Friday, February 21, 2014

Surviving Babyloss

** This was a post I did last month on my Infertility blog. I had gotten a few questions about how to deal with the loss of a pregnancy/baby and came up with this response. This is my first time posting here. **

I never thought in all my life, that I would be a mommy to two angels. When I began trying to get pregnant I knew about the 1 in 4 statistic; how 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage. I knew a couple who had been through it, but who imagines they too will feel the loss?

What I knew very little about and hadn't even considered was babyloss. I was afraid of the first trimester miscarriage, not birthing a baby halfway through a pregnancy. As I progressed through each month I grew more confident and sure of my body and my babies. When labor started and finished on October 12, 2011, we were forever changed. I was a mother, but not a mom. I was in shock, depressed, and broken.

And I had no idea how to move forward. Not without Michael and Alena.

In the two years and three months since they passed, I have continued blogging and have seen more women loose their children. Yes, there have been plenty (including myself) who have come out with a take-home baby or two. We are lucky and blessed for this miracle.

Even through my love and joy over my son Cooper, I remember my twins. I remember and I cry. I cry for them and me and you. For those of you who have lost what I lost - babies. Whether it was at 6 weeks, 20 weeks, or full term, those children were wanted and loved.

I've been thinking if I can help even one person going through the heartache of this loss, it would help heal me as well. So I have come up with a short list of ways to not just survive babyloss, but to come away with a scar instead of a festering open wound. How to dig your way out of the sadness and climb toward a little peace.

Please note that feeling even semi-normal again did not happen over night. It took months of effort, tears, and talking. Not everyone heals in the same fashion or time frame, but there are ways to feel better.

* Find someone or multiple people to talk to about your loss and your baby(ies). This is so important. Keeping it all inside and living through the sadness silently is not helpful. Some people don't want to burden family with the tears or feel uncomfortable talking openly to friends - this is the situation where you may need to find a good support group or therapist. You need to talk to someone who you can be completely candid with and lets you vent. The pain of losing a child is like no other and there has to be an outlet to those feelings. Personally, I found it easier to open up to close friends and family who knew what it took to conceive M & A. People who loved them and felt their own kind of loss. People I trusted. Because of this blog, I was also able to write out my deepest emotions and connect with other women who had been through not just babyloss, but also infertility. It was important for me to talk to (and with) those who could really understand my pain. Find that circle or community to support you and don't hesitate (too often) to say your child's name.

* Remember your baby. This seems like a given, but I don't mean just crying your eyes out each night on the couch (even though this will happen a LOT). I mean actively remember. Make a point of doing things for your baby - anything you can think of to honor them. It may seem like focusing on the fact that they are gone will be much harder on you, but in fact it probably won't be. You will be thinking of them non-stop anyway. One of the toughest parts of losing a baby is that you never (or for too short a time) got to parent your child. This fact was really hard for me to accept and made my heart ache intensely. The only way I could feel like I was able to be a mom to my twins, was to find ways to honor their memory. I needed to carve out a place for them in my life and my home. I needed to say their names out loud and allow them space to be alive. After all, they HAD been here. Have a necklace made, create a memory book, or donate to a charity in their name. There are lots of ways to love and parent your child, it just may not be how you ever envisioned. Doing these things will bring you a little peace and help you feel closer to your child. And it made me feel good (albeit with tears mixed in).

* Take care of yourself. This is the easiest to forget when you are in the midst of grief. I will admit that it took me a while to begin caring for myself again. After the first couple/few of weeks of crying yourself raw, eating like crap or barely at all, and sleeping fitfully - try to find bits of yourself again. Put on a little waterproof mascara and facial moisturizer. Get your hair done and perhaps go get a massage. It may feel like you are being selfish or make you feel guilty to think about pampering yourself, but it is important to your spirit. You need to remember how to live and enjoy life again. Start small if you need to, inch by inch, and be kind to yourself. Sometimes all it takes to bring you further out of a funk/depression/grief, is finding something positive to focus on. Join a gym or make a habit of taking a bubble bath each night. And don't forget to venture out into the world again when you feel ready. Being around people and out in the community can feel lonely at first (strange I know), but eventually you will find connection.

* Give yourself time to heal mentally. Don't push yourself too hard. It can be difficult to take the time you need to heal when you are still hoping to become a mom, I know. Losing a baby is not something most can get over easily or quickly. I do think there is something to be said for finding something positive to look forward to and not giving up on your dream, so there is that. But for me, I realized after my initial panic and trauma, that as much as I wanted to be pregnant again, I wasn't ready for the stress. I also wasn't really ready to give my attention to another baby. It took some time and perspective to figure this out. By 6 months, I had found the peace I needed to try again. I made sure to give myself and my babies all my love and attention for a pre-set number of days. Because I allowed myself to only think of them, I was able to feel a little better about moving on with my life without them. Even after becoming pregnant again, I made sure to make time for the twins. I won't pretend it was easy to manage all my conflicting emotions, but I am glad for the time I had.

