And Then There Was Just Sweet Relief…

As I clicked on a draft to write this post, my eye caught my last post titled, “Bittersweet Relief.” A few short days later, I am truly writing about something with nothing “bitter” about it. A dear friend and soul sister of mine just gave birth to a very sweet, very healthy, baby boy.

She has three beautiful kids at home and, now, this little one she will take home in a few days from the hospital. From the outside, we probably look like two very different people considering our geographical location, family structure, and day-to-day activities. What people passing her at a baseball game or at the park may never guess is her family didn’t come so easily. Last January, as I was acknowledging Adam’s due date at home, she was in the hospital, giving birth to a sweet little girl, little Olivia, born many weeks too soon.

When I heard about Olivia, I reached out immediately, trying to see how I might help her tackle this crazy sadness and overwhelming disbelief she undoubtedly was feeling; I wanted her to feel less confused, scared, and alone. We were old summer camp friends and hadn’t talked in over a decade, but that made zero difference. Our paths had lined us up perfectly to take care of each other through some of the darkest, scariest months we had experienced. As the months passed, we were able to connect through sharing our grieving processes, our pregnancy fears, and little details about Adam and Olivia, whom we both agree must be connected now in their own way.

As I struggled through more miscarriages, she had the experience and compassion to understand what that really meant. As she struggled with hope and trust as the weeks of her pregnancy flipped on the calendar, I was there to do the same for her. Although our journeys are somewhat different, they are very much the same, and – today – we get to celebrate the pure light that comes after the darkness.

Today, I am going to celebrate the miracle she has (we have) been given. I feel a great sense of relief and joy. In the not hopeless days I have been experiencing, this is a great chance to pause and – what else – steal a little nectar.

A Bittersweet Relief

Week 13. In most pregnancies, this is around the time mothers start to breathe a sigh of relief because their babies made it through the most delicate weeks. Now they can, more assuredly, trust their pregnancies, and maybe even make joyful announcements to family and friends. I am relieved for a very different reason: this week, my relief comes because I have been declared officially NOT pregnant.

This feels especially counter-intuitive since I so desire a healthy pregnancy, yet I know it is a natural feeling for my situation. After a full two months of knowing this was not a healthy pregnancy, I don’t have to worry anymore about the small probability of surgery, if the doctors will call with results before the weekend, or if my left arm will scar over like my right has, from all the blood draws in the last few months, leaving my phlebotomist having to find a nontraditional method for entry.

More than feeling like a victim, these situations just amaze me. Until I started having pregnancy complications, I have mostly felt on the healthier side of things. My “now” is opening my mind up to all people go through whom are actually sick. I have an acute sense of compassion I didn’t have previously. I just didn’t get it. Now I know…I get to walk away and heal; others aren’t so lucky as they undergo a lifetime of complications, medical bills, and friendships that can’t withstand the emotional toll required.

So, although my relief is bittersweet, my outlook is bright. In the past week, I’ve been lucky enough to have two dreams about adopting our little boy or girl. (One was about a little girl named Roberta and the other was about a nine year old boy whom I think was even Caucasian…?) I know all of my experiences are now encouraging me to refocus my energies on this beautiful adoption journey. I am thankful I am finally going to have full resources available for bonding and there is nothing bittersweet about that.

It Is All a Gift

Two methotrexate injections and three weeks later, I am still technically pregnant. Never would I have thought this blip of a healthy pregnancy would have turned into this – so far – 11 week journey. I haven’t known really what to write because I just feel a little stuck. Physically stuck, emotionally stuck, spiritually stuck. Exhausted.

All of this is okay, though. I am trying to accept the pain and the vulnerability I feel when more and more people are invited into my pain journey. If we don’t allow our stories to be told for the purpose of connection, what is the point of the pain anyway?

So, I am learning to let go. When my sister tells her friend at the gym, or my mom tells the woman I have never met whom has also gone through similar fertility pain, I don’t tell them to stop sharing. When the woman next to me on the plane asks bluntly if my husband and I have had trouble having kids since we don’t have any almost nine years into our marriage, I don’t mask the hurt in my eyes and my voice when I give her a simple, “Yes.” She may not understand my journey completely, but she understands struggle through her own lens, and she may understand another person’s pregnancy struggles better if I allow my story to be told.

