How to ruin a perfectly good vacation

First, be a total glutton and take two weeks off in a row. You think this is genius because, dude, two weeks off, and also you can spend the last two weeks of the first trimester puking in the privacy of a beach house, with copious amounts of relatives nearby to watch your toddler instead of squeezing into non-maternity clothes for work until you finally hit week 12 and can officially come out of the pregnancy closet and kiss button flies goodbye for the next nine months. The downside is that you will now be coming out of said closet to your entire family, not to mention 100 of your closest in-laws (hurray for family reunions), but it’s your second pregnancy so you throw caution to the wind. Also, you’re basically a high functioning alcoholic when not with child, so you have a pretty obvious tell.

The night before your last full day at the beach, start bleeding. Not just spotting but bleeding, but not near hemorrhaging — nothing worth waking your already hypochondriac mother up for at 3 a.m. Look up the scant medical facilities in the beach town who you’ll call in the morning in search of a functioning ultrasound machine and eventually fall back to sleep in the twin bed you’re sharing with the toddler, both comforted and distressed by his presence at this moment.

The next morning, make a few phone calls and realize you are stuck heading to the ER. Try to pull your mother aside and subtly explain to her that you need her to take you to a doctor, just to check things out. Recall that as a New Jersey Italian, your mother is wholly incapable of keeping calm and now the entire household is running about because you’re bleeding. Smooth. At one point, six people are trying to tag along for the journey, but you politely insist they stay home and watch the toddler, as you don’t need your uncle present when discussing lady parts with a doctor you’ve never met.

Now that it’s just you and mom, hop in the car and confirm that your bad driving is in fact a trait you inherited. Despite or possibly because of the assistance of the GPS, make a few wrong turns and finally arrive at a hospital that looks more like a place you’d go to buy adirondack chairs than a serious medical facility. You are the only people in the ER, but it still takes almost an hour to see a doctor. At this point, you’re still sitting on a wad of toilet paper, because someone who’s 11 weeks pregnant doesn’t pack maxi pads when going on vacation. Thankfully, a nurse finds you a pad the size of an adult diaper and now at least you aren’t concerned you’ll repeat a scene from middle school, the first period days.

The doctor comes in and she is young. Like younger than you are, and you only just turned 30. She orders up a bunch of blood work, a pelvic exam and an ultrasound. Or she could just do the ultrasound, being it is the only diagnostic tool that’s relevant at the moment, but it is an ER and blood work is their form of initiation. The nurse comes in, overly cheerful and asking such wholly inappropriate questions as “So are you hoping for a girl?” to which you answer “I’ll just take a heartbeat at this point.”

She then completely butchers putting in a line, such that she has to jiggle the thing in your vein to coax out the I kid you not 12 vials of blood she’s taking despite their not being at all relevant to the situation at hand. You feel faint, but play it up enough that she thinks you’re passing out and finally removes the line in your now very bruised arm. You contemplate walking out and driving the four hours to see a real doctor in a real hospital. You request a ginger ale and are denied. This seems like a total injustice at the time.

Finally someone comes to take you to the ultrasound and your mom is not allowed to come with you. OK, so the exact time when you will find out if this pregnancy is viable, the proverbial moment of truth, will be you alone in a room with a fucking ultrasound tech who’s not allowed to say anything other than “I’m not allowed to say.” Awesome.

You stare at the screen as you know roughly what you’re looking for, and there is no heartbeat to be found. When you ask her if she sees one, well, just guess her reply. She moves from the external ultrasound to the internal, a.k.a. wanding. Yup, it’s like an ultrasound dildo, complete with a mini condom for sanitary purposes and half a tube of lube. Needless to say, this is uncomfortable. Worse, you can no longer see the screen, only the funny way the tech is scrunching up her nose that implies that she has no idea what she’s looking at. The wanding goes on way longer than it should given you already know there’s no heartbeat and therefore no viable pregnancy, radiologist or not. Finally the torture is over and she heads off to talk to said radiologist and you’re left alone in a room with a cheesy wallpaper border depicting the very beach you should be sitting on right now instead of your current stirrup situation.

