Friday, November 22, 2013

The Aftermath: Coping After Pregnancy Loss

I've been contemplating this post for awhile... Everyone's experiences are different and those experiences shape us and our perceptions. This is my family's story and this is how I worked my way through our loss. Not all the things I did were good, but I share them nevertheless because maybe they will help you my dear reader. Maybe they will help you find ways to cope with your loss or at least tell you that your not crazy for only wanting to eat potato chips for a week.

The weeks following the D&C were BY FAR the darkest of my entire life.  I took the rest of the week off work, not because the recovery was demanding, but rather because I was not ready emotionally to go back. I knew there would be questions about why I had taken off so suddenly and I wasn't ready to face them. I also knew that I wasn't ready to go back to working with other people's children all day, not when I had just lost mine. 

My mother stayed with me most of the week... She was a God send. I don't know how I would have coped in the days that followed without her. My husband would leave for work and my mom would come lay down with me after he left - so that I was never alone. I, unfortunately, am a comfort eater (I know, I know not the most glamorous of coping strategies). My mom and husband would bring me all my favorites: cookies, peanut butter m&ms, gummy bears, chips and cheese dip... Pretty much all the worst stuff.  At one point in the days that followed, my mom said to me "I'm not gonna tell you that you can't have the cookies, but you have to at least eat some fruit too." We laugh about that now. In fact one evening, mom and I went to the grocery store to buy some things for dinner. We came back with a block of Velveeta, a can of Rotel, and a bag of chips. When Kevin got home from work, we ecstatically informed him that we had gone shopping for dinner and we were having chips and cheese dip. Kevin is quite possibly the most patient man in the history of the world. Even though I know in his heart of hearts he believes chips and cheese dip does not constitute a meal, he allowed us to eat it and only made the request that we at least have some grilled chicken with it as well. 

So all that to say here is my list of ways that I coped after the loss of Sweet Pea:

1. Comfort Eating  -- You obviously already know this as based on the account above. Admittedly this is not necessarily a recommended strategy, but it was (for better or worse) one of the ways I handled the loss. It's not a very good or healthy way though, so I don't endorse it. Regardless, my words to you are the same as my mother's were to me... I'm not gonna tell you that you can't have the cookies, but you have to at least eat some fruit too. 

2. Crying -- I never fought the urge to cry and I think that this really helped. I compare the feeling to sinking and swimming... I could tell when I was teetering on the edge of sinking and losing it. And when I felt that happening, I allowed myself to go there and I would cry as I had never cried before. I never tried to hold it back. I allowed myself to grieve fully over the loss of our baby. 

3. One Action at a Time -- People always say just take it one day at a time. Well for me, one day at a time was too much, too long. I couldn't function thinking in days. I couldn't even function thinking in hours. I could only function thinking in actions. I would tell myself now it's time to get up and then I would do that. Now it's time to take a shower and I would do that. I would make concessions for myself. For example, I would tell myself, you don't have to put on real clothes, but you at least have to put on some sweatpants. One action is enough. Just start there and eventually you will be able to move forward, to think in longer durations again.

4. Songwriting -- This may not work for everyone, but it worked for me. I attempted to start a journal of our story, but that was too hard, too fresh. I couldn't handle that just yet. However, (and perhaps it is because I am a music therapist) there were evenings when I would sit at the piano and pour my heart out through songwriting because it was the only way I could articulate the pain of my loss. 

5. Bible Study --  Right after our loss, I began Beth Moore's Bible study on James with the pastors from my church. Holy cow... I cannot begin to tell you how phenomenal this study was. The timing couldn't have been more divine. I will warn you there was at least one lesson that I ugly cried the whole way through. I mean uncontrollably sobbed. But boy did I need to hear it. 

6. Social Support -- Not very many people knew about what was going on with us at that point. Our family and close friends knew, that was pretty much it. But those who did rose around us like an army. People sent cards, called, texted, came to visit, prayed, sent flowers. One of my dear friends came over between the time we found out about Sweet Pea and the D&C and sat on the futon with me and cried. She seriously wept with me. It was the sweetest moment to know that she loved us so much that she would grieve with us as if the loss was her own. I treasure, treasure that moment. 

Everyone's story is different. Everyone processes loss differently. May this list be a starting point for you as you find your healing. 


