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The Connection Corner

Welcome! This website was created as a memorial to my daughter, Claire Sandra, who passed away on October 28, 2010. Today, it is also a connection place for those who are living with or who are interested in learning more about Infertility and Infant Loss. All of the resources included here can help you learn more about Infertility and Infant loss. If you have a personal connection to either of these experiences, remember: You are not alone. Find support, stay connected and you will persevere.

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope

What my Readers Have to Say

The Archives

The trying of TTC

Since my last post, I’ve received some questions from fellow baby loss Mom’s who wanted to know when my husband and I decided to try for a second child and in what matter we tried. I feel some guilt that I wasn’t writing during the majority of that process; because, now that we are pregnant, it’s exceptionally difficult to remember what it was like when we weren’t. If there is any good news I can share about the emotional journey of trying to conceive your rainbow baby after losing your angel, it’s that the sting of it is truly overshadowed when you see a positive pregnancy test again.

We were informed by my doctor that we could begin the process of trying for another baby as soon I was cleared for my 6 week postpartum check up. My OB also recommended that I seek a pre-pregnancy consult with my Perinatologist who recommended that we wait approximately three months before trying to conceive. The grief nurse at the hospital recommended we wait at least a year. You could talk to a hundred Mom’s, specialists, counselors, OB’s and Perinatologists and on average you will likely be told to wait at least 3 months before you are physically ready. Mental readiness is a completely separate animal and can only be determined by your feelings and that of your spouse or partner.

My husband and I didn’t seriously embark on trying for another child until at least six months after Claire was born. Even then, there were months where we still too fresh from the loss and too deep into our grieving, to actively participate in trying to have another baby. At times it felt completely natural to want to have another child, but more often than not I felt empty without being pregnant with Claire, not empty because I wasn’t pregnant with our next child. My biggest advice is to begin the process of trying to have another child when you have fully come to terms with the fact that you are no longer pregnant. I had phantom kicks for months, I continued to express colostrum for about the same amount of time, and it was at least twice that long before my body had returned to it’s pre-pregnancy state. Until then, I don’t think I would have been able to healthily distinguish my two pregnancies and it’s a blessing that it took us nearly year before we got pregnant with Zoey.

After trying to conceive au natural for a few months, my OB decided to put me on Clomid. This fertility drug is designed to increase your egg production, which, presumably had not been occurring since I had not been able to get pregnant. I took 100-150 mg of Clomid for three cycles along with 500 mg of Metformin, daily. I continued to take my prenatal vitamins which I had not discontinued after delivering Claire. During these Clomid cycles, my egg production was not monitored so I do not know whether or not the Clomid was working or not other than knowing I did not get pregnant while using the medication.

At the end of the 3 months, I was referred to a Fertility Specialist who performed a variety of tests. At some point, I’ll pull my records and results to explain what they were, how they were done and what happened but the end result was that I was completely healthy with the exception of two very important things:

1) Ultrasounds revealed that I had several follicles but none of them grew to maturity to be capable of producing a healthy egg, if any egg at all.

2) I had an unusually high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level. By unusually high, I mean my levels were more indicative of a pre-menopausal woman than a 26 year old woman.

The fertility specialist recommend that we repeat all of the tests again in another month and that we consider the use of IVF and/or injections to try and produce a quality egg for harvesting/insemination. The news was painful. I felt more infertile after those results than I had in all the years I knew and struggled with PCOS. I was depressed and my husband’s advice was that we stop trying so hard to have another baby and just let nature take its course. I know all of you women who struggle with infertility problems understand how difficult it is to trust in nature, when naturally we are various degrees of infertile. But, my husband was persistent and regaled me with stories of people who had tried and tried and tried and tried and didn’t get pregnant until they finally threw in the towel.

I hated those stories. I hope you don’t hate me. Because 6 weeks after throwing in the towel, stopping my Metformin, my Prenatal vitamins and dismissing the fertility specialist- We got pregnant with Zoey. She was conceived during the only month I didn’t track my cycle or my ovulation, and the first full month I didn’t have a single medication in my blood stream. She is as natural and unexpected as you can get.

