Surgery

Okay, surgery tomorrow. No more waiting to miscarry.

O.o

Not ready. Ready, but not ready.

Today was full. I moved very slowly. I went to sculpture class a record 4 hours late. My tutor is away sick and we have a new one! I talked to them and two other lecturers about my miscarriage and surgery. I went into this weird slightly hyper state to get everything done without crying. People seem to keep expecting me to be emotional in public but I don’t have a lot of shades at the moment, it’s nothing at all or all of it. So I keep a lid on it until I’m home safe. I hate that breathless feeling though, the cheerful, slightly hysterical note in my voice, the way people misunderstand easily and think I’m being flippant.

I stayed until 6 and finished my sculpture projects for the term. They’re placed in a corner, labelled and tagged so they’ll count even if I can’t go in next week and present them. I have worked so hard this term to stay up to date with the course work in case something like this happened and I am so organised and ready. I’ve never done 70% workload at uni before and I’m managing it. I’m so proud of myself.

Tomorrow is going to be weird and hard. I’m going to ask the hospital to give us Tamlorn’s remains. I’ve arranged a cremation with a local funeral company. Rose will not be allowed to wait with me before surgery or come into the recovery area after surgery. She is going to have a very long, lonely day floating around the hospital. She’s not even allowed to wait outside the surgery area – those seats are strictly for patients. A lot about hospital procedure has left a lot to be desired in this process, such as having to wait on hold for an hour to get through to the antenatal department to cancel our first appointment tomorrow, while someone on a looped recording gives me advice about taking care of my baby. Trauma, trauma, trauma.

And then home. Not pregnant anymore. Tamlorn gone. After the high and the busy-ness, the crash, the silence. I’m not ready. I’m ready.

After the miscarriage

Home today and dazed. I feel like I’m picking my way carefully through a harsh and dangerous land, trying to find a path through. Stepping stones across rapids. I didn’t attend college today. Rose made it to work for most of the day. I’ve been tackling the admin in the wake of yesterday. Cancelling the antenatal appointment, informing college about my absences, contacting parents who had face painting booked with me this weekend, notifying the others coming together to work on the networks Hearing Voices Network of SA and the Dissociative Initiative that I’ll be in surgery when we were planning to meet. There’s a thousand small decisions to be made.

These are the most helpful resources I’ve found so far:

  • Management of Miscarriage: Your Options Rose and I decided on surgical management. What I’ve experienced is called a silent miscarriage, that is, I’ve had no bleeding or pain. My body still thinks I am pregnant although the baby has died. The hospital explained to us that it may take up to 8 weeks for my body to let go of the pregnancy. I’m finding it hard to be aware of a dead baby inside of me, and the thought of not knowing when it will happen is distressing. The 10 day wait between our ‘it’s not looking good’ scan and our scan confirming death was gruelling. I feel exhausted already by waiting. I’m afraid of more trauma, seeing blood, tissue, tiny body, of pain. So this time I’ve chosen surgery. If I’m ever in this situation again a different option may feel like the right choice. I don’t judge anyone else’s choices. This booklet was helpful and didn’t make any option sound superior.
  • On Miscarriage – a personal experience by Clare This article is a first hand account of miscarriage. I keep coming back to it. Her thoughts about the taboo of miscarriage resonate with me.
  • The Natural Funeral Company are my local creative funeral company. I already had tagged them as possibly helpful people back when we were preparing to get pregnant and I wrote Preparing for the death of a child. I contacted them today, embarrassed and confused, to ask about my options if I choose to take home Tamlorn’s remains from the hospital. They confirmed that they will perform a very low cost cremation so we have some ashes to scatter or keep.
  • Funeral Planning for a Miscarriage It’s hard to think clearly when things like this happen. Checklists and suggestions from other people who have been here are helping me know what my options are and feel out what’s right and fitting for Rose and I and Tamlorn.

There’s a new peach tree in my front yard, waiting to be planted in Tamlorn’s memory, shedding leaves as autumn creeps on. We chose a variety that will fruit in March, blessings every year to remember them. Our community – readers here, our friends and family and workmates and friends of friends have poured out messages of love and loss and support. We have come through the very outcome that people counsel you not to share because of, and we’re still glad we shared. (It’s okay if that’s not the right call for you though) We’re also glad that we decided to tell people what would and wouldn’t be helpful for us to hear. Rose has had a much gentler time in conversations this time around than after her other 6 losses, and we think that had a little to do with it. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to be helpful and having someone tell you can make it easier.

We are hearing that some others affected by this loss have had some tough times with other people and that’s sad and frustrating. Grief is contagious, it links us to other experiences of grief, it reminds us of vulnerability, mortality, that the world is not just. It touches deep wounds. Frequently unpredictable and always a legitimate need of the heart. We shouldn’t have to grieve secretly, justify grief, or be afraid of our tribe when we’re hurting. We grieve for things that happen in other countries, for tragedy suffered by people we’ve never met. We’re supposed to. It’s okay if you’re feeling affected, more than you thought you would be, more than someone else thinks you should be. Rose and I don’t own this pain, you don’t have to be close to us, or related to Tamlorn, or have experienced a miscarriage to justify your feelings. If you’re grieving then you need to be, so please be kind to yourself, please ask trusted people to be kind to you.

