Sadness and Joy

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I’ll make this as coherent as I can. I feel a need to share, but I’m not sure how well-formed my ideas are. It’s been a weird summer. It’s been filled with bittersweet first anniversaries from my second pregnancy that ended a year ago on this day. Memorial Day commemorated the weekend we found out I was pregnant after yet another grueling Clomid cycle. All of June I kept thinking about how just a year ago I had been pregnant and had no reason to think anything was wrong. As July grew closer, my mind started going back to the day we learned our baby’s heart had stopped beating, and the days that followed. On the 4th of July I was in a really weird space, because even though we were celebrating with good friends and having a fun time, I couldn’t help thinking back to who I was a year ago– someone three days away from her worst fears becoming reality.

The first days of living in that new reality were the worst, and the few weeks after were not much better. I wasn’t able to leave the house for more than a couple of errands before the tears would start up again. I had brand-new experiences of anxiety and shortness of breath. It took a few months before I was able to cook a full week of meals. Grief took up residence in my body, and I’m still working on how we can live more comfortably together. I still can’t breathe properly, I have new aches and pains, and sometimes my very thoughts feel different. It’s taking a team of practitioners– family doctor, functional medicine doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, counselor– to help me figure out what’s going on and how I can get back to myself, or I guess to a healthy new self.

A year is a long time, and it’s also not. The sadness feels long, but there has been joy, and that has made the time fly. When I think that not even six months after my miscarriage I was hearing God’s voice encouraging me to stop fertility treatments and consider adoption, and just a few months after that we researched and chose an adoption agency, and not long after that announced our plans, I just think, “Wow.”

Once I stopped treatments, I gradually felt less and less of a desire to be pregnant. I actually found myself feeling grateful at different points as time went on. When it got closer to our baby’s original due date, I truly felt relieved that I wasn’t living through the uncomfortable third trimester. After the due date had passed I would occasionally feel blessed and happy to not be recovering from childbirth or in the throes of breastfeeding. These are experiences that I know I might still have, and would be grateful for, but during the past year I think the Holy Spirit has worked in my mind and heart to give me a gift in the form of relief. Yes, there’s plenty to be sad about, but at the same time it feels like a weight lifted to no longer be trying to conceive, to no longer wish to be pregnant. That’s not just amazing, it’s supernatural.

Speaking of supernatural, some of my closest moments with God have taken place during these saddest times. The one I most want to share with you is something I now feel very strongly about, and want every person to consider. As I poured out my heart to God over losing my baby I heard him tell me that I’m his baby. And I had to practice it a little, but I let myself be that baby. Let myself be comforted, soothed, rocked by the God who created me and cares so deeply about what I’m going through and how I feel. I accepted being truly helpless to have controlled anything about the situation I was in, and let myself be the child who cries out “Abba, Father.” It didn’t change what happened, or necessarily make it hurt less, but it changed my heart in a way I struggle to explain but feel deeply. We are all God’s children, uniquely created and uniquely, purely loved.

This comforting image of Father God is consistent with what we read in Scripture (especially the Psalms but it’s definitely found elsewhere), and I’m so thankful to everyone who ever taught me the Word, every person who ever encouraged me to read it on my own, every nudging from the Holy Spirit to open my Bible and sit with God’s words. Because all of those little moments are investments into our souls; those words get tucked away, waiting for the moment when they are brought back up for use. And in my moments of grief, God’s Word came back up to teach me about the depth of his grace and love. It came back to remind me that God is sad with me, will comfort me, and is ready for whatever comes next for me. The Word came back in new ways to show me that as I take my wobbly steps into the future, God is there with me. I want everyone to know that no matter who you are or where you’re at with God, you’re his baby and he loves you SO much.

(As I write this there’s SO much more I want to say, because obviously we can’t always just be a baby. We need to obey and do what’s right, we need to mature, do the good works we were created to do, and there are things in life that we are responsible for, etc. etc. BUT I do firmly believe that one facet of how God views us will always be as his babies, and if we can learn this it will help a great deal with how we view God, ourselves, and others.)

While I have learned and grown a lot, can let go of a lot of things, and can “move on” in a lot of ways, I still carry the grief and the pain of loss… and probably always will. And there are plenty of triggers out there in the world for someone who has experienced miscarriage(s), especially for someone who doesn’t have children yet and may never have biological children. Mother’s Day, casual conversations about surprise pregnancies, assumptions everywhere that families are only biological, movies and TV shows that either get infertility/loss/grief/adoption completely wrong OR get it so right that it hits you in the feels… there’s a tenderness that is part of me now as I move through my life.

It seems to me that loss is like a thinning of the protective barrier between the individual and the world. In many ways it can be good– I’ve certainly found that being more vulnerable is good for my personal growth and for my relationships. But, of course, it hurts. I know the two babies I’ve carried and lost can’t be here, and I’m at peace with that fact, but it was painful to lose them and the dreams we had of knowing them here on earth. That kind of pain sticks with a person.