The journey of infertility and baby loss is painful beyond measure. I still grieve, but I also cope. I cry, but I also smile. I mourn, but I also rejoice in all of the blessings that I have in my life. If you desire a second child, do so at your own pace and recognize that that the path to every pregnancy is different, just as our children are different. What may have worked for your first born, may not work for your second. Your second may come naturally, as ours did, through even more intense fertility treatments, or through alternative means like adoption or surrogacy. At the end of it, it doesn’t matter how or when your family expands, because whenever it happens, it will feel like it was the “right” time and with the baby meant for you and your family.

Rainbow Baby

It has been nearly a full year since I last posted on Claire’s website. I never anticipated the emotional roller coaster ride this website or being a part of the baby loss parent community would be like. I still receive emails, Facebook messages and comments from people who find their way to Claire’s story and it humbles me to know that she survives in thoughts of people all around this country and the world.

Today, I would like to announce that my husband and I are happily expecting our second baby girl, Zoey Claire, on June 28, 2012. Gestationally, Zoey is 23 weeks on the nose today- the exact same age her big sister was when she was born.

I’ll explain the full details of Zoey’s surprising conception and pregnancy thus far in the coming weeks, but one of the most special details is this: I took a picture of the rainbow above on the day Zoey was conceived. Zoey is truly our rainbow baby.

At the time of her conception, my husband and I had taken a step back from fertility treatments and active baby-making planning. Our pregnancy came as a complete surprise. I took this photograph knowing it would be an amazing coincidence if we happened to get pregnant but I didn’t consider it a possibility. I was ecstatic to learn that I was pregnant but it was also comforting to know that our Rainbow Baby was truly A Rainbow Baby.

Rainbow Baby Definition: In some circles, babies born to families after the loss of a child are referred to as “Rainbow Babies.” The idea is that the baby is like a rainbow after a storm. “Rainbow Babies” is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

Zoey is our Rainbow baby and I hope that you will continue to share our journey as we continue to love, grief, learn and live with Claire’s memory.

Reminders

My absence from this website was purposeful but the consequences to my emotional well-being were unintended. I had forgotten how comforting comments from my readers were and how much happiness I received knowing that Claire’s memory lived on in people all across the country. My husband reminded me that the purpose of her website was to raise awareness. I wanted to raise awareness about Claire, about PCOS, about Cervical Incompetence and about infant loss. Hopefully, I will gain more strength so I can continue to work on these goals and make Claire proud.

There are reminders of Claire’s absence everywhere but most of them are controlled by my husband and I. We placed the photographs around her house, we chose her Urn, we chose to keep her nursery intact. These are reminders that we choose to live with so that we may surround ourselves with the memory of our daughter.

The unexpected reminders are the ones that are the hardest. In February, I received a sample pack of Similac formula. I also received a Pottery Barn Kid’s catalogue and a subscription to a Parenting magazine. The formula was hurtful because it was sent in anticipation of my due date. I continue to receive emails from baby shopping sites no matter how many times I click unsubscribe. Inevitably, I read a novel or watch a movie that involves the death of a child and I can’t help but be reminded immediately of Claire.

I wonder if my entire life will be filled with these unexpected reminders and how my reaction to them will change over time. To that end, I try to focus on creating memories and keepsakes of mine and my family’s own choosing. The reminders that are created specifically for Claire are the most important ones and the more I have of those, I feel the less affected I will be by all the others.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday was not the first holiday since Claire was born, but it was the first holiday that I had expected to share with her. I have a yellow Easter outfit hanging in her closet, and a beautiful daughter who will never wear it.

I’ve noticed that my grief over Claire has begun to shake it’s angry fist at me more and more. I am having more difficulty containing it and more times than not, I feel like I am a bottomless pit of sadness. Somehow just being present in this world feels wrong. Everything I touch, I know Claire cannot. Everywhere I go, Claire is gone. I cry every time I see her crib and wish I knew what it would feel like to put her to bed and watch her sleep.

