Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Naivete and bitterness

I have discovered something peculiar.

Women who experience one loss talk about how they have lost their they now know they can lose a baby (while other women remain blind to that fact). They mock women who retreat into their safe place where nothing bad can touch them or their baby.

But try to talk to them about the possibility of losing a second baby and the majority (that I have encountered anyway) retreat into their own safe place where they dismiss it with, "I know that nothing can guarantee a positive outcome, and yes, we might have another baby die, but we felt better about TTC after this appt." They buy into the belief that if they just get pregnant again...if they just maintain control...then everything will be all right. They think like I did...that extra tests, or more monitoring, or a nicer doctor with a better bedside manner will make it turn out right. And THEY, the ones with that hard won knowledge of loss and grief, refuse to truly acknowledge the possibilities.

I'm frustrated by this. Mainly because I'm the freak that nobody wants around to remind them that the bad stuff CAN happen again. When they ask for opinions on trying again and I say, "How would you handle another loss?" they look at me as though I have stabbed them and they rarely answer the question. But partly because I do not understand this naivete. Why would you, when you have experienced the shock and horror of a previous unexpected loss, set yourself up emotionally like that? Why won't you go into it with your eyes open?

I know hope is a precious thing, and many women would love to hang onto it when all else fails. And that is fine. But this refusal by women who have suffered a loss to contemplate the worst is just as "bad" as those women who have never lost, who refuse to contemplate the worst. Why is it women have such a hard time learning from our own experiences? Why is it women have such a hard time accepting any insight from someone else's experiences? Fear? Insecurity? I don't get it.

Of course this comes from my own place...where I thought I could control a second pregnancy...where I bought the plan hook, line, and shouldn't happen again if we're just extra cautious. Yeah, well, he was right, it didn't happen again...something ELSE happened. And I was blind to that possibility because I NEEDED to feel something other than the fear. That in and of itself isn't bad. But believing to the exclusion of all fear...that made the fall twice as bad as it needed to be. And for what? A few weeks of an illusion of control? I'm a fool for not preparing. I should have really contemplated it ALL.

When someone asks me about trying to conceive after a loss...when is it right?...I just say, "How would you handle another loss? Would you survive it emotionally?" It doesn't make me the life of the party...but it's a hell of a lot better than, "You'll know what's right for you." Because most of the time, we don't know what's right for us. Most of the time we're believing a delusion.


Rian said...

I completely agree with what you said. I have never had a late term lose, but I have been pg twice and m/c twice. A friend asked me before my second pg if I could handle another lose and I said yes, and I did. I went into that pg knowing that anything could happen and I had no control over any of it. My heart still broke when I m/c but sadly it was easier for me the second time around because I had already been there and I knew there were no gaurantees.

Kathy McC said...

I was guilty of this when I had my first loss. I thought, "Well, there was my miscarriage. Let's get pregnant again." I was even told by my doctor and my genetic counselor that the chances of it happening again were rare. I should have been weary of the statistics considering the chances of me losing the first child was about 1% since I had seen the hb twice and was past the first tri. Boy was I clueless.

Then there was the second loss. Talk about shock. How could that happen more than once? How could it happen to ME? Things like that don't happen to me. But they did. Everything went out the window after that.

When I got pg with Kam, I had no hope. I didn't want to set myself up for devastation. I have no idea where the courage came from to even try for a third time. I guess I just figured if I could handle it twice, I could handle it again.

I get a little chuckle (I know, weird) when women say, "Oh I couldn't handle what you went through." I laugh because I never thought I could either. But that's how it works. You cope with things that you never figured would come your way.

Sorry for blathering...just thought I'd share my two cents on this topic.

Sarah said...

I think about this a lot... And I'm not sure how i would recover from another late term loss. I think I could make it through an 'early' loss... one that wouldn't require a c-section. But somehow the thought of having a late term loss and a c-section (since i am not allowed to be in labor) is something that I feel would push me over the edge. Or maybe I'm just looking for something that would allow me to totally retreat from the world.

And maybe a second late term loss, would be the final straw. Maybe it would push me to say screw the biological child thing... I don't know. Maybe I'd adopt. Maybe i would just become the crazy lady who sits in her house all day or lies on her back deck all day long (even in the winter).

