Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Reflections on pregnancy after miscarriage and infertility

I first posted this to the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums on Dec. 27, 2005. There are living children and a current pregnancy mentioned, along with references to the thirteen years that have brought us to this point and our babies in Heaven:

Eleven years ago this morning, I woke up cramping and bleeding. It was one of the roughest periods of my life, both emotionally and physically. The negative pregnancy test the night before should have prepared me, but I was still devastated. I had been seeing my doctor for testing and was anticipating an ultrasound of a breast lump as soon as we got back home from visiting my parents for Christmas, so it had been an emotional month anyway. But it had seemed "different" in a hopeful way and I just couldn't quite let myself believe there had been no baby for yet another month - just over two years now since we had started out on this baby quest.

By the time of my doctor's appointment the following week, the large lump was completely gone and the breast ultrasound totally clear. The next 8 1/2 months my body refused to cycle. In the midst of all this, I shared with my doctor my suspicion that I had indeed been pregnant in December and she confirmed that she too suspected an early miscarriage. Late in coming and no solid medical "evidence" (proof of a positive hcg, etc.) but finally conformation that I was not crazy and "permission" to grieve the baby my heart had known all along, yet my mind had logically denied as "only a late period" for the past five months. As if on cue, knowing when I should have gone into labor, my period returned with a vengeance two weeks before my would-have-been due date.

It's been 11 years. The first few anniversaries were devastating with weeks of worry and anticipation building up to the dreaded due dates. Then came Joshua, our injectables/IUI miracle, born the very week but 5 years after his big sister, Noel Alexis, made her journey to Heaven. What a gift!

A year later we were just starting to "feel infertile" again as secondary infertility became a reality, only to find out mid-January that we had experienced the miracle of natural conception on New Year's Day... When Joel quickly followed Noel to Heaven, the reality that "this may not be so easy" was once again upon us with renewed grief. Hannah kissed my womb only a few months later, but she too was gone almost as quickly as she had come, leaving only a positive hpt and bittersweet tears as her legacy.

By the next Christmas, Noel's 7th in Heaven, we had gone 7 more months without conception, our miracle baby boy was turning two and we were preparing for the laparascopy I would have in January for endometriosis that had agressively returned. Rick was feeling our family complete, or maybe God was leading us toward adoption, and I was grieving that only 1 of our 4 precious babies was here to share this life with us.

As only God could do, the next Christmas found me a month from the delivery of our precious baby girl, Ruth! The laparscopy had turned into a 3 1/2 hour event and I had woken up to the news that we had less than 5% chance of ever conceiving again even with medical aid, and that even if we could conceive, my ability to carry was highly questionable. Though I spent the entire third trimester on bedrest, God carried our little girl to full term healthy birth against those odds.

Over the past two Christmases, I've sought contentment in the family we have been given, learning to trust God with my husband's decision that I had been through all the grief he wanted to watch me undergo and that our efforts to grow our family were done. Then God surprised us this past June to learn that He wasn't done growing our family, so this Christmas I sit 7 months pregnant, once again fighting ongoing contractions, bedrest and an irritable uterus, and finding myself surging with tearful hormones. I thought I was OK with where we had been, that this year infertility and grief were truly behind me. That Noel, and Joel and Hannah, while always a part of my heart, no longer demanded ongoing grief work or specific recognition of their landmarks. I didn't dread the coming of the 26th and 27th (negative pregnancy test and onset of bleeding) because I could thankfully focus on the Baby in the manger with joy this year and rejoicing in our own three living miracles...

So why did I wake up yesterday snappy at Joshua and picking a fight with Rick right off the bat? Why was the packing away of Christmas decorations such an emotional endeavor? Why did I spend the day wiping secret tears from my eyes in the solitude of the bathroom? Why did I have an explosion at my son in angry frustration as we were putting him to bed last night? Why did thoughts assault me all day that even though our other losses have been so early and we in pretty safe territory even if I had to deliver Jeremiah today, that there are still never any guarantees? "This can't be grief. I have too much to be thankful for. It's been too long."

Well after darkness fell and too many angry words had been spoken to my loved ones over insignificant events, I finally I admitted to Rick that I was missing Noel and very scared for Jeremiah. I broke down and sobbed and the cleansing tears melted away the accumulated stress of the day.

I didn't expect him to understand. I guess I anticipated he too would think it had been "too long" for me to need to revisit active grief. But he pulled me close and held me and asked, "So is that what's been going on today?! Why didn't you tell me???" I cried for me and Noel and Joel and Hannah. I cried out my fears for Jeremiah and the frustration of bedrest and contractions and all the unknowns of when true labor will hit, how it will happen and what outcome will unfold. I cried for Julie D. and her Christmas Eve Katie who went to Heaven 5 years ago. I cried for Traci G. and her Noel who just joined two big sisters in Heaven this Christmas, and for Jenny whose Joshua (one of three siblings to journey to Heaven this year) should have been due at the same time I am, and for Lois as she learns to accept her husband's plan above her own will, and for Rae as she seeks the joy of new life in the shadow of death, and for so many others who have known so much grief this year...

Not quite sure how I'm feeling today. Definitely better than yesterday. Grief shared is indeed grief divided and I was overwhelmed with the loving acceptance of Rick and my parents when I admitted to them (and myself) why I had been having such a rough day. The release of anxiety and hormones in that flood of tears certainly helped! I don't feel like I am living imprisoned to fear this pregnancy as I did with Joshua, but I still know that I have no promises beyond this moment. Pregnancy after loss can be such a bumpy ride!

1 comment:

Jeff and Abbey Land said...

Wow! I feel as if I were reading part of our struggle. Our first pregnancy abruptly ended one week before Easter last year. My wife's body also decided that it would not cycle and it wasn't until drugs were introduced that the cycle returned. As a minister in a large very fertile church, it is almost a daily announcement of someone new expecting. Everyone, but us, it seems. We are now journeying into the fields of Infertility clinics. The place where no one looks you in the eye, and you feel awkward for being there. Our first round of injections/IUI did not work. We'll be back this weekend. Thanks for sharing your story.