Comfort Food

When we came home from the hospital, Will’s mom went grocery shopping for us. She came back with everything we’d asked for and at least four different kinds of soda. Over the course of the next week, more people brought more soda. We couldn’t fit it all in the refrigerator, so we had a little stash on the floor in the dining area just waiting to go into the fridge when space opened up.

Then there was the food. Delicious, cheesy, carbohydrated goodness filled our refrigerator and our bellies. Also cakes, candy, and cereal. We did get some vegetables, which we ate gladly, and some fresh fruit, which we also ate gladly…after we turned it into cobbler.

We felt guilty about it all for the first few days, but then we decided that feeling guilty about food was not what we needed to be doing at that moment. Our to-do list for the first week after we lost Ella consisted of three things:

  1. Get out of bed every day
  2. Breathe in and out
  3. Feed ourselves

That was all we could do, really, and even then, we relied heavily on the kindness of others to get ourselves fed. And y’all, that food was delicious. If you brought us anything edible, THANK YOU. I ate it all. There was a chocolate cake that disappeared little by little over the course of about a week, and it wasn’t until we were down to the last two pieces that we realized I had eaten literally almost all of it.

Food in general has been very comforting to me since my miscarriage, partly because there were so many things I missed eating when I was pregnant that I can now consume with abandon, partly because sugar and carbs and dairy are delicious and make your brain feel great, and partly because I was touched by the kindness and generosity of all those who provided for us when we could barely get out of bed.

I think there are probably two directions you could go with food after a tragedy. You can eat it all like we did, allowing yourself the grace and freedom to be comforted without worrying about the nutritional value of it. Or you can get very meticulous about your diet, using it as a way to control something when everything feels out of control. I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with either as long as you acknowledge what you are doing with food as part of your grieving process.

But six weeks and eight pounds later, I think it might be time for me to bring the eating phase of my grieving process to an end. And at the risk of using too many 30 Rock gifs (no such thing), I’ll just leave you with this and promise to talk more about food and exercise at a later date.

shutitdown

PPROM

I’m supposed to write today about why it’s so difficult for people to talk about miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility, but since I’ve already talked about that a little bit here, and since we just had a six-week follow-up appointment with the doctor today, I’ve got other things on my mind I’d rather talk about.

I wish I did not know what PPROM is. A month ago, I did not, but in the absence of answers from the doctors at the hospital, I’ve done a lot of internet research, and PPROM sounded the most like what happened to me. The doctor today confirmed it, so now it looks like I have a lot more targeted research to do. What I know so far is that it is Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes, i.e. water breaking way, way, way too early. It happens in about 3% of all pregnancies. And there are a few different things that can cause it, none of which have been found in me so far.

They’re going to do some more tests and exploring of possibilities, but right now, we don’t have any reason to believe or suspect that there’s anything physically wrong with me that would have caused my water to break at 16 weeks. The doctor said it was just a fluke.

A fluke.

I don’t know how I feel about that just yet. On the one hand, if there was no good reason for it to happen, then there’s no good reason for it to happen again. The doctor said it was highly unlikely that it would happen again. On the other hand, it was highly unlikely the first time, and I beat the odds on that one, so who’s to say I won’t beat them again?

If we had a cause, then we would have a plan for future prevention. What do you do with a fluke?

Part of me wants to be really frustrated about the whole thing. I mean, maybe Dr. Spacemen was right.

DoctorSpaceman

But I was talking to my mom on the way home from the appointment, and she pointed out that 30 years ago, women in my situation would not have been able to rule out the things we’ve already ruled out, and they wouldn’t have been able to have the tests done that we have scheduled. Fifty years ago, procedures that are commonly used today to prevent PPROM during pregnancy would have been rare if available at all. We really have come a long way.

I wonder sometimes if all that science is the best thing for us, though. We read statistics about things and think they apply directly to us. If 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, that means I personally have an 80% chance of having a surviving, full-term baby, right? Well… If I flip a coin 100 times, and I get tails 20% of the time, does that mean on my next flip I have an 80% chance of getting heads?