Or maybe I'd still have a tiny seed of something in me that let me be convinced by some OB that next time had a very good chance of working out. And maybe i'd try one more time. I honestly don't know.

And you are not a freak! Travis's death sent shock waves through me, and I'm sure many others.

One Mother's Journey said...

I understand completely what you're saying. However, if I do ever get pregnant again - I refuse to allow myself to live with a black cloud over my head at every second. After 3 pregnancy losses I can't imagine that I could ever be naive again but I'm damn well gonna try.

Well it sounds good in theory...

Sarah said...

Sorry to add more...

But I've found that other people are so against conversations that involve the idea of me having another loss (much less another near term loss)that I'm afraid to bring it up.

I've talked about it with my therapist (and about you and Travis--hope this isn't too freaky) and she basically just says that she wishes she could tell me that everything will be ok, but she can't.

kate said...

First of all, i beg to differ with you slightly. I distinctly remember you blogging about buying Travis an outfit and thinking that it would work to bury him in if he died. Therefore, you did contemplate it all, on some level anyway. I don't think you were blind to the possibility in any way.

It is different, though, to imagine the bad outcome as a possibility; and to live the bad outcome as a reality.

See, i do not know if what you are asking -- why people don't emotionally prepare themselves for another loss -- is truly possible. Because even if you think about it, imagine it, plan the baby's funeral as well as his/her homecoming (i did all this), i don't think that actually prepares you for the loss.

Maybe i have encountered different people than you have -- because even IRL i have met people who have had multiple late losses. So i don't know, i don't think you are such a 'freak' as you seem to think...

Anam Cara said...

I thought about the possibility of another death ALL the time with my sub-pregnancy. People would get annoyed with me IRL because I wasn't "confident" and "excited". They believed that because Thomas died of complications that happened during labor then nothing could go wrong the next time since I would be having a scheduled c-section. My attitude towards that was WTF??? Don't these people realize that any number of things could go wrong before I reach full-term. Babies die in-utero for lots of different reasons, and I was fully aware of that. More aware than I wanted to be. I didn't take it for granted that I would have a live take-home baby at the end, not for a second. But like the other Catherine (Kate) said, you can imagine it, even *plan* for it, but nothing can really prepare you for it actually happening again.
I'm just so sorry and angry that it happened to you

AJW5403 said...

As you know my situation was a little differant. I had to think about not only another loss from a miscarriage but if I might have to make another decision like I did with my duaghter. That was always on the front of my mind.

But I do have to admit that after my first miscarriage I did not feel like it was going to happen again. So when I got pregnant for the 3rd time and lost that baby the reality of it all really kicked in. I never thought I would have more then one loss and now here I sit with three children I will never see grow up.

Aurelia said...

After multiple losses, I can honestly say that those women are coping mentally the only way they can. Denial is not a bad thing, if it lets you sleep at night. Women still need to keep themselves well during a subsequent pg, if for nothing else, so they can go to work, and keep it together for their living kids. Fake it til you make it is a legit therapy technique because it works. I'm not saying you have to be little Mary Sunshine, but even a 50% failure rate also means a 50% success rate, and focusing on the positive isn't stupid, it's just even-handed. How would I do it? Well, for one thing, I've decided that I can't terminate another pg. It was hard enough the first time, and I'm choosing not to twice. (It was right the first time, but one's enough for me...) If I ever get pg again, I'll think myself lucky I had one egg left, and keep myself as busy as I I don't work myself into a lather, which I can do as you know.

Lorem ipsum said...

Unbearable heartbreak put into magnificent words.

Thank you, Catherine.

vixanne wigg said...

I don't know. I certainly wasn't confident when I was pregnant with Gideon. I really didn't know why we lost Charlie...had a guess, but that was as good as it was going to get. I never knew something was wrong the first time, so I had no confidence that I would know the next time. I spent a lot of the pregnancy several time a day. I was more and more reassured by so much monitoring and feeling like I had doctors who gave a crap, but I did not entirely trust any of them.

