Surviving Miscarriage

Miscarriage. The word no pregnant woman ever wants to hear. That simple word doesn’t do justice to the void, the emptiness, the pain that follows it. Miscarriage – Webster uses the synonym “failure” as if you could have done something differently. As if eating more protein, getting more rest, or avoiding stress would have saved your baby. It wouldn’t.

What do you do after a miscarriage? The stigma surrounding the word tells you that you keep your mouth shut. That you carry your grief silently. It is, in my opinion, one of the biggest losses a person can experience yet there is no closure, no comfort, no acceptable time period for grieving.

Four years ago I thought there was a chance God had decided that I wasn’t worthy of taking the motherhood journey. After three losses, three crushed dreams, three silent grieving periods, I began to accept the possibility that it just wasn’t in the cards. The plan I had for my life, the vision of who I was, the mom I always wanted to be, was slowly dying. I survived by holding on to whatever small tattered remains I could of that dream. I held onto the knowledge that I was meant to be a mom. The day I held my son, I understood for the first time why it had never worked out before. When I looked into his eyes I knew I wasn’t just meant to be a mom, I was meant to be his mom and the stars had to align just right for that to happen. I told myself after that day, it would never matter if I got to be anyone else’s mom because I finally got to be his.

I didn’t realize at the time that in the years to come, my heart would long to hear him play with someone else. That I would come to the realization that there was room for more than just one. So when I became pregnant again, I felt relief that I could give our family the gift of another child. When we lost that pregnancy, I survived by reminding myself of the promise I had made so many years ago when my son came. The promise that it was okay if I never got to be anyone else’s mom. I reminded myself daily of how lucky I was because I had him and some women don’t ever get that.

That’s what we do to survive. We hold onto the things we have and we work everyday to let go of the things that aren’t meant for us.

Most recently, we were excited to learn that not only did we have a viable pregnancy, we heard a beautiful, strong heartbeat. We waited until we had heard more than once to share with family and friends. After a recent ultrasound (viability ultrasound as they call it, also a terrible term) our doctor called to tell us that our baby had a wonderful, strong heartbeat but I have a subchorionic hematoma which is a collection of blood below the chorion, or placenta, which develops naturally as an embryo implants into the uterine lining. It will go one of two ways, my body will absorb it or it will cause complications later – for now all we do is monitor. I sat with that for awhile. I rationalized with myself but not before I did what we all do – cried a few tears, silently screamed about how fucking unfair it seemed, got angry at myself, my body, and then I pulled it together and called my husband, considered calling my mom or grandma and realized I could call neither. I realized my only option is to hold onto the things I can and let go of the things not meant for me. My only option is to put hope and love into this baby. My only option is to continue to advocate for women like me who don’t know who to call or where to find their support system in moments like that. My only option is to continue to destigmatize the words miscarriage and complications so women can tell their friends, in laws, or coworkers about their situation without hesitation or reservation. My only option is to survive but my goal is that no woman ever has to do that alone without a tribe surrounding her.

I have faith that our baby will be just fine, but I want every other woman to know that she will survive the loss, the grief, and the pain and she doesn’t ever have to do it alone.

The Monster: Mental Illness

The unspoken monster, the black plague, the cloud that looms, the topic we don’t discuss at play dates. 21% of women living in America are on a psychiatric drug for treatment of depression, anxiety or some form of mental illness. That is almost 1 in 4 women. That is almost 1 in 4 moms. That is one of the moms sitting across from you at the park. That is one of the moms in the carpool lane. That is one of the moms at daycare drop-off. That is one of the moms trying to get her child through the grocery store. That is one of the moms sitting around the meeting table at work.