I know it’s not quite that simple, but I wonder if all the knowledge medical science has given us isn’t also causing us to have unrealistic expectations. Is that pessimistic of me to say?

Miscarriage Resources and Advice

So today I’m supposed to write about the best advice I’ve received since my miscarriage, and honestly, this might rub some folks the wrong way, but it’s where I am, and I’m ok with it for now. I’ve read a lot of things that were supposed to be encouraging that really just pissed me off or made me sadder than I was before, and almost all of them were what I would call the “correct” Christian response to miscarriage. If you don’t know what I mean by that, I’m talking about the things that acknowledge the pain (sort of) but then in the same breath wipe it away with a Bible verse or an attribute of God or something similar. Even as a Christian, it’s hard for me to read that stuff because it’s just not that easy. It feels like jumping straight to the resolution of grief without working through the grief, and I just don’t buy that those people truly feel that peaceful or faith-filled unless they’re a lot further removed from it than I am six weeks out. And maybe when they wrote their stuff, it had been a couple of years and they had already reached a deeper level of resolution, but I am most definitely not there, and I refuse to fake it.

The best advice is the most honest, which also seems to be the best way process grief. There’s no need to try and faith it away (one of the books I’ll recommend below actually says that’s a way of denying or repressing grief.) You just slog through it one minute at a time. And the minutes turn into hours, and the hours turn into days, and the days turn into weeks, and sometimes you feel ok, and sometimes you feel lousy, but I’m told that one day several months from now, I’ll wake up and realize that I feel different. Maybe not good or even better, but just different. Six weeks out, all I can tell you is that I’m ok at best all the time, but that’s an improvement over the first two weeks, when I spent more of each day crying than not.

My two favorite pieces of advice so far are:

“Be kind to yourself.” ~Dawn

“Take your time, bro.” ~Dallas

Simple, easy to remember, and necessary, both of these reminders help me to be patient as I trudge through the crap and give myself a lot of grace. And the fact that Dallas calls me “bro” just makes me smile.

Books on Miscarriage

The best thing I’ve read so far has been a book called Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah L. Davis. It’s written for people (particularly women) who have lost babies to miscarriage or stillbirth, or who have lost babies after birth, so not all of it speaks directly to me, and I generally just skipped over the bits that didn’t apply to my situation. What’s great about it, though, is that it’s quite comprehensive. It explains everything that you’re going through, tells you that it’s normal to go through those things, and then shares stories from other women who’ve been there just in case you still feel abnormal. I would recommend it for anyone who has lost a baby big enough to have a name. If you had an early miscarriage, you might feel like you have less in common with the parents whose stories are shared.

A friend also gave me a book called Free to Grieve by Maureen Rank. I’ve flipped through it and read some parts, so I can tell you that it’s a book for Christians, and it’s more story-based than Empty Cradle, which has snippets of women’s stories but not long narratives like this one. My friend said she liked it because it walked her through the grieving process after her first miscarriage and encouraged her that her feelings were normal and ok to have. This book does seem appropriate for women who’ve had an early miscarriage. It answers a lot of questions you might have about the medical procedures you went through, and it discusses options for the future as well as how to protect your marriage after going through a miscarriage.

Another friend gave me a book called Never Alone in the Shadows from this website. It’s a read-a-page-a-day sort of deal, and while it is faith-based, I find it encouraging rather than infuriating because I think it comes from a genuine heart of faith and concern for bereaved parents rather than a desire to straighten it all out as quickly as possible without showing any signs of a wavering faith. It’s taking me a while to get through it, honestly, because I tidied up the coffee table, put some things on top of it, and forgot it was hiding under there. But I shall resume now.

That’s all I’ve got for now. If you know of any helpful websites, discussion boards, books, or support groups for women, men, couples, or families coping with the loss of a baby, please comment and let us know. I’d love to build up an arsenal of resources for myself and others who’ve lost babies.

Verbal Crayon

I’ve always said that I’m better in writing, but I guess I do both pretty well. In the first year of the mentoring group you may have heard me talk about before, we decided at one point that each of us had a kind of super power. We gave each other nicknames to reflect our powers, some of which were cooler than others, I thought, but they were all pretty spot-on descriptors. They told me I was a verbal crayon because I was able to communicate with words in such a colorful, fun, beautiful way. They were so kind.

