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6527212 November 30, 2009

Miscarriage: An Aberration Story

... we can not take a child's life for granted.

Norman Lear said, "To sit around and puzzle, 'What is my destiny?' is to go slowly insane." I don't know why we're all here but I do know that we're blessed--blessed to experience the gift of life. Even when life sucks, it's all good because it's happening. Ask anyone who's lost a loved one. Ask someone who's dying.

Like George Bailey (It's a Wonderful Life) maybe you think your life generally stinks. Maybe at times you feel under-appreciated, that you've lost opportunities, that you've not touched enough lives in a positive way. I'll admit that I feel that way sometimes, especially the older I get. I see time running out. I look back and think of all the things I could and should have done, all the people I've hurt, and all the ignorant mistakes I've made. I wish I could have a do-over. Sometimes I grieve over all that and wonder why I'm here at all.

But then I remember the incredible odds I beat just to show up in this crazy world. A cool site called, All About Life's Challenges says miscarriage statistics can be dramatic. Miscarriage reportedly occurs in 20 percent of all pregnancies. However, according to some sources, this may be an inaccurate number. Many women, before realizing a life has begun forming within them, may miscarry without knowing it-assuming their miscarriage is merely a heavier period. Therefore, the miscarriage rate may be closer to 40 or 50 percent. Of the number of women who miscarry, 20 percent will suffer recurring miscarriages.

Perhaps due to these statistics, it seems that our society has become immune to the grief and trauma that can be associated with miscarriage. But if you sit back and think about not only the women who suffer through them, but also the odds of any of us actually getting our feet on the ground, it's sobering. We can't always stop nature but we can certainly better appreciate our own gift of life.

This is how Diana has come to view the lives of her three children, as well as her own. Despite the painful journey she and her husband navigated through to build their family, she continues to count her blessings everyday. Like George Bailey, she appreciates what Clarence meant when he said, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

After all, our destiny lies in a million little things. Norman Lear also said, "Ninety-nine and 44/100 percent of everybody are not devising the new surgical procedure, are not designing the car, are not becoming Senator or President or going to the moon. The rest of them must be involved in understanding that success is a collection of their minutes, the totality of their lives. It is no good even if one does become the doctor, devises the operation, if the minutes that preceded it were miserable. There's a candidate for a high window and a big fall."

Diana's story will remind you to be thankful for simply having the chance to show up and hang your hat. The rest is icing on the cake.

You have three beautiful daughters; however, you also have a couple of difficult pregnancies that resulted in miscarriage. Can you tell us what happened?

After trying for not such a long time, I found myself pregnant with my first child. It was great because one of my dear friends was also pregnant with her first, and we were due within a couple of weeks apart. I was working at an insurance company and there were a number of other women pregnant at the same time. I was roughly 28 or 29 years old at the time. Unfortunately, at that time, my father was having chest pains, and was diagnosed with blockage in his arteries. He needed to have a multiple bypass operation and at that time, I was around five months pregnant. So, on Valentine's Day, 1998, he was scheduled for his operation. Ironic that his heart would be repaired on Valentine's Day.

My husband wanted me to relax and go out with our other couple friends for dinner. Of course, how could I concentrate when I wasn't sure my Daddy would survive the surgery? I remember my mother and sister telling me to go to dinner. It would be our last Valentine's Day without kids. I reluctantly went. Long story, short, my father is also a church pastor. So, I returned the next day to find that my Dad was allowed to have well over 40 visitors the day after his surgery! I was extremely upset, and expressed that sentiment to every hospital worker who would listen. He recovered from surgery with flying colors, but my extreme concern remained.

I remember going to work one day, not long after, and a colleague asked me if I felt that new feeling in my belly, fluttering. I told her no, but thought nothing of it. But, I do remember her facial expression. One of those expressions that says something's not right, but she wasn't about to be the bearer of that news. Is still thought nothing of it. I was having my first ultrasound in less than a week. Fast-forward to my ultrasound. I laid down, gel was put on my belly, the technician began. I had the look of anticipation. I couldn't wait to hear the details. She said, "I'll be right back." I asked if everything was OK. She just said she needed to talk to the doctor. The doctor appeared, and I will never, ever forget what he looks like. He came straight to me, introduced himself, and said, "We're getting an abnormal result from your ultrasound. If you have any questions, your doctor will be hear to answer your questions." And he turned around and walked out of the room, while I screamed, "What's wrong with my baby?!??!". No answer.

A doctor in my OB/GYN's practice appeared to say that my baby was not alive, and had probably been dead for a few days. I had to come back the next day to deliver the baby. I asked to be put under total anesthesia, which of course, they wouldn't do, so they just heavily sedated me after inducing me at five and a half months. The sedation wore off, and then, to my horror, I delivered my baby alone in a hospital room while screaming bloody murder. I will never ever forget every detail of that day.

