Dec 30 2011

Let Go

As the new year approaches, it always amazes me how little control we have over time. We go from living minute-to-minute, to day-to-day,  week-to-week, month-to-month — until we are face-to-face with a new year.

It’s okay to let go now.

Don’t be afraid to let go.
Let go of the past.
And the future.
Because we don’t need a map to find it.
We don’t control it,
we carry it forever.

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Happy New Year’s from all of us at Grieve Out Loud.

Image by J. Granelli


Jun 16 2011

Good Grief!

Erica McNeal is one amazing gal! Not only is she a babyloss mama five times over, she is also a multiple cancer survivor. She found the strength to publish a reference guide entitled Good Grief! and we are honored to share her journey here. She hand-crafted a special note just for you.

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I knew I had a high-risk pregnancy.

I was prepared my cancer may return while pregnant and was ready to face those potential complications. However, I was not prepared for an unknown factor that would force my body to go into labor at eighteen, twenty and ultimately twenty-two and a half weeks gestation.

I had been placed on bed rest for three months when a sub-chorionic hemorrhage threatened my pregnancy. At my eighteen-week visit, during an ultrasound, the technician could see that my cervix was already dilating. I was given medication, but went into labor two days later.

I was already 3.5 cm dilated when the hospital doctor’s saw me. I pleaded with them to do everything in their power to keep me pregnant. With a triple threat of drugs and my body nearly shaking out of the bed, my labor stopped. My contractions went away and my cervix closed. I was completely shocked – I didn’t even know that was possible!

About one and a half weeks later, I went into labor again and repeated the same procedures, breathing a sigh of relief when the labor easily stopped.

But on June 11th, 2007, my labor picked up again. A friend took me to the hospital and I told my husband not to worry about leaving work. I had every expectation the doctor’s would be able to stop my labor again.

But, I was wrong.

By the time I had gotten to labor and delivery, my cervix was gone. I was already 4 cm dilated and there was nothing my doctor’s could do. The only thing keeping my little girl from coming into the world was a pessary that my doctor’s had put into place just weeks before.

With my husband rushing to the hospital, I had to make a decision no parent should ever have to make: my life or hers?

My doctor’s feared I may have a rare condition called “placenta accreta” where the placenta burrows deeply into scar tissue. Since I had a previous c-section, and everything else had been ruled out, the fear was that my uterus could rupture after delivery when the placenta naturally pulled away from the uterine walls.

The only problem was the hospital we were at did not have the medical facilities to care for a baby as small as our daughter was. I would have to be transferred to another hospital forty-five minutes away by ambulance. There was a very real possibility I would deliver her in the ambulance and if my uterus ruptured, there would be nothing the ambulance staff could do for me. I would die!

I understood the great potential for severe medical conditions for our baby girl. I understood she would have less than a 1% chance to live and I understood she could only live for a few hours. But, against my doctor’s advice, I told him I wanted to be transferred to the other hospital. I felt like if God wanted to give this child life, who was I to take it away?

I signed the transfer paperwork and everyone walked out of the room. While my friend was in the hallway, frantically trying to reach my husband, I prayed silently.

“God, if the end result is going to be the same, whether I have her here or there, please let me have her here!”

I don’t even think I said, “Amen”, when an immediate peace came upon me. I knew I would not make it to the other hospital. As I called for the nurse, my contractions went immediately to thirty seconds and my husband came flying through the door.

Not even five minutes later, Kylie Joy was born. She was beautifully perfect, my tiny little 15 oz, 11-inch baby girl. She had little tufts of brown hair, a cute little button nose and long legs. She was absolutely gorgeous.

As we held Kylie as she died, my husband and I began to grieve all of the hopes and dreams we had for our family. The daughter we would not be able to hug and kiss whenever we wanted; the little sister to our living daughter, who was so excited about her new best friend. The little girl whose hair we would never braid, or watch play sports, or walk down the aisle on her wedding day.