There are people who think grief is straight forward, clear, direct. Concentric circles spilling out from a central relationship. I don’t believe that. There are people who think we only deeply grieve people we have known and loved for many years. People who think miscarriages are not something that should ever be grieved. (you don’t have to grieve a miscarriage, you will feel grief or not, as your heart needs. It’s not wrong to not feel grief. It is wrong to try and quiet someone who is grieving) People who try to rank grief, this loss is worse than that loss. I believe none of this. Grief is a deep aching need of the heart to weep. I have grieved lost hopes and dreams. I have grieved lost health. I have grieved losses of people I have never met. I have grieved for characters in books. I have grieved for pets. I have grieved for suicidal loved ones, for their anguish. I have grieved for whole cities, whole countries, forests. When I was 15 the river dried up and left shrinking pools of dying fish. I prayed to every power I knew and wove every spell I could with my poems, and carried them in buckets to swim in old cattle feed troughs and bath tubs and they still all died. And I cried like the world had ended, cried for days and days with a profoundly broken heart because I had just learned that some things are beyond my control even if I love with all my heart. Grief is part of being alive, part of being human. I don’t believe you choose to grieve or to live, grief and living weave in and out of each other. If you have ever loved anything or anyone, then one day you will grieve.

I can’t tell you how sorry I am that our shared joy has become shared pain. I’m sorry for everyone who is hurting, remembering other losses, feeling helpless, feeling torn. I’m sorry for those of you who have had terminations – who found yourselves with life that was not the right time or with the right person, growing in the wrong places, growing broken and unable to live – who grieve even if the decision was the right one, and can’t speak of your grief. I’m sorry that your loss is so often hidden in the shadow cast by the loss of a wanted child. I want you to know that I don’t hate you or judge you, that you are allowed to not grieve or grieve as you need to also. I feel like my grief and my situation makes people think we are enemies, standing on opposite sides. I want to say we are not enemies.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you care, that you reach out, tell us Tamlorn’s name is beautiful, remind us we’re not alone, share tears with us. I know it feels like there’s nothing you can do, but listening and caring are doing something, doing the most powerful thing you can. As we listen and care for each other, fumble through rituals of grief for a loss not often acknowledged. I’m sorry we brought this touch of death into your lives, but I’m grateful that we’re not here alone.

The passing of our Tamlorn

Tamlorn 9 weeks, 5 days wmOur baby has died. There is no heartbeat, no growth, no obvious abnormalities, they’ve just died. You can see them in this last scan, all curled up, head at the top and body tucked under in the dark womb. The painful wait is over and there’s no hope left.

We’ve had a very, very long day. We’ve just arrived home from hospital. We’ve spent all day in waiting rooms with pregnant women and new parents with tiny infants. We’ve decided we have waited long enough and will end this on Thursday with minor surgery to empty the womb. We’re exhausted and devastated.

I know it’s so hard to know what to say when people when grieving, and that grieving people are often distant, preoccupied, and angry. Here are things Rose and I are finding helpful and not helpful.

Not helpful:

  • At least you know you can get pregnant
  • You can always try again
  • At least it was only early
  • It’s natures way of protecting you from a damaged baby
  • Maybe you did something wrong
  • It’s God/The Universe telling you something
  • It will happen when the time is right
  • Cheer up/chin up/it will all work out

Some of these things we already know, others are attempts to cheer that just hurt more. Grief hurried through become lonely, twisted, dark. Grief given time will heal.

Helpful:

  • I’m really sorry to hear that
  • It’s okay to take time to grieve
  • Would you like it if I shared about my experience of loss/brought round some dinner/sent you a card/gave you a hug?

It’s okay to say nothing at all. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to sit with other people’s grief, to be silent and not try to make it to be anything but what it is.

We’re calling this little one Tamlorn, after a beloved child in a book by Patricia A McKillip. My Tam. Our Tam. We’re hoping to go out tonight and buy a tree to plant in their memory.

We will rest for a couple of months and then plan to start trying again. Our donor is still on board, so this is not the end of our journey. Thankyou all for your hope and messages of love and support.

 

Preparing for the death of a child

Rose and I are closer to starting to try for a baby. I’m down to 1/4 of the dose of hormones that keep my endo and adeno under control. We have a wonderful donor on board. I sleep at night cuddled up to a full body length pregnancy pillow and rub oil into my tummy to prepare dry skin for being stretched.

Hope and hopelessness grow in equal measure. “With dreams of a bright future comes also the dread certainty of loss.” You can try to ignore it, stuff it down, run from it, but it will speak to you in nightmares, it will wait for you at 3am, it will shiver in your bones and be a scream that only you can hear, beneath the humming of the world.

