Friday, December 27, 2013

The Miscarriage Post

It seems, from the vantage point of my almost 34 year old self, that time speeds up as I get older. I am always surprised when another semester, another year is complete and have long thought that life might be like summer camp, those first few days when you are getting to know people and everything crawls by, they seem to last forever, and then before you know it, it is Friday night and you are preparing to say goodbye and go home. This past fall though, life slowed down again for a time. It started as soon as I began to suspect that I was pregnant. Once it was confirmed each day took on its own pace, I anxiously awaited for the next week to come when the thing growing inside me would reach a new size, from sesame seed to lentil, to blueberry. We dubbed the growing entity "lentil"and I suddenly had a new companion. Those who have been pregnant know that everything changes the moment you know, every decision about what you eat or drink or do carries new significance, you are making the decision for two.

I tried not to get too excited, I know so many women who miscarried in their first pregnancy. But it was hard. I couldn't stop my mind from thinking of future events, family gatherings etc where this secret that I currently held would no longer be a secret. The timing was perfect for telling the family at Thanksgiving, when I would be into the second trimester, I thought of bringing a new baby to a family reunion in June, of attending conferences with the tell tale baby bump.

I went to my first prenatal appointment alone, my husband was seven hours away, we were doing just one semester apart while he took a one year position as a physics instructor and I finished some final coursework on my phd program. We knew being pregnant while we were apart could be hard, but we had been waiting a while to start trying and didn't want to hold off any longer. I had been spotting for a few weeks before this appointment which came eight and a half weeks into the pregnancy. I had called the ob/gyn, they had sent me to get blood tests and while I was in the normal range for the hormone levels there was some cause for concern, so after going over all the information I would need moving forward in the pregnancy and receiving the big folder of pamphlets, the nurse sent me to get an ultrasound. She said the tech would probably let me hear the heartbeat if everything was ok. I knew the techs weren't really allowed to do or say much more.

Though I had been trying to prepare myself for the loss of the pregnancy almost since it began, I had a sudden surge of hope before going to the ultrasound, I wanted so badly for it all to be ok. A few moments into the ultrasound I saw the tech swallow in a way that seemed significant. I kept waiting for her to pause to listen to a heartbeat but she never did. She sent me back upstairs to the ob/gyn where I focused on the paintings in the waiting room with all my might to just stop my brain from thinking and coming to the obvious conclusion. The woman who took me back to the examining room had a sad smile on her face and once inside the room I located the box of kleenex and again, scoured the walls for anything interesting that would keep me from thinking about the thing I didn't want to think about. When the nurse, Sandy, came in, she said it wasn't good news. Everything was in tact except that what was inside the sac was malformed and disintegrating, the pregnancy wasn't going to work this time.

I left the big folder of information behind, took a lot of tissues, and drove myself home. In many ways the timing was good. Finding out that the pregnancy wasn't going to work before I actually miscarried allowed me to call my husband, who, after finishing classes that day made the seven hour drive to where I was living. He was with me the next day when the bulk of the miscarriage happened, or at least the most painful part (and I must admit I was surprised at the amount of physical pain). He had to leave Sunday afternoon, which of course felt way too soon. My mother came up the next day and stayed about 24 hours and then the even more challenging time came.

Miscarriage is something that we still don't share much about in this country. Women are sharing more and more with a lot of people blogging about it in the past few years in response to this silence. Some women are embarrassed, ashamed, guilty - it seems like something deeply private. While I did not feel shame or guilt (no woman should) there were several reasons why I didn't feel like I could broadcast it right away. One, I didn't want people to know that I had been pregnant, that we were trying. We had guarded the secret carefully and while I was looking forward to sharing my happy secret, sharing this secret seemed quite different.

We don't have a cultural script for responding to miscarriage and I read several stories about hurtful responses and when I did start sharing my news received a few well intentioned, but in the end painful responses as well. A friend asked at one point how he should respond and my advice would be to say something along the lines of "I am so sorry, I can't imagine" and then to just stop talking. It is challenging because women experience miscarriage differently. For some it is a tragedy that stays with them their entire lives, for others it is a relief, and every reaction in between and around that. Women who have multiple miscarriages are likely to experience each one differently. This response allows the woman to continue talking about it if that is what she wants or to change the subject. It also shows her (or the male involved in the miscarriage) that you understand that this can be a painful experience.

The most common response I got that was painful was one that jumped right into hoping for future pregnancies and assurances that we would be successful. I know that it is possible, indeed likely, that we will have a successful pregnancy, but at first I needed people to just understand and share the pain of this event. Sharing someone else's pain is hard, which is why I think we jump to the hopeful response, but it is also a big gift to simply be with someone in their pain.

