Sunday, June 28, 2009

So. Success After a Loss.

Blessing and a curse.

And I'm not talking about just going through the experience, which seems to be almost universally rough, at least through the first tri. Hats off to positive people like my friends Heather and Babs who were far more graceful and either way more positive or way better at hiding or coping with their fears than me. I can't remember Heather being at all fearful or calm, just perhaps a little superstitious in that she would tell us after the fact that she'd had an appointment or u/s that went well. I can remember only two times that Babs really lost her nerves of steel, when there was spotting, and as she approached the date of her first loss which coincided with an OB appointment.

Obviously, I'm the chick who routinely lost her shit and didn't really cherish or enjoy the first tri at all (the last couple weeks haven't been so bad, really, though). And that's ok. I know there are a lot of us lose your shit type people out there, and maybe I've helped someone avoid being like me or helped someone know it's ok to freak out a little. Shrug.

I'm really beginning to settle in and enjoy more - the lessening nausea assists that endeavor, btw. Which caused me to reflect a bit on how I've gotten to this point. Which made me grateful for the Success After Loss (or SAL) boards I've visited.

These are wonderful communities filled with women who understand the ups and downs that you go through after a previous loss. They understand the beta hell, and the total fear before an u/s, and the dagger that is loss of innocence in pregnancy. They have lovely mantras (which seem to help some people, but were more likely to drive me batty than help - what can I say? Repeating words I'm not sure I really believe in has never made me believe in them, but I've seen them help other people) like "Today I am pregnant and I love my baby!" and "Previous history does not determine current success." and "Miscarriage is not contagious. It doesn't matter who you know in real life or on the boards or wherever that has had a loss - you can't catch it." and "You cannot jinx this pregnancy - putting up a ticker, telling your family or a friend or buying something for the baby will not affect the outcome of your pregnancy." They let you freak the fuck out, even when it's totally insane, they bring you back down to earth and they generally are nice, supportive women who have been there, so they get it.

I've also found they tend to be less drama-filled and inclined to be sugary sweet, so I don't hang out there 100%. Not my cup of tea all the time - though I make an effort to participate in the boards and reciprocate the generous support I've received. I try to relieve newbie fears as they did mine and celebrate the good news of the other women.

But I've found - as wonderful as that support is, and much as it helped me to get through some difficult times when I simply couldn't talk to my friends or blog about things because I felt so negative and so cut off and frankly, a little schizophrenic - there is most definitely an edge to things.

It's very much like that book I talked about awhile back. One I bought in hope the weekend before my first u/s, a book about coping with pregnancy after a loss. It was utterly terrifying to me. I thought it would bring some comfort and instead of comfort, I read horror story after horror story about various pregnancy losses - things that had never occurred to me to be concerned over because they are so rare, were suddenly thrust right in my face with accusatory undertones saying 'This does happen. It happened to this woman. It could happen to you too.' The book was far from comforting and I stuck it on the shelf and have not touched it since.

I've found the SAL boards have that same edge. The dark side, if you will, to the support and caring is being thrust face to face with some of your worst fears. Ask a question about say, the odds of a missed miscarriage after you see a heartbeat: One the tri boards, you are likely to get a very factual answer - your risks are under 5% if you've seen a heartbeat between 6-10 weeks and drop more after you hear a heartbeat on doppler or that missed miscarriage is pretty rare and really only accounts for about 1-2% of miscarriages. Ask on the SAL boards, and you are likely to be flooded with emotional stories of several women who saw h/b's at 7-9 weeks and went back for the next appointment to a baby that stopped developing shortly thereafter - but GL! A comment on rarity of the situation will be refuted by a number of women who point out it happened to them.

And you learn about totally heart-wrenching stories of losses in the second trimester - still births and tiny babies and how these women live in fear for many weeks, terrified of one of the happiest moments of most normal pregnancies - the big u/s. You read about women debating between very inductions or just outright c-sections or fighting the instinct to let the baby cook awhile longer - because their full term children died of cord accidents or in utero for unexplained reasons and there is the clear feeling or implication that had they only done something sooner, the baby would have lived and they are not going to repeat the mistake again. And your heart breaks for them and the uncertainty and fear they deal with for 40 weeks, never really feeling a respite from the anxiety, and you wonder how they cope.

Stories, in short, that statistically are in fact pretty rare. That don't happen commonly, that in normal course you might hear about from a friend of a friend or a distant relative and shake your head sadly. But in these communities, the actual women themselves are gathered and so the statistics are completely invalid - because we are the women in that first group of 15-25% who experienced a miscarriage and further break down into those tiny statistics of things that are so rare and so unlikely to occur in the normal course of things.

Blessings and curses. There is an overwhelming sense of comraderie and sisterhood and support given freely. There is also a desperation and sadness and stifling, choking fear that can be read between the lines. At one point, at my lowest, all it did was terrify me and mock me that any of this could happen to me again, and I stayed away for a bit. Now I go back, feeling obligated to return the favor - to soothe and calm and bolster where I can. I wonder if I am alone in feeling the two edges of that sword in those groups. I see some post on tri boards and other who do not, citing all the drama and sometimes the ungratefulness or naivete that exist there. Me, I often prefer to lose myself in some of the normal pregnancies and forget that there are dangers that lurk outside my control. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't. I am grateful for them . . . but sometimes wish I could do without them.


Lindsay said...

Wonderful post. This will ring true for all women who have gone through a loss. Thank you!


Ibis said...

No, you are not alone in feeling that way. I can't attempt to be articulate right now but I'm pickin up what you're puttin down.

Susan K said...

I couldn't agree more. I always have to remind myself that anywhere on the internet, you hear more about the crazy, unlikely and horrible things that happen than about the totally boringly normal stuff. And I often get this sense on SAL that people are actually less likely to rush to comfort someone who's, say, having spotting, because they don't want to suggest that they might be having a miscarriage. A blessing, for sure, but always to be taken with a grain of salt. We've ALL suffered.