Overcoming Miscarriage: From Patient to Patience

Science sez our cells continually replace themselves . . . and that this ongoing, nifty in-house auto-rearranging results in a full new body every seven years.  If so, then I have just about created a new human being by now after all: me.

Okay, so I was actually trying to make a baby, but whattyagunnado?

Seven Years

Yes, it’s been almost seven years since our first miscarriage.  I can still hear my husband’s shocked gasp after the ultrasound technician announced that there was an “empty sac” in place of what we had both whole-heartedly expected to be the first glimpse of our happy budding embryo.  “Empty sac” is not a child.  “Empty sac” is not a little being to love and nurture and watch grow and laugh and tickle and goof around with.  “Empty sac” is a bad joke.

A really shitty, perverse, unfunny twist of fate.

Looking back, it was obviously naive of us to not be even the slightest bit prepared for a negative outcome, but truly: we were completely blindsided.  It still stings.  This was our first pregnancy, and who could know starting out that something so supposedly natural also had such high potential to be so impossible?

In the looong, agonizing time since, something has shifted inside me, along with my cells.  Some major part of me has come to realize that resistance is futile.  The new cells understand that there is no rushing, there is no controlling, there is no begging or pleading, or changing things.

That doesn’t mean we’re giving up.  Rather, it’s more of a peaceful state instead of a tortured one.  What my shiny, fresh cells have latched onto instead is hope.  Hope is more powerful than everything, when applied correctly.

Before I sound absurdly naive once again, let me clarify: there is a difference here between magical thinking and willful choice.

I choose to believe we can still build a family.  I choose to believe my body can heal, that I can help it find what it needs, that we can still connect, at the right time, with the little soul(s) out there who want to be a part of our strange, odds-defying dream.  I choose to no longer force, to trust that the universe is indeed looking out for each and every one of us, as long as we hang on and keep doing our best.

The very awesome poet Wendell Berry refers to this kind of endless, but optimistic, slog as “the patient work of the seasons.”  It’s about allowing things to happen, and being open to the slow, methodical shifts that need to occur to bring a thing into being.

You can’t hurry Spring . . . but one day it does arrive.  In due course.  After winter.  After Patience.

Seven Minutes

For the longest time, I was a different kind of patient.  I belonged to the doctors instead.  I was their patient, and it stunk.

I was a name on a chart, a lady with a ticking clock and mysterious ailments, unwisely attached to pursuing an ill-advised (even at age 39) agenda.  The power was all in their hands: to cure or not cure me, to perform or deny each procedure, to tolerate (or not tolerate) the incessant questions of a possibly — probably — unhinged woman so stupidly, nakedly in denial.

I felt their skepticism keenly.  As their patient, they were never really on my side.  I was just one of far too many nutty, needy gals they needed to deal with within their overscheduled day, during the average seven-minute appointment Western medicine considers appropriate to address all conditions.

Seven minutes.  You know what else also can’t get accomplished sufficiently in seven minutes?  Umm, just about everything?  Okay, maybe minute rice, three-minute abs, a five-minute journal can be handled decently enough . . . but don’t tell me the intricacies of a female body gone offline can be solved without considerably more care and attention.  The standard system is not a system designed to tackle complexity; it is a system designed to shuffle as many through as it can and be done.

Well, I’m done with that approach.  Now I’m my kind of patient instead.  Me and my overhauled newbie cells will nurture and believe as we see fit, and keep hope abundant and ever-present.  We’ll investigate and consult with carefully-selected medical professionals as needed and weigh what they say vs. our own experience and general BS-o-meter.  We’ll trust in being this kind of patient now and allow for the seasons to perform the work, and hopefully, ultimately, the miracle.

Nowadays, I’ll take seven transformative years over seven rushed, pointless minutes and count myself as alive, even lucky.  It’s still not easy, but the power is in the right place now.  Miscarriage is ours to overcome; it does not belong to anyone else.

What do you think?  How long have you been TTC?  Have you had some unhappy run-ins with conventional medicine yourself?  How have you coped?  Please leave any comments below, email me at tenpercentpanda@gmail.com, or use the Contact page on the 10PP website.  All thoughts, reflections, attitudes are always welcome (within reason!).  Let’s discuss.

© 2017 Rebecca Bryant/Ten-Percent Panda

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It’s “Subfertility” To You, Please

It’s a fact: the current lexicon we use for Later-in-Life Parenthood stinks.  Leave it to Western Medicine . . . if there’s an opportunity to get a dig in, it does.  Lemme return the favor.

Snapshot: Two years ago.  I’m staring down a cocky med student.  He’s a large guy, imposing.  His manner is upfront, which I can mostly deal with, but his questioning is aloof, which I can not.  In particular, haughty Mr. Med Dude will not stop using the word “abortion” when discussing my multiple miscarriages.  It is driving me and my husband nuts.

Even after our repeated angry protests, he continues.  It’s not that he’s not trying; he simply can’t help it.  “Abortion” is built into his DNA.  “Abortion” is the official medical term.  “Abortion” is how he thinks of my plight and forever will.  I am aghast.  As if living through the miscarriages wasn’t enough . . . now I’m to be forcibly confused — by my own health-care professional — with someone who walks into a clinic to intentionally terminate her unborn child?

Some embarrassing nook of my brain hears a Bones to Captain Kirk exchange: “Dammit, Jim — I’m a doctor!  Not a caregiver!”

