miscarriage

On those days that change your life for good

The first notable April 28 came in 1998, the day I learned my first baby had died.

I was teaching high school and the students were terribly excited to find out if I was having a boy or a girl. I was firmly instructed to call them on the journalism room phone the moment I knew. I only had a few more weeks to be with them, as I had resigned from my position to be a mom. School was almost out, and I wasn’t sure I would get back to teaching again (I never did.)

I didn’t call them. The sonogram showed a still baby, floating in his fluid. Lost to us.

We also had no answers. We just had to find the courage to do it again.

By April 28 of the next year, we had a baby girl, whose entrance to the world was stressful and constantly in question. But she arrived all the same, and just turned 15 a week ago. Her presence has made all the Aprils easier to bear.

By a strange collision of scheduling and timing, the next April 28 I was scheduled for surgery to correct my insides so that we could try to have a normal pregnancy in the future, without the risk of these late term losses, undersized babies, and such hardship. I remember distinctly the moment the nurses forced me to take off baby Casey’s memory bracelet, which I had worn daily for two years, and even during his sister’s birth by c-section. I cried all the way until the anesthesia knocked me out.

In April 2002, I was crazy pregnant with another girl. This pregnancy had not gone any more smoothly, a set of twins with one miscarrying at ten weeks. The other, Elizabeth, seemed fine. We would not learn until she was six that she would face challenges based on her time in the womb. They tried to schedule her c-section for April 28 and got a little miffed when I refused to agree. They sent the doctor in to convince me, but when he realized the date, he said, “Let’s neither of us show up.” He opted to work a different day, for me. So Elizabeth was born May 1.

Sometimes I think that after all these years, April 28 will have no power over me. That I can look back and think — it’s just a date.

But it’s not. It never will be. And for those of you who have traveled this road, you know what I mean. Some moments on our life’s calendar are never forgotten, can never be simplified or erased or overwritten by other events. And we wouldn’t want them that way.

14weeksaltered2.JPG

Casey Shay would have been 15 today

Now that Emily is in high school, I think I have a better idea of what life would be like with Casey. He’d be getting his learner’s permit, and the shrieks heard ’round the world would be me, hands on the dashboard, eyes squeezed shut or open wide, as we careened along side streets. (I always picture him as a dare devil.)

14weeksaltered2.JPGBut I have to admit that as time passes, I feel less connected to the kid Casey might have been. We can imagine babies in all their temperaments — cranky or calm, excitable or chill. But a mostly grown boy can be so many things. Athlete. Gamer geek. Gregarious. Shy. Friendly. Quiet. So many shades between. He is unknowable, forever a collection of white blips on a black background, a shape in the dark.

It’s not often that I think of him with sorrow anymore. Casey is the name of my mission, my life’s work, the purpose handed to me from my first-born. He becomes ever-abstract, a dividing line in my history.

But today is not one of those days. Once again he becomes a baby, and today is the day that we might have celebrated his arrival. And the future I would have had with him is as unknowable as he is to us.

On Meeting Your Heroes

I first learned about October 15 in 2007. I posted a hurried message about it, encouraging proud angel mamas to spread the word and light their candles at 7 p.m. their time. I didn’t know a lot about the day or the founder, but I knew it was a good thing, the sort of big event I was looking for.

My own web site was already nine years old, the time when you start to try and shake up what has become routine. I wanted to keep growing and moving us forward. I remember feeling frustration (and I still do) that mothers felt they had to “hide” their losses and that talking about their babies was still such a taboo. We’d gotten nowhere.

And along came Robyn Bear and her site for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. She and a team of volunteers took the measure to the legislatures of all fifty states and got it passed federally as well. I was amazed at their effort and the years they spent making this happen.

Naturally I reached out to Robyn pretty quickly. Someone with that much staying power, already seven years post-loss and still going strong, was going to be a big part of the baby loss community. Turns out, she was also very generous and friendly.

webRobyn-Deanna-2013midThis year I decided ENOUGH, and packed my family in the car and drove four hours to where Robyn lives to deliver a box of books she had ordered from me personally. We had lunch in a little restaurant in her home town, and she was amazingly just as wonderful as I thought she would be!

