I Trusted My Body; You Should, Too

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Boston, MA, USA

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Waiting is Hard 

Waiting on your tiny human to make their grand appearance can be one of the toughest things you might ever do. The waiting game is hard and when the prize is your little one that you've been growing for months, it can seem like a grueling tasks. I recently wrote a blog about why your Estimated Due Date is actually based on a guess. I like to call it a Guess-stimated Due Date. So much weight is placed on EDD's and so often I see expectant parents feeling all the feels when that date comes and goes with no birth of a baby. 

I recently met Taylor Kader, a former teacher turned stay-at-mom and lifestyle blogger. She has a two year-old child and one on the way. I was immediately drawn to her blog posts and her "realness" that shined through her site. You can find her at www.coffeeandcandor.com. She is also on Facebook and Instagram with inspirational posts. 

She shared her story with me about how she trusted her body to know when her little one was ready. Her story is inspirational and I wanted to share it with the world. I often feel like hard-to-do's are not that hard to do after hearing someone has done it before me with success.

Nausea, Heartburn, and Restless Nights 

Most birthing parents spend the majority of their pregnancy battling fears and anxieties--of all kinds--premature labor, birth defects, prodromal labors, baby getting stuck, baby being too big. However, once you hit that 38 week mark, your fears automatically shift--being pregnant forever!

"When you have spent 39 weeks enduring nausea, heartburn, restless nights, sciatica, backaches, food aversions, growing out of clothes, and waves of fatigue that knock you right off your feet, the last thing you can fathom is doing all that one more week. You are so ready to meet your baby, so ready to have your body back, so ready to start this new journey. Your bags are packed, the baby clothes have been washed, and you’ve run out of shows to binge watch on Netflix (because you started maternity leave already ‘just in case’ baby came early - ha!). And then your doctor tells you at your 39 week appointment that there are still no impending signs of labor - no dilation, no effacement, no baby dropping. Your heart sinks and you  immediately think, “it’s official: I will be pregnant forever.”

A study done by R. Mittendorf of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston Massachusetts (1) found that the average woman carrying her first child will go a full 8 days past her Estimate Due Date. This study was conducted on women who were considered standard, uncomplicated pregnancies and were without interventions.

When hearing buzz words like effacement  and dilation, ask yourself, do you really know which one is more important? Does one tell you more than the other? Is one a predictor of labor? Yes! A 2003 study found that effacement (at around 37 weeks) is a pretty good indicator of labor onset (3). If by your 37 week of pregnancy, you are 60% effaced, you are likely to have your baby before you stated due date. If you are 40% or less effaced at this point, it is likely you will be carrying for a tiny bit longer than expected (or what you had been planning).

Feeling All The Feels 

"Doubt, fear, frustration. But instead of giving in to external pressures and the ease of inducing, I simply waited, and the result was an amazing experience that I am very grateful for. Let me first tell you that I am not some zen-powerful patient person. Quite the opposite, actually. I have the world’s most limited patience, and at 39 weeks pregnant, I was so envious of any person who had delivered prior to that. I didn’t care that statistics said most first-time moms go past their due date; I didn’t care that making it to your due date meant your baby was at the most optimal gestational age to come into the world. I wanted my pregnancy to be over and parenthood to begin. To say I was anxious and frustrated would be an understatement. So when my doctor told me with one week left until our original due date of March 31, 2015 that baby “just didn’t seem ready yet” and we needed to discuss inducing, I was beyond depressed. We both looked at each other and simply said, "no."

In 2008, the US Department of Health and Human Sciences, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Center for Healthy Sciences (2) found that out of all births (spontaneous/with no induction intervention) in the US (on average that year), 18% of women will have their baby in the 38th week, 30% in the 39 week, and 27% will have their baby between weeks 40 and 42. That means that 75% of babies are born within that Guess-stimated Due Month. This also means that alot of tiny humans are born after their "due date." The remaining 25% is made up of premature babies, those who are born past the 42nd week, and induced births.

That 40th Week...

