TRIGGER WARNING: this blog series will discuss hormonal abnormalities, miscarriage, infertility, death and dying. Please read with caution.
If you’re reading this, thanks already.
And if you wish to listen to Part II via audio, you can do so by clicking HERE
In continuation from Part 1:
For a girl who hadn’t purchased tampons in 10 years, this dot was a pretty overwhelming dot to comprehend.
This dot made its mark on my heart and my panties, delivering me news abruptly and without warning in the midst of my work day. This is a dot I’ll never forget. This dot was my first child. This dot had made me a mom.
This dot also reconfirmed all of my fears. This dot said to me “you know what you thought might happen? well, it’s here, it’s happening”.
But, when looked at in another light: this dot also brought hope. I mean, I got pregnant. I should be grateful I could even GET pregnant, right?
(I mean, that’s what everyone else said when discussing my first pregnancy experience)
PS: Don’t EVER fucking say this to a woman who has just lost a baby.
Then, life seemed to return to normal. The overwhelm of my shock-to-me pregnancy stint began to fade and my over-athletic lifestyle ensued. Like all grief, the waves got smaller and came less frequently, I once again got fit as fuck and utilized exercise to cope with any ensuing deep-rooted issues that make have otherwise surfaced.
Admittedly, my response to my first miscarriage was surprisingly calm and level headed. I began to focus more-so on the fact I could get pregnant as a positive takeaway and simultaneously became more informed on the commonality of miscarriages altogether. My husband too was awe-struck by this disappointment. I mean, it was only then that we learnt it’s commonality. 1 in 4 women experience this type of devastation. I finally wasn’t alone. In fact, this 1/4 made me feel more inclusive within the female population than my decade struggle with amenorrhea ever did.
Then, in May of 2018, it was time to open my arms to the possibility of getting pregnant and starting our family. For reals this time.
With a plan. Track, try, track, try. I tracked everything from cervical mucus to body temperature, unprotected sex and mood swings. Data in my books, is the best way to solve a problem. Gotta have data.
My controlling AF behaviour navigated every Flo and My Cycle app you could find.
I began to take a more holistic approach to my own self care (See my previous blog post: I Got The Dot: My Journey to Regaining My Period After a Decade of Amenorrhea). I began acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, yoga. I stopped competing, I consumed a high fat diet, I ditched the contraceptives for prenatal pills and I got my first natural cycle in almost 10 years in June of 2019.
In July, the dot came back.
In August, there she was again.
After a decade of doctors appointments, anxiety and fear: it took me 3 months to regain my flow all on my own. I was a genius.
I was so fucking proud of my body.
And by September of 2019, I was pregnant.
Elated, excited, confident, eager, and completely ready.
Although this pregnancy came even faster than expected: all my fears washed away when I saw the second line on that stick. I trusted my body, I trusted the Universe, hindsight was 2020, I had nothing to worry about. Two pink lines was enough to wash all hesitation away.
Beginning that day- I let myself fall in love. Whether or not this is the “right thing to do” so early in pregnancy didn’t matter to me. The heart wants what it wants. Love is love: even when you’re in love with a ball of cells the size of an orange seed. That ball of cells had my devotion for the rest of my life.
Despite my previous experiences, my confidence in the process was wholehearted.
I told my close friends.
I shared the news with my family over thanksgiving dinner.
My step dad got the news (this meant A LOT in hindsight).
And by 2 months pregnant I could see the completion of the “first trimester” route marker ahead: giving the green light to my babies growth and chance of survival. Ultrasounds were booked, a due date was given, and this shit was happening for reals.
This also meant, that the trip-of-a-lifetime we would be taking at the end of 2019 was needing to be postponed. After saving each paycheque since mid-2018: Robbie and I had finally booked and paid for the Asian vacay of our dreams: 4 weeks of adventure in Vietnam and Philippines, a floating bungalow on the ocean, an island-hopper-dream-getaway for two and thousands upon thousands of dollars later.
