On Miscarriage

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss awareness month. I’ve seen some strong sisters posting on Facebook about their personal dealings with this particular trauma and it’s had me thinking of my own miscarriage.

It’s been over 10 years and I still remember the details so vividly.

The day after Trysten and I told Zach we were going to have another baby I was on the floor of our local Y writhing in pain. A doctor’s appointment confirmed everything was fine with the baby and everything was fine with me, probably just implantation pains they said.

A month later we were returning from my nephew’s birthday party and I just didn’t feel well. I told Zach I thought I just needed a long nap but after waking up drenched in sweat we headed to the ER. My temperature was over 104 degrees so they admitted me, telling me if it got that high again it wouldn’t be good for my baby who was a few degrees higher than me as it was. I sent Zach off to spend the night at home with Trysten and settled in feeling better knowing I was in good hands at a hospital.

What felt like a few hours later a nurse came to check my temperature. The details are fuzzy here, probably because of how high my temperature was but I just remember her muttering, “Oh Tesi” and then yelling Code and pushing a button that made a loud sound. Nurses came running in, I felt them lift me up and set me back down. Then they were covering me with something, I couldn’t be sure just what. I went in and out of consciousness for awhile but when I finally came to enough to understand where I was I realized I was laying on and covered with ice packs. The same nurse that discovered my fever was rubbing my head and heads with something so I asked if her if my baby was ok. She looked at me and said, “I have no idea honey, we’re just happy you’re still with us.”

After she left I called Zach to tell him we had lost the baby. I had the strongest knowledge that it was gone that I just couldn’t shake, even after they confirmed a heartbeat the next day. The doctor explained there was a smaller chance of miscarriage now that we had entered the second trimester. He seemed so sure that I wanted to believe him.

They sent me home but a few days later I started bleeding. Zach wanted to go to the hospital but I knew it was too late.

When we went in the next day I’ll never forget the face of the woman who did my ultrasound. She knew immediately, as did we, but she couldn’t tell us. I started shaking as she made us wait for the doctor to deliver the news. He wanted us to go right in to the hospital to perform a DNC.

After I woke up from anesthetisa I began yelling, “I want my husband! Bring my husband to me!” A friendly nurse came up to me and said I wasn’t ready to see visitors but I wasn’t having it. We had just lost a baby, I wanted only someone who knew what that felt like to be with me. She finally sent me to my room when I wouldn’t stop screaming for Zach. It’s so unlike me to be so vocal I can’t believe I did that but I did.

I thought that was the end of it, that life would move on. Many women had miscarriages and go on to have healthy pregnancies, I had women like that in my life. I tried so hard to shake off the loss. How could I be so full of mourning for a baby just a few months old? I didn’t even know him.

Him. I always knew it was a son.

A few weeks after that, while enjoying a soccer game of my brother’s I started to hemorrhage. I told my mom who was sitting next to me that something was wrong and as soon as I stood up she could see why. The chair, the ground beneath the chair and most of my lower body was covered in blood. We were in a remote, different part of the state so we covered the backseat with as many towels as we could find and drove me to the nearest possible.

Here the details become fuzzy again. I remember this time in snippets stretched out over years.

Walking through the hospital, a trail of dark blood following behind me.

A wheelchair, “Sit here ma’am while we get you registered.” Blood. Everywhere.

Being lifted onto a table, hospital staff taking off my pants and examining me. Blood. They are covered, I am covered.

I fall asleep. I dream of the baby.

Jolted back to consciousness. There’s a needle, they just shot me with something. It hurt.

They make me walk somewhere with my mom. I am scared, I’m so scared. So is my mom, though she won’t say it. So much blood. Why is there so much blood, Tesi? She asks. We walk silently afterwards, terrified of the answer.

I get to the room and then nothing.

I woke up to hear I had been taken back to surgery, some kind of balloon was inserted into my uterus and a connecting tube was attached to my leg. My uterus had collapsed on itself and was forming scar tissue. They had to remove all of that and then insert the balloon to prevent it from happening again.

The next months were spent in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals getting procedure after procedure done. The procedures were spread out just long enough to allow me to begin to process the grief and then it was a time for a new one. Reopening the wound, ripping out the healing, forcing me to start again.

