Saturday, October 28, 2017

Vanessa's story

At my ten-week routine doctor’s appointment for the pregnancy, which in this case happened to be the one that consisted of a physical examination, the nurse practitioner made the determination that everything was going well to date and there were no concerns to report, as I expected. Body looked good, history was good, bloodwork looked fine, urine test revealed nothing, everything was in order. The final event for the appointment was to hear the heartbeat for the first time! She got out the Doppler fetal heart rate monitor to listen for baby’s heartbeat. After putting the warm gel on my belly and trying for a few minutes, she found a heartbeat! Quickly followed by a “Whoop. That’s yours. Not baby’s.” Before giving up less than a minute later, she told me not to worry about it. She told me that often the baby is still too little to hear the heartbeat at ten weeks old, and usually at 12 weeks there is more of a guarantee that you’ll be able to hear it. 
Vanessa and her family prior to their loss
My heart sank. In both of my other pregnancies, I’d heard heartbeats prior to 10 weeks. At this point, I mentioned the fact that I’d been somewhat concerned about the lack of morning sickness as this was so characteristic in my other two pregnancies and seemed strangely unusual for me. She took a brief glance at my history and then stated, “Maybe this time it’s your girl!” I smiled, as she wasn’t even close to the first person who had said that. But inside, I worried. My mommy heart knew that something wasn’t right. 
The following week, at 11 weeks and 6 days, I found myself in the grocery store trying not to panic. I had a cart full of groceries and was nearing the front of the store to check out when I began bleeding. I literally stopped dead in my tracks, numb and paralyzed by disbelief that this was happening. I wanted to tell myself that everything was okay and this was normal. “It happens all the time, to many women, throughout various stages of pregnancy. It happened to me with the twins, and they are fantastic. They are healthy, happy, and now 14 months old. I’m fine. It will be fine.” 
I rushed to the bathroom, leaving my cart filled with groceries right outside the door and thinking “Great. Just what I needed. A cart filled with groceries, much of it frozen, and now this disaster. I’m going to make a scene regardless of how I get out of here and what that entails.” To my dismay, I had already bled through my panties and some on to my shorts. In the excitement of pregnancy, one of the first things I (and I’m sure many other women as well) did was to rid my purse of all pads and tampons. Sort of like a mini early pregnancy celebration. “Screw you guys. Won’t be needing you for a while. I’m gonna have a baby! Ha!” At that exact moment in the grocery store bathroom, blood on my hands and pants, I greatly regretted that decision. 
As I walked toward the emergency room about an hour later, calmly processing my thoughts and trying not to let my mind race, my heart began beating faster and faster. It became less and less possible to control my racing mind and keep myself from being mentally paralyzed; numb after succumbing to all the fears that were fast tracking through my thoughts all at once in a flurry. Everything in me wanted to turn around. “Go back to the car and go home. If I go home, pretend everything is normal, get in bed with my husband and go to sleep, when I wake up tomorrow everything will be fine. This will all just go away. It can’t really be happening.” 
I had kept myself relatively calm over the last hour as I made preparations to go to the emergency room, but as I walked through the glass double doors, I felt myself start to disintegrate. I knew if I said it out loud, somebody else would know, and the weight of it would hit me like a ton of bricks and suddenly be real. I stopped at the triage desk, took a couple of deep breaths, and forced the words out. “I’m 12 weeks pregnant. And I’m bleeding.” There. I said it. It’s out now. It’s real. We have to handle this. I’m here and they’re going to tell me what is going on. 
They got me in rather quickly, which is saying something for an emergency room. They drew blood, took a urine sample, and shortly thereafter called me back for an ultrasound. They came to get me in a wheelchair, and then forced me to sit in it. Little by little, they were crumbling the picture of perfection that I had in my mind. There is nothing wrong with me. I don’t want to sit in a wheelchair. “It’s just a precaution; just relax and I’ll push you,” the nurse calmly told me as she smiled. I already had to say out loud that I’m bleeding. And now I’m riding past everybody in a wheelchair. I felt like all the faces staring at me already knew what I didn’t want to know or admit. 
After the ultrasound, they put me in a room and shut the door. My heart started to sink, little by little. I didn’t even want to know what the results were. As my mind raced through all the possible options, my body wanted to get up and leave, as panic again overtook me. Just go home. Leave. It doesn’t matter what they say. Everything is going to be fine. Nothing could have prepared my mommy heart for the ultimate reality of what was about to happen. 
The “provider” came in and introduced herself. She then proceeded calmly, as if she was sharing with somebody what she had eaten for breakfast that morning, “So, there was no cardiac activity detected during the ultrasound. And you’re 12 weeks pregnant according to our calculations, but the baby is only measuring 9 weeks. So it looks like the baby passed away about 3 weeks ago and your body is just now realizing it and trying to catch up. It should pass on its own no problem, now that the process has started, but if it doesn’t we will remove it in 5 days.” 
Do you remember that feeling from grade school, after falling from the monkey bars? Even though it’s not that big of a deal to get the wind knocked out of you, which you don’t find out until later, you’re certain for a few seconds that you must be dying. Blurred vision, no breath, impossible to breathe, back hurts. That’s what it felt like. I couldn’t move. She trailed off with “Do you have any questions?” I calmly answered “No” while in my mind I pictured myself screaming at her; “What the hell are you talking about??? What is wrong with you? Why would you say that?? How can you stand there and talk about this like it’s nothing?” I left the emergency room numb; in complete disbelief about what had just happened, but to the best of my ability letting my new reality slowly sink in. 
That moment was the start of twelve long and excruciating weeks of miscarriage. It’s bad enough that it snuck up on me; like a spider. Those creepy jumping ones; you feel like they’re looking at you and can take direct aim before they jump, landing right on your face or wherever else they so desire – all the while paralyzing you. But then, as if that wasn’t enough, it took twelve weeks to go away. My body had failed me, and my baby, and I had twelve weeks of constant reminder as the process slowly completed and things resumed to “normal” ….. whatever that meant after surviving miscarriage. 
Miscarriage is for some reason one of those cultural taboos that people are ashamed of. We don’t talk about it for fear of being judged. We don’t really bring it up often or mention it, for fear of people “knowing” what happened. The FACT is that miscarriage hurts. There’s nothing I could have done to prevent it, or change it, or make it better. It wasn’t my fault. It was just one of those things that happens. We will never know the “why”. But even if we did, it still wouldn’t change anything. It happened. It hurt. Not just emotionally, but physically as well. It took a long time to process. I felt trapped inside my own body, and I wanted to get out. I needed some alone time to be separated from me, but there I was every day when I looked in the mirror. 
It’s hard to understand and even harder to explain. I’m so in love with that baby. I will forever miss that baby. A little piece of my heart died with that baby. Yet, I never even met that baby. Nobody can understand what it’s like to be in love with a stranger, unless they’ve been through it themselves. Here’s what I know for sure. You’ll need help. TALK about it. Share about it. Write about it. Cry about it. Scream about it. You need friends, family, strangers, church, support groups, grief counseling. You need some of it; you may need all of it. Together we are stronger. It’s okay to cry and it’s definitely okay to let others cry with you. Ignore the people who say the things that seem senseless or insensitive. They simply don’t know what to say, and they’re doing the best they can. 
Ask questions. Even the ones that seem like nobody would want to be asked. Ask about the process. Ask if what your body is doing is normal. Don’t be embarrassed. Reach out to others who have had a miscarriage. And most of all, hang in there. Love yourself and your body for how hard it tried. Lean on your faith. If you’ve lost faith, find someone who still has it… or who can look back on a miscarriage with faith intact and know why it’s okay, even if it doesn’t make sense. It’s hard, but you’ll make it. 
Our rainbow boy came one year and eleven days after my miscarriage. As beautiful as he is, and thankful as I am, it doesn’t change anything about the miscarriage. It’s not any easier to miss that baby, or wonder about that baby, or remember what I endured emotionally or physically. But it reminds me that God is faithful. He loves us. He wants good for us. He wants to bless us. He has a plan up His sleeve. I’m thankful that my heart knows miscarriage, so I can love on and cry with those whose hearts are now experiencing it. I am humbled by the minute understanding I have of what loss feels like, and my heart is forever changed in relating to those who endure numerous losses, or failed IVF cycles, or simply can’t get pregnant. 
Miscarriage is ugly, but it’s real. It will be easier than it is right now, if you’re going through a miscarriage. It gets better than it feels right now. Keep the faith, keep the hope; stay surrounded by people who love and care for you. Do whatever helps you grieve. Find ways to remember your baby. You’ll make it out alive and stronger on the other side. Promise.

