October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and October 15th is designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. The pain of stillbirth and miscarriage are not something to “get over.” Parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends have to live with the reality of loss. Today on this Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, hold all in your hearts who are in grief. I hold those who grieve in my heart, and the precious babies we remember today.

#October15th #PregnancyandInfantLossAwareness

#Stillbirth #Miscarriage #pregnancy


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I am writing this blog post on the day after the 2016 election. Many are attempting to understand the mystery of the unexplained. The unexplainable unexpected. Living in the no word zone. Mystery defies reason. The difficulty with the unexplained is that there are no ready answers, right now, when you need them.

Many of you live with the unexplained every day. There are no answers for the infertility diagnosis that you live with. Your baby has died unexpectedly and nothing makes sense about anything. You or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer.  In the spirit of offering balance and healing, I offer 5 tips for living with the mystery of the unexplained:

  1. Bathe yourself in compassion and love. Have it for yourself.  You hurt.  You are confused and frightened.  Love this person.  And offer it to others, even if you are not sure you have it for yourself.  We have been doing a lot of hugging today at Partners in Healing of Minneapolis, colleagues and clients. Connect with others from your best place.  I don’t have words for that right now but you will know what it is for you.
  2. Allow yourself to grieve before you look for answers and options.  There will be some clarity about something at some point.  For now, mourn your loss but hold on to your dreams.  Let the world stop spinning for a few minutes and just mourn.
  3.  Acknowledge your fears.  Actually, acknowledge all of your feelings, whatever they are.  It may help to express your fears to those you trust.  However, be selective about who you express your fears and other feelings to.  Look for comfort from people that you trust. Avoid people, for now, who either bring more questions or no empathy. This is not the time to hope that “that person” will come around and give you what you need. You don’t need to be pooh-poohed, or fixed, or pitied, or “adviced” by others.  Just ask them to listen.  If that’s not possible, thank them and move on to someone who can just connect with you.
  4. Gently release the idea of control. Really.  The mystery of the unexplained is just beyond your and my control.  Just ride the wave of unexplainable stuff while keeping your head above water.  Ride the roller coaster with your seatbelt attached tight and hold on. You’re not sure where you are going yet.  Just hold on to yourself. It’s okay to turn off social media and the news. You do have control about that.  And your reactions to what you come across.  I understand that your reactions may not always be pretty.
  5. Understand, truly, that the sun comes out every day and that every day is an opportunity to find something new. Sometimes that new thing will be painful. Sometimes that thing will be to learn to be still, just to explore the feelings and thoughts you have. Sometimes the answer will arrive in the most unexpected way or the most unexpected person. Always, always, look to love and compassion for your answers.

Love to you all, always,  Debbie


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People sometimes wonder why others turn to gestational surrogacy as a way of building a family.  I am happy to add my two cents and expertise to this important topic because I work daily with Intended Parents and Gestational Surrogates.  These are lovely, loving people.  Here’s why gestational surrogacy is a blessing and here to stay.

For heterosexual Intended Parents, meaning people who wish to be first-time parents or add to their family, there is a long list of medical problems that can lead people to surrogacy including:

  • Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH), a congenital condition that results in a woman’s uterus and vagina being absent or underdeveloped
  • Cancer survivor, which can restrict use of hormones or have resulted in the removal of ovaries or the uterus
  • Multiple miscarriages
  • Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other mental health condition that, if untreated, could be dangerous during pregnancy
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Previous birth trauma (hemorrhage, uterine rupture)
  • Too many C-sections
  • Heart complications
  • History of premature delivery, sometimes resulting in the death of a baby
  • Diabetes

Gay Intended Parents want to be parents, too.  They want to be represented genetically.  Just like straight Intended Parents.

Surrogates, also called gestational carriers, want to meet the need.  And the need is growing day by day.  They are not “surrogate mothers.”  Surrogates are mothers to their own children, not to the child or children they carry.  They are quite articulate about that.  They will tell you every time that the child they are carrying “It’s not my baby. I’m just carrying the baby.  They are the parents.”

They believe it.  I believe them.

Do you?  I hope so.

 

Helping people to build their families is a blessing.

Here’s the thing that people who are anti-surrogacy need to understand. Surrogacy makes sense to Intended Parents and their families and friends. Surrogacy makes sense to gestational carriers, their partners, their children, their families and friends.  They all see this as a blessing.  If you are a religious person, you might even say that all babies come from God and this is one way that God can help to bring a baby into the world. To ease hurt and suffering.  To bring joy.  Gestational surrogacy works and is a blessing.

Ending or restricting gestational surrogacy would be like stopping a moving train with your hand. People would get hurt.  Badly.  But it will keep going.

What we need to do is to ensure that Intended Parents and Gestational Surrogates are safe in the process.

Legislation is needed to protect Surrogates and Intended Parents.

Now.

Here in Minnesota and across the United States.

 

Because gestational surrogacy is a blessing that’s here to stay.

 

 


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Infertility takes over your life.  How can you get to the clinic before your big presentation today? Is today ovulation day?  Did you do your injection at the right time in the right dosage?  Will your spouse be home from the work trip in time to give a semen sample? How many BBB’s (Big Bellies and Babies) are you going to see at the grocery today?  How many blogs can you read today about infertility?  How sick of infertility are you?

Infertility takes over your mind, too.  It is very hard not to think about.  I bet you know what day of the cycle you are on.  I remember how confused and angry I was every month when I wasn’t ovulating but my doctor kept pooh-poohing my concerns and my intuition.  I could not stop thinking about it, only to be told that I was obsessing, not to worry, and to relax.