"The next week was hard. I was so disheartened that my baby wasn’t with me yet, that my body hadn’t felt my urges to have her here and given me what I wanted. Well, 40 weeks came, and went. The doctor said I was now 1 cm dilated and about 50% effaced, but this was not enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. I’d had zero contractions, my water hadn’t broken, and there was “no need to rush baby out." Since I was 40 weeks now, though, we discussed induction again and how it was looking more and more like the only option. It wasn’t a conversation we ever wanted to have, because I wanted to go into labor on my own and know that my body was doing what it was created to do. But we were also miserably desperate to meet our baby and knew the risks of baby getting too big for the womb, so we set up a tentative induction for 1 week from that day at 5:00 am when I would be 41 weeks. I felt defeated; I was giving up on my body by setting that induction date. Plus, as I researched induction and the implications it carries with it, I grew more and more weary of my decision.I was horrified by the thought of the Pitocin making my body have such strong contractions to start labor that would be ten times worse than when a woman’s body begins them naturally. I was also terrified of the statistic that many more induced labors end with a C-section than those that start on their own. I also hated the fact that I had to be up and in the hospital at 5:00 am, but there was no guarantee that we’d even see our baby that same day, because induction doesn’t always work quickly. I was pretty convinced that I did not want this for me or my child, so I looked up ways to induce labor naturally. Unfortunately, none of these caused the results I was looking for and I was still pregnant as the induction date drew closer."

If you get to your due date, the odds are in your favor (2). There is a 60% chance that you will have your baby in the next week. Of those who are still pregnant by week 41, theres a 60% chance that your baby will come by week 42. In the US, it is standard practice to induce birthing parents who have reached the 42nd week of pregnancy. That leaves you with a 100% chance of meeting your little one if you are still pregnant by 42 weeks!

When 42 Weeks Begins to Close In

"On the eve of my induction, we headed over to my parents’ house to stay the night there. My mom made a delicious meal of some of my favorites as a treat to me - my ‘Last Supper’ in a way. Having put going into labor naturally out of my mind at this point, I basked in the smells of my mom’s kitchen and the excitement of the next day’s events. As I chatted with my mom, I suddenly felt the most powerful sensation ‘down there.’ It was one of the most painful things I had ever experienced, and the best way I can describe it is as a ‘shock,’ or like a taser to my lady parts. My mom described the expression on my face as incredibly pained and alarming to her. I immediately went to the thought that something was wrong with the baby. But with the induction set literally 12 hours from then, I figured we’d be okay if it didn’t happen again. So the evening progressed, with no more ‘shocking’ sensations. I headed to the bathroom for the thousandth time that day, except this time was different. There was blood; why was there blood? I ran out of the bathroom to my mom and asked why I would be bleeding. She had no idea; she had never ‘gone into labor’ with either of her pregnancies, so we both stood their clueless. So we sat down to dinner. We talked and laughed and envisioned how drastically all our lives would change once our daughter was here. As my dad asked me a question, I suddenly had the strongest cramp in my lower abdomen that stopped me in the middle of my answer. Moments later, though, I was caught by another strong cramp and everyone at the table knew something was up. When asked what was going on with me, I simply said, “I think I’m going into labor.” Those six glorious words that I never thought I would get to say brought on a slew of preparations; calling the hospital, being told to time the duration of the contractions and length of time between them, getting me in a more comfortable position to endure these painful but manageable sensations, making sure the bags were ready, watching the length of time between contractions lessen, loading up the car, praying the hospital would admit me, getting checked in and set up on the monitors, and finally, being told I was going to meet my baby soon."

Worth The Wait 

When you hear your baby cry for the first time, it is a sound you will never forget. The look on your partner's face beaming with pride from how hard you have worked is priceless. The sheer glow that you will have following the birth of your little one is one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the honor of witnessing. The moment that everyone waits for is whirlwind of emotions. It is an whirlwind of physical feels, too--pain, tingles, exhaustion, an all around body high.
"The trials of pregnancy, waiting for her to come on her own, and the overall uncertainty of the whole process was instantly wiped away. I heard her cry, saw her open her eyes, felt her breath against my skin, and I knew this was exactly how this was all supposed to happen. The detailed whirlwind of labor and delivery is a story for another time, but the whole point and purpose of my story is to tell you this: I am so eternally grateful that I went 41 weeks with my first born. Because when my body decided it was time, I had nothing but peace and clarity that this was right, that this was it. I had no doubts or fears, and I was able to fully trust my body and it’s ability to deliver the biggest blessing I’d ever known: my daughter. Of course, some women have experiences where medical intervention is absolutely necessary, and I do urge you to listen to your doctor as well as your body. You want your child here with you, but you want both of you to be healthy when that happens. My advice is simply to not let fear, doubt, impatience, jealousy, or frustration drive your decision to fight your body’s natural ability to bring a child into the world. So if you are encroaching on the last few weeks of pregnancy and wondering if you can make it or why you haven’t gone into labor yet, do yourself a favor: trust your body. Let your body work the way it was designed to, and above all else, don’t lose hope. You will NOT be pregnant forever. You will eventually meet your child, and it will be the most amazing moment of your life. Everything else will melt away and you will be completely wrapped up in a happiness you’ve never known before."
Trust your body. Trust your baby to let your body know when they are ready to sustain life on the outside. Take the time to explore your options so you know what to expect. Be intentional when planning your birth team so you have the right support in place before the time comes. Practice finding a place of serenity and confidence in your body's ability to do it's job. Finally, prepare yourself to remain calm and wait for this beautiful journey to begin.