One place I find some measure of peace is in the glider that I purchased when I was only about 6 weeks along with Claire. When I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time relaxing in it and I would imagine what it would be like holding my daughter, nursing her, and rocking her. Later, when her nursery was assembled, I positioned the glider next to her crib and I would gently rock back and forth and look forward to the day that I could see her asleep through the wooden slats.

It’s my only happy place since losing Claire. Or, as close to happy as I can get in a place I am surrounded by all the hopes, plans and dreams that evaporated when she died. Through out it all, I continue to be amazed by my own daughter’s strength. By the fact that she fought so hard to survive and I find myself sending prayers to her to help me. Claire fought in the face of sure tragedy and I feel like I need to learn to do the same. I hope that one day I can come to peace with our loss, but until then I let whatever emotions are there come to me, confident that there is a process even when I start losing faith that there is a greater plan.

M.I.A.

I’ve been taking some time off of blogging but wanted to pop in with at least an update to explain why. When I started this website for Claire, I was very much in the mode of using every ounce of my strength to be optimistic and stay positive. I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could find ways to allow goodness to grow out of her loss.

What I am learning is that strength doesn’t come with a limitless reserve. I am not an invincible person while grieving. I lost a lot of my strength because I was so busy writing about it and reflecting on it, that I forgot to keep some stored away for rainy weather.

This all came to a peak during the month of February which had been engrained in my mind since Claire’s conception as “the month she would be born.” Instead, she came in October and I carried a heavier and heavier burden as each of the 28 days in February passed.

I felt some relief after February 25, her due date, because I realized I no longer had right to claim “I should be pregnant right now, I would be pregnant right now,” because I wouldn’t have been. Even in a perfect world where Claire was born and survived, I wouldn’t have been pregnant beyond that date.

None of my grief abated but some of the pain did and I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on how much I miss her instead of what I can do to keep her memory alive. I spent so much of my time researching memorial projects and cervical incompetence, that I didn’t take the time I needed and will always need, to just think about and miss my daughter.

I haven’t felt inclined to share those feelings but do not want this blog to lose its intended purpose of being a living memory of Claire and a resource for those who have cervical incompetence, have ever lost a child or both.

She lives in the deepest parts of my physical being having grown inside of me and delivered out of me. She lives in the crook in arm where I held her as she died, she lives in my heart which pumped her blood to give her life, she lives in my conscious which thinks about her constantly when I am awake and in my subconscious when I am asleep. She also lives in the words that I write and the love that I have for her which grows quietly around my grief in a unique relationship that only exists between parents and the children they have lost.

Every day continues to be a struggle, even if it is a gentler kind. I hope that I am able to regain the initial strength that I appeared to have had when Claire was born. If hope is a derivative of strength, than my hope will be the strength I need to make it happen.

Frida

Do you think we are drawn to things for a reason? That perhaps a part of our current selves are aware of what our future selves will later experience?

I do.

When I was a sophomore in High School, a friend of mine drove me home from school. I was perusing his Humanities Studies book one day (and by perusing, I mean bored out of mind, randomly flipping through pages to pass the time) and fell upon this painting:

I loved it immediately and it has been my favorite painting and Frida Kahlo has been my favorite artist ever since. To me, this painting symbolizes the broken woman. Frida Kahlo was a very broken woman. Structurally, she suffered a broken pelvis, spinal column, collarbone, ribs, pelvis, leg and foot in a terrible bus accident. But the cruelest of her injuries were the wounds she received to her uterus which made it impossible to carry a baby to term. She suffered several miscarriages through out her life and was never able to birth a live child.

The reason I loved this painting when I first saw it was because despite Frida’s brokeness she is able to hold herself together. She is in pain, she is mourning, she is suffering and all of this is exposed to the world. Some may see the brokeness and the crudeness but I saw the healing and this painting was a symbol of strength.