I know what you are going through.  I am sorry that you hurt and you are scared that the hurt won’t ever end.

Until that moment when the pregnancy test is positive.

No way!

Could this be happening?

Do another few tests at home.  They are still positive!  What does this mean?! Everybody says that you should feel happy about a positive result, right?

Not when you have been trying for months or years.

When you have been in the infertility trenches and you are now pregnant, you are in what I call a

Prove It Pregnancy

Yes, that’s right.  A Prove It Pregnancy.  Yeah, yeah, other people stay pregnant and have babies. Could that be possible?

Infertility tells you, “Hold on there, honey. This can’t possibly work out well.”  It’s the Too Good To Be True Factor.  But this could be real.  Truly.  Really.

When you get pregnant after months—or years—of undergoing fertility treatment, there is shock, disbelief, and excitement.  Shhhhhh!  Don’t jinx it!  That first ultrasound can scare the jeepers out of you.  But it might be real.  You may not really believe it until the next ultrasound.  Maybe not.  Maybe later.  Am I pregnant?  Prove it.

Transferring your care from the fertility clinic to an OB/GYN or midwife care can be disorienting and even frightening.  This means that your pregnancy is continuing, despite your fear.  Can this really be happening?  Yes.  I know that you may have had a close relationship with the fertility clinic doctors and nurses.  You can learn to trust a clinic that can help you deliver a baby.

Really?!  Yes.  It is possible.

And there may come a time when you consider investing in the pregnancy and a baby, but fear still may remain.  Superstition is normal in a Prove It Pregnancy.  Others want to invest in baby stuff.  No. Thanks.  Maybe. Later.  It is okay to put things off.

As one gentleman recently said to me, “I may think about investing in the pregnancy when we get to 26 or 27 weeks.  When it seems real.”  And a woman I know thought it might be okay to peek at Pinterest.  Sure.  For just a moment.  And honestly, it may not seem real until a baby is warm and squawking in your arms.  That’s okay.

 

It’s a Prove It Pregnancy.   

 

 


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I originally wrote this blog post for Pregnancy After Loss Support.  I wrote it on October 15, 2015, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, in honor of my clients, their partners, their families and friends, and always—always—the memory of their babies.  The presence of their absence is with us every day, but particularly on October 15. 

“She would be five years old now,” said my client wistfully, looking out the window.  “When I see a child of the same age, an imaginary movie plays in my head of what she would be doing.  What would she be like?  Would she be learning to ride a bicycle? Would she have a special blankie? Who would her friends be?  Who would I be as her mother?”

After the birth of a baby born still, time stops.  For a long time.  Devastation results.  It’s not just the death of a beloved, deeply wanted child but also the death of a dreamed of future.

And there are the unintended insults from others who forget about or gloss over a baby’s passing.  And questions about the next child.  Well, it might be a good thing to have another child.  Sure.

At some point.

If you are not terrified.

And if you have hope.

And if you are healthy.

And if you and your partner agree.

And if you don’t have fertility problems.

Or you have not had one or more previous pregnancy losses.

But there’s a problem with other’s hurrying you along.

The baby you can’t forget is the baby others can’t remember.

“The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”

 — Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart

We don’t replace children with new children.  They are all beloved, whether they are in front of you or in the front of your “heartmind”.

This is the essence of what Pauline Boss, University of Minnesota Family Social Science professor emeritus and one of my doctoral professors, calls ambiguous loss.  The baby is not physically here but psychologically present.  We may not be able to reach out and hold the baby but she or he is very much here in mind and heart.  Miscarriage and stillbirth are a type of disenfranchised grief.  Too often, what people don’t see, they don’t acknowledge or attach to.  “Unfortunately, in the United States, the size of the coffin, the size of the grief.  If there is no coffin, there’s nothing to grieve,” said Sharon Covington, MSW, LCSW-C at Shady Grove Fertility Center.

It can be tricky to navigate the absence of their presence.  Living here in the Midwest, the first question out of a new person’s mouth is “How many children do you have?”  Some of my beautiful patients name all of the children, those who are living and those who are living in the heartmind, with the brief version of pregnancy loss and perhaps the long journey to pregnancy.  Others shrug and hope that they don’t cry.

You are grieving the child you never knew.

Except you did know a lot about that child, in a way that no one else on this planet has done.  You saw that child in your mind and you attached.  The presence of their absence.  You invested in your dreams for yourself and that child and your family. Loss is both now and future.

But you can heal.  The experience of having a stillborn or a miscarried child is real and it stays with you.  With time, therapy, prayer, compassion for yourself, and other experiences, including some experiences that I don’t have words for, things can change.

I heard a story from a beautiful bereaved mother who was taking a walk on a still warm fall day.  She described a stunning back-lit tree with yellow leaves that was losing its leaves in that very moment.  She said it was like a gentle shower of leaves. She heard a voice in her mind that said, “I’m okay and you are going to be okay.”  She felt a sense of almost instant peace.  She knew in that moment that that was her deceased baby son.  She had no doubt about that and I didn’t either.  Her son was present for her in a way that is filled with love.  She is a bereaved mother.  She is a forever mother. And she will be okay.  And you will be okay, too.

YellowTree@DebSimmonsPhD

 


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photograph of asian standing alone at beachIt’s Father’s Day and many men will be celebrated.  How about the fathers of a stillborn baby or after a miscarriage?  In my office, I tell many a man, “You are still a father after pregnancy loss.”  It doesn’t matter that others have not met the baby or didn’t know that you and your partner (or a gestational surrogate) had a miscarriage. You are still a father after a stillbirth or miscarriage.  I see you. I know.

 


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