So I shared slowly and randomly, sometimes on an as-need basis, but not knowing how I was going to react and handle everything made it hard to figure out who needed to know. This also meant that while I was recovering physically and emotionally, I spent a lot of energy going around trying to pretend that everything was fine. The most physically painful part of the miscarriage happened on Saturday and I bled for two weeks after. In some ways I was fortunate because as a grad student I don't have to be "at work" interacting with other people from 9-5 every day. I went into school for the first time on Tuesday attended meetings and a class, taught Wednesday morning and again just tried to keep going without having to share my new big secret. This was simply exhausting. There are so many small interactions every day where people ask you how you are and you smile back and say great, or good, or ok, or alright. You don't say, "Actually, I am pretty terrible, I just lost a pregnancy." At least I didn't. I wanted to keep a certain front up in my grad student/professional life and I also quickly realized that talking about it wasn't always helpful, it just made me tired. So again, I pressed on. My body eventually rebelled through asthma attacks brought on by stress and emotion, random bouts of tears and just a general functioning at about 70% capacity. It took about a week before I could wake up and not have that sinking feeling immediately afterwards, remembering what had happened. It took about a month for me to feel like I had mostly recovered and then another month to catch up on the first month when I had been in survival mode.

There are still important people in my life who don't know about all of this, not because they aren't important but because the role out of information like this is challenging to say the least.

Many people see miscarriage as a loss and what follows as a grieving process. A few people have challenged that there wasn't anything to really lose and I have pondered the same question myself. It is true, there was not a viable life inside of me, however, there was the idea and the hopes and dreams that sprang up around that idea and even though there is potential for that idea to be realized again, the loss of it this time was a true loss. The idea of "Lentil" had already taken up lodging in my heart.

Another conversation I have had many times is about pregnancy in general. Pregnancy is hard. For some people getting pregnant is a huge struggle, for others, being pregnant is painful, nauseating and uncomfortable, for everyone I know, being pregnant is a project filled with anxiety about your own health, about the health of the thing growing inside of you, etc. I had no idea going into pregnancy how intense this part would be, I have prided myself on being cool calm and collected, I keep in mind that women have been pregnant and having babies for thousands of years in all sort of places and in all types of houses or living arrangements, that this is something our bodies are designed to do etc. But that doesn't always make it easy. The public image of pregnancy is one of smiling women cradling their baby bumps, joyous births etc. Yet 1 in 4 pregnancies does not make it through to completion, some ending earlier on and some ending with a still birth.

Couples who experience pregnancy loss frequently feel as though they have to deal with it privately, I found out about a friend of a friend who, after having a miscarriage, told her supervisor she had been diagnosed with cancer to explain the extra doctors appointments and her emotional state. This just shows how extreme the pressure can be to remain silent about miscarriage. My husband suggested that I tell people I was struggling with some medical issues but I chose not to because it didn't encompass the emotional things I was experiencing, so for a lot of people I didn't say anything. I am blogging about this all now to bring it more into public conversation. It has been nearly three months since we lost our pregnancy, and I realize the helpfullness of sharing now is limited for me personally, but maybe it will help other couples know that this does happen. There are more and more resources, communities etc online for people who experience miscarriage, this is my own attempt to contribute and break the silence. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Play by Play

For those who are interested, here is the play by play of our big moment. (Big thanks to Cindy and Kevin for the pictures here which they already posted on facebook - we have yet to download the hundreds from the camera that Matt's dad used as the official photographer so there will be more later)

Location - we were at Matt's grandparents' cottage on Lake Huron

Here is a view of the lake:

Here is a view of the cottage and people getting ready:

Here we are getting ready to walk with our "bubble kids," my niece and nephew Emma and Caleb - they were awesome:

People played "Here Comes the Bride" on Kazoos while we walked in - here they are warming up:

We were pretty excited walking in (and as we walked in a bald eagle flew by!!!):
A note on my dress - from the empire waist up is the original of my grandmother's wedding dress, the rest uses material from her her dress (it had long sleeves and lots of train, all of which I preferred not to have in August)  The little blue ribbons are from my mother's wedding dress.

