nourishing & unapologetic
One year ago today, on November 6th, our miscarriage was final. At eleven weeks, and o-dark-thirty in the morning, we headed to the hospital for our D&C. Our missed miscarriage meant surgery was a must. And just before lunchtime, we were done, headed to the store for my prescription and ice cream (both necessary medications!). It all seemed so simple and final.
Except, it wasn't either of those things.
So as I sit here the day before this anniversary, writing this blog, and reflecting on my lunch hour, there's so much I can say now. You see it's like that, that right there -- writing this on my lunch hour -- miscarriage just lives with you in the little spaces of life while simultaneously creating chasms in our normal.
One year out, here's what miscarriage, especially after infertility, teaches you:
Before you barf from the banality of this, walk with me on this one. We all know empathy is a critical skill, especially if you work and live among other human beings on Earth.
After our first miscarriage post, I have heard from so many women who've experienced infertility, loss, or both. Each time, I could almost feel my heart physically grow a bit more and my expression and stance towards them soften. Now when I interact with them there's a depth to that relationship that wasn't there before. And, while you'll still be annoyed when someone with one or two (or more) children is complaining, about not being able to have one more, you'll now know that feeling of yearning and your heart will go to them. Or when someone who is just barely married gets pregnant on their honeymoon but loses that sweet babe, you won't minimize the loss just because they got pregnant easily. Because everyone has a hard; the hard is just different.
Keep in mind, empathy isn't one note. It is just shared understanding of feelings, whether they be sad, frustrating, or joyous, albeit we often associate it with the sad or tragic. In general, instead of hardening your heart and rooting in bitterness, you'll likely find yourself more often being willing to try to relate to someone or a situation more instead of just judging or condemning.
You won't be empathetic about everything. You won't feel personal connections with everyone. Sometimes sympathy is enough, and there's nothing wrong with sympathy. But empathy- it's what binds us closer. And when there's a hole in your heart, empathy is a salve.
Patience ins't my virtue. Except now, I think I am working on sainthood status with this quality. Must be all this practice I've gotten.
If you detect /s (that's sarcasm in internet speak), you're not wrong. We're a year older and a year removed, and still have empty arms. We still don't have an explanation for our infertility. And, we still don't have a definite plan for how we'll proceed other than being stubborn and waiting.
I struggle, but I do genuinely believe this journey provides you a lesson in patience. It allows you the opportunity to practice waiting and not rushing. And, in reality, you have no choice but to try and do so.
The waiting can provide time to prepare more (financially, emotionally, physically). Although, I hear you're never truly prepared.
The waiting can provide time to do more (travel, start a side hustle, binge-watch trash tv, do house projects). And do them with no shame or guilt.
The waiting can provide time to talk more about what you want to be as a parent. Earnestly, not just the "we'll never's" that we'll totally do at some point.
The waiting can provide time to dream bigger dreams for you, your marriage, and that future babe. Be bold and ask.
We're told all the time "the best things take time." And boy, if you're putting in your time, I know this feels like an eternity. But, this adage isn't wrong. So give the grace you give everyone else to yourself and just be. The plan, the answer, the rainbow...it's coming. I have to believe, when the conditions are right, patience will pay off.
Grief comes in waves. It doesn't disappear. It just changes. And it will surprise you.
This weekend, someone asked me how many miscarriages we had had. I responded "just one."
Just one. WHAT? Why did I say that? Excuse me, one is enough. One is too many. One is still devastating. One is still heartbreaking. One is still worthy of grief. I felt immediately guilty and ruminated on it for minimizing our one experience. The other person didn't think much about that answer probably, but maybe she did; I am not sure. I am still working through that minimization. But this is part of grief. The moving forward process is messy.
I have been sad at inopportune times. I've been mad at insignificant instances. I have been gutted by baby coupons in our mailbox. But, overall I've been determined to exercise bravery and positivity. Some might think these posts are me dwelling on our misfortune or that I'm just a complete downer. Some might think if I'd just stop talking about them, my heart would heal and I'd move on. But, guess what, writing these blog posts are part of what is healing my heart. It's providing an outlet to process feelings but also giving me a way to connect with others. (See point 4). Writing has always been a safe space for me. Plus, I am advocate for transparency, even in the hard stuff. And speaking into the hard stuff removes its power and allows us to use it as fuel for better. If these posts make you uncomfortable or sad, then by all means, don't read them.
