Period. End of Discussion.

This was the title of the post that was running around in my head last week. It was going to say that I hate the period after a miscarriage. As if the miscarriage wasn’t loss enough, you spend the month (actually, the rest of your life) after trying to cope and return to some sort of normalcy when you are hit with the ultimate normalcy of your next period. Maybe I’m weird (okay, there’s no maybe about that one…) or alone in this feeling, but the period after a loss can be harder to cope with than the moment of the loss itself; you can autopilot through a few weeks or even a month, and you can imagine that there was some sort or mistake in the lab work – or that it was all a nightmare that you’ll wake up from – until you start your period. (Squeamish folks/guys, skip to the next paragraph now.) Nothing feels more final or fatal than blood when you lose a pregnancy – it’s a constant, graphic reminder of your baby’s death. The return of a normal cycle just nails the coffin shut on your dead dream with the same bloody fatalism.

Here’s the rest of the story this month. Generally, I am only moody when I’m extremely stressed or my hormones are running amok, and my expression of moodiness is either to be angry at everything for no apparent reason or to cry at everything, also for no apparent reason. This was how I felt Monday last week, along with all of the general aches and pains associated with periods, so I consulted the calendar and discovered that I should be starting at any point. By Thursday, I was beyond cranky, so I decided to psych myself out with a pregnancy test – I could take it, see that it was negative and my imagination was running wild, and then feel free to start my period. God clearly has a sense of humor. That was the fastest changing, darkest line we’ve probably ever had on a home pregnancy test. I had just been waiting for my period to start so I could start taking the pill again so we could do the second opinion appointment so we could have a better idea of what steps to take next so we could… apparently watch God laugh at our attempts to plan.

I really considered not telling anyone, including my husband, until sometime next week. If it didn’t work out, I would only be a week late starting, which would probably not be all that unusual after an IVF cycle. As the opening paragraph indicated, I was already set to be a grump anyway, so who would notice if I was more of a grump? If it did work out, then I’d be far enough along to confidently yell “Surprise! We’re pregnant!” at random. You may be wondering why I considered not sharing this at all since I’ve been pretty open about everything we’ve dealt with. Honestly, I felt a little embarrassed. We spent the last two months dealing with IVF and another pregnancy loss – how could we have let yet another pregnancy happen? How could I possibly tell anyone without feeling like an idiot? I even hesitated to go to the doctor’s office on Friday. The staff would surely think we were nuts, and it’s hard to date a pregnancy that happens the cycle after a miscarriage, so… There were a million little nagging thoughts like that.

Of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The nurse gave me several huge hugs, and the lab tech drew a souvenir pig on the test (I told her about inheriting my grandmother’s pig collection since they had pig stress balls to squeeze for blood draws last month…) which the nurse brought out and gave to me. My friends have been just as surprised as we were, but they have been amazing and supportive – as if I should expect anything less! You guys are awesome! My mom may win the best response award this time. She decided that we are having twins – one for me, and one for her. When I said Steven may not like that idea, she amended her decision to triplets – one for me, one for him, and one for her. I think there was a “Friends” episode like that: “There are three of them – surely they won’t miss one…”

The blood work Friday looked really good. The progesterone level was good, and the hcg level was 263, which might be the highest first test we’ve had. I know it’s the highest first level we’ve had in the last few years. If all is well, by Tuesday’s re-check, the hcg level should be at least over 600, and maybe even close to 1000. I’m hoping for 1000 tomorrow because that would be the best-possible-case scenario. It looks like we are right at five weeks, and this is where we always run into trouble. Right now, everything looks great, and I am hopeful that I have faced my last post-miscarriage period. Right now, I have no idea what God’s plan is, but I have no doubt he’s in control of every circumstance, regardless of the outcome. Period. End of discussion.


To Tell or Not to Tell

Some of you may think we’re crazy to tell people as soon as we know we’re pregnant, and maybe you’re right.  Most couples wait until they have solid news to report: a heartbeat, the completion of a successful first trimester, and ultrasound picture…  We don’t wait because we never know if we’ll have anything other than a positive pregnancy test to report, and we don’t want to wait for you to start praying.  Less than 1% of the population experiences recurrent miscarriages (three or more), and we are the 1%. (Insert Occupy joke of your choice here…)

The average couple doesn’t have to face the thought that they probably won’t have a successful outcome, even if they’ve experienced a miscarriage.  We do – every time.  Given that we want the troops out in force praying for us, we always talk about it but come to the same conclusion to tell immediately.  Plus, we’re very bad at keeping secrets about ourselves, so if someone asked about my switch to half-caf or decaf, I wouldn’t think before responding that pregnant people shouldn’t have too much caffeine.  I probably risk sharing too much most of the time, but I’d rather over-share than find myself in the miserable place of a few years ago where I was too afraid to talk to anyone.

