Sunday, January 25, 2015

Family History, Pregnancy Loss & Me

Don't worry, everything with our baby is wonderful. 
Still pregnant and happily gaining weight each week.

(Don't mind the fan and humidifier at my feet. Just there to make sure I breathe at night!)
But not every pregnancy is so lucky.
 In two weeks it will be the one-year mark since my first appointment with the OB/GYN. I was finally ten weeks pregnant and they'd see me and I'd get the adorable ultrasound showing the little human growing in my belly.

Except it didn't happen that way. 

Instead we cried for what felt like weeks. I am still not sure if that was the worst day of my life, or if two days later when I had the D&C was worse. I think that traumatized me a bit more. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. Or the experience of receiving your first bill from the hospital where they list your procedure as "abortion" because technically a miscarriage is called a spontaneous abortion. If a woman already doesn't feel guilty about her body rejecting her baby, telling her she had an abortion will do the trick. 

I don't think I could ever come close to an adequate explanation of how heartbreaking miscarriage is. The initial shock and sadness is one thing, but it feels like the pain will never go away because of the constant reminders. Seeing your friends announce their pregnancy's on Facebook is rough. Not really a jealousy thing. I was genuinely happy for my friends--but it's hard when being happy for someone else reminds you of the worst experience of your life. When you get pregnant, you're immediately inducted into this club and it is exciting. When you miscarry (or lose a pregnancy/child/spouse in some other way) you join a club that nobody wants to be part of. Fortunately, this club is full of incredible people that bring a lot of strength. I'm grateful to have found some of those people in my family history during this time.

I've mentioned before that my grandma has a little brother that died of diphtheria when he was 6 months old. The picture below is one of the only pictures of Joseph Hays.

(Pictured with his oldest sister Dorothy)

This picture is so cute. Sleepy and having fun!
 Based on his size, though, it probably wasn't much longer until he passed away. The next picture is of my grandma Katherine with her mother Grace in 1928. 

I don't know Joseph's birthday, but based on when my grandma was born I'm pretty sure he hadn't been born yet. Still, somewhere around this time this young mother lost her child. The plans for her first son's life were gone. I've thought of her many times during the last year. As difficult as our miscarriage was, I cannot imagine losing a child that I had been able to meet and begin to raise. 

Looking through pictures of her I wonder how she handled the grief out there alone in the country. I had people to talk to and the internet to read other peoples' experiences. When my body was freaking out afterwards, there were a ton of websites where I could look for answers. I feel like not having these things would have been unbearable. Even getting pregnant again was scary. Finding out I was pregnant brought on some pretty intense anxiety. Back to the internet and books and friends I went, trying to figure out how to manage the anxiety. I still have some anxiety every time I walk into my doctor's office, fearful of bad news. Grace had several more children afterwards. If I had anxiety after, I wonder what she felt? Did she fear every time one of her kids had a runny nose? With all the worries I'm sure she had, she was a strong woman. I have only a couple memories of her from when I was very small, but I'm told she was a wonderful woman who worked hard and loved her children.

(Grace Hays. No year or location on picture.)

Grandma said that her mother never really talked about her loss very much, which doesn't surprise me. Her daughter Dorothy ("Dot") lost her first husband in World War 2 and her daughters and my grandma said Dot didn't talk about that either. I feel like back then people had so much work to do they couldn't take the time to grieve when something hard happened. It's good to not wallow in self-pity, but I think it's so sad that people frequently kept it all to themselves.

(My great-aunt Dot, her first husband Kenneth Atherton, and my grandma Katherine)

I think we can learn a lot from our ancestors and their grief. During the last year I've thought about Grace and Dot many times, both admiring their strength to continue on and wishing they'd had people to talk to so they didn't have to bear the burden alone. Before ours, I knew people who had miscarried and thought it was sad, but I never really considered the extent of that pain. As I reached out to a few people, I found out about others I knew who had gone through their own heartaches with starting a family. People served me and made a difference in my life, though most of them probably don't realize how much. The other day I glued into my journal all the cards people sent me after they found out. I went back and read my journal from last February and just bawled my eyes out. A year later and it is still so fresh. Reading those cards again brought comfort even now. 
Because of all this I've felt a desire to be more actively compassionate towards the pain others endure, to be a little more careful of what I say on Facebook, and try to make myself more approachable when people need someone to listen. Hopefully I can be for some what so many others have been for me and teach my daughter the same thing. Loss can be lonely and isolating, but it doesn't have to be.


  1. I have appreciated your stories. I am a NICU nurse, and I am working on a nursing education project regarding child immunizations. May I use the image you posted of Joseph Hays on the sled? I am putting together a display to make an emotional appeal about the benefits of immunization.

    1. Hello! Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote on this blog, I'm surprised you found it :) I blog at now. Yes, you may use the image, but please just reference it back here. Thanks and good luck on your display!

    2. Thank you very much. I will be sure to reference back here for you. It will be some time before I use it but I won't forget. Wishing you and your family well.