Parents

Standing Up

As we stand up for women’s health care and women’s right to choose, I’m standing up to say, “I’m that woman.”
01/24/2017 04:52pm ET | Updated January 25, 2017

Marching in D.C.

I just had my third miscarriage in the span of a year and this one cost about 30,000 dollars.

(I would say the first two were free, but with health insurance the way it is, that’s not true.)

I went through IVF to get pregnant and then I started bleeding and cramping due to a subchorionic hematoma at 5-and-a-half weeks. In the end, I lost the baby along with a blood clot.

Less than a week after I miscarried, I went to D.C. with my family for the Women’s March to, among other things, stand up for women’s rights as human rights. The day after I miscarried, I was feeling pretty good. I was so relieved to be able to have my life back after a week of trying to rest. The damage was done, no more sitting on the couch wondering if I was sitting enough and then anxiously taking care of my kids.

But the next day, the news came out that the Congress was working to take away the health insurance of 20 million people and my desperately wanted baby was gone, dammit. I spent a few days in a dark cloud feeling like I could barely see with my eyes open.

We’d booked our hotel in Alexandria back in October, believing Hilary would will. After she lost the electoral vote, we weren’t sure what to do and then the Women’s March was created and the answer was clear; we would go to protest.

So after a few depressing days, the distraction of being in a new place helped, but what really made me feel better was being around thousands of women, men and children who were standing up for love and equality. And one of the best things about bringing kids was having the task of explaining what we were doing and why, saying things like, “All people deserve respect” and knowing everyone around agreed.

When I was 23, had cryotherapy at Planned Parenthood to freeze off pre-cancerous cells on my cervix. At 26, I had an elective abortion there. (My mother had tried to jump off a bridge and had just come out of a three week stay in a mental hospital the week I found out. No, I didn’t feel able to handle a baby then.)

At 32, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy after the “perfect” pregnancy. At 34, I gave birth to a 7 pound, 1 ounce dead baby. (The cord was wrapped up from his belly, around his neck, down his back, up through his legs and then around his middle. He was tied up like a package and his oxygen supply was cut off when he dropped to be born. The women who delivered Milan unwound him carefully after his birth so the placenta wouldn’t yank out, which would risk me bleeding to death.).

Then after these two low risk pregnancies, I had a highly monitored high risk pregnancy during which I learned a whole bunch about what doctors don’t talk about or test for during a low risk one. No, women do not get equal care during pregnancy.

After welcoming our ray of light daughter into the world successfully, we wanted one more and have spent the last two years trying. First we got pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby that we terminated at exactly 14 weeks. (Down syndrome is one of the causes of stillbirth and we didn’t feel like our family could go through that again, among other overwhelming reasons. Yes, I was heartbroken.)

Then I’ve had 3 miscarriages in the span of a year. After the first one, I went to a fertility doctor who explained that, at 39, it’s about egg quality and now every time I get pregnant there’s a 50-50 chance of having a healthy living baby. And that if I wanted help, I’d have to go “whole hog” and do IVF with genetic testing to maybe result in a baby.

He advised to keep trying to get pregnant on my own until I had enough miscarriages and was sick of it. Inspired by his go get em’ pep talk, I got pregnant again a month later, but there was no heartbeat at my first check-up.

After that, I was done. I was ready for help and ready for the invasiveness and hoops I had to jump through during IVF. I started the process in September and on Dec. 20th, I transferred my one genetically normal egg. On January 15th, it was over and on January 21st I was inspired by the protesters in D.C., no longer obsessed with my own pain; more interested in our collective concerns and vision.

Which sounds so fancy, right? Like I’m above feeling sorry for myself that this pregnancy didn’t work out? No, I’m not. I’m sure at some point soon I’ll have another good cry. But after I lost this last one, I started to think, “Who does my silence benefit?” Why am I keeping quiet?

After my first miscarriage, I ended up in the ER for an emergency CAT scan. I’d had a suction procedure in my doctor’s office and had swelling a couple days afterward that got me an MRI. The MRI tech thought I might have a blood clot and a blood clot can equal a quick death and so I was sent to the emergency room. And it was fricking hard because I’d just lost a baby and I was afraid of dying and though I let everyone know I was at the ER (“Please pray for me and send good vibes!”) I didn’t tell most people what really happened. Why? For whose benefit?