Now, after having experienced the loss of a child and the fears of suffering through more, I can appreciate the depth of this painting even more. I too am in pain, I am mourning, I am suffering and all of this is exposed to the world. Some people may see only brokeness but I hope that others are able to see the healing and see the strength that I try to exude.

In addition to the Broken Column, I am also very drawn to Henry Ford Hospital a painting that Frida Kahlo completed after suffering through one of her miscarriages. The six objects that are tethered to her are all meant to objectify things that she wants, lacks or desires. The most largest and most primary of these objects is a child.

Her paintings are realistic and they don’t shy away from the gravity of her life experiences. I hope that neither do I. Today, I find myself wondering why I was so drawn to an artist that I would later share this connection with. The Broken Column brought me strength during several past experiences and I believe that Henry Ford Hospital will do the same for me now.

A Broken Body

Because of my PCOS my body needs help to conceive a child. Because of my incompetent cervix, my body needs help to carry a baby to term. My body is broken in terms of baby-making and baby-carrying.

When I was diagnosed with PCOS, I was devastated. I hadn’t considered the possibility that I would have difficulty conceiving a child, that the process would be anything other than a natural, enjoyable experience for me. I remember asking my doctor point-blank: Will I ever be able to experience trying to have a child without medical intervention? Her answer was no. We developed a conception plan during that visit, even though it would be years before my husband and I would reach a point in our lives where we wanted to start a family. It was comforting for me to know every step in the “try-to-have-a-baby-process.” I knew our best case and worst case scenario and every possible scenario in between.

When I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix, I was again devastated. I was already reeling from the loss of Claire and the knowledge that all of my future pregnancies would be affected by the same condition was difficult. Again, the question had to be asked: Will I ever be able to experience pregnancy without medical intervention? And again, the answer was no.

Without the help of medications like Metformin or Ovulation Predictor Kits I would not be able to have a baby. The former helps to regulate the androgens in my body so I can ovulate and the latter helps ensure I know when. Without the help of surgical procedures like a cerclage, I would not be able to keep that baby inside of me.

I feel broken because I am. I’ve lost elements of my femininity that are engrained inside the experience of being able to conceive a child and be pregnant with that child. I’ve lost pieces of my heart. I believe that when we conceive a child, parts of our heart literally give life to the tiny embryo that begins to form inside of us. It is impossible to separate our children’s lives from ours- even in death, Claire belongs to the deepest parts of me.

I am thankful for the fact that with medical intervention, I should be able to conceive another child. I am grateful for the fact that with more medical intervention, I should be able to carry that baby to term so Claire can be a big sister someday. But there is no medical intervention that can heal the broken parts of me that miss my daughter and the life she should have had if I did not have a broken body.

Dates I will Always Remember

Claire’s baby shower would have been on Saturday, January 8th. Her 3D/4D ultrasound was scheduled weeks before on December 18th. Before Claire died, these were my two of my three big “countdown” days with the final one being her due date on February 25th. Two of these dates have come and passed. Claire was not alive for either of them.

Her 3D/4D ultrsound was meant to be a day full of ooo’s and ahh’s, a first look at her nearly fully formed features, a sneak peak at the whites of Claire’s eyes and the shape of her face. Her baby shower was supposed to be a day for celebration and preparation for her arrival. It was supposed to be a day that we spent with our closest friends and family enjoying my pregnancy and talking about our plans for Claire’s impending due date.

Instead, both of these days were uneventful because I was no longer pregnant. My anticipation for these dates was still scrawled inside of my head so their countdown continued even though I knew the end result was no longer going to make me happy. I couldn’t help watching as we got closer and closer to the date of her ultrasound and then date of her baby shower. I continue to struggle knowing that there is only one more anticipated day left, the most important one: Her due date.

