Friday, June 24, 2016
Overcoming death & Living With a Life Threatening Allergy
I recently read a great post by one of the founders of Hello Mamas http://www.hellomamas.com, Christa. Check out her well-done piece that I'm referring to here: http://dish.hellomamas.com/index.php/things-people-need-to-stop-saying-to-mothers-going-through-a-miscarriage/
This is a great example why HelloMamas is so great! It really embodies so many elements of being a mom, that there really is something for everyone!
Christa shed some important light onto a topic that's usually not discussed- at least properly and humanely. And, so it inspired me to share my personal experiences with losing pregnancies. My hope is that some readers can relate, and can find support knowing they definitely aren't alone.
These experiences with loss & death have affected my perception of raising my children with food allergies. There can be an unhealthy balance that develops with any loss or death, and with little support it's almost unavoidable. For me, I also live in a scary, chronic stage of fear. My child always has the potential for a fatal reaction (because of her food allergy). It really irreversably changes one's perceptions of life, knowing how quickly life can slip from your hands.
I'd like to start by saying, it is very out of character for me to share something this deeply personal about myself. In this case, I feel like my personal journey could bring peace to others who, maybe like myself, prefer to suffer in silence. I think to myself, that maybe someone isn't getting through their loss in a healthy way with the needed support. And, after some self-reflection-- I realize that, by not sharing, I'm am not even giving myself the chance to help anyone. That is a tragedy in itself. I went through this process for a reason, and so I feel, in a way, universally obligated to help who I can. I will expose my (still) raw truths and share what I think can be helpful, and maybe even add to my own healing in the process.
My second pregnancy was discovered at Thankgiving in 2010. I was so ecstatic because I wanted my babies really close in age! There's something really special about having the ability to conceive a child, and I knew it from my first experience with it. It is such an indescribable, special gift. It's kind of like a God-given Superpower, but not to be presumed, instead each chance completely blows your mind! I'd had major, life threatening complications with my first child that only, emotionally, magnified my desire to want to overcome my own obstacles to have more babies. I've never been the kind of person who doesn't believe miracles are everywhere. I was a new mom, only beginning to discover my infant was intolerant and "allergic" to milk, I'd made it through that pregnancy against some odds, and I felt like my life, for once, really had a purpose in this new role, Mommy.
We have family across the globe- who we quickly shared our Thanksgiving news with, including teaching our 18 month old to touch my belly and say "baby". My due date was early summer 2011. I went into full baby planning mode: names, minivan hunting, buying our first home-- the works! Ever since I became a mom, I've known it's what I'm here to be. And, for now, it is my biggest dream!
My supportive mom and big sister flew into town for my delayed first ultrasound, waiting until after the holidays in my 3rd month. For whatever reason that day I went back to the ultrasound room alone. Being the private person I am, I think I wanted to experience that first heard heartbeat alone for a minute before I sent for my family. Soon, the technician made an unreadable expression on her face and left the room-- telling me she wasn't able to speak with me?! I remember I could actually hear my own heart beating as I became scared and confused. She came back in with my doctor, at the time, and he said the dates could be off, or my fetus "wasn't vital." It was called a "missed miscarriage", and it's when your body doesn't realize the fetus has stopped progressing and growing and so you don't hemorrhage or "lose the baby".
The Doctor, seeing my disbelief, gave me the option to come back in one week to try again , or to schedule a procedure to remove the fetus called a D&C. I chose the first option, and then returned to the waiting room where my family was and walked straight outside saying nothing-----and still nothing for most of the ride home.
I tried to hide my tears and think of reasons that maybe could explain why the heartbeat was there, but undetectable. I knew, at this time, I couldn't speak without completely losing all emotion. Finally, after some prodding from them I eventually said "they couldn't find the heartbeat today". As I heard myself say it out loud, the reasonable side of me knew at 15 weeks the heartbeat should've been strong and clearly detectable. I couldn't help but to feel defeated in my hopes and lose my composure--even through I didn't want to worry my family who had flown almost 3 hours for this main event. They offered to stay with me until the next week's appointment. I assured them I was fine. I wasn't. I hadn't even begun to process how this experience had, and would, affect me for the rest of my life.