I am not ready to offer my story up on say, my Facebook page, but I do want to use my experience to lessen another’s feelings of vulnerability, loneliness, and heartbreak. So, as uncomfortable as it is, I am fighting the reaction to control the sharing. I don’t think anyone actually wants to be the poster child for miscarriages, but – if this is a way I can help others – I will do my best to share in the moments that count.

As my family structure will most likely look different than I once imagined, my struggle will be easier to identify. I imagine wheeling a cart of groceries around in the store with my Haitian child and possibly another internationally adopted child. Once in a while, I am sure someone’s eyes will catch mine and I will get that look. The look laced with a little compassion and a little question, wondering if I couldn’t have biological children. The part that bothers me about this is that having adopted children is not a second choice! However, maybe the fact that people will identify a possible struggle more quickly will allow me to have more opportunities to connect and even possibly help others when they are stumbling around in the dark, confusing period I am in now. Maybe I will have more moments to share the pure joy and excitement I have for my uniquely crafted, god-given family.

To all of this, I pray to remain open, forgiving, compassionate, and honest. It is all a gift.

The Mystery of Miscarriages

Consistent inconsistencies. That might as well be the title of this chapter in my life right now. No, I wasn’t so surprised that I, sadly, found out I was miscarrying again. What is surprising is how I always need more patience than what I allot for an event. I am technically 8 weeks pregnant tomorrow, with no hope for viability of the baby, but my body can’t seem to acknowledge the fact that it needs to let go. In scientific terms, my hcg has been dropping and rising and dropping again…but will not take the plunge to “below five” which would make me clinically a non-pregnant female of pre-menopausal age.

People generally don’t know this happens – this process of miscarriage. This is definitely something that we have to learn through heart-wrenching personal experiences or loved ones’ experiences if we know at all. What I’ve learned, through sharing my miscarriage experiences, is that people generally think that a woman sees blood in the restroom and believes the fetus must be suffering, trying to survive, in that instant, and that the woman’s body must be failing. It becomes a poignant, emotional moment. This is often not true.

Many of us, sometimes unlucky enough to experience it a few times, find out our babies are measuring small in an ultrasound, don’t have a heartbeat, or simply haven’t been able to develop enough to produce healthy hcg numbers which hint at healthy pregnancy. (I say “hint” because my perspective has taught me that anything can happen at any time, especially with what seems to me as the miracle and delicate mystery that actually results in a breathing baby that leaves the hospital with you.) Miscarriage, instead, often happens through multiple trips to the doctor, weeks of anguish and prayers, and embarrassment in moments you have to look into the eyes of a stranger behind a desk and cancel an ultrasound appointment or hand over a sheet that is marked “threatened miscarriage” or “habitual spontaneous aborter.”

I wonder if my little son or daughter, seemingly stuck inside of me, developed a heartbeat. I wonder if this speck of a soul is still fighting or if he or she completed the journey on this side weeks ago. I’m not sure it matters, but it’s an uncomfortable thought with which I am trying to make peace. I mostly wonder why this happens at all because I can’t believe it just happens for me to evolve through the challenge or in order for my husband and I to realize adoption is the only way for us.

Jesus, the spirit of God’s son, was born to Mary in order to die on earth to transform us by showing us the way into connection with God. I believe my miscarriages are doing a similar thing for me – showing me a deeper way to connect with God and others – but I would love to know more about these little ones’ spirits. What is that perspective? What does this journey do for them? Is the purpose simply the rebirth, or transformation, of their spirits? Do they feel pain or are they spared that, even if scientifically they get to a developmental stage to have a nervous system?

The rambling of my thoughts could keep pouring out onto the page, but this has to be one of the great mysteries of life, death, and loss. Whatever the answers are, I do believe they all point to the progression of life and connection – on this planet and certainly beyond. What a wonderful, mysterious place this is.