Your grief journey will be different than mine. You might need to eat the whole sleeve of Oreos. You might need to train for a half-marathon. You might need to not leave the bed for a week (or longer). You might need to go to work the next day and pretend nothing happened. You might need to quit your job. You might need to cry at every baby announcement and diaper commercial. You might need to give up social media. And you might need to do all of these things at some point. Or you might do none of these. But, let it be known, and understood, your grief is yours to process. And, you must let it happen. But, also let it be know, you don't have to grieve alone (Again, see point 4).
1 in 4. 1 in 8. These aren't just statistics. These are people. REAL PEOPLE. They are YOU and ME. And, good golly, these people are amazing. I wasn't looking to join this tribe. I wasn't looking for a new label. I wasn't looking for any of this. But, this loss and this struggle can be isolating, yet they don't have to be because there are a freaking ton of people who know this path. I was astounded by the sheer number of people who reached out to support and still so many more that shared their version of this struggle or this loss, or both.
The sense of community is unimaginable. You're in the club now. So I'd like you to join me. Let's make the most of the membership you and I paid a high price for. And, even if you're generally a private person, you're probably going to find yourself sharing. So: SHARE. TALK ABOUT IT. AND TALK SO MORE. Do it for your sake. The memories will slip out. The dashed hopes will be verbalized. The loss is going to be magnified and realized. But, if you lean into this loss, you'll find the ladies and gents who are holding you up. And, to be honest, they might not even know they're contributing to your healing. But it's the kindest and strongest band of mommas and crew you couldn't even dream up. To give you a glimpse of who you'll likely find in this community:
Being thankful for a miscarriage isn't what I'm talking about. No one is ever thankful for this experience, of that I am pretty certain. But I am grateful for the ability to weather this experience and for the person it's making me. Gratitude is personal so I can't begin to tell you that you'll be thankful for anything or that you have to be.
But for me, I've got some stuff for which I am appreciative. This journey, it's fortifying my constitution and my faith. This has shown me a different side of humanity, one that is vulnerable. And frankly, flying in the face of logic, it's probably made me more positive then I was before. Dad's lessons of PMA (positive mental attitude) hit home thirty-two years later. I also think it gave me a good dose of perspective -- I take fewer things for granted than I did previously. And, I am grateful for the extra unexpected time it's given Nick and I as just husband and wife. I wouldn't want what we've gone through for more time, but we're, for all intents and purposes, better than we were a year ago.
And, while we're on the subject of husbands... soap box moment ... I am blessed with the best. I think I always knew that but nothing reinforces that more than something like this. Nick has been at my side for everything. He made sure we could come home to our new home after the procedure last year because I wanted solitude in what would be our family home. (Reminder, he was building our house, with his own two hands last year during all of this.) He didn't hesitate to make a mad dash to IKEA to get a bedroom set and assemble it, or baulk about bringing our lives into a construction zone and living in it from then on. He's grieved in his own way (and similarly in some respects too). He's been eternally positive and an example of quiet resolve that I've consistently drawn from. Thank you, husband. xo
My hope, if this is your path too, is that you have this in your life. If you do, please take a moment to appreciate your spouse.
You have strength you didn't know you needed. You will soldier on. You will laugh again. You will cry at something small or arbitrary. You will be able to look at someone all too well meaning in the face and say, "yes, thank you, I know about ovulation trackers" or "no, adoption isn't part of our plan right now, but thanks for reminding me of the options." and not break down. You will be to see each day through because life moves fast and participation is required. And, if for nothing else, because you've got mom/dad strength now. And from what I hear, and see, parents just 👏 get 👏stuff👏done.
Blessed are the distractions for they get you through the days.
This might look like: Laundry. Cleaning the toilet. Grocery runs. Niece and nephew school programs. Work. Pets. Instagram. Netflix. Vacation. You'll find yours (or the many) and let them happen. Make peace with the ordinary. Don't feel guilty for getting lost in something non-loss or baby-related. It might just be during this time, you find your heart taking a necessary breather and you begin to feel a bit more human again.