My college roommate and dear friend Mary Lawrence read a poem:

Here is the poem, it is by Elizabeth Bradfield and it is AMAZING

epithalamion (wedding song)
and now, after the night that follows this day of promise and abandon you will wake to a life that is no different and yet is called something else and so, in the way names carry history and song, you wake to each other differently.
may you wake each day glad of each other.
may you keep for each other the small and daily preferences: coffee, soap brand, sock style and music specific to the hour. May they be considered and attended.
consider the luck of having another's joys and sorrows woven through yours, melody made harmony.
and how harmony thrills as it resolves from dissonance.
there will be dissonance. the unpoetic daily and the vast tragic. and there will be time for rough burr to become texture, knots in raw silk. 
Now, there are knottings of the face, tics of expression - a word, the way a cup is held, a hitch in sleeps regular breath - these are waypoints in your maps. 
Remember the star-maps have held their constellations for years beyond counting and no one ever finds such unchangingness dull or grating.
we use familiar points and stories to figure where we are, to find our way home through distances that cannot be known before they are traveled.

Then Matt's sister Erin read some scripture:

Linda (the lady with the beautiful stole on) gave a wonderful homily about how gardening and marriage are similar.  Well, it was much more than that, but you will have to ask her for the details - it was beautiful!!!

After vows, Matt and I read commitments that we had made to each other - I started my commitments last summer before we even talked about getting married and added to them throughout the year - Matt let them stew in his mind and sat down to write them about 2 hours before our ceremony began - we did not see each others commitments at all prior to the service.

E's commitments to M:

As we move forward in our life together I will do my best

…to communicate openly with you, with love, compassion, humor and courage. 

 to walk slowly through life with you, taking time to watch a spider make a web and to joyfully explore the world together,

to continue to play with you, be silly, be loving and not take ourselves too seriously,

to appreciate all that you do for me, the ways in which you are there for me and your very existence in my life,

to not let my career or what I do in the world overtake our love for each other, recognizing that I will be better in the world because of our love and mutual support of each other,

to make music with you,

to stick by you even on days when you drive me crazy,

to hold your hand,

to support you and take care of you and to allow you to support me and take care of me

to continue our mutual commitment to making the world a better place,

to strive for that with you, to challenge you and to allow myself to be challenged by you,

to dance with you, spontaneously. 

To love and cherish you, with tenderness, strength and courage.

M's commitments to E:
 Elizabeth, we have known each other for a year and a half.  In that short time together we have gone on walks, runs, and bike rides.  We have planted gardens, watched them grow and watched them die in a variety of ways too lengthy and horrible to list here.  We have lost family and gained family.  We have written and avoided writing academic works of profound insight, depth, and abundance of typos. As we move forward in our life together I offer you these commitments:

I will give you my open ears and open mind.
I will be there for you in the hard times with a great big hug and a pocket of tissues.
I will be there for you in the good times with a great big hug and a pocket of tissues. 
I will share with you my thoughts, perspectives and emotions.
I will be your number 1 fan and cheerleader or at least a co-#1 fan with Mama K.
I will value your strengths and help you build new ones.
I will share my strengths and lean on you when they are not enough. 
I will make beautiful music, or awful noises with you depending on the context and the listeners perspective. 
I will learn from you and learn with you.
I will walk with you and hold your hand.
I will help carry your load and let you help carry mine.
I will work with you to build a life, a garden, and a better world, together. 

Then we exchanged rings, were announced, blessed and sent out to the sound of kazoos playing Simple Gifts.  
We were pretty happy:

We were thrilled to be joined by so many people who are so very dear and important in our lives including all four of Matt's grandparents!

And my grandparents were all present in my heart!

If anyone is interested in celebrating our love with a gift we are asking folks to donate to one of three different organizations:

Educational Praxis which supports a school in India where I spent some time a few summers ago:

Haiti Outreach Mission - a program that Matt's church participates in and supports:

Hospice of Lenawe - the organization my Dad works for that does amazing work in Lenawee County:

Thank you for taking the time to see the play by play!  I am still glowing and am so grateful to those both near and far who made this past weekend, and mine and Matt's love possible!!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Old Wisdom

I have been trying to clean my books out of my parents house and the last box was full of old journals, starting from when I was maybe in the 2nd grade (lots of great reading there, let me tell you)  Anyway, today I stumbled upon some rough poems from 2005.  I had been living in a house with three wonderful men for several months at that point, and while they are all wonderful, it was still lonely being the only woman and my feminist self needed to do a lot of talking that year - so here are some of the results...

It's not a shell

It's not a shell I am coming out of
I am not a snail or a clam
Nor am I merely blossoming
I am more than pretty petals
And don't say that I am finding myself
I have been here all along

Don't say I am overreacting
Just because the smile has left my face

Let's just say the clouds are clearing
And the light that shines is revealing new truth

You may not want me to see or even know that truth
You may wish I would just forget about it
Or maybe you don't understand it
Your clouds have not yet cleared
You may even choose to keep them there

But don't you dare think that I will ever let my truth be obscured again
That I can ever go back to the "pre-knowing" days.