Kylie lived for eighty minutes, but her short life and ultimate death rocked our worlds.

The first year grieving Kylie was the most difficult year of my life. I was a hot mess, working through the extreme guilt believing that I had killed my own daughter. Sometimes there were no words to express my emotions and I would simply cry. At times I wanted to be by myself, other times I needed so desperately for someone to sit with me in silence. I even needed to laugh occasionally! What I needed changed constantly on my unpredictable journey of grief!

Even now four years later, I struggle! I miss her. I miss what our family could have looked like. I still grieve the broken dreams, just mostly in silence now. I still get teary-eyed on her birthday, when I hear another child with the same name, and at times when my living daughter talks about how much she wants a sister.

For the first couple of years, we had no idea how our family and friends could come alongside our family. We were in the middle of a grief we had never experienced before and a pain we could not comprehend. We had no idea what we needed or what others could do to help.

At the same time, our family and friends wanted so desperately to help, but had no idea what they could do. They too experienced their own first time emotions as they grieved with our family. The problem was this caused a disparity; conflict and a lot of unmet expectations, on both sides.

While people meant well, sometimes their words came out wrong – very wrong! At times when the absolute most grace was needed, people rendered us completely speechless by their insensitive comments.

As I have supported many women through child-loss over the last four years, I have been shocked to find how common these hurtful words really are. This led to a desire to help fill the gap between people that are suffering that don’t know what they need and their loved ones that don’t know what to do.

My new eBook, Good Grief! provides tangible ideas of how to love someone going through unspeakable grief, through words and actions.

Words That Can Be Misunderstood: “At least she didn’t live long enough for you to get attached!”

Words That Encourage: “I don’t know what to say, but I love you!”

Actions That Are Intentional: Understand that the pain of grief can sometimes get in the way of grieving. Provide outlets for your loved one such as golfing or poker night for men and dinner or a spa day for women.

Until October 11th, 2011 all proceeds from the sales of Good Grief!, are going directly to families in the middle of facing their own difficult trials: A thirty-three year old woman battling a relapsed cancer and two families adopting high medical needs children.

What my family is attempting to do is less about selling an eBook and more about tangibly coming alongside these three incredible families. If I can provide some insight through times of tragedy AND help meet these financial needs, my perspective is that this is a win-win situation.

More information is also available at my website.

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Thank you Erica. While we know your time is stretched so thin, you manged to write this beautiful piece. We wish you all the luck in the world mama!


Jun 9 2011

When Another Pregnancy Isn’t an Option

So many of the families who experience pregnancy/infant loss have a strong desire to fall pregnant again. “The sooner the better” becomes their day-to-day tagline. We feel it is important to share stories from families that cannot try again. This particular story comes from our own Team Member, Susan F. It is one of our submissions from our Giveback Project.

Thank you Susan for pouring your heart out to us. I know this piece will help families dealing with a similar situation.

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“I was asked to write a piece for this project a couple months ago and I just did not know where to start – I think about it everyday and things really start sounding good, but then when I have the chance to start actually writing, my mind draws a blank.

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Susan, the mother to four angels; Jordan Donise born at twenty-seven weeks, Alexander Michael, born at twenty weeks, Alisia Noelle, born at twenty-three weeks and Gabriel Ryan, born at twenty weeks and my one miracle daughter, Madyson Leah, born at thirty-eight weeks!  Those are the only children I will ever have.

Last November, I made the heartbreaking decision to have my tubes tied (tubal ligation) and put an end to the chance of another pregnancy. I knew deep in my heart and soul that for my own well being and to those around me that I could not go through losing another one of my babies. I have learned to live with the grief that surrounds me.  Anyone meeting me on the street for the first, even second or third  time would never know the pain that I have had to endure or the thoughts I have almost every day.

Growing up, I wanted at least two kids, a boy and a girl. Yes, I have that, but not the way I always wanted. Yes, I have had five beautiful babies, but that is all I will ever have. I have had to learn to live with knowing I won’t ever be able to be pregnant again when everyone around me seems to be getting pregnant.

