Friday, November 26, 2010

Motherhood FAIL

Sometimes I find one of the worst things about being babylost, is how it preys on your deepest darkest fears about yourself.

Take for example the pregnant woman who would never admit it out loud, but who is secretly afraid she is going to be a terrible mother.

Maybe she's never been around children before: "I don't know what to do with a baby! How do you change a diaper? I'm not going to be any good at this!"

Maybe she had a difficult childhood and is afraid to repeat it with her own child: "Can I really be a good mother to a child without royally screwing it up?"

Maybe she's afraid to have the responsibility of another human being completely dependant on her: "What if something happens and I don't know what to do? What if the baby gets sick and I don't realize it?"

For whatever reason, she's pregnant and nervous about caring for the baby...

And then the baby dies.

Despite all the reassurances in the world from husbands, family, doctors, and friends that "it's not your fault" and "you didn't do anything wrong"...this woman can't help but feel her worst, deepest, darkest fears are confirmed. Something happened. The baby died. She didn't know what to do. In her mind, the baby has now been entered into evidence as "Exhibit A".

My epic fail is not those above. I had no reservations about becoming a mom. I knew both my husband and I could handle it. We are responsible people. We have good jobs. We had good childhoods. There are no skeletons in my closet ready to pop out and hit me up with the guilt of not being a good mom. I have every faith in myself that way.

No, my epic fail is of a different nature. My epic fail concerns my body, probably not a surprise if you've been keeping up with my body thoughts posts.

The whispers from the closets keep saying to me:

"See Emily...why did you think your body could handle a pregnancy? Your body is not like other women's bodies. Your body is weaker. There are things wrong with you. Your medical file is not pristine. Your health is not perfect. You are abnormal and now your imperfect body has killed Aidan".

Those goblins have also now started in on the fact that we are still, after months of perfectly timed intercourse, not pregnant.

"See Emily, there must be something wrong with you. Something not even the doctors can figure out. You are not like the other couples you know. You don't get pregnant easily. There is something wrong with you".

All the complications that led up to Aidan's death have become my "Exhibits". They have been entered into evidence and I have been convicted.

Of what I'm not sure.

I just wish I'd get a chance to appeal.

What fears does your dead baby prey upon?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dear Santa

My husband keeps bugging me to write a Christmas wish list. So here it is:

Dear Santa,

For this year I would like:

1. Aidan back, healthy and whole. I do not care how you accomplish this. If you need to turn back time, in the style of It's A Wonderful Life or One Magic Christmas, to late 2009 or early 2010 when his safe arrival was still possible, go ahead. It would also be okay with me if I awoke Christmas morning to find Aidan babbling away in the room that should have been his, or sitting in a bassinet under my tree wearing a tag that says "Love, Santa". Just as long as he comes back, I'm okay with however this is accomplished.

2. Okay, I realize the above is a tall order. Maybe too tall. So, if I cannot have Aidan back perhaps you could get me pregnant in time for Christmas. No, no, wait...uh...maybe you could have Brian get me pregnant in time for Christmas...yeah, sorry...kinda specific on that point. This, of course, should come with a guarantee that in 9 months we will have a healthy, take home, kind of baby.

3. Still too tall an order? Jeez...okay, well how about this...could you just use your omnipotent powers to figure out if we'll be able to conceive this next theoretical baby on our own, let say ooohhh I don't know, within the next 3-4 months? And if not, could you send me a really freaking obvious sign (my nose could light up like Rudolph's?) that we should funnel any and all Christmas funds into the pocket of my RE and see if she has better luck in the knocking me up department?

4. I know, I know, I'm getting greedy by this point...but seriously this last one's not for me. Could you help to put some Christmas cheer (that lasts all year!) in to the lives of my family. We're doing the best we can...but this year has been really hard on all of us. I really think my mom and my husband especially could use a little extra twinkle in their eyes.

Thank you.



Wait, what?

Santa doesn't do these kind of requests? He only does materialistic crap that is made foreign sweatshops? Stuff that no one has need for and could definitely do without? Stuff that will eventually end up in the garbage piles of the world?


I guess I'll just take a sweater then.

What are you asking for this Christmas?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anthropology of Pregnancy

In university one of my favourite non-science courses was Women's History, specifically the course was called "Women in European History: Renaissance to the 20th Century". The professor for it was great. She made things interesting. I was actually sad one night when I had to miss a lecture due to illness.

What most people don't realize is that "History" as it's presented in most schools and media could be better termed "Men's History". Think about it. When you learn about history in school you learn about wars (soldiers were almost exclusively men), kings (men), country leaders (men) and policy makers (generally men). Now, granted there are often women and children in the periphery of these events. They may have looked after the wounded from the wars, and were often displaced geographically by battles. Women were married to kings and were expected to bear children for the succession, but were not really thought of as anything other than a means to secure a lineage. Country leaders and policy makers may have taken the concerns of women and children into consideration, but very few women until the last century or so were given any opportunity to direct these changes themselves.