I didn’t write about my feelings regarding these days before because the pain was still too tender. But honestly.. I am tender every day, some more than others, but there is never an opportune time to reflect on the significance of these never-to-be-had moments in my life. Everything about this experience is difficult. I know I should still be pregnant now- that I should have a month of pregnancy left with Claire. But I’m not and I don’t. I should be staring at a nursery full of gifts for Claire, instead it’s a room full of memories with no future to be found. All of these plans diminished when she died but the memories still whirl around in my head as I come to terms with the fact that she is gone.

Never Married

Hi Claire,

You know… sometimes the ordinary-everyday mail can still pack quite a punch. I just went outside to collect our mail and the last thing I found under the newspapers and magazines was an envelope from the mortuary. I knew right away it was your death certificate so I handed it to your mother to open carefully. I know it is a big deal because it’s another way to validate your life and the short time you spent with us. I will be honest, I first tried to ignore the significance and even the presence of it based on my fear of becoming to emotional. Most days are difficult enough, I normally try to regulate the amount of reminders I have, not because I want to think about you less, but to simply maintain some level of sanity.

Your mom opened the envelope and out came the death certificate. Nothing I had not seen before, I see them every once in awhile doing tax work. The moment my eyes hit the paper I noticed a box filled in with the text “never married”. The box was the designated marital status section. I could of stepped in front of a train and it wouldn’t of hit me as hard as seeing that did. I felt like I had just taken a baseball bat straight to the chest. I can’t explain how fast I saw the life that could have and should have been. I feel like you were robbed of the only thing I could give you, which is life. Everyone says I should be grateful of the fact you are a Saint in heaven and did not have to go through the trials or tribulations of life, but I do not have the ability to put that kind of spin on losing you. Not even close..

As you know if you are watching over us, my faith has been shattered in a lot of ways. I am having a horrible time trying to maintain the faith I had built up through the last 5-or-so years. I actually found out your mother was pregnant with you just after I finished adult confirmation in the church. Seeing that phrase “never married”, makes me so angry. It is one of the many things you were supposed to be able to experience in your life. Now we are left with a piece of paper, a death certificate, a sad mommy and a father who can’t figure out how to pick up the pieces of his shattered faith. Acceptance is the stage we are trying to achieve. I am glad the state has accepted it, I guess we have not.

I miss you and love you.

Dad

No Prep Labor- The PreTerm Kind

I had a thought today… I realized that I labored Claire without preparation or even so much as a clue to what was going to happen. At only 23 weeks I was months away from reading about birthing classes, pain management, breathing techniques, dilation, contractions, a birth plan– the list goes on and on.

I had a rough outline in my head of what my labor would be like and it went something like this, “Around week 26-27 call the hospital to schedule a birthing class. Oh, an epidural seems like a good thing. I’m kind of a wuss.” As I entered my 22nd week, I had no idea that I would go into preterm labor and deliver my daughter less than a week later.

As I look back I’m amazed at how I handled the process of laboring and delivering Claire with as little guidance and preparation as I had. I had to work through contractions without an ounce of foresight into how to handle them. I had to suffer through the traumatic sensation of my water breaking without knowing what was happening. I was told I was going to deliver a breech baby with very minor knowledge of what that entailed (I actually had no idea that our OB would have to manually reach in and pull Claire through one arm and leg at a time until it was actually happening). I learned more lessons in birth planning by actually birthing Claire than I could possibly have learned while reading a book.

Even though the end result was truly heartbreaking and watching Claire die was and will always be the worst experience of my entire life, the act of conceiving, carrying and ultimately, delivering her is the best experience of my life. The moment that she was wrestled free from my body, I felt the deepest connection to my daughter. There are no words to describe the magnitude of that sensation.

In a way, it’s similar to my inability to describe the tremendous pain that I feel because she died. My love for her and my hurt over losing her fall on opposite sides of an emotional spectrum but both represent the pinnacle of two very different emotions: love and loss.

Having an incompetent cervix and living with infertility make me question my femininity regularly. In moments of doubt, I only have to remember that I have a beautiful daughter and recall the fact that my very feminine body was able to deliver a healthy child save only for her young age.

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