Guest Blogger Thursday – Elizabeth Schubert from A Domestic Muse

Life after Miscarriage(s)

~Elizabeth Schubert
 I never thought that I would miscarry. I’d learned about them in school, and heard stories from friends and family members, but it was always something that happened to ‘other people’, not to me.
My husband, Chris, and I met when his family moved to our small island community, and we instantly hit it off. Four years of amazing friendship later, we started dating. A year and a half after that, we were engaged and set to marry in March the following year. We planned on waiting a year or two until having children, so a month before our wedding, I went on the pill, because, the worrier that I am, I wanted to make sure that I was settled in the daily regimen.
Two months into our young married life, I noticed that even though I was taking the “period” part of the Pill, I wasn’t having one. I admit to freaking out a little, (ok, a lot) and rushed over to my doctor’s office for a pregnancy test. Those five minutes waiting for the test results have probably been the longest in my entire life. Finally, the nurse came back with a confused look on her face. She told me that I was indeed pregnant, but I had very small amounts of hCG.  Not knowing really what that meant, I shrugged it off and left the office with a smile plastered on my face, but fear wrenching my heart. I was terrified that I had harmed our precious baby by continuing to take the Pill while unknowingly pregnant.
When I went in for my newly scheduled appointment with my gynecologist the following day, she assured me that the baby was fine, and that I shouldn’t worry. She told me that many women who conceive on the Pill don’t realize it, like me, but go on to have healthy babies anyway. So, I tried to stop worrying. I made an appointment off the island to get an ultrasound, and my darling hubby came with me. We watched in wonder as the technician showed us two little blips on the screen, and happily informed us that we were expecting twins! I think if Chris hadn’t been sitting, he would have fainted. Having twins, the first time around the pregnancy/parenthood wheel, is a very scary thing when you’re young and have been married less than six months. But we were happy, and for a moment, everything was perfect.
And then that moment ended. A week after that ultrasound, I began having intense cramps, so painful that they would bring me to my knees. A few hours into that, I started bleeding. I was devastated and totally freaked out. I knew what was happening, but I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it. After a while, the bleeding tapered off, and as I sat on my grandmother’s couch, I cried my eyes out to her and my mom.  Both of them suggested I go see my aunt and uncle, who is a nurse and doctor, respectfully. Now, having a doctor with his own office is great, but when you just want a little understanding and comfort instead of logical responses, it can be a pain.
Several days and pints of ice cream later, prepared for the worst, I went. They started off the appointment by handing me a plastic cup and pointing me to the bathroom. I remember thinking very unkind thoughts as I walked, humiliated, into the bathroom. I peed in the cup, which I am still envious of men for this particular anatomy difference, and put in it the box in the wall. I went back into the examination room where I then was instructed to lay down.  As I lay there on the examination table with my shirt tucked under my breasts, I tried not to cry as he pushed an audio only ultrasound around my stomach.  He made another pass across my abdomen and we heard a thump-swish. As he moved back over the spot, we heard the magnificent sound of a heartbeat. We both looked at each other in surprise, and then I burst into tears. He began the search for a second one, but only found the one. He made me a second ultrasound appointment for the next day at the off island hospital. This one I went by myself on, because we couldn’t afford to have Chris miss more work. Once there, I looked at the screen in an odd state of bliss and deep sadness. There was really only one little dot, but I was so thankful for that little dot that eventually grew into my now two and a half year old daughter, Felicity.
After five pre-term labor scares, four of which were stopped, and twenty-five hours of pain (7 hours of that actually wasn’t that bad, believe me or not, I slept during my labor!), she was born, healthy, happy and pink. Six pounds, and fourteen glorious ounces at thirty-six weeks.