I could continue to write paragraphs going back and forth on this forever– how sadness hangs out with my peace and hope and joy. Where I’m at right now is that I simultaneously carry multiple things: the pain of infertility and recurrent miscarriage, and also the joy and hope of pursuing adoption. But even in the pain of infertility, there has been joy. And in the joy and hope of adoption, there will be sadness and pain. I wouldn’t change any of this, because I can tell I’m on the right path, and God is doing amazing things.

A year ago today I was beginning to walk through one of the darkest, saddest times of my life. But it was also one of the deepest and kind of best times for my relationship with God and others. To let my guard down, to really feel my feelings, to be served and ministered to in new ways, to wrestle with my thoughts… it all helped make me the person I am now, a year later. I trust that it will make me the person I need to be a year, five years, twenty years from now, too. I trust in a God who, through my pain, is growing me more and more into who I was truly created to be.

For anyone else who carries sadness along with their joy, I see you. As we move through the world with this extra tenderness, let’s also use the gifts our loss has given us. For me it’s compassion for others, remembrance in prayer for those who grieve, grace, and vulnerability– just to name a few. I hope I’ll get better at using these gifts and discover more as time goes on.

I’m coming to see that everyone I encounter has either experienced loss already, or will experience it at some point in their lives. This might not be a super-profound realization, but it’s new to me and I’m trying to let it color my thinking and actions. I’m aware that if you’re reading this, it’s very likely that you carry a grief of your own. So if you like, leave a comment about the ways loss has shaped you. We need each other!

Inside Out. Cue the tears, am I right?

Life in Status Updates

I know it’s been a while. I’m humbled to see that my fertility posts are still getting new readers. I shared my story so others could find encouragement, and I’m encouraged right back that I might be able to help someone just a little bit.

At the end of this last Clomid cycle (which was #6) we went through a rollercoaster of emotions. That sounds cliché, but it’s totally true. I’ve been wanting to share about it here, but at first I didn’t have the energy, and then with an end-of-summer vacation and the start of preschool approaching, I didn’t have the time. And then I realized I had written about it: briefly, in pieces, on Facebook, as we went through it all. So I’m going to share my last few status updates and give you a little peek behind the curtain in case you’re in the same position or are wanting to understand this experience a little more.

July 1, 2017:

We are delighted to announce something that, on many days over a number of years, we were not sure would happen… but Baby H is on the way! 9+ weeks along, 31-ish to go! This new arrival is expected early in February 2018.
We want to thank you, our friends and family, for your love, prayers, and support, and ask you to keep it coming. Things are going great, and most of the time we feel hopeful and excited… but because of the path we’ve walked to get here, fears still surface, and it’s already become clear that our pregnancy journey will feel a little different than what we expected. We’re sharing this news “early” because a) it’s hard to keep such exciting news under wraps, and b) we need your support no matter what happens. Through everything, God has proven himself good. We are so thankful for this miraculous new life that has come about after a LOT of prayer… and a dash of science. 😉

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July 8, 2017:

Mike and I are having a very hard weekend as yesterday we learned that we lost our baby. We are thankful for all the people around us who celebrated with us, and now we ask for your continued prayer and support as we grieve and figure out how to move forward. Yesterday was such a hard day but we saw the light shine through many times. We know we are being held up by a loving God and loving friends and family.

P.s. I am doing fine- was sent home with meds to speed the process along, and while it’s unpleasant, everything seems to be happening normally. I would still appreciate prayers for full recovery.

P.p.s we will probably not be very active here on fb right now, but we do want to get the word out and the prayers going. This news is okay to share.

God brought this verse to mind on our way home from the doctor’s office yesterday and I have been feeling its truth so I thought I’d share. He is good.

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July 21, 2017:

How am I doing? I’ve been asked this question quite a bit recently, and I don’t mind at all, I’m just not always sure how to answer.

I’m okay, but I’m not great. I’m mostly able to function, but sometimes normal functioning is overwhelming to take on. I can get out and about, but I might cry on the way there or back. I’m usually tired when I get home from simple errands or outings. I haven’t straightened my hair in two weeks and have put on mascara maybe three times- to some of you that will speak volumes! 😉

I am so thankful for the visits, texts/messages, cards, flowers, and gifts from friends and family. They say grief comes in waves, and it’s true. Thankfully, support from others is helping to buoy me along, always coming right when I need it. Thank you, Lord; thank you, friends. Please keep praying.

You all are great, but I am MOST thankful for my sweet husband Mike. I was so happy to get him home after his week in Chicago (although I made it through the week at home with help from friends)! We are trying our best to hold each other up and are being blessed by the love God has grown in us over the years.

I can see plenty of silver linings, but I’m still under a cloud. My joy is a little out of focus- taking a back seat to God’s quiet peace that tells me I will be alright even though it’s not all right, right now.