I was 23 and had no concept of how to deal with that kind of grief and trauma. I didn’t know how to verbalize what it felt like to come so close to dying and then, upon losing a baby, almost wish I was gone too. I didn’t know how to tell anyone, not even Zach, that I wanted so badly for the floor to open up and swallow me whole the grief was so large and insurmountable on days.

Because I was 23 and a born people pleaser I hid my devastation so well. But inner turmoil has a way of showing itself so I acted in aways that would devastate my family-even years down the road. I felt so alone at the time. So many people were flippant about miscarriages because they happen so frequently that I didn’t feel a right to my grief. I didn’t understand how some women seemingly got over it-I wanted to be one of those too.

Sometimes as women it’s so hard to tell our stories, particularly of loss. The world likes to shrug it’s shoulders and chalk it up to hormones and yet our stories matter. We are the keepers of these memories. I am the only one who knew this baby on this side of heaven and his story matters to me. If I keep quiet, it feels like a betrayal of his memory, like it never happened in the first place.

Even the terminology adds to the grief. “MIScarried” as if I did something wrong while carrying the baby. “Loss” as in the same thing that can happen to car keys. I lost my baby the same way I lost one of my earrings. It’s so hard not to feel responsible when even the telling of the story uses words that blame rather than words that heal.

It’s also so hard to tell our stories because people get skittish when you talk about sadness. As much as people are craving honesty and vulnerability in this digital age, so many of us turn away to the brutal parts of the human condition. We want you to be honest but could you please put a smile to your vulnerability so we don’t feel so awkward when you tell us?

The truth is, I still cry about it sometimes. Dailah loves asking for stories at bedtime and a few nights ago she asked me about the baby that I lost. The kids know about this baby and so I was telling her some of my (less gruesome) stories and I started to cry. She rubbed my back and I said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t cry over something that happened long ago. A sadness is a sadness no matter the time. It’s ok to continue feeling it forever.”

In some ways I think my miscarriage has helped me grapple with the loss suffered by my boys. One look at them and you would never know the tragedy they’ve dealt with in their short lives but it shows up in tiny, unmistakable ways that I catch every time because of what I have been through as well. I was so scared of having another baby and losing it that I spent most of Dailah’s pregnancy hyper-alert and awake. Of course my boys would be hesitant to welcome me as their mother, of course they would take some of their sadness and frustration out on me. It’s completely normal, I’ve done it too.

If you are or know someone who has lost a pregnancy or a baby to stillbirth just reach out to them today. Don’t say, “It was God’s plan” or anything remotely close to that. Just say something simple, “I’m thinking of you. I don’t know what you’ve been through but I love you. I remember your baby, too.”

After I lost my baby I received a card from my Aunt Glenda. In it she told me that upon hearing of my loss she pictured my Grandpa meeting my baby in heaven, and how happy they must be together. The image stays with me today, the gesture from my Aunt is something I won’t ever forget.

As a friend you won’t stop their grief but it might reassure them that their one precious baby isn’t relegated to their memory alone. And that might be enough to help them heal, even just for today.

My love to you mamas remembering your babies today. They matter, you matter. We might be internally beaten and scarred but we are alive to tell our stories, and sometimes that has to be enough. Peace and love to you. 

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Today

Today he argued with me about mustard. The conversation went a little something like this:

Tariku: “Mom, you’re putting mustard on that?!? You don’t like mustard!”

Me: “Yes I do, honey, I’ve always liked mustard.”

Tariku: “No you don’t, you didn’t before, I remember that you didn’t like mustard.”

Me: “Tariku, I promise, I have liked mustard since before you were born.”

Tariku: “No, I’m positive, you didn’t like it before.”

and on and on for MINUTES. Minutes, people.

It’s been like this for about 2 weeks, which is to say the length of time in which the kids have been released into the wild on summer break. And most days I can let it roll off my back but some days he argues with me about my never liking mustard and on those days I want to call for a do over.

Because I get it. All of his disrespect, all of his angst, all of his constant arguing is always with me. Moms. They are an integral part in my Tariku’s story. Not just me, of course, but of his first mama who he reportedly looks and acts just like. When I think of her, I always think of him. Smile for days, bright eyes, playful and funny but mostly serious and determined.

And I have to believe there are times when he is interacting with me but thinking about her. I’m sure our upturned eyes when he says something funny or wise and our creased forehead when he’s on our every last nerve is vaguely similar. I can’t imagine the pain it causes him sometimes to see her in me or to look at me and be scared not because of what I’m saying or doing but because I remind him of her-of loss and heartbreak.

