Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Modern Mothering and Miscarriage, Rants and Reflections

So here's some of the loveliness that is going around online lately...

First, the whole vaccination thing.  Apparently the measles outbreak where 90 people at Disneyland came down with it has some people up in arms against the "anti-vaccine nuts."  Apparently some of them want others to be charged criminally for making parenting decisions that they disagree with. Honestly, I loved this response by Matt Walsh, that basically, people who want to make skipping or changing any vaccines on the typical schedule a punishable crime are trading in our liberties and essentially allowing for the government to make decisions for us about our children. 

This quote from the article:

"In short, as we have seen time and time again, despite Ben Franklin’s urges to the contrary, many people will choose safety over liberty, no matter how slight the risk and how serious the infringement."


 He goes on to detail how the risks are indeed slight compared to the risks related to actual crimes that have the intention of harming others, such as drunk driving.  Good article, so I won't say much more about it.

Vaccines are one of those very tricky parenting topics.  I mean, we all know that breastmilk is the optimal nutrition for babies.  We all know kids are safer in carseats than in a regular seatbelt when they are young.  But we really don't all know all there is to know on vaccines.  I honestly don't know who is right or wrong on this.  As a result, we have selectively vaccinated our children.  I am always open to learning more and always debating which ones we should consider getting.  Up for current consideration is the MMR vaccine for our oldest because she hasn't had it, and I have found in my research that the risk of arthritis in adulthood increases if this vaccine is gotten in adolescence.  I want my daughters protected from rubella especially before they reach childbearing age because of the devastating effects it can have on unborn babies whose mothers catch the illness.  So I need to first get a titer done to see if perhaps maybe she has been exposed to rubella naturally and built up immunity to it... and if not, make a decision.  I hate that the rubella vaccine is cultured on aborted fetal cells and that Merck has a monopoly on it in the US - I can't get it made more ethically here even though it can be and is being made ethically in other countries.  And I am not traveling to Japan to get an ethical vaccine.  Also, Merck will not make a single dose vaccine - your child must get the combination measles, mumps, and rubella shot in order to get any of those vaccines at all.

I hate that people are so angry about this... I have seen people personally say that parents who don't vaccinate on schedule are "negligent."  What those people fail to realize is that vaccine injuries do exist and so how, exactly, is a parent concerned about vaccine injury negligent?  Usually these people have read and asked questions very thoroughly.  I still find myself on the fence... there are so many vaccines now, whereas up until about 1990, there were just three shots: MMR, DTaP (then the DTP version), and polio.  That is a huge increase in what we are being asked to inject into our children and so people who don't do it and have concerns are certainly thinking about it - they aren't usually making an ignorant or negligent choice.  What those who want to treat this choice as criminal cannot answer is this: How is a child who dies of a vaccine-preventable disease more important than a child who dies from a vaccine-caused injury?  There is not really an answer to that question.  And I have seen a few anti-vaccine people say things like, "How awful that you inject poison into your child!"  Also unnecessarily harsh and not what the vaccinating parent is trying to do, just as the non-vaccinating parent isn't trying to spread illnesses to vulnerable people.  I can see both sides of this issue, being one who is still somewhat undecided, and I am always dismayed when I realize that other people cannot.  And that they even want to demonize people who have come to a different conclusion.

The thing is, some people who choose not to vaccinate have reasons that they believe are for the greater good.  They aren't simply doing it out of the selfishness of not wanting to potentially expose their child to toxins in vaccines... some truly believe they are bad for our health and are leading to all sorts of auto-immune diseases and other health concerns that seem to be rapidly growing in our society currently.  And until we have real, solid answers - proof of how and why we are experiencing increases in some of these illnesses and health problems - then we can never be totally sure.  Some people believe that exposure to some of these viruses in the wild is what is truly going to build healthy immune systems... so for this line of belief, avoiding vaccinations is done out of concern for public health.  Do I believe this myself?  I have no idea, honestly.  I am ready for somebody to come up with some proven and unmistakable answers, but I don't think that is going to happen.

