I just want to stop the bleeding…

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Several seizures, a few trips to the ER, numerous conversations with my OB/GYN, ultrasounds, medications… but no matter what I do the bleeding just won’t stop. I haven’t even had the chance to deal with my feelings because of how severe my physical symptoms have been. When I lost Lily I had a D&C with almost no complications but with Riley it seems that everything that can go wrong is going wrong.

People keep telling me God has a plan for me, that all of this is part of that plan and eventually I will understand… hearing this makes me want to scream. What the hell did I do to deserve the loss of two beautiful babies? What did I do to have to feel like I lose Riley over and over every time I experience one of the horrific events I mentioned above? I cannot comprehend loving a God, and putting all your faith in it and being okay with this type of pain being something you need to experience. No one should have to experience this and any God that believes babies need to die in order teach adults a lesson can go straight to hell.

Losing two babies in less than a year has made me reflect on a lot of things in my life and of course religion/faith is one of them. I know it would all be easier if I could just blame God and resign to the idea that  it was for the best, but I don’t see it that way. I have been putting my faith in science and have been hopeful that the medical community could give me some answers but unfortunately it isnt as easy as it sounds. All of the tests and procedures are expensive. The only thing my genetic testing showed was that I have two copies of the MTHFR gene mutation which turns folic acid toxic when you are pregnant… so that might be the cause of the miscarriages… but as is often the case with science we can’t prove it so we can’t declare it the answer. And my doctors can’t explain why I am still bleeding and suffering the blood clots… all they can say is that they must not have removed everything during the first D&C and that unless they go in and look again they can’t say for sure what is going on… unfortunately I dont have the funds for another procedure so I wont find out any time soon.

On top of the cramping, bleeding and clots I am also experiencing some very unpleasant side effects. I know most people don’t want to hear about this but honestly, it is a horrific fact of life that this is what happens when a baby dies while still inside the womb. I will try not to get too graphic because the situation, especially when you see it with your own eyes day after day is incredibly traumatic… For instance, the other day while at work I passed a mass that was about the size of a golf ball. It was so traumatic that I actually took a photo of it and texted Rich with a message of “OMG what is this?”. I ran downstairs to the ER (one benefit of working in a hospital) the doctor said it appeared to be a combination of tissue and clotted blood… but they couldn’t say for sure without tests, which I had to decline because that would have been insanely expensive and really what difference does it make? It would just break my heart more to know I was holdinh products of conception in my hand… and it certainly wouldn’t help me to move forward.

On top of everything else I am dealing with the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world and that health care in the US kinda sucks. Each D&C is over 8,000 and my out of pocket expense is roughly 1,500 per procedure. This is on top of all of the ultrasounds, ER visits, and the 1,000 ambulance ride that occurred when I recently suffered a grand-mal seizure. It isn’t just the financial strain it puts on our family that ticks me off, it is that every time I receive an email that a new bill is in I have to cringe because it is just another reminder that my beautiful babies are gone. We currently have a go fund me set up because, as embarrassing as it is, we cannot handle all of these bills. I have actually told my doctor that I cannot make any more appointments because we are not able to afford it. In addition, Rich and I have canceled our wedding because all the money has to go straight to the insurance company.

I really just need all of this bleeding to stop and I mean that in the literal and metaphorical sense. I know eventually the physical symptoms will end and someday the bills will be paid off… but when will I start to feel like me again?  I just don’t think I will truly heal until I can tackle the emotions I am experiencing and I don’t think I can delve into that until the external issues have been addressed. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to follow my journey, sad as it may be, knowing that there are people that care helps me more than you know.

 

*please feel free to share our link if you know anyone who might be able to relate to our struggle and would be interested in helping out

 https://www.gofundme.com/LilyandRiley/

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hugs, blood and gene mutations…

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A month has passed since we lost our baby. I am still heartbroken and still bleeding. I received test results that show I have an MTHFR gene mutation which likely contributed to the miscarriage, I also received a hospital bill for 1020.93… that’s really about it as far as updates.

I sort of feel like I am drowning. Every day there is something else piling on top of me. Another piece of bad news… something else to try to handle so that I can keep things stable. I barely have any free time right now because I have been trying to work overtime to pay off all of the bills associated with the pregnancy and miscarriage. The only time I get with Arabella during the week is a few hours in the early afternoon when we are getting ready for the 30min ride to my dad’s house so he can watch her while I go to work… then I get home at 11:45pm and that is when I get to tuck her into bed. This is my favorite time of the day. Arabella gives me the biggest smile when I come in the door. She makes the most of those few minutes before bed time, showing me toys and chattering away. Then I hear “love you mama” as I squeeze her tight. Honestly, the hugs she gives me at night before she goes to sleep are truly the reason I wake up the next day.