We all have our own story about how the monster came to be a part of our lives. For me, the monster is a long line of bad genetics and toxic environments. I am the walking epitome of someone who got out and beat the statistics of a family filled with mental illness and addiction. I’ve dedicated my life to ensuring that my story and my child’s story were different, to ensuring that my son had a better life and childhood than I did. I go to therapy, I found my healthy coping skills, I take medications, I do affirmations, I use oils, I never drink to drown my problems, I avoid toxic environments and toxic people. I dedicate every ounce of myself to making sure that my illnesses are not a part of my child’s life.

For the most part, for many years, the monster stayed at bay. Imagine my surprise when after all those years of work, after that labor of love, this monster was able to silently sneak into my beautiful, beautiful home and wrap it’s hand around my neck and slowly start to choke the life out of me. What right does this black cloud have to shadow the amazing life I have worked so hard to build? It feels like I should just have the power to shout at the top of my lungs GO AWAY and make this monster disappear from our lives. It is a debilitating feeling when that is not the case.

I can protect my son from abuse, addiction, violence, alcoholism, drugs, etc. but how can I protect him from a monster that lives inside me? That’s the question I ask myself continuously. How do I keep him from knowing what depression and anxiety look like? How do I make sure he never knows the reality of mental illness? How do I make sure he never has to learn coping skills for dealing with a parent that suffers from a mental illness? I am not sure I can as much as I beg, wish, and pray that I could with every fiber of my being.

The only answers I have are continuously advocating for appropriate treatment of all mental illnesses, continuing to start conversations about the realities facing those with mental illnesses, and continuing to consistently strike down the stigma that surrounds mental illness by being open and honest about my own experiences regardless of the shame or judgment that may surround that honesty. It includes finding a good support system for myself. Always being honest with those in my support system, myself, and at the right time and place, being honest with my child. Making sure that he knows that all though his mom is flawed and human, she loves him beyond measure and that love will never change or falter come what may.

And above all else, never, ever losing the fight because at the end of the day, that’s what he will remember. He will remember that I always fought, that I never quit, and that I always showed up and tried, even if all I could be was okay. Today, I am just okay. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope to be great, but if I am just okay, that will be enough too until I can be great again. If this is you mama, this is your permission to just show up and be okay today if that is all you can do. Tomorrow you can do better.

“My hope is that he will remember that mommy tried. Even when she was tired, even when she was stressed. I hope they will know that I did it all for them. That I had every intention of being great, good, and grand, but that some days all I could be was okay.”

Healing

Broken…that’s the word I use to describe myself. Unwhole, pieces, shattered, just broken. For years that has been the perception in my mind. My “broken” heart, my “broken” childhood, my “broken” family, and on, and on. In the last six months I have been on an amazing journey of self-discovery (or having a quarter-life crisis, whatever you want to call it) though and the best thing I have discovered is that I am not, in the least, broken. I am HEALING and what a miraculous difference there is between the two.

This is not an ending, it is a beautiful beginning. I am becoming the woman I was always, somewhere deep inside, meant to be. I am discovering or remembering all the pieces of myself that I had forgotten or never even knew existed. I am selfishly taking time to get to know who I am. I am spending time with the person who needs it the most. I am investing in my soul and already seeing the returns of that investment. My soul is on fire and what a beautiful thing that has been to watch.

I forgot that I love scary movies and haunted houses. I sat down and made a bucket list and learned I wanted to ride a motorcycle and that I wanted to learn to play the guitar. I want to see the ocean and feel the sand under my feet. I want to climb a mountain. I actually really like tattoos. Fitness matters a lot more than I thought it did to me. I forgot how much I love quotes, I could spend hours just pinning them. I forgot how eclectic my music taste could be if I give it that chance. I love photography and may even want to take a class in it. I am a terrible cooker and will never fit the mold for a perfect housewife. I want to go skydiving and feel myself free-falling.

In the last six months I have started meeting, getting to know, and falling in love with the most amazing woman and she has been right under my nose all along. It’s a beautiful relationship. So I will will no longer use the word broken. I will say I am healing. I am a survivor. I am a warrior. I am me and me is just right.

