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Advice Following Miscarriage

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A blog by Megan Swanek, February 14, 2017
In my career as a school counselor, one of the main things I don't do is give advice. People generally don't follow advice that another person gives, plus we should never put ourselves in a position of presuming to know what is best for another person. But I have some advice to share if you or someone you know suffers a miscarriage. Just a few things that have helped me since that awful day almost a month ago, when I learned at a routine appointment that she had no heartbeat.

1.) Know that you can keep her remains. Whether you have a D&C or a D&E like I had, keeping her remains is an option. I've mentioned this to a few people, who have said they didn't realize they could request this at such an early stage (I was 17 weeks). The doctor told us "People don't usually do this." Know that you can and if you choose not to, that is fine too, but you have the choice. The funeral home that took care of Mom coordinated with the hospital. All we had to do was make the call. We had her cremated, and her ashes are in a tiny urn, placed in a teddy bear. The plan is to have her buried with me.

2.) Put it in perspective. Going to Bible study helped, but not because of what I learned. It was a story that a woman at my table, in her 70's, told. Many years ago, she lost her only child to SIDS, at 7 weeks. She held her little girl, Angelica Elizabeth, in her arms until the police came and took her away. She divorced shortly after, and never had any more children. Tears welling up in my eyes, I said "I am so sorry...I cannot imagine." Her response? "But I am so thankful that for those 7 weeks, because I got to be her Mom." I marveled at what she said, imagining how much worse it has to be to lose a child who has been born. And how much worse it has to be when you don't have another. She said that it took her many years to come to that perspective. Remember, as heart-wrenching as it feels, it can always be worse.

3.) Stop the 'what-ifs.' You can seriously drive yourself crazy questioning everything you did, or didn't do, in the weeks leading up to the loss. I shouldn't have had that second cup of coffee, or we shouldn't have flown to Italy were on loop in my mind until I countered them with: Remember that a healthy pregnancy will survive anything, even drug addiction. Sometimes, I had to say it out loud. Reminding myself of babies born addicted to hard drugs helped me realize that no, a second cup of coffee, which I had sometimes while pregnant with Baby A, did not cause her tiny heart to stop beating. Miscarriage happens because something is wrong with the baby. It does not happen because you played 'No more monkeys jumping on the bed' with your toddler. Read more here.

4.) Get some hormone replacement gel STAT! My husband is especially thankful I found this. Your hormones crash when you are no longer pregnant, but usually, you have a new life to celebrate. The fluctuating hormones, coupled with the sudden loss, had me crying every evening for two weeks. While this is to be expected following a loss, when I couldn't put my finger on why I was crying, I knew I needed some help. At my 2 week check-up, my doctor gave me Divigel 0.1% (estradiol gel) to rub on my arm. That evening we walked to El Torrito and I was laughing and joking with my husband without realizing that the gel was helping tremendously. It's not that I can't or don't get sad, but I finally felt in control.

5.) Exercise. Nothing beats endorphins for helping your mood. Nothing. Since that awful appointment on January 17th, I've logged over 30 miles, most of them on my lunch break. As always, I don't usually want to get out there, but I am always glad that I did. Swim, bike, hike, run or do an exercise video. Just get moving.

6.) Garner support. Not everyone is as open as I am. Because everyone at work knew what happened, I returned to a desk filled with flowers, an orchid and tulips along with heartfelt cards and "I've been there" talks. But that also means you have to talk about it, which you understandably may not want to do. Loss and reactions to it are so personal, and neither way is right. Nowadays, you can garner support anonymously on-line, which is a resource our mothers never had. If you're a more private person, explore this route. Miscarriage is, unfortunately, very common. Knowing that you are not alone helps. Don't suffer in silence. Quite unexpectedly, I received two of the most meaningful gifts from women that I have never met, and only "know" through instagram.

7.) Look to the future. It could be a trip, a weekend away, or just a good meal. For me, I've been focusing on her second birthday in May and planning and crafting for that, which I love. Just before this posting, I ordered her invites. I'm also excited about our next round of IVF and the consultation in 10 days. This was supposed to be our third and final round. But we have decided that we are going to try once more because this pregnancy helped us realize how much we do want a sibling for her. While the possibility of another pregnancy is exciting, I temper it with the statistics that it likely will not work. But, there is still hope there.

These are just a few things that worked for me. If you have anything that helped you, please leave it in the comments below so that anyone reading this can see it. It is a nightmare to go through and it changes you, some of which is for the better. I am reminded how much of a miracle our Baby A is. This loss has only served to intensify my love for her and solidify our bond.