Thursday, May 24, 2012

Breaking the Silence

OK. So I'm going to start by saying that this topic has been rolling around in my head for a while, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to put it out's one of those taboos that most people don't like to talk about, much like Spring Break Cancun 1998, or the time you ate a petrified french fry that you found underneath your two year old's car seat. But, as more and more time settles between the past and the present, there is a little voice in my head telling me to write about it- the same voice that tells me to inhale spoonfuls of Nutella and almond butter at 2 am- which totally proves that this voice is very wise, and may even have a PhD from University of Awesome.

In the early morning hours on a November day in 2010, we got the exciting news that baby #3 was on board.  Our little monkeys were four years old and almost two years old, and it seemed like a perfect time to add a third ring to our circus. We went to the doctor, confirmed that I was almost six weeks along, and got a due date in July.  Since it was our third time around this block, we waited for about a week, and made our big announcement to our families on Thanksgiving. A few days later, I pretty much stood on top of Mt. Everest and shouted "WE'RE HAVING A BAAAABY!!" to the world...aka, I put it on Facebook.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know that I'm pretty much an open book, who only stops talking long enough to eat and breathe, and isn't really the best at locking up the vault and keeping things to myself. With my first two pregnancies, we waited until I was about eight weeks before announcing it to our families...there was no way I was ever going to make it to the twelve week mark, that is always held up as "the safe time" to let the cat outta the bag. Since we'd been down this road twice before, with two healthy, uneventful pregnancies, I saw no reason to keep this happy, happy news to ourselves.

And then, along came December 19th. Cue the dark and ominous overtones.

From the moment I opened my eyes that morning, the day sucked. First of all, I woke up with the stomach bug. We had our annual Girls Night Christmas Cookie Swap the night before at my house. Unfortunately, macaroons and fudge bars weren't the only thing being swapped that night. All seven of us girls, PLUS our husbands AND all of our kids were knocked down by Flu-palooza 2010. I called in sick to work, laid in bed all day, but powered through that afternoon to make it to a scheduled ultrasound.

I got to the doctor's office, feeling like I was run over by a speeding bus, and about five minutes into my appointment, I could tell by the silence from the ultrasound tech that something was not quite right. When I asked her what she saw, she said that she couldn't say, and that the doctor would want to talk to me in her office right away. Yeah. My world pretty much stopped spinning at that point. With a lump in my throat and a heart on the edge of  breaking, I gathered my things and headed upstairs.

Because I didn't have a scheduled appointment to talk to my doctor, I had to wait. And wait. And wait. I waited for an hour. Which, if you are anxiously waiting for bad news, as well as throwing up Christmas cookies and antipasta every 25 minutes, feels like 17 hours.

To pass the time, I started texting. I sent out an SOS to my best friends, filling them in on the potentially bad situation. Knowing that my peeps were praying for me and was comforting. My poor husband was dead to the world, suffering from the stomach bug epidemic as well, and had no idea what was happening at this point. A parent of a student I had in my class many years ago, who happened to be waiting for her appointment, ended up being my guardian angel that afternoon. I ended up tearfully filling her in on why I was sitting there, and she spent a half hour, filling my head with positive thoughts and distracting me with stories about her kids. I truly believe she was sent by God to be there, to calm my nerves, and to stop me from leaping over the receptionist's desk and demanding that the doctor TALKED. TO. ME. NOW.

Finally I was called back. In my group, there are six different doctors, and to make the whole experience go from bad to worse, I happened to see the one doctor who was relatively new, and I had never met before. She also happened to be the one doctor in my practice that has zero bedside manner. I'm pretty sure that Kim Jong-il would've been kinder in his delivery. Dr. Mean started by showing me the film of my ultrasound and very matter-of-factly telling me that "there is no heartbeat, and that this pregnancy is no longer viable."

The next thing I knew, the Ice Queen handed me a box of tissues and excused herself from the room so I could "compose myself". I went into the bathroom, called my mom, and lost it. I sobbed my way through the entire, terrible story, and drove home, straight into the arms of my equally-as-heartbroken husband.