When I read the test results on the MTHFR gene mutation I cried. It is so terrible to feel like you failed your baby. My rational mind knows that it was nothing I did and that there was no way for me to know about it and that even knowing it is still possible that I could have had a normal pregnancy and all of the other things people are saying. However in my heart, when I sit alone at night in the dark, it feels like it was my fault. I was able to keep Arabella safe for those amazing nine months that she spent in my tummy… why did I fail Lily and Riley? I have been feeling physical pain thinking about it. I get this sharp burning pain up my neck as all of my muscles tense up as I realize I will never again birth a child.

I know that writing all of this will cause me to be flooded with information on how MTHFR is very common and that I can absolutely have a successful pregnancy. I know that physically it is possible, but at this point I cannot take the risk. Emotionally I am strained. The loss of Lily broke my heart, losing Riley broke my spirit… I cannot even imagine what would be left of me with another loss. A lot of people have told me that now is not the time to make the decision to be finished… but the decision has been made. One of my dearest friends told me that “he” (pointing to the sky) will decide when/if I am done… I told her that if “he” can get past the vasectomy we are planning. plus regular birth control, she might make a believer out of me. Until then I am going to stick with science. Clearly the odds are not in my favor to have a healthy pregnancy. There are ways to treat all of the things that are wrong and I believe that moving forward and enjoying all that I do have is going to be the first step in conquering this anxiety and depression that are plaguing me day and night. The bleeding has to stop eventually… right?

this is my blood, it is shed for you…

“for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” Leviticus 17:11

I could feel it in my gut… the ultrasound wasn’t going to go well. I kept a smile on my face in the waiting room as a woman 3 weeks from her due date compared notes on what it was like to spend the summer in your third trimester (Arabella was born 7/21/14) I didn’t want to bring down the mood in a room full of joy. Inside I was petrified. When the ultrasound tech called me back I went into the tiny room and let her know that things hadn’t been going well. She said that she read the previous notes and she was aware… she then asked if I wanted her to tell me straight what she was seeing… I said of course. As I watched the screen I saw her measure my uterus, the gestational sac and that is when the fetus came into view. It looked almost identical to the ultrasound 10 days prior… the only thing missing was the flicker of a heartbeat. She didn’t need to say the words, I  already knew the truth, our baby had died. I started to have a panic attack and rushed to get dressed. When the doctor came in I was crying uncontrollably and dry heaving while sitting on the floor of the examination room. I couldn’t control my emotions. Even as they escorted me to the surgery scheduling area and I passed by the young woman with whom I had been chatting just 30 minutes before… she smiled at me and I could not help my response… I just kept crying. The doctor said the baby was going to start to pass soon and so she wanted to do a D&C the following morning. I vaguely remember signing the papers and being handed a stack of pamphlets. I called Rich from the parking lot and he immediately left work so he could meet me at the house. The drive I made from the doctor’s office to my home is a complete blur… I know there was an intense rainstorm and it made focusing on the road that much more difficult. I felt destroyed by the news. I felt like ripping my skin off. I felt like a failure as a woman and as a mother. Somehow I made it home safely but I didn’t sleep much that night.

The next day the procedure was fine. It was quick and relatively painless. The next two days of physical recovery were pretty easy so I was dealing mostly with my emotions. Then while sitting at my computer I felt a warm sensation in my abdomen and the feeling that something was falling out of my body. I ran into the bathroom and passed a blood clot that was just about the size of a plum… and unfortunately this was not a one time incident. Since my procedure on the 7th I have had 3 weeks of bleeding, clotting, tests, pain and general frustration. This time around the physical pain has been overwhelming. With my loss last fall it was mainly emotional pain but the physical side is really coming into play now. It might sound strange but the fact that I cannot get past the physical symptoms is making it nearly impossible to face this depression. People don’t really talk about the things that happen to your body when you lose a child but they are truly traumatic. When I was in the 10 day waiting period in-between ultrasounds I remember fearing the site of blood every time I entered a bathroom…. now with my baby gone the blood is all that is left.  Every single time I pass a clot it is as if the baby is dying all over again. No doctor can seem to tell me how long I will experience this constant reminder that my body failed to protect my baby…but I would give anything to have the bleeding stop.