So, the idea that people could sue other parents (first 3 paragraphs of that link are filled with "fighting words" designed to fuel outrage, btw) if it is proven that their child passed a vaccine-preventable disease on to somebody who then suffered from complications of the illness... where does that end?  How far do we trace back to find where the disease originated and can we sue all those people as well?  What if the disease actually began in a vaccinated individual, who was injected with the live virus (measles being an example of a live virus vaccine) and the virus then "shedded," meaning got out of that person's system and infected another person with measles... do we get to sue those parents for choosing to vaccinate?  What about parents who don't get antibiotics for their child and he infects others, can we sue them, too?  Can we sue other adults who come to work while fighting off colds and such and then get others ill?  Doubtful, seeing as how important the bottom line is to many employers in this country - what, you're skipping work today because you have a stuffy nose??  Can we sue parents who "choose" to work, sending their kids to day care when they didn't "have to" financially, because their kids are sick more often and more likely to spread illnesses? 
The bottom line?  ILLNESS HAPPENS.

From the article linked above:
"“Life has lots of risks,” Holland explained. “And the idea of imposing legal liability on parents who don’t vaccinate implies that vaccines are both perfectly safe and perfectly effective.”
“Vaccines aren’t perfect. Sometimes they don’t take,” said Holland. “There are vaccine strains of disease and wild strains, and allowing parents to sue one another gets you into some crazy places and complicated problems.” Take a parent who believes their first baby has had an adverse reaction to a vaccine.. If those parents decide against vaccinating a subsequent child, are they exercising a medical or a personal belief exemption — and would a person be able to sue them for their decision not to vaccinate?"

And, the fact that nobody speaks of... perhaps because they don't even know this... if people should be able to sue parents for not vaccinating their children, then shouldn't people be allowed to sue vaccine companies after being injured as a result of a vaccine?  What's that, you say?  People can't sue a vaccine manufacturer if that vaccine causes their child injury or death?  No, they can't, as of 1986.  The government created the "National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program."  If they deem the injury or death to be truly vaccine-caused, then they will pay you, instead of you sueing the maker of the vaccine - because then they might not have enough money to keep making more vaccines, causing potential for shortages, and the government has decided getting vaccines is in our best interest above and beyond those individuals who have serious life-threatening reactions to vaccines.  These drug manufacturers are protected by the government from paying for any wrongful injury or death that their products cause... what other products are protected in this way by our government? 

And so who pays for these vaccine injury claims?  Where does the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program get its money?  Each vaccine is taxed at a rate of 75 cents.  Combination vaccines are taxed for each separate disease they are vaccinating against: the MMR vaccine, for instance, is taxed at $2.25 per vaccine.  So the drug companies are completely protected from losing money over lawsuits as well as losing credibility by having their names involved in lawsuits.  In its first 20 years, the NVIC program had paid out nearly 2 billion dollars to those deemed to have been injured by vaccines, and only about one in three claims filed is even judged to be vaccine-caused.