Letting Go

I”I finally understood what true love meant…love meant that you care for another person’s happiness more than your own, no matter how painful the choices you face might be.” – Dear John, Nicholas Sparks

Letting go is one of the hardest things to face in life. We are trained from a young age to hold tightly to anything and everything that matters. We carry that into adulthood and we continue to cling to the things that matter most to us. Sometimes we cling so tightly that we cannot even admit to ourselves when it is time to let go. We hold tightly to relationships, friendships, and ponytails even knowing in our hearts that they are no longer serving our own emotional wellbeing. (You all know a bad ponytail can be make or break you). We continue to give whole pieces of ourselves to relationships even when we are only receiving halves or less in return.

Why do we do that to ourselves? It’s unfortunate to think that we subject ourselves to so many things that no longer serve our own inner peace. I’ve heard it said that letting go of the past isn’t the hard part. It is letting go of the future we had envisioned that is the real struggle. I believe there is some truth to that. The past can’t be rewritten but we look to the future as a blank slate and when we come to the realization that we can’t write that story the way we envisioned it I think we begin to feel a sense of lost control. It is hard to know we are not the only ones in charge of how the story unfolds.

There comes a moment when we realize we have no choice but to let go of the future we had dreamed of so that we can somehow begin to create a new future. If we can muster up the strength and courage to let go of what is hurting our heart and soul we will find a path that heals us and allows us to start rebuilding. I challenge you to consider that if your soul is tired and restless that it might be time to consider letting go of some of the things holding you back in your life, even the things you are most terrified to let go of because you know it will hurt. It is time to start writing a new chapter. The process will undoubtedly be slow and painful, but I promise it will be worth it. I know letting go seems so difficult, impossible even – but it is not nearly as difficult as holding on. Today is the day my friend. Whatever it is that is keeping you from your inner peace, let go.

I Am Me

I found this gem just the other day. It was written for a 9th grade English assignment. I hope to meet this girl again someday and get to know her.
I am me.
There will never be anyone like me.
I am special and very unique.
I am an examiner, always wondering, thinking, looking, seeking,
Trying my hardest to find answers to questions not meant to be answered.
I am an energy well beyond my years,
With an out-going confidence, and smile always in my step,
And an undying happiness,
that although may falter, will never leave my side.
I am hugs, and sometimes tears.
I hide from the cruelties of the world, yet I hold nothing back.
I trust everyone, yet I fear them too.
Look deep in my eyes and you can see the colors of my soul,
The green with touches of brown and yellow,
Like a tree in the fall,
Always changing,
Never remaining the same because there’s no excitement in that.
I am the caterpillar, so strange, and unique,
But full of beauty, yet unseen.
I am a rose, so beautiful and gentle,
Yet with thorns that must be watched.
I am the sky, the sea, the earth,
And all the beautiful shades of blue that no one can name.
I am a free, happy, wild spirit,
Never meant to be tamed.
I am a child becoming an adult,
I am me, and me is just right.

Seventeen

“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” – One Tree Hill, Nathan Scott

I can remember seventeen like it was yesterday. Can’t we all? Maybe it’s that time you snuck out to meet your boyfriend or that first sip of alcohol you choked on. Maybe it’s that cigarette you got caught smoking behind the school. It’s a little bit of freedom meets rebellion meets carelessness but it’s beautiful in a way isn’t it? I can remember that stubborn, proud, headstrong teenage girl who knew everything about life, love, and the world around her. She was a pistol who was ready to take on anything and anyone who stood in her way. She naively believed that she had a plan, that she could control how that plan unfolded, and that life would never surprise her. (Insert laugh here)

Lately I have been seeing life unfold through the eyes of an adult. I have watched friends have children, friends lose children, go through divorces, find their second loves. I have watched blended families become a real thing, I have watched women find themselves after years of losing themselves in their marriages, I have watched them struggle to help their children understand what it means to have two homes. I have come to realize that there is no plan. There is no control. Life and love have a way of knocking us down when we least expect it. We grow, we change, the plan changes, and the future is absolutely unknown.

