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Saturday, October 31, 2015

a miscarriage story : encouragement - things that help

A miscarriage is a very emotional, exhausting, sad experience. It can be lonely. Some aren't sure how to talk about it. Some don't want to face it. It's hard to figure things out through ups and downs of emotions. It's different for everyone. However one processes this tough situation, it's good to have friends and family to rely on and feel loved by.

I'm sharing some ideas below, hoping that whoever reads this could either seek out some of this encouragement for themselves or for a friend.

In the beginning for me, it was staying home, comfort foods, snuggling with my children that helped me out. Physically it was very painful, I could not do much.

After a few days, I got stir crazy but couldn't do much, so we walked around in the yard picking up acorns. This picture above reminds me of hope and how little things grow into big things... We went to the pumpkin farm up the street, spent 30 minutes there just walking slowly outside, breathing in fresh air. That helped me feel like I wasn't ignoring my kids.

Indulging is something else that helped me tremendously. We are taught not to indulge or to be selfish, not to take what we want when we want it, to instead put others first, particularly as a mother. Through the last three weeks of this miscarriage process for me, I've taken and accepted help more than ever. I've eaten anything and everything I wanted. I have waited to exercise again, without guilt, knowing I was not ready yet physically. I have taken naps and slept in longer in the mornings. I've sat around and ignored chores unlike I've done before.

I've been sad when I needed to be sad, and angry when I was disappointed, and then happy laughing like all was well in the world. The ups and downs of emotions is the craziest part- you're all over the place. But I've accepted that's OK.

For me as an Italian, food is my thing. It's comforting because it means I'm surrounded by lots of family, laughing, talking loudly and about hilarious stories from the past. It's helpful. I am a counselor who knows we should not always relate food as comfort, it's not a coping skill. However, sometimes it just is helpful. So that's something I've learned through this process: do what works for you. If your Dad's famous Italian soup helps things get better, then ask for it. I did and it was amazing.

Indulging when we feel like crap is a must. I've had all of my favorite foods in the last three weeks - some people made for me and delivered, others I was invited to their home for dinner, a work friend delivered me a delicious chocolate cookie treat that just honestly made life sweeter in those dark days in the beginning. I'm so grateful to her for thinking of me instantly. She delivered us a meal too in the first few days we were stuck at home. We ate that for dinner, and then I packed it for lunch. A nice reminder that someone loved me, but also comfort food heals the soul!

And then when you're ready, you re-enter the world at some point. Returning to work, play dates, parties, pumpkin picking, etc. For me, focusing on what I HAVE versus what I lost helped a lot. I can see how that would be tremendously harder for a woman who had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy. I have two beautiful children who keep me busy and preoccupied so this part is easy for me to see what I have and know how lucky I am. But for those who do not have what they want yet and they lose it, I am sure this stage of acceptance and gratitude for things around them could take a lot longer.

Be patient with yourself. However you grieve is OK and normal. 

After the second week, when I stopped bleeding, had gone at least two days without crying at a time, and overall was feeling a little more like myself (aka hormones subsiding!), I was at a conference for work and then decided I needed some ME time. I had planned to leave right away and get home to put my kids to bed. But instead something just said I needed an hour to myself. So I called home, wished everyone sweet dreams, and went shopping. I never ever go shopping for me. Ever. Like ever. And on this night I ended up getting one small Christmas gift for my brother, but otherwise it was ALL ABOUT ME. When is the last time you've done that?! It felt amazing.

I ended up getting running clothes, because I'd been feeling down about not running or even walking in the last few weeks (after exercising daily for 4 months, a huge accomplishment!). So finding some inspiring quote shirts helped me feel better emotionally and like I'd get back there physically again, once I was fully healed on the inside.

I even sat and ate some chili by myself. If you haven't gone to dinner solo, you MUST try it. It's liberating and relaxing.

We all need time alone. #momMEchallenge

I found that in the beginning I wanted to be surrounded by my husband and kids and text messages from friends. But then I just needed a break to be ME again.

A dear friend (or really Facebook stranger who now I'm calling a dear friend because she's been SO supportive to me!) told me to go do something just for me, something like get nails done or hair cut or something big just to spoil myself and make myself feel better. It was amazing. I highly recommend doing something like that or a massage or just a girls' night out with wine. Do something to help you feel alive again.