I can't image losing a pregnancy. Can you share with us what type of emotional and physical toll the loses took on you?

More sadly than anything, as I am a born-again Christian, I was so angry at God. I stopped going to Church and stopped accepting phone calls to "pray with me". My OB/GYN advised me to take my eight weeks of maternity leave from Church, and I did. I was a total wreck, and I didn't think I would ever recover. I moved out of my husband and my home, and moved back in with my parents. My husband and I really were not speaking much. I am not sure if I was in clinical depression, but I sure felt like it. I couldn't function properly, and I couldn't even stand the sound of babies crying.

How did you cope? After the first issue, was it difficult to have faith in the subsequent pregnancy?

After much prayer, the kind that I initially rejected, I was able to get back to being myself. I was back to work and church. Within three months, I was pregnant again. I was told that my first baby had medical issues and would not have had a productive life had she survived. My husband and I chose not to see the baby at all. To this day, I have no idea what she looked like. I suppose I will see her in heaven some day. Unfortunately, I loss that baby too. And yes, after that, it was nearly impossible to function normally while pregnant. During each subsequent pregnancy, I had anxiety issues. Although I ended up with three beautiful daughters, I had two more miscarriages, bringing the total to four losses.

This happens to quite a lot of women, and sometimes people tend to brush it off as a "frequent" experience. Did you get this reaction from anyone and if so, how did that make you feel?

Yes, I don't think people know what to say. Sometimes, they should say nothing, and just, "I'm thinking about you" or "You are in my prayers". Instead, I heard a lot of, "At least you can get pregnant". "God was weeding out the abnormal babies." "Christians should have faith it will be OK." You also heard the "That's terrible, but listen what happened to someone I know". Of course there were countless women who said that oh, this happens so frequently, as if your occurrence is not unique or noteworthy.

When you lost your babies, what was the most comforting thing people said to you or did for you?

I really was hard-pressed to find any comforting words outside of the nurses in the maternity ward at the hospital. So many of them had similar occurrences, and they were the most amazing angels during my difficult times. Additionally, my current OB/GYN, who is now one of my dearest friends, treated me like a sister during my losses, and stood by my side for all my traumas. I will never, ever be able to thank her for the love she showed towards me. To this day, I am not allowed to call her by her credentials, but must address her by her first name. No matter how angry I was, or how hurt I was, I found comfort in "I will pray for you" (I just didn't necessarily want them to pray with me).

How did the loss affect your husband? Every relationship is different but did this bring you closer together or was if difficult to connect over it? Did he fully understand?

What I learned about miscarriages and men was key. My husband blamed me, because of the attention that I was paying to my father's health. I don't think I will ever forget that, even if I have gotten past it. The other thing I learned was this: everyone asked me how I was doing, and would ask him how I was doing. No one asked him how he was making out. That was hurtful to him, and once I found out, I was sorrowful that I had not paid more attention to him. I was so self-focused because it was my body and my experience. My husband had also told me that he would not have adopted, so I would have hoped that he would have changed his mind, because there are so many other children who do not know the joys of having a loving parent.

Do you still think about the children that could have been? Do you think it's normal for women to remember and still think about it years later, or do you think it should be easier to put it out of mind as you build your family?

Every July 28th, I think of the child I lost. I won't ever forget. In comparison, speaking only for myself, that loss was far more traumatic than the other three losses that occurred when I was I was anywhere from 8-12 weeks pregnant. I will never put the experience out of my mind because I believe so wholeheartedly that God helped me become a much stronger woman. I have so much more faith in God knowing that He watched over me when I was too upset to watch over myself, and that His plan is not necessarily my plan, but it's still the perfect plan.

Do you think there are misconceptions about how women feel after losing a baby? If so, can you explain?

There should be no misconceptions about how women feel after losing a baby because each woman is different. Going through what I went through was difficult for me, but I would NEVER say, "I know how you feel because that happened to me". I always say, "I can understand some of the things you are saying because my experience was similar." It was hell what I went through, but then I can't imagine what I would do if I had been 9 months pregnant or if the child died after birth. I kept trying to get pregnant because I knew I wanted at least one child and then wanted her to have a sibling; that was my choice. I know others who never tried again, and that's understandable, too. Again, I would suggest people talking to a counselor to find the right things to say to a couple who experiences this. I would also suggest people going to a grief counselor if they find that they can not get past this experience.

There are all kinds of tragic experiences in life. We all must face them. Many times we can take something positive away from it. Did you learn anything as a person, wife, or mother from having had unsuccessful pregnancies?

I learned that we can not take a child's life for granted. It is so precious. I am so blessed to have family/friends who care, and good health care to get me through the medical care I needed. I also learned that God puts people in your path for whatever reason, and those relationships should be treasured as well.

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