The radiologist comes in with the tech and starts by drawing a picture of a uterus on a piece of paper. Great, a free lesson in anatomy, with a condescending tone on top. He is also so young. If the uterus is a V, they like to see implantation in the middle of the V. Yours is at the very top edge, which they call a corneal ectopic. He says they only see one of these every few years and you reply that you must just be exceptional. Regardless, he confirms that not only is there no heartbeat, there’s no fetal tube, which basically means no fetus… Just an empty sac in the wrong spot. He seems way less concerned with the whole lack of a live baby than you are, and re-wands you to confirm his diagnosis, which turns out to maybe not be so far to the edge as first thought. All you think is “Who gives a shit, there is no baby, I am having a miscarriage. End of story.”

You are wheeled back to your room and mom gives you a look to which you can only reply with a thumbs down. She bursts into tears and so do you.

The young doctor comes back and you are again treated to a drawing of your uterus. Given the placement, she wants to wait for a consult with the OB on call, but he’s in surgery so we have to wait. She does a pelvic exam anyway and takes a bunch of swabs, you don’t know why. She still denies you ginger ale and tries to get the nurse to put in another line but you insist on waiting until you talk to the OB. You’ve had enough unnecessary intervention already thank you very much. She forgets to prop the bed back up, so you lay down flat for the next hour, watching the minutes tick away and recalling that your c-section was over in 20 minutes so what could be taking so long. You want to go home. You don’t want any more treatment at this hospital if you can possibly avoid it.

The OB finally arrives and he is the only redeeming moment of the whole experience. He thinks the ectopic diagnosis is bullshit and focuses instead on the unfortunate news that the pregnancy isn’t viable and that you are now having a miscarriage. He suggests you head home, call your OB and schedule an appointment with him, and arms you with prescriptions for painkillers so the drive back won’t be torture. He says if you don’t feel comfortable, he’s happy to treat you, but you are grateful to be released back to your own life. He warns you that people will say stupid, insensitive things, things they would never say to someone who lost a child that they had met, and while you already know this, it further confirms the OB’s humanity in this shitty situation and you feel comforted in some small way.

You get dressed, suffer through another round of vitals while the nurse tries to say something helpful that only makes you cry again but finally you get your fucking ginger ale and that helps. You head back, stopping for a burger while your mom picks up the prescriptions. You dread walking back into that beach house with all that family. You dread calling your husband who is home and not at the beach and giving him this news over the phone. You focus on your French fries instead. Because your life is really no different than it was the day before. Just the direction it was going to take has changed. And you try to think about this and not the baby you won’t be having six months from now.

–Lisa Richey

Posted with permission from the author and The Hairpin
Original Story

Science Friday: Predicting miscarriage risk?

Blood kisspeptin level test may identify which pregnant women are at high risk for miscarriage

Measuring pregnant women’s blood kisspeptin levels early in their pregnancy may effectively predict their risk of miscarriage, a new study finds. Kisspeptins are peptides [proteins] encoded by the KISS1 gene, which is highly prevalent in the placenta. Kisspeptins circulating in the blood increase dramatically during normal human pregnancy, to several thousand times non-pregnancy levels, which makes them a novel predictive marker for assessing the risk of later complications.

Measuring pregnant women’s blood kisspeptin levels early in their pregnancy may effectively predict their risk of miscarriage, a new study finds. The results were presented Saturday at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago.

“We show that, even in women with no symptoms of miscarriage, a single blood test for kisspeptin more accurately predicted the risk of miscarriage compared with the hCG [human chorionic gonadotropin] levels that were measured at the same time,” said lead study author Ali Abbara, MBBS BSc MRCP, clinical research fellow in the Department of Investigative Medicine at Imperial College London, United Kingdom. “Being better able to identify women at high risk of miscarriage may allow for improved monitoring and management of these pregnancies.”

Miscarriage affects 1 in 5 pregnancies, and most miscarriages occur early in pregnancy, before the woman is able to carry her fetus for 24 weeks. Kisspeptins are peptides encoded by the KISS1 gene, which is highly prevalent in the placenta. Kisspeptins circulating in the blood increase dramatically during normal human pregnancy, to several thousand times non-pregnancy levels, which makes them a novel predictive marker for assessing the risk of later complications.