We couldn’t have been happier with our gorgeous little princess, despite the lingering sadness I still felt for her lost twin. And that old wives tale of you can’t conceive while breastfeeding? Yeah… that one is false for us. We did, and while it worried us, mostly about how we would handle a newborn and pregnancy at the same time, we welcomed this surprise pregnancy with open hearts. I miscarried at 8 weeks. I was devastated, and was a zombie for several days. I asked my uncle and my gynecologist what could be causing these miscarriages, and I was given the same vague answers. There was something wrong in the chromosomal match-up, or there was something else just as wrong with the pregnancy, or my body just didn’t have enough hormones. Being told that you and your husbands DNA doesn’t match up right is not something I enjoyed hearing. They told me not to worry about it, and that it probably wouldn’t happen again, since the women who have miscarriages still have good chances at conceiving again and having normal pregnancies. Miscarriage isn’t a disease, and just because you have one, or several, doesn’t mean you’ll never have more children.
Soon after, I had an IUD inserted. About six months later, I conducted my monthly check to make sure the IUD was in place. Much to my surprise, it was not. The thing I loved about having an IUD, was the fact that I stopped having monthlies. It was fantastic, until I started bleeding very heavily. I took my daughter to my doctor’s office for an emergency visit and was told that no, my IUD was not in there, and yes, I was indeed having my third miscarriage. I bawled. I cried so hard and it made Felicity cry, and we both cried together as I rocked us back and forth on the examination table.
I was told to go home, get some rest and food, and to come back in a week and have another IUD inserted. They gave me some iron supplements to take for the blood loss and told me to drink plenty of water. I nodded and sobbed my way out of the office, into the car, and back home, where I put Felicity to bed, grabbed a pint of ice cream and two iron pills, and cried myself to sleep.
   At this point, I was so depressed, that I had no will to do anything. 
I struggled daily to find the energy to do anything. I constantly blamed myself for the miscarriages, and I began to hate myself. I felt that I was a horrible mother, because my body kept throwing away these children that I so desperately wanted. I felt overwhelmed by guilt and hopelessness, and there were very few things that made me feel better. I was tired all the time, and even as I watched the baby fat just slide off of my body, I couldn’t be happy about it. I was wearing my old clothes again, and I looked as if I had never had a baby, apart from the awesome jump in bra sizes. My depression only got worse when my body gave up breastfeeding. I was eating the extra calories needed for it, but my body stopped making milk. That brought me to another level entirely of depression, and I began hating myself because I felt like I wasn’t providing even basic natural nutrients for my baby. I felt tremendous guilt when we started her on formula, and the awful looks and things that were said to me on the subject, some comments by my husbands family, just put more nails in my shame-filled coffin.
I wasn’t interested in anything, and I latched onto Felicity like a lifeline. She was my miracle, my blessing. I had started wondering why God was tormenting me, by giving me these pregnancies, and then taking them away. I started to wonder what I was doing wrong to earn such spite. I couldn’t stop the vicious cycle that had started in my mind, and with each spiral I kept sinking further and further into depression. I was prescribed antidepressants, vitamin D, and a slew of other drugs that were supposed to make me better, including sleep aids.  In what seemed a very short period of time, I was taking over a dozen pills every morning, and then the same dozen at night.
When Felicity was just past her first birthday, Chris and I decided that it was time to try again. I was terrified, and still placing guilt on myself, but, convinced by family and science, I got my IUD removed. A couple months of trying went by with no luck, and I started wondering if there was something else wrong with me. I went to the off island hospital to get some testing done, taking a list of things that my aunt had given me of possible things that I may have. I was tested for everything. Endometriosis, cancer, ovarian cysts, AIDS, all of the letters of Hepatitis, and down on to poly-cystic ovary syndrome. Nothing. They even tested my blood to make sure that I wasn’t RH negative. Nope, I’m O+.  There was no medical reason, that I was given, that accounted for these losses. The doctors who tested me suggest that I take a prenatal (which I was already doing) and said to come back for some fertility treatments if we hadn’t conceived in a year. OK then.
Another two months went by, and finally, we got a positive test! If I hadn’t been so paranoid by this point, I would have jumped up and down. We would have another baby. I forced myself, multiple times a day, to think that this would be it. This would be the one that would make it through the full nine months. Week six went by. Week eight. With each passing day, my confidence and happiness grew and grew. Week ten. Week eleven…
And then it happened. I lost the baby a day later, at my home, and it was terrifying. It happened in the bathtub, and embarrassing as it is, Felicity was in there with me, and I thought I was just having gas. Well, it wasn’t gas, as I quickly found out. I grabbed Felicity and plopped her out of the tub, wrapped a towel around her body and asked her to go get a diaper. As she left the bathroom, I stared at the bloody water and nearly fainted right there and then.