I seem to be at the age where everyone has decided to start having babies or talk about it. I agree, it’s hard to be happy for someone that is pregnant and that can go on and have a successful pregnancy. I also agree that sometimes life just is not fair when we cannot have healthy babies, but someone who is sixteen and could care less about a baby has one.  I ask myself everyday why did I get dealt these cards? Did I do something in a past life to deserve this?  Am I really that bad of a person and I just don’t know it? But, on the other hand, I know that I didn’t do anything. I cannot change what has happened to me, but I can make a difference in what does happen to me. I can take each day and enjoy it the best that I can. My family deserves that.  I deserve that.

After we lost Gabriel, I knew that the only thing I could do was to get my tubes tied. It was a gut wrenching decision. I cried every night. Because of insurance reasons, surgery kept getting delayed, and it just made my grief all that much worse because not only did I just lose my child, I was starting to lose my relationship. My fiance and I grew apart. I didn’t want him to touch me, I was so scared to get pregnant again and have to go through yet another loss. I finally came to terms with everything and KNEW that my life wasn’t over, I could learn to live with the cards that I was dealt. Sure, I still think about wanting another baby, but know that I cannot.

My life is not over, not by a long shot.

I know each of you are thinking, I want another baby, I cannot wait six, or even three months to start trying, I want to be pregnant NOW.  You will probably always have those thoughts, but they do not have to consume you and do not let them!

Take time to grieve the baby you lost, renew old friendships, put more effort into new friendships, enjoy finding out why you fell in love with your significant other all over again, and most importantly take care of YOU!!  It’s not the end of the world if you cannot get pregnant right away, maybe it is your body saying you need to heal from the loss of your child before you can really enjoy the pregnancy of your next child.  Yes, I know that is one of those phrases everyone hates to hear, but you want to be able to enjoy your next pregnancy not worry each and every minute and let the best times pass you by! And if you are like me, and have chosen to not have anymore kids, it does get easier, each and every day.

Yes, I still think about wanting another baby, and always ask myself if I did the right thing, but deep down in my heart, I know I did.  My daughter is eleven now, getting ready for middle school, I owe it to her to not let my grief get the best of me. There are still some days that I cry for what will never be, but there are other days where I am thankful that I have had the chance to see my babies and be able to kiss them goodbye.”

Susan F.


Jan 22 2011

TTTC

Trying to Try to Conceive – By Kristine Brite McCormick

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I ran a congenital heart defects nonprofit working with pregnant women and women trying to conceive so I feel well versed in the things I need to do before even trying to conceive. I guess you could say I’m trying to try to conceive. That is I’m getting my mind and body ready. I approached Grieve Out Loud and asked if I could write about it here so that I can hopefully help others in the same position and meet other moms that are TTTC (Trying to Try to Conceive, of course). As a baby loss mother, I know full well that sometimes things go wrong. Things don’t always just work out. The scary statistics and stories you read about really do happen.

But, I also know that babies live. I know I can only do my best for my next child. I know that my first daughter’s heart defect was probably not my fault, but that doesn’t mean I should research and do as much as I can to get my body in to shape before getting ready for our next child.

Most of the things I’m getting in order before trying again have to do with risk factors for congenital heart defects. I’m basing these on studies and current research. If you know of anything that a woman should do before having another baby, please chime in with comments.

Preparing Physically

I’m overweight. This is a risk factor for not only CHD, but other birth defects. Personally, I’m just going to set a goal of losing 30 or 40 pounds so that I feel better and cut my risk. I think it’s important to be gentle and set realistic weight goals. So, yep, I’m losing weight just to get fat again (with a preggo belly).

Getting in shape is something I plan on doing. I want to feel my best while pregnant. I’ve suffered from Postpartum Depression (even more fun when there is no baby) and know that I’m at a higher risk for prenatal depression. Setting up an exercise routine now should help.I’m taking folic acid. Studies suggest you take folic acid all the time while trying to conceive. Some studies say to take folic acid only for about three months before getting pregnant.