This is the first study showing that a single plasma kisspeptin level test during early pregnancy can identify the risk for miscarriage in women who have no symptoms. Dr. Abbara and his colleagues evaluated plasma kisspeptin levels in 993 asymptomatic pregnant women who were, on average, 11 weeks pregnant and were visiting their doctor for a routine prenatal exam at an urban academic obstetric center.

The women provided a single blood sample and the researchers measured each woman’s levels of kisspeptin and hCG (a hormone commonly used to diagnose possible miscarriage and other abnormalities) and compared them.

The researchers found that, in women who miscarried, blood kisspeptin levels, corrected for gestation at time of blood test, were 60% lower than the levels in women who later had healthy pregnancies. Compared with hCG, which was 36% lower in women who miscarried, blood kisspeptin levels more accurately predicted future miscarriage.

They also found that plasma kisspeptin over 1,306 picomoles per liter was strongly associated with a lower risk of miscarriage.

“Future work will assess whether it is possible to intervene to prevent miscarriage in women identified as being at high risk of this complication by a low blood kisspeptin level,” Dr. Abbara observed.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Endocrine Society.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Endocrine Society. (2014, June 23). Blood kisspeptin level test may identify which pregnant women are at high risk for miscarriage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140623092100.htm

One woman’s miscarriage story and search for solace

Editor’s Note: I am featuring this article as inspiration for those of you who feel especially burdened during the holidays. Creativity through writing has been a great way for me to express myself, but there are many other ways to express creativity–This article features the efforts of Amelia Gregory, who has revamped her online magazine to feature other artists’ work to help her heal after two miscarriages and secondary infertility. I am not being paid for this post (or any post! This is purely MY creative outlet!), and Amelia’s Kickstarter has closed, but she has wonderful information on her Kickstarter page, so I have linked to it in several places. The author, Hannah Bullivant, also maintains a website, where she and Davina Drummond, her co-blogger, write about pregnancy and parenting, crafting, celebrating, adventures, and things she and Davina love.

I will also accept your original artwork for this website! Contact me if you would like more information on how to submit.

Creativity as a Means of Coping With Miscarriage

By Hannah Bullivant

Amelia’s magazine
, cult online creative treasure trove, is returning to print for its 10 year anniversary, with an issue called That Which We Do Not Understand. It sounds like it’s going to be a treat. Is there anyone who isn’t interested in things we don’t understand? The things at the periphery, the things science can’t quite explain? The brief is brilliant but what sets this apart from other creative projects are the motivations and personal experiences behind it. Amelia, the brains behind the mag, suffered two late miscarriages, things that ultimately shaped her desire to create this unique book. Below, Amelia explains more about the brief, her heartbreaking experiences, how she coped, and the wonderful project that has emerged as a result.

Hannah: You have recently suffered from two miscarriages and secondary infertility- things that have inspired your latest project; That Which We Do Not Understand. Would you mind sharing your story so far? How have these rather horrid sounding experiences affected you?

Amelia: We started trying for another child in the autumn of 2013. I was 40 years old and thought I might have some trouble getting pregnant but it happened very fast. Unfortunately I lost that baby just as I was due for my three month scan. We subsequently discovered that it had died at 9.5 weeks so I was pretty devastated to realise I had been carrying my dead child for some time.

I opted to have the miscarriage at home with no intervention, and started to miscarry whilst at a music class with my toddler. I struggled home and was soon paralysed by crippling pains on the kitchen floor. I never went into labour when I had my first child (despite my plans for a natural birth I ended up with an emergency caesarean) so it is with some irony that my closest experience to a drug free labour was losing a child.

My toddler was too young to understand what was going on so I had to make his supper and get him into bed whilst dealing with waves of absolute agony. I miscarried the gestational sac the next day.

We tried a second time and again I got pregnant quite rapidly. Everything seemed to be going well until I went for my three month scan, when, like a bad dream, I discovered the foetus had died a few days earlier. This time I was not given the option of miscarriage at home due to the lateness and likelihood of heavy blood loss, so I checked into hospital for my first night away from my toddler.

I was given lots of drugs and miscarried my baby into the toilet in the middle of the night. The nurse on duty was brilliantly unsympathetic but I retrieved him and held him in the palm of my hand before handing him over for analysis.

