Last month, I shared my entire pregnancy & infant loss story with The 16 Percent (https://www.the16percent.ca), a Toronto-based organization dedicated to providing a safe space for couples and individuals to share their story. I've wanted to share with them for a long time, but once they sent over their questions, I felt it was all too much for me. It took me several months to come back to those questions, and feel comfortable answering some of them. This happened after I held my first retreat. Hosting empowered me to share more, break the silence and to hope to make an impact in the loss community.
My story is below.
Tonight, we are sharing Deanna’s story. To say she is resilient is an understatement. Reading her journey wowed me on so many levels. Not only is she sharing her story here to shed some light on pregnancy loss, she is also helping other women heal from their own experiences in many other ways. To learn more about Deanna and the great work she is doing, please visit her blog: www.losingisabel.weebly.com
Thank you so much, Deanna!
1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
My first experience with miscarriage was with an accidental pregnancy before my son turned one. I was excited but scared because my son was still young. And, I just started a new job. The scared feelings didn’t last long though because 4 days later, I miscarried. It was an early pregnancy loss but still upsetting. I went to the doctor and they seemed confused as to why I requested an appointment; I didn’t even get to see the doctor. I saw a nurse who answered some of my questions. I explained to her that I was there because I had no experience in dealing with this.
I miscarried the day before my brother’s wedding where I was to be the MC. It was obviously bittersweet. I was distracted and never really grieved this loss. That was in April 2014. Fast forward a bit to the end of 2014. I was pregnant with a very much wanted pregnancy which ended at around 7 weeks. My body didn’t recognize it as such and I only found out at what I thought was 12 weeks. I was devastated. It was recommended I have an emergency D&C. I had no signs or pain of a miscarriage and felt very pregnant until I was emptied. This was my first experience with surgery. I had never been put under my entire life. It was horrible. I remember crying when they put the mask over my face.
The next month, I went to the OB who performed my D&C for a follow-up. I mentioned that I had a feeling I was pregnant: I was. Not planned of course. We originally wanted to wait for my body to recover but as I later found out there were bigger plans for me. Nine months later, on my due date, October 1, 2015, I delivered a beautiful baby girl we named Isabel. There were unknown complications that morning so I was rushed in for an emergency c-section. Once born, my daughter wasn’t breathing and had to be resuscitated. She spent the rest of her very short life in the NICU, intubated, because she could not breathe on her own. I got to hold her almost every day, kiss her forehead, stroke her hair, and change her diaper. I was the happiest mom alive. Even on the day of her death, I held hope for her. She passed away on October 9, 2015, a few hours after we extubated her. Unfortunately, her chance at life was ripped away so unexpectedly. We miss her dearly and she will always be a huge part of our lives.
Almost one year later, we decided to try again. We were terrified and anxious. Luckily, after a few months we conceived. Unfortunately, this pregnancy didn’t make it past 10 weeks. I wanted to wait and see if the baby would pass naturally. But the pain of waiting for that to happen was far too difficult so I decided to have another D&C. This time it was a much different experience. The surgery was done during the day, I was not put under, and was instead given a mild sedative. I don’t remember anything which was what I needed at the time.
We conceived again in the spring of 2017 and that pregnancy also ended before 10 weeks. This time I decided to use misoprostol to bring on delivery. I did not want to have another D&C. Using misoprostol felt like a full-on birth. I had very heavy painful contractions that lasted hours. In the middle of the night, on the toilet, I delivered a very small, but very much human baby. I was terrified and amazed all at the same time. I had never seen any of my miscarried babies before.
In September 2017, I wanted to get pregnant again and it just wasn’t happening. I tracked my cycle for the first time using an ovulation kit and got pregnant soon after. I felt incredibly blessed. With each pregnancy I felt like it was going to be the one that lasted. I kept getting right back up. I was really anxious this time. So scared that I took a leave from work to give this baby the best chance at survival. Unfortunately, this baby was also lost before 10 weeks.
I have not given up but I have taken a break though. I wanted to keep going, trying and trying to give my son the little sibling we always wanted. The toll of this was huge on my mental health. So here we are June 2018 and I’m feeling good with this break. I don’t feel like I am just waiting for it to be done to try again. I really feel free, like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Like I can just live and enjoy all the blessings I already have in my life.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
The cumulative effect of all of these losses has made me feel a huge loss of control and balance. My life feels like it spun out of control. I’m trying to rebuild. But in rebuilding, I have to re-discover myself and realize how I am much different. I have been confused as to what I want my new life to look like. This hasn’t necessarily made my life worse but it’s made it really difficult. It’s made my life better because I’ve learned so much.
My career aspirations have changed. I want to help other women that have experienced loss. I started a blog in January 2017, and from that I have just began hosting healing retreats and workshops for women. It really feels like I’m finally doing something good with my losses.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
During my break, it has given me time to experience life without the expectation (I have of myself) to successfully carry again. I am on a true break which means I am using contraceptives. It’s the only way for me to really truly feel free. Otherwise, I would still be hoping each month that there was a chance.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
Life is a blessing and is precious. There is so much beauty and joy around us despite the all the sadness in the world.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
Everything is always in transition and always changing. This too shall pass.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
I feel resilient and strong. I have come a really long way from my early days of grief and sadness.
7) In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
8) How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
Others try to keep me strong and tell me I will have a child. I just have to keep trying and have hope.
Depending on the day this can be either harmful or helpful advice. It’s not as easy as to just keep trying. I feel the people around me are just sad for me and they are scared to talk about it with me. I’ve been told it is God’s plan and that can be upsetting. Why would God plan for so much sadness to be part of my life? I’ve also been told that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle which is also upsetting, because why am I given much more to handle than many others?
9) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I love being a mom. I love music, adventures, gardening, diy activities, and yoga.
10) What is your favourite quote?
Great grief is the product of great love.
I haven’t been motivated to write here for a while, but a friend pushed me and I’m grateful for that. I have been busy, really busy with life. But I wanted to talk about community.
What does it mean to you? By definition it is a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests. It’s important when you’ve had a loss to find some sort of community. It can be difficult after pregnancy and infant loss to find your community, particularly due to the stigma around this type of loss. I will be honest, I didn’t really feel like I had community early in my loss. I had people that certainly took care of me, but I still felt really alone. A lot of my sense of community initially came from the online loss world.
Many people aren’t comfortable talking about grief, so when you do find a group of women that understand what you’ve gone through and have had similar experiences themselves, it’s unlike any relationship you’ve had, and it’s very rare.
This past weekend, I brought four women together to openly honor their losses, begin healing and commemorate their sweet babies. With help from a local yogi, we started our day with a beautiful, peaceful and gentle practice to begin releasing our grief. We did this with the earth under our feet, beautiful large trees above us, with the sun peaking through and birds blessing us with their songs.
It was so beautiful.
The feeling I got after was immeasurable. It finally feels like I’ve done something really good with my losses. Something needed in our community. And something that I hope left the women feeling less alone and more connected than when they arrived.
I saw a sign on my drive home today that said, you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. I hope the women left feeling like they could learn to surf the waves of grief.