I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages to prepare. Caffeine zaps your body of iron so it’s recommended to stop before getting pregnant. If you can’t stop, start weaning yourself. Many doctors will let their patients drink a limited amount of caffeine while pregnant.

I’m going to the doctor for a check up and for tests. This one is self explainable.

Preparing My Life

My husband and I are going to make sure we have an emergency fund and are relatively secure financially. Again, we’re not going to go overboard. We’ve set gentle and realistic goals.

I plan on interviewing midwives, doulas and doctors before starting to try. I know I’m going to need a provider I really know and trust.

Preparing Mentally

This is by far the hardest. Like many of my fellow baby loss mothers, I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and am absolutely terrified something will happen again. I’m not even sure how to work through this at this point, but I know I’m going to seek help and talk about it.

I’m reminding myself that sometimes, they live. That I can do this. I’m finding my support system and reminding myself to be extra gentle.

What have I missed? How are you trying to try to conceive?

Kristine Brite McCormick blogs about her road to a second child at www.raintorainbow.com. She’s preparing to try to conceive her second child in Fall 2011.


Oct 24 2010

Tips from Within – TTC after Loss

A few weeks ago we created a Trying to Conceive (TTC) and Pregnancy after Loss Questionnaire. Over twenty-five wonderful women in the babyloss community participated in this questionnaire, giving us their heart-felt tips, tricks, truths and more. Over the course of several weeks we will be sharing some of the popular questions and answers in hopes to help you on your journey.

Whether you are in a waiting period, thinking about trying again, pregnant, or about to experience birth after loss please join in!

(Note: We are not medical experts. Please follow the advice of your medical professional.)


When did you first realize you wanted to try again?

I knew from the moment I held my daughter in my arms that I had to try again. I didn’t know when we’d actually be ready to do it, but I knew I had to have the experience of giving birth and holding my baby in my arms again.”- Grieve Out Loud co-founder, Heather M.

Nearly all twenty-five participants answered this question the same: As soon as possible. Very soon. Right away. Immediately. One mother knew she wanted to try again very soon while she was still carrying her daughter.

Point is, if you are having intense feelings of a new pregnancy — you aren’t alone. We all feel it.

How long did you wait to try again?

I heard to wait three months, six months and nine months. We waited seven and very glad we did… gave myself time to grieve Cara.” – Laura

We don’t have a clear answer to this, but on average the census is three months. It’s very important to listen to your doctors as we are not medical experts. On a personal note, my doctor advised us to wait three cycles which did not add up to three months.

Allow your mind, body and soul to heal. Emotions run wild after any type of loss, we urge you to be gentle on yourself and not make trying again become a race against others.

How did you discuss trying again with your partner?

Keep the lines of communication open. You need to talk to each other about your feelings. Be there for your spouse. ” – Sara

Whether it is brought up in a casual conversation or by your doctor, deciding to try again must be a mutual agreement. One cannot be rushed into anything, especially TTC. While men might keep their pain hidden, that does not mean they are not grieving. Make sure you are both ready and able to make the next step together.

What is sex like now?

Come to bed, I’m ovulating. – Lindsay

Lets be honest here, TTC sucks. But TTC after loss sucks even more. It’s hard to let loose and be spontaneous when we only have a 12-24 hour fertile window to act on. Plus, what’s sexy about egg-white cervical fluid? And forget all the questions floating around your head. Will this be it? How many more times do we have to do this? Just try to shut your brain up, get busy and remember you’re burning calories too!

Some suggest going on a vacation or rent a hotel room for a night or two. Some suggest just letting go, and it will happen. You just have to do what is right for you, even if it involves a margarita or three.

Are you using anything to help you conceive?

