Surviving The Holidays After Miscarriage

Last year, somewhere in between Thanksgiving and the first few days of December, my husband and I unexpectedly conceived our first child. I revealed the pregnancy to him by giving him two Christmas ornaments to hang on our tree with the big news written on them – he was super excited! That entire holiday season was spent bonding over the pregnancy and the new baby that was forming in my belly. It really added to the magic of Christmas and the anticipation of the New Year! We were so excited, so proud, and so in love.

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“Coming August 2016” “You+Me=3”

Unfortunately, my baby barely made it to February; I miscarried when I was 2 1/2 months along.

Now, I’m remembering all the times last year when I thought “this time next year we’ll have a 4 month old” or “next year will be our baby’s first Christmas”. Those thoughts come back to haunt me now; I feel so let down.

For many people, the holiday season is a wonderful time filled with love, laughter, and family. But for couples who have gone through miscarriage or infant loss, the holidays can be tough just like they can be after any other loss. It’s hard to be filled with holiday cheer when someone you love is missing, and it seems like the joyousness of the season only magnifies your pain.  If you’re struggling to enjoy this holiday season after your loss or while battling infertility, I wanted to share some tips that may help you along the way.

  1. Do a lot of what makes your heart happy – Never forget that it’s okay to feel sadness! You’ve experienced a tremendous loss and you may have to be intentional about finding happiness and joy this holiday season. That’s okay! Indulge in the things that put a smile on your face and really try to soak in each day as it comes! Maybe it’s binge watching Christmas movies, baking cookies, or decorating for the holiday. Or perhaps it’s volunteering at a warming center, hosting your immediate family for dinner, taking a good nap or going on a vacation with your spouse. Whatever you enjoy, do that. Wherever your happy place is, go there. Take care of yourself!
  2. Remember that it’s okay to say ‘no’ – With it being the holidays you are going to get invited to a lot of gatherings, parties and family get-togethers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, but the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be overwhelming at times! Throw in there the heartbreak and anxiety that comes with infertility, infant loss, or miscarriage and it can be downright emotionally draining. You’ve got your pregnant friends, your sister-in-law who just had her baby, your nosy aunt who is wondering why you haven’t had kids yet…there are reminders everywhere. If you are feeling too sad, vulnerable or upset to attend an event, don’t go! It’s okay to guard your heart and take a day! You have to know your limits and realize that it is okay to say no.  I’m not suggesting you isolate yourself from everyone, I think we all need people to make it through hard times. For me, that person is primarily my husband but I also lean on my mommy and sister. Ultimately all I’m saying is this: don’t feel like you have to accept every invitation that comes your way just because it’s the holiday. On the flip side though, you may want to consider how going out and being surrounded by family and friends could be good for you, too.
  3. Find a way to remember your baby during the holiday – Do something extra special to help you feel closer to the baby you lost. I’ve known people to hang special Christmas ornaments or stockings for their babies. Personally, since Thanksgiving I’ve worn a special piece of jewelry to family gatherings, holiday parties, and pretty much every where else I go. I’ve also watched our pregnancy reveal videos a few times and it warms my heart. We surprised our family with the news while playing Mad Gab at Christmas dinner last year. Other than ultrasound pictures and hearing the heartbeat, this is one of the only other positive memories I have of my little one. It is such a healing element for me to watch those videos and remember August this wa way.
  4. Sponsor a child for Christmas – Marcus and I have so much love to give. August sparked a fire in our hearts and I seriously cannot wait to love on and spoil my future babies! These feelings are totally magnified during this holiday shopping season when you feel like you “should be” buying gifts for your new baby, and it’s easy to get down about that. While you may not be able to celebrate Christmas with your child the way you envisioned you would, you can still put a smile on a little one’s face! Sponsoring or adopting a child in need for the holidays while grieving the loss of your own may not be easy. But for me, just thinking of buying gifts for a baby or child who needs them ministers to my heart in ways I can’t even describe. It is the epitome of what Jesus meant when he said “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. This idea came to me as my hubby and I were out doing some Christmas shopping last week, and I really wish we had thought of it sooner! If I can find someone to sponsor this year I’d still like to do it, but it will definitely be something we start doing next year. You may even want to consider sponsoring a child that’s the same gender and age that your child would have been had they survived. Admittedly, this has the potential to be a painful experience. It may evoke negative feelings to shop for a child and buy things you would have bought for your own, so I would definitely pray about it and talk with your partner before committing to something like this. Same goes for my next tip.
  5. Buy gifts for your future baby – So back in the day, an unmarried woman would keep a chest full of things she intended to use in her future married life – it was called a hope chest. Today it looks more like the storage trunk at the foot of your bed. Why aren’t we applying this concept when trying to conceive a baby? A lot of people believe it is bad luck or a “jinx” to buy baby items before you are pregnant, but I believe there is nothing wrong with having faith in God’s ability to open your womb or bring a baby into your life through adoption. How many times have you walked past the baby section in Target in shame, feeling like you’ve been denied entry to some sort of VIP section of the club? Let me let you off the hook: you can go there, and you can buy things. Clearly this is for me too, as I haven’t exactly worked up the courage to actually do this yet…but I think about it all the time. At first I found the idea of buying things for a baby I haven’t even conceived yet a little strange, but the more I think about it the more comfortable I become. Why not? Everything is on sale at this time of year anyway and you’re likely to find some good deals! It’s a great way to stay active and build excitement while you wait for your bundle of joy.

