My Second First Trimester – Morning sickness, acupuncture and wrestling with hope

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Before I start gushing about how amazing it is to feel my baby move around in my belly and about how we are loving our midwifery care, I really wanted to reflect on my first trimester.  I think sometimes it’s easy gloss over the struggles when you have such happy news to share, but to honour my full experience it’s only fair to write about the darker times too.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to do this more often than I would like, but I know I am far from alone in this journey.

The first trimester was such a strange time for me.  Arguably, it is the most dynamic time in your body (though I may change my mind once I reach my third trimester…) with hormones constantly on the rise, no fully developed placenta to carry the load of growing your little one (shout out to placentas everywhere!),  morning sickness, fatigue and on top of that you don’t even look remotely pregnant.  At a time when you really could use some help with your groceries, a door held open or for someone to kindly ask how you are feeling, no one really does.  There are no outward signs of the intense and complex processes occurring inside of you.  It feels kind of lonely.

I found myself feeling like an impostor a lot of the time.  Like I was lying about feeling so terrible, because on the outside I looked totally normal.  I imagine it is perhaps similar to what people with a “hidden” chronic illness feel like on a regular basis; ignored, passed over and assumed to be just peachy, when really their bodies are wreaking total havoc on them.  I felt so guilty for not making dinner for my wife (and I normally love cooking) and for basically being a giant lump.  The fatigue just kind of crept up on me.  All of a sudden I was sleeping until noon, even when I was going to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 pm.  It was a struggle to even have a shower some days.  For someone who is always doing a million things, it’s hard to admit that you are tired without feeling incredibly lazy and full of excuses.  I didn’t even believe I was “that” tired until I started to feel like my normal self again in the second trimester.

In general, my second first trimester was a lot like my first first trimester.  All day morning sickness, hating all food, and all of the fatigue.  The picture above was a very familiar view, as it is for a lot of mama’s in those early days.  I lost a few pounds simply because I just couldn’t eat.  Perhaps some of you have had an experience when you indulge in that one certain type of liquor (we’ve all been there, right?) that even a whiff of it sends your stomach reeling back to that god forsaken time you swore off drinking forever?  Yeah, that’s how I felt.  About. All. Food.  Nothing appealed to me.  Occasionally I could stomach some raisin toast, maybe a popsicle.  Apple juice was really good, for like a week, then I hated it.  I would wander the grocery store (which has so many smells, that I couldn’t spend too long there) unaccompanied by my usual well-thought out list for my meal plan that week, and just bought whatever I thought I could stomach.  I happened to also be unemployed after our recent move to Winnipeg, so most of my days were spent watching Netflix, trying to write cover letters and thinking of something I could eat that wouldn’t make me vomit everywhere.

It was a fun time, let me tell you.

I started doing acupuncture every couple of weeks to help with my nausea and to hopefully prevent another miscarriage. The World Health Organization does list both morning sickness and female infertility as conditions that can be treated with acupuncture.  There appears to be some evidence of the benefits of acupuncture for women undergoing fertility treatments (they are looking especially at the potentially benefits for IVF treatment), but it seems much more research is necessary before that’s conclusive.  Even though I knew I had very little control over the situation (which was beyond frustrating for my type A personality), I still wanted to do everything I could to hang on to my little one this time.  Following the acupuncture treatments I only threw up a couple of times and found that it was very relaxing and soothed my nausea for a couple of weeks.  In addition to the treatments, my acupuncture doctor also left some very small “tacks” in place, under a small bandaid for a week at a time.  I had one on the left and right inside ankle, and one on either side of my chest.  They were freaky at first, but it really seemed to take the edge off of my nausea.  It was also comforting to have the acupuncture doctor (who was also a medical doctor) take my pulse and reassure me that it was strong and indicative of a healthy pregnancy.

Wait, did she just say her acupuncturist could tell she was pregnant by her pulse?!   Yes I did!  Here’s one study  I found that verified the theory in Chinese medicine that an expectant woman’s pulse is noticeably different (to a skilled practitioner’s hand) and also changes with each stage of pregnancy.  My acupuncturist not only told me I was pregnant before I confirmed with a blood test, he also accurately predicted the gender based on my pulse!

Despite everything I was doing, I was so worried about losing my baby again.  Pregnancy after loss, especially in those early days is so bittersweet.  Nothing seems worth getting excited about because you know it could all change in a heartbeat.  You are happy, but careful not to be too happy.  I was lucky enough to have a great circle of close friends who I told in the early days, but I didn’t tell too many people, just in case. Instead of feeling like we had a big announcement like we had last time, we refrained from telling our extended family for a while.  It just seemed unfair to get everyone’s hopes up.  It was unfair to get our own hopes up.

