So It Has Begun

Guest Post By Hannah Lizarraga

“What if I was a surrogate?” I asked my husband. My question took him by surprise as I was in my third trimester with our first child.

How can she possibly think of carrying another baby when she’s still pregnant right now? I’m sure something of the sort crossed his mind. He wasn’t against the idea and possibly felt I was asking him hypothetically. “Well, you need to have my baby first,” he responded jokingly, still with warmth in his voice.

It was fall of 2013 when I first began to seriously consider becoming a surrogate to help a child seeking couple. I was thrilled when I found out I was pregnant with our precious baby and quickly switched from my period tracking app to one that would track my pregnancy. I joined an online forum filled with other women also due in November of 2013. The first friend I made was such a warm and kind lady. She messaged me privately and she giddily shared details of how she planned to announce her pregnancy to friends and family. A baby was on the way! What’s not to be excited about? Sadly, not long after that, she miscarried her baby and decided it was best to no longer communicate. I will never forget her. Being a part of an online forum with 23,000+ pregnant women, you learn so much. Namely, that the journey to become pregnant and successfully carry a baby isn’t the same for all women. For some it’s easy, for others it’s a struggle. Not all women who become pregnant, stay pregnant. And not all of them are lucky enough to have calm, uneventful pregnancies. I didn’t know it then, but I had so much to learn about the reality conception brings. My eyes were opened to the sometimes very scary and life threatening difficulties that can occur. I began learning about various medical conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. . .or the terrible news of a poor, developing baby missing a fully functioning arm or leg. . .or worst of all, no heartbeat. All of the women in my family had experienced healthy, normal pregnancies. I knew of infertility and baby loss but didn’t know any more than the tip of the iceberg until I joined that online forum.

Just after my husband and I announced the news of our pregnancy, my uncle and his wife shared with us that they too had been trying to conceive for about a year. I was thrilled for them! I knew conceiving could sometimes take time. I prayed they would see the same “positive” pregnancy sign, and we could share a pregnancy together. But, with each passing month, it didn’t happen. As time passed, there was talk of Clomid and various attempts in hopes of conceiving a child. My heart ached earnestly for my uncle and aunt. They were eager to start their family. They were both in ideal points of their lives to bring a baby, their baby, into the mix. Unfortunately, they’ve since taken a break from their journey and are enjoying themselves for the moment. My uncle’s situation certainly created a soft spot in my heart for people who deal with the struggles of infertility.

As a young adolescent, my mother always told me how she believed one day I would be a nurse. That I had a big heart and a nurturing side that would surely lead me down a path where I would look after others in some form. In my teen years, I imagined myself opening an orphanage and caring for children. As I journeyed through my pregnancy, I began to further contemplate my career, and realized I would enjoy being a midwife, a labor and delivery nurse, or a doula. The odyssey of a tiny human entering this world is a remarkable and moving experience. I knew I wanted to empower and support other women in their passage from womanhood to motherhood. It was only a matter of time before surrogacy came into my heart and I would be inspired to participate in this manner.

Thinking back, I realized I had always felt driven by the urge to help a child seeking couple begin or grow their family. I now believe that God intended me to do this all along. I’ve heard many well-meaning people say, “I could never do what you’re doing.” In truth, I couldn’t understand why it felt so hard for them. I believe God has blessed me with a consciousness and way of being that is specially designed to help people in this way. The further I go down this path, the closer I find myself to God. Feeling his presence and growing in spirituality, I now believe this is His plan for me.

I was 6 months postpartum with my second child when I began to seriously research surrogacy. It was November of 2015 to be exact. There were so many questions and I quickly did as much as I could to discover what the process entailed. After making a well-informed decision with my husband, I knew it was time to move forward. I sought out the agencies that seemed to genuinely have their hearts in this for the right reasons. An agency that would consider and care for all parties involved. In the spring of 2016, I finally found the one. It was Tomorrow’s Parents International, located in Marietta, Georgia. I could go on and on about how amazing each and every person there is. Although none of the employees that I have met personally have ever experienced infertility, they share such a genuine passion and concern for those who have. They were so patient with me as I asked all sorts of questions, and they continue to show compassion when I just need someone to talk to or when I feel a little anxious about an upcoming milestone in the journey. I feel a genuine gratitude for how the whole team has gone above and beyond. I couldn’t be more pleased to be working with such an outstanding group of people. Because my surrogate coordinator actually took the time to get to know me, she quickly found a couple (Intended Parents, or IPs) who she felt confident would be a match for me. I’m happy to say she was correct and I’ve since been honored with the crucial task of carrying their baby.