If everything is important, nothing is. This is my most recent revelation. Earth-shattering, right? Oh, wait, I mean, basic. Right? Well, either way... I tend to have my fingers in everything. That candle of mine is always lit at every end. Dinner at 10 or 11 is normal, yeah?
And, word to the masses, if you want to message me and tell me the all too helpful advice that stress can impede pregnancy or cause less than ideal circumstances for a babe, bless your heart and save it. You can't do it for me.
But in this last year, I kind of immersed myself in more. My constant going has almost worn me flat out. And I realize I don't want to do that any longer. So I am taking stock of where my heart wants to be, what I want to expend my energies on, and what I want to do to get me to where I want to go next. I want to live by WANT or GET TO not SHOULD. So, it's on. Here comes quality > quantity. That planner is going to look different in 2019.
My wish for you is that you grant yourself the permission to do the same. Say yes to what makes your heart leap and say no to the things that feel like obligations. Nothing weighs one down more than the should's. Plus, I hear that your priorities are totally rearranged once a babe lands in your lap, so a little practice now can't hurt.
Undoubtedly, life teaches us lessons. For me, and for many others, miscarriage is just one of them. But intermixed are so many others. I guess this notion of being a lifelong learner thing is really a thing.
Until next time, may you keep holding on to hope and slaying stigma.
One year ago today I had the first suspicion I was pregnant.
We spent the night before celebrating the wedding of one of our favorite couples on the planet in the most idyllic setting in the Ozarks. Although it was a late night of fun, I wasn’t hungover (card-carrying drink-waster right here. Coke, Diet Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are my party beverages of choice), but this nausea was REAL.
While Nick slept I snuck out to snag a Sprite (from the vending machine right near our room) to go with the famed ginger snaps Big Cedar leaves in each room. (And if you didn't know, ginger is a natural remedy for queasiness.) Serendipity, I tell ya.
I rallied enough to pretend nothing was unusual and chalked it up to a lack of sleep. I hadn't fathomed we were expecting so it was only a quiet suspicion being tamped out by the loudness of doubt.
This selfie is from the night before. It’s one of the last pictures I have of my former self (albeit with professional hair and makeup 💄 ✨).
It would take me five more days after this picture to get the courage to take the home pregnancy test I'd so tentatively purchased while fervently praying I didn't see anyone I knew during my self-checkout process. But once I did take the test, it would take me all of about 15 seconds to realize our lives would never be the same.
Two pink lines: Ubiquitous. The symbol of song lyrics-- the cliche that's so cloying, it's true. Two pink lines was all it took to change my heart and soul.
From that point forward, the dreams and plans about what you'll do with this pregnancy, growing bump, and soon-to-be babe are almost immediate. The gravity of the responsibility and gift are intuitively recognized. The innate need to be better is instantaneous.
And, then when our ultrasound was silent, the despair was deafening.
For some reason, I never posted this picture, other than the original Snap it's from, but have held onto it through all my necessary and all too often iPhone photo purges. I think my subconscious kept this photo because I knew what it represented.
This is the last picture of me, the woman who didn't know about miscarriage.
That Jess... I wouldn't go back to her for a second.
I was the woman who still knew about infertility but now also knew a new kind of disappointment.
I was the woman who didn't know about loss.
I was the woman who didn't know know that miscarriages happen a lot.
I was the woman who didn't recognize that patience is a learned practice.
I was the woman who didn't yet know that this level of empathy and frustration can co-exist.
I was the woman who didn't share all her heart, but now knows the only way out is through.
I was the woman who didn't know miracles really do happen.
Leading up to this week, I've been silently on tilt. My emotions have been a bit out of whack. I've been fixated on strange and insignificant things. I've been pretending to not think about the dates looming ahead of us. I've been pretending not to go back into the September/October 2017 section of photos on my phone. I've been pretending that I still adore September as much as I always have. I've been pretending I'm fine. But somehow in all that pretending, I actually faith-ed it til I made it because this week I'm oddly feeling pretty at peace.