At 8 weeks pregnant, we had decided that the Zika virus and any “what if’s” with our pregnancy were not worth the risk of this extraordinary last hoorah. Due to medical reasons and a great travel agent, our insurance coverage would allow us to make a claim for refund: and so we did.
The trip had been cancelled and we awaited our 10K+ travel bursary.
Then, on the last Sunday in October 2019, my husband and I sat together to watch our “what to expect” video about our soon-to-be raspberry sized baby. A tradition we upheld each Sunday since being told we were pregnant.
But, on that Monday morning- the dot woke me to deliver heart wrenching news. That dot left me breathless. That dot took all the wind from my sails and used it to create a tsunami of tears and grief that I still drown in some days.
The dot had once represented hope and health, but it now delivered only sadness and heartbreak and reinforced to me, all of my childhood limiting beliefs and fears.
I knew what this dot meant.
Could this have been spotting? Implantation bleeding? A hematoma of sorts?
But I knew: I miscarried this baby. As a firm believer of universal energy: a confirmation blood test of depleted HCG levels and an open cervix were just routine markers to ensure my body would recover appropriately.
But the energy of my second-child leaving my body is something I knew in the depths of my soul instantaneously: I didn’t need a medical professional to tell me what happened. I knew.
If I ever believed a dot had ruined my life before, it meant nothing in comparison to this one. In the days following, I learned about grief for the first time in 28 years. I also learned about how to grieve in silence.
I didn’t share my pregnancy outwardly with my clients, with my Instagram followers or with the majority of my friends: so when you lose, you lose alone.
Let me preface this grief by saying: I have a pretty amazing husband- he was there for me, for us, 110%: but for any woman who’s been through this: I want you to know, it’s OK if you feel alone. Even with Gods greatest partner at my side and all the friends in the world, I still felt alone.
I had never felt more ashamed of my body. More let-down, more defeated. And yet, life went on without my positive headspace and without my full attention.
The day following our miscarriage my husbands newest “baby”: his brand new 2019 GMC truck he’d been waiting his entire adult life for, was hit outside our office by a driver with no insurance coverage or registration. An accident, totalling nearly 30K in damage which has STILL caused headaches over 9 months later. A little cherry on top of our week from hell.
In one week we had said goodbye to our trip, to our baby, and to our new car.
And then, within 72 hours of the biggest losses I had yet to experience in life, I was driving to Calgary to coach 15 athletes for their bikini and fitness competition. I was spray tanning, bikini biting, posing and cheering as if nothing had ever happened. No conversations could or would be had. Like I said, life goes on, and grieving in silence is hard, but felt necessary.
When I returned home that evening, well past midnight, I explained to my husband while wheeling my PF4U embroidered suitcase up the stairs: “I needed that- I needed to be with those girls, I needed that distraction”: he could likely pick up the vibe that this was the best mood he was going catch me in.
So, as I turned to pull my suitcase into my spare room, he piped up.
“Ash” he said, as if calling for me to look back at him on the couch.
“My little sister is pregnant”
He said it with excitement in his voice, almost in hopes that the excitement would somehow resonate with me too.
“Oh wow” I said, with a pitch that indicated I was trying to be genuine.
“I’m so happy for them” I voiced, as tears simultaneously rushed to occupy my entire visionary field.
I never once turned to look back at him. I never asked any follow-up questions. I felt gut-punched that my excitement to be an auntie was washed over with mourning my loss from just a few days prior.
I felt guilty that I couldn’t jump for joy at information that would have otherwise left me elated. The most contradictory, double-edged-sword of emotion: I WAS happy, but in that moment, I was so incredibly sad for me.
I’m choosing to share this because it shines a light on how women are battling their losses, many times, in silence amongst others celebrations. This adds a new component to the grieving process. To watch someone you love and care for to have everything you dreamed you would have at the same time you thought you’d have it: it’s hard. It’s a reminder of what-could-have-been. It’s a dynamic of self pity, selfishness and yet still, self growth.
It’s hard to fight your own demons while celebrating. It’s hard to feel fully for others while still patching holes in your own heart. It’s OK to be happy for them and sad for you at the same time.