My surrogacy process has only begun and while I know we are just in the early stages, I am forever touched by this journey. I am humbled by both the people I have met along the way and the stories of many child seeking parents, whose agonizing journeys to have a family have touched my heart. I’m sincerely happy to be a part of something so meaningful.

Stacey UrrutiaSo It Has Begun
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Peace by Piece

A few short months ago, I held the proof copy of my new book, “Making Angels”, in my hands. The sense of accomplishment upon completion was akin to giving birth to a baby. Writing the book had been a true labor of love for me. And it was a long, arduous process not unlike our journey to bring children into this world. I recently experienced an unexpected piece of closure in our story, and wanted to share my thoughts with you, as my emotions erupted in a way I never anticipated, and at a time when I thought I was long past feeling so broken hearted.

My husband, Kevin, and I lost our first pregnancy just over 15 years ago, on my 30th birthday. I was 18 weeks pregnant with our first child. As heart wrenching as that was, I remained hopeful that the next pregnancy would be better. Easier. Successful. To make a long story short, over the course of eight years, we survived the drama of seven pregnancies total, including four additional losses, eventually leading us to have two beautiful, healthy baby boys. Each and every time we experienced a loss, I wound up having tests and procedures done, either to evaluate the viability of the embryo or to surgically remove the fetal tissue that needed to be cleared from my uterus. This meant repeated Northside Hospital visits, most of which carried with them a negative association. The worst of our losses was when I delivered our little girl, Tess, at 22 weeks gestation. She was born alive and passed away in Kevin’s arms later that day. She was the last baby I ever tried to carry. On January 12, 2017 we should be celebrating her 11th birthday. Instead, there is only silence.

The antithesis of that incident was the arrival of our second son, who was delivered to us via our gestational surrogate. It was amazing and wonderful to see our child being born. The waves of satisfaction and joy and bliss that we finally had another child to call our own overwhelmed me. The love I felt for our new baby and the gratitude I could only hope to express to our surrogate was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. After our son’s birth, I was permitted to stay in the postpartum ward like all the other new moms. My time there was filled with all the business that is typical of having a newborn baby. Before I knew it, we were swept away from the ward and released to go home.

Now, at the age of 45, I returned to Northside Hospital to share the newest copies of my book, “Making Angels”. I couldn’t wait to offer my paperbacks, hot off the presses, to the doctors and nurses who had helped me. And most of all, I was eager to provide extra copies to the H.E.A.R.T.strings Perinatal Bereavement Office. After the loss of Tess, I felt like they were the only ones who understood what we had been through, and comprehended the severity of the devastation her loss brought into our lives.

But here’s the weird thing. As I drove closer to the hospital doors, I felt strangely at odds with it. I agonized over these emotions that were piling up within me. This should feel happy, I thought to myself. I had anticipated delivering these books ever since the final draft was produced, hoping to share my story with others in an effort to help them the way I needed help. But that warm, fuzzy feeling I expected was nowhere to be found. It felt awkwardly sad and the anguish brewing up within me poured out into tangible tears.

I pulled through the roundabout and over to the curb, and waited for a moment to exit the car. Aware of the tears tumbling down my cheeks, I remembered how I had been brought to this same location in a wheelchair, my arms absent of the baby girl I expected to bring home. I knew I had to pull it together. This was so embarrassing. I planned to connect with Carol Shutley, a member of the H.E.A.R.T.strings staff whom I’d gotten to know over the phone. Finally I walked into Northside Hospital ready to meet Carol. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate person standing before me. After a warm welcome from her I began to get choked up again. I explained that I was surprised to feel so emotional about my visit to Northside Hospital. Thank goodness for Carol, who gently explained to me that returning to the location where a baby was lost can be very difficult. In speaking with her about it, I realized that Northside Hospital was not only associated with all the pregnancy losses I had, but it was the last place I was able to hold Tess before she died. Even though I had been back to the hospital for the birth of our second son, I hadn’t taken the time to grieve then. I was too focused on the needs of our newborn and the concern for our surrogate mother. Because we had moved out of the area, I hadn’t been back to Northside Hospital for any other reasons.

 

Although experiencing this flood of emotions wasn’t what I had expected, I have concluded that it was a necessary part of my recovery and healing process. It was the closure I least predicted but was perhaps one of the most important things for me to do. If you have had a pregnancy/baby loss, I recommend investing some time to go back to the place where the loss occurred. Breathe it in. And then walk away. You survived it before, and you’ll survive it again. And that, I believe, will make you stronger.

