I am 1 in 4

Things had been going well lately. For the last couple of weeks I was feeling more positive, more fun, more me. I’d lost a little weight, I was feeling good.
I was happy.

Not completely happy, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be rid od the little bit of sadness that hangs over every moment. But things were feeling better. We were enjoying life, going out a bit more, saying yes to almost every invitation.

Bouncing back.

It just took one moment for me to become, like a classically bad typo error sign I once saw: out of bounce.
It’s crazy to be buoyant and bubbly one moment, to being completely deflated. And worse than the contracted feeling, is feeling stupid about feeling sad, because it was such a small thing that punctured your tenuous bubble, that dragged your outlook downwards, that sank your posture.

It just takes a careless comment, a careless joke, a careless gesture, a careless action. It honestly feels as though the person could not care less about your pain or your struggle.
I’m not sure whether people realise how bone-numbingly exhausting it is to constantly have to explain or educate or bring attention to insensitive language and behavior. I wish I wasn’t the person who has to be vocal and “brave” or “strong” (which I definitely am not). If I could, I’d choose to “move on” or be “over it”. Or to just be normal, one of the 3 out of 4 women who don’t know this pain. But I’m not. And sometimes, small actions are hurtful. And sometimes, jokes are hurtful. And sometimes, comments are hurtful.

I wish that everyone could care more, especially about people around them. Because the people around me who have been more caring have made this all more bearable. I can’t just shrug off this pain. I can’t replace this empty feeling.

The emptiness is heavy. It’s hollow but makes you harder. Grief has an inexplicable weight that can only be momentarily lifted. The lighter moments can be lengthened into weeks or even months, but the burden can come crashing down in a matter of seconds.

I am 1 in 4. Please, please remember that. And please remember that there are so many women who have not spoken about their losses or grief. Think of them before you make a joke or comment or ask questions this holiday season.

Care more.

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Bye bye October

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Yesterday, October ended. Instead of putting on a costume and eating copious amounts of chocolate, I just tried to survive the day. As the International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month came to an end, I couldn’t help but think about everything that October brought.

I was blessed to be invited to share my journey on the Embrace podcast. It was an incredible experience to be able to say so many things that I didn’t even know I needed to get out of my head and off my heart. You can listen to it here.

We also hosted a candlelight memorial for International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day on the 15th. Family and friends came together and participated in the Wave of Light, lighting candles from 7pm-8pm all across the world. For 24 hours, families remembered the little ones who have been lost too soon.

Hubbly and I also had some immensely painful moments. My nephew’s birthday party turned out to be more difficult than expected. Watching all those kids play together made us think of our own kids and what might have been.

Elizabeth would have been 15 months old, probably playing with her cousins, following them around and giggling.
Or Jordan would have been 7 months old, sitting on Nan’s lap and being fascinated by a balloon.
Or I would have been 4 months pregnant with Iris, talking to all the other new moms, asking for advice or discussing our baby preparations.

Instead, none of our babies were there. And the realisation that it may be much longer than we had hoped before I’m pregnant again, or the possibility that I may never be pregnant again wrapped around my throat and choked the joy out of the moment for me. I looked over at Alvin and saw that he was having the same thoughts.

You see, when you’re a bereaved parent, you try so hard to be part of normal family occasions and you want so badly to feel normal that every time you feel an unexpected bout of grief, it overtakes everything.

I’m glad that October is over. November is my birthday month, which is also bittersweet. I hope that whatever else happened in October, that we could create some awareness. I’ve been questioning my own motives for writing this blog, and I’ve realized something. As much as it’s cathartic for us to write about our struggles, we want to make sure that all other bereaved parents will find some comfort and solidarity in our words. No one should have to go through this alone.

Why we’re doing this

I often wonder if people question our motives for having this blog. Believe me, it’s not easy to bare your soul when you are at your lowest. Every time we post, it’s a struggle because it’s easy to worry about who we may offend or if we’re being harsh in our honesty.
Most days, I don’t really care about being honest or harsh. We committed to sharing our journey, our struggles, so that others didn’t have to feel alone should they experience the same things.
Unless you’ve experienced this (and if you haven’t, I hope you never have to), there is no way of knowing what this feels like.
We’ve lost our hopes and dreams. We are still mourning. Please understand this. There is no time limit for grief. People may think that it’s time to be more normal, I mean, it’s been eight weeks since our last loss.
Only eight weeks since our hearts were broken for a third time. Only eight weeks since we found out we were pregnant, only to also hear in the same breath that the pregnancy had ruptured my fallopian tube and I was bleeding internally. My pregnancy was threatening my life, and my baby was already gone.
The worst part of miscarriage – apart from the lack of understanding, the feelings of loneliness, the thoughts of inadequacy, the insensitive comments and the physical recovery – is the lack of closure. We don’t get to have a funeral, we don’t know when our babies passed away, we barely even know how long our babies were alive.
This is why the 15th of October is so important to us. It is an international day of awareness for pregnancy and infant loss. It’s a day where people all over the world stand together in solidarity, those who understand and have been through this, and those who stand in support. At 7pm, in every time zone, families light candles for an hour, and a wave of light spreads across the world. For 24 hours, people everywhere will be thinking of our babies, our grief, our struggle.
Perhaps more parents who have experienced loss will be able to speak openly about their pain. Perhaps more families will learn how to be supportive and which hurtful statements to avoid.
Perhaps we can find a little closure as we watch the candles burn brightly, and briefly, and beautifully.