I truly hope this helps someone out there cope with their loss this Christmas. I understand that everyone handles miscarriage differently, so some of these tips may or may not help you on your personal journey. Overall, I pray that you find the strength and peace to enjoy the magic and joyousness of the holiday season, despite your situation. Please share ways you’ve been able to make it through this time of year after your loss! I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas to you!

-Nikkie

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Photo credit: Beth Hutter B&B Photography

Everything You Need To Know About A D&C

As if losing a child to miscarriage isn’t hard enough, adding surgery on top of that can be overwhelming for some women. I know it felt that way for me! For those who don’t know my story, I found out at 10 weeks that I miscarried my first child with my husband. My body did not expel the pregnancy on its own; I had what is called a missed miscarriage.

This type of miscarriage means that there are little to no symptoms, the baby just dies and usually the mother doesn’t find out until the next routine ultrasound. The only symptom I had was very light, bright pink discharge, but this was enough to send me to the ER in a panic. That night we found out we had lost the baby; I was supposed to be 10 weeks but he was only measuring at 9 weeks. This meant he had likely already been dead for a week or so, unbeknownst to me. My body held on to the pregnancy – both the tiny placenta and tiny baby remained inside of me – seemingly unphased by the fact that this little life was over now and the pregnancy was no longer viable. So, one week later at 11 weeks “pregnant” I found myself at the hospital having a D&C.

 

What is a D&C?

D&C stands for dilation and curettage; a surgical procedure that is performed to remove the contents of the uterus. The surgery is typically performed when a woman is having intrauterine problems, like an incomplete or missed miscarriage, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or heavy vaginal bleeding. Dilation is the act of opening your cervix; the “mouth” of the uterus. Curettage is the part where the tissue is removed- usually by suction or by a tool called a curette, which is a small metal tool used to scrape the uterine lining.

 

What happens during a D&C?

During the surgery, you lay on your back and they put your feet up in stirrups  – exactly how it’s done during your yearly lady exam. A speculum is inserted into your vagina to open it, and then your cervix is dilated to access your uterus. The procedure is minimally-invasive, meaning that no cuts have to be made and that everything is done through the natural openings in your body. The surgery is commonly done under general anesthesia (they put you completely under), though sometimes it can also be done with a local anesthetic (they numb the area). It’s usually completed in less than 20 minutes, you have to wait around for a few hours, and then usually you get to go home. Just make sure you have someone to drive you! Depending on the circumstance, some of the extracted fetal tissue may be sent to labs for examination but in my case, the tissue was not tested. They may do this for recurrent miscarriages or at the family’s request.

 

How do you feel initially after the D&C?

Waking up from the surgery, the first person I saw was my husband, which was the most comforting thing. But I also remember feeling

  • Sad
  • Tired and Groggy (from the anesthesia and from the pain medicine)
  • Tender and Sore
  • Thirsty
  • Nauseous and
  • Angry

I barely remember anything any of the doctors or nurses said to me that day. But I will always remember how I felt.

How was the recovery after the procedure?

Physically, recovery was a little painful but definitely manageable. I stayed in bed for a couple days and after that I was up and about, but my activity was restricted. I could not exercise, be submerged in water (no pools, hot tubs, bubble baths, etc.), lift anything heavy, wear tampons, have sex with my husband, or do any other vigorous activity for 4 weeks.  Other than that, it was back to class and studying as “usual”.

My Gyn did prescribe Misoprostol, which is a medicine I took after the D&C that is used to stimulate contraction of the uterus. This is not required of everyone that has a miscarriage and I hated that I had to take it myself, but if it is indicated by your doctor then I advocate following their advice. They usually have you take it if you have retained some fetal tissue, it helps to expel everything and prevent infection. But please be aware: This same medicine can also be used to induce labor. It was painful. It was extremely bloody. It was draining. My doctor also prescribed Ibuprofen and Tylenol with Codeine though, so I was able to stay ahead of the pain and keep it managed… it was like bad menstrual cramps with a very painful contraction thrown in here and there.

For a week or so after the surgery, I had to sleep on a bath towel and set alarms throughout the night to wake up and change my pad. There was A LOT of blood. One day while at school the bleeding was so bad that I contemplated going to the ER; I was soaking a pad every half hour for about 3 hours straight, and passing huge clots. In between classes I went to the bathroom and had a big contraction while squatting over the toilet. I passed a clot, and then some tissue literally the size of the palm of my hand fell onto the bathroom stall floor – the pain from the contraction was so bad that I winced and subsequently missed the bowl. I had to clean blood off the floor and the side of the toilet bowl before heading back to class. Still haven’t gone back in that bathroom.