Read Vanessa's full story: digital version or print version
Vanessa with her husband and rainbow baby, Levi, who's now about 4 months old
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Monday, October 9, 2017

What can I do for Child Loss Awareness Month?

Whether you've lost a child or not, you can still participate in Child Loss Awareness Month every October. Here are some ideas of things you can do:

  • Reach out to someone you know lost a child. Send a simple note saying, "I'm remembering the child you lost this month with you. I miss him, too."
  • Post on social media about Child Loss Awareness Month. Use the graphic we have here or any number of the ones we share on Facebook.
  • Add a temporary Child Loss Awareness frame to your Facebook photo. Search for one on Google; they're easy to find, or look for one to be posted.
  • If you have lost a child, share your story, privately with a friend, or publicly. We're always looking for more stories to add to our website as resources for families who receive our packages. We don't want them to feel alone in their loss or the feelings they have.
  • Light a candle from 7-8pm on October 15 to participate in the worldwide Wave of Light in remembrance of all the children gone too soon. And, be sure to let others know you're participating!
  • Attend a child loss memorial service and/or invite a friend to one. We're hosting one this year on October 21 at 10am. Look for the details on our Facebook page.
  • Wear a pink and blue ribbon. Add one to your car.
  • Give. Click the "Donate" button in the sidebar of our page to give a one-time or monthly donation. We can't keep providing this service without YOUR HELP! The retail value of our packages starts at $90. We carefully select and purchase every book on grief from the money that's donated to us, which costs $10-$15 each. We also purchase the jewelry and meal gift cards. All of these items are costly, but are some of the most appreciated pieces of our packages.
Thank you for your support and consideration!
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We were on the local radio station!

One day in August, Aubin was on her way to Amanda's house to discuss upcoming things for Sent from Heaven when she heard them asking people to call in to talk about miscarriage. Coincidence? I think not! We listened for a few minutes, and then called the studio. We spoke to John McCollough of the Rob and John Show on Spirit 88.9 and he invited us to be guests on their show!! We had a wonderful time visiting with Rob and John, and are so grateful for the opportunity to share our ministry with listeners all over the Central Valley!

You can catch our full interview on their website or podcast.

We love Spirit radio and listen anytime we're in the car!

With Rob and John in the recording studio
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