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Participate in the event on 15 October.

 

Reasons I cried today

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  • I realised, as soon as I woke up, that today marks 6 weeks since I both discovered I was pregnant and had the ectopic pregnancy rupture and be removed, along with my fallopian tube. I cried.
  • After getting up, I realised that means I would have been about 12 weeks pregnant now, and we would be planning a public announcement. Instead, I’m barely holding it together. So I didn’t. I cried.
  • I got back into bed and cried againg because I couldn’t face the day.
  • I cried on the way to school because I couldn’t imagine seeing a certain class, feeling the way I was feeling.
  • I cried when I got to school, and a colleague checked on me. She then told me about her infant loss years ago, and we both cried a bit more.
  • I cried because my HOD hugged me, because she’s the most supportive person I’ve ever worked under.
  • I cried when my register class kids checked on me, as they’ve been doing since I got back to work.
  • I still haven’t found a dress for the matric dance tomorrow, and while shopping I ended up crying in every change room because I had to look at my scars every time I changed.
  • I cried on the way home because I don’t like the way I look. I barely recognise myself.
  • I cried outside my house because I hate my body right now.
  • I cried because my pain hurts my husband.
  • I cried because I didn’t want him to cry. So I tried to hide my emotions, and pushed him away.
  • We both ended up crying anyway. Together.
  • I cried because I have friends and family who understand.
  • At some point today, I cried because I have friends and family who don’t understand.
  • I cried because I feel like I’m broken.
  • Eventually, I cried myself to sleep for a while.
  • And now, I still feel like I can’t find the strength to do anything. But I feel just a little bit better.

In the middle of the night

20180831_003639_0001 As I lay in bed, emotion rises in my breast like bile in my throat.

I am angry.

I am angry that I can’t sleep because I’m worried about the fact that my husband is unhappy. Not in our marriage, but because yet again, his heart is broken from losing a child, worrying about his wife, feeling like there’s nothing he can do.

I am angry that evey time I’ve felt secure and ready and normal again, I’ve been broken by another loss.

Just imagine it.

First loss: miscarriage on my birthday, first pregnancy, first time we tried to get pregnant. We mourn that loss, and in the week I would have been due if I hadn’t miscarried, ectopic pregnancy.
Second loss: surgery, hospital, physical recovery, figuring out how to be normal. Realising that I need to mourn. Eventually feel ready and start trying again. Nothing. Fertility drugs. Nothing. Get tired of the expense and the mood swings. Body returns to a natural cycle, feel hopeful. In the same week, a year after our second loss, while trying to deal with the worry about the fact that we aren’t conceiving, it happens again.
Third loss: ectopic. Ruptured fallopian tube. Same hospital. Surgery. Physical pain. Can’t even begin to face the emotional pain.

I am so angry that after everything we’ve been through, it seems impossible that it could happen again. But it has. And I’m just angry.

I’m tired of being this broken person, who is reminded at every turn that I can’t do what I was designed to do, what every species on earth is geared to do; I can’t seem to sustain a pregnancy.

I am angry that I have to tell another installment in this journey of suffering.
I am angry that I have to carry this label: the mother who has no children.

I am angry that I have no answers, no real course of treatment, no statistical hope.

And my anger is exhausting me.
I just want to be able to have a peaceful sleep.
I just want to stop worrying.

I just want to hold our baby in my arms, and be the mother I know I’m meant to be.

I am angry. I am tired. I am mourning. I am disappointed in my own body.

I wish I could end this post with a “but”.

When you don’t know what to say

“I just don’t know what to say”.

I can’t count the amount of messages I’ve received saying this. I usually respond with “thank you” because I have no idea how to respond to someone saying they don’t know what to say. No offence, but it’s not really a message. It’s not really saying anything. It’s really just wanting to send a message because you know you should.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all the messages, calls, visits, prayers, everything. But at the worst time in our lives, it’s difficult to have to feel that we have to teach people how to relate to us.

However, since this blog is about creating awareness and sharing our journey, I wanted to try to help those around us to know how to help us (or others) mourn. I found quite a nice article on the Huffington Post, but it’s not exactly totally relevant to our situation. So I’ll add a few extra thoughts. Please read the entire article here:20180824_133913_0001.png

How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do

#1 Grief belongs to the griever.
This relates to allowing the person to grieve in their own way. While you may mean well, be careful of telling the person what to do, or give unsolicited advice.