I had such a conditional love for my body.  I constantly felt like I was bargaining for the future.  After losing our first baby, bleeding out twice, emergency room visits and taking months to recover from the miscarriage, the trust I had in my body was shaky to say the least.  I tried my best to meditate, stay as positive as possible and to take care of myself, but it felt like it didn’t even matter.  I did my best last time and it wasn’t enough, so what difference could I make this time?

As the end of my first trimester approached, I did feel more at ease with myself and my body.  Slowly, I started to believe that I was truly pregnant and that maybe we would have a little one by the summer time.  I gradually allowed myself to be more positive in conversations about our future, started contemplating maternity leave and began moving some of our previously collected baby things out of storage.  Everyday I was letting myself believe that things would be okay.

It was a difficult time, as it is for many mamas who are experiencing pregnancy after loss.  Having a support system of friends and family was probably what helped me the most.  Just having someone to confide my worries in and share how I was feeling that day, whether it be good or bad, helped me process what was going on.  I don’t know if I could have kept all my fears to myself for all of those weeks, and I’m glad that I didn’t have to.  Even though I was nervous to announce too early on my blog and social media (I was even nervous to announce after my first trimester was over), I didn’t hesitate to tell my close friends and family from day one.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still uncomfortable to be open about the pregnancy early on, knowing full well it may not have a happy ending.  And I totally understand wanting to keep it a secret from everyone because I debated keeping it a secret from everyone until we knew for sure everything was alright.  Of course, it’s a very personal choice and I fully understand both approaches.  In the end, I knew that if my worst fears came true, I would want all of the amazing support that I had during my first miscarriage.

Despite my struggles over this past year, I feel so much gratitude for having a loving spouse and wonderful friends and family.  Thank you.  I feel so lucky.

-K

 

 

 

How I Greived My Miscarriage, When I Didn’t Know How


Grief is a strange and awful thing.  It’s not something that can be prepared for in advance, but only presents itself in the moment.  Everyone grieves differently.  Everyone grieves on a different timeline.  There is no “one size fits all” solution, rather it’s a journey that requires reflection, self-compassion and time.  Like many women who have had to endure a loss like this, I found myself in utter shock and disbelief at my circumstances.  All of a sudden, I was the statistic.  I was living any mother’s worst nightmare.

And I had no idea what to do.

I was overwhelmed and sad and confused and angry and exhausted.  Grief was foreign to me.  I didn’t know where to turn or how I was supposed to navigate this tragedy.  I cried and ate too much ice cream and then cried some more. All I wanted to do was sleep.

As the first few weeks passed, I began to get my bearings and adjust to my new life as an unpregnant woman.  I tried to find help with my grieving process, and I quickly discovered that there is not a lot of support for this type of loss, at least not where I live.  I couldn’t find a pregnancy loss support group in Moose Jaw.  The group in Regina had a Facebook page, but did not actually meet in person anymore.  There were some support groups advertised at the fertility clinic in Saskatoon, but I couldn’t drive two hours each way for a meeting.  I also couldn’t find a counsellor in my area that specialized in fertility issues.  The fertility clinic was as supportive as they could be over the phone with weekly check-ins regarding my blood work, but emotional support was not their main job.  I felt lost and alone.

So, like anyone else… I turned to Google.

Much to my disappointment, my search did not reveal the “Ten Easy Steps to Getting Over You Miscarriage” article I was hoping for.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was hoping for.  I guess I just wanted to know that I would be okay.  I guess I just wanted to know if what I was feeling was normal. I just wanted to feel hope again.

 Deep down, I knew if I didn’t find myself going down a path of healing, I was sure to be headed to a dark place.  That’s not to say I needed to fix everything right away, but I needed to find a way to love myself again and somehow accept what had happened to me.

This post is an offering of my findings from my search for healing.  Not all of these ideas will feel right for everyone, nor is this an exhaustive collection of suggestions.  I do not claim to be an expert, but merely wish to share my journey in hopes that it may help another grieving mama.

I find the old adage “time heals all wounds” to be both wildly irritating and incredibly true.  Time was the first step in my journey.  Three months ago when this all began, I could barely think about the present, let alone the future.  I wasn’t ready to move on.  I had to dwell on the past, process my loss and feel the devastating sadness of the death of my baby.  It was uncomfortable and scary, but it had to happen. Only then, could I start stitching myself up and allow scars to form.

The following list describes some of the ways I found to begin to move past the raw grief and honour yourself and your little one.  Below I describe what I did to help my grieving process and find some semblance of peace in my life again.

