Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Two Kept Quiet, but Not Forgotten

I've mentioned before that I had two losses besides Tyler & Ethan, but I don't ever talk about them much. I want to take time this new year to start acknowledging those two angels as well, because their story is just as important. I'll start from the beginning...

Brad and I got married in 2003 and joked that we were on the "5 year plan" for having kids. Somehow that got changed to the "after Jen turns 25 plan" though. After many failed pregnancy tests and almost a year after we started trying, we finally got a positive result in February 2007, right after my birthday. We were so excited to tell our families that we didn't even wait for a doctor's appointment to confirm. This would be the first grandchild on both sides of our family. I thought things were going fine the first few weeks. I felt sick occassionally (which later I figured out was from taking prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach), and I had gained a few extra pounds, so there was nothing to worry about. Until I started spotting one night. I went into the ER and they did an ultrasound. There was no heartbeat, but they said my dates could be off and maybe the baby just hadn't developed a heartbeat yet. They could see what they called two "masses" on the ultrasound, which could either be an embryo that was starting to break apart (miscarriage) or two separate embryos (twins). They monitored my hormone levels for a week or two, did more ultrasounds, and ultimately determined that I was having a "missed abortion miscarriage." What an awful term. I felt like this was somehow my fault, especially when you throw the word abortion into the description. My body wasn't smart enough to expel the baby that had perished, so I had to go into the hospital for a procedure to have it removed. It was one of the most sterile, insensitive experiences of my life. They never acknowledged that this was my baby. It was always referred to as "the products of conception". And no one offered me any condolences or support at the hospital; it was just another medical event in their daily routine. Even after I was released from the hospital, I was surprised at the lack of support I had. Even some friends didn't want to hear about what I had been through. I heard over and over again that this was just nature's way of taking care of things and that there must have been something wrong with the baby, so I should be relieved that the pregnancy ended early. Given all that, I felt like I was just being over-dramatic by being sad about this miscarriage. So I shoved it under the rug. Very few people ever knew about it, besides family and close friends.I just told everyone at work that I needed some minor surgery and would be taking a week off.  I never grieved for that baby.

Our next attempt was successful, as we were blessed with Addison in February 2008, and we thought that maybe that miscarried child was just a fluke and a run of bad luck that was behind us now. Not so much. When Addison was 2, we decided to try for another. We found out we were expecting in July 2010 and were very hesitant to tell anyone. We only told our parents and anyone that caught me drinking non-alcoholic beverages at camping trips and summer parties (busted!). Unfortunately, we went down the same road as our first. I remember the dating ultrasound. The tech was an older woman who had a student with her that day. She scanned me and said "What's going on here?". I said "What do you mean?" She replied (very accusingly) "Did you give me the right dates? There's nothing here but an empty sac." I don't know how I kept my composure or how I didn't beat her with her transvaginal ultrasound probe, but I piped right up and said "No, the dates are definitely correct. I know what's happening. It's another missed miscarriage. I've had one before." That shut her up. The only good that came out of that appointment was that perhaps she and her student learned a good lesson in empathy that day. I was doctoring in Madison this time, and the OB I was seeing made sure to treat me sensitively and helped me to get this taken care of faster than what I had experienced with my first. I had a procedure done within a week. Same treatment by the Madison surgical team though; very sterile. That awful term "missed abortion" popped up again. I knew to not be sad this time though, as I didn't want to freak people out. Private tears were the only ones that fell. There was no grieving. Until March 2011...

March 18, 2011 was when the Perinatologists discovered that I was in severe danger of losing Tyler & Ethan. They put me in a consult room alone to wait for Brad to get there from work so that we could talk about the situation together. They asked if I wanted the hospital chaplain to come sit with me, and I said yes. She held my hand and asked me to tell her my story. I told her about how much we wanted Tyler and Ethan, and that we thought we had been blessed with twins to make up for the two miscarriages we had suffered. She asked me if I had grieved for those two babies. I had to answer no. I explained my story and it was all too familiar to her. We talked about how even though those babies didn't have names or identities, they were still my babies and it was ok for me to grieve them. It would actually help me deal with what was going on with my twins, to get all that pent-up grief put to rest. I took her words to heart, and I made sure to grieve properly for Tyler & Ethan after we lost them. But I have still never truly grieved or acknowledged my two miscarried babies.

As part of my new year's resolution for 2013, I'm going to try and do better to remember and memorialize ALL of my angels, not just the ones most people felt it was ok for me to grieve for. Yes, miscarriage happens a lot and yes, it is often due to genetic abnormalities. However, those facts do not make that child any less yours. It's ok to be sad after a miscarriage. It's ok to have genetic testing done to determine the sex so that you can name them (I would have, but I didn't know that technology existed at the time), and it's ok to grieve for them, to memorialize them and to remember them. You're not crazy - you're a parent, no matter whether your baby was lost in a first, second or third trimester. In fact, grieving that child is healthy. If you have suffered a miscarriage, know that you're not alone but also that you have the right to grieve. Take the time you need and take care of yourself. Even if that loss happened years ago, it's never too late to get your grief out and put it to rest. 

Happy New Year, Baby Walker 1, Baby Walker 3, Tyler and Ethan.  You are guiding me more now than ever, and I am so grateful.

Thanks for reading!