The longest week of my life went by until, once again, no heartbeat. My aunt and husband came with me and I'd never felt so hopeless and helpless in my life, even though I'd nearly died a year 1/2 before. I felt stupid for thinking it would take 16 weeks to hear a heartbeat, and taken advantage of by my doctor who had already known it! He was just trying to let me digest the loss, but little did he know I do much better at complete honesty, than giving any false hopes!
And, to make matters worse, my body was still growing and not realizing the embryo/ fetus/baby (all the same to me) was gone. So, because of my previous surgeries, I was unable to have the removal procedure, and I had to take a medication to make me expel the pregnancy before it became infectious.
For me, that was tough because it meant me emotionally giving up on what was already gone, but with what I wasn't ready to come to terms with. I remember staring toward the backseat at my baby who was here, and looking for comfort in her miraculous life. So, for the next 2 weeks I spoke to very few people and hemmoraged my lost baby. It was by far, the hardest two weeks of my life!
Christa's blog post was spot on! As news traveled the planet of people learning of our loss, out came the commentary from others. I knew that people were trying to be kind, but even discussing it brought me immediately
to a bad head space----a failed, concerned, mourning and sad place. To make matters worse, I was being introduced to people as "this is Lisa, she's had a miscarriage too", to strangers people in my life knew. I've heard all of Christa's listed "Things People Need to Stop Saying..." I experienced all first-hand, and they felt horrible! The one that stood out to me as the most hurtful was "you need to move on".
Any loss needs time to grieve, and this is a lifelong loss. A little person you were creating, planning for, dreaming of who they'd be, what they'd offer the world, it's a whole life that never got a chance to exist. Excuse me if I needed a minute to get through that! Everyone around me was suffocating me, and I could only find solace in the eyes of my only creation, my baby. She got extra love, extra hugs, I would hold her in the middle of the night, catch myself just staring at her, etc. She'd still point to my belly and say "baby", but with her I knew where it was coming from. I'd correct her and say "You, my darling, came out of Mommy's belly." Maybe that's why we're so close now? She's been as much to me as I feel I've been to her.
This wouldn't be my first miscarriage, but it was my hardest. My furthest along (2nd trimester), and an experience I may never completely fully overcome. It's definitely a memory that when replayed in my mind is in slow motion, as I can remember every single specific detail. But, for me, I was lucky enough to conceive another baby. She may have had to be taken early, but she's here! I find myself staring at her, giving her extra cuddles, and holding her in the middle of the night. I still feel that both of my girls are as much here for me, as I am for them. We're all connected in this world! I not only know that now, I really understand it.
I'm still not able to talk about it with just anyone, only a few very close people have heard me discuss it. I can't handle watching movies or shows that deal with miscarriages or baby deaths. And, I always cry when babies are born because I know what a miraculous journey has just taken place against so many odds. Some people can't pop out kids so easily, and they don't truly understand how amazing this process it, because it's "easy" for them. Baby's represent hope, love, laughter, purpose in this big, sometimes, scary world.
After losing more pregnancies and becoming very ill in the process, I lost my ability to have any more children biologically. And so I know that the two children I have are very special and require my full attention! Our many brushes with severe allergic reactions, and the thought of potentially losing one of my children has diverted my attention to taking extra precautions in preserving my children's safety. It occupies the part of my mind that craves more children, for the most part.
One of the ways we take these extra precautions is through our non profit Food Allergy Resources & Mentoring (http://www.fa-resources.org)
But, I'd be open to adopting if ever that option fell in my lap! I love babies, children, being a mommy, and building my life around them. I've learned they are one of my biggest passions in this life.
Instead of feeling sorry for us having gone through the emotions of losing pregnancies, and the ability to have more-- look at us strong woman who have overcome this deep loss, and found our own ways through it. Watch what you say, and know that we are all imperfectly made. Think before you speak, and if what you're about to say isn't going to promote peace---than keep your mouth closed. And, if you think your opinion about something you've never been through--promotes peace, it doesn't! The best thing to do is keep life moving by making plans, and keeping their life (that's standing still) going. And, wait for them to talk about it when they're ready.