In learning about 'history' (or men's history), you are learning about the BIG events in history. In learning about women's history you are learning about the 'every day' since women's lives WERE the every day.

While reading a bunch of babylost blogs the other day, I was thinking about how similar a lot of our experiences are. How most stories start with 'trying to get pregnant', then move on to the 'positive pregnancy test', 'first ultrasound', 'feeling the baby kick', 'preparing the baby's room' and so on and so forth. Some of us got further than others of course, but the experience of loss seems similar. The shock, the feeling of connection to the dead baby, the overwhelming sadness...

So I was wondering to myself "Do our stories and the feelings around them seem so similar because that's just how women FEEL when they are pregnant and/or lose a baby? Or, are these feelings and concerns so universal because I'm reading stories about English speaking women in a 21st century Western world?"

It got me thinking about women in centuries past (or in developing countries in the 21st century or hell, South Central LA without health insurance if you want to be really inclusive). What was/are their experience of pregnancy? And how did/do those experiences affect them when the baby died?

First of all, I just found out that the first home pregnancy test was invented in 1978! (Thanks Google) That's only as old as my husband! A good percentage of your mother's probably didn't even have the option to do one of these. So before 1978 there was no peeing on a stick, no running around the house squealing, waiting for your significant other to come through the door so you could figure out a 'special' way to tell him the good news. I can only imagine that prior to this, the realization that you were pregnant may have come more slowly. More along the lines of "Huh? I think my period is boobs have been a bit sore lately...hmmm...maybe I'm pregnant?" Someone who was smart and in tune with her body may have realized this quickly...but I bet lots didn't. Lots of woman may have brushed off a missed period due to malnutrition, stress, or for lack of having a calendar. Think of all the woman who may have miscarried and never have known they were pregnant. If you never saw two lines, or saw the ultrasound photo, what would your experience of loss be like?

Furthermore, ultrasound only started being used to view the fetus in the mid-1960s. Prior to that, the photographic evidence of children started at birth, not at the first (or second or third) ultrasound photo session. What would your experience of pregnancy and birth be like if you never 'saw' your child ahead of time? What if you lived at a time, or in a place, where you didn't really understand how human beings developed? What if you never got updates sent to your e-mail that started out "You're 6 weeks pregnant today. Your baby is starting to develop arm buds!" What if all you knew was that you felt nauseous and your boobs hurt, you were massively tired, but you still had to get up at dawn to feed the chickens, milk the cow, boil water, and then start to salt the meat and churn the butter that would help to last your family through the winter? Although, I'm sure women realized that babies develop in a 'small' to 'big' fashion(evidenced by expanding waistlines), I wonder how many of them realized that fetus' look like babies until they experienced a late miscarriage or premature birth? Would you have the same 'connection' to your child, if you didn't know it looked like a person yet?

Before pregnancy tests and ultrasounds the first time you would KNOW you were pregnant was when the baby kicked. For some women, this doesn't happen until close to 18-20 weeks. In anything other than modern times, you wouldn't know for sure you were pregnant until it was almost half way over. Think of how different your pregnancy experience would have been if it didn't really start until the mid-way point.

What would your experience of pregnancy or loss be like if you lived in a hunter-gather tribe in central Africa in 11,000 BCE? Or in a Mesopotamia under Alexander the Great? Or as a German woman at the time of the Reformation? Or as an Inuit at the end of the Little Ice Age? Or in 2010 if you lived in rural Brazil with no immediate access to medical care.

I wish I could read these people's blogs.

What do you think?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Normal, damn it!

So, encouraging news on the (in)fertility front.

1. Sonohysterogram performed this week findings: Normal cavity, patent tubes. No fibroids, polyps or adhesions.

2. SA (semen analysis): All parameters normal. Better than normal in most cases.

3. Bloodwork: Normal as far as I know (I'm basing this on my last day 3 bloodwork done back in September...where my prolactin level was 18.8. We redid it for the RE, but I have no reason to believe any of the results were abnormal since no one has called me).

I'm not exactly sure where to go from here. On the one hand, 'Great! We're normal'...too bad that doesn't equal PREGNANT. On the other hand, I almost wanted there to be SOMETHING just so that there would be something to fix! I'm tired of our reproductive history being such a head scratcher. Plus I still have no reason for the on-going spotting I'm having before each period. Do we proceed with (EXPENSIVE) IUI treatments when nothing in our history or results seems to warrant them? I know we technically got pregnant on our own the first time...but it took 8 months and was abnormal from the start. The RE said that if a normal healthy woman isn't pregnant in 3 to 6 months of properly timed intercourse then you've likely got a problem. But what that problem might be they seem to have few answers for.