So on other days, days when it’s not about mustard-obviously, I’m sympathetic. I get it. Changing schedules means anything can happen. It’s why since the time he learned English he asks me what we are doing for the day and then if the car goes off course asks a million follow up questions to make sure we are doing exactly what I had said we were doing. Because of the day when he was told they were going one place and then instead went to an orphanage. That’s why he gets effed up when his scheduled gets effed up.

And I. Get. It.

But it’s fekkin exhausting some days. Some days I look at him and I can see in him the battered and tattered soul that must be looking back from my eyes too. Like two people hanging on to a tree in the middle of a windstorm. We want the same things: to be loved by each other, by other people and for God’s sake we want to love ourselves. Maybe one of those happens first, maybe they happen together-who the hell knows. But here we are, on the damn tree again. Clutching hands and searching for eye contact. A nod that we’re in it together but come hell or high water we will end up together too. Perhaps a little worse for wear but together just the same.

Some days, not days in which we argue about mustard-obviously, we do end up quite literally together. He’ll let me snuggle up to him on his bed. He’s never super relaxed, my Tariku, when I’m snuggling him but ever so closely I creep until he lets me throw an arm around him, sometimes even a leg. “I love you, you know that?” He smiles, nods his head. “No, I mean I seriously love you. Like sometimes I clench my jaw so tightly because if I don’t then I’ll squeeze you to death with all of the love I have for you. It’s too big for my body. My whole body can’t take it, so my big jaw takes it for me.” Laughs, nods. “Ok, just so you know, no matter what-it’s true.” And then as I get up to leave and my back is turned.

“I love you mommy, so much.”

Redemption.

So bloody, sweat and tear strained we retreat to our corners. Me thinking about how mind numbingly frustrating loving another human can be sometimes and him thinking about how I stayed. I freaking stayed.

Abe and Aristotle

I know most of you who read this blog (does anyone still read this blog?) are my friends on Facebook as well. So you know about my Abe and my Aristotle. But writing for me has always been therapeutic on some level and after spending the entire day on the couch watching Season 2 of Sons of Anarchy (love/hate that show) and crying at the mere sight of my dogs’ water bowl I decided maybe I’d try to write about them.

About a month and half ago Abe started showing signs of something like a UTI. He peed in our house for the first time since he was a pup and had to go pretty frequently. Took him to the vet multiple times over the next few weeks and nothing was working. He stopped eating, slowly his legs stopped working properly. It wasn’t good. So I sent a little Hail Mary to Facebook and the next day we fed him heated hot dogs. He ate 6 at one time. There was hope! We took him to a new vet who decided to go a different route with treatment and it worked…

Until it didn’t. The last 2 weeks I could tell he was giving up. Finally, last Wednesday I laid on the floor with him and I just knew. I knew it was time. He hadn’t eaten, he looked like this.

I told Zach I thought it was time but he didn’t think so (we all know we humans handle these things differently). He asked me to take him to the vet Thursday morning. A good friend met me there. She had to lift him into her car. As we virtually carried him into the vet, I was swallowing that lump of emotion. Over and over. Until Abe got on the scale and it showed he was 110lbs. I. lost. my. shit. My Abie baby was always around 165 (I know this because Zach had a small obsession with how big he was as he was growing). The vet said if the meds didn’t work, Monday would be the day.

You know where this is going, of course. The weekend was spent with Abe on the couch. Time spun too quickly, as it often does and I felt that pull in my belly. The blanket of sadness, the constant tension in my throat, the tears at the brim. Sunday afternoon I took my nap with my baby knowing it would be our last.

And did I mention that Thursday, when I had my “talk” with Abe, he walked off with Aristotle? I was outside and saw Abe walking okay for the first time in weeks. He and Aristotle were walking towards the horse pasture where they pulled many shenanigans over the years. I thought to myself, “Man, it looks like Abe is breaking the news to Aristotle like he just broke it to me.”

And later that night, our Aristotle didn’t eat. Our Aristotle who would literally eat an entire bag of dog food if we let him. Stopped. eating. I told Zach I thought he was sad, you know, because Abe just told Aristotle he was done fighting.

But then when I was in Chicago Saturday Zach told me Aristotle wasn’t walking right. He still wasn’t eating.

