I carry my children

I have four body modifications: two lobe ear piercings (standard in the US), a nose piercing (almost fairly common), and a tattoo (also fairly common even in the location I have mine). My ear piercings were done before I was a year old and my mom’s best friend took me on a whim one day. I love having them done and I wear earrings every single day. But my other three modifications have a very special story.

My nose piercing was done almost a year ago now. I was in the deepest of my depression after my son’s death that past November. I hated looking in the mirror and seeing the same person as before but knowing I was completely different. Sayre’s death changed me in ways I am still discovering. I usually compare it to steel being tempered, it was a months long process of strengthening. I’d always loved nose piercings on other people and, after binge watching many YouTube videos and looking up local places that did piercings, I called and was told to come on in. My husband, friend, and her mom went with me. I was nervous but I wanted the change. My feeling was that nothing could hurt my body like my soul was hurting. Not even five minutes later, I walked out with my nose pierced.

I still love my nose piercing, the little diamond winking in the light. It reminds me that I was brave, if even for a moment, and I can feel my son with me when I look in the mirror. This woman with her nose pierced was someone new and I recognized her far better than the old me.

My daughter, Aurora, died in June. I only got to have her for 8 weeks so she always seemed like a dream. Gone before I could fully process she’d ever been here. Two days before her due date, so sad and bitter all of my miscarriage friends were pregnant but me, I pulled into my driveway after school and decided I needed to see her on me too. I wear rings for each of my children every single day, but I didn’t have anything permanent on my body for Aurora like I did Sayre. I’ve always loved finger tattoos on other people and I always said I wouldn’t get a tattoo unless it meant a lot to me. I decided on a sprig of rosemary: an ancient symbol of loss, mourning, and love. Perfect for my sweet girl. The tattoo artist, Andrea at Wildwood Flower Tattoo in Richmond, was incredibly sweet and said she’d come in early for me the next day since ginger tattoos are so fast. I asked one of my amazing seniors to draw the design for me. I wanted everything about this tattoo to be symbolic and special, a mark of change and love just as motherhood is. Sweet Sylvia drew the perfect sprig of rosemary and I took it to my appointment the next day.

I laid on the table and watched as Andrea drew Sylvia’s design on to the side of my left middle finger and felt nervous but very at peace with my decision. I chose my left hand because I hold babies in my left arm and I wanted to always be holding my daughter like I never got the change to in life. And my middle finger was chose because, if I close my fingers, you can’t see the tattoo. I wanted it there for me and I’m a teacher so it couldn’t be too visible. I wanted to see the tattoo every day and know Aurora had been real, if even for 8 weeks.

The tattooing didn’t hurt, the most sensitive place felt like a cat scratch and the rest felt like someone drawing on me with a fine tip pen. Andrea and I talked the entire time and I found out she uses the same midwife as me (shout out to Dee, the MVP of midwifery) and had also had a miscarriage before her son. It was amazing to have someone who understood be the one placing the tribute to my daughter on my body. Everything about the process felt very sacred and destined, like this was how it was always meant to go.

I walked out with a perfect sprig of rosemary on my finger and I smile every time I look at it. I see my daughter and I see who I am now. Just like her brother, Aurora changed me forever. She brought me back to life and saved me and now I honor her by showing the world she lived. I carry my children on my body and I will proudly show the world they lived for as long as I draw breath.

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To my pregnant friends

Multiple of my pregnancy loss friends have recently told me they’re pregnant. While I am so happy for them, it is also soul crushing. Aurora died in June and I am still not pregnant again and we’ve been trying since August. It feels as though everyone is getting their rainbow but me. Feeling this way doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends and I’m not happy for them, it means they have become “those women”. Anyone who’s ever lost a baby knows what I mean. “Those women” are the ones who get to be pregnant and have living children while we sit on the sidelines begging and pleading every month and, every month, having our hopes crushed when our periods arrive.