Banishing the Negative List

Sometimes, in the midst of the struggle, the God power beckons. He beams energy into us, or out from us, at the same time our challenges are making us numb. I’ve been fairly, relatively, unemotional about this last miscarriage and my life’s misdirection in general. I feel unsurprised. I wish I felt more hopeful, but I don’t feel hopeless – and I think that is worth noting. I don’t feel abandoned, and I am fighting my ego’s wish to feel misunderstood or vulnerable. Really, there is no need for those emotions.

Instead, I am steady. I have endurance. Laughter visits me. I have room to care about others. This extra space was not present a year ago. I will call that progress of spirit. Without being able to control circumstance, lightness still has a place in our home. Not in every moment, but we do not give into the desperation. For us, this is an important goal.

My husband and I have been fighting against what we call our “negative lists.” It’s so easy to feel like the protective glass table-top breaking last night – or the zillion other random things like that which have been happening (I’m trying not to concretely create my negative list in this post) – aren’t so random at all, and that we have some curse to lift. Refusal to live in a fruitless state of mind is the best way forward for us, whatever and wherever forward is (sometimes forward looks backward or completely upside down).

We are, instead, trying to create small moments of gratitude in the midst of the chaos. Nothing is final and there is great beauty all around us, including our four children whom we can’t wait to get to know better one of these days. This is not the way we expected many things in our life to unfold, but…

…we will keep living and keep creating, knowing we have some soul shaking-ly good moments to look forward to whenever the time is right.

Contemplating Desire Versus Calling

I don’t know how to start this post. Do I just come out with it – that I am yet again/regretfully/humiliatingly/confusingly miscarrying? That it feels a little like selfishness; a little like shame; a little like we should have known better, even though each doctor keeps telling us we should have no trouble having a biological child soon?

Do I add that I just found out today that last Friday – the day I found out my hcg levels had dropped in half – our dossier had also been stamped “received” in the Haitian government office in charge of making child referrals? I have said before that I don’t believe in coincidences…

My soul work lately has been a lot about trying to figure out the difference between desires and divine calling. When do we decide a desire (e.g. having a biological child) isn’t a divine calling in our life? I am reading Radical Amazement – Contemplative Lessons from Black Holes, Supernovas, and Other Wonders of the Universe by Judy Cannato. It is challenging me to dig deeply and try to distinguish how I can best evolve my spirit and my communities. What is the most powerful way that I can connect to others positively and fuel a collective transformation of spirit? It seems like a no-brainer that adoption will do this. But, is this revelation mutually exclusive (for me and my family – I obviously don’t believe having biological children is in any way a bad thing)?

As usual, I don’t have an answer. I may not for the better part of this decade, or my husband and I may have an aha moment tomorrow…who knows. What we plan to do anyway, is commit ourselves entirely to this Haitian adoption for now. With that commitment in mind, we will follow the advice of my primary obgyn and go back to the fertility specialist for more analysis and possibly more testing. Whether we do anything, with whatever information comes out of that meeting, is completely an unknown.

With this current pregnancy, all we prayed for was to stay open to God’s divine plan. Full acceptance of reality feels peaceful some days, and like a full on struggle other days. We are completely aware that full acceptance sometimes – dare I say often – means a death of some dreams. But, we have to make room for new and better ones.

Maybe this means we’ll adopt two kids. Maybe this means we’ll only adopt one and re-vision our nuclear family tree once again. And maybe, sooner than later, we’ll bring that second labradoodle home and name her Mimosa, finally giving Hollywood a buddy. Sometimes we just need to revise the plan, and that’s okay.

A Leftover Type of Day

Happy Angelversary, A.G. Today, my leftover sadness, tears, pain, and outrage are being acknowledged – just for a moment – as I let them pass by on their way again. Today isn’t a day for a lot of words. Today is a day to get back in bed with all my clothes on and be comforted when my dog and husband join me – my Hollywood burying his face in me and my husband stroking my hair.

