Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hitchhiker Adventures #3: The words "Miscarriage" and "Lost the baby" are not okay

I have felt this way for a long time, but I couldn't speak out, I wasn't part of the club. Well, I got my card yesterday, and this sucks, so I am saying something. It's time for a language change, an attitude change a change at how we look at fetal death. You really want to convince a woman it isn't her fault that a baby died, don't call it these things, because nothing says you did this, like verbs that imply miss doing something or losing something. I didn't lose this baby, I know exactly where it is, in fact my body is holding on so strong it's going to take anesthesia and a team of people in an operating room to get it out. I didn't miss carry anything. I carried it well, I did everything I was supposed to, I took shots, I ate well, I made sure I was active, I sat when I wanted to work, I slept when I wanted to stay up. I didn't misplace or mishandle this baby.

Then there is the stigma that I should have kept this a secret, so we wouldn't have to tell people that the baby died. Screw that, that is messed up too. Yes it sucks that so many people were excited and joyful and now gloom has fallen upon them as they grieve this loss too, but it would suck more if we were trying to hide it and keep silent. That is messed up. I shouldn't just now be finding out so many people have also had miscarriages. Why did they feel they had to keep that silent? Because of this stupid stigma.

There is an idea too, that it's so early, it's not really a life, or a big deal. Whatever. I have been working on this baby for close to a year now. It's been an idea, a dream, and physical work for months. Even if it wasn't a long project, it's still a big deal. There was a life and now there isn't. There were hopes and dreams and now they are gone. There was relief and excitement and a heartbeat and it stopped. There were plans, and schedules and all kinds of things in motion, now they have stopped. We are back at square one, actually we have a few months to go before we get back to square one. So we are at like negative ten right now.

I guess you could say, it's not my baby too, so it shouldn't be that hard. Maybe you are right, but it was excruciating to see that there was no heartbeat, and wait for the doctor to say it outloud and look at this woman who has gone through so much, who trusted me with her baby, and know that the lifetime she had already started planning for was over. It hurt that I was the one crying and she was strong and trying to comfort me. Our family had dreams too, we had plans of giving them this baby. I had hopes of being done with this and getting my body back by the holidays. I was almost done with the injections. It feels like I not only let down myself, and my own family but a whole other family as well.

The language is horrible and the feeling of failure is overwhelming. Maybe I have proved all the "I told you so's" right.  Maybe this wasn't a good idea. I brought misery to my house, I have put my husband's mental health in danger. I risked it all, and literally according to medical terminology lost it. Lost it like I lost my phone, or gambled it away and lost it, either way that is a horrible way to phrase it. I chose to do this, I chose to take on this risk of loss, and here we are. Add another nail to the failure coffin. So if you are in this camp, steer clear, I already see your face of disapproval in the mirror.

Now we are back to unknown. I am wondering again if I am worthy. Before we can try again, I have to get through surgery. I have to have more anatomy examinations. The doctor and the family have to discuss whether they want to move forward with me. They have to decide if I am worthy. So you can say it's not my fault, you can say I "just miscarried", but the louder message, the one screaming in my head is "maybe, you can't do this". I imagine for those that "lost" their own babies, the feeling is pretty similar.

The doctor told me I didn't have to try this again. Even though we committed, I can still say no. Honestly though, I think being told I can't try again will be devastating. As much as I don't want to be working toward pregnancy and pregnant for the next year, as much as I don't want three more months of shots procedures and blood tests, of waiting to find out if it worked, the alternative is so much worse. Going through all that I have since the evaluations started to what is coming next Tuesday in the operating room, and not having a baby for that family would feel like the ultimate failure, it would feel like a waste. Yes we have had an adventure, made new friends, learned about a whole new part of life, learned more about each other, strengthened our bond as a family etc. But right now, I can't be grateful for that. Right now, it sucks, the possibility that this is it, burns worse than the pockets of oil I injected into my hips. I am sure I will get back to a sense of gratefulness, but I am not there yet. Let me get this out of my body first.

I can't even go to the God side of things right now either. I just can't start thinking and questioning. I am so glad that at youth group this week, we have a lot of work to do practicing for a lip sync contest of all things, because I really, literally "just can't". I am glad this week is full of busy work, not big theological questions, silliness and not sermons. I don't have to explain this week, why God let's really yucky things happen when people are trying to do something good. I don't have to go there, this week.

I just wish there was a different terminology, a different way to tell a woman what happened, to label this whole thing besides misscarriage and lost. Those words don't help with any of these feelings at all, they add to them. This is death, not a mistake, not a misplacement. There is great loss, but let's not use that as a verb. If it's not my fault, if it's because something was wrong with the baby, then why did I miscarry, why will that be what they say? The surrogate miscarried, she lost the baby. That says it all. No matter what tone it is said in, or what intentions are behind it, can you see, how much blame that statement can carry?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hitchhiker Adventures #2: Loving your neighbor is AWKWARD sometimes

I promised I would keep the interested updated on this whole process, and let me tell you this week did not disappoint in the weird, awkward but also amazing department. Surrogacy, as my one young friend put it, is weird and cool. Actually it's a whole lot of both as evidenced by our adventures this week.