I’ve once again I’ve convinced myself that I’m infertile and won’t be able to get pregnant again. The brain is a powerful enemy to have, especially when combined with depression and anxiety. Recurrent pregnancy loss, for me, means I see my body as a an enemy, something defective in some unknown way that refuses to cooperate. I can’t do something even teenagers at school can do. I seem to be incapable of birthing a living child. And it fucking sucks.

I feel like a broken record, always going over the same basic emotions of sadness, bitterness, resentment, and fear. But this is the reality of pregnancy loss for me and if writing these moments down helps one other person, then it’s worth feeling like I’m exposing myself. I have good days and I feel happiness and contentment. Then I have bad days and I struggle, those are painful and dark.

So, to my sweet friends who are expecting their rainbows:

I am so incredibly happy you’ve made it through your storm. I love you and I love the little babes you’re carrying. My heart breaks at the same time it overflows with happiness for you. I miss my children every day and I am going through my own storm with no end in sight. Please never think that my silence means I don’t love you or your babies. I have to love you from afar right now because you are now the physical embodiment of what hurts me the most. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me and my head space. You are going to be such wonderful mothers and I can’t wait for that for you. Know that I’m cheering for you and your babies from the sidelines.

Reclaiming

Ever since Sayre died I’ve felt at war with my body. Like it was a hostile force not doing anything it was supposed to. This only deepened after Aurora died. Then January approached and there I sat about to turn 28, not pregnant again, and Aurora’s birth day approaching on the 20th. So I decided to do the one thing I could have any control over: reclaim my body. I started Weight Watchers as previously mentioned, and I’ve already lost 15 pounds. I feel better and my face and body are already showing a difference. I then decided to do something about this hair.

No one tells you that after miscarriages you still go through the same postpartum joys such as hair loss, hormonal acne, awful mood swings, aching breasts (I had to wear compression bras for almost 4 months after Aurora because my milk ducts are determined), and a host of other things. I had just started to see regrowth after Sayre when I fell pregnant with Aurora, and then I lost her one month later and the postpartum hair loss began again. I’d run my hand through my hair and come away with clumps of hair. I thought for sure I was going bald because no one told me this was going to happen. Miscarriages aren’t considered real births by most people and you’re not considered a real mother so you’re not prepped for postpartum. I went back to work a week after my D&C with Sayre. One. Week. Imagine going through all of that on top of the emotional pain and trauma AND recovering from a surgery and being back at work. My office was upstairs so I was also climbing two flights of stairs multiple times a day. At one point, I got to the landing and started cramping and barely made it to the top. One of the other teachers saw me and knew that look from having a wife and multiple children, and he immediately came over and made me sit. The only person, other than my doula and second midwife, who ever treated me like a woman in postpartum state recovering. So, when my hair started falling out, I didn’t have the mental energy to do anything about it. I was in survival mode. Then I got pregnant again. Then miscarried again. Spent the summer repressing and pretending nothing was wrong.

During the months of repression, I’d noticed my hair had changed. It had started after Sayre when I noticed my normal shampoo and conditioner weren’t doing the job anymore. My hair was oilier at the roots but the ends were dryer and I always had frizz. I mean, it was awful. So a few months ago I stopped combing my hair. All it did was create a puff ball. But I was having the issue of my hair going straight. I’ve always had natural curl in the form of 2B waves (google the hair chart). But my hair was straight now. After going down a YouTube and google hole (we know I’m an obsessive researcher, whatever) I found the Curly Girl method. Basically it’s this:

Sulfate free shampoo

Clip your roots while drying

Air drying

Silicone free conditioner

Cleansing conditioner (cowash)

Gel (soooooo much gel)

And other silicone free products

Washing and conditioning upside down

NO combs or brushes

I’d already moved to silicone free conditioners years ago with Lush but their shampoos have sulfates in them. Sulfates are what make your shampoos and soaps lather and get that squeak after you wash your hair. I hate the squeak and always have because it meant my hair was about to be tangle city. I decided to treat myself to some new products (damn them for building an Ultra 20 minutes away…so much money spent) and see what happened. So I invested in Devacurl products since they’re the originators of the CG method. Here’s the list of what I got:

Low poo delight (for wavy hair)

Decadence delight (conditioner for wavies)

Light hold gel (for wavies)

Volume and frizz foam

Believe In curl plumper (like a leave in conditioner)

I also ordered Aunt Jackie’s No Shrink gel, it had a firmer hold that I’ll discuss in a minute.