The bleeding is something that no one else sees… but they do see my tears. I have been an emotional wreck over the loss of my baby. I have cried at work, the grocery store, in the car… with friends, with Rich and especially alone at night, when I think about it the most. Hell I am even crying right now while I sit in the dark typing this out. The crying isnt always for the same reason. Sometimes it is sadness, thinking about the fact that my daughter isn’t going to be a big sister… thinking that I am never going to hold an infant to my breast cherishing a life created with the man I love. Other times it is out of shame. Something about admitting aloud that once again I failed my child, that just 9 months . after the death of our 2nd child my body proved incapable of caring for our 3rd. Then there are the times that I cry out of anger. I get this feeling of rage because I just want to understand why it keeps happening. When you lose a child everyone wants to tell you how common it is. Well I am sorry, but that does not comfort me one bit. It floods my body with a combination of anger and sadness that is indescribable. These are the moments that I start to wish I had some type of deity to blame it all one. Some higher power who could take credit for the entire ordeal so that I could move forward… no need to cry… i’d be able to feel confident that there was a purpose to it all and that I was blessed to have God looking over me. Unfortunately my brain is not capable of accepting nonsensical bullshit so I will have to work it out on my own and damn-it there may never be a reason. That is the worst part for me, the not knowing. My doctor took tissue samples to check for chromosome abnormality and has also ordered a slew of tests to look for genetic disorders that may be causing my losses. I know though that all the tests in the world may never tell me why my baby is gone.

I have had several people “remind” me that I did have 1 successful pregnancy and that I should be thankful that I have my daughter. If you ever think of saying this to a mother that has just suffered the loss of a baby, please stop yourself. Not only does it imply that the mother doesn’t appreciate her living child but it also implies that the grief the mother is feeling is not justified. I won’t try to speak for any other grieving mothers but in my case the love I feel for my daughter has never been in question. Arabella means everything to me… she is a reason to wake up every morning, to go to work and to push through even when it hurts just to move. That being said, the love I feel for Lily and Riley (baby 2 and baby 3 respectively ) is also real and my grief is valid. The love I feel for one doesn’t take away from the other and if anything losing these two babies has made me appreciate Arabella even more.

Rich and I have decided that we can not risk this happening again. We will be taking action to make sure that I do not get pregnant again.  It isnt that I don’t want another baby but that I cannot handle another loss. The first one broke my heart and the second broke my spirit. In order to be the best mother I can be I need to focus all of my energy on raising Arabella. I feel fortunate that she is young enough that she didn’t even know I was pregnant let alone that the babies died. Of course one day I will tell her. I remember knowing from a young age that my own mother lost two babies and actually that knowledge was helpful during this difficult time. I was able to go to my mother for help in dealing with my feelings, because I knew she’s been there too. At one point I said ” I know it has been a few weeks but I can’t stop thinking about it” to which she replied “Allison, I am 62 years old and I still think about the babies I lost, it’s okay to be sad.” . Those words meant more than anything my mother has ever said to me, I will hold them in my heart always.

So now I am left to deal with all of these emotions…. still mourning the loss of Lily last fall and now trying to accept that Riley is gone as well. I am thankful for all of the people in my life that have offered love and support. Unfortunately I know that it is something that is going to take a long time to heal… I just hope I can make it through…God knows I am trying my best.

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Not in God’s hands… but also not in mine…

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The past month has been tough on me. It started on June 4th when I left work, went to the store and had a grand-mal seizure. An ambulance took me to the hospital where nothing happened because, well, I have Epilepsy and seizures are just part of it… or are they? I knew something was different about this one. On the 5th after much sleep and no longer in a post-ictal state I decided to take a pregnancy test and despite the fact that my period wasnt due for several more days I was treated to the sight of a blue line… once again, I am pregnant.

My last pregnancy started with a seizure and as you may know from reading previous posts, it ended in a miscarriage. Right from the start I was petrified of this pregnancy. I contacted my OB immediately. She ordered blood work which seemed to go well, my HCG was definitely rising but not at the rate they’d like. So on the 16th I had my first ultrasound. Keep in mind that before this my last ultrasound ended with the words “I’m sorry but I don’t see a heartbeat” so going in I was experiencing anxiety like none i’d felt before. When the tech started looking she saw a gestational sac, a yolk sac but no fetal pole. I wept right there. My doctor said that my ovulation dates might just be off and that we needed to start a course of progesterone and wait 10 days to have another ultrasound before we could know what was really happening, but all hope was not lost.

Those 10 days felt like eternity. I used my progesterone each night and read up on any and all tips to help a pregnancy “stick”. One mistake I made was asking the great minds of the internet if anyone else has experienced this. I did receive some positive words, some anecdotal evidence that it could turn out alright… but one woman really stood out. She was insistent that at my stage of pregnancy there should have been a fetal pole and if there wasn’t at that ultrasound there wasn’t going to be one on the 26th. It was sickening how badly she wanted to be right about something so grim, but i suppose you find that type  n every circle.