So, up next in the cheerful world of parenting news... Similac made a "commercial."  It really is just a video that you can watch online, which on the surface appears to be telling parents, "Let's all get along; we are all good parents trying the best we can."  I watched it and immediately didn't like it.  I felt the sentimental goosebumps at the end that the advertisers who made it intended (that's the power of advertising via media!), but my brain was saying, "Wait.  I don't like this."  Similac did an excellent job, I must say, at portraying this loving emotional feeling to make people think they are trying to help break down the largely media-fueled "mommy wars."  The thing is, nobody really acts the way the stereotyped moms in the ad are acting.  The reason I dislike the ad, I have come to realize, is that it portrays these people as the worst stereotypes you could come up with of what they are.  Then it makes it so that since everybody in the ad comes together despite their differences, then all parenting choices must be accepted as being equivalent, meaning that those who want to support breastfeeding are just pushy and mean to moms who had to use formula... when in truth, most moms actually want to breastfeed and many need support to do so.  Anyway, this article on Evolutionary Parenting does a better job than I can do at explaining my discontent with the ad, really, so I recommend reading it if this ad has been on your radar recently (and you can watch the ad there, too, if you haven't seen it).  Sure enough, as soon as the author wrote that she didn't like the ad and why, she got a bunch of commenters who were personally offended that she didn't like it because they couldn't breastfeed for x y and z reason... when she had said nothing at all about their personal choices and circumstances.  All from saying she didn't like an ad that everyone else had jumped on the bandwagon for with loving admiration.  In effect, starting another "mommy wars" battle.  Because a FORMULA company wanted to make an ad that would make us focus even more on these stereotypes of mothers supposedly judging everyone just because they breastfeed or want to help other women to breastfeed.  The formula company has further pointed out and focused on our differences, and that part sticks, not the happy ending.  In effect, Similac has succeeded in causing formula-feeding parents to point the "hater" finger at breastfeeding supporters simply because they cry foul at this ad made by marketers of infant formula.  Well played, Similac, well played.

From the article:

"After the initial shock that so many people could read something so personal into something about an ad by a company, I realized that my prediction of what would happen was shown to be true, just earlier than I had anticipated.  The ad has now perpetuated the mommy wars and helped some moms see judgment everywhere."

and this:

"What was more baffling though was that people decided that not liking an ad equals not liking people that use the product."

and finally, this:

"Whatever you personally felt about this ad, please just be willing to accept that someone else didn’t like it. Someone else has a view of marketing that is perhaps more jaded than yours (and perhaps more realistic?), but that it says nothing about you personally. Not every comment is a dig at your choices. "

So... on to other parent-related topics that are in my own personal brain rather than fueled by online articles lately, then.  These were just two that made me think recently.

On miscarriage... there are lots of questions mothers have about it, questions you don't think of before having had a miscarriage.  From the drastic, "Will I ever be able to carry a pregnancy to term again?" to the simple yet seemingly unanswerable ones like, "How soon is it okay, medically speaking, to conceive again?"  Apparently each case is different anyway, so some women will experience a return to normal fertility immediately whereas others may take months for the pregnancy hormones to completely leave their bodies.  Nobody seems to be consistent on the answer as to whether or not a woman can ovulate again while she still has low levels of pregnancy hormone in her system following a miscarriage.  One nurse told me that you won't ovulate again until the hormone is gone completely, and that makes logical sense, but apparently it is not always true.  Looking around online, you find many women who say they ovulated when their pregnancy hormone levels were under 100 but still above 5.  Mine were at a 7 when last checked in early January, which the OB/GYN deemed acceptable, that I didn't need to have the level checked again unless I had problems come up.

So, according to the experts, when is it considered okay to conceive again?  Here are the answers:

"No need to wait; once your body is ready, then you are fine.  No increased risk of another miscarriage based on not waiting like we used to think; waiting is outdated advice." - an OB/GYN

"We tell people to wait through one full cycle before trying to get pregnant again." - a nurse at an OB/GYN office

"Give your body two to three months to heal." - a homebirth midwife

"Wait three cycles.  You need to build up a good uterine lining so a baby has a soft bed to land in."
- another OB/GYN

"Three to six cycles is what we are supposed to recommend, but I know plenty of people who conceived again in the very next cycle... we aren't in charge; somebody up there is." - an ER doctor

So... yeah.  I was even more baffled that the "your body will know when it's ready, no need to wait" advice came from a medical doctor, because it sounds so natural-minded.  And it is backed by science: Mayo Clinic agrees that conceiving again right away is not associated with increased risk of repeat miscarriage, and that the risk actual does increase if you wait for six or more months.  A reassuring fact comes in the form of this information: that less than five percent of women will experience back-to-back miscarriages.  Reassuring, that is, until you think of the people you know personally who have experienced multiple miscarriages in a row.  And you think, "Do I really know that many people, or has this really happened to more than 5% of my personal friends who have miscarried?"