With all of my products in tow, I hit the shower. I washed my hair with a cleansing sulfate shampoo (Neutrogena has a great one I love) to get the silicones out of my hair from the styling creams I’d been using. Only sulfates can break down silicones so you’ll have to do a cleansing wash before starting CG. I washed then I flipped my head over after getting my hair sopping wet, and conditioned my hair. I used a shallow palm full of the decadence delight and was nervous. Usually, conditioners made my hair super greasy if I used that much but I was determined to follow the steps and see if they worked. I gently ran it through my hair and then scrunched my hair to work it into it. This is called the “squish to condish” method and I can’t tell you enough how much I love it. I truly saw a difference in how my hair took product and my curls shaped up. I then clipped my hair on top of my head (something I’ve been doing for years) and let the conditioner sit for the remainder of my shower while I shaved and exfoliated. Then I flipped my hair back over and let the water wash gently over my hair, not scrubbing or anything, then squished my hair some more. It makes a fun noise and I’m always amused, I’m a child. I took a very small amount, about a chickpea sized, of conditioner and squished it into my hair as a leave in. Leave in conditioner has never worked for me, but I was following the steps. Finally, I turned off the water and, still upside down, took my hair T-shirt (I’ve dried my hair with an old cotton T-shirt for years, really cuts down on frizz) and did one scrunch to get excess water out. Then I turned to applying products (still upside down):

1. Believe In, quarter sized amount squished into my hair

2. Volume and frizz foam, one pump worked through and squished then a second pumped squished on to the ends

3. Light hold gel, a shallow palm full smoothed over hair then scrunched in

By this time I already had beautiful curls formed and drinking all this in. I was ecstatic! But the journey wasn’t over yet…now it was time for plopping. Plopping is a drying method to absorb excess water while not agitating curls. I’ve done it in the past and was meh on it. But it’s an essential CG step so I did it. Placed my hair in the plop (same T-shirt), tied it (google plopping tutorials on YouTube, that’s how I learned), and went about the rest of my routine for 20 minutes. When it was time to take the plop down, I was nervous. I flipped back upside down and untied the shirt. My hair was in beautiful loose ringlets. I wet my hands, took a generous amount of Aunt Jackie’s gel, and scrunched it into my hair. Gently flipped right side up and scrunched the ends, fixed my part, and made sure my cowlick would behave. Then I flipped my roots. The CG method says to clip the roots of your hair while air drying or diffusing to creat volume and get the hair to not dry flat to your head. I watched Real Life Curly Girl’s clipping video and did my best. Then I air dried and hoped for the best. My hair did dry crunchy and flat, that’s called the gel cast. You want that. It helps your curls become super defined and you scrunch it out after your hair is fully dry.

I scrunched out the crunch and omg. My hair is curly. My curls were back!!!!!!!! I’ve been wearing my hair like this for week and I’ve already received so many compliments from students and teachers! My husband thought I was using my curling wand and was shocked when I told him my hair grew out of my head like this. I tried the As I Am coconut cowash today so we’ll see how that goes. I’m excited to see how my hair reacts over time to the CG method. In the meantime, I highly recommend to anyone with waves or curls. Best hair days I’ve ever had!