Friday, November 15, 2013


I was talking to a friend recently who was telling me of another friend who experienced a pregnancy loss. The question of "why?" came up. I think that all of us who have experienced pregnancy loss and really loss in general struggle with this question. Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why did God do this to us? You are completely normal for questioning. I truly believe it is a part of the grieving and coping process.

When we lost Sweet Pea, we were devastated. I REALLY struggled with the why part. I mean STRUGGLED. I was raised with a rich christian heritage and had been taught from the time I can remember that there is an order to things. My mother used to repeatedly tell me throughout my life (although she made a point to CONSTANTLY, seriously CONSTANTLY, reinforce this when I was in high school and college) that the order of life events should always go as follows: School, Job, Marriage, Children. When I was growing up there was to be NO deviation from this order. Once I got into college she did tell me that job and marriage could be switched if AND only if the husband already had a job. ;)

I followed this order... The original order too, mind you. I do often try to be a rule follower in spite of my rather rebellious natural tendencies. I went to school and got a degree, then got a job, about 5 months later got married, and a little over 2 years later got pregnant. I did everything the 'right' way. And Kevin and I even added a step to the order. We waited until we were financially stable enough to support a child before trying to get pregnant. We both firmly believed that we did not want to bring a child into this world if we were not fully prepared to independently, financially support him or her.

Dear reader, when I tell you I struggled with the why, I mean it with every fiber of my being. I followed the order. Every 'i' was dotted and every 't' was crossed. I did exactly what my momma and my faith told me to do... And I still lost my baby... It seemed to me to be cruelest of cruels. I watched as acquaintances, friends, and even family members deviated from the order and they got to keep their babies. I watched as individuals on my Facebook complain over and over about being single mommies and 2 weeks later would announce their 2nd or 3rd pregnancies with no husbands or daddies in tact.

And I lost my Sweet Pea....

I will be completely open and honest with you, it burned me up. I was judgmental. I was envious. I was angry. And more than all of these emotions put together, I was broken and destroyed that I did everything 'right' and lost. Why me, God? I did everything You said I should so why me?

I wish I had good answers for you. But I don't. I don't know why God chose to take my Sweet Pea to heaven before I would ever get to know him or her. What I do know is that it's okay to question. What I do know is that when you experience a loss so profound, it changes you to your core and you can feel for others what you couldn't have had you not walked through the valley. What I do know is that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and with perseverance you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1:2-4)

What I do know is that you always have a choice in how you will let loss effect you. I could choose to be angry and bitter with God, but where would that get me? I would just continue in a destructive lifestyle. Or I can choose to let the brokenness bring me closer to God and to trust that He is in control when I have no idea what He is doing or why He is doing it. And I will tell you, my sweet reader, there is something unparalleled about reaching out to God admist brokenness. Quite honestly, I have never felt closer to Him than in the times when I was utterly destroyed.

You are not alone.


Friday, November 1, 2013

The Procedure

I went to work the following Monday after we found about Sweet Pea. It was the hardest and probably best thing I could have done. In addition to providing private music therapy services, I also teach music at a local preschool. It's funny to me how perceptive kiddos are... I put on my professional face and delved into the much needed distraction of bringing music to preschoolers. In the middle of one of my classes, one of my three year olds ran up to me and gave the biggest hug and said "tonight you can come to my house." I laughed and said "I don't know about that..." I didn't have the heart to correct the behavior of her interrupting my class because I so needed that hug from a little one. She continued this trend for about 2-3 weeks and it is something that I treasure in my heart. None of my other kiddos did it, but every week she made a point to hug me and say something incredibly sweet. I needed it... Funny how the smallest child can minister healing to a broken adult.

I went in for my pre-op on the morning of Tuesday, January 29th... I had done a significant amount of research about D&Cs and my biggest question was when could Kevin and I start 'trying' again. They began by taking me into that cursed ultrasound room again to confirm that Sweet Pea did not have a heartbeat. They confirmed this... I can't remember if I cried then or not... I don't know if I was just so numb that I waited to cry until we got back to the car or if the tears snuck out when I was forced to go back to that room.