In my ensuing grief I made an appointment with a specialist called Dr. Shehata, who organised a battery of tests at great expense. I was diagnosed with elevated Natural Killer cells and prescribed a huge number of drugs to combat this, but after much research I decided I was unhappy about taking these on the off chance they might help, as some have really horrible potential side effects. I subsequently learnt that my second baby had Downs, which often accounts for late first trimester loss and is obviously a relatively common problem at my age.

Having read widely about natural ways to improve my chances of providing a safe environment for my baby I then changed my diet and started taking loads of herbal supplements and vitamins. We decided to take a break before trying again, but recently found out that I am pregnant once more. I am very nervous and feel quite sanguine about my chances of holding on to this one, but I am trying to be positive.

Hannah: Why do you think that miscarriage is such a secretive matter, and what you think the impact of this is?

Amelia: You’re right, miscarriage is such a taboo subject! I think it might be something to do with the it being the ultimate failure of the body – to be able to create life but not enable it to thrive is a very difficult idea to cope with. It is also very easy to blame oneself and so it is very natural to end up soul searching.

One of the things that hit me the most was the fact that life and death can be so closely intertwined – it really does cause you to question your place in the universe – where did this soul come from and where did it go? One of the only ways I can process what happened to me is to believe that this was meant to be.

I was relatively open about my first miscarriage but when it happened a second time I decided to make an announcement on social media, because it is such a massive thing and I wanted to publicly acknowledge what I had been through. The results were quite staggering – two other women contacted me to say they were going though a miscarriage at exactly the same time as me, and I lost count of the number of women (and men) who contacted me to tell me about their experiences of miscarriage and other infertility issues. I think that in keeping miscarriage under wraps we fail to deal with a vital part of the human condition – fertility is by no means a given and our bodies do not always behave in ways we can predict.

Hannah: How did the book idea come about in the midst of this?

Amelia: I have been trying to rebuild my website for a year and a half, with hopes to relaunch the magazine both in print and online for my 10th birthday this year. Unfortunately I have had major problems with web developers and each time I suffered a miscarriage I was coincidentally having dreadful issues with rebuilding the website. After the second miscarriage I decided to put the relaunch on hold as I had run out of money and energy, but I couldn’t let my anniversary pass without doing something and I am very bad at not being busy. So I decided I would fund a special book on Kickstarter, which enables me to go back into print without the huge worry of going into debt – something that has been a major issue with previous publications.

Hannah: Why did you decide to focus on art and writing on the theme of That Which We Do Not Understand?

Amelia: One of the biggest things I have taken from my experience of miscarriage is that we really don’t understand how our bodies work. Even the specialist doctor was only taking an educated guess because no one can definitively diagnose the reasons for miscarriage, which is a sadly under researched aspect of infertility.

My second miscarriage probably happened because the foetus had Downs but there may well have been other factors at play… I can only speculate. I have decided to pursue a natural approach to fertility so I have spent many hours researching what combinations of vitamins and supplements might improve my chances of a full term pregnancy, and I am having regular acupuncture. These choices are guided by instinct rather than any concrete knowledge of their outcome, but right now this is the right approach for me.

I think that despite such huge advances in science and medicine, there are still many things that modern humans do not fully appreciate or understand about our world, so we still turn to alternative practices to bring clarifications into our lives. In my creative endeavours I have always been inspired by the things that are happening in my life, so I have tackled the universal concept of That Which We Do Not Understand in my book. The final publication goes to print this week and features over 90 beautiful, inspiring and thought provoking contributions from creatives around the world.

Hannah: I think lot of people are interested in things they don’t understand-why? Is it OK, to not understand?

Amelia: I think it is human nature to query things that don’t make sense to us, and these questions about the unknown fuel our quest to create and connect. Ultimately we create the world around us to suit our need for understanding, but of course it’s okay not to understand! I think that’s the beauty of our universe – we will never fully understand everything about life… or death. No matter how much we quantify and analyse there will ultimately always be unknowns. We just need to embrace them.

Hannah: What message would you like people to take away with them about this project?