Mind Games

While my depression is distracted with blocks in a corner, I’ve had some time to think. I started weight watchers two days ago after seeing Christmas pictures of myself and hating each and every one. I’ve gained 50 pounds since my pregnancy with my son. Fifty. Pounds. I feel so much shame admitting that I let myself gain so much weight in a year. I don’t fit in most of the clothes I did even when I was pregnant with Sayre and I hate the way I look. Tonight, while eating my 10 WW point dinner, I thought about why I’d packed on so much weight so fast. The reason I came away with? Self loathing.

My body failed to keep my son alive and it failed to keep my daughter from being so flawed that she died. I punished myself by eating unhealthy foods and in large quantities. I felt ugly on the inside and wanted to make the outside look as unhealthy as I felt on the inside. I feel like my uterus is rotten, incapable of sustaining life. I’m not saying being overweight is ugly, I’m saying I was self destructive and subconsciously killing myself with food. I’m five feet four inches tall. Fifty extra pounds on my frame has some rough consequences.

I developed binge eating as I went along. Every month I didn’t get pregnant, I’d drown my sorrows in food. Usually alone and at night. Friends busy when I was desperate for human contact? I ate. Husband at work and I was feeling miserable and crying in the floor? I ate. Scared that I’ll never have a living child? I ate. I would look in the mirror and beat myself up. I’d tell myself the reason I’m not pregnant again is because I let myself get so damn fat. I told myself I killed my babies. I told myself I want worth living. I told myself I’m a failure in every area of my life.

I would try to eat better for one or two days, then go right back to unhealthy comfort foods. I decided to join WW because I need something that handles the points and calculations for me. That gives me more energy to focus on not hating myself. My mind and I are at war and I’ve called a truce, we’re entering peace talks. I’ve told myself I don’t have to like myself, but I should try to love myself. My body was the only home my babies knew and I’ve let it go to shit. I feel very disposable. My job doesn’t need me, I can’t keep babies alive, and my friends and family would be okay if I was gone. I decided to not do this for anyone but me. I want to not hate waking up in my body every morning.

I’ve been lying in the ring, beaten bloody by life, for a year. It’s time I get up again. I may never have a living child and that has to be okay. I need to move forward. For whatever reason Death took my innocent babies and left me even when I begged to go with them. I don’t know why I’m still alive when they’re dead, but I have to do my best since I’m still here. Time to hit play.

A letter to the doctor who delivered my son

Dear Dr. C,

I won’t use your full name in this open letter. I have no good things to say, but I am showing compassion even though you did not. You probably don’t remember me, just another patient on another busy day. I understand that. But I remember you; I will always remember you.

I will always remember how cold and distant you seemed during the worst days of my life. I will always remember how your colleague told me I couldn’t have the D&C he said was my only option that same day because I had to “emotionally and mentally come to terms with my miscarriage”. I remember being sent home after hour spent in the ER just to get more bloodwork to confirm my already confirmed RH negative status. How no one gave me a number to call if I needed anything between Friday and Monday. No medication to help induce sleep. No words to my husband to watch me carefully and call of something was wrong. No mention that I’d need rhogam administered if I started to miscarry on my own. My midwife was taken out of the room as soon as your colleague confirmed that my baby’s heart was no longer beating. The woman who’d been with me since I was 23 and who knew me. The person who showed any kind of emotion for me, along with her wonderful nurse.

I remember the day of the D&C, I was placed in the general waiting bay for surgery. Separated from strangers by two thin curtains, I felt my water break. My rabbi came and prayed over our son. I clutched his blanket in my hand. Did you know I made him a blanket? Did you think it was stupid for “fetal tissue” to have a blanket?

I remember waking up in the common recovery bay with dried blood all over my left shoulder, sticking me to the bed. The nurse and I had no idea why there was blood there. I still don’t know what happened. I had been given two rounds of pitocin, with plans for a third round, when a former L&D nurse stopped it. I didn’t need it, I was doing just fine on my own. I never saw you. Never was told how my D&C went. My husband and mother had to tell me later, after I’d gotten home.