So we turn, and sit, and face the unthinkable thing. We are trying for a baby, who may die. Three weeks alive, or 6 months, full term stillborn, early death, accident, terminal illness, disappearance, suicide. To love on this earth is to open your heart to the guarantee of grief. My darling Rose has suffered the loss of six pregnancies. Each deeply desired, dearly loved and hoped for. Each child dreamed of and nurtured with everything that she had. Sometimes love is not enough.

Rose and I have struggled with grief. We’ve had very different needs and approaches and experiences, and this has torn us apart at times. We’ve navigated the loss of friends to suicide and sudden death, the anniversaries of miscarriage, loss of friendships and relationships dear to us. We’re been given many shadowed days to begin to understand each other in grief, to sit with the terror, and start to find our own ways through. We have often grieved alone. Grieving together with a partner or in a family is different. Denied grief, overwhelming grief, grief that shatters lives and tortures the mind is something we’re both familiar with in different ways. We know we’re vulnerable.

Everyone is vulnerable. Our culture often isolates the grieving. We do not speak the names of the dead, we do not know what to say, we visit avidly in the first month and when we’re most needed in the 6th month when the shock has worn off we’ve moved on to other pressing matters. We’ve pathologised much of the process of grief, and presented ideas of joy and sadness as being opposite poles a spectrum rather than separate, legitimate, and overlapping responses to life. Ask anyone who has lost a close friend the same week they gave birth to a child. Ask anyone who has fled an abusive relationship and grieved the loss of their hopes just as intensely as they experienced joy in their freedom.

You cannot ever be really ‘ready’ for loss, because when we think of this idea of being ‘ready’ we picture someone who will be unaffected and unchanged. This is not how grief works, any more than it is how love works. It changes everything in us and in how we see our lives. Some things suddenly become meaningless while others are lit up in the most intense way. You cannot be ‘ready’ when this is what ready means to you. But you can certainly be set up to fall hard. Beliefs such as ‘if god/the universe takes my child away it’s because I was not going to be a good parent to them’ will cause terrible suffering.

The way losses are explained can ease or deepen pain. Rose was once told by a doctor “your body is killing your babies, we don’t know why” which left her distraught and suicidal, with terrible self hate and conflict. Later on, coming across many other explanations for miscarriages, including things like “sometimes there is a problem and the body cannot sustain a pregnancy” or “sometimes babies are not put together right and they die early”, there were other ways to understand what had happened that were not personal and didn’t indicate intent to harm.

Not so long ago my sister’s beloved little cat Kiki died suddenly. It was horrible and a huge loss to her. It brought to mind our families rituals of grief around pets. Whenever a pet or rescued animal dies, we’ve always buried them in our yard. Sometimes wrapped in a cloth or placed in a box, but always in a grave that’s filled with flowers and leaves from the garden.

2014-07-21 15.32.57

Kiki’s grave before burial

We don’t permanently mark the graves, although we do often place rocks or tree stumps over them to keep them undisturbed. The gathering of the flowers has become a very gentle way of returning the bodies to the earth, of connection with the cycles of nature. Pippi and Tessa, my darling rats, were buried under winter lillies. Charlie under autumn leaves and the last of the roses. Kiki under snowdrops. There’s something much gentler about heaping earth onto the plants instead of directly onto a body.

Rituals and other things that mark the loss can be deeply important but also difficult to come up with in the shock of grief. Having a history of them can give us a connection to other losses that’s both painful and encouraging, raising past pain but also reminding us that this is part of life and that there will be new joys.

In early miscarriage there’s often the challenge of not having a body to bury. A ritual such as placing flowers, visiting a tree, lighting a candle, or choosing a date to remember the ones who died can all give a ‘home’ to the grief. In infertility, likewise there is no defining moment or ritual to share. When a previous long term relationship of mine became abusive and broke up, I grieved the children we’d planned together, but I grieved them silently and alone. Grief consumes us with loneliness when we cannot share it, and without a place, date, or name, we don’t have the language to.

People have found ways to work with this. I named the child I’d been planning for and wrote them poems. I lit candles for them when I felt them near and the grief was strong. Rose and I are collecting two lists of baby names, one for living children, and one, pretty but impractical, for any that die. I’ve found an Australian Not-for-Profit called Heartfelt who provide cameras and other services to families who’ve had a stillborn or terminally ill infant. I’ve come across other unconventional ways to mark loss such as this photoshoot of a wedding prevented by death of the groom to be. I’ve read about death and loss and grief, and watched heartbreaking documentaries such as Losing Layla and the follow up Regarding Raphael. I’ve come across instructions on arranging the funeral for a baby, and how to get a certificate acknowledging the loss of an early pregnancy. I’ve found a local funeral company who are creative and flexible and offer home funerals, The Natural Funeral Company.

We’re still not ready. It’s not possible to be ready. But it is very possible to be in denial, under-resourced, inexperienced, and paralysed by fear. That, I’m determined not to be. Grief can destroy relationships. Rose and I hope to journey together, without regrets, whatever the outcome. We walk into the future, full of hope and fear and love, death in one hand and life in the other.