We aren’t taking all day, but just a little time to recognize what we remember, like leaving the hospital almost exactly 365 days to the hour without you. Like getting a big hug goodbye from the nurse, Kay, who walked us out to our car and was there with us 3 out of the 4 days and nights we stayed in that dark room where I faded in and out between reality and heavy, drug-laden sleep, missing you. When the tears stream down my face, I let them fall. When I can’t breathe out of my nose anymore, I take in the oxygen through slow, deep, mouth breaths.

These leftover moments have a place today, although life has moved on and my spirit has outgrown this as a constant place. Dear, A.G., thank you for teaching me my biggest life lessons and for making me grow more than I thought possible. Thinking of you with sweet mama’s love today and everyday, always.

Hurting Hearts

Today, my friends’ hearts are hurting, and mine is hanging low, feeling only a fraction of the pain they are all feeling. Last night, a woman described to me as vibrant and always, always bubbling over with joy, unexpectedly met God. As anguishing as it is to write, so did her 15 week old baby tucked inside her womb. Her husband, also processing his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, will now be a single dad to their little daughter.

What was supposed to be one of the happiest times in this couple’s life did a 180 degree turn in a single afternoon. A moment of physical pain gave way to collapse, coma, and finality on this earth within a few hours.

I imagined this husband waking up this morning with the grief and unbelief capsizing his heart and soul in the first moment of light. Then, I realized how silly I am to think he even slept for a moment last night. I imagined him trying to explain to their little daughter that mommy will never pour her a glass of milk again, or tuck her in and read her bedtime stories. I questioned the logistics of navigating everyday life now (whatever that is) aside from the sorrow – going to work, playing at the park, doing laundry, and so on.

I imagine my sweet friend, 37 weeks pregnant, trying to enjoy this miracle time in her life without her bubbly friend. I imagine how she is going to turn this tragedy into compassion and appreciation. My hurting heart goes out to her as she and her husband process their overwhelming grief in the midst of their strongest joy, balancing polarizing emotions in the same breath.

I have never met this woman and, until this afternoon, had never even seen a photo of her. But, along with everyone else touched with these events, I cannot begin to comprehend what this means for her community. Her family will never be able to know how many people will pause, say a healing prayer, and will join them – even for a moment or two – in their sorrow.

Today, I pray for Renee and everyone she has affected with her too-short life. I send out nourishing energy to their souls and – with the knowledge of my own journey through the grieving process – stand tall with them as they begin this long and truly never ending journey of missing their girl. It’s not easy, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but – if you let it be – this grief and her life can be transformative for your spirits. Let her life serve the purpose of enhancing yours – not only with her memories – but with the lessons she gives you now and tomorrow.

The Calm After the Storm

I believe the storm may finally be over. It’s a dangerous thing to put in writing because, as soon as I think I know something, life will prove me wrong.

I am not pregnant, my job situation is still a mess, adoption is two years off by my best estimate, and I still have to baby my dog, Hollywood, in order to keep him healthy from meal to meal. But, for the moment, I feel the eye of the storm has passed and now I just have to keep moving through the aftermath, picking up all the windblown pieces of my life.

We got my genetic test back yesterday and my chromosomes are normal (enter little happy dance here). I am learning to love working part time. The adoption keeps steadily moving forward as I dream of learning how to braid cute, curly hair and nourish beautiful dark skin after bath time. I have continued to cherry pick moments in life that give me happiness…and happiness is surrounding me.

I feel more appreciative than I was able to feel most of this year. All year I felt an outpouring of compassion for others and a true spiritual awakening, but I am finally accepting where my life has led me in this moment. I feel joy bursting open in my soul from simply participating in my life.

As our dear Adam’s birthday approaches, I know my heart will never be whole again, but it may have grown deeper and wider. I am forever changed and this “new normal,” as I’ve coined it, is getting more comfortable, although laced with a sadness that I will always know. Through the sadness, though, space for the next chapter has finally been created.

I will revel in the fact that my deep breaths aren’t restricted with the anxiety and struggle that has been plaguing them for the last two years. I will continue to embrace the joy in the small, everyday moments. I will cherish the right-now, whether this truly is the calm after the storm or just a little break before the next blow. Either way, I have right now, I can breathe, and I feel peace.