Once again, the vicious thoughts popped back into my head, calling me things that I wouldn’t call anyone. I didn’t know what to do, I only knew that I couldn’t allow my daughter to see it. I emptied the tub and wrapped a towel around myself, smiling as she came back into the bathroom with her diaper. I diapered her, and placed her in her room with her building blocks, asking her to stay here and play while mommy got dressed. As she entertained herself, I dealt with this new loss. Tears slid down my cheeks as I looked at my angel, and some part of my mind refused to acknowledge what I was seeing. I went outside into my shed and found a little box and a shovel. Around the side of my house, I have a little garden where I buried my child, and in some ways that brought closure, but in others, it’s a constant reminder of what I’ve been through.
As of today, I have had a total of five miscarriages, the most recent one happened two months ago. I got sick with the flu and had a temperature of 102.6 degrees for three days. My doctor tells me anyone would have lost a pregnancy after a fever that high and that long, but that’s a small comfort.
My husband and I are committed to adding to our family, and have made a plan. I have since stopped taking antidepressants, as I believe they made me worse. I still take Vitamin D and a prenatal vitamin, but the thing I think has helped me the most is myself. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great, if a little confused, support group; my mom, husband, and best friend Jacquelynn being the biggest members. I was told, by lots of different people that it was all in my head, or I was exaggerating, and that miscarriages are a natural part of life. To some extent, I do believe that last one. Miscarriage is natural, as much as it hurts to believe that. When I say that my biggest help was myself, I mean it. Even through all of the angry and blaming voices in my head, it was a daily struggle to tune them out, and sometimes, argue with myself. In a way, I have come to terms with these losses, and while I still cry when thinking of the children that might have been, I know that there is some reason why. I can’t tell you the reason, because I simply don’t know, and while I’m still on shaky terms with God about that, I do believe there is a reason.
A very good friend of mine told me, just two weeks ago, that these losses may not have been something gone wrong, but it’s that the child that little cell would have turned into, was not ready, or that we were not ready as parents to parent that child. It doesn’t make a lot of sense at first, and it sounds very weird, but I draw some comfort in it. There may be something more I need to learn in order to be the best mother I can be to future children, and I’m ok with that. I love to learn, and I dearly want to be the best mother I can.
For a very long time, I didn’t want to talk about my story to anyone, for fear of rejection and ridicule. It took me a long time to admit I was having problems, and even longer to seek help for them. I still have doubts and worries, but I have a stronger will to be happy. I forced myself for months to be happy, to literally turn my frown upside down. And now, it’s so easy, I don’t even think about it. I am content with my life, and I love every minute of being a mother and a wife.
   My biggest and strongest plea to other women who have experienced loss is to not blame yourself.
I know you’ve probably heard this hundreds, if not thousands of times before, and I know it’s harder than it seems. Turn your mind around when you start going into the depths of despair, think about the good things you have in your life already, put some happy music on. Now, I’m not telling you not to grieve, that is a very important step in the healing process. I’m still going through it, but there are different ways to grieve. You can wallow and mope about for months or years, or you can take the time to acknowledge the loss but not let it consume you. You will be happy again, and if you continue to brave the journey to parenthood, even the second or third (or more!) time around, I know you will be blessed.
Make a plan. Write it down. Our plan is simple. We’re going to try again for another year, and if nothing comes of that, then we are going to adopt. We want more children very much, and if we can’t have more children of our own, then maybe we are called to adopt a child, give them a home, a family, and the love that they deserve. We already have all of our paperwork in, our background checks done, our home check appointment is in a month, and all of our ducks are in a row. Now it’s just a game of hurry up and wait. Please, no matter what your current struggles are, never give up your hope and self worth. If you have children, give them a giant hug and count your blessings.  I know I certainly do.
Visit Elizabeth’s blog, A Domestic Muse here…..