Stacey UrrutiaPeace by Piece
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Meet My Stick Figure Family

When driving around town, have you ever noticed cars with those stick figure families on the rear window? You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, Yep, I’ve got one on the back of my car! Where we live, they are especially popular. There’s usually a mom, a dad, several children, and the family pet(s). The little girls are typically waving pom-poms and cheering for their favorite university team. The boys are throwing footballs or holding baseball bats and lacrosse sticks. The little babies of the house are often represented with the obligatory single curl poking out of their otherwise bald heads.

When we were struggling to get pregnant and have children, these stick figure families were a gut-wrenching eyesore to me. One day, after driving for hours on a road trip, I turned to my husband and said, “Maybe we should order one of those stick figure family sets. We could have a man and a woman, and four little angel babies over our heads, so it kind of looks like they are in heaven.” He just stared back at me, unsure of how to respond. “Relax, I’m kidding. I’m just kidding. But really, I have to admit, it does make me feel sad. ”

It was a difficult season of our lives. On my 30th birthday, I spontaneously lost our first pregnancy when the baby was at 18 weeks gestation. The next two losses were early, and the fourth was at about 11 weeks, when the baby died due to Turner Syndrome. Throughout all this, I worked for a company where almost every single employee was a woman of child-bearing age. There was always someone waddling around the office with a protruding pregnant belly. I think we held a baby shower at least once a month. This was my first ever run-in with jealousy. Never in my life had I been envious of another human being, but my desire to successfully carry a baby to full term and bear children was something I couldn’t seem to do, despite the fact that everyone around me was easily getting the job done. It disgusted me to feel this way about others. I was secretly embarrassed and ashamed.

My husband and I lived in a neighborhood with large houses, usually containing four to five bedrooms. As I would be bleeding from a miscarriage, neighbors regularly asked when we planned to have kids and why we were waiting so long. They simply couldn’t understand why we bought such a big house when we didn’t have any children. And it had been that way for years. In addition, there was pressure from family and friends, especially at first. Once we had multiple losses, the pressure subsided, but the hurtful comments still came.

Pregnancy loss and infertility is a weird beast. It’s something people tend to keep very private, yet it’s something immensely consuming and completely agonizing for couples living through it. It affects your marriage, your sex life, your relationships with family and friends, your finances, your faith, your physical and emotional well-being, and so much more. I discovered that people unaffected by pregnancy loss or infertility are well intentioned and mean to say the right things, but often don’t. Worst of all, they may say nothing at all. The lack of acknowledgment was extremely painful to me. And I hated hearing all of the usual platitudes:

It will be okay. Everything happens for a reason.
God only gives you what you can handle.
Don’t you think it’s time to move on and just get over it?
Gosh, it was so easy for us…I wonder what’s wrong with you?

To add insult to injury, many of the pregnant women swarming around me shared how they just couldn’t wait to deliver their babies. They were frustrated because they were getting SO BIG and SO UNCOMFORTABLE. They didn’t get sympathy from me.

The fifth pregnancy we lost was a little girl born at 22 weeks gestation. My water broke, and I was forced to deliver our daughter, Tess. She died in my husband’s arms later that day. It killed me to hear those women complaining about how they couldn’t wait to get their babies out when they were in their third trimester. I tried to bite my tongue, but couldn’t. I told them bad things happen when a baby is born too soon. I knew all too well…I would have happily gained an extra 20 permanent pounds and cut off my right arm to deliver a healthy baby. It had taken us nearly a year to get pregnant with our daughter. I knew couples fussing over the fact that they had gotten pregnant by accident with their most recent baby, and they just didn’t know how they planned to make it work. For one couple in particular, they griped and moaned so much I finally offered to adopt their child if they didn’t want it. That shut them up. They could tell I was serious.

The most disturbing emotion I ever encountered was that after all of our losses, I sometimes wished other people knew how I felt. I realized this meant they, too, would need to experience infertility or pregnancy loss. Only by living it would they truly understand my pain. Only by walking in shoes just like mine would they comprehend the extent of the suffering. That is why it’s so important that as a victim of infertility and pregnancy loss, you find others who have survived it. There is a special bond, a sisterhood of sorts, for those of us who belong to this club. We surround each other with love and understanding. We try hard to keep precious memories alive for the babies who have passed. We offer encouraging words for what might be another negative pregnancy test. We laugh, we cry, and we do what we can to survive through the storm of devastation that hits whenever a baby is lost.