Tranquility by HeHe, A Concierge Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts

"We can't wait to pamper you."

Cited Sources: 
  1. R. Mittendorf et al., "The Length of Uncomplicated Human Gestation," Obstetrics and Gynecology 75, no. 6 (1990): 929-32
  2. 2008 U.S. Natality Detail Files  
  3. Ramanathan et al., "Ultrasound Examination at 37 Weeks' Gestation in the Prediction of Pregnancy Outcome." 

The Voice of Miscarriage

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Boston, MA, USA

The Voice of Miscarriage 

What's the voice sound like? 

Like humans, miscarriage has many different voices; despair, loneliness, sadness, guilt, hatred, anger, and shame to name a few. However, for some, the voice of miscarriage can change over time. I have watched this happen to numerous couples. It's important to note that miscarriage will have different voices for each partner, too (and anyone else involved such as expectant grandparents or expectant siblings). 

I began supporting people--couples, parents, and families--in their infertility journeys because I saw a need for compassionate care. I saw a need for human connection; for a space to be held for them to express any emotion, any worry, any fear, any anger, any hatred, any loneliness and still feel safe and supported. The road to parenthood isn't always an easy or happy one. The road of infertility and conception challenges is filled with hospitals, medical professionals, bright lights, intrusive procedures, sterile environments, and waiting periods. This discovery, and hearing hundreds of stories of devastation and desperation, led me to support those who are walking along this path. 

I recently read a book that described the journey of infertility as an island; lonely, somewhat desolate, and removed from society as we know it. The piece of "removed from society" led me to think why? Why is miscarriage and infertility such a taboo topic? Why don't we support those struggling with this? How does this silence affect those struggling with infertility or conception? What does this silence and the pressure to never share your story say to those on this journey?

I started on my own journey to find this secret island I had learned about. I wanted to bring with me open arms to embrace those in need, ears to hear anything and everything needed to be said, a strong shoulder to lean on, a gentle voice to say, "I'm here," and my body to just hold space. 


I'm going to share with you a story of loss and devastation of one of my friends. She tells her story so eloquently. Through her story you can see the raw emotion of miscarriage. You will also see the emergence of fearlessness and, for her, the faith that brought her through. 

"My name is Mary Margaret Robbins, and I am a Christian, wife, mommy, and SLP from Mississippi. This is my story about fear, heartache, faith, and hope surrounding my miscarriage and the subsequent birth of my rainbow baby. Ever since I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to be was a mama. Call it the southern belle in me. I got married at the age of 21 right before I started my master’s program, and baby fever kicked in almost immediately. . I’ll never forget how I felt when we decided to start trying to have a baby during my last year of school. We were so giddy and excited, and I immediately got pregnant the first month we tried."

Taking a pregnancy test and seeing two lines can be one of the happiest moments of your life. Some people try so hard to get to this moment. For some, it is a very intentional process. When you are 6 weeks pregnant, your pregnancy is considered "clinical," but any point before this the pregnancy is referred to as a "chemical pregnancy." From this moment on, it's possible, that you might alter your lifestyle. You might begin to think more intentionally about the things you put into your body and what you expose yourself to. You may decide to cut out caffeine, purchase all natural cleaning products, avoid certain herbs, and have someone else clean the litter box. You may decide to decrease excessive exercise or decide to start a prenatal exercise routine. You might be more conscious of things you do like gardening and getting your hair colored. Whatever it is, I'll bet that those two positive lines change your life in one way or another. 

