Thursday, July 1, 2010

love, loss, and unanswered questions

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote these lines in his poem, In Memoriam A.H.H. Tennyson penned the poem over a 17-year period for a friend who died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 22. There are over 130 verses in this poem, but the one above is the most well-known.

Miscarriage is a word we've unfortunately used too often in this community, whether it be miscarriage after a natural pregnancy, miscarriage after a fertility treatment, an ectopic pregnancy, or repeat loss. It's safe to say that each of us knows someone affected by one of these things. We also know women who have experienced stillbirth and women whose babies were born into this world and taken just days, weeks, or months later due to complications. Some of you reading this have gone through one or more of these tragedies in your own lives.

The great part about this community is our ability to stick together and be there to support one another. We often aren't able to do this in a physical manner by offering shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold, but we do so the best we can virtually--by sending hugs, prayers, and sometimes even tears across the miles. Often times, it's difficult to know the right thing to say in these situations. You don't want to cause that person any more pain than they are already experiencing. Yet you want them to know that you are there to help them in any way possible.

This is especially the case if you have never been in a situation of loss. What do you say to someone who has lost a child? To someone who has lost their miracle? To someone who has lost multiple miracles?

I've never experienced loss, at least not in that way. My grandparents are all gone and have been for several years now. But they were older. As much as it hurt to lose them, they had lived a full life. They watched their children grow up, marry, and have children of their own. And, in some instances, they watched their grandchildren have children. Their deaths weren't easy for me, but they had been given incredible lives and many years to make their marks on the world and on the lives of those around them.

These babies, these losses, never had that chance.

After my third IUI, when I saw a faint line on that HPT, Kelly asked me if I would feel better knowing whether that was a chemical pregnancy rather than a faulty test. I didn't hesitate to answer, "No, it would have made me feel worse--knowing that I had finally achieved pregnancy only to lose it would be devastating."

Yet, there are still people who offer advice to the contrary. They tell women "at least they know they can get pregnant" or "perhaps this is a blessing." But is it? Can anyone honestly say that miscarrying a child is a blessing? I keep reading the comments on my What did you say? post over and over again. I'm amazed at all of them, but especially at those toward people who have experienced loss. The more I read, the more frustrated I become over the complete lack of sympathy people have toward the loss of a child in any form. At what age does loss become appropriate for ignorant people to recognize--20 weeks? Viability? Birth? At what point do people stop justifying and begin sympathizing? 

And what about Alfred, Lord Tennyson? I think his words have validity in many cases. I'm so thankful for the love of those people in my life who are already gone, especially my grandparents. Their love shaped me in so many ways. But to say it's better to have loved and lost a child . . . I can't comprehend that (and I'm not sure Alfred imagined his words would be used to comfort so many of you who have lost your babies). I guess I'm asking all of you who have experienced loss: is it better to loved and lost than to never loved at all? Do those words make it easier or more difficult?

Last week, I found out my cousin and his wife were pregnant on the same day they found out they were most likely miscarrying. Doctor confirmed their loss yesterday and tomorrow is the D&C. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they cope with this loss--the loss of their baby and the loss of a love that was never given the chance to grow.


serenity said...

I'm so sorry for the loss that your cousin and his wife are suffering. They're in my thoughts.

I think stupid things come out of people's mouths when confronted with loss because of human nature. I don't think it comes from a lack of sympathy. It comes from a lack of knowing when a hug and an "I'm sorry. That sucks" will suffice.

Instead, people try to tell you how to FIX it. If you're infertile, you should relax. Or adopt, since so-and-so got pregnant when they did.

From that perspective? You obviously can't fix a loss, so they do the next best thing - tell you why you shouldn't want that baby/embryo/pregnancy in the first place.

It's awful, but it's not because of a lack of sympathy. It's that they don't know how to offer support the way that someone who's grieving needs it.

My SIL had three miscarriages in between my nephew and this current pregnancy (she's due in a few weeks), and she told me that often the best support she got was a hug, an acknowledgement of her loss, and knowing that there was an ear available if she needed it. Since she told me that, I've tried to do that with everyone in my life that's struggling with something my friend S with cancer, my sister with her own IF, my friend D who dealt with secondary IF. I keep it in mind all the time.


Crossed Fingers said...

What a beautiful & well written post. *hugs*

I had a CP - some say it was a loss some say it was too early to count. All I know is I cried over it and it was a loss to me. A loss of hopes and dreams. I had people tell me "At least you can get pregnant!" and that "It's better it happened now than later". I know they mean well but ...just stop talking.

I'm so so very sorry to hear about your cousin & his wife's loss. They are in my prayers - as you always are.

kayee said...

This is a good post.

I'm going to honest ... probably more honest than I've been in awhile. No, I wish I had never pregnant and never had any of my losses. Especially this last one - although a "chemical pregnancy", still a loss - I cursed it afterwards. I was so mad. I felt cheated - after 18 months since my last m/c, to see those two lines and to think "we beat the odds" only to have it taken away for a THIRD time was too much to handle.

