06 December 2016

When It's Finally Over

When your pregnancy is found to be non-viable, you have a few choices:
1. Wait for it to pass naturally
2. Take medication that causes your body to abort
3. Have a medical procedure
4. Drink (well...that is an adjunct to all of those!)

I had a work trip planned about two weeks after we found out. I didn't have the luxury of time, but also, my body wasn't doing a great job of miscarrying on its own. I decided first to take medication.

This was the only time I slowed down slightly from work. I relaxed, took the medication, and waited for the cramping to come. I waited...and waited...and waited...There was one moment when I thought, yes, this is it. But a small clot passed and a small cramp, and that was it.

This gave me a lot of time to think and get angry.
Why was my body behaving in such a way?!
Could it not do anything right?

This did no good, I could not will my body to pass this mass of tissue that was now tricking my body into thinking it was still pregnant. Until I could let it go, I would remain tired. My boobs would remain swollen. My hormones would remain a bit out of whack.

I remained hopeful throughout the weekend that the medicine would take care of things. Alas, it was not to be. My body -- she is a stubborn one! We had a contingency plan with the doctor should this happen, and that was to get a dilation and curettage (D&C) early in the week. This carried with it some risk, but I was told that it was minor and the best way, at this point, to complete the miscarriage.

I have always been a strong advocate for a woman's right to choose, and for safe access when a woman chooses to end her pregnancy. After going through the procedure myself, this need to safe access resonates even more so. This is not a sophisticated procedure -- you have strong pain medication, and the doctor sticks a suction tube up your lady bits and scrapes around. Without a sterile environment, by a professional who knows what they are doing, there is a huge risk for infection or worse.

At any rate, my doctor and I chit chatted while I tried to stay brave throughout the procedure. I was super grateful for my high pain tolerance...though I did ask them to pump up the drugs at one point. And then, just as quickly as it had all started, it was over.

The procedure. My pregnancy. All officially over.

It was pretty unceremonious, and while they required that someone pick me up, I could have just as easily driven myself home.

Which I should have...because to add insult to injury, I ended up getting a parking ticket after leaving my car parked nearby overnight.

30 November 2016

Sicily: Seaside in Cefalu

Cefalu by Night

After a harrowing journey to get there, Cefalu was a very welcome sight!

It is a small resort town about thirty minutes from Palermo. Quite a bit of the town is off limits to cars -- though the rules are rather ignored, including by us! It was a bit easy to get lost, and ignore the signs, and no one seemed to care much...but be warned.

Cefalu was a darling beach town, and a nice change from the inland mountainous area where we'd spent the first few days. We parked the car, checked into the hotel, and meandered around town to grab a drink and decompress from the drive. We found ourselves in this lovely little town square at the base of a church, and since it was a Friday, there was a wedding going on. There was also a very happy happy hour, where we enjoyed prosecco and spritzes for a while, and maybe a bite or two.

There is a hike you can do that will take you above the town -- we chose not to do that. We chose instead to have a bit of vino on the roof of our hotel and watch the sunset, then to grab some food. Cefalu is small enough that you can walk from end to end during an evening passeggiata. 

The next morning we decided to take our time getting into Palermo, and to enjoy the Tyrrhenian Sea. There is a public beach, but your best bet is to spend a few Euro and rent a beach chair. We chose to stay right in the middle of Cefalu -- there are beaches a little further out, as well. We bought a towel in one of the shops (which came in handy later!), and rented chairs. Ours were probably about 10E a piece for a few hours of lounging. They have umbrellas should the sun get too intense, and most have a bar and some food, and will come to your chair and take/bring your order.

This was a fun, relaxing part of the trip -- it was interesting to watch all the beach goers from around the world. Like many places, there were "vendors" trying to sell their junk as we tried to relax; most of the time they were asked to leave by the beach chair company.

I'd highly recommend a day and night in Cefalu during your Sicily trip. Sicily is an overwhelming place -- the craziness of rural driving and the wildness of the cities really earn you a day or two of relaxation.

24 November 2016

Why We Shared

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for what I got to experience over this past year. I got to experience a tremendous amount of love, support, and patience (including from myself!) and for that I am grateful.

It's been my experience that many women, and their partners if they have one, choose not to share the news of their pregnancy until they are at least out of the first trimester. The thinking is that you wait until you are in the "safe zone."

But...there really is no 100% safe zone. People experience losses at all stages of pregnancy, and there is one common thread through it all -- we all need support.

Keeping a pregnancy secret is really, really hard. Especially when you find out right at the start of the holiday season...there are a lot of parties, and a lot of people watching every thing you put into your mouth. I was very tired, as well, so trying to stay up late enough to even go to a party was difficult (my apologies to everyone whose party I flaked on). Even without that, you are excited and scared and need to shout it from the roof tops.

J & I discussed quite a bit whether or not we should tell everyone. We knew our families would be together on Christmas, and, after all, the doctor had told us we could. If we shared early, we figured, the worst that could happen was we'd have to go back and tell people it didn't work out.

So we shared.

And it didn't work out.