Amelia: That it is okay to talk about issues and feelings that might not always be easy to address. That when we reach out and connect and share our ideas through creative endeavours we are all much stronger. I very much hope that people enjoy the book and art prints I have put together, and for them to be treasured items in the home that can be returned to again and again.

The brief for Amelia’s book will explore the many ways in which humans seek to understand the things that they don’t understand in their lives: think Mysticism, Spirituality, Alchemy, Paganism, Witchcraft, Herbalism, Astrology, Animal Spirits, Paranormal activities, the Moon and much more. The book will feature at least 72 pages of exclusive artworks interspersed with short stories, flash fiction and poetry. It will be beautiful and inspiring, full of thought provoking contributions that question and celebrate the miraculousness of life.

Hannah’s Website
Amelia’s Magazine
Amelia’s Kickstarter

Part of the “club”

After my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, I read somewhere that 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. “Wow,” I thought that was such a high percentage considering in all my life, I never heard of anyone, except my mother, speak of such losses.

That fact provided some sense of normalcy to my loss although I was still grieving for my unborn child, for my hopes & dreams associated with my child. I felt lost, empty, sad and angry.

Angry that since I was only seven weeks along, and I hadn’t announced my pregnancy, I felt I had to hide the entire experience as if it never happened! I took one sick day…one. I cried at work…frequently…sometimes in front of students. As an educator in an urban setting, it was important to remain “strong” and emotionally stable…or so I thought only four years into my career.

I wanted to talk about my emotional pain. But I couldn’t figure out why… If 25% of women go through this, no one had ever talked about it to me? How will I be perceived if I do? A downer? A whiner? An attention-seeker?

I remember wanting to start a movement so women who experience these losses can talk about it freely. For health insurance to recognize miscarriage as a “death in the family,” in order to obtain a doctor’s note so employers can give the entitled “grieving” three to five days off from work that I desperately needed!

Now, 10 years later, one successful pregnancy and two more losses later, I am noticing more women “talking” about miscarriages, but I notice that women sometimes tell me in confidence because they know that I will understand.
I can’t help but wonder if women have always had this secret society/club where it is acceptable and safe to “talk?” Or if more women are actually “talking?” Unfortunately, I am not only a member of this “club,” but each loss I have experienced has been significantly more and more traumatic.

My second pregnancy ended as an ectopic pregnancy at 13 weeks. I had announced my pregnancy the night before I had to have emergency surgery…with complications. I felt scared, relieved that I survived, confused and angry at the universe.

I got five days off of work due to the surgery and its complications. However, I was bombarded with supportive words and gestures from my friends…because they knew. It was nice at the time. Soon after, there was no talking about it.

A few years later, I was pregnant again, and remained pregnant for 39 weeks. I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl. That pregnancy wasn’t easy though.

Coincidentally, both of my previous losses occurred on a Sunday. So every Sunday, I had anxiety, fearful that I would lose this one like the others. Words can’t explain the level of fear that I experienced! I hid from the world and starting Monday I began dreading the next Sunday.

I love my healthy baby girl with all my heart and I believe that she was the reason I survived my most recent loss. As a result I have recently become part of another “club.” At 23 weeks and 4 days I was forced to make the most painful decision of my life. I still cannot talk about it…

–El

Miscarriage Memoirs: Science Friday

NSAIDs do not increase risk of miscarriages, study finds

Story Source:
This story is based on materials provided by Canadian Medical Association Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Editor’s note: It is important to ALWAYS consult your doctor before taking a new medication during pregnancy. GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC.

Women who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) during pregnancy are not at increased risk of miscarriages, confirms a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac and others, are increasingly used by pregnant women in the first trimester to combat pain, fever and inflammation. However, it is unclear whether they increase the risk of pregnancy loss because previous studies have shown inconsistent results.

To determine whether there is an association between the use of NSAIDs in pregnancy and miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), researchers looked at data on 65 457 women aged 15 to 45 years who were admitted to Soroka Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel, between January 2003 and December 2009 to give birth (90% of women) or for a miscarriage (10%). Of the total group, 4495 (6.9%) of women took NSAIDs during the first trimester of pregnancy. Women who took NSAIDs were older, were more likely to smoke and had more inflammatory diseases. As well, more pregnant women in the exposed group had undergone in-vitro fertilization (IVF) than in those who did not take NSAIDs.