My first pregnancy allowed me to feel pregnant - I had all the normal pregnancy symptoms. So after that m/c, I knew what to look for. I would obsess each time my breasts hurt or I was overly tired. Then the second one ruined me. It robbed me of one of my tubes and to this day it is what is stemming my IF.

This is obviously my situation and my opinion. There are other people I know who feel lucky to have at least gotten pregnant. i don't know about that, because I don't consider anybody who is dealing with m/c, infertility and such, lucky.

Ashley said...

This is such an awesome post. If you write a book, I'm buying. :)
I personally have never seen a + preg test, therefore have never miscarried or lost a child. I have had 4 years of disappointments, but never the actual promise of a baby only to have it taken away. I actually feel lucky for that. I know others have had it much worse than me. A great friend of mine miscarried 4 times before she was able to carry a baby to full term and I just couldn't imagine doing that over and over again. Anyway, not to leave the world's longest comment--just wanted you to know of your awesomeness, and also I am so sorry for your cousin's loss.

Glass Case of Emotion said...

This is a great post, particularly after so much recent loss in our community. I am so sorry to hear of your cousin's loss as well.

I agree with what serenity has to say- I think people mean well, and want to "fix" the unfixable. But it doesn't make our grieving process any easier.

I agree especially with this part:
"At what age does loss become appropriate for ignorant people to recognize--20 weeks? Viability? Birth? At what point do people stop justifying and begin sympathizing?"

I have learned only we can define what loss is for ourselves. What may be easy to move past for one person can be the defining negative moment in someone else's life. I think it's been a sobering realization for me in the way I treat others as well, and the way I value all life. And maybe in my own way, despite hellish circumstances, I have opened the minds of those around me. For example, my friend who had an "oops" pregnancy- I think my story made her think twice about abortion. (She was considering it.) Maybe I made her realize just how beautiful and important this life was and NOT to end it.

I wish it was easier. Thanks for reminding me of the poem.

AL said...

Such a great post, Katie. Thanks for sharing. I'm so sorry about your cousin and his wife's loss, I'll keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

I have to second what Serenity said, the best comfort was an acknowledgment of the loss, and being told that they're there for you if you need anything. that's such a huge comfort - no words can heal the pain, all someone can do is help you feel less alone in your suffering.

Thanks for writing this.

Secret Sloper said...

In Memoriam is one of my favorite poems. I love Tennyson so much. I read that after my miscarriage, so I'm glad we're on the same poetic wavelength.

I am happy that I was pregnant. I don't know if I ever will be again (even though I hope and think I will). I'm glad I got to feel the incredible joy of having a child inside me and the incredible love for that child. I wouldn't go back and change it, even knowing now that the pregnancy would end in loss.

That being said, I would rather never get pregnant again than have nothing but more miscarriages. My loss was completely crushing. I don't know how to withstand more.

Brave IVF Girl said...

I'm with Secret Sloper. I don't regret my short lived pregnancy (in part, yes, because it proved I could get pregnant and that my immune system could be controlled) but I don't ever want to go through that again. We're probably going to do genetic screening of future embryos to improve our chances of avoiding a nonviable pregnancy (not perfect, but anything to help it...)

For me, losing my pregnancy reset all my expectations - I thought getting pregnant was the hard part, and now I know it's only the first step. Even though our loss was a chromosomal fluke that had nothing to do with our infertility.

So sorry for your cousins' loss, and hugs to you!

Jin said...

I need to find some kind of literary award for blogging and nominate you. Seriously.

I agree with pp - people say dumb stuff because they dont know how to cope/know what to say with it. And since the majority of the population isn't infertile, that just makes it worse. If it was something common as, say, a cold or going through puberty, it would be a totally different story.

I'll keep your cousins in T&P as well.

Kandid Kelli said...

I feel for your cousin & his wife- that is one of the most devastating/heartbreaking things. I have lost two babies, the first was much further along then then second. It is a terribly hard thing to go through no matter the gestation. I think people say the things they say b/c they THNK it helps when in reality it hurts more. They usually come from someone who has never been in that situation and who has never experienced that kind of pain. The minute that baby starts to grow inside you & depends on you- the minute it is gone its a terrible loss.

This was a beautiful post, as always Katie.


Angie said...

Our daughter died about 20 minutes after she was born at 23 wks. We had a carseat, some clothes, had ordered a crib after much agonizing over it, everyone knew I was pregnant, my showers were planned. And then it was so abruptly over in less than 24 hours. There aren't words for how devastating it is to watch your baby die. But I loved being pregnant. I miss being pregnant. And I miss that I won't ever have that pregnancy innocence again, I've heard/read too many horror stories. I've lived a horror story. But I have to agree with Tennyson on that. No matter how much it sucks to lose a baby, I'm glad she graced our lives for a little while.

Holly said...

I am so sorry for your cousin's loss. They are in my thoughts.

As for me and whether I feel that it was better to have loved and lost my pregnancy, I am not really sure. On the one hand even the short time I had was wonderful in so many ways and I still feel a sense of connection to that baby. But also the miscarriage has robbed me of not only that child, but so many other things and for that I am often sad and bitter.