Swimsuit Palooza

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

So, I have just bought between $800-$900 worth of swimsuits. Really.

No, I am not wealthy. No, I am not manic or a hoarder. I will return all but one, really! I just happened to be gaining weight after a misfortunate event and am a tad out of control these days, in more ways than one, and have never had a reason to own a one piece suit until now, until I got a little more sensitive about my body. Let me back up…

Yesterday I would have found out if my husband’s and my first child was a boy or a girl. We were going to go to dinner to celebrate and then start selecting nursery items (flamingos or sailboats, perhaps). We had names picked out. We had cleared the back bedroom for the baby’s arrival. At three months, my parents announced the arrival of their 10th grandchild at their 40th anniversary party with more than 150 guests. I had waited 4 months, but then gave in and made the pregnancy “Facebook official” with a cute announcement with a tiny, stylish baby carriage. Against all odds, we found out we were having a boy 3 weeks earlier than we expected to receive the news.

I went for my 16.5 week check-up. My husband and I decided he didn’t need to come since it was just a routine check-up. Afterall, we’d seen the baby and its heartbeat at 8 weeks, and then again heard the heartbeat at 12 weeks. This is when I realized sometimes you fall into the 1%. Sometimes your baby’s heart just stops. You’ll never know if you were sleeping, running, working or laughing, but the little soul inside of you just slipped away quietly.

The details could take hours to divulge, but here is the short version. The ultrasound tech looked at me with tears in her eyes. The doctor sat beside me and explained it wasn’t my fault – I couldn’t have protected the little one against fate. I called my husband. I called my mother. Somewhere in there the reality started to sink in and I allowed myself to cry. I packed a bag for the hospital without diapers, a tiny onsie, or the baby blanket my sister gave me less than a month ago.

I received the staff’s stares when I checked into the labor and delivery floor because they were all expecting me and were curious about this girl, this couple, having to deliver a dead baby. I was poked up and down my arms until, on the fifth try and third health professional, a vein was found that would accept the IV. I spent 4 days in the hospital with drugs being delivered, by people I had just met, through my arm and between my legs, largely consisting on ice chips, popsicles and pain killers.

I cried, I slept, I accepted love and prayers from visiting friends. On the third day I asked if I could please shower, and my husband had to come in with me since I couldn’t bend one arm, compliments of the IV entry. On the fourth day, I delivered a healthy-looking baby boy at 5-6cm dilation, moments before the doctors would have to make the difficult choice to put me through complicated surgery to remove the contents of my uterus.  My husband and I held him. We prayed with him. We gave him away forever.

We named him Adam Gabriel. Afterall, he is our first son and is quite literally an angel now. We put all his things in the back bedroom that my husband can’t enter anymore without getting choked up. I kept bleeding and crying as we accepted visitors, meals, flowers and notes. I went back to work. I started running again. I stopped bleeding and, mostly, stopped crying. Then, I bought swimsuits.

I bought swimsuits that might help me forget that my body has been through war but I don’t have Adam to cuddle and kiss. I bought swimsuits that would leave me less rigid at the upcoming bachelorette party as I try to hide the layer of fat left on my stomach – and the pain threatening to roll down my cheeks – that reminds me something happened.

Dearest Adam Gabriel, our angel baby:

I have faith in our Creator that you lived the life of your soul’s purpose. I have faith you were warm and know you were loved by so many, so many whom cried with us in between patients at work, cried with us at the movies, or cried with us at the grocery store when they heard the news. I fervently worry that you struggled to breathe – to let someone know – but know that won’t do either of us any good at this point.

I feel great pain at your absence, but I need you to know that you gave me immeasurable happiness in the time we had together. It has been a hard year – and of course now I have this new struggle with your departure – but you provided me with 4 months of joy, excitement, hope and love. You provided me with 4 months of stealing sweet, unbridled nectar. You will always be the one child who could do that for me in pregnancy. You will always be the first born, the first light. Please be well, visit often, and wait for me and your daddy. We’ll meet you under better circumstances once again.