Patients do or should — have a right to expect their Bones to be both things: a diagnostician, and a nurturer.  The rampant unchallenged insensitivity so seemingly built-in to older pregnancy pursuits (and even some younger ones, too) isn’t necessary.

And something can actually be done about this, unlike, perhaps, some of the other problems we are facing.

Let’s start by choosing the words we work with with greater care.  It’s a small thing, but huge. Just a little awareness goes a long way.  First and foremost, we should keep in sight what a hurt and grieving almost-parent patient is feeling, has already felt, will have to still feel.

Clearly, the default mode right now is set to obliviousness.

Snapshot #2: Calling in for my much-anticipated HCG results, the nurse looks them up while eating her lunch.  This is a big moment for me; not so much for her.  In early pregnancy, the level of HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) in your blood needs to double every few days.  Although I am pregnant, I need to stay that way too.

The nurse experiences me merely as a voice on the phone.  For all she knows I may want this number to go down.  Fair enough, I suppose.  Yet entering into any conversation re: HCG numbers, really should be a heads-up; either way this thing goes, it’s gonna be loaded.  Something to be handled with compassion, not in between bites of Taco Bell.

When I hear my HCG number and recognize that it is, indeed, going down yet again, the nurse asks me which way I wished it to go.  “Up,” I say.  “Nope,” she says.  “This one’s gone south.”  (Direct quote.)

From the moment an over-40 woman is blessed with a positive test result — really, from age 34 on up, when the IVF-pushers get involved — her “High-Risk Pregnancy” is skeptically received by the very medical community which is supposed to help her accomplish it.  Due to her “Advanced Maternal Age,” said lady with “Diminished Ovarian Reserve,” who astoundingly managed to connect egg to sperm anyway, despite being a “Poor Responder,” is instantly regarded as suspicious, a normal outcome for her and her child unlikely.

Norman Vincent Peale would shit his pants.  Haven’t these people ever heard of the power of positive thought?

When the process does “inevitably” fail, matters only get worse.  A miscarriage — not the dandiest term to begin with— is charted as an “empty sac,” a “blighted ovum,” sometimes a “missed abortion.”  My personal favorite, exclusive to the lucky recurrent miscarriage crowd only: “habitual abortion.”  The grief-stricken gal who has repeatedly had to endure these losses is openly dubbed a “habitual aborter.”  Like she just makes a habit of tossing her new babies away.  Eh, don’t need that one . . .

Of course there are real and significant issues involved here, issues that need some clear definition.  But whatever benefit the doctors and nurses get from employing their current labels to communicate is surely outweighed by the constant dings and damage to their patients’ spirits and souls.

Western Medicine, you don’t have to believe in me.  But please do keep your pessimism to yourself when I’m dealing with you.  Wink and nod all you want behind the scenes to treat me, but when we’re together, a higher ratio of support to caution is required.  We already know this is possibly impossible; you are not saving us from anything with a reality check.  Give us some space to believe instead.  What’s the harm?

“Unexplained Infertility” is the perfect place to begin shifting the vocab.  To be allowed to cavalierly apply the “U” word to a suffering gal’s not-yet-discovered condition is a ridiculous state of affairs.  Her problem is not unexplained, it is undiagnosed.  Oh, it’s mysterious all right — especially if you don’t take the time to look into finding out what’s actually going on.  What’s really happening is that you are just one of hundreds, thousands, millions seeking a solution . . . and no one especially wants to take on figuring out your individual hot mess.

I propose “Subfertility” as a more appropriate, gentler label to use.  The days of this throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air-and-call-it-solved nonsense should end.  Respect, diligence, understanding are what needs to be granted to all human beings striving and struggling sincerely to create life.

And, once created, that life should have nothing but optimism on its side.

Snapshot #3: From my imagination.  I see a future blissful, fully supported pregnancy experience.  I am not called old.  I am not made to fear my own pregnancy.  I am not rushed into test after test because of my advancing decrepitude and potential to falter at any moment.  Yes, I’m a “Later-in-Life” (™ Ten-Percent Panda) mom-to-be, but this is very cool.  Very, very cool.  How awesome of me to finally achieve this, what strength I have shown, what rare and admirable purpose.

Personally, I refuse to have my psyche pre-bludgeoned by thoughts of the “high-risk” pregnancy I still hope to attain.  High risk, high reward baby.  I may be subfertile, but there could still be life in the ole gal yet.

Even if there isn’t — which, believe me, I fully understand is on the table — let’s think twice about choosing to handicap me before I’ve even begun.

What do you think?  What have your experiences TTC been like as an older-parent-to-be?  Positive?  Negative?  Neutral?  Please leave any comments below, email me at tenpercentpanda@gmail.com, or use the Contact page on the 10PP website.  All thoughts, reflections, attitudes are always welcome (within reason!). Let’s discuss.

© 2016 Rebecca Bryant/Ten-Percent Panda

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Thank you for your interest and support!  If you’re interested in following me (in a non-creepy way), please sign-up for the Ten-Percent Panda e-mail list to receive updates, announcements, and other fine things.  Act today, and receive my FREE Virtual Swag Bag PDF too!  The 10PP VSB has tons of resources to assist any subfertile gal (or guy) negotiating life while TTC.  Click here to sign up and claim your FREE goodies right now!

p.s. Please don’t forget to check out the rest of the Panda Blog too!

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