If someone told me to eat dirt every Tuesday of the month to get pregnant I would have.” – Grieve Out Loud founder, Julie

Move over old-fashioned way, we’ve entered the digital age! There are lots of ways to take control of your fertility. A friend of mine sent me her copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility and it literally changed my life. Once you understand how your body works, timing intercourse can become a lot easier on you both.

Charting is a very easy and integral part of TTC. Buy yourself a basal body thermometer and become best friends with Fertility Friend. It is amazing to watch your cycles play out before your eyes.

Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) were also mentioned by some. You can pick these up nearly anywhere and are generally a little pricey, but if you shop online you can find some really great deals (some including pregnancy tests as well.)

Other women mention the need for medication or vitamins such as clomid, metformin, progesterone and soy isoflavones. Of course, women dealing with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) et cetera have their own list of meds to follow.

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Next we will be exploring the time-line of how long it took these participants to conceive, the emotions involved in negative tests, early weeks of pregnancy achievement, and much more!


Sep 16 2010

New Pen-Pal

Grieve Out Loud is always striving to find new ways to help reach friends and families dealing with pregnancy and infant loss. Today we announce a very important Pen-Pal. Someone who has personally helped me through the roughest patches of my own grief. Someone who represents an entire generation of individuals who might not have a voice in grief.

She represents all the Grandparents of pregnancy and infant loss. The loss of a grandchild is just as heartbreaking for grandma and grandpa as it is for mother and father. Their grief is doubled. Seeing their son/daughter in pain along with grieving for their grandchild. They often grieve in silence as not to upset the family. Please take a moment to thank for joining GOL and read a little bit about her experience with losing a grandchild.

“At my senior center, I have encountered several situations that have truly hurt me. For example, some one will announce the birth of their new grand baby and show off pictures, or tell how they were in the delivery room. Most will avoid you like the plague once they know. Like losing a baby is contagious.”

Koko can also help with things such as the subject of explaining death (age appropriately) to living grandchildren, tips on how to interact with living grandchildren without becoming (overly) emotional, or crafting memorial projects with the grandchildren.

If you have any questions, or would like to join Koko as part of the Grandparents Pen-Pals please contact us at

*Photo Masterfile.com


May 20 2010

Directing Grief – Weekly Advice

Each month we will be answering questions regarding pregnancy and infant loss under the title “Directing Grief.” We encourage anyone reading to submit their question(s) to

This weeks question comes from an anonymous mother who has recently suffered her first miscarriage at ten weeks. For the sake of this piece, we will call her Momma A.

My husband and I have been married for three years and recently suffered a miscarriage at ten weeks. I want to try again right away but my husband doesn’t seem like he wants to. How do I talk to him about it? How long should we wait to try again? I’m so desperate to be pregnant again.” – Momma A.

Dear Momma A.,

It is quite common for a bereaved parent to have overwhelming feelings about a subsequent pregnant immediately after any type of loss. Things start to change drastically in your life with a pregnancy and suddenly the future is filled with excitement, hope and most of all the thrill of the unknown. Who wouldn’t miss all those feelings?

You definitely need to talk it out with your husband first. Do not assume he does not ever want to try again. Let him grieve his own way, even if it is silently. Maybe you can ask him if he would be interested in talking about a future pregnancy plan? Explain to him that you really want to try again sooner than later, and ask when he would like to start trying again? This is a perfect way to give you some hope and excitement back. You will then have something to look forward to, instead of feeling left in the dark.

Also keep in mind your body might not bounce right back into a cycle. Be gentle to yourself. While your body is healing physically, you can begin the journey towards healing mentally.

It all takes time Momma A., and there is no magic number. Incorporate new ways to occupy your time. Hobbies seem to do wonders. Hell, I started this entire organization during my toughest bouts with grief. Try not to focus on your next pregnancy without fully acknowledging and grieving the pregnancy you lost. Another pregnancy will not “fix” how you feel. You have to endure the waves of grief and we are here to help you whenever you need us! Please keep in touch!

Thank you for your question and good luck love!
Julie

*If you would like to submit your own question, please send your questions to