We were so glad we shared. I will never forget the smile on my mom's face when we told her. I will never forget her tearing up when my nephew walked out in front of the family with a "Big Brother" shirt on Christmas Eve (yup, my brother & sister-in-law were also pregnant, due two weeks or so before we would have been)...and I will really never forget the whoops and tears, so loud my ears were ringing, when we lifted my nephew's shirt to reveal a sign that said "and big cousin." It's now made even more special because I'd not seen a smile that big on my Uncle B's face in a while; he is no longer of this earth, and I carry that smile with me. I will never forget J's mom needing to hand the phone off because she was so happy, the texts we got from his family, and his little sister being so excited when we called her. I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.

But we are mostly glad because when all was said and done, we needed their support. Some people were uncomfortable, some didn't know what to say, but because we'd shared, they were in our corner, they were there to hold us up as we wobbled down this road. And we didn't have to hide or be secretive when we had our bad days. No one questioned when I had to beg out of a party because of a slight emotional breakdown on the way. We could talk about it -- both me with my friends and, equally as important, J with his friends. And many people let us know that they, too, had been through this (but hadn't told anyone).

There is a sense of shame that many of us carry -- especially with women -- when a pregnancy becomes non-viable. Because we don't talk about it, the shame is compounded because we feel abnormal. We need to talk about it, because we are not abnormal, we did nothing wrong, and we are not alone...it is estimated 20-30% of pregnancies become non-viable, that is one out of every three people.

I am not suggesting we introduce ourselves to strangers by leading with, "Hi, I'm Annie, and I have had a non-viable pregnancy." But I am hopeful that we stop hiding. That we stop waiting until another friend experiences the same and then we tell them. And that we stop being uncomfortable when a person talks about their own experience.

It is not an easy thing, but it is not a rare thing. And support can truly make a huge amount of difference.

Ok, let's eat.

19 November 2016

A Different Type of Devastation

The toughest thing for me was not that the pregnancy didn't proceed the way we would have liked. For me, it was the incredible loneliness that was associated with it and the ensuing events.

Physically, I was not alone. I have a wonderful husband by my side who was also dealing with his own grief. And, since we had made the choice to tell so many people, we had a lot of support.

But emotionally, I felt stranded. Everyone was treating me like I should be devastated. Tiptoeing around, both wanting to bring it up and not wanting to bring it up at the same time. All of this was out of love for me & J, this I knew. But I wasn't devastated, not by this. Devastated was what I felt when my dad passed away, like the rug had gotten pulled out from under me and beneath it, the floor was missing. With this, though...I was sad, yes, but intellectually I knew this was the way my body was supposed to work. And I was very sad for J.

And the hormones do nothing to help this sense of sadness, the sense of feeling like an oddball, nor do they help make sense of much. (postpartum depression, I learned, can happen even when the pregnancy doesn't proceed)

I spent a few nights googling "not devastated by miscarriage," or "non-viable pregnancy but feel ok." And I found very little. I found pages and pages of women who wrote they could barely function -- was there something wrong with me?

J told me to get off the internet. And it was true -- all it was doing was making me feel worse that I didn't feel that bad. I was shaming myself to feel something I didn't. Which is dumb. And it was just exacerbating that feeling of loneliness.

But here I am writing on the internet, and you are reading on the internet, so let me say this. The truth is, there is no right way to feel. We all have different reactions, and none of them are wrong. For me, I know that if this pregnancy had been right, it would have remained viable. Instead of feeling devastated, I choose to see this as my amazing body doing what it was supposed to do. So I was not devastated by my miscarriage*. Instead, I was confident that next time it would be different. Or, if it wasn't, my body would again to its job. I chose appreciation and awe.

*yes, I hate the word miscarriage...but this is to help other women who may be searching for that particular phrase, like I had

13 November 2016

Sicily: Navigating the Island

Driving around Sicily is not for the faint of heart...especially when you do not have the option of the autostrade.

The day after our great wine adventure, we decided that we would head to Cefalu, a resort town outside of Palermo. It would be fun, we thought, to cut through the middle of the island. The truth is...there is no easy way to get to Cefalu/Palermo from the Etna region. To take the autostrade would require going back towards Taormina, then skirting the edge of the island -- quite a bit out of the way.
See those little squiggles? Those are all twists and turns. This may not be our exact route...I think we went further west

Off we set on what we thought would just be a few hour drive. We expected to see a few small towns, find a nice restaurant and have a good meal, and soon enough be relaxing in Cefalu.

These asses were blocking our way
What we did not expect was hairpin turns, a harrowing, suck-in-your-stomach trip down a very narrow street on a very high hill, and a bunch of asses in the middle of the road. There were also some crazy drivers that rode our tails for a good part of the way. We found out that what you hear about the drivers in Sicily was true -- they are kind of crazy drivers!

We also ran into quite a bit of construction. They are working on some roads to better connect where
we were to the main autostrade. I am sure everyone who lives in those areas will very much welcome these new roads!

Once we got to the autostrade, we flew to Cefalu (look at that, it rhymes!). The autostrade allows you to go very fast. It is a toll road, so there is a cost, but if you don't want to pay there are other options through the parallel roads. Both J & I were amazed by all these infrastructure projects -- the tunnels were new and efficient, and rather empty.

After our rather insane drive, we were very, very happy when we saw the exit for Cefalu!