I think I'll have to mull this over some more. I mean technically it's *only* been 3 months of 'properly timed' intercourse that have resulted in no pregnancy for us...but how long do we wait? And what, with medical intervention, are we trying to fix if all of our results are just fine?


Oh, and just for the extra added cherry on top today my husband got an e-mail from the friends that I referred back to in this post. They will be home from Singapore at Christmas for a visit the way...their baby is due the end of April (right around Aidan's first 'dirthday').

Super. Can't wait to see them.

How long did it take for you to get pregnant? Did it feel like forever at the time?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Husband

Recently I've noticed that while I might be coping slightly *better* with Aidan's death, my husband seems to be having an increasingly rough time with it. I'm not sure exactly why this is. It could be due to many things. For example, since I now work evenings 4 days a week, my husband comes home from work, prepares his own dinner and then sits around by himself for a few hours before I get home. Moping around by yourself in the early darkness of fall is not the most uplifting thing in the world.

It could also be the often referred to idea that only one half of a partnership is *allowed* to fall apart at a time. I remember hearing this old adage when my friend's cousin died. Her parents were a mess for months and then as they started to 'feel better', their son started to have an increasingly difficult time with his sister's death. It's like he was just waiting to have his time to grieve when he knew his parents would be stronger to support him. If this is the case with my husband, I'm okay with it. I do feel stronger now. Strong enough to do more of the housework, more of the 'hey let's go out and do something fun today!' prodding, and strong enough to just let him mope if that's what he needs to do, without it totally consuming me. I'm sad still too...but I'm finding it easier to pick myself up after a day or two of wallowing and move on. If my husband is needing help with this right now, I can deal with that.

It could be that as we wade back into the 'trying for another baby' drama, (up to and possibly including medical assistance) Brian is finding it difficult to face another pregnancy. Aidan's pregnancy was HARD on my poor hubby. Possibly harder on him than me. While I was the one laying on the bathroom floor bleeding, he was the one who had to stand by, watch and worry. He was the one who had to rush me to Emerg multiple times. He was the one who had to continue cooking, cleaning, shopping and generally 'keeping it together' while working 45+ hours a week. All while also worrying about what was going on with me and the baby at home. It would not be unreasonable to think that he might have a little Post Traumatic Stress after dealing with that for months.

I do feel lucky that my husband confides in me and tells me what he's feeling for the most part. We know each other well enough that I can instantly tell just by the way he moves or the tone of his voice if he's sad or not, so he can't really fool me. Plus, Brian pretty much blocks out his family or friends regarding anything that's bothering if he's going to talk, I'm it. He's not always forth coming with me, but he will admit when he's had a rough day and will sometimes admit what triggered it. I know a lot of men out there won't share this with anyone. I'm not sure why, or what methods someone could use to draw this out. I wonder if counsellors stock up on brain teasers or other mental puzzles to keep themselves occupied during those initial sessions with a grieving man. I'm pretty sure those 'talks' must be pretty damn quiet.

I wish I could make things easier for him. I wish I could promise him that things will be better in the future. I wish I could make it so he didn't have to hurt. But I can't. I just have to wait until easier, better and less painful arrive.

We'll just have to hold hands and wait together.

How do you hold each other up? Is it working? Do you find it difficult to be what your partner needs?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remember, Remember, The Eighth of November

Tomorrow is the 8th of November. Besides being the day after my dad's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad)...the 8th of November 2010 is exactly one year from my LMP with Aidan. This is the date that the medical professional is referring to when he or she asks "so when was your last menstrual period" during those early pregnancy appointments. It's the date that is usually used to calculate your due date (assuming you have a 28 day cycle and ovulate on day 14...) My due date was special to me because it was my deceased grandmother's birthday (August 15th) and although I knew Aidan wouldn't likely arrive on that was nice having that little extra specialness attached to the date he was SUPPOSED to be here.

So, as we hit November 8th and approach the holiday season I know I will now start the dreaded comparison of 2009 to 2010. You know "last year at this time..."

I hate that I'm not pregnant by this date. I really wanted to be. I really wanted something else to focus on rather than the heartbreaking comparisons between 2009 and 2010. Comparisons are the bane of my existence right now and I'm trying so hard not to focus on them...but it's hard not to. Comparing my life with the lives of our friends who have children (their lives seem like way more fun). Comparing our lives with the lives we had last year (still in the same place, double income, no kids). Comparing the amount of time we've been TTC with the amount of time other people have been TTC (often way, way longer).