Our miracles babies (okay, tweens and teens) sat at one end, and the husbands chatted about work and weather, while we reviewed our two journeys through loss and the determination to actually get involved in the lives of other grieving mothers, and to carve businesses from this so that we could continue working with the community full-time.

I think our partnership in making sure the needs of baby loss moms are met has only grown stronger by meeting face to face. We may have our separate web sites and support groups, and she may focus on Oct. 15 candle lightings as well as remembrance items and jewelry (and man, does she find some beautiful stuff), while I focus on books and information and support groups, but we are definitely united in one thing — making sure women facing these impossible losses have a place to go, a community to talk to, and ways to memorialize and remember their babies.

I see a day twenty years from now when we’re little old ladies, and still holding the virtual hands of the young women who need us. We’re here for the long haul. We’re here for all of you. I can’t imagine a more perfectly suited partner or a more beautiful person, inside and out.

 

My girls at our first Oct. 15 candle lighting in 2007.
My girls at our first Oct. 15 candle lighting in 2007.

Baby Casey, 14 years later

Sometimes when women arrive at my Facebook group for those currently going through a miscarriage, they ask, “How long until I get over this?”

All I can say is, “Fourteen years and counting.”

One of the hard things about losing a baby that no one else felt, or saw, or touched is that everyone wants you to get over it quickly. They don’t have the same emotional investment. Pregnancy, with its sleepiness and dream-like quality, encourages the visions of the baby to come, the moments ahead. It’s how you get through the hard stuff—throwing up, bone-tiredness, caution and fear. So we’re wired to already see and experience this baby well beyond the sensations in our belly.

In her book Virgin Blue (which has lots of miscarriage and pregnancy trauma within it), author Tracy Chavalier’s characters, both midwives, talk about how the pregnant mother is always “listening” inside her. She’s distracted, taken out of the outside world, and focused on what is happening within.

It really doesn’t matter when the conversation stops, the day after the positive pregnancy test or during the birth, when some tragedy takes the baby during its final journey to the outside. It’s still a cutting off, a silencing of a relationship that had become the focus of your life.

Fourteen years ago today, I didn’t realize my connection had been cut. I suspected—but then every pregnant mother seems to always have some fear—but until the Doppler was silent, until the doctor was rushed in and the sonogram machine powered up, until he moved and moved and moved the paddle, trying to find an elusive heartbeat for a 20-week baby who should have filled the screen with movement and sound, but didn’t. Until I had proof; I hadn’t known.

April 28 taught me how to listen, how to hear, how to know when the conversation ceased. My next two losses were no surprise. I had learned the difference between the hum that reverberates between a mother and an unborn child and the silence that means the child is gone.

And this year, at 42, I am getting married again and, next month, taking that journey one more time. I don’t even know if the conversation will start. I may not be able to get pregnant at all. The chromosomes in my eggs may be too sticky to divide properly and get the baby on its journey. But I will listen, and I will hear. And whatever conversation I might get, however many days or weeks or months I may get to feel that hum, I will take them.

One thing I’ve learned in 14 years—I am not afraid. I hope, for all of you, who may be reading this after searching the internet about pregnancy loss, that you find that courage too.

 

Baby Casey would have been 13 today!

My first baby Casey would have been thirteen years old today, and we’re celebrating his would-have-been birthday with give aways of some great books on loss.

Since we can’t give Casey the things he would have liked, instead we’re giving things to YOU!

Head on over to the site of Baby Dust, my novel on pregnancy loss that will be released Oct. 1, and comment on any of the titles that you might find helpful. We’ll give away the books on October 1 to kick off Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Month.

We’re also taking this special day to celebrate the completion of the Baby Dust Book Trailer. Women from Ireland, London, Australia, Mexico, and the US talk about their babies, and the women of Illuminate, a photography class for grieving mothers, took the images that are used.

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