"I took a pregnancy test on this Friday morning and surprised my husband that afternoon with a pacifier that said “I love Daddy.” He couldn’t believe it, and the smile on his face was priceless. We were both so ecstatic, but when you’re a person who is prone to worry, it doesn’t take long for the fear to creep in. From the moment I found out I was pregnant at 5 weeks, I lived in a state of constant worry instead of joy over my baby. So much so that I would check my panties for blood every single time I used the bathroom. During a time when I should have been rejoicing, I was overcome by fear."

An estimated 90% of miscarriages that occur in the first trimester are thought to be due to chromosomal problems (determined at fertilization). 10-15% of pregnancies that are developing normally by 6 weeks gestation will end in spontaneous miscarriage (research s. The risk of miscarriage continues to drop from this moment on as the pregnancy progresses. By 11-12 weeks gestation, the risk of miscarriage drops to about 1-2% (1, 2). By the 15 week of pregnancy, your chance of miscarriage is 0.6% (3). All of these numbers are based on the assumption that all is typical ("normal") at prenatal appointments and you don't have any other risk factors influencing your pregnancy like previous miscarriage (25% risk of miscarriage if you've already had 1 or more miscarriages (2)), advanced maternal age, vaginal bleeding and--believe it or not--lack of nausea. 

Even knowing that the odds are in your favor and that most spontaneous miscarriages are due to chromosomal issues, walking around with a little bit of fear that never completely goes away is quite common. Many expectant parents will tell about going to extremes they may never have done otherwise like diets and daily rituals like "nesting." 

"My biggest fear came true a week from the day we found out about our sweet baby. As usual, I went to the bathroom and there it was. The blood and cramps I had secretly been expecting that whole time had appeared and wouldn’t stop for several days, a constant and very vivid reminder of the death of my baby. I remember laying face down on our bedroom floor begging God to please not take my heart’s greatest desire from me, to please let my baby live, to please let us be parents. We spent over 8 hours in the emergency room, waiting, praying, hoping, hurting, and eventually knowing that it was over. We cried and cried that night. I remember being so numb yet feeling everything all at once. There’s no way to adequately describe how lonely and devastated I felt. When I knew the baby was gone, I felt so empty, so alone."

Someone Else's Struggle is Scary, but Isolation is Scarier...

In my journey of learning about infertility and supporting those facing these challenges, I began to understand how lonely and isolating this journey was for people. I began to see exactly how those feelings (the voice of miscarriage) begin to creep out and rear its' ugly head. BUT, I failed to understand why it is a taboo subject? Why instead of asking people to share their story and lending a helping hand, a word of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold--we instead walk away?
Because it is uncomfortable. We say the wrong things because silence is scary. We shut it down because we don't know how to empathize with that particular situation. We don't ask because we are afraid of the answer. We don't hold their hand for fear that their touch might be colder than we once remembered. 

Instead, we leave those most in need... alone and in a time that they are already as alone as alone gets. WE walk away because it makes US uncomfortable to hear someone else's struggle and a story that may not have the happy ending that society has taught us eventually happens for everyone..... wrong

"The holidays made it even worse because I didn’t want to be around anyone, especially my family members who knew but who didn’t know what to say. I was in a dark place of heartbreak and anger for a long time, anger aimed at God who took my baby from me, at a nurse who said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and at my husband who I thought had “moved on too quickly.”

Miscarriage and Infertility are quite common... So why do parents feel so alone when they suddenly realize they are standing on this island--an island inhabited with hundreds of other people, but no one is your "neighbor." How do you find the strength to keep going when you're walking down a populated street, but no one is beside you? What do you have that you can hold onto that will carry your forward? 

"I went for a checkup after the miscarriage to an OBGYN who I had never met because my previous doctor had just been diagnosed with cancer. I remember sitting there in tears, dreading the appointment with a complete stranger, not wanting another reminder that my baby was gone and my womb was empty. We started talking and she said that she would recommend that we wait a few months before we tried again because she said that we needed to mourn the loss of our baby.  When she told us to wait, I said that wouldn’t be a problem because I didn’t know if I would ever be able to try again because I could not go through this again, and then she said the word that has forever changed my life—“fearless”. She told me that I needed to mourn, but that I also needed to move forward fearlessly."

Finding the courage to try again can look different for everyone, but once you start looking for signs (when you're ready), it might hit you like a ton of bricks. Around every corner, you'll find a reminder that you are courageous. Seemingly innocent commercials on TV will reignite your sense of self and sense of worth. When you least expect it, you will see that you are able. You were chosen to live this life because you are strong. 