We associate those struggles as being a negative thing. They come with a stigma attached to them but surprisingly I have also come to learn that is in those struggles, those moments of chaos, that people undergo an awakening of the soul. It is when they truly discover who they are and what they are made of. It is when they find their own power and become the truest version of themselves. It is no doubt a painful process of growth, but what comes out on the other side is truly miraculous. It is empowering to watch. It is a reminder of the resiliency and stubbornness of the human heart, and the world loves a stubborn heart.

So maybe, just maybe that seventeen year old didn’t have it entirely wrong. Maybe the simplicity of it is what seems so daunting. Find what it is that makes you happy, what it is that you love and follow it. Do not let the logistics, budgeting, planning, or backlash stand in your way. Life is fleeting and humbling, it requires that you live everyday to it’s fullest and if you find that you are not doing that, you owe it to yourself to change the story. The only one you have to answer to in the end is yourself and I truly hope that you like the chapters you have to look back on when the time comes. This is it, today, now is the time to live your life. Find what it is that fills your soul and hold onto it as tightly as you possibly can. Do not live your life wishing that you had lived it differently. There just isn’t enough time for that.

Today is the day to start rewriting the ending.

The Hardest Part

What is the hardest part of being a parent? My favorite question (insert sarcasm). Being a parent is the only job in the world where two days of experience suddenly makes you an expert. I have done something along the way to convince my childless friends that my 2 1/2 years of experience (and I use that term loosely) qualifies me to give them my professional opinion. As if me saying “Yes, the terrible two’s are the worst part” makes it the ultimate truth and somehow negates the fact that I have yet to see the three’s or four’s or tweens or anything in-between.

I am a hopeless romantic and having a child was no different. I romanticized the crap out of bringing a baby into this world. Romeo and Juliet didn’t hold a candle to the beauty of the parenthood story in my head. While reality turned out to be better and worse in many ways, I always find myself wishing people had been more honest. That I had heard more truths and less stereotypical responses with half-smiles. I think I would have been better prepared. Having been asked this myself though I can now say I understand why they took the easy road. I understand why they smiled and said “Oh the lack of sleep is tough but it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do” or “Think of how much fun it will be” or “This is the best time in your life”. They did it because the truth, the words that really hit it home, are inadequate.

How do you tell them the hardest part is all of it? How do you explain to someone that the best and worst days of their lives will be had in parenthood? How do you tell them that the it will both breathe life into them and crush their soul? How do you explain that they will never look at any piece of the world the same? That all the bad becomes so much worse and that they will lay awake at night wondering what kind of world their child will grow up in? That the good becomes so much clearer and that they will hope everyday that their child holds onto their innocence long enough to be a kind human being and bring more good to the world?

How do you quantify what it means to have a piece of your heart beating outside your own body? That every fall, every scratch, every tear will take a little piece of you? How do you explain that every time their child is sick they will lay awake just to make sure they hear them breathing? How do you tell them that will give up so much of themselves somedays that there will be nothing left? How do you tell them that everything they thought they knew will become irrelevant when they have a child – that they will be learning everything all over just when they thought they had finally figured it out?

How do you share the hopes, the dreams, the fears? How do you tell them you can’t even see a child diagnosed with an illness without looking away because it hurts to even consider the possibility? How do you say that you worry about if you will like your future daughter-in-law (which seems so silly when they are 2 1/2)? How do you tell them the difference between dreaming for them and with them?

How do you adequately explain to someone the gut-wrenching, all-encompassing, forever evolving journey of parenthood? You don’t. You simply can’t. So you just smile and say “Oh the lack of sleep is tough but it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do” and you hope that when they take their journey they will understand your stereotypical answer and your half-smile.