I'm not going to sugarcoat was awful. I was almost ten weeks, and already completely in love. I spent the next two days, laying in bed, feeling like crapola, snuggling with my babies, and watching hours and hours of The Soprano's and Real Housewives of Everywhere and Anywhere.

 Somewhere between one of Tony's therapy sessions with Dr. Melfi and an infomercial for Sham-Wow, I had a terrible realization. I had shared the big 'bun in the oven' news on Facebook, and now I had to undo it. AND I had to undo in 420 characters or less. Not being one for brevity, writing this status took me over an hour. I hit 'post' with a pit in my stomach, but within minutes, I started getting responses. The amount of messages and posts I received from family and friends was overwhelming and completely and totally amazing. So many of you shared your own stories of loss, and because of these stories, I closed up shop on my pity-party, threw on my Uggs and some lipgloss, and went out to breakfast with my little family. That night, Chris and I went Christmas shopping. We were still sadder than sad, but we also knew that life must go on. We each mourned in our own way...sharing the joy and complete insanity of Christmas with our babies helped tremendously. Like any loss, the weight of it would hit me when I least expected it, and even now, over two years later, I have my moments of achy sadness.

But through all of that sadness, an important lesson emerged. In the weeks following, I would run into co-workers,neighbors, old friends from high school, and sorority sisters I hadn't seen in years, and because they knew of what happened via my 'retraction statement' on Facebook, so many of them would share their own story of loss during pregnancy. I found healing power and courage in each of these conversations, cards and e-mails. And with each story, I started to realize that is not a type of loss that women generally talk about. In our country, there is such a negative stigma attached to miscarriage, almost as if you should be embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you.  With approximately one out of every five women experiencing this type of loss, it just seems ridiculous that people feel this way. There is no other loss that occurs that we feel pressured to keep a secret or speak about in whispers.

We are programmed to keep our expanding bellies hush-hush until that magical 12 week mark, when we enter our second trimester and the threat of miscarriage significantly decreases. I get that. Well, part of me gets it. The other part of me, thinks about how if no one knew that we were expecting in the first place, we would have missed out on sharing in the experiences of others, and the hundreds of healing prayers, that ultimately gave us strength. The simple act of others acknowledging that we were suffering a loss in our family was vital to making us feel whole again.

I don't regret sharing our news 'too soon' for one minute. There is power in numbers, and knowing that we weren't alone, was significant in our mourning and mending. I know everyone grieves in their own way, and not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve like I do, but talking about it, and not keeping your grief and emotions bottled up inside, can do a world of good.

Life goes on. I don't say that callously, forgetting what we went through, but it is the truth. Not a day goes by that I don't think of our littlest angel.  But I do have faith that our hope of welcoming a new baby into our family will happen. This whole experience taught me that my friends and family were there for me not just in the good times, but also in the not-so-good-mascara-running-down-my-face-blubbering-through-a-box-of-Kleenex-and-a-bowl-of-wine-times.

 I am one lucky mama.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

All I Want for Christmas Mother's Day Is...

Contrary to popular belief (and Macy's commercials), most moms aren't waking up on Mother's Day and expecting...
  • diamonds (hello, have your seen the price of gas??? At $4.15 a gallon, unless that tennis bracelet is getting me to work and back, no thank you)
  • plants (with a husband, two kids, two dogs, and two turtles, I have no need for another living, breathing thing that is going to demand food and water, AND not help me mop or cook),
  • chocolate (and expect me to rock out a bikini in less than two months?? Heck to the NO.)
Now, I'm not speaking for all moms, but I think what most of us want is to feel appreciated. A card (Hallmark or handmade, we're not picky), some flowers, pancakes and coffee our family, maybe the promise of 15 uninterrupted minutes to read, nap, pee, etc. - that's all that it takes to make most of us smile and feel loved.

That being said, the whole idea of Mother's Day is definitely one of those "First World Problems"- much like your iPhone not uploading your latest tweet about which Jersey Housewife you are siding with (Team Manzo!!) or debating which OPI polish color you should use for your mani/pedi, Tutti Frutti Tonga or Royal Flush Blush...decisions, decisions!