"The next morning, I decided to open my Journey devotional book for the first time since our baby died, and the devotion and Bible verse for the day were, of course, about fear. Every single day after that, I was overwhelmed with the word “fearless”—in songs, in devotions, in sermons—it was everywhere. I began to share the story of losing our baby and how I felt like a crazy person but firmly believed God was speaking “fearless” into my life."

When the Storm Passes and the Clouds Fade...

"We found out that we were expecting another baby, a rainbow baby. A rainbow baby is the baby born after the death of a child and symbolizes hope after the horrible storm of loss. This time it felt so different. Instead of fear, I felt peace. It was a daily battle to not worry about the life growing inside of me, one that I had to take to the Lord daily. I had to consciously make the decision with God’s help to not look for blood when I used the bathroom, to not become fearful whenever I had cramps, to relax with peace when the doctor was doing an ultrasound. We had our gender reveal party. We had decided on the name Emma for a girl and Jace for a boy. We found out that we were having a baby boy and were so excited. After everyone left, T.J. and I were outside sitting on the porch step, and he looked up the meaning of “Jace” on his phone. We couldn’t help but cry tears of joy and praise God when we saw that his name meant “a healing.” Our sweet rainbow baby, Jace Douglas, was delivered through natural childbirth, while I wore a bracelet from T.J. with the word “fearless” engraved on it. I remember holding Jace Douglas for the first time on my chest. It was the most beautiful moment of my life."

Finding joy after pain can be one of the most difficult things you'll ever encounter in life. It can feel like you've forgotten about your past struggles or that your new baby will replace the loss you experienced. Telling your story to others may be inspiring to others and help you find peace and compassion for yourself once again. 

" [Some studies show] Miscarriage affects 1 in 4 women—let that sink in. How can we be so silent about something that is so common? Miscarriage is death; it’s the silent loss of a family member that no one wants to talk about because it makes them uncomfortable. Unless people have been through it, they don’t know what to say so they stay silent, and society has made women think they have to stay silent about it, too. We wouldn’t keep the death of another family member or even a pet a secret, so why should women be made to feel like they have to keep their baby’s death a secret? In fact, most women don’t announce their pregnancy until after a certain number of weeks because of this stigma. Whenever anything else good happens, people can’t wait to share the news with everyone, but over time women have been made to believe that they shouldn’t share their pregnancy news until “they’re far enough along”. How sad. When a brave woman does share her pregnancy early on, people gasp in disbelief that she would announce it so early on because “what if something happened?!” If something does happen, that mother and father going through the loss of a child need support, love, and prayers just like people would receive for any other death. Please for goodness sake, don’t belittle their pain or make it worse by saying things like, “Oh at least you weren’t very far along,” or “Oh, there must have been something wrong with the baby.” They need to mourn in their own way on their own time."

And Your Rainbow Appears

"The hardest but best thing I did after my miscarriage was to share our story with other people. Talking about our loss with other women helped my heart to heal and helped other women to be brave enough to share their story with me and ask for prayers as they try to move forward. 1 in 4… TWENTY-SIX ladies have shared their miscarriage story with me since I shared about ours, and all they wanted was for someone to listen to them describe their sorrow or to hear encouragement that the rainbow is coming. There’s not a day that goes by that my first baby doesn’t cross my mind, and often times I cry thinking about our journey, wondering what our baby would be like, sound like, or look like."

Special thank to Mary Margaret for her courage and bravery of sharing her inspirational story with us. Not only to we hope this helps bring healing to those still hurting, but we hope this helps those who are struggling find comfort and peace in knowing you are not alone. We will hold your hand. 

Tranquility by HeHe, A Concierge Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts
"We can't wait to pamper you."

Cited Sources:
  1. S. Tong et al., "Miscarriage Risk for Asymptomatic Women After a Normal First-Trimester Prenatal Visit," Obstetrics & Gynecology 111, no. 3 (2008): 710-14
  2. G. Makrydimas et al., "Fetal Loss Following Ultrasound Diagnosis of a Live Fetus at 6-10 Weeks of Gestation," Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology 22, no. 4 (2003): 368-72
  3. P. R. Wyat et al., "Age-Specific Risk of Fetal Loss Observed in a Second Trimester
    Serum Screening Population," American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 192, no. 1 (2005): 240-46

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