You guys have also been so kind. Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement as I process grief, loss, fear, anxiety, terrible sadness, hope, anger, guilt, pain, and love right out in the open in front of God and everybody. I don’t know what possessed me to write all of this in public and not in my own private journal (because the writing process is the same, and it’s therapeutic either way), but I’m glad I did. So many of you have told me that my words have been helpful to you, or that you think they might be helpful for someone you love. One friend who is a nurse even asked permission to refer patients to these words now and then. And y’all, I am honored and give permission freely to all of you to tell anyone and everyone about my silly little blog.

If you send someone to me please tell them – and if you’ve arrived here looking for support, help, strength, or encouragement after a miscarriage – 4 things:

  1. I’m so sorry. Losing a baby is awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone ever.
  2. All are welcome here. All are respected. All are loved.
  3. If you find things here that don’t help, just skip them. Come back to them later or just write them off forever. I’ve read so many well-intentioned things in the past month that have only left me in tears of frustration, anger, and hurt because I’m just not in the right place to receive those words. I may revisit them in two years and find that they ring true, or I may never go back to them at all. But right now, if they aren’t for me, they aren’t for me. The same goes for my words and you. If they aren’t for you, that’s ok.
  4. But if you find anything that helps, anything that brings hope, or anything that just makes you feel less alone, then I am so glad that I chose to process my pain in public.

Nothing will ever make losing a baby ok, but if anything I say about it helps someone else, then I feel like my daughter has a purpose, that she’s contributing to the world, that she’s working for hope and redemption, that she’s someone I can be incredibly proud of, and that she’s not entirely lost.

Processing

I’ve always been an observer before being a participant. I think this comes with being an introvert (at least that’s what I’ve read). When I enter a new situation, I like to watch before jumping in. When something big happens or I’m thinking of making a big change, I have to sit with it for a while before I can talk about my feelings and ideas. Even when asked a question, I often need to take a moment to collect my thoughts before responding. This used to make me uncomfortable because I felt like I needed to be prepared at all times to deal with whatever came my way. If I didn’t have an answer, a response, an action plan, a clever idea, or a solution immediately, I felt like I was failing. The silent time I needed to process felt awkward, like I was letting people down.

To fill the silence after a question, and to buy myself time to think, I used to immediately respond with, “I don’t know.” But then I almost always followed that up with a response that showed I did, in fact, know. I didn’t realize I did that until my counselor friend pointed it out to me, and when she did, she said something I will never forget. She said when I responded that way, it put up a wall between me and whoever I was talking to. And it’s true. Answer a question with “I don’t know,” and see how much longer the conversation lasts. Answer two questions in a row that way, and you start to feel defensive. Answer three questions in a row that way, and you shut down the whole thing.

If you can give yourself permission, though, to be silent instead of saying you don’t know, or if you can say, “Give me a minute to think about that,” or, “I need to organize my thoughts on that for a second,” or, “Hang on and let me process that for a moment,” then you invite your friend further into the conversation AND give yourself the time you need to process before responding.

Sometimes I feel like I should be further along in the grieving process than I am. I think, “It’s been a month and a half. Why does it still hurt so much? Why can’t I just move on? Why do I still think about it all the time? When am I going to feel better?” But the thing is it’s only been a month and a half. Death hurts. Loss hurts. And I lost much more than a pregnancy. I lost a child. I lost the future I thought I would have with that child as her mother. I lost a lifetime I had hoped for. I lost the innocence and naivete I had before. I lost the unbridled optimism that defined me. I lost part of myself, and I don’t know what will replace it. I think about it all the time because I’m still in the process of figuring out what happens next. I think about it all the time because thinking about it and reliving it are my brain’s ways of acknowledging that it is reality so I can live with it and learn to let go of the pain and fear of it. And very, very slowly, I do feel like I’ve made some progress. It still hurts, and I still curl up in a ball and weep when I need to, but I can definitely look back and say that this week is a tiny bit better than last week, which was a tad better than the week before, which was an itty-bitty bit better than the week before that.