Luckily for me she was wrong. As I held Rich’s hand and looked at him rather than the screen I heard the ultrasound tech say “and there is the fetus”. I turned my head to see this tiny jelly bean with a little flickering heart and once again, I wept. I was so happy to see that the baby was there but that was when I was hit with the downside. Even though we could see the fetus and a heartbeat, the fetus was measuring roughly a week behind and the heartbeat wasn’t strong enough to measure. That is when I was told that we needed to wait another 10 days before we would really know if this was a viable pregnancy.

I started to panic at the thought of losing another baby. My doctor made me promise not to over analyze every ache or pain. She said that unless I saw blood I should assume that my baby was safe in my womb, alive with a beating heart, as that was what we saw and what we knew to be fact at that moment. I asked for advice. Is there anything that I might be doing wrong that will cause a miscarriage. Is there anything thing that I need to do to prevent a miscarriage. She stopped me and said that by watching my diet, taking prenatal vitamins, extra folic acid and using progesterone each night I was doing everything I could. She told me that what was going to happen was already in motion and that it was “in God’s hands now”.

I left the office feeling severe anxiety and every day since has been more of the same. I have been randomly crying. I have been constantly asking Rich for reassurance that everything will be okay. I have had difficult sleeping and when I finally do drift off I have been having nightmares so vivid that I woke in a cold sweat. Everyone in my life is so sure that it is going to be fine. I want to believe them so badly. I would give anything to just relax and feel confident that my body is protecting the baby but I am not sure that after losing my baby in October 2016 I will ever feel confidence like I did with my first pregnancy.

So now it is 2:14 am on July 6 and by the end of the day I will know if my baby is growing properly, measuring to match my dates and most importantly, alive. I certainly don’t believe that the life of my baby is in God’s hands… but I think that concept might be easier to accept than the reality that it also is not in mine. This helpless feeling that there isn’t anything left for me to do except wait is pure torture. All I want is a healthy pregnancy like I had with Arabella. The chance to enjoy all of those special moments that lead up to bringing a beautiful life into the world. Will I get that chance or will I suffer another loss. For the past 10 days all I have felt is my heart pounding in my chest and now all I want to hear is the beating heart of my baby.

Christmas after death…

Typically at Christmas I write a post about the “war on Christmas” or why I choose to celebrate despite being an Atheist… I will write about traditions and how important they are to me. This year I can’t seem to do it. This year was different. This year I lost my baby.

I have had no motivation to celebrate since the loss of my pregnancy. Four holidays that I enjoyed each year for 32 years didn’t make it to 33… not Halloween, not my birthday, not Thanksgiving and now not even Christmas.

I watch friends that have suffered loss finding comfort in their religion and just for a moment I wish I could also believe that everything was okay. They are confident their child is in a better place. They know the plan God had was for their child to sit beside him, to watch over them, to help others get through life. Their child was actually divine and therefore they are blessed to have received this gift.

 

As a nonbeliever I don’t have that. I know that what happened was inevitable, not because God needed my child but because genetics failed me. A chromosome abnormality made it so my child was never going to survive, even if I had carried to term. I know my child is gone and I will never see them again.  So what now?

I have actually had someone question if this is really that upsetting. It is. I have had people say it gets easier. I am sure it does… but not this Christmas. Something about the holiday season seems to make people more sentimental. Personally I find myself reminiscing of a simpler time. A time of innocence. When the older generations shouldered the stress and the burden and everything looked just fine to me. Maybe ignorance really is bliss… that would certainly explain the comfort my friends are able to feel. Due to their religion they are trapped in the mindset of a child. Instead of growing to shoulder the burden that was once held by older generations they can circumvent it by passing the buck to God. Sometimes I have to wonder which of us is the lucky one. A line from the dreadful remake of “Miracle on 34th street” springs to mind… “What’s better? A lie that draws a smile or the truth that draws a tear?”. In my heart I know that for better or worse it is always best face reality and find a rational way to deal with the situation… but that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

The first Christmas without my pappy broke my heart, the first without my grandma felt that much worse but somehow this one tops them all. I don’t care if anyone understands my pain, I felt my baby inside me, I saw the life we created and that life was lost. I wish there was an easy explanation of how to handle Christmas after a death but there isn’t. For now I will continue to lean on those that love me and look towards the future. I will focus on the positive aspects of my life, for in the grand scheme of things I am incredibly fortunate. This particular year was quite trying, but  it has to get better at some point… right?

 

Abortion may not be what you think it is…

 

It is election day in the United States. For the record, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I could go on and on about the plethora of reasons why… but I am not going to. One issue and one issue alone is enough to keep my vote strong and that issue is abortion.

Donald Trump has spent much of his campaign using scare tactics such as graphic descriptions of 3rd trimester abortions, making up scenarios that do not exist in the ob/gyn field, threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade and of course spewing inflated statistics to make it seem that getting an abortion is just a walk in the park.

