceiving, or had multiple losses, or late term losses -- we have not. And I can't describe how very much my heart goes out to those women, knowing the emotional and physical pain that came with my early loss, and what those families must have gone through. I want to recognize the magnitude of their struggle. I want to wrap my arms around them.

And I also want women who have had early losses to know that your experience matters and it counts. It is a loss nevertheless, and I am so sorry you had to go through it. It's so beyond ok and normal to grieve it. It's healthy to grieve it. I hope that by telling my own story, you'll know you're far from alone and you won't be afraid to talk about it (if you want to).

For those wondering what they can do to help other women who may have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, here are some thoughts:

-Ask her if she wants to talk, and tell her you're all ears. Here's the thing: it's not a fun topic to talk about. It's an extraordinarily sad topic, but it's real and not uncommon and it has happened to many women you know. We have a tendency to say things like "you probably don't want to talk about it" to people who are going through something hard. Sometimes we say this because, truthfully, we don't feel comfortable listening -- and that's ok. If there's a reason you don't feel comfortable lending an ear, I think honesty is the best policy. Otherwise, assuming a woman doesn't want to talk about her loss shuts down a conversation that she might desperately need to have. 

-Do listen, but don't console. I'm sure your friend/sister/daughter/coworker is so glad to have you to support her during a very difficult time. And that's all you need to do -- support her. Listen. Give her a hug and say, "this absolutely sucks." This isn't something to be solved or glossed over, and the "it was meant to be" or "you'll get pregnant again soon!" comments are well-meaning but will be like rubbing salt in the wound. You will do so much good by just being there for her.

-Small acts of kindness. This applies to any loss or difficulty a friend might be going through, really, but a small act of kindness can mean the world to someone suffering: A coffee left on the porch, a hand-written card, comfort food.

-Learn more and donate time, goods, or money. If this has touched you personally, chances are you're wondering what you can do to help. I encourage you to visit and, two resources that I've found to be really comprehensive, comforting, and helpful. 

If you're reading this and thinking "this was me" or "I needed this," then you are exactly why I'm sharing my story. You're not alone, and I'm sending my love your way.

PS - Scary Mommy published a letter I wrote to Steve shortly after everything went down in '15 -- I shared it with his blessing with the hope of opening others' eyes and putting into words what they might not have been able to for their partner. Read it here, if you'd like.

Weekend Recap + Tips for Toddler Movie Theater Success + This Week's Menu

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

You know how they say to "never miss a Monday?" I just can't seem to get it together for the last couple of weeks with Monday posts! The first day of the workweek comes full force, and honestly, I'm too busy trying to squeeze every last drop out of the weekend. ;)

So, apologies for the belated weekend recap, but here we are. Did you have a good Saturday and Sunday? Ours was nice. It's finally feeling like fall in these parts (like, overnight -- I keep seeing that meme that says fall went from 90 to 55 like it saw a State Trooper, haha!) so it felt good to put on some cozy sweatshirts and embrace it. 

Saturday we surprised the girls with a family movie theater date -- H's first time! We went to see Smallfoot. It was a really cute movie and the girls had a great time and did really well. H sat for the whole thing, but a couple of parts were loud and scared her, and at one point she looked at me and said "No thank you, mama!" I almost died. She's so sweet.

I have a couple of pretty obvious tips for taking a toddler to the movie theater. Here's my biggest: reserve seats (since most theaters do that now) in the back row. You won't have to worry about them standing up on their seat or wiggling all around. Also, bring plastic baggies and dole out popcorn from one of the big ol' tubs you get at concessions (because you always have to get popcorn -- that is a given). Also bring a ton of snack back-ups (I brought applesauce pouches and a lollipop when we brought H over the weekend). Finally, let your little one pick out one stuffed animal to bring and hold onto.

Anyway! After the movie was nap time and that evening we went to Panera for big bowls of soup and bread, and then stopped by Home Depot. We picked up a few more pumpkins for the porch (one of which we plan to carve this weekend!) and they already had their Christmas stuff out, so the girls were entertained taking all of that in.

Sunday morning we played and cleaned and Steve got a hair cut, and then we worked on raking some giant piles of leaves in the front yard while the girls worked on jumping in them. During nap time I ran to the outlets, and then my in-laws came over to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday with baked ziti and cake! 

On to this week's menu: 

Monday - Ziti leftovers

Tuesday - Breaded chicken breast with mashed potatoes & green beans

Wednesday - Breakfast for dinner (eggs, tots, Morningstar sausage)

Thursday - Homemade pizza and salad

Friday - Chili in the crockpot

Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday - out (we'll be traveling)
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