Pickle Jars 
(Also titled "Bag 1" since it was written while I was pulling weeds from our landscaping while all the boys were inside and this one only got me through the first bag of weeds I pulled)

Women have been opening pickle jars for years
With the wisdom and strength of our hands
We have loosened the lid just enough
          Ironing shirts, cooking dinners, lugging laundry, scrubbing floors, raising children...
and smiling when our men come home

We hand the pickle jar over with an apologetic needful look
building their strength as we deny our own
They smile and understanding
and with little apparent effort
finish opening the jar
           They bring home the paycheck - get the promotion
We take the open pickle jar
with much gratitude and appreciation
and return to the kitchen
leaving our man in the recliner, in front of the tv.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Changes...

So it has been almost two years since my last post-bee-sting post.  And there have been a lot of changes in my life that will probably steer this blog in some new directions.  This post will consist largely of updates, some changes in thinking perhaps.  First a few things that haven't changed - as I sit here typing I have my mate by my side and have been drinking it all morning, I am wearing a beloved wrap around skirt from a dear friend and a tank top, still my favorite outfit, I am still working in education, though in a different capacity and I still love the world and all that is in it although that love brings with it critiques and hopes for something better.  So changes...

I just finished my second year as a phd student in curriculum instruction and teacher education.  I now teach college seniors instead of middle school students, I am getting married (though I still believe in my love rant), I am living in Michigan and have started gardening.

So yeah, things are different.  On the getting married piece, there has been so much I have learned about love and partnership and about myself in this process.  Matt, my betrothed (such a strange word) is a scientist, a "radical moderate"(to be explained later), a quiet sort of guy - not at all the type I ever saw myself with, not that I thought I would ever be with anyone on a permanent basis.  In the past several months I have wondered if I am giving up on my politics by being with someone whose politics vary so greatly from mine, I have realized that what I thought I wanted probably would never have worked, and I have discovered that how one lives life is perhaps more important than how one talks about it.  I have known many men who proclaim themselves feminists and yet still struggle to act in feminist ways.  Though Matt may never wave the feminist banner himself, I have never known a man more capable of supporting me and allowing for my strength and independence, one who is willing to have a less than conventional partnership in terms of division of labor, or who can love in such powerful ways.  Our differences in seeing the world provide for endless though frequently frustrating conversation, and explaining my beliefs and thinking to someone as ardently moderate as Matt has helped me to clarify and strengthen them. We have both learned a lot about listening, even when we disagree and about continuing to discuss these issues even when it makes us angry and frustrated.

In other changes, my thoughts on education have been expanded and muddied and clarified and muddied some more - the complexities involved in the basic questions of what knowledge is, who and how it is defined, who benefits and who does not in these definitions seem to cause a paralysis at times in the world of teacher education research and yet they are the questions that are most important and I am most passionate about.  Because the thinking of a grad student is largely centered around course work in the first years I have explored many areas including Teacher Learning, Critical Race Theory, Context and Micro-politics of Teacher Education, History of Education, Reform, Curriculum and many many more.  The same questions keep surfacing about knowledge, what learning and teaching.

So as I move forward, expect updates on gardening, partnership and some of the more troubling questions about education - 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Privilege to Survive

On Monday I had a nasty run in with some sort of stinging bug - and because I live in a community with medical facilities, I have health insurance, and I had people around, it was a small thing, a minor incident. But had I not had any of those things the outcome could have been different, there would not have been the nurses or the doctors, the epinephrine, the IV, the ambulance to take me to the emergency room, the benadryl - I may have survived without those things but there were moments when I wasn't sure - but even without the bug sting and my reaction to it, I survived - I could live in Pakistan right now, or Afghanistan, or Niger, the Philippines or the United States (source) or be one of the thousands of children who die every day either from starvation or preventable disease - and in that case, bug or no bug, I might not have survived - survival is privileged.

yes, we have a medical system that can be god like - make miracles, save lives - and if it hadn't existed, I definitely would have died about two years ago from an appendix leaking toxins into my system - However, the nature of that medical system, the high costs, the privatization makes living, life, something that only the privileged can have and afford. And while I am thankful for the times my life has been saved, I know that my life is no more worthy than the thousands of lives that are not saved every day -so yes, I survived Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday - I survive and am able to live every day because others are not.

Monday was a rough day, and I have spent much of my week rehashing it with others, going over it in my mind, marveling at the wonderful support that others gave me - but I can't forget that Monday, though merely the tip of the iceberg of my privilege was more about that same privilege than anything else... what that means for tomorrow, I am not sure, I'm just sayin.....