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July 31, 2017:

Yesterday marked our 12th anniversary. Over the years, in a variety of situations, we often ask each other, “is this what you thought being married would be like?” Super funny in the middle of some ridiculous repair, or cleaning up a surprising mess, or doing something really basic/boring. But we also use this line for comic relief in more serious times– disagreements, disappointments… heartbreaks.

When we make our little joke, Mike usually says, “It’s better.” (Awwwwww) And it’s true.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of heartbreak over our miscarriage, our rumpled bed caught my eye. I took a picture so I could remember the bittersweet time we spent sitting there together, sharing the sorrow. It was NOT what I thought being married would be like. I didn’t envision that much sadness or that many tears coming our way. But even when life brings heartbreak, sharing it with Mike is still better than I ever could have imagined– and I imagined it would be pretty great! I’m thankful that we have so many good people around us for encouragement and support, and for God’s exponential grace and faithfulness to us. Cheers to the next several dozen years!

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p.s. here’s a happy bonus picture from last weekend when we had a great idea to take our picture on top of a parking garage with a nice city view behind us… and found that the top level was closed off for construction. Womp-womp.

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See? Rollercoaster.

So what actually happened, to fill in the gaps of those posts, was that I had a missed miscarriage. The baby’s development had stopped but my body didn’t know it yet. It was discovered during my first ultrasound at almost 10 weeks along. One of the most painful moments I’ve ever lived through was being told there was no heartbeat. We were then given the options: have a D & C, wait for my body to catch up and miscarry naturally, or take medicine to start the miscarriage process right away. This was a Friday morning, and Mike had to leave town on Sunday morning, so I chose the medicine in order to have my husband with me while I miscarried. The medicine (cytotec) worked as described, and while obviously it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was very similar to my first miscarriage, which was a little earlier (6 weeks along) and totally spontaneous. I was happy to have my husband with me for support and for us to grieve together. It was a sweet time, although obviously bitter, too.

Once Mike left I had to really push myself out of my introverted comfort zone and allow people to visit and help me. It was the best thing to do, and not actually that hard once I started. During those six days I was so blessed by friends bringing meals/snacks/coffee/gifts, or just their company. One of my sweet friends went with me to my follow-up ultrasound appointment. There were also many messages lighting up my phone, which I enjoyed reading as I was able, and ignored when it felt like too much (I actually turned off Facebook notifications for a while so I wouldn’t feel nagged by the little red numbers). Managing my busy social schedule and keeping the house tidy for guests was a good way to keep myself busy when I needed to be. Part of managing my schedule, though, also included time for grieving however I needed to. Maybe it was reading Scripture or something relevant to my situation, or prayer in whatever form it took (often tears), or watching TV or taking a nap. It ended up being… I hesitate to say a “good” week… but it was a healthy week that brought many blessings, even in the middle of a lot of sadness.

When Mike came home I thought things would be easier, but my emotions came out in different ways with my safest/favorite person by my side again. We grieved together and it was difficult but okay. Things have gotten a little easier, but we are still working on how to carry this grief as we move forward. I have had some physical symptoms that seem to be related to stress or anxiety, so I’m getting help for those things.

As painful as it is sometimes to look back at our excited announcement, I’m ultimately glad we did it. I’m glad we celebrated that little life as much as we could, and that we made a public announcement “early.” Yes, it meant our hearts were out there. We were nervous. But we got so much more support because we shared, and we’ve needed it all.

Speaking of moving forward… we are. We’ve seen a specialist (a reproductive endocrinologist, or RE) who had a pretty hopeful interpretation of my/our history, and the plan is to begin letrozole/Femara cycles as soon as possible. This drug is similar to Clomid in that it encourages ovulation, although it does so in a different way, but the timing of the cycles should look similar to when I took Clomid. The main difference will be the addition of ultrasound monitoring to measure follicle growth, and a “trigger shot” to release an egg at the right time. I hope to share about my letrozole experience here for anyone looking for that information, so stay tuned.

If you have had to go through anything similar to our experience, I am so, so sorry for your loss and for the pain you’re feeling. It’s not right or fair, and it’s a heavy thing to carry. I would encourage you to consider sharing with others in a way that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s with a counselor, or a few close friends, or trusted family members. Maybe it’s on social media or a blog. After I opened up on my blog and shared the post with my broader circle of friends and even acquaintances, I was surprised by how free I felt to post on social media– almost like a “normal” person again. So I would encourage anyone to share with safe people, because you will need their support. Also, it seems that sharing can knock down walls you may have put up in other places that you didn’t even realize, and you may feel more free in your everyday life in those areas after you share. But of course, do you. 🙂

I’m saying a prayer now for anyone who will read this post and is in the same boat I’ve been in for the past few months. I pray you will find the peace, healing, and strength you need to keep going. I pray you will find the people who can care for you. I pray you will find the balance of grieving what was lost and hoping for what is to come. I pray that you will receive your miracle. That’s what I pray for myself, too. ❤