Like a friend crossing the finish line of a marathon when you live in Chronic pain. You’re happy for them, but you want to run too.
Your best friend flashing her wedding band after your fiancé called in quits. You’re happy for them, but you want to be a bride too.
Your sister celebrating her career promotion the week you’ve been fired. You’re happy for her, but you’re lost as to where your life is headed.
This frog-in-your-throat doesn’t make you unauthentic, a bad friend or in genuine: it makes you human, and as a good friend once told me, “it is OK to feel more than one feeling at once”.
The next morning, I awoke to a text message from my Step Dad, Stu. A message I read with a smile and instant reply from my bedside at the time, but a message that has so much more meaning now. A message I have read on repeat, a message I could likely recite with a memorized tone.
Because although I didn’t know it at that time, this was the last piece of written communication I would ever receive from my Step Dad.
So if the bee-sting of grief from my miscarriage wasn’t enough, the world was only preparing me for the sting-ray of grief that was lurking for me only days later.
Because less than 10 days after losing my baby, my Step Dad was placed into a medically induced coma and was placed on life support after his surgery at Foothills Medical Centre took a turn for the worst: and 16 days later, we lost him too.
On the second day of his hospital stay, November 9th, 2019: the doctors notified my mother and I, that my Dad would be taken into the O.R. with a 70% likelihood that he would not be coming out of the operating room alive. They gave us a pager, and would notify us with the results. A 70% chance I would never again see the man who raised me since I was 3 years old.
Shaken, anxious, awestruck- my mother and I ventured through Foothills hospital: holding hands, together, gut-punched, in silence.
For the first time in my adult life- I found a chapel. I put my phone away. I sat in silence. I prayed. I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed. I asked for hope, I bargained with God, I cried, I seeked security, I seeked answers.
And although I was unsure as to what answers I was looking for that day, I left the Chapel with them.
This man up there in surgery, he was a Dad to me. This man, he raised me as his own. This man, whether blood or not, was still a Father to me. I never doubted that. This man, although he didn’t conceive me, my love for him never faltered.
This meant to me that I, too, could be a mom. Even if I couldn’t conceive my own children, I could still be a mom. Even if my own body could not produce a child, I would find a way to make it happen. Because being a parent runs deeper than egg and sperm. Being a parent means patience, and unconditional love, and time, and care and attention. Being a mom wasn’t dependent upon carrying my own children, although that was always my hope, it wasn’t my only answer.
My Dad came out of surgery that day, and you better believe he fought like hell through 13 more O.R. visits over the course of the next two weeks- an astonishing medical feat. Each day left my family sick, wondering, and constantly searching for answers: answers to life questions I only truly found in hindsight.
Clinging hopelessly to the lifeless body of someone you’ve watched take their final breaths on this Earth puts life into a whole new perspective.
Hugging the motionless limbs of your grieving mother on the floor of the hospital ICU as she loses her husband, holding the hand of your 19 year old sister as she simultaneously grasps the forearm of her father for the final time, watching your baby niece rationalize where exactly heaven is located because it’s time to play with Papa, your little brother becoming your best friend overnight after losing his Dad and somehow transitioning from little boy to grown man in a matter of seconds. My life up until this point never prepared me for these challenges, but the mountains I was facing following the loss of our second child numbed me internally from the intense mourning of motherhood: or so I thought.
And through the, what seemed like, never ending grief of the months following: I realized that my need to talk, my need to rationalize and my need to accept my miscarriage was still necessary.
So, I began to write about it. I began to share with friends. I began to express my desire to be a mother in the deepest and yet most nonchalant manners. I began to connect with other struggling mom-to-be’s, I began letting myself feel the struggle I buried as my grief so quickly transitioned from one upset to the next that first week of November.
I knew one miscarriage was common. I also knew two consecutive miscarriages after years of amenorrhea with no baby to showcase was far from normal.
I knew my body could handle unlimited miscarriages, but I also knew my heart could not.
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Stay tuned for “The Red Dot That Ruined My Life: Part III”