About 8.2% of women in the group exposed to NSAIDs — general anti-inflammatories — had miscarriages compared with 10% of women in the group that did not take NSAIDs. In the group of women who took COX-2 selective inhibitors, which target specific inflammation, 17% had a miscarriage, although this group was small and the question needs further research.

“We found no important associations between exposure to NSAIDs, either by group or for most specific NSAID drugs, and risk of spontaneous abortion,” write Dr. Sharon Daniel and Prof. Amalia Levy, Department of Public Health, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center, with coauthors. “However, we found an increased risk of spontaneous abortion following exposure to indomethacin.”

The authors believe that this may be due to “reverse causation bias” because indomethacin was dispensed at the end of pregnancy, likely to treat preterm labour, an indication different than that for other NSAIDS.

“The fact that the study was based on large proportion of the district population, was adjusted to nearly all known risk factors for miscarriages (tobacco use, obesity, IVF, uterine malformations, hypercoagulable conditions, intrauterine contraceptive device etc.) and used advanced statistical methods strengthens the validity of the results,” states the principal investigator, epidemiologist Prof. Levy.

Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2014, February 3). NSAIDs do not increase risk of miscarriages, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140203122731.htm
Journal Reference:
Sharon Daniel, Gideon Koren, Eitan Lunenfeld, Natalya Bilenko, Ronit Ratzon, Amalia Levy. Fetal exposure to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and spontaneous abortions. CMAJ, February 2014 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.130605

Oscar

Adam and I became pregnant the first time in November of 2013, one month after getting engaged to be married. I started spotting at 9 weeks, and miscarried within 2 days– I was in no pain. The fetus never made it past 5 weeks and there was no heartbeat. At this time, the sheer disappointment was terrible. I realized how naive I had been– miscarriages within the 1st trimester are so common, and I had no idea. I had heard stories from both Grandmothers on my mother’s and father’s sides about multiple miscarriages and never gave it a second thought. They were from a different, distant era. Medicine has come so far. No one ever talks about miscarriages on Facebook.

We proceeded in the planning of our wedding, deciding on October 19, 2014 (1 year exactly after Adam proposed).

We rode high on the hopeful statistic that women who miscarry have a much higher rate of having a successful pregnancy the 2nd time around, especially when the pregnancy occurs within 6 months of the last miscarriage. We were pregnant again by May and things looked healthy from the start. From seeing the heartbeat to passing genetic tests with flying colors, everything looked good. We found out the sex –a boy– and decided on a name: Oscar.

In October, a week before the wedding, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling light cramping similar to menstrual cramps. I went downstairs and researched Braxton Hicks contractions while waiting for my cramps to pass. The cramps continued in intensity and I decided to wake Adam and go to the ER. By the time I got in the car, I was in full blown labor, with painful, consistent contractions. I was admitted to Labor and Delivery and we got the news that I had no cervix left (later to be diagnose with an Incompetent Cervix– cruel name for a cruel condition)- I was fully dilated at 20 weeks 2 days, and I would be delivering and losing our son. Adam was devastated and emotionally wrought instantly…I’ve never seen him so emotionally devastated. I was more calm (I knew I had to get through the birth) and requested an epidural. I was damned if I was going to feel the physical and emotional pain of losing a child at the same time.

When Oscar arrived, the nurse asked me if I wanted to see him. There is nothing that could have prepared me for that question. I didn’t know how to answer. Adam was not in the room, having been escorted out while they administered the epidural. I asked what he would look like. Part of me was afraid of what I would see. There are many things you cannot un-see…would seeing him scar me and make my healing process harder? The doctor said “At this stage, they look a bit like aliens. Their head is still disproportionally large for their bodies and their skin is still transparent.”

They set Oscar aside, on the newborn warmer, in a blanket. After a few minutes, as Adam re-entered the room, I decided that I had to see him, my baby. The nurse handed him to me and I was blown away. He did not look like an alien…he looked tiny and perfect. He had a perfectly formed nose, mouth, tiny hands with fingernails, big feet with high arches like his Daddy, a little chin and perfect closed eyes. He also had weight. Holding him, he was substantial and real, all 10 ounces of him.