I don't like not knowing what my body is doing, so emotionally it was hard to recover in those first several weeks, not knowing what my body was doing cycle-wise.  Seems to have gotten back to normal now, so that has been reassuring.  I don't like being on edge or overly worried... I know there are risks with pregnancy as with many other things in life, and getting neurotic about it won't help anything.  I do like the attitude of "we're not in charge."  Letting nature take its course rather than trying to formulate some exact science in when it is medically "okay" to conceive again.

So, we said a St. Gerard novena, since he is the patron saint for pregnant mothers and those wishing to become pregnant... hoping for more peace on the situation and to be relaxed going forward, not to overthink things to the point of needless worry.  I am going to start a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes tonight, since her feast day is on February 11, which is the earliest day I could take a pregnancy test this month... not knowing at all what it would show.  Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to St. Bernadette and told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception."  Conception.  My kids and I will be hosting our monthly Catholic homeschool group this Friday, and we will be focusing on Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, watching a movie we have on the story and reading a story.  I would greatly appreciate any prayers for peace of mind and acceptance of God's will for me from those who happen to read this (about the whole fertility thing, not the homeschoolers coming to my house, ha ha).  I'm kind of hiding it way down here after all the ranting above, I realize. ;)

One thing I found to be very certain for myself: I wanted to talk more about it with other moms who have had miscarriages before than with those who have never had one. 

I have read a couple things about miscarriage... just one or two articles of "things you should know about friends who have miscarried" kind of things.  And I have found that they don't really fit me somehow.  It is still all so abstract to me... when you lose a baby you never were even able to see, then it doesn't even feel completely real.  So no, I don't find myself wondering or imagining what she would have looked like... I don't even know if she was a she or a he, anyway.  Maybe once I hit those dates... what would have been my due date... next Christmas... maybe then it will hurt and I will be wondering what that day would have actually been like had things been different.  Everything I have that is a concrete reminder that she really existed is in a little box on my dresser.  I also have a hydrangea for her sent by a sweet friend that I will plant outside when it is warmer, so that will be another concrete reminder... and we have an engraved brick for her in a prayer garden at our church.  Today we placed her remains under it - finally, after waiting over a month for the monument company to stop dragging their feet on finishing it - and our deacon performed the Rite of Committal. 

When they first built the prayer garden a few years ago, anyone who wanted to could buy a brick, either for their own family or as a memorial for somebody.  Our deacon told us that a few people have placed miscarried remains under bricks there - so that is not its main purpose, but it is a respectful way of handling miscarried remains.

We chose to use the brick under our family's brick... to spread the bricks evenly around the garden when they first built it, they spaced the bricks out with blank ones in between.  So there was a blank one available under ours.  After placing the remains, we all went into the church and prayed the rosary together (well, Lucy ran around a little in the empty church, but the older girls, Chris, and I prayed the rosary).  That is my special rosary for Mary Karol around the brick in the photo, another tangible item I have as a reminder of her.

Over Christmas, my brother who is currently a transitional deacon gave me this beautiful blessing.