Thank you so much for such a great post and for your never ending kindness and empathy.

Kelly said...

I really thought long and hard about this, as I've never really thought about it before. I try not to think about it. It just hurts too much. I spend so much of my time on autopilot, when I slow down and think it's painful.

After four miscarriages, I can say that I wish I would have never been pregnant in the first place. What those losses did to me, my body and my spirit, well, I can't put that pain into words. I still cannot and will not ever be able to get over the fact that I had a heart beating inside of me that stopped. Twice. I'll never get to experience the joy of being pregnant again. Each time I get pregnant, it's worse and worse. No one is happy for me anymore either. I think collectively, everyone who finds out immediately thinks, "oh shit".

I'll never be myself again. Ever. The calendar will never be the same for me again. Almost every month of every year now brings sadness. This is when I got pregnant or this is when I miscarried or this is when I was due...those dates just serve as constant reminders.

Knowing that my body, for some undetermined reason, is so fucked up that it fought against the hearts that were beating side of me is something that I'll never be over. I wish it all would have never happened. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were further along, I don't know. I just know how I feel based on what I went though.

I'm so sorry about your cousin and his wife. I know how painful it is. They are in my thoughts.

Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
someday-soon said...

I'm so sorry for your cousins loss! I wish I had some words or thoughts that made this kind of loss just a tiny bit easier =(

Rebecca said...

I am so sorry for your cousin and his wife. That is just devastating.

As always, beautiful post. You really are an amazing writer. You always make me think.

I'm really not sure where I stand on this. Maybe my own loss is too fresh, still. I think right now I am thankful that we learned that it was possible for us to get pregnant. As horrible as i feel and as sad as i am for the baby we lost, I feel like it might be possible for us to have a baby. I didn't feel that way before. If it takes another 20 months to get pregnant again or I have another loss? I think that will be an entirely different story. Then I think i will wish that it never happened.

I've been thinking about the whole "when is it real" thing lately. I think it ends up being like IF. It always feels like your time TTC is the longest or your loss is the worst until you hear about someone who has been through more and then it is unimaginable what they've been through...until you reach that point yourself. The truth is that we're all suffering and the amount is entirely personal.

Trisha said...

I'm so sorry for your cousin's loss. I know how hard that can be. When we miscarried, looking back now, I think it helped to put closure on that part of the "journey" for us. Did it hurt? Yes, really bad and I didn't think I would make it through. This was something we had longed for, for a long time and then in the next instant (at least that's how it felt) it was gone. I agree with what some of the others have said, it's the dumb comments that people make that really don't help. After we mourned that loss, it helped us put the pieces back together and go from there as to what was next.

I'll keep your family in my prayers!

Mrs.Wood2126 said...

I have had both a chemical pregnancy about a year into ttc then a mc at about 9 weeks. I dont know if the saying that its better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all, is "correct". But I will say that since my mc I feel that my baby added something to my soul that was not there before, I SO empathetic now, I FEEL emotions for strangers that I have never felt before. It was such a gift that I would not have had any other way.

Your cousin and family will be in my prayers, and just maybe after some healing they may receive an unexpected gift from there baby, just as I did.

WannabeMom said...

Wow! Your posts are always perfect.

I am thankful for the time that I was pregnant, the joy, knowing there's a child inside of me, and even getting to experience the symptoms of pregnancy. Even though we didn't know the gender, we felt our child was a boy and named him Matthew, Gift from God. For the short time I was pregnant, he was a gift and a joy to us.

With that said, I pray so hard that I never experience that again - that I wouldn't get pregnant if I was just going to lose the baby.

I agree with Serenity, the best support I received from anyone was the acknowledgment of our loss and offering to listen.

APlusB said...

I'm so sorry for your cousin's loss. How heartbreaking. Because, like you, I've never experience miscarriage, I often wonder if I would be relieved that I could *get* pregnant, or devastated to be so close and lose it. I can't even imagine.

Kakunaa said...

Oh, sweetie. I never know what to say. I end up weeping. Glad that the women I know going through this are not in front of me because I no longer have the ability to be strong for them. And sad that I can't be strong. I am weeping now. Best thing to do is let them know you are there for them and that you will do what they need. Just knowing they have your support should help, from what I have read. HUGS

Conceptionally Challenged said...

I'm so sorry for your cousin and his wife. I'll be thinking of them.

For what is better, I don't know. It may be a very personal thing, depending on how you experience the pregnancy and your child's life. Perhaps for some, "you can get pregnant" is encouraging, whereas for others, and especially after multiple losses, it is depressing.

Thinking of you and your family.

Tillie said...

i'm so sorry for y'alls loss...i don't think anything i could say could take away your pain.

i know for me when i found out/figured out i had a chemical pregnancy it was horrible. i wish that didn't happen and think it was worse than it being a faulty test. mainly because then my body didn't want/got rid of the one thing I have always wanted...a baby :( *huge hugs*