While I have always been pro-choice, I never realized what it would feel like to have to say goodbye to the baby inside you and sign the papers authorizing an abortion. Now to be clear, as was described in a previous post, I did not voluntarily get an abortion, I miscarried at 12 weeks. However, due to a technicality in our ever so flawed health care system, in order for my insurance to pay for the procedure I had to sign papers authorizing an abortion. I was already weeping from learning there was no heartbeat so to go from that to scheduling my surgery and signing the papers in just a matter of moments was overwhelming to say the least. When they asked me to sign and I saw the word “abortion” on the consent I stared up at the nurse and exclaimed “I don’t want an abortion, I want my baby!!” and she went into damage control saying “no no it’s just what the papers say, you aren’t having an “abortion”, your baby is already gone but this is how we word it.” talk about adding insult to injury.

So now I am part of the overly inflated statistics for first trimester abortions. My tragedy can now be used against me. People won’t know why I had an “abortion” and guess what? They won’t care. Just like me, they are focused on the fact that a baby has died, the difference is that I now know first hand that it isn’t something anyone would want to do… it would only be done if it was in the best interest of mother and baby… and whether it happens naturally (miscarriage) or with help from a compassionate doctor, it is still painful and not something that needs to be thrown in the faces of all of the women who go through it. My doctor told me that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so if you take the number of those that need a D&C (the procedure which I had to sign off as an “abortion” and is used for abortions) with the number of women who have to make the impossible choice to abort and you are going to have what looks like an epidemic… but you are wrong… you are so wrong and you don’t even know it.

People have this image of a promiscuous girl who uses abortion as her primary form of birth control… and if they are as stupid as Donald Trump they envision a girl who waits until her third trimester and then decides “eh, I don’t think I want this baby afterall, I am going to go get an abortion”… it just does not work that way. I am not saying that every woman who has a miscarriage or an abortion feels the same way, there is certainly a broad spectrum of reactions… and that is okay. I am also not saying that the person who is lax about it doesn’t exist, but they aren’t the majority like pro-lifers would make you think. The “magic pill” that pro-lifers always describe still makes a woman deal with the choice of passing naturally or possibly ending up with a D&C… and either way it goes… natural or surgery, miscarriage or abortion… there will be pain emotional and physical and I would not wish it on anyone.

Sure, you could say that if I was pro-life or if signing the papers for my “abortion” really bothered me that much I could have let my baby pass through my body naturally… I could have sat there at home wondering when the baby would come out of my body… but I wasn’t able to handle that. The change in hormones had already caused one grand-mal seizure and my doctor feared more. Also, the choice to even see the baby after it is passed is incredibly personal and passing the baby at home takes away the option. I know people delivered in the hospital, who spent time with the fetus, took photos and had a funeral… I know people who wanted to see the fetus after their D&C but only after waking from anesthesia did they learn that they could not see the baby because it did not make it out in one piece… I know women who passed at home and then had to take the fetus to the hospital for genetic testing, an event that turned out much more traumatic than they ever imagined. From the moment I found out on Friday, October 28th to the moment I went in for my D&C on November 1  I was an emotional mess. It felt like my heart stopped every time I stepped in the bathroom, changed my clothes, took a shower… I was already bleeding so much, passing clots and much more… I was so frightened that my fetus would pass and I would be alone… so I am thankful that there were options like the one I chose… it could have been weeks and weeks of waiting and I have no idea what that would have done to me… and I would never judge any other woman who had to go through what I did for choosing the way that worked best for them… you have to do whatever you can to get through it.

You cannot imagine the pain of losing a child if you have never lost one. Some of the most courageous women I know have been through this in one form or another. I know women who aborted because it was the right choice for them, the brave choice to say they were not ready for a baby. I know women who lost their child through miscarriage in all different stages of pregnancy that had to be strong enough to make the best choice for their health now that baby was gone. I know women who had to abort based upon fetal/genetic abnormalities… these women knew their child would not survive outside of the womb and new that for themselves as well as their family it was better to end it before things got any worse. I even know a woman who was told by every doctor that the child was suffering genetic abnormalities that made life outside the womb impossible and yet she continued on with her pregnancy. She  wanted a miracle and she believed that it was possible and that everyone was wrong. When her baby was born it was extremely disfigured, internal parts on the outside and as predicted was born sleeping… the laboring and the reality had a detrimental effect upon her livelihood from that point forward. Of course with every tragedy there are times when it turns out alright, or that the choice to continue on even with the sad reality that baby wouldn’t survive was therapeutic and best for their particular situation. But no matter if you choose to terminate or decide to see it through it should be your decision because you are the one who must live with it… and it is not something that just goes away… just like a healthy pregnancy, one that ends tragically makes a lasting impact on your life. That baby was and is a part of you, no matter how short of a time you were together.