After my son died, one of the hardest things to do was answer the question, “How many children do you have?” It was excruciating to try to find the words. Lately I say, “I have two with me” or “I have two living and one in spirit”, but at the time I was trying to figure out how to tell strangers on the playground that I had a living son and a dead son.

Early on, I decided that I would count my dead child when I was asked about my children; I just couldn’t betray my son for the sake of social graces. I refuse to pretend my son doesn’t exist to make other people comfortable.

The benefit of my loyalty has been that other people regularly open up to me. Countless times women have told me about their own issues with getting pregnant or miscarrying and people I never would have known had IVF or pregnancy complications tell me all the details. And I love the details. I want to hear what happened and how they made it through.

I’ve heard so many stories about how women have made, lost or avoided babies. And you know what? It has made me feel better. I know several families that used IVF to create every one of their children. Knowing those stories helped me gather the courage to go through the process myself (and not feel totally defeated when the first try didn’t work).

At this point, I have tried talking about it and tried out being quiet and my experience is that both versions are painful because loss hurts no matter what. But when I have talked about my experiences, I have connected with other women (and sometimes men too) and ultimately that has made me feel less alone, less like a failure and more grounded in an life arc that is greater than myself.

When I looked at the sea of posters and pink pussy hats, I remembered that we all want our life experience to be validated and our rights to be upheld. Nothing is wrong with us, so why hide?

Reflecting, I realized that I haven’t talked openly about the miscarriages because I have been ashamed. Ashamed that my body hasn’t been able to make or carry the last child I want and ashamed that I asked for help from doctors for this last round.

I hid it. I hid some of the biggest events of this last year and for who?Communication has the practical purpose of sharing information. After the death of my son, I learned that studies show tracking a baby’s movements in the third trimester helps prevent stillbirth. I joined a group called Healthy Birth Day to promote the Count the Kicks campaign.

Working with other women to help prevent what killed my son has been the most healing action I have taken because it works. The group and it’s successful public awareness campaign is featured in the Feburary 2017 O magazine. More importantly, the stillbirth rate in the originating state has dropped 26 percent since Count the Kicks launched in 2009. Sharing saves lives.

As I see it, telling the truth here serves three purposes. First off, I want to feel better. I’m sick of pretending and want to shed the shame. Secondly, I hope this is heard by whoever needs to hear it. I think we women have been trained to shut the heck up about our life experiences and a core aspect of changing the social narrative is telling our stories. As we stand up for women’s health care and women’s right to choose, I’m standing up to say, “I’m that woman.” No more hiding, I want to be a a beacon of light.

Lastly, I want action. There is no treatment for how I just lost my last pregnancy and yet, “Subchorionic hemorrhage (subchorionic hematoma) is the most common sonographic abnormality in the presence of a live embryo. Vaginal bleeding affects 25% of all women during the first half of pregnancy and is a common reason for first-trimester ultrasonography,”according to medscape.com.

And why is there no treatment? Because there’s little research and, overall, I think the lack of research in women’s healthcare is unacceptable crap. Did you know that African American women have over double the number of stillbirths than Caucasian women have in our country?* No? That’s because no one talks about it and that makes me effing crazy!

Black mothers, I stand with you. ALL mothers, I stand with you. Women who choose to do important things other than parent, I stand with you. Men, we NEED you, I stand with you. Children, I stand up for you until the day I die. I CHOOSE LOVE.

Sure, part of me is freaked out about putting my reproductive history on the internet, but how can it really hurt me? The dead stay dead, the disappointments have already happened, the truth remains.

Yes, when we put ourselves out there we risk being judged, but I’m safe if I stay clear on my perspective and purpose rather than adopting my reviews.

In a time of “alternate facts,” I choose to stand up for authenticity. I say we ALL stand up and tell our truth because there is nothing to hide. Let’s share our stories to heal, to connect and, ultimately, to create change. Please don’t shut up, SHINE BRIGHT!!

My ray of light!

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