This week started with the typical early pregnancy nausea and other fun. I would take a bite or two of food and suddenly feel like gagging. I took this as a sign of good news to come, and since the hormone meds had helped me pack on ten pounds, I felt okay with eating small portions. The baby and I would definitely be fine. Speaking of hormones, my mind was filling with crazy and my hips were filling with oil. I was paranoid and weepy all weekend. The injection sights on my hips were turning into large swollen lumps of unabsorbed oil, that burned like a new tattoo. All of which was frustrating, but to be expected after 88 injections. People keep asking me if it feels real, yes, it is very physically real, and has been for some time. My body has been highly involved in this since the beginning of December. The multiple pregnancy blood tests don't make it feel more real; they just give me hope that the meds will be over soon, and we won't have to repeat the process. Admittedly it all gets frustrating and overwhelming at times. I don't want it to affect my family or my work. I feel like if I am too tired, or fragile feeling to do something I will have failed. I dread the "I told you so's" from those that didn't think I could do this, and I don't want to see that knowing look of "yep, I knew this was coming". Luckily those voices and those looks are few and far between.

It's not really about me though, it's about loving my neighbor and sometimes that is uncomfortable, hard, involves failing, requires you to lay down your ego, and it get's awkward. It got real awkward. We have been talking to the Hitchhiker's parents a lot, skyping, texting emailing etc. We have only seen them once though in person. This is awkward for a lot of people. They think surrogacy is cool until you tell them you didn't know the people before, they weren't friends, then it's awkward. As one person said "is this for a friend or for a paycheck", as if they are mutually exclusive. People don't understand why you would do this for someone you don't know, and their incomprehension often leads to judgement and big fat, false assumptions. When I started calling the OB office this week, I just said I was carrying the baby for friends. It's easier that way. Truth be told, they now are friends. After all, you don't get half naked and hang out with a paper table cloth on your lap for strangers, at least I haven't. There I was though, undressed and with my feet up in stirrups for a very invasive ultrasound with the Hitchhiker's parents sitting next to me. It was bizarre, it was weird, it was so socially strange, but love looks and feels like that often.

It was in the next moments that we moved from awkward to amazing in this neighbor loving process. The doctor quickly located the teeny tiny, Hitchhiker, and you could see and hear his heartbeat. His teary eyed mom videoed the screen while his dad sat with tears in his eyes. There were whispers of thanks yous, and questions for the doctor, but it was the incredible moment. We all realized that they would most likely be parents again. There is still some risk, being so early, that the baby will stop developing, but for that moment there was hope, and redemption and love. I was still half naked with my feet in stirrups, but it didn't matter so much anymore, because we were watching a miracle of God and science, and they will soon be parents again.

Love is hard. I think that is why Paul spelled it out so much in 1 Corinthians 13. None of these qualities he mentions are easy to maintain. These are hard things to do.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.  (MSG version)

So yes, this is hard and awkward and weird and embarrassing and painful but that is what true love is, it's also beautiful, redemptive and amazing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why we waited to vaccinate

I have kept my mouth shut, I have bitten my tongue to near bleeding as I have watched all of the thrashing of parents who wait to vaccinate their child. I can't do it any longer though.Some of the articles and comments written on this subject are very well meaning and well intentioned, but many are sweeping, bullying, generalizations. Yes some parents aren't thinking through this clearly, and are just going on rumor, but there is a lot more to this. Beyond that, parenting is hard and scary at times. You want the absolute best for you kids, and it's not always easy to sift through everything in this world and the information overload, and decide what the best is. That is where we found ourselves when our kids were little, so the two of us, both college educated, well read, middle class professionals, decided to delay some of our kid's vaccinations.

It started honestly, with the autism link. During the period of 2000-2006 when we were having young children, the information on the link between autism and shots was not so clear. We knew a family, well educated, well meaning people, whose son didn't show any signs of autism, until after a big vaccination. We saw them struggling through therapies, and trying to bring back the son they had before. It may not have been the cause, but at the time the vaccinations looked very suspicious. We also had the makings of a genetic predisposition to autism, if such a thing existed. We had a family member on the spectrum. So it seemed to us, if autism was in our background and shots potentially turned something on inside some individuals that activated this in kids, we didn't want to take that risk.

We didn't just decide this for ourselves based on rumors, or feelings, we discussed our family history with some awesome pediatricians and they recommended a slow delayed plan of vaccines. Eventually our kids received all of their vaccines, but they were not complete until after our youngest turned three. This meant that for our oldest, we were filling out documents for daycare,preschool and kindergarten to exempt her from vaccines. The form said we were doing it for religious beliefs. As a Christian who is called to love others, I couldn't put my kids in what I thought was harms way. I also was aware that other children were vulnerable. We weighed the risks,and decided that delaying was the best option. At one point we were going on a trip and our doctor recommended the MMR before that trip, so we followed her advice and made sure we weren't giving any other injections at the time, so as not to overwhelm their systems. The vaccine we held out the longest on was the varicella otherwise known as the chicken pox shot. These decisions were not easy for us, I agonized over them, and it was embarrassing to have to fill out those forms, and to get exclusion letters from the school warning that they had to be turned in by a certain time.

And those statistics about the number of exemptions in each school, that you might be freaking out over, they probably aren't totally accurate. Our kids were fully vaccinated to the school's requirements five years ago, yet a few months ago we received a notice, saying we had to provide notice of vaccination or resign the form. It was a clerical error.

I share this all to say,  please stop shaming and judging these parents. You don't know them, you don't know the experiences they have had or the advice they have received. Don't lump them all in with the people that are being negligent and aren't doing their homework. Saying things like "is autism risk more important than risk of death", aren't fair. Calling these parents stupid is not okay. Better education is required, but just like with anything else, compassion is a better way to approach it than judgement and hate. Ultimately fear drives people to make this decision and bullying people is not going to help them overcome that fear.