So when you cast your vote for a politician, if anti-abortion laws are high on your priority list I hope that you will take a moment to stop and think about what banning abortion could do. Any women who can get pregnant could end up with an “abortion” and not only is that a choice no one wants to make, it is sometimes the result of a choice we didn’t make.

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“I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat”

 

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post called “Life Finds a Way”  it was about how we had just found out we were pregnant for the 2nd time. I included the ultrasound picture and took the same stance as with the “A Uterus from Nothing” series… that yes, this baby was a miracle, but not a miracle of God. Well I figured that I had plenty of time to post and I was super busy with work, family and other activities so still it sits in my draft folder… and now it will not be published.  This is because I lost my baby. I went in for a check up and learned that our baby had died.

I will never forget the look on the technician’s face when she said “I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat” I started to weep… I wept as they assured me it was nothing I did… I wept as they said it was nature’s way of handling something that wasn’t right… I wept as they handed me a pamphlet explaining what a D&C is and I wept as I signed the papers consenting to an “abortion”.

I haven’t had the procedure yet, that is scheduled for Tuesday. So here I sit with my baby inside of me and no way to help it. I think that is the part that is scaring me the most, that the baby is still here. My tummy was starting to pop and I still look/feel pregnant… but my baby is not alive. As a mother I feel like  I have one main job, to protect my children… and this time I couldn’t do it. My body was supposed to keep baby safe, nourish it, allow it to grow in a warm safe environment… but this time it didn’t work out.

We were not trying to get pregnant. If you read my previous blog series you know that I do not naturally ovulate and used fertility treatments to conceive Arabella. This pregnancy was a shock, but a good one, a welcome one… it was like my body finally got it right after all these years and I was truly amazed…. but somewhere between seeing the baby on the ultrasound screen September 29th and having the screen turned away from me on October 28th my baby died and I will never know why.

I have been running through all the different scenarios in my head. One major standout moment was on October 26th when I had my first grand-mal seizure in 7 years (I have Epilepsy but had only been having petit-mal seizures thanks to the aid of a VNS implant and medication). My OB assures me that the seizure did not cause the miscarriage but more likely the miscarriage caused the seizure. Apparently the fetus was measuring smaller than the yolk sack, and there was something about how my uterus had tipped backwards since the previous visit I really don’t know what it all means, just that the doctor was insistent that the seizure was not responsible… I almost wish it was because even though there still wouldn’t have been anything we could have done i’d at least have an answer… but I don’t and I never will.

One thing that I found very disturbing occurred right after they told us there was no heartbeat. Suddenly my baby stopped being referred to as a baby/fetus and became “the tissue”.  “I will go in and extract the tissue” were words that cut me like a knife. It was as if I was just supposed to forget that this was a part of me, with it’s own developing organs, it’s own skin, it’s own heartbeat. Now it was “the tissue” this just made me weep even harder. I understand that they want you to agree to the procedure and that if they actually said “we are going to scrape out your baby, throw it away and pretend none of this ever happened” no one could bear to go through with it… but that was how it felt when they said it to me and that is what is eating at me right this very moment. Perhaps I will feel differently on Tuesday after it is all said and done. This is just the raw emotions and honest words of a mother trying to comprehend a terrible loss.

So until then I will just continue to hold my daughter close, find strength in Rich,, and accept the support of all of my wonderful friends and family members. Whatever it is you may believe in there is no right answer for how to cope with this… so send me your positive thoughts, your well wishes and even your prayers… lord knows I need them all.  

 

A letter to the judge…

As a mother I cannot imagine a pain more severe than the loss of a child. A woman who lost her child in 2010 was asking for letters to the judge who will preside over an upcoming parole hearing, deciding the fate of her child’s killer. I was honored to provide a letter giving perspective on how that December night didn’t just affect the families involved, but our city as a whole.

I have a strict rule. No matter what, when someone is grieving I will not ever question their beliefs. If it is prayers they need then I will take time to sit and reflect. I have witnessed secularists throw the question “where was your God?” in the face of a grieving mother and it made me sick and still does all these years later. Religion encompassed this particular case. From the fact that both the Clelands (victims family) and the Isimingers (killers family) were extremely religious, to the fact that they had just left Lexa’s church pageant, the mother’s own words “By faith, I know it’s not my fate to judge you. That’s in God’s hands. I can forgive you.” and the killers response “I can never make this right. On behalf of your daughter, I will include a prayer for Lexa and her family every day.”.  