I was afraid of touching him, because he seemed so fragile…seems funny now and I wish I had touched him more. Adam was fearful of holding him at first, I think he had similar thoughts to my earlier “you can’t un-see certain things” thoughts…but he did and we are both glad we had that moment as a family, the three of us.

A nurse took pictures, which seems awkward and it was a little…but I am so thankful we have them. I collected Victorian mourning art long before this time in my life and always admired the Victorians’ ability to confront death head on and create memorial relics that could comfort them and remind them of their loved ones. The hospital took pictures of Oscar with and without us, inked his little feet and hands for stamps, and presented us with a memorial box that is a most treasured possession now.

We spent the day waiting for my legs to regain their feeling and trying to process the fact that we would be leaving the hospital empty handed, without Oscar. I asked Adam to announce our loss on Facebook. This seemed natural to me. I wanted everyone to know this important event had just happened. It felt like a battle cry. It worked. The feelings, thoughts, and prayers that rolled in in the form of comments, messages, and texts sustained us during those first crazy hours. We couldn’t speak to anyone but each other. We were raw and foraging in a space we had never imagined we would be. But whenever we needed to, we could read a comforting message and know that our extended family, which reaches across many miles and time zones, was there for us in whatever way we needed.

A social worker from the hospital visited us to give us information on support groups for parents who have suffered the loss of a child. She also gave us, what continues to be, the best advice we have received. “People will want to say things but won’t know what to say. Sometimes they will say the wrong thing. Forgive them.”

Forgive them. We had no idea how helpful this would become. It became our own private joke/ comfort blanket. The friend who said “It’s probably for the best.” The coworker who said “There’s a reason for everything.” The friend who asked about what we did with Oscar’s remains. The dear friend who can retell her own successful birth story for the 99th time in front of us with the same gusto as if it was the first. The parent who decided not to come to our wedding because of the emotional upheaval. “I had to forgive someone today,” we would say.

And we did. Everyone wants to help and no one knows how. Just as we were unprepared for this, so was everyone else. And there are success stories. Friends brought food– lots of food. Matzo ball soup really is medicine and it really does make you feel better. Sandwiches, hams, soups, cookies. People gave us books and sent beautiful flowers. It all helped. People coming over and visiting helped. Not being alone helped. Adam and I joked that we could write a book on “what to say” in these situations. It’s really simple– keep it simple and don’t try to make yourself feel better or answer a curiosity. Things that work:

“I am here for you”

“I am so sorry for your loss”

“You are in my thoughts”

“Let me know what you need”

“I am coming over with a deli tray”

Our wedding was in 6 days and it felt like it had been designed that way. Our closest core of friends and family would be flocking to us and surrounding us with their love to celebrate our love. Those first few days Adam and I have never felt closer. Losing a child, quite understandably, puts all bullshit into perspective. I felt no stress over anything and cared about nothing except being with Adam. The saying “us against the world” is cliche, but it is how we both felt in those early days. I went out briefly to get my nails done (I was getting married in 96 hours) and almost had an anxiety attack being separated from him for 1 hour. I called him on my way home and said through tears “I can’t explain it. I just feel like I can’t get home to you fast enough.” He said he knew how I felt– we both felt the same way. Everyone in the “real” world was carrying on with their daily lives and had no idea that this horrific thing had just happened. Only we knew. It was only us.

It just so happened that 2 days after we lost Oscar, there was a cyber holiday called National Infant Loss Day. I was mesmerized by an instagram post from Jessica Kraus of the House Inhabit blog. She posted about a loss she experienced at 17 weeks. My world of support widened. My heart didn’t feel alone. I posted a picture of Oscar’s foot and handprints. For a second, I questioned whether I would be judged for this. And then, as has happened in my internal monologue many times since then, I said “Fuck it. I just lost my child.” And I was glad and unashamed of sharing him.

We rewrote part of the wedding ceremony to mention and honor our son and both wore light blue ribbons for him. We wanted to honor Oscar, but also allow the celebration to continue.