I also found throughout this process, and still do find it to help... finding quotes online and images on Instagram. Reading words that mean something to me, that make this process and experience make a little sense, that was so helpful. This one below made so much sense to me. I found it randomly scrolling Facebook on the first day I was returning to work after I'd been out a few days.

In the end, I was pretty lucky to have the job that I do as a school counselor, where others need me, rely on me, ask me for support. In giving help to them, I helped myself. It helped give me a purpose. I had a huge work event exactly one week after the start of the miscarriage. I wasn't sure I'd even be able to be there. Then randomly, that morning was the first day I felt physically better, and the event went amazingly well. I was so proud and on cloud 9 for the first time in a week. It was good to focus on something positive for once. It didn't mean I was over it or healed, but it meant that for one morning I could be happy again. That gave me so much hope.

I'm not saying you have to get on stage or present something huge at work in order to feel like you're getting better or helping. The point I'm making is that it's good to find a purpose in reentering the world. If your purpose is to drive your child to school again after taking days off, then that's perfect. Or if it's to go to Target to pick up that last minute costume or birthday idea, or to run to get a few groceries to feel back to Mom normal, then great. Do one thing that helps you feel a little more human again. Wait until you are ready to do so, but when you are, it can help you feel better.

This quote below really gave me so much comfort.

So many friends sent me prayers and quotes as well. Those helped me a LOT.

My friends and family did so much to support me through this process. They still are supporting me. And that's really important: in the beginning everyone is there, just like any other bad experience or death, and then they trickle away and see that you are posting pictures on Facebook like you are fine and happy again, you must be just fine, nobody needs to bring it up anymore. That's not always the case. It's good to move forward, but it's also important for closest friends and family to check in with you to make sure you're still moving forward, not stuck.