-Have a funeral or memorial in honor of your baby

-Find or purchase a small symbolic token (jewellery, figurine, art) to honor the memory of your baby

-Create a ritual in which you include the memory of your baby (hanging a special Christmas ornament on the tree each year)

-Write a letter to your baby

-Meditation

-Seek counseling

-Collect items that are symbolic to you and bury them (items purchased for the baby, for example)

-Talk with a trusted friend or family member about your experience

-Find a support group

Not everything on this list will speak to everyone.  I was very drawn to finding a symbolic item that could serve as an outward sign of our baby’s life.  I’m not sure what it was, but I felt if I could have a item to keep with me, it would show the world how much she meant to me.  Shortly after finding out the news, I purchased a citrine stone necklace and have worn it almost everyday since.  Citrine is one of the birth stones for November, which is the month our baby was due.  It is a beautiful stone that is a symbol of abundance.  It honors the love that filled our lives when our little girl was with us.  It also provides an opportunity for me to tell her story, if anyone asks about the lovely stone around my neck.

Meditation was, and continues to be, extremely helpful in coping with this loss.  I found the Expectful app after listening to a podcast and it has been an amazing source of support.  I am not typically an anxious person, but I have experienced a lot of anxiety following my miscarriage.  I both yearn for and fear the future.  I don’t know how my next pregnancy will turn out, or if I can even get pregnant again.  Never mind the fact that I don’t know when this miscarriage will end, as I still having pregnancy hormones in my blood as I type this.  This app provides 10 or 20 minute meditations for every stage of fertility from pre-conception to motherhood.  I highly recommend this app to any new mama or soon-to-be mama.  The soothing music and gentle instructions melt away my stress and remind me that all that matters is now.  I can’t control the future.  I can’t predict what will happen to me.  All I can do is breathe and trust that one day, somehow, I will have the chance to be a mom again.  As frustrating as that is for my control freak, perfectionist personality, it’s exactly what I need to be reminded of.  

Accepting what has happened to me and my little family has been the hardest part of all this.  I will never be thankful that I had a miscarriage.  Babies are never supposed to die.  My miscarriage isn’t part of some big master plan.  It was a tragedy.  I suffered greatly and I didn’t do anything to deserve it.  No one ever does.  But I have found myself in a place where I can have some gratitude for my suffering.  I have felt the anxiety of being a patient, which will help me be a better nurse.  I have learned the preciousness of life.  I have learned that I am strong and resilient, even through the worst of times.  And you can be damn sure I will be grateful for every late night feeding, sticky hand print, grocery store temper tantrum and messy house that is thrown my way. 

While listening to a podcast recently, I was reminded of writing a letter to my baby.  I had been putting this off for a while, as I was so tired of crying and being sad.  It had been 10 weeks since we found out I had miscarried and I thought it was time to find some closure.  There were so many feelings I still had bottled up (my wife will tell you, I’m really good at doing that), and I love writing.  It seemed like the perfect combination to help express all of the emotions I was still keeping inside despite how far I had come.

I was beginning to worry that any unexpressed grief or emotions would come up in full force in my next pregnancy, so I wanted to do everything I could to heal and take care of myself before we tried again.  I had no idea what would happen when I wrote the letter, but I figured it would be a great litmus test for how I was truly feeling.

Sure enough, even before I started writing the tears were flowing.  But my tears this time felt different somehow.  Like more of a release, than a deep pain.  Like a letting go, rather than clinging to the past.  It felt good to express my joy and my sadness.  I wanted her to know how much she was loved and all the unspoken plans we had for her.  As I signed off my letter, I felt a small wave of peace and a gentle settling of my heart.

I was so glad that I decided to write this letter.  It softly healed my heart and allowed me to remenisce the joy we once felt.  I had been so overcome with frustration and dismay over the past few weeks.  Everything seemed unfair, the odds always stacked against me.  I didn’t want to be angry anymore.  I didn’t want to hate my body anymore.  I just wanted to honor and remember my little girl with love and gratitude.

My sweet baby, 

I only knew you for 8 weeks, but if felt like so much longer.  I loved you from the moment you were a gleam in our eyes.  We had so many hopes and dreams and plans for a life with you, filled with laughter and love.  I hope you felt how deeply you were loved in the short time you were here with us.  The day we found out I was pregnant with you was one of my happiest.  The day we found out we lost you, almost broke me.

I’m so sad that we never had the chance to meet you.  I often imagine what your face looked like and how it would feel to hold you skin-to-skin on my chest.  I imagine endless smiles exchanged by your Mama and me as we watched you grow.  I imagine lullabies and late nights trying to figure out your different cries.  Please know I did everything I could to try and hang on to you. 

Thank you for giving me my first glimpse of a mother’s love.  My heart all but burst with the thought of welcoming you into this world.  I hope you felt how loved you were when you were here with us.  I hope you know how loved you are now. 

All my love,   Mommy