12 October 2016

Capturing My Grief

My Wisconsin Sunrise. June 2016

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I have a friend who is following the 2016 Capture Your Grief program and her posts are raw, real, and inspiring. After thinking about this for awhile and then seeing her courage, I figured that this is probably the best of times if any to share my story on this blog.

I don't talk about my health, for many reasons. One of which being that I've learned from experience having Crohn's Disease that people unintentionally define you by your trial and end up treating you differently. Since I occasionally have flare-ups of inflammation and poor digestion, casual conversations with friends and family take a pause to include a "how's your health" moment. Or having a meal at someone's house can bring about the question "what can you eat, anyway?"

I'm guilty of doing the same. In fact, I asked my brother these same questions on Sunday, right after I tried for two seconds to think of some other way to find out how he was feeling since his recent flare (comme si, comme ca, btw). Maybe I should have said, "I love you and want the best for you, and if you ever want to vent about bowels, I'm a phone call away." Hindsight.

My natural instinct is sympathizing instead of finding empathy. It seems like society has taught me all the wrong ways to express my sadness for the pains that others are feeling. I've been on the receiving end of those failed sympathies and attempted silver linings to know that those words don't make a positive difference. It's a hard habit to break. In addition to being a lame empathizer, I've noticed that I have a tendency to be whiny when I'm fishing for sympathy from Scott or my mom, so it's best that I avoid that.

That's all to say that I'm not public with my suffering (though Scott may get an earful, not to mention a nose-full of my belly pains), and I'm not open with my grief.  So while there are many who may guess that we struggle with infertility, and a few who are up to date on our attempts to find answers, I hesitate to share about my miscarriages with most unless openly asked, and even then I'm reluctant to be detailed.

For those privileged few who read my blog and want to know the details (potentially TMI, so beware) here is your exclusive: We’ve been trying to conceive for over two years now and I've had several miscarriages all ending around 6 weeks, the most recent confirmed miscarriage having occurred in June 2015. We put off TTC at that time so that we could have tests done, and let's be honest, because miscarriages are an emotional roller coaster, even at 6 weeks. Six weeks is just long enough to take a picture with a positive pregnancy test, research best prenatal vitamins, schedule the first doctor's appointment, and plan a pregnancy announcement before having all those dreams go down the drain, literally.

In the beginning of this year, we met with a reproductive endocrinologist who suggested that both Scott and I be tested to rule out reasons for the miscarriages. This included blood panels, hormone tests, chromosome genetic tests, a sperm sample, a sonohysterography. All the tests came back normal. The results gave the doctors no indication why we are having multiple miscarriages. As far as we know, with unexplained recurrent miscarriages there are only minor treatment options  (taking baby aspirin to prevent clotting or supplementing with progesterone) until we have more information about what may be causing them. For now we will continue to try to conceive and keep the pregnancy naturally, and then go in to the specialists once I have the next positive pregnancy test in hand to do labs and occasional monitoring.

You may ask, if I'm so averse to sharing grief and details about my health, then why am I posting now? While I don't find comfort in support groups, I do find solace in knowing that I'm not the only one experiencing infertility. Also, I'm incredibly grateful for those few that I HAVE shared my story with who have an empathetic ear and some knowledge of the testing because they've experienced the pains of infertility... trials that I am only aware of because friends were open with their grief.

While it is essential for coping and my motivation that I focus my thoughts and daily planner on what is going well in my life (oh, you know, work, book club, dating my hubby, travel, service, church, Gilmore Girls mini-series coming to Netflix, etc.), I recognize that all questions asked come from a place of caring for our happiness and health. Even though I would prefer not to talk about infertility because I don't want it to define me, I've found that being silent strains relationships. Those who care, or those who are going through something themselves, are wondering if they can ask and likely don't know how to support me if I don't make that clear.

So I'm trying. I hope to be able to pause before my automatic defensive feeling kicks in when someone asks me directly about babies. I've committed to myself to share updates with family when I have an update and to be clear about whether that information should be kept private or what a supportive response might be. It seems ridiculous that I have to be so conscientious about sharing these things, but I guess that's due in part to my introversion and in part to the nature of infertility which is a sensitive topic for many and not generally talked about openly.

So to start things off right, know that you can share this post with individuals if you know someone who might specifically benefit from reading it or someone who loves us and would like to know more about what we are facing. The best way to support us at this point is prayers or happy thoughts, whichever floats your boat. No sympathy cards, please, unless they happen to include gift cards to Jane.com. I kid... about the gift cards anyway. No sympathy allowed. You're welcome to email me, though, if you have questions.

Of course, with every miscarriage I mourn what just days before was the potential for our family. I also mourn the blissful innocence that would have come with a healthy first pregnancy - excitedly taking a pregnancy test as soon as there are signs, worry-free testing and ultrasounds, months of planning and happy nesting in anticipation of the due date. I feel a tad shallow for saying so, especially after reading other women's infertility stories. It's not fair to compare, I suppose. I believe that each of us have trials that we are capable of handling. It helps me to find purpose and opportunities in my trials. The trouble is not blaming myself in the process.

One of my sisters-in-law reminded me last year that her story is different from my story. Even though she can empathize a little, she still doesn't know what I'm going through. But she cried with me anyway, and that meant more to me than anything she could have said.