Besides the prayer support, I would rather people know that we have loved and lost than wonder why I’m being such a crank.  Not telling people about the pregnancy and possibly the subsequent miscarriage would feel a lot like losing a close family member and never telling anyone that they even existed.  I prefer having the emotional support and understanding when I feel like I’m losing my mind during the grieving process than leaving a wake of emotional outbursts behind for people to wonder about.  At least now if I burst out crying at a Lego commercial (it’s happened) you can chalk it up to grief rather than mental defect (I have plenty of those, too…).

The down side of telling everyone immediately is dealing with the aftermath if things don’t work out.  News travels pretty fast, but in our situation there are people who will find out about the pregnancy a month after we’ve already lost it.  It’s awkward to tell someone who’s congratulating you that there’s nothing left to congratulate.  I also tend to feel ridiculous for telling everyone we’re expecting only to tell them a week later that it’s over.  There’s no reason for me to be embarrassed about it, but that’s always my first reaction.  I always think that people will think we’re silly for sharing so soon.  That feeling evaporates almost as quickly as it appears because of the wonderful support and encouragement we get from our family and friends.

For us, telling before we have solid proof of a viable pregnancy is the best option, but it may not be for everyone.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll have to decide what you’ll be comfortable with.  I find it easier to share now than I did a few years ago, and the openness has helped me tremendously.  But there are plenty of folks who just aren’t comfortable with sharing personal details, and that’s perfectly fine.  Just make sure that you have a small network of friends you can trust and who will support you.  Do not attempt to deal with the grief alone; even superheroes need help on occasion – you are no exception.

To Forgive Is Divine, Which I Am Not

But I’ll try anyway.  I found myself in the foulest of moods today (actually for the last few days, but with our snow holiday yesterday, I was alone and had no need to feel or express said foulness).  I was talking back to the radio; I was angered by news articles (although several of them would have angered me anyway); I wanted to point out every stupid act or remark for its idiocy and therefore irrelevancy; I have the patience of one of my dogs when faced with invading squirrels in the backyard – except that I would be locked up were I to bark out my frustrations like they do.  I mapped out  multiple essays in my head over the last few hours rebutting the topics I heard or saw discussed in the news today.  So I finally stopped to breathe and try to figure out what sparked my rage, and I think I know.

I saw my step-grandmother-in-law (it’s a somewhat convoluted family history, but the short version is we both married into the family and often don’t recognize each other in public because we don’t meet very often) at church on Sunday morning.  While she can be a topic of frustration among my in-laws, she caught me completely off-guard.  We were a little late, so I sat down next to her and waved.  She looked confused until she finally saw my husband.  We didn’t talk to her until church was over, and my husband was talking to the friends we sat near that I really wanted to see.  I got stuck with the step-grandmother-in-law, which is always a little awkward since we really don’t know each other well enough to even discuss the weather.  She opened the conversation with, “Well, are you pregnant again?”  As all of the words that ran through my head were not polite, to say the least, suffice it to say that I was a total loss for a response of any kind.  So I stuttered and answered, “Nope, apparently I’m just fat and out of shape if you think I look pregnant.”  She paused and switched topics: “That little baby of your sister’s – I can’t remember her name, you know I’ve got so many grandkids of my own I just can’t remember everybody’s name – she’s just a beautiful baby.”  Of course, I agreed – my niece is indeed very beautiful – and then she moved on to the much safer topic of weather before I managed to just walk away.  Once she moved on, I told my husband that I never wanted to be stuck talking to her again.  And I will avoid her like the plague in the future.