I probably would have answered that I would kill myself if it happened again. I think I certainly would have tried. But I was doing so horribly anyway that I HAD to try again or I was going to be a woman with no child and my entire life plan was going to be f*cked. I felt like I had no choice but to try again if I wanted to lead the life I had planned ever again. (BTW, I am just talking about ME...knowing MYSELF...not making judgment calls on others.)

Are there really lots of women out there who are confident in pregnancy after stillbirth? I haven't met them. Seriously, I am not being snarky. I literally can't believe it. I can understand why that attitude would hurt you.

vixanne wigg said...

BTW, I had had many people say to me, "Oh, I never could have done that" about getting pregnant again. But it's not like I'm superwoman or anything. You do what you have to do...You know...the heart wants what it wants...and all that. It's a pretty freaking awful way to find out how strong you are, but in a way it's good to know that you are stronger than you thought you were. Yes? No?

deadbabymama said...

After my miscarriage I thought that would be the worst thing, and it wasn't. After a dead kid all bets were off for the third pregnancy. Where was that hopeful place? I really had to search for it. I never believed more tests would help, there were no tests that would have been helpful anyway. I wasn't sure O would be alive until he was alive, and I wasn't sure my placenta was going to come out until my midwife actually showed it to me. And then, as you know, I spent months worrying that O would stop breathing, or choke, or whatever. Even now I'm terrified that he won't outlive me and that's all I want, for him to just outlive me. And I plan on having a long life, dammit!

Lisa P. said...

I have no right to say anything in opposition to what you said, Catherine (your blog, your right), and I know that posting my feelings about your entry when everyone else is agreeing with you is only opening me up to abuse. But I got kind of upset when I read this earlier and can't shake the feeling that it's people like me that you're talking about. :(

I *have* to have hope -- I have no children and if I give up on my hope, then I may well never have children, out of fear or whatever, and I just can't let myself do that. Perhaps I was naive after my first loss; it was a blighted ovum and so not very common. My second loss (theoretically) had a cause, and I have to go into trying again with the attitude that hopefully everything will be ok. I have to! I know this isn't for everyone and I know that this probably means I'm a Pollyanna among the loss bloggers, but I have to. I can't give up yet. :( Yes, I'll be terrified when I get pregnant again but I do think there's a balance between being scared of what can happen and preparing for it to happen. Maybe that makes me incredibly naive, but I'm sorry, I can't be that way.

I completely understand if you delete this comment.

Julian's Mom said...

Like Anam said, I never felt safe during my pregnancy with Natalie. I would only allow myself the slightest glimpses of babies out of the corner of my eye, I could not stand to be around "normal" pregnant women, I was very secretive and protective of my pregnancy, because I would not accept congratulations or misguided reassurances that "everything will be fine this time." How the hell would anyone know that?

And when we had our huge scare about her heart at 20 weeks, and at 23 weeks, 5 days, were still contemplating whether or not to continue the pregnancy, we were scared to death. We spent the remainder of the pregnancy having weekly scans of Natalie's heart, completely freaked out about the possibility of history repeating itself. During labor, her heart rate dipped extremely low--how could we not contemplate the possibility that she wouldn't make it out alive?

Like you, we never got an answer about what caused our son's death, so I always felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yes, I went out and bought tons of little girl clothes and baby things, as that was the only thing that calmed me and helped me to have some amount of hope about bringing Natalie home. Apart from that, I felt a little like I was walking around mourning a dead baby and one that was alive, but hadn't been born yet. Most women feel that their babies are safe as long as they are in the womb. I always felt like my body was a dangerous place to be, and that I was susceptible to some sort of infection that would kill my baby or make her sick (an unproven theory some of the doctors have about what happened to Julian). I know you can relate.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that although I haven't experienced multiple losses, the idea of loss was and is never far from my mind. I wish you didn't feel like a freak, and I don't think you are, at least not among this community. I know there are women who have experienced horrible losses who still enter into a new pregnancy with hope and joy, but I suspect that much of that is a front for themselves and others around them. How can one not be afraid when the worst imaginable thing has happened and life as we know it has ceased to exist? Believe it or not, I'm actually an optimist, but I do think it takes tremendous strength to try again when you acknowledge that a try doesn't always result in a living child.

Sorry for the ramble...