Though I respect the rights of those to grieve as they wish I do not believe that it is enough to think that it is in God’s hands to judge or that a prayer a day is penance enough. I want changes in our legal system. I want drunk drivers who kill to be treated like the murders that they are. So I was proud to write to the judge and let him know that six years is not adequate and that we need to do a better job of protecting the public. I am not sure if my letter will make a difference to the judge, but by sharing it I can only hope that at least one person will think twice before they drink and drive.

To Whom It May Concern,

On December 4, 2010 our city suffered a tragic loss as a result of the choices of one man. Travis Isiminger, a young man from a good family, who had values and a bright future ahead of him proved that good people can still do wrong. In choosing to drink himself sick and the Hofbrauhaus, then choosing to get behind the wheel of his car he took all choices away from the public. His actions made those of responsible citizens irrelevant. No matter how careful they were, Travis making the choice to play God put all of our lives in danger.

That night the Cleland family paid the ultimate price on a tab that belonged to Travis. They lost not one but two children and their lives were forever changed. The forgiveness they have offered and the compassion they have shown towards Travis is nothing short of amazing. To be able to look at him, at his family, and take the murder charges off the table was commendable… but I doubt they thought doing so would cut his sentence down to a time frame less than the short life their daughter Lexa was able to live.

There is no sentence long enough to make up for the lives lost that night. The beauty and joy in the face of little Lexa cannot be replaced. The potential of the life forming inside of Nicole cannot even be imagined. Nevertheless, I believe the maximum sentence should be served. I did not know the Cleland family in 2010 but as someone who has lost a loved one to drunk driving I can tell you that I felt a closeness to them and my heart broke with each detail that was released. When you lose a family member to a totally avoidable tragic event such as that on December 4, 2010 it does not just affect the immediate family. Generations of people will suffer a loss from the choices Travis made. From all of Lexa’s future nieces or nephews to the classmates that had to learn the news of their friends death, to every citizen of Pittsburgh that drives down Carson Street and for just a moment catches a glimpse of the memorial cross… lives have been touched and they will continue to be touched until the end of time.

I hope that when you make the choice of whether or not to release Travis you will consider the severity of his crime and the impact he has had. I am sure that it will be said that he has learned his lesson, that he wants to raise awareness, that he is forever sorry for what he has done. That is all well and good, but his wants and needs should not be a consideration. The needs of all those who were touched by Lexa Cleland, especially the beautiful family that has been left behind, are what need to be addressed. Any future plans that Travis has will still be available to him when his twelve year sentence is up, but no amount of time will compensate for the lives he stole that night.

Sincerely,

Allison Reed

 

A Uterus from Nothing (part 9)

Happy Birthday Arabella! That’s right, it has been one year since my “miracle baby” was born. So many milestones, so many memories… year one is just filled to the top with baby moments that you never forget. Though we did not participate in the typical religious ceremonies such as a christening we still had plenty of fancy dresses and special occasions.

xmaseaster

I suppose if you want to split hairs we did technically participate in two fancy dress related “religious” events. Arabella was able to meet Santa Claus to commemorate her first Christmas and then a few months later she found the Easter Bunny at the very same mall! Now I know there are a lot of Atheists who don’t think “religious” holidays should be observed by nonbelievers… well, Rich and I are not those Atheists. Christmas and Easter are significant for our families, they both bring back amazing memories and we want to pass those along to our child… end of story. If you notice I said we met them at the mall, not a church, a mall. There was not a manger or crucifix in sight, just a jolly old man and a big fluffy bunny, sounds pretty secular to me.

I’ve lost count as to how many times religion has tried to sneak into my baby’s first year. Despite my best efforts to not step on the toes of my religious friends and family it seems I managed to somehow offend them with my secular lifestyle. One of the absolute funniest examples occurred around November 21st. We had been taking photos each month to document her growth, the standard procedure involves a little sticker or sign indicating what month you are celebrating and a stuffed animal for size comparison. I chose some cute stickers that had a different color and animal for each month as well as Arabella’s Charles Darwin doll. It didn’t take long before it was revealed to me that some people were less than pleased to see these shots. I was actually told that they didn’t appreciate seeing my baby next to “some heathen”.  Now when I heard that two things immediately came to mind. 1. I cannot believe I am associated with someone who cannot identify the father of evolution. 2. I know this person is not a creationist, I have known them my entire life and do not believe for one second that their fair-weather faith can stretch that far out of the range of sanity.  So why were they offended? Would it have been better if I had used her Nietzsche doll or maybe Marie Curie? What was it about a plush Darwin sitting next to my baby girl that made their skin crawl.  I will never know the answer to this, the discussion will never occur and even if I tried to bring it up, it would just be dismissed. As you can see I did not take their frustrations to heart, I continued my Darwin growth chart and maybe I will never stop.

darwin year

About a month ago Arabella and I were involved in a car accident. I was left with a concussion, eye injury and many bumps and bruises. Thanks to research and development Arabella made it without a scratch on her. In case you didn’t know, rear facing car seats are amazing at protecting our little ones. I was so thankful to the people who invested their time to discover which conditions keep our kids safe from the stupidity of others. Though I may tip my hat to Graco and the other leading companies, not everyone saw it that way. When discussing the accident in mommy groups I was bombarded with prayers for a quick recovery and messages that God was watching over me at that moment, and he kept us safe. Well, as much as I appreciate the well wishes I have to say that not even a traumatic brain injury can make me believe that God saved us that day… nope it was seat belts, car seats and having the speed and impact happen to combine in a way that left us able to live another day.