Of course that is a somewhat outrageous reaction on my part: my step-grandmother-in-law is a polite but clueless old woman, and she rarely manages to even appear to care for my in-laws in any real way based on the few actual conversations we’ve had.  She tends to talk at all of us and generally only ever speaks about her own children.  So, why should I be special when she has so many other names to remember, and why should I even care what she thinks?  In reality, she’s just not worth the effort beyond just being nice to her.  Except she managed to hit a lot of raw nerves in one shot.  And what kind of jackanapes (look it up on – their definition made me smile a little, which is horrible and vindictive, but true) leads with that question if you know any tiny bit of our history, and she does?  And then what kind of jackanapes changes the subject to rave about another baby (even one that I love with my whole heart) immediately after that first blunderbuss of a topic?  I don’t care how many grandkids’ names you have to remember, common courtesy should have precluded her first question to begin with.  I’m not really shy about talking about our miscarriages, but that level of insensitivity hurt my feelings a lot.  She obviously didn’t care about me enough to even ask about the situation in a kind manner, which has nothing to do with our relationship, her age, or her memory – it was just rude.

I don’t know if she only heard a tidbit of family news several months ago, so maybe she got confused and thought we were still pregnant (even though I should be obviously showing by now if the last one had stuck).  Or maybe she thought I looked like I might be showing, which hit another sore spot: my weight.  I gained my freshman fifteen a few times in college, which was a difficult adjustment for my former dancer body and my psyche.  Then I gained more weight after I got married, some of which I managed to lose and keep off for a little while.  But, as it turns out, I am one of those comfort eater types, so I have done nothing but gain weight over the last three years.  I finally managed to lose about five pounds over the last month, but it wasn’t enough for the Jackanapes not to ask if I was pregnant again. (More unutterable phrases…)

Those are the situations nothing can prepare you for, since they come out of the blue, and this one happened at a place I consider very safe since everyone I know at church knows about our losses.  I don’t mind talking to anyone who is truly concerned for me or that may be going through the same situation.  I have learned to let most of the things that are said out of love (and a lack of knowledge of anything better to say) roll off if the actual words sting and just accept the sentiment instead.  Aside from this situation, I cannot recall a single phrase that may have hurt at the time it was spoken that I associate with the individual who said it; I may recall the phrase, but all I associate with the person who said it is that they were concerned and expressed some words of comfort in the best way they knew how.  I have not learned how to appropriately blow off moments like the one the Jackanapes provided: she’s not close enough to even realize that she hurt me, and I’m not close enough to tell her without having called her out in that very moment – it’s not like I could call her later and talk to her about it.  She was thoughtless and rude; I would have been more so to have addressed the issue with an elder in such a public foray, especially given that I was hurt and angry at the time and unlikely to have been rational or appropriate in expressing my feelings.  While I might have felt immediate relief had I told her off, it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, nor would I have felt better for long if I thought I had embarrassed her or hurt her feelings.  I feel like it’s questionable to even write this blog post, given that she could be identified (and I have repeatedly called her a jackanapes, which proves I am also rude and thoughtless when hurt/angry), however unlikely it is that she or anyone close to her would learn of it.  But I also couldn’t keep biting people’s heads off for something someone else said days ago without thinking.

I suppose that this is one entry that may have been better left in my pink Chinese flower journal except for the fact that I know there other women who’ve experienced the same thing, maybe over pregnancy loss, or maybe over another fertility issue.  I was hurt and angry, and I was powerless to do anything about it, much as I am powerless to change my pregnancy loss experience.  I still have no idea how exactly to handle those situations except get away quickly and find a way to vent.  I got away Sunday, but I didn’t quite make it to the venting stage.  I didn’t realize it was that important until I started doing my snapping turtle act.  I know I did the best thing I could in the situation, although my mother-in-law was a little proud and somewhat astonished that I answered the pregnancy query with the fat and out of shape response.  I’m sure that I would do essentially the same thing if the situation were to arise again; the momentary instant gratification I might gain from turning the situation around on the jackanapes would pale when compared to knowing I am called to turn the other cheek and forgive the jackanapes.  Responding in kind would have done nothing to demonstrate the love of Christ.  I’ve got a long way to go before I can handle the jackanapes in a manner worthy of Christ; I let unforgiveness ruin three days of my life, and I very nearly let in hurt the people around me today.

Honestly, I’m not really sure how to forgive her, except by venting my anger in a way that probably won’t hurt her and then try to forget about it.  The temptation to indulge in revenge fantasies will only constantly remind me of the injury and push me further away from truly forgiving her, which would really only push me away from God.  So, now that I’ve gotten it off my chest, I will do my best to let it go.  And I promise to quit calling her a jackanapes as soon as I type this last period.