I told myself even if he had whatever the hell Abe had we caught it earlier and would be able to treat it. Or maybe he was just sad.

And then Sunday morning Zach let Aristotle out before church. That afternoon he still hadn’t come home. Hours of us searching camp for him proved unfruitful. It was going to get cold that night.

I knew. I knew he walked off. I could just tell. He was always the dog that looked out for the family, he would never want to be the reason for our sadness. Never.

Sunday night was the. worst. night. The kids said good bye to Abe. It was heart breaking. I can’t even write about that. Maybe some day but not today.

Monday morning I dropped the kids off at the bus stop and then drove around looking for Aristotle. It was a ridiculously beautiful morning. One of those mornings that Aristotle and Abe would’ve spent chasing deer and other woodland creatures.

I told Zach I just needed to get it over with. I couldn’t watch Abe like that anymore. He could no longer walk and he couldn’t/didn’t need to pee. It was time. So we took him to the vet, we kissed and petted him until he was gone. Shit that was hard. But there was closure, you know? Why do we need that so badly? I don’t know but it was done. He was gone. 
A few hours later we were coming home from my sister’s house (what the hell would I do without my family and their terrific distraction and love? I don’t even want to know) when Zach called. Aristotle had been found. “Prepare yourself, honey, he looks like Abe did. It’s not good.”
I was just so thankful he was found. Remember that closure thing? He was hiding under a cabin. The cabin was directly across from our house. 
When I got home Zach had him in our shower to warm him up/wash him off. The kids gave him a kiss. For the next 20 minutes we were on the phone with 3 different vets. I was about to spend a lot of money that we don’t have to save him. Anything, I told Zach, so that I didn’t have to lose another beloved dog that day. 
He sat up, looked at us, laid back down and was gone. 
Best buds. Brothers. As poetic as it was/is it shattered my damn heart.
Abe was hilarious. A gentle giant. Always kind of a mama’s boy. He loved to “dance” with whoever would offer it. He constantly creeped onto couches. He was a lap dog born in the wrong sized body, was all. My mom once spent the night and tried sleeping on Abe’s couch. She said she woke up to him staring at her. What the hell was this mere human doing on his couch? It was not surprising that he spent his last days curled up on the couch with constant attention and love poured out upon him. 
Aristotle was the lover of all, but the fiercest protector. The one time I saw him aggressive was when a guy coming to clean our carpets approached the house. Aristotle bared his teeth and growled, backing the man into his van. As soon as I saw the guy I too got the heebie jeebies. Aristotle knew, and he wasn’t going to let that guy near us. I never once felt scared living out here when Aristotle was around. He was always the dog that came and laid his head on my lap when I was sick or sad. When Zach was gone he would follow me everywhere. To every room, every bathroom break. Watching. Always. If Zach was there he trusted I was safe and relaxed, going off on his trips around camp, in any pool of water he could find. It was no surprise to us that he let Abe have the attention his last few days. It surprised no one who knew him that he walked off to die. And certainly came as no shock to hear he made his hopeful last stop at a place where he could still keep his eye on us. Under a cabin. 50 feet from our doorstep. 
Here’s the deal. If you aren’t a dog lover, this probably sounds a little crazy. But if you’ve ever loved an animal then you know what I’m saying is true. I knew everything about them. All their little ticks and quirks. And I loved them with a fierce mama love. 
And they’re gone. 
It’s a little unreal.
And so today I thought about loss and love. About how right now love is kind of associated with loss. And pain and hurt. So I turned away my best friends and family because sometimes there aren’t any words and sometimes it hurts worse to talk to other people you love when you just lost something you love because you know it’ll all end this way. And normally that’s ok but not today. 
Today nothing is really ok and so you wake up, still groggy, waiting expectantly to hear the sounds of tails wagging and tongues licking and get none of that. It’s too quiet. 
Later you’ll try to wash towels but then you realize they smell like loss and so you throw them in the washer and leave to go lay back on the couch where escaping into the TV is too tempting to ignore. 
And then your kids will come home from school and ask if they can go visit Abe and Aristotle. You say yes. Because you know the two who asked have seen death in an even worse way and have come out the other side and so, of course, yes go talk to our beloved dogs. Especially because their daddy made a beautiful tribute to them at their burial site. 

