Valentines Day this year was what would be one of the most exciting days of my life. Mike and I had our first go at trying to conceive about a month before. He was away on business, and I decided to take a pregnancy test that morning. I was beside myself and absolutely elated when that test came out positive. I spent my lunch break running out and putting together the most special valentine for Mike ever- the news that we were going to be parents. In addition to the gifts I'd already gotten him, I put together a package with the book My Boys Can Swim: The Official Guy's Guide To Pregnancy and the positive pregnancy test. Here's pics and a [very personal] video of him opening it- something I was so excited to capture:
(pardon the excited expletives!)
That video now breaks my heart. After going to the doctor and confirming we were in fact expecting, just a few days later, I woke up knowing something was wrong. I had been feeling very pregnant, experiencing a lot of the symptoms of pregnancy- extreme fatigue, breast tenderness, all-day morning sickness, etc. That morning, though, I woke up and felt great. I remember telling Mike while we were having breakfast that I kind of miss feeling like crap because it was reassuring; I didn't even feel pregnant. Mike told me to chalk it up to a good day, and I thought maybe he was right- I should appreciate a little respite from the miserable parts of pregnancy! Later, I began spotting. That got me googling. I found that spotting could be okay, but any combination of things happening, including loss of pregnancy symptoms and bleeding, you should call your doctor. When I got home that evening, the spotting became bleeding accompanied by sharp pains and cramping, and I immediately called the after hours line at my doctors' office. They told me to get to the ER. I cried the whole way there, praying as hard as I could that the baby was okay. A few hours and lots of uncomfortable tests later, we found out that we had lost the pregnancy. They told me that I had experienced a very common type of miscarriage called a chemical pregnancy. Although we had conceived, the fertilized egg, for some reason or another, did not successfully implant in the uterus. It didn't feel common at all to me. It felt like the worst thing that could possibly happen. I felt like it wasn't the pregnancy that had failed, it was I that had failed.
That's when I quickly began realizing that these things really are common, they're just not spoken about. The sweet ER doctor taking care of me told me it had happened to her, too. The next morning (just a few hours later), after tearfully calling my and Mike's moms, my next call was to my boss to let him know I wouldn't be coming in. And guess what he told me- the exact same thing had happened to him and his wife, too. And another one of my bosses called me a a few minutes later saying they'd gone through it, too, only their miscarriage was well into the second trimester (which I cannot even began to fathom). And a co-worker of mine said the same thing. Then family friends said it'd happened to them. I was overwhelmed by all the people who it had also happened to. I was sorry for their painful loss, but in a way comforted in that it wasn't just me. I was also in disbelief that it took me going through this to realize this was even something that happened... quite often. The doctors told me that it happens to about 50% of women, and half of those women (so 25% of all women) don't even know it happened to them (they weren't looking for a pregnancy, and thus think it's a really awful period). Here is another forum that shows how common it is. Even though it doesn't make a miscarriage easier, it does offer some comfort that you didn't do anything wrong and that you're not alone. Mike is a pretty private guy, and I didn't exactly feel like shouting it from the rooftops, but I knew immediately that this was something that I wouldn't be withholding; I knew it was something that women should share with each other and be aware of.
I took the time to heal, and Mike and I were able to try again successfully a few months later. As many of you know, I am the very proud, thankful, humbled, scared sh*tless expectant mother of a sweet bun in the oven. I am obviously currently in the midst of one the happiest time in my life, almost into my third trimester with our sweet baby boy who I already love so inexplicably much. I've never prayed harder for a healthy, successful pregnancy and happy, healthy baby. I am optimistic that everything is okay this time, but still so scared, knowing I might not be one of the lucky ones. My experience with miscarriage has humbled me so much. I am thankful beyond words for this baby in my belly, but so aware of the many things that can go wrong. We've had still birth in our family and amongst friends, and have friends with babies born with tragic diseases as well as non-life threatening but life altering diseases and disorders. And most recently, which will be my next point, I've learned of horrible things that I would never think would happen to me happen to women just like me after giving birth. I know I am not immune to any of these. While this is by far the happiest time in my life, I am sensitive to these things and the people who are going through it or have gone through it. For this reason, I don't complain on social media about my morning sickness or other, normal, crappy pregnancy symptoms. Because I've been the woman wishing I could have that stuff back, willing to trade anything in the world for it. You never know what someone on your Facebook friends list is going through, and I've become sensitive to that and have learned to truly appreciate the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes with being an expectant mother.
Speaking of Facebook, just the other week, I saw a friend post something about one of her best friends passing away and sending her love to her friend's widower and their little baby. Of course, thinking of Mike and our baby alone, that struck a chord with me, and I wondered what had happened. Soon, other Facebook friends of mine (all from the same area) posted about the same girl, and I learned that she took her own life while experiencing postpartum depression. I read a beautiful blog posted about her death and was overwhelmed with so many thoughts. I'd heard of postpartum depression, but never postpartum psychosis or someone going so far as taking their own life from their postpartum depression. Also, I've spoken to two of my friends with babies who both said they were depressed after delivering their babies. This, too, is more common than most of us know. It struck me that, like me, in talking about it, the author of the blog was surprised to learn just how common it is. When she talked to women who said they'd had postpartum depression, she asked why she never knew this, to which they replied, "I was ashamed. I felt like I wasn't a good mother." Perhaps what resonated most with me was that this new mother, Alexis, "was strong. She was happy. She was loved. If this could happen to her, it can happen to any of us." Whenever I think about it, I see the picture of a happy, pregnant Alexis, I girl I never even knew, at her baby shower and see myself in her. I felt compelled to pass her story on since she can't, and I hope that it can help women be informed, not feel ashamed, and share their experiences with one another.
If you've followed my blog at all, you know that I enjoy and celebrate my pregnancy. As we should! Pregnancy is a happy time that should be celebrated. At the same time, there is SO much that an expectant mother worries about. I just wanted to share about a few of these worries to hopefully open the door to women sharing and talking with one another rather than keeping painful experiences private, as knowing we are not alone when something bad happens helps. Women should not be ashamed of such experiences happening to them. Often times, these things are beyond our control, more common than we realize, and can happen to anyone. I think sharing our stories can help to diminish the shame that women feel when these things happen. I know it helped me get through such a difficult time. The other thing that helps, especially in things like postpartum depression, is being informed. As I've learned through Alexis's story, it really can happen to anyone, however there are things you can do to prevent it, starting with being cognizant of it.
Not fun, not fancy, but certainly simple... not alone and here for you, too, girl...