This weekend was a pretty down one for both my husband and I. I'm starting to notice the sadness affecting my husband more. I think he's starting to do more of the 'comparison' between ourselves and others. When we first lost Aidan, and I would gripe about seeing babies and small children all around us he would say "It doesn't bother me. Those babies aren't Aidan. I miss our baby and those babies aren't ours". As much as I could see his point...seeing those babies bothered me. Now, seeing babies is starting to bother him as much or more than it bothers me. He was a little upset last weekend when our friend came by to show off her 9 month old daughter in her costume. He seemed more down after hearing from his friend who told him they have joined the Y to take their baby swimming in the kiddie pool. Brian said to me this weekend "it's just that it's been awhile now and nothing has changed".

I get exactly what he means. It has been awhile and it does feel sometimes like we are stuck in the same mire we've been in since April, while everyone else is speeding on ahead. We are tired of the mire...can we just get on to something ELSE already? Something hopefully involving a positive pregnancy test and a healthy (living, born at the appropriate gestational age) baby? I mean, I know another baby will not make us any less sad about Aidan's death...but it would help us to feel less like failures, more like we belong and heal our hearts a little. Is that too much to ask?

Of course when I start feeling like "Damn we're in the exact same place as we were last year. Life has lost all forward momentum." I have to remind myself that No, actually lots of things have changed. We have moved this year. We moved to places we didn't necessarily want to go...but we are not the same people we were last year on November 8th. I had my first pregnancy this year. For the first time we saw our little baby kick and squirm on the ultrasound images. We fell in love with him. We went through hell knowing that we were likely going to lose this precious little being. We had to make serious medical choices that nobody should ever have to make. I birthed my child. My husband held his first baby. We had to cremate him and decide what to do with his urn. We have spent time creating a legacy for him through pictures, music, this blog, my necklace and trying to incorporate his name and his memory into our lives. We bought a treadmill and both of us have become better at running. My husband lost almost 25 lbs and has committed to a healthier lifestyle. We spent more time at the cottage this year than we have in many years. We've spent more time together this year, and have learned how strong we are. I got a new job where I'm learning things I never thought I'd know. We've both met and come to like new colleagues. We have needed and received the support of our families and friends. We are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure the eventual being and health of our next child.

I have to keep reminding myself, it's actually been a very big year.

One that was, probably the saddest and most heartbreaking of my life, but that I wouldn't trade for the world.

Do you find yourself stuck in the mire and questioning life's forward momentum? What do you do to pull yourself out and to keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I (use to) love babies

I (use to) love babies. I mean really love them. I was never one of those people who would oooo and ahhh over them like your annoying aunt who pinches cheeks and exclaims "isn't she just the most PRECIOUS thing!!!" (Which I actually find embarassing and irritating and kind of demeaning to the baby. Can you tell I'm not a gusher?) But, I was interested in babies and children in a way I wasn't interested in a lot of other things.

This interest goes back many many years. At age 12 I was signing books out at the library about pregnancy and early child rearing. I was interested in how babies develop in the womb, the changes a woman's body undergoes during pregnancy and facinated by the birth process. I wanted to learn about how parents begin to respond to invidividual baby cues, when babies can be expected to reach certain milestones, and how important early bonding with a parental figure is. I learned all about stretch marks, lochia, and breastfeeding years before I even hit high school.

In grade 8 I was so excited to take infant and child CPR lessons as part of my babysitting course. I fell in love with the children I babysat, took very good care of them and developed a really good relationship. I miss those kids to this day and wonder if they ever think of me. I took a course in high school on infant and child development. In university I started reading the paper and was always interested in news articles that concerned babies and young children. Whether it was reports about new research into autism, the 'back to sleep' campaign or the best diet for children, I read it. My absolute favourite course in university (and my highest mark) was in Embrology...the study of the developing embryo into a fetus.

As you can imagine, it was no accident that I became an NICU nurse. I did not go to nursing school to become a nurse...I went to nursing school to become an NICU nurse. Pediatrics would have been my second choice.

And's all gone.

I no longer really care to read the articles in the paper about childhood obesity or what the hottest toys will be this holiday season. I no longer want to hear all about your 5 year old's ballet classes, or your 1o year old's struggle with homework. I especially do not want to hear about your granddaughter's pregnancy and how she is suffering with nausea into her 5th month. I whiz past the baby clothes at the mall. I don't make funny faces to entertain the little girl on the subway anymore. I only glance at the pregnancy and early childhood development books in the bookstore and at the library. They used to be so interesting and contain so much that I wanted to, I just want to avoid it all.

I can fake it for work...and when I'm in the moment, I do enjoy the kids. They are funny and cute, and most are very smart...but somehow (and this sounds awful) it makes it easier that they are sick. I'm not sure I could take being around healthy normal children all day long.

It's sad. A huge part of my personality and interest was babies and children. It's what I built my career on. Now I just generally just wish to avoid them as much as possible. Not because they no longer interest me...but because they remind me of what I have lost, and what I'm afraid I will never have.

Have any of your interests changed in the wake of your loss? Does this surprise you?