Here are a few things people did to support me:
  • Hugs - One coworker just hugged me without words, and it was one of the moments I just sat and completely broke down. So many people don't know what to say to you in these experiences... but a hug helps you realize they're thinking of you. 
  • Texts or Facebook messages - For the first couple of weeks I did not want to talk about this out loud. It was too painful. But texting and Facebook messages were easier to do randomly and without a start or end to a conversation, just random thoughts. Having friends understand that I was not ready to verbally talk was helpful. Random messages from friends saying "love you, thinking of you, hugs" helped.
  • Sending me quotes via Instagram - I had a few friends tag me in things that just made me smile. 
  • Sending me clothes - One friend was cleaning out her closet and said she's sending me clothes as a pick me up. I love this. It's random, girlie, but something. Doing something is helpful. 
  • Offering to go shopping with me - My mom offered to take me out shopping for a girlie afternoon with our favorite lunch spot. I wasn't ready for this at the start, but I hope to take her up on this soon. Something fun, distracting and yet comforting is helpful. 
  • Bringing a meal - My husband picked up all of my favorite meals from takeout places, coworker brought meal and dessert - having something sweet around was perfect. 
  • Thoughtful cards - I only received a couple of these, but they were enough. They were perfect. It was a nice distraction to receive something thoughtful in the mail instead of just bills. I found that despite people saying they had no idea what to say to me... they had the exact words I needed: from the heart, kind, supportive, I'm here type words. A lot of friends sent me prayers, which helped me. 
  • Necklace - My good friend sent me a necklace that means the most to me from all of this experience. It has my kids' initials and then a cross and an anchor. It represents the lost pregnancy, the grief, and the strength and courage and hope to get through this tough experience. It gave me SO much comfort, still does. I rub the charms daily, and it's just a reminder that yes, this happened, but that I am getting through it and someday perhaps we'll have a happier ending. This has made me feel so much better. I'm so thankful for this. I've heard of others giving charm bracelets with the color of the birthstone of the due date of the baby lost. That's a sweet idea, too, or a Christmas ornament to remember that angel baby. 
  • Grab bag of cheer up treats- One friend wrapped up individual items in tissue paper, put into a gift bag, with a sweet card telling me that it's ok to do something for me through this, and these are little things to make this hard process a little easier. I was so grateful for this. Things like chocolate, jewelry, makeup, lotion, etc. It was so sweet. I definitely think this is one of those simple things that just lets your friend know she's not alone, that she'll get through this. 
  • Help at work - picking up my slack for a while - I didn't tell everyone, only my closest coworkers. They were amazing though. Work wise, they picked up the slack, took things off my plate, offered help. I also had to ask for help, that was important. Remember that just like any other sickness or experience, when you're down, they can lift you up and help out until you're ready again. Be patient with yourself. You can't possibly go full speed emotionally, mentally or physically after a miscarriage. 
  • Offering a girls' day to not talk or to talk - Several good friends offered to take me out, to hang out and either talk and talk, or NOT talk at all. They offered to go shopping, to dinner, get drinks, do whatever I wanted. This was so sweet. I haven't done it yet, but think I'm almost ready to go and have some girl fun! Again, it's a good thing to offer when you are not sure what to say to a friend.
  • Picture of a sunrise - One friend sent me a picture of a sunrise and just said "thinking of you." That was it. So simple, yet it made my whole day better. Receiving little things like this made me feel less alone... and this experience is such a scary, lonely, sad one. It's good to have little positive moments like that. 
  • First time people saw me after the tough time - This one was something I was dreading. I'd texted with everyone... but actually talking or seeing them the first time, I was dreading. I thought they'd look at me differently, expect me to fall apart or be fine. I wasn't sure what to expect, would they say something or not? What did I even want? When I first saw some family, my sister-in-law instantly got up and came over to me. She said "I haven't seen you since…" and hugged me really tight, telling me she was thinking of me. It was exactly what I didn't know I needed. It was perfect. I felt relieved, less alone, and loved. 
  • Strangers checking in - This is so helpful. Sometimes it's easier to talk to someone you don't know, for some reason. If you read in a discussion group about a mom going through this, tell her you're thinking of her. That's all you need to say. Maybe she'll want to open up to you. I'm becoming friends with a few strangers on Facebook who reached out to me... who I am feeling so comfortable talking to. It's helpful. 
  • Flowers - I recall a friend going through a miscarriage a few years ago and being unsure what to do or say. I'm a counselor, I felt I should know what to say... but I had no words. I tried my best with words, but with actions I wasn't sure what to do. I wondered about sending flowers, but thought perhaps she would not want them. Then I had a miscarriage and my mother-in-law brought a beautiful bouquet of pink roses and bright white flowers to me in a wonderful vase. It was just what I needed. Although they faded at least a week ago, I just tossed them out this weekend. They were something pretty in a dark time. They were a reminder that people love me and support me. They made me smile. It was definitely a thoughtful gesture. 

Lastly, finding songs of encouragement, hope, even sad songs that made me cry were helpful. I listened a lot to Mat Kearney's song "Where we gonna go from here" and "Closer to love." Those were when I was having a tough moment and needed time to let it out via sadness. The song "Stand by You" by Rachel Platten made me feel empowered, hopeful, like things could get better. 

However you go through this, whoever you lean on - yourself or others - make sure you grieve and find the moments that help. You are not alone.

Stand By You by Rachel Platten

Hands, put your empty hands in mine
And scars, show me all the scars you hide
And hey, if your wings are broken
Please take mine so yours can open too
Cause I'm gonna stand by you
Oh, tears make kaleidoscopes in your eyes
And hurt, I know you're hurting, but so am I

And love, if your wings are broken
Borrow mine 'til yours can open too
Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, cause I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, cause I'm gonna stand by you

Yeah, you're all I never knew I needed
And the heart, sometimes it's unclear why it's beating
And love, if your wings are broken
We can brave through those emotions too
Cause I'm gonna stand by you
Oh, truth, I guess truth is what you believe in
And faith, I think faith is having a reason
No, no, no, love, if your wings are broken
Borrow mine 'til yours can open too
Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, cause I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, cause I'm gonna stand by you

I'll be your eyes 'til yours can shine
I'll be your arms, I'll be your steady satellite
And when you can't rise, well, I'll craw with you on hands and knees
Cause I...
(I'm gonna stand by you)

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through (come on)
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, cause I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, cause I'm gonna stand by you
Love, you're not alone
Oh I'm gonna stand by you
(Even if we can't find heaven, heaven, heaven)
Yeah I'm gonna stand by you

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