I'm working on a post about what miscarriage teaches you which will be coming soon. But in the meantime, to the woman who recognizes herself in my reflections and experience, may you know:
Mommas-in-waiting, loss mommas, and all those in between, I see you. To those who love us through this, I see you too and thank you.
I wasn’t going to write anything.
I wasn’t going to feel anything.
I wasn’t going to be different.
It wasn’t going to be different.
Except it was.
This year is different.
It was going to be my first official Mother’s Day. And, I guess it is. But, my heart knows it’s not what we planned. It’s not the same.
If you hear or read a twinge of sadness, you’re right. It’s there. But I’m doing my damndest to channel that hope in my soul.
In the light of the impending holiday, I have a few suggestions to my fellow mommas-in-waiting, those who still have empty arms and a chunk of their hearts still missing, those who’ve suffered a loss during pregnancy or after, and those who have had failed adoptions. This could also apply to those who've lost their mother or estranged, I suppose too.
1. Find your kind.
Literally, find your kind. Find the ladies who have walked this path, and those still in the midst of it. These are the folks who can really relate to the experience, the emotions, the emptiness, and the impatience. Connect with them via social, text, a call, or in person. Talk it out or be quiet together. Lend your support and send a little love on this day. It's hard for everyone but hard is better together, usually. I think.
Also, find your kind. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that the lack or the loss isn't your fault. It isn't in vain. And, it isn't over. Practice some self-care.
2. Expect the awkwardness.
People, including your closest family and friends, don't know what to say. And, what can they say? Sometimes what's said hurts more than helps. But, let's try to understand, even if someone says all the wrong things, they're trying to fill the space. They think they need to say something to show their sympathy or empathy usually because they really, really care and want what is best for us. And let's be brutally honest and self-aware, generally we don't know what to say back which is awkward for them too. Plus, if they weren't saying anything, then how would we feel? So, let's give our crew and the well-meaning strangers, the benefit of the doubt. Grace is a gift we can give them and it helps us too. Accept that the awkwardness will happen and embrace it. Say thank you for their sentiment or dive in and have a conversation if you feel so moved.
3. Eat your favorite food or something totally indulgent.
All the health experts and nutritionists probably would tell you emotional eating is bad. And, probably a poor coping mechanism. But, I'm here to tell you that there is something special about your favorite food -- be it a fudgy brownie, a tart lemon bar, a double-dip cone, or heap of chips and guac. Whatever your go-to is, make it or order it. And don't second guess it. Calories don't apply here.
4. Get some sunshine and some moves in.
For me, getting some steps in outside not only gives me a dose of Vitamin D and some fresh air, but gives me a chance to dream and think big thoughts. I always feel refreshed after a walk or a yoga sesh.
5. Love on the mommas in your life.
This can be a hard one in particular on this day. But do it anyway if you can. Tell them they’re doing a good job. Tell them what you admire about their approach to #momlife. Tell them why they’re special to you. Our relationships with other women are so important. You know the gals I’m talking about: Your momma gave you life. Relish if you’ve still got a grandma or two around. And don’t forget to love those sisters and sister-in-laws who gifted you the most precious nieces and nephews on the planet. Love on your momma friends; they are a good group to learn from — plus you were probably friends with many of them BEFORE they had kids in tow. These are our examples. These are our role models. These are our future babysitters, play dates, and room mom crews.
6. Know you are still a rockin’, strong, rad, beautiful soul that gives the world her best.
Through the monthly disappointment and spontaneous tears, you are still you. And that is enough. Totally enough.
Note, these are just suggestions. By all means, if you just can't do any of these, and you just need space and quiet, take it.
And, tomorrow, if you happen to go to church, and you get to the inevitable portion of the sermon when the pastor or priest asks all the mothers to stand up and be recognized, do what feels right. If you want to stand because you have a babe in Heaven, stand tall. If you want to sit because it doesn’t feel right to stand, stay planted, but don’t shrink. And if the well-meaning little in your family asks for another flower for you too (because her mom and grandma have one), accept it with grace. You’ve earned that flower.
Mommin’ is hard. No matter what stage you’re in or if you haven’t even got to really start it yet. All mommas matter.
For now, I’m going to be a momma-in-waiting. But I know it’s going to be worth the wait.
Until next time,