I’ve learned to give myself permission to process and observe before I take action or speak. Now I’m learning to give myself permission to process my loss. For me, it’s a quiet, internal thought process that slowly makes its way out of my mouth or through my fingers onto the internet. Talking about it helps because bouncing ideas off of others allows them – with their experiences, perspective, and wisdom – to contribute to my thought process. Blogging about it helps because I can break it down into blog-post-sized chunks and just deal with one thing at a time. A thought will come to me, and I will slowly develop it in my mind until it feels complete and ready to share. Then I’ll type it up, post it, and feel like I’ve let go of some pain, anxiety, or fear.

This is just my process, though, and I also have to learn to give others permission to do their own thing. Grieving for me doesn’t look exactly the same as grieving for anyone else, and that’s ok. The only thing that matters is that you deal with the grief and don’t suppress it. If you’re angry and need to break something, I have a bunch of stuff I need to take to Goodwill. I’ll just give it to you and let you smash it instead. Or shoot, go to Goodwill and buy some cheap plates. I don’t know where you can go to break them safely, but I’m sure we can think of something. If you’re sad and need to take a crying shower, just try to do it in a place where you won’t run out of hot water. And if you need to talk about it, please find someone who can listen. I am very lucky to have an amazing husband, caring and supportive friends and family, and several counselor friends. But if you don’t have a great network of people already, there are support groups out there (online or in your town). You can blog about it and let the internet be your listening ear. Even just writing in a journal helps. If you need to talk, please talk.

But if you just need to process on your own first, that’s fine too. And if people get pushy and tell you that you should be talking about your feelings, just tell them that you need some time to figure out your feelings before you can talk about them. You have my permission.

NaBloPoMo Table of Contents – September 2014

As I was scrolling through Facebook this morning, I saw a post from BlogHer about September’s NaBloPoMo. For those of you who don’t know, NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) is a challenge for bloggers to post daily. The official, annual challenge is usually in November, but you can do it any month, and each month has a different theme. Since September’s theme is healing, I thought now would be a good time to join in.

This is kind of a huge undertaking for me, but BlogHer provides daily prompts that you can use (or not). Since the theme of healing was chosen largely based on the recent events in Ferguson, MO (and the media coverage of those events), I’m going to use some of them, but since I’m focusing on my own healing process, I’m changing others to suit my needs.

As I post each one, I’ll try to remember to link to it from here so that this post will serve as a sort of table of contents.

Monday, September 1, 2014
Do you find it more helpful to talk things out or to let things quietly rest?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
How do you communicate best? Speaking or writing?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
What is the most helpful advice you’ve received (heard/seen/read) since your miscarriage?

Thursday, September 4, 2014
Why do you think it is so difficult for people to talk about miscarriage/stillbirth/infertility? PPROM

Friday, September 5, 2014
Tell us about your comfort foods.

Monday, September 8, 2014
Do you give yourself time to heal, or do you keep making yourself move forward?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Write a poem about your loss/grief.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Tell us the methods you use to get through a disappointment.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
What is the hardest stage for you in Kübler-Ross’s model of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance?

Friday, September 12, 2014
Have you ever been scared to let go of your grief?

Monday, September 15, 2014
Do you believe that time heals all wounds?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Rumi said that a wound is where the light enters you. Discuss this idea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Name five things that heal your soul.

Thursday, September 18, 2014
What are you the most sad about?

Friday, September 19, 2014
Tell us about your best friend.

Monday, September 22, 2014
If you had to make a mixtape of healing songs for someone, what would you include?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Tell us about the best movie to bring on a cleansing cry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Do you think it is possible to heal on our own, or do we always need to reach out for the comfort of other people in order to fully heal?

Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ella’s Story

Friday, September 26, 2014
Is laughter really the best medicine?

Monday, September 29, 2014
How do you get through anger?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Make a commitment to give yourself an hour of undivided self-attention this week, and tell us how you’re going to use that time.