One year down and a lifetime to go, I have to wonder what challenges I will face trying to raise Arabella to be a strong, secular woman in a world that doesn’t always promote acceptance. Though our parental instincts make us want to protect our children I have no intentions of shielding her from the world. I want her to learn about the beliefs other people hold, to understand reasons why they feel the way the do and to acknowledge that it is okay for people to hold different beliefs. I want her to find that you don’t need to define a friendship, we can love and care for those who do not follow the same path and be supportive of them without betraying our own values. I am still working on all of this myself, I try my best each day and know that it can only get better as I am now setting an example for my child.

When to pick your poison

the poison you pick can have great consequence...

the poison you pick can have great consequence…

I often consider what battles I would want to fight in the name of Atheism. Even more-so, I ponder how my choices will influence the way my children handle themselves in similar situations. Separation of church and state (SOCAS) is a constant battle within the Atheist community and I am not naive enough to think my child will be immune to the discrimination.  Try as I might I will not always be there to hold my child’s hand, so after much thought I have decided on three levels of  SOCAS battles: a level one battle is a situation that I would have to step in on, level two are battles that be left up to the child and level three are battles I would encourage to be left alone. Here, let me elaborate.

When there is a blatant violation of SOCAS I would feel obligated to speak up, not just for my child, but for all the children that it may be effecting. A good example of this would be the presence of religion in the public school system. Whether it be a plaque listing the Ten Commandments,  a teacher trying to implement mandatory prayer before class or  even an instructor attempting to teach creationism- all of these would be completely inappropriate in a public school setting. Though I have every intention of teaching my child the fundamentals of each religion, I do not want it to come presented as fact and I do not want it to come from the mouth of a believer. If ever I found out that the school staff were using the classroom as their own personal pulpit I would have to step in and put a stop to it.  So weather religion sneaks in as a form of decorative wall art or masquerades as science, it has no place being present in our public schools and I will not stand for it.

When it comes to those in-between battles, there are some things that I would have to leave my child to decide. For instance if my daughter decides that saying “under God” is not a big deal I would respect that and if she chose to rebel as I did when I was young and sit down for the pledge that would be fine as well. Though still a separation of church and state related issue, for me it is not at the same level as religious monuments or mandatory prayer. The fact of the matter is that as hard as it is to remove religion from the public schools, removing the government influence would prove nearly impossible. For better or worse, the Pledge of Allegiance is a symbol of loyalty to our country (with or without “God”). Sort of like how people complain that “In God we trust” is on our money, yet they don’t refuse to spend or receive it. We work towards change and yet still award a level of grandfathered in acceptance. Saying the pledge has become the social norm and therefore is in a different league than requiring prayer or providing religious literature to be taught as fact.

This may come as a surprise but there are some battles that I would not want my children to fight in the name of atheism or SOCAS.  A few years ago, right here in Pittsburgh, we had a situation that really made me see that sometimes you have to step back and realize that not all issues of SOCAS are created equal. Imagine being part of this… On December 4, 2010, a 7 year old girl was killed by a drunk driver who smashed head on into her mother’s car while they were on their way to pick up her father after a church event. If your child had attended the same public school as she did, they would have seen a Christmas tree where you were allowed to hang angels in her memory. So right there we have two major religious symbols the Christmas tree and the angel appearing in a public school. This is clearly a matter that falls under the separation of church and state umbrella, but what would  be gained by fighting that battle? Sure, you might get them to take down their tree, but not without appearing to be a heartless individual who has no compassion for those mourning the loss of a child. This was done out of remembrance for the lost life, it was a way to cope with a tragedy but what it wasn’t was a way to proselytize. I am adamant that just because religion appears in a public place it does not always mean that it’s inappropriate… consider the context in which religion is present and perhaps you will see that  some battles are best left for another day.

These examples are just a taste of what you may encounter when raising children in a world where religion wants to dominate all. There is room for adjustment, obviously what works for my secular family may not work for all, but the fundamentals are still there. Fighting for our freedom from religion does not have to be an all or nothing battle- perhaps choosing your battles wisely will yield a greater return in the end.