I was SO frustrated that I had to go through this after the D&C. It seemed unfair that the miscarriage was dragging on for this long. But, I have to imagine that had I not had the D&C, there wold have been much more blood and pain than I could handle going through the miscarriage naturally. Possibly even an infection. So ultimately the procedure was worth it for me as the physical pain was manageable; it was the emotional pain that was far worse.

 

How long after the procedure does it take to get your period? What was that like?

It took exactly 5 weeks and 4 days from the day of the D&C for me to get my first period. Textbook is anywhere from 4-6 weeks, but of course that varies from woman to woman. If you go longer than 7 weeks I’d call your doctor; not because it means there is something wrong…but just for your sanity. That first period was bittersweet. Bitter because it really put the nail in the coffin for me (no pun intended). I hadn’t had a period since November and my first period post-miscarriage was in March, so reality really set in that this baby was gone and I was no longer pregnant. It sucked. But the “sweet” aspect was that I felt like my body was finally getting back to normal. Having a period was a good thing! Even though it kicked my butt and hit me like a ton of bricks, it meant things were functioning the way they were supposed to in there and I could finally move forward physically with recovery. 🙂

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Just make sure Dr. Love isn’t your gynecologist and you should definitely survive your D&C 🙂

All in all, the D&C was an effective way to complete my miscarriage when my body wouldn’t do it on it’s own. If you have any questions about my experience with the procedure feel free to comment below or shoot me an email!

How was your experience with D&C? Did you have to help nurse your partner back to health after the surgery? Are you a little less nervous about your upcoming procedure after reading this? Let me know! 🙂

 

 

xoxo

 

-N

5 Things I Did To Cope With Pregnancy Loss

Losing a loved one can be awful. When that loved one is a child, whom you never had the chance to meet; it’s proves to be a very unique type of loss.

I struggled (and still do) with our miscarriage. It is just a different kind of loss. There are usually no funerals, no announcements on Facebook, no bereavement days off from work. Life carries on as usual even though your private world is crashing down. It’s rough. 

But, here we are 5 months later and I am making it. My marriage is stronger than ever and I don’t cry 2-3 times a day, every day, anymore. I’m making it through. And it feels good to be able to say that.

I want to share 5 major things I do/did that I believe help me cope with the loss. I know everyone handles loss [in general, and miscarriage in particular] differently, so these things may not work for you. But, I did just want to share what has helped me heal, and I invite you to share what has helped you, too!

  1. Name your baby –  We gave our little nugget a name! The saying by Dr. Suess, “a person’s a person no matter how small” has never been more relevant in my life. Picking a name was a way for us to honor the life and little person that was, and also helped provide a small sense of closure. Naming helped to make a familial connection with the baby and gave me a way to reference him without saying “the baby I miscarried”. We picked the name August. I don’t really expect anyone else to call my unborn child by that name, but it helps when I can say to my husband “I miss August”. I’ll blog more about the name choice some other time! 
  2. Go on a trip – We got away, just hubby and I! We went on a short weekend trip to Chicago, and it was a great opportunity to get out of the house, try to relax, and forget about our circumstances; if even for a moment. After the miscarriage and subsequent surgery we couldn’t have sex for a little while, which was really hard on us, but the trip helped us to reconnect and spend uninterrupted time just enjoying each other’s company. A change of scenery never hurts, even if it involves a day at the beach or staying the night at a local hotel. Just get away!
  3. Online forums – People just don’t talk about miscarriage. Society has thrown ‘miscarriage’ into a pile of dirty words and no one likes to discuss it. This is why I started this blog; reading about other people going through the same thing was a huge outlet for me…and I hope to be that for someone else. I spent so much time searching for blogs, forums, and online support groups that allowed me to connect with other women going through pregnancy loss. Knowing that I was not alone in my grief and feelings helped tremendously. 
  4. Allowed myself to grieve – Possibly the best thing for my healing process was recognizing that it was a process and allowing myself to feel whatever it was that I felt during that time. When I wanted to cry, I did. When I was happy, I rode that wave for as long as I could. People tried to push me to “get over it” and people were also offended when I didn’t want to talk or spend time with them while I grieved. Some people felt as though my reaction was too intense and I shouldn’t be so down. But at the end of the day, you have to do what works for you. Focus on yourself and do (or don’t do) whatever you feel like. I remember feeling so much pressure to “be okay” even when I wasn’t. When I finally stopped forcing the process is when I truly began healing. Take care of yourself! 
  5. Make plans for the “hard days”  – So there are those days that come around that remind you of the loss. Those anniversaries and would-be-due-dates that loom over you as the calendar days count down. Make plans for those days. Hubby and I are planning to do a balloon release on August’s due date. Looking forward to that helps me to keep my head up when I’d otherwise be dreading the day. 


What are some things you did to help cope with your loss? Thinking of trying any of my suggestions? Maybe you didn’t have a miscarriage but you helped a sister, friend, or whoever cope with theirs; what did you do? Comments are welcome! Let’s talk!