Pregnancy and infant loss awareness day

A lot of us know this date. October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. It’s a day where we should feel open to share our stories, where we lean on others for support, and where we raise awareness to help diminish the stigma that unfortunately is tied to pregnancy and infant loss.

March 2013 I experienced a miscarriage. It was unexpected and devastating. We spent two more years after that trying to conceive before our son was born in May 2016. I’ve shared my story of miscarriage on my blog but I’ve always left out one part of the story. In the moment it confused me but as time goes on I look back on my experience and I’m angry. 

It was a Sunday afternoon and I just wasn’t feeling right. I couldn’t tell if my stomach was upset or if that feeling of dread in my abdomen was actually real. Should I call my doctor? After a few hours of trying to convince myself I just had a stomach ache I finally called my doctor. She scheduled an ultrasound to check my pregnancy first thing Monday morning. I naively thought if I got checked out everything would be ok. 

As the evening grew later, I started spotting. It started to sink in that everything was not going to be ok. I sat in the shower just holding my stomach and holding onto the last hopes of our baby. 

I realized I needed to call into work and tell my boss I wouldn’t be in on Monday. I have never called off sick before from my job because I knew it was just easier to go in. At the time I was working for a private preschool. We didn’t have subs and it affected the strict student teacher ratio when someone called off. 

So I called my boss, let’s call her J, and told her I wasn’t able to come in the next day.

J: Why, are you sick?

Me: Yes

J: You don’t sound sick.

Me: I called my doctor and she wants me to come in tomorrow. I can bring a doctor’s note to excuse my sick day.

J: What’s wrong?

Me: I’d rather not say.

J: Why?

Me: It’s personal.

After this back and forth exchange I bluntly said I would not be in so make whatever accommodations needed. My boss never got to know any of the staff on a personal level so I didn’t feel comfortable confiding in her. I also could not even speak the words, “I might be having a miscarriage.” I didn’t want to say it out loud, like if I don’t say those words it would stop it from happening,

At my doctor’s appointment an ultrasound confirmed that I was miscarrying. Besides feeling emotionally devastated, by this point I was in a lot of physical pain too. While this was going on my boss continued to call my phone and leave messages that they needed me in the afternoon if I could come in. 

Reluctantly I went into work. Three hours after being told our baby was gone. Looking back, I should have stood my ground and said no. But I really needed my paycheck (teaching jobs were hard to come by in my area at the time) and now especially I needed my health insurance.

So I went into the preschool after lunch. The kids nap and then slowly start heading home. I could just sit and try to not think about what was pressing on my mind. I asked my boss if we could go into the office to talk. I decided to tell her what I just experienced.

Her initial response was pity. She was sorry I was dealing with this. And then our conversation took an odd turn. 

She told me that her sister in law had a hysterical pregnancy once. Her body was physically displaying pregnancy and she wasn’t getting her period. But when she had tests done she wasn’t pregnant. She said she ended up having a D&C to end this phenomenon. 

And then she asked, “Are you sure you were really pregnant?”

Needless to say, I moved on from that job as quickly as I could. I was astounded at the ignorance and insensitivity in my workplace after experiencing pregnancy loss.

Not only was I working a pretty physically demanding job while heavily bleeding, popping Tylenol like candy, but I was also insulted by questioning if what I was experiencing was even real. 

I’m sharing my story for other women. Stand up for yourself when it comes to your health, physical and emotional. I’m not going to let the ignorance of others shake me to my core anymore. I’m going to share my experience to educate those who need to support women experiencing pregnancy loss. 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. It is time to drop the stigma and simply take care of one another. 

Seeing infertility everywhere…

I’m in a book club. It’s part of my pilot wives support group online. We all can get pretty lonely at times when our partner’s are gone for extended periods of time with little notice. So a book club is a harmless way to stay connected and busy.

A few months ago we read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. If you plan on reading the book, skip this paragraph. If you have read the book, you know the main character Rachel is a divorced alcoholic whose husband left her after rounds of unsuccessful IVF and went on to impregnate his mistress. The book features complex characters with an interesting murder mystery story line. Every character is this book is flawed, much like real people. One of our book club questions was about the least favorite character. I read as the women in my group just tore apart Rachel for her lack of self respect and acts of helplessness. Yes, she messed up. A lot. She has some huge issues. But I didn’t feel the same way toward this character as the other women in my group. I empathized with her. I know that shitty feeling where you just don’t feel like you’re good enough. I know that empty feeling inside that Rachel described after not being able to conceive for years. She was broken. I know that feeling too. So I felt like I had to stick up for Rachel and that shut the conversation down.

Leaving-Time

This month we’re reading Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Again, another murder mystery this time entwined with elephant facts. Harmless, right? Spoiler alert. As I’m reading the book I’m noticing a theme of pregnancy loss, grief, and death of a child. Not exactly what I’m wanting to read at the moment but it was a compelling enough story for me to finish the book. This passage about an elephant who just delivered her still born calf stood out to me as I read next to my sleeping husband.

“If you are a mother, you must have someone to take care of. If that someone is taken from you, whether it is a newborn or an individual old enough to have offspring of its own, can you still call yourself a mother? Staring at Kagiso [the elephant], I realized that she hadn’t just lost her calf. She had lost herself…. Nature is a cruel bitch.” p199

I broke down and cried. These imaginary characters and story lines are starting to get to me. I can tell myself that they’re not real, but for too many women it is real! The book described how elephant grief was a communal process. All of the elephants in a heard would mourn the passing of one of their own. They stayed together. They made sure they were taking care of each other for however long the mourning process was going to be. And of course, elephants never forget.

The book club started discussing our grieving process versus an elephant’s. I immediately thought about pregnancy loss. The elephant who lost her calf was surrounded by all of the other elephants. They all touched the calf. They all bellowed out in pain together. The mother was never alone.

Then I think about pregnancy loss in our culture. Until recently, it was taboo to talk about. Women still don’t announce pregnancies until after the first trimester and the largest risk of miscarriage has passed. Is this to protect the women or everyone around her? Personally, I mourned my loss alone. I didn’t reach out. I didn’t tell anyone. I had all of those terrible feelings that come along with pregnancy loss that I tried to just shove away. I wanted to just move on. And I found that in order to truly move on, I had to talk about it and grieve. And even though I lost my child, I still feel like a mother. Everything I’m doing right now is for my child. That’s what keeps me going through procedure after procedure.

So now I feel like the crazy hormonal lady in my book club that sees infertility everywhere. And gets waaay to defensive about fictional characters, in this case, an elephant. I thought I’d just share a little piece of my brain today and two books worth avoiding if you don’t want to think about infertility and pregnancy loss.