29 March 2017

Hugs are For the Comforter

I'm no expert. I can't say what's good or normal in grieving, but I can tell you that it has felt good to be distracted and it felt worse, with all the feelings reemerging, when I was hugged. There's something about receiving sympathy that has made me feel worse. I've been pondering that phenomenon a bit in the past few weeks, trying to understand why my emotions flare when someone is trying to offer me sympathy. This may not be universally true, but right now it seems to me like hugs only benefit the comforter.

Remember when I vowed to be more open about our fertility journey? Well, I had the opportunity to try that out recently. The last instruction we received from the fertility clinic here in Milwaukee was to come back for monitoring once I had the next positive pregnancy test in hand to test and follow the beginning of the pregnancy until it was safe to establish with an OB/GYN. In February, when my period didn't come as usual and basal body temperatures remained high, I took a pregnancy test and discovered that I was in fact pregnant. I called up the fertility clinic, and they had me come in to draw blood for labs to test my HCG and progesterone levels.

Knowing that I would want prayers of family and some close friends, Scott and I told a few family members and friends that we were pregnant, and that we could use some positive vibes as we tried to figure out what may be causing my miscarriages.

The fertility clinic drew blood on a Tuesday, started me on progesterone suppositories and baby aspirin on Wednesday and drew blood again on Thursday. When the resulting levels didn't increase as much as was expected in those few days, an ultrasound was scheduled.

Scott was able to come to my first ultrasound because he happened to have the day off. The reproductive endocrinologist performed the transvaginal ultrasound and found the yoke sac, corpus luteum, and no signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Per the measurements, I appeared to be around 4 weeks and 6 days. The reproductive endocrinologist suggested that the next time I come back into the office would be the following week for another ultrasound. There would be no other blood tests in between.

That Sunday following the ultrasound I had a little spotting, but I reminded myself that spotting can be normal. I started talking to the baby to calm my own anxiety and try to think positively about the pregnancy.

On Tuesday, there was fresh red blood, but no cramping. When I called the fertility clinic they said to call if cramping began or I passed any clots, but otherwise continue with the progesterone. The bleeding stopped and my anxiety dissipated.

When the reproductive endocrinologist asked me at my second ultrasound how I was feeling, I said "better." I was feeling calm and optimistic. Even though I was initially stressing over spotting and temperature dips, those symptoms had improved and the pregnancy felt different from past miscarriages.

The ultrasound showed that the yolk sac hadn't grown at all. It still measured at 4 weeks and 6 days. The ultrasound was over in only a couple minutes. As I tried to catch my bearings, the reproductive endocrinologist sat in her swivel chair in front of me, reviewing my chart for anything she may have missed. She recommended that I connect with a specialist in Tennessee who had extensive experience with recurrent miscarriages. She said, "By touching base with this specialist, at least you can say that you've tried everything you can do." It was reassuring to have one more thing I could try.

Emotionally I was a wreck the day of that second ultrasound. After the doctor left my room and told me I could take my time, I took her up on that offer and spent extra time in the exam room composing myself. When I came out in the hallway, there was a nurse... with her puppy dog sympathy eyes, knowing the outcome and feeling sad for me. Had it not been for that expression, I may have been able to make the drive home and get in my apartment before bawling my eyes out.

Instead, I cried silent tears through the hospital and on my drive, then cried some more on my bed at home and developed an awful headache. When I got up to get tissues and water and found my blotchy red eyes in the mirror, I knew I didn't want to feel this way for long. Crying didn't make me feel any less sad or any less pain. 

Surprisingly, part of my discovery in examining how I feel this time around, is that I don't feel any additional pain because we had to also inform family and friends of the miscarriage. This has been my excuse for not informing others during the trial, as I assumed that family would get overly excited at an announcement, and it would only add to my pain to feel responsible for communicating the loss with others. Instead, I've appreciated everyone's texts and prayers. It certainly helped that everyone was very considerate when I said I didn't want to talk those first few days after the second ultrasound. Over all I feel like communicating during this trial may have helped me to feel closer and more grateful for those relationships.

But hugs... they're out, for now.

19 March 2017

Charitable Thoughts

In church today, a women who was speaking in Sacrament Meeting talked of caring for the poor and needy. Though I know it wasn't the speaker's intention, just saying that phrase, "poor and needy" brought to my mind the image of a ladies club straight out of The Help - sitting around, feeling superior, devising plans that they believe will best solve the needs of whoever is below them. As someone who works in the non-profit world, though I'm very familiar with the idea of caring for under-served populations, I felt a little wake up call that I need to do a better job of seeing people as persons, rather than a label or project to fix per my specifications.

It reminded me of this March Madness State Farm Neighborhood of Good commercial that has been playing frequently during timeouts. It may just be me, living in the world of charities, but I've been feeling lately what this ad portrays - having the needs of more groups come to my attention, stick with me throughout my week, and wishing I could do more to make a difference in the world.

The ad's closing statement, "Let's turn caring into doing" is what brought it back to my memory during church today. Though, I was thinking about more of the opposite effect- turning charity back into caring - not just about caring about a cause, but caring about individuals, their feelings, and asking what they need.

Faith and living my religion is an important part of my life. I turn to faith and religious values to guide my decisions, priorities, and relationships. I seek spiritual guidance when struggling through difficult times. I believe that there is a God, and that He cares about the choices I make and wants me to be happy in life and return to His presence some day. I go to church to strengthen my relationship with God, to try to get to know Him better. Because I feel that as I understand more of what God is like, I am able to make more sense of what's going on around me. I love that attending church also helps bring to light my weaknesses, as I hear the prepared talks and lessons and take time to consider how I can implement those principles to become a better me.

If you are interested in learning more about the church I attend and you happen to live in the area, our congregation is having a specific visitor's oriented meeting on Sunday, March 26. When I say visitor-oriented, I should clarify that visitor's are welcome every Sunday, but the messages shared next Sunday will be geared to anyone who doesn't know a lot about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We don't collect donations and there's no baptismal font at the door that we dunk you in before you can come and worship with us. You're welcome to come sit in the pew with Scott and I (he actually has the day off that day!) as you casually observe a Mormon Sunday. If you don't live in the area or can't come but you have a question, send me a message.

A friend reminded me this month that I have a history of being awkward sometimes in sharing about my faith. Sorry about that! I have a hard time separating talking about my religion as part of what makes me who I am and just the factual "this is what we believe" part. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me for my awkwardness, next time I'll try to be casually helpful. Pinky promise.