I have also learned now, having gone through this, that it has made me sensitive to comments others make.  I never liked the comments of, "Oh, we're DONE having kids, thank goodness!" but those particularly come across hard now when I hear about parents with that mentality.  It is also hard overhearing people being thankful for not being pregnant, or saying things like, "Oh gosh, I hope I'm not pregnant!"  I know this is my problem, and I can remember times when I was overwhelmed with my current kids and thinking no way could I handle another baby at that time, so I understand... but this has given me a new perspective.  It will be more difficult to fear pregnancy in the future because the ones that are carried to term will be that much more precious to me.  Another difficult thing is seeing people who are announcing that they are due around what was to be my due date... or a month later, and knowing that they have made it through that first trimester with a normally-progressing pregnancy, and knowing that I was ahead of where they were - that I should have been holding a newborn before they would be - but I won't.  Their arms will be full before mine.  It is also hard knowing some pregnant moms who didn't even intend to become pregnant and are - not that they are acting bitter about becoming pregnant unintentionally, but because... well, because they just are, and I am not.  Selfish thoughts, really, but maybe somewhat normal.  My body did go through a major hormone shift of rapidly rising hormone levels to rapidly falling hormone levels.  My body was expecting to be pregnant and to be needing to be in maternity clothes soon, and that didn't happen - it's like a disconnect between brain and body.  So in expecting to be pregnant, my body senses it when my brain picks up on the fact that other people are pregnant.  So it is hard to see/hear about pregnancies, although seeing babies themselves, already born, is comforting to me somehow.  I know I have been a lot more sensitive to my own toddler, my "baby," lately, and wanting to snuggle her more... as she grows more and more independent each day, and I ask myself, "Surely I would have been ready to have another baby now; why did I wait so long?  Lucy is so grown up lately!"  Hindsight... I didn't predict it nine months ago because she was still quite a handful then!  She has grown and changed so much in a few short months...

So, all that to say... there is not necessarily a "normal" way to process miscarriage, and maybe some people will be more sensitive to some things than others.  And since I get that, I am not going to be mad at anyone for saying or doing anything that might make me bristle... I mean, a pregnant mom can't help walking past me looking pregnant, now can she?  Or that she happens to have difficult pregnancies when I love being pregnant?  It's not anyone's fault.  I am very grateful to people who have continued to ask how I'm doing and for expressing their thoughts and prayers for us.  The few cards given to us are kept in that little box because, again, they are tangible reminders of something so intangible to me, even though I have the confidence that her soul is a very real thing... it is till hard to grasp it when I never even saw her.

One other thing... nobody tells you exactly what to expect during a miscarriage.  I had a very helpful online friend who gave me the most realistic idea of what to expect.  I certainly didn't expect to black out, though.  I also didn't expect the doctors to not be able to tell me when I'd passed the baby's remains.  The ER doctor insisted that I wouldn't be able to tell, although apparently many moms have been able.  He said he never could distinguish it visually in this early of a miscarriage... and as I was at ten weeks, I was thinking, "Early??"  The baby was only measuring 5/6 weeks, however.  Without going into too much detail, I will say that with the help of ultrasound, we are confident that what we placed under the brick was what we intended to place there.  But if any other mothers who are faced with a miscarriage are reading this, hopefully they will understand that it is not always a clear thing to tell for sure... that you can't expect closure from actually knowing the moment that the actual remains of the baby have passed.  It upset me at first that I couldn't, and I think my expectations were influencing me there.  Like so many other things - there is no exact textbook way something will play out; every case can be a little different.

It still doesn't all seem totally real, nor does it seem right to add all this onto the bottom of this post, but it feels weird to give it its own post, too.  There is no normal, I guess is what I keep learning.

So... one last thing to wrap up this way-too-lengthy post.  Those legwarmer thingies that I have mentioned a few times and promised they are cute and not tacky or 80s-looking... I took a picture so I could prove it:

Except it doesn't really prove it, because I am sure some people probably still think they are ugly.  But I love them, and they are warm!!  But yes, everyone's experience will be different, and so... if you think they are tacky, just don't tell me that. ;)

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I am so sorry for your lost baby. I have been away from my blog for a long time now so I missed this. I had two miscarriages. The second I was further along closer to 8-9 weeks a very similar situation. I didn't get medical attention because I had just experienced an earlier miscarriage sid months before that. The second time was much more obvious to me and my body definitely recovered better and I felt better sooner after that one than the first where I was just barely 5-6 weeks along. I had a distinct labor type experience. It was a time of closeness to God for me that I have never experienced since. I am sorry again that you went through that and I pray your body will give you a chance to heal through a successful pregnancy and birth soon!