These life or death decisions, are obviously not literally life or death. However, there are moms out there, in our own country, and beyond, that are faced with the very reality of death daily, even as they labor to bring new life into this world.

Every minute a women dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing nations. For every woman who dies in childbirth, another 30 women incur injuries and infections, which are often preventable. (Source: World Health Organization.)

  • In rural Papua New Guinea, 1 in 7 women die in childbirth.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 women die of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • The risk of dying as a result of pregnancy if you live in the industrialized world stands at 1 in 4,100. (Big props to Rants from Mommyland genius mommies, Kate and Lydia,  for gathering this information...and thanks for letting me steal it. xoxo) 

These figures are staggering and horrifying...But we can change that...YOU can change

While reading my favorite mommy blog, Rants From Mommyland, I found out that there is an amazing movement, Bloggers for Birth Kits, happening right now. I found out that there are brave mamas in very rural, poor areas of our world, who need our help right now. One amazing Australian mama, Adriel Booker, who blogs from the land of Olivia Newton John and wallabies, is on a mission to provide struggling women in rural areas with clean birth kits. What is a Clean Birth Kit, you may ask? Well...

This simple kit, can be put together for less than the cost of a venti Caramel Macchiato, and will make you feel a lot less jittery, and much more powerful (because let's face it, we all feel a tad bit inferior in front of those baristas).

We are so lucky to live in our bubble of first world medicine and comfortable birthing conditions. We take classes, read a million books, write a birth plan, have the choice of home-birth vs. hospital-birth, we create  special playlists on our iPods to keep us motivated, soothed and sane during the big event...but at no point have any of us worried about not having a qualified medical professional to help bring our babies into the world, or thought about giving birth on a dirt floor, armed with a contaminated water supply and no antibiotics in case of infection.
If you are feeling as blessed as I am, please join me in this cause. I am on a mission to make at least 100 Clean Birth Kits by Mother's Day (May 13th). Some ideas to get involved:
  • host a Clean Birth Kit girl's night! Assign each person a supply (and a delicious dish!) to bring. Make an assembly line, pour the wine, and....GO!
  • Ask your Church, Girl Scout troop, neighborhood, anyone to donate supplies or entire birth kits.
  • Birth Kit date night! Nothing says romance more, than a trip to Home Depot for some plastic gloves and rope (right, Mr. Grey??)
The possibilities are endless. If you want to get involved, (please, please, please!!) here is the detailed list, assembled by Adriel, below. I would be more than happy to take any kits and have them shipped to these mamas in need.

1. Soap (for the birth attendant to wash her hands). Use a hotel-size soap or cut a regular bar of soap into 1/8-sized pieces. (Microwave the bar of soap for 30 seconds to soften it for cutting).
2. One pair of plastic gloves (for the birth attendant to wear).
3. Five squares of gauze (to wipe the mum’s perineum and baby’s eyes). Gauze pieces should be about 10×10 centimeters or 3×3 inches.
4. One blade (to cut the cord). You can buy individually wrapped sterile blades at the pharmacist or buy utility blades (much cheaper) at the hardware store. We teach the women to boil the blades for sterilization, so utility blades work just fine.
5. Three pieces of strong string (2 for tying the cord, 1 for “just in case”). String should be about 30 centimeters or 10 inches long.
6. One plastic sheet (for a clean birthing surface). Sheet should be approximately 1×1 meter or 1×1 yard and can be purchased at your hardware or paint store.
7. One sandwich-size ziplock bag (to pack the contents).
If you would like to participate in this amazing event, please email me ( I will scoot over to your house in my french fry/crushed Oreo/empty Capri Sun littered mom-mobile, and pick up your kits from you, whenever and wherever.
Thank you so much for listening,sharing and helping! Hoping your Mother's Day is even better than a hot fudge sundae, smothered in melted cheddar and topped with smoked bacon. Served with a gallon of Pinot, in a dish that I won't have to wash. Oh yes, a girl can dream.