There are probably more ways to move forward (notice I don't say move on) from babyloss, but these should hopefully provide the tools to get started. There are no hard and fast rules about figuring out how to BE without your children. There is no sense in it, nor is there a right way. You just do the best you can and know that it is okay to sit in the same spot on the couch for a week if that is what you need. Some people will find solace in sitting with the grief while others will want to feel productive and keep busy. Staying busy is okay as long as you aren't avoiding the mourning process. Ignoring the pain will most likely prolong the healing time. As long as you are okay with the time required, stay busy if that is what is best for you. Just be open to another way of finding your new normal.

Because, sadly, normal will now consist of you being a mommy to an angel. This is a hard fact to become used to.

To this day, I still struggle with this. I sill cry. I still get angry. But I am healing and finding ways to remember my firstborns. This makes me happy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Guest Post: 10 Tips for Surviving Infertility

Lisa at Amateur Nester posted this on her blog yesterday and I just couldn't help but share!  Very insightful and helpful list!  Thanks for sharing Lisa! 

Original post HERE.

If you’ve just been diagnosed with infertility, you may be in shock. Or perhaps, you’ve suspected all along that you would have difficulty conceiving. Either way, I hope you’ll let me share with you some advice I’ve come up after struggling with infertility for the past two years.

1. Do your homework

I didn’t realize how little I knew about fertility until I was faced with infertility. You may know the basics of the birds-and-bees, but do you really understand the finer points of reproduction? Do you know what fertility treatments actually involve? There are so many fabulous resources. I suggest you start by seeking out a few credible, trustworthy resources and learn as much as you can. Some of my favorites are:

2. Seek out community

Infertility is more common that we think, but it can still be difficult to find others in your life who are willing to openly discuss it. You must be intentional about getting to know other people who have experienced it. If you don’t know of anyone in your “real life,” the internet is full of wonderful infertility communities. Do a Google search for “Infertility blogs” or “infertility forums” and you’ll find many wonderful sites. Or, check out some of the blogs of the wonderful women (and a few men!) who leave comments on my site.

3. Be patient with yourself

As cliche as it sounds, infertility is a journey. We don’t know how our infertility will be resolved, and we don’t know how long it will take. For some people, a few pills fix everything; others face years of IVF, surrogacy, or adoption. It’s easier said than done, but try be patient with the process and patient with yourself.

4. Try not to let it define you

Remember, you are going through the experience of infertility. You may be currently infertile in the sense that you cannot bear children, but the situation may only be temporary. And even if you never give birth, you are not an infertile being. You still have the ability to be fruitful in other areas of your life: your career, your marriage, your relationships, your faith, or your creative pursuits.

5. Improve your health

If you’re struggling with infertility, you’re likely spending lots of money and time trying to conceive. Make sure that investment isn’t going to waste and get yourself into the best physical shape you can. This doesn’t mean you need to start going to the gym every day if you haven’t been going at all. You don’t have to go vegan and eat only raw veggies. But take some common-sense steps to improve your health (which may also help you improve your emotions). Some simple ideas are limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake, making sure you get enough sleep, cutting back on processed foods, and things like that.

6. Don’t deprive yourself

Be careful not to deny yourself pleasure or enjoyment in the name of improving your health. Have a piece of dark chocolate after a healthy dinner. Take a small sip of your husband’s glass of red wine and savor it. Have a piece of pizza and follow it with a salad and an apple. Infertility it hard enough on its own; don’t make it worse by cutting out the things you enjoy.

7. Don’t let others tell you how to feel

One of the most frustrating things about infertility is that people will often tell you how to feel. “Don’t worry about it. It’ll happen if it’s supposed to.” Or, “Don’t be too upset about your miscarriage. It was so early and it happens to a lot of people.” As well-intentioned as those comments may be, they hurt and they’re not helpful. It’s not necessary to respond rudely to those kinds of comments, but don’t take them to heart. Your experience is valid and your feelings are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you how or how long you should grieve.

8. Cultivate other interests.

Infertility has the potential to be all-consuming, so try to develop some outside interests. Your hobbies can provide a healthy distraction and keep you from becoming too focused on your struggles. Read books, take up painting, watch an entire TV series on Netflix, learn a foreign language- just do something!

9. Nurture your relationship with your significant other

Infertility will either bring you closer together or put significant strain on your relationship. Do everything you can do nurture your relationship. Recognize that each of you may process the experience and express your emotions differently. Be intentional about spending time together and doing the things you enjoyed before you started trying to conceive.

10. Get professional help if you’re struggling

None of this is easy. Each of these ten commandments can be intensely difficult and it’s not good to do it alone. Don’t be afraid to find help from a therapist, counselor, or clergy member. Find someone else to talk to if they tell you “Just relax.” Ask your doctor or friends for referrals, and ask about sliding scale fees if finances are an issue.