I wish I could say it was the happiest day of my life…it was not. It was amazing and healing, and the wedding went off “without a hitch” as they say. I was happy and laughed a great deal that day. I also felt unattractive and had never planned on getting married in my 6 days post-birth body. I had imagined a cute baby bump and that pregnancy glow. It was also a distraction. After a wedding and honeymoon, we are still left with a reality we have to deal with.

Part of my healing and moving forward is coming to terms with knowing that when I look at my wedding photos, I will also be brought back to that week….that awful week that something really tragic happened. It is also the week I realized that Adam and I are very, very good at being partners to one another. I realized our friends really are our family. And I realized that I am stronger than I ever realized I could be.

–Christie Cook Cherensky

reposted with permission from Christie’s personal blog

oscar 1

Pregnant selfie at 18 weeks
Pregnant selfie at 18 weeks
Power couple -- 1 day pre wedding, 5 days post loss
Power couple — 1 day pre wedding, 5 days post loss

Miscarriage Memoirs: Science Friday

Vitamin E deficiency linked to greater risk of miscarriage among poor women: Bangladeshi study

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Science Daily
Editor’s note: It is important to ALWAYS consult your doctor before beginning or ending a vitamin regimen. GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC.

Pregnant women in Bangladesh with low levels of the most common form of vitamin E are nearly twice as likely to have a miscarriage than those with adequate levels of the vitamin in their blood, according to new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The findings, published online last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that improving the diet of women in impoverished nations or encouraging intake of vitamin E through prenatal supplements could have a direct impact on fertility, though more research is needed.

“For nearly a century, we have known about vitamin E and its role in the fertility of animals,” says one of the study’s leaders, Kerry Schulze, PhD, an associate scientist in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “To our knowledge, this is the first study in humans that has looked at the association of vitamin E and miscarriage. The findings from this study support a role for vitamin E in protecting the embryo and fetus in pregnancy.”

Vitamin E is an important vitamin required for the proper function of many organs in the body. It works as an antioxidant, which means it helps to slow down processes that damage cells. It is found in a variety of foods, though the main source of vitamin E in Bangladesh is believed to be in vegetable oils used in cooking.

The researchers analyzed data from 1,605 rural Bangladeshi pregnant women in the JiVitA-1 study that ran from 2001 to 2007. Blood samples were taken upon enrollment in the first trimester and any miscarriages were recorded on a weekly basis thereafter. Of the 1,605 women in the study, 141 (8.8 percent) subsequently miscarried.

The researchers looked at two forms of vitamin E — alpha-tocopherol (the most active form of the vitamin in the body) and gamma-tocopherol. Nearly three out of four women in the study had what was considered vitamin E deficiency, with low alpha-tocopherol levels. When looking at alpha-tocopherol, 5.2 percent of women with adequate levels in their blood miscarried in the first or second trimester as compared with 10.2 percent of women who miscarried with low levels.

The relationship with gamma-tocopherol, however, went the other way, with higher levels associated with increased miscarriage risk, though to a lesser degree, Schulze says.

Pregnant women in developing countries are traditionally not given a prenatal multivitamin like women in the United States typically take before or after becoming pregnant. Instead, the current standard of care is to provide them with iron and folic acid supplements because of the proven links between deficiencies of those nutrients and poor pregnancy outcomes.

“The new findings suggest that having pregnant women consume an adequate amount of vitamin E early in pregnancy could be beneficial,” says Abu Ahmed Shamim, MS, an associate in the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School and the lead Bangladeshi author. But since miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy, Shamim says levels of vitamin E ideally need to be boosted in women of childbearing age by improving access to a diverse diet that includes better vitamin E sources so they already have what they need once they become pregnant.

“Vitamin deficiencies are considered a form of hidden hunger because they are not readily apparent but they can have huge health consequences,” Schulze says. “What we really want to do is optimize health before women become pregnant, because if they don’t start with a good vitamin E status, they are at a high risk of negative outcomes.”

Schulze says that the study may not be generalizable to higher-income nations where women of childbearing age tend to have better nutritional status.

Citation: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2014, December 3). Vitamin E deficiency linked to greater risk of miscarriage among poor women: Bangladeshi study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 10, 2014 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203083600.htm

Link to abstract