And then you’ll realize why one of those boys specifically has been so hesitant at times to welcome the love you’ve poured into him. Because love. fucking. hurts sometimes. And if he’s known that since he was 3 then maybe he’s onto something you’re just getting around to realizing. 
Maybe the loss of these two most adored pets is another way God is showing you that even though we haven’t all traveled the same paths to get where we are, we can still relate to each other in our shared struggles. Our shared loss and our shared joy. 
And so when those kids return from their walkabout you will look them in the eye and tell them you love them. Knowing that there will be days that love for them (and theirs for you) will fucking rip. your. heart. out. But you’ll get up and do it again the next day because sometimes love. will. save. you. 
I got a tattoo recently that says “Expecto Patronum”. It’s from Harry Potter. It’s a spell that keeps Death Eaters away. In order to escape the kiss of death you need only think of your happiest thought. Light overcomes dark. Joy overcomes sadness. 
I keep looking at that tattoo today and am left with the image of two big dogs chasing rabbits as 5 kids play a game of baseball around them. A mom and dad drinking coffee on the porch, hands entwined. 
Expecto Patronum

On healing

Let me tell you a little something about our Tariku. He is smart, really smart. Top of his class, TAG, reading books past his age level-smart. He is sweet. Let me carry 40 bags so you don’t have to carry any, let me take my sister to the bathroom, let me make life easier for you-sweet. He is gorgeous. Did you see that kid in the catalog? Tariku is way cuter-gorgeous. He is a good friend, a great brother and a terrific son.

And he has the worst self esteem of anyone I have ever known. He has virtually no memories of Ethiopia anymore and yet, deep inside him the only thing that remains is the idea that he’s not loved. That he’s not lovable. That he. wasn’t. wanted.

That’s it. That’s the extent of what he brought with him for the most part.

This shows itself in a myriad of ways. Instead of telling us the truth about a situation he will opt instead for what he thinks we want to hear. When he gets praised he shifts his eyes and changes the subject or gets very anxious. Things like that.

Then there is, of course, the making decisions that don’t really make any sense. Zach and I both know at least part of the time he’s doing them (perhaps subconsciously) to prove that he’s unlovable and unworthy of our love. We know Tariku wants to test how real and true our love is, where our line is. No matter how many times we tell him there is literally nothing on Earth he could do to make us stop loving him or stop us from being his parents he can’t take that in. He can’t allow that to penetrate his heart’s center.

A week ago when we were trying to talk to Tariku about a decision he made at school he was shutting down. He does this virtually any time we try talking to him about reasons for his behavior (truthfully, it’s so rare that it doesn’t come up often). Zach, out of nowhere, asks him if he’d like to write down his feelings instead of talk to us about them.

And friends, the things that came pouring out of him made me weep. 3 pages of things. Things that were buried deep-4 years deep. Things like,

“When you get mad at me I feel like I’m not part of the family.”

“I don’t feel good.” (as in “I don’t feel like I’m a good person”)

Things like that. Things he’s never told us, never even hinted at.

Deep things, powerful things, touching things. Wise and old things. Hurt and trauma. Loss.

It was all there. Of course we knew it was there before but we had never heard him say it, we only saw how he was choosing to act it out.

Loss, hurt, trauma in a 7-year-old? That acting out can alienate you, it can hinder the relationship and can cause resentment and frustration and anger (from all sides), believe me, I know.

This last year, though, it’s been a huge year for us. These last weeks since he started writing in his journal? Life. changing.

He still gets in trouble from time to time. He still makes poor (7-year-old) decisions.

But we know now. We know he knows that we want to hear all of that. That maybe, in fact, we knew all of that before. And that we loved him anyway.

That we knew his worst and we loved him still, perhaps even more.

That’s what we all want, right? People to know our ugly, our worst, our shame and to love us anyway?

Our kids from broken places need that from us. And we will fall, we will fail. We will have days when we yell and when we wish this wasn’t our life right now. That will happen because we are human.

But every day is a new day. Every moment is a new moment. We get new chances constantly.

And even when it feels like they are winning, when they have frustrated us so much we don’t particularly like them in that moment we will still show up. Our love will show up. And it. will. win.

That’s what I learned these last few weeks. Shame and loss and all of that, it doesn’t hold any weight when compared to how much I love Tariku.

One day Tariku is going to see himself the way I see him, the way God sees him. That day is not today and it’s not tomorrow but we are getting there. And today? Today I’m just so thankful for that.