Now for the part I will always remember you for, Dr. C. I was 1.5 weeks postpartum and at my check-up. You took no blood to see if my HCG was dropping appropriately. No ultrasound. No exam. Didn’t even ask me if I was still bleeding or if I’d passed any large clots. I was already back at work, had been for two days. It was too soon. I told you I was having trouble sleeping. I asked if I’d ever have a living baby. I told you my son’s name. You called him “fetal tissue”, said I was being obsessive and dramatic, and that running tests to see what caused my child to die was useless and expensive. You told me I wouldn’t miscarry again. You were wrong on every count.

You, Dr. C, sent a woman who wanted to die back home with nothing by harsh words and a threat to medicate if she didn’t shape up. I spent months not caring if I lived or died. Not sleeping. And, worst of all, having no answers and feeling like no one wanted to hear me. I could have died. In truth? I wanted to. If I hadn’t had my family and friends to watch and make sure I wasn’t alone at my worst times, I wouldn’t be here now. I’m begging you, please don’t continue to dismiss your patients and their feelings. You never once told me I had postpartum depression. I had all of the signs and symptoms. It took seeing a therapist and another midwife at another clinic to finally get diagnosed and get help. Without medication.

I did miscarry again. But this time the care I revived was so full of compassion and love that it seemed so much easier than Sayre’s death. That’s his name, by the way: Sayre Lee Taylor. My midwife scheduled me for the next day, sent me home with a sedative so I’d sleep, and called to check on me that night. Th Doctor was amazing. He cane into my room and asked me to tell him about my baby. He didn’t call her “fetal tissue”. His nurse held me while I cried. They called her by her name from the moment I told them. Aurora.

I was at my midwife’s office every week for three weeks for checkups. Then she called me every week for three more weeks. Gave me her personal cell number in case I needed anything or just needed to talk. But I haven’t had to use it because being treated with kindness helped me to recover and heal so much faster. I wasn’t made to feel crazy. Our child died and I was told I could have any feelings I wanted.

I tell everyone about you, because for better or worse, you’re a part of my son’s story. I’m sad that you’re the one who delivered him. I’m sad he wasn’t brought into the world by someone who saw him as more than tissue. I’m sad that the birth of my firstborn was so dark and handled so casually. I hold a lot of anger and resentment toward you. I’ve thought many times of coming to that office just to tell you how horribly you’d treated me. Whenever I tell anyone about what you said and how I was treated, they always assume you’re a man. Because another woman cannot possibly treat a grieving mother the way you treated me. But you did. I was so afraid to tell anyone about the suicidal ideologies I was having because I was afraid they’d threaten to medicate me like you did. Or throw me into a psych hospital. I was afraid to get help because I thought everyone would react the same way as you. I don’t remember Christmas, my birthday, Valentine’s Day, or my husband’s birthday. I do remember my husband taking the razor out of my bathroom and not allowing me in the kitchen near the knives. I remember other teachers at school who’ve lost children rallying around me and helping to carry me on days I couldn’t walk. I remember my students leaving me notes on my desk telling me I was brave, loved, and needed and hugging me constantly. And then I had Aurora. My world lit back up and I got to carry my light for 8 weeks until she joined her brother.

This story has a good ending: I made it through and am still alive and doing well. But this might not always be the case. If I hadn’t had the amazing support system that I did, the ending would’ve been very different. Please think about this before you treat a miscarriage patient. You got so incredibly lucky that I didn’t have retained tissue or any issues. You wouldn’t have known because you didn’t do any bloodwork or an exam. You also got lucky my family wouldn’t leave me alone for a few weeks. I want to know how you as a medical professional can send someone who’s bawling and clearly upset home without anything more than a threat to medicate. What were you thinking? Do no harm. Isn’t that part of what doctors are supposed to do? You did harm.