#2 Stay present and state the truth.
All you need to say is what is true: that the situation is horrible, it’s a shock, you wish you could help, you’re here.

#3 Do not try to fix the unfixable.
Because you can’t.

#4 Be willing to witness searing, unbearable pain.
Our church friends and parents probably have had to witness some really difficult moments. In those moments, offer hugs, offer love. Stay. You being there can make it easier for us, so don’t shy away because it makes you uncomfortable. Which leads to the next point:

#5 This is not about you.
I honestly am not going to be a very good friend for a while. But please, after a couple of weeks for me to recover physically, don’t stop inviting me, don’t stop sending messages. Allow me to decide if I’m up to spending time with people.

I need to add this specifically about experiencing miscarriage: if you have a baby or are pregnant, don’t avoid someone who has had a miscarriage. It hurts. If you’re unsure, ask if the person would like a visit from the baby, and don’t be offended if they say they can’t handle it yet. But please understand that we probably love your child so much, and absolutely would never begrudge you your pregnancy. We’re moms too, and sometimes holding a baby whom we love can make us so happy. It can also make us cry. Either way, understand and love us through that.

Whatever you do, never complain about your pregnancy to us. Yes, it can be tough. But all we want is to be pregnant. It hurts to hear you complain about it.

#6 Anticipate, don’t ask.
This one is so important that I’ve copied the entire point in case you haven’t read the article:
Do not say “Call me if you need anything,” because your friend will not call. Not because they do not need, but because identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and then making a phone call to ask is light years beyond their energy levels, capacity or interest. Instead, make concrete offers: “I will be there at 4 p.m. on Thursday to bring your recycling to the curb,” or “I will stop by each morning on my way to work and give the dog a quick walk.” Be reliable.

#7 Do the recurring things.
Some of our friends and family have set up a roster to cook meals for us. Offer to do grocery shopping, to do a load of laundry. I know that I struggle to face household chores when I am grieving. The normal, everyday things remind me that life goes on, even when I need it to stop.

#8 Tackle projects together.
This point made me cry, because there is no funeral to plan.

#9 Run interference.
I am pretty honest about if and when I want to see people, but this may help others.

#10 Educate and advocate.
Firstly, educate yourself. And no, I don’t mean that you need to learn everything about ectopic pregnancy and then tell me what worked for other people. Right now, I am focused on mourning my child. Please don’t encourage me to keep trying. It trivializes my grief and my child’s life, like it is just something I missed. Like it’s a train I didn’t catch, but can catch the next one.

#11 Love.
Show up and listen. You are more than welcome to ask questions, but be prepared for the answers. Stick around. Ask if you can give hugs. Sit and watch series with me. Make tea. Above all, remember how much I appreciate it all, and that I love you for loving us.

In the waiting.

I was angry, my unjust justifications had abdicated God from His rightful place. My heart an abhorrent usurper, intent on the throne of control. My mind spent hours justifying my standpoint, I should be a dad by now! I serve God, I followed the rules. Why would put this strong desire in me if he didn’t intend for me to have a child? Why can’t I have my son in my arms right now? How my pride and folly fueled my arguments!

A year ago, my wife was admitted to hospital to remove an ectopic pregnancy. The words still rattle me, and the memories of the experience are brutal. Relentless memories of what was perhaps the most difficult few days of my life. Again, brokeness and sadness lifted its blade to my neck, threatening to drain what little faith was left in me. Each word from the doctors lips draining the life from us, as he explained how he was about to remove what was lost mere hours before.

I sat in the waiting room, waiting to hear that she was ok. To hear that all had gone smoothly. Though I had already lost a second child, fear permeates through thoughts that perhaps the loss was not yet completed, perhaps God was going to take my wife too.

No words can fully encapsulate the sense of helplessness that engulfs when you are going through this process as a man. The knowledge that your words cannot heal, that your arms cannot break the hurt, and that you are ineffectual against the growing fears in her heart. It shakes the very core of manhood, it rocks pride from your being. The only glowing light in the darkness is the knowledge that God is in control. To relinquish control is one of the most difficult things in a Christian man’s life. The masculine identity is one of control, protection, provision and strength. This is wrong, true strength is submission, servanthood and leadership built on following Christ.

BUT God’s peace transcends in these moments, where any semblance of control or reason is ripped from your grasp. As I spent time praying, God whispered against the darkness. He reassured me through the pain. Had it not been for His purpose and provision over our lives, we would have broken completely. What we often fail to remember in our trials, is that we were never promised an easy life. We were never promised a smooth journey. We were promised a present Father, a loving Father who would comfort us, and help us endure the darkest nights in our lives. This year has been one of the darkest nights in our journey. Relief a shore on which we would seemingly never alight, but God carries us, His grace envelops us. It has been a difficult journey, but the joy of the Lord sustains us.

Psalm 16
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord , “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.20180815_084701_0001.png