The doctor was not the most compassionate in the world. He was all business and became quickly frustrated when his computer would not work correctly. He basically broke down the procedure, told me not to eat or drink anything after a certain time, no medications, blah blah blah. He then told us that we were to wait for me to have 2 periods before we started 'trying' again. I asked him why we had to wait. He stated that my uterus needed to essentially clear out everything and start afresh. I, being the ever questioning individual that I am, was not satisfied with that answer. It didn't make sense to me at all. If my body was unable to sustain a pregnancy then what would it matter if we began "trying" before 2 periods because my body wouldn't sustain the pregnancy. And if the uterine lining wasn't 'primed' then the fertilized egg wouldn't attach and I definitely wouldn't sustain the pregnancy, right? ... At least those were my musing... Mind you, I am no doctor, just someone who doesn't always take what is told to them at face value. I resolved to ask another doctor about it later.

I was still bleeding pretty heavily at this point and had been told on multiple occasions to go the ER if the bleeding became too substantial...  They would perform an emergency D&C at the ER. Problem was that I didn't really know what exactly was "too substantial".  I questioned my pre-op doctor about how I would know if I should go to the ER. He said "oh you'll know." That was a terrible answer for me. My D&C was schedule for very early the following morning, January 30th... During the middle of the night, I began to bleed heavily and had the most horrendous cramps... I think in retrospect, I probably should have gone to the ER at that point, but I just kept telling myself to wait it out. My surgery was scheduled for the early morning so I could hold on till then. The doctor telling me that I would know was absolutely worthless. I didn't know what to do... My world had spiraled so out of control, I was at a loss for what actions I should take and when I should take them.

My mom flew in from Kansas to the ATL to be with Kevin and I... I cannot begin to tell you how much of a blessing she was to us during that time. I needed her there and I think Kevin needed her there too. The doctor who did my pre-op was not the same doctor scheduled to complete my surgery. The doctor who completed my surgery looked like a rockstar wannabe. (SIDE NOTE: I feel like there is at least one rockstar wannabe OB-GYN in every practice... Does anyone else feel that way?? They all look the same too... Variations of long hair, often times jewelry or ear piercings, and they always want to high five you... Like seriously?? Please tell me I'm not crazy here and someone else has experienced this too!) I met him briefly before going to the OR. He said to me shortly before they wheeled me away "you know, you don't have to do this." All I could think was "okay, doc as I'm already here and already IV'ed up... We are doing this."

I loved my nurse. She was from Germany, I believe, and she was the kindest, sweetest soul. She took care of me so thoroughly and I wish that I could remember her name so I could thank her for loving on me when I was falling apart. She was a precious gift. Likewise, the anesthesiologist was wonderful. He was so encouraging and said to me before he administered the medicine "next time I see you will be for an epidural." I don't plan to have a medicated labor/delivery, but the sentiment behind his words was like balm to my aching soul. There would be a next time. There would be another baby.

I remember being wheeled to the OR and lifted onto the table... And then I remember waking up with about 10 nurses surrounding me in phase 1 recovery. There were so many of them that at first I thought something had gone terribly wrong, but they assured me everything was fine. I know I cried then. One of the nurses stuck a box of tissues on top of me. I took that box of tissues home with me and that became the running joke between me and my mom. It was our $1000 box of tissues.

They then wheeled me in the bed to phase 2 recovery where I was put in a recliner. When I stood up the amount of blood on the bed frightened me a bit. The nurses brought me a Diet Coke to drink and Kevin and mom came to see me. I cried even more when they walked into my room.

I don't know how long we stayed there. Time really made no sense to me at that point. All I know is that eventually they made Kevin go get the car, they put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out to him. I don't remember anything about the drive home or getting home.

In addition to the box of tissues, I got to keep my pillow. I actually really like that pillow and still use it today.

As I tell you this part, all I can think is that there were such little gifts from God to keep me afloat sprinkled throughout this whole experience. I don't know that I even recognized them until I sat down to type this... The kindness of the nurse, the encouragement from the anesthesiologist, the laughter about the world's most expensive (and yet cheaply made) box of tissues, my little preschooler's weekly hugs, my mom coming to take care of me... I do believe all those things were designed to keep me going when I thought I was drowning. Little nuggets that weren't huge and at that point in time weren't really noticeable, but looking back I can now see that God really was trying to minister to my broken heart through those acts. I was never alone even if I felt isolated from everyone and everything. And you, my dear reader, are not alone either.