The Kids

This past year there’s been one force in my life that’s kept me going (other than my dog, Athena): my kids at school. After Sayre, I would come back to my office to find notes all over it from various students telling me they loved me and they were there for me. Hugs from these sweet babies became something mooring me to a body I so desperately wanted to escape. After Aurora, a group of my sweet kids made my favorite dinner and brought it to my house where we ate and they offered to clean my house or whatever I needed. I was, and still am, so grateful that I wasn’t allowed to isolate myself like the first time.

Now, my kids know the anniversary is close and that I’m not feeling myself. My first hour makes sure I eat breakfast every morning, hugs flow constantly, and my kids have become the ones carrying me instead of the other way around. While sitting in the resource office during my planning, one of my sweet loves told me she was proud of me. That meant far more than I can ever say because I feel so defective and the opposite of proud of myself. Our counselor checked in on me and assured me no one would be upset if I took the day of Sayre’s death off. So I am. My husband and I are going to go to his grave for the first time that day. I swore I wouldn’t go to Sayre’s grave until I had a living baby in my arms, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I wish Aurora was next to her brother. But I know both of our babies have the same resting place: inside of me. They’re part of me in every way, delicate threads woven into the tapestry of my life, one red and one white.

November

It’s November. I’ve been dreading this month all year…the month our precious Sayre Lee died. I’m not going to go back into the story, my heart can’t take it right now, but I wrote an entire series of posts about it if you want to read what happened. November 27t is now looming in first of my eyes and I feel like the Grinch perched high above Whoville asking myself how I can keep Thanksgiving from coming.

The first day of November, I woke up super early from a fitful night’s sleep. I read on my phone until my actual time to wake up arrived…but I couldn’t bring myself to put my feet on the floor. Because putting my feet on the floor and getting out of bed would mean it was actually November. And I couldn’t deal with that. But I had to go to school, so up I got. I felt funky and not fully there as I put on my makeup and listened to my true crime podcast. Once I got to my car for the short commute to work, I lost it. I screamed and beat my steering wheel, pinching my arms to make sure I was real and here. I needed to be present in my own body, you can’t teach without being present. I called out for my babies, hoping they could hear me since it was the day of the dead. A day they should’ve been able to hear me.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I love dressing up, pumpkins, the spooky vibe, and the fun atmosphere. And this year was no exception. I dressed as a witch and went to school to teach and had a wonderful time. But, as the sun set that night, I sat on the couch in my pajamas with my freshly washed face and felt a sense of dread. My witch’s hat and cloak were packed away in my closet until next year and I knew what the next day would bring. I felt like one of the spirits of the dead who had had their time with the living and knows it’s almost time to go back to the and of the dead. That’s how November feels to me, like the land of the dead. I don’t feel connected to anyone, it’s like there’s a glass wall between me and the rest of the world.

I know I have to go through November 27th empty. I was supposed to be very pregnant with Aurora by then. But she’s dead too. So now I’m empty because I didn’t get pregnant again this month and I have to face one of the worst days of my life feeling like a defective Death touched person. And I know I’m not defective, I know conceiving takes time after loss most times. I get all of that. But the irrational part of myself, my heart, yells louder than my mind so I hear it the most. I hear it yelling that I somehow killed Sayre, that my babies dying were karma for something I’ve done, that I’m not a real woman. This is what grief and loss does to you, it scrapes away what you know to be true and replaces it with doubt and self loathing.

People keep asking how I’m doing and to let them know if I need anything. That’s very sweet, but here’s the thing: I’m so deep in my depression and my own head that I can’t reach it to you. I feel like the sad miscarriage girl who bothers everyone with her feelings. What do I need? Someone to keep me company at home while my husband is at work, a break from school on the anniversary of Sayre’s death, and for everyone to understand that every day is a challenge for me right now. I don’t want to go anywhere after school, I’m exhausted and worn out from a day of having to be upbeat and on. But I’d love to have someone come to me and keep me or of my head. That’s what I can manage right now. So please don’t tell me to let you know if I need anything, because I can’t articulate that need right now. I need my friends and loved ones to be available and to reach out to me.