Ultimately, I was able to carry one child to term and we had another child through the miracle of a surrogate mother. I’ve never ordered a stick figure family set for the back of my car, but if I did, I’d figure out a way to include my little ones who are not here living life with us. It only seems fair to honor them in a way that demonstrates they are not forgotten.

Special thanks to Tina Perry (tinaperryart.com) for the stick figure drawing of the Urrutia Family.

Stacey UrrutiaMeet My Stick Figure Family
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3 Tips to Help You Express Condolences for the Loss of a Child

Guest Article by Suzie Kolber. Suzie writes about condolences and grief at Obituarieshelp.org

One of the most awkward situations you may find yourself in is talking to someone who has recently lost a child. Words seem so inadequate at such a time. What makes it even more difficult is when you don’t know the person well. Avoiding the conversation isn’t the answer, so follow these three tips to help you say the right thing to someone who has lost a son or daughter.

Know What Not to Say
First, avoid saying something well-meaning that sounds insincere. For instance, don’t ever tell someone you know what they’re going through unless you’ve been through the same situation. Even if you’ve also lost a child, realize that every situation is unique. You also don’t want to tell them that it will get better or they’ll “get over it.” No one who ever loses someone they love ever gets over it, much less the loss of a child. You also don’t want to say the following“At least you still have Bobby (or another child)” or “You can always have another child.” These comments make it sound like the child was replaceable. Be especially careful if the loss is from a miscarriage because people have a tendency to downplay this death because the child was unborn. Realize the loss is still as great for the parents and they must grieve.

Say Less, Help More
You don’t need to come up with a fancy expression of condolence. Something as simple as “I’m so sorry for your loss” is more than adequate when conveyed with sincerity. Instead, focus on ways you can help. Prepare a meal to take to the person, or offer to pick up their other kids and spend time with them. Practical expressions of condolence often mean more in a time like this than words. If you don’t know what to offer, ask. Tell them you have a free afternoon on Saturday and you want to know what you can do to help them. Don’t be offended if they don’t take you up on your offer. Often at times like this, they aren’t sure what kind of help they need. You can talk to other family members to find out what assistance may be helpful.

Don’t Forget about The Person
Grief doesn’t end after the funeral or memorial service. Your friend or family member will always grieve for their lost child. If you want to offer sincere condolences to them, remember them weeks or even months from now. Express sympathy on the child’s birthday and the anniversary of their death. You don’t need to come up with anything fancy; just let the person know you remember the day, too. Check in on them on other days just to see how they’re doing. You don’t have to mention the loss at all. Instead, just say “I thought about you this morning and wanted to see how you’re doing.” You can offer to get together for lunch or go for a walk. At the same time, don’t avoid the subject. Your friend may want to talk about their child as a way of keeping them alive in their mind.

Dealing with the grief over the loss of a child isn’t easy for any parent. Friends and family can help them through the process by being sympathetic and expressing condolences in the right way.

Stacey Urrutia3 Tips to Help You Express Condolences for the Loss of a Child
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The Power of a Father’s Love After Loss

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Guest article by Kip Dominy

When asked how I feel on Father’s Day it’s easy for me to say I feel honored to be a dad and to have been blessed with three children. If someone didn’t know me very well, they might think it was strange that I speak of three children because they might only know my nine-year-old son, Noah, and my seven-year-old daughter, Lily. They might not know that I have a child that is with the ultimate Father. My son, Hogan, is in Heaven. Angie and I were blessed to spend 16 days with him on this earth in 2010.

“Although there has been healing with time, there are still moments when I go back to those days and I remember the pain of losing him as if it happened yesterday.”

How do I feel on Father’s Day? I feel blessed. I look around and hear of people who have tried to have a child and never could. I hear about people who had a child but lost their only child or children. I think about how blessed I have been to have all three of my children. They are all different yet loved the same. Yes, Hogan passed away after 16 days but those 16 days were the best and worst of my life.

Angie and I found out about Hogan’s condition the day we were to find out if he was going to be a boy or girl. It was at that “big” appointment…the one that was supposed to be so exciting. Instead, it was the day we found out that our son might have problems. Angie went through her pregnancy carrying a child that we were told wouldn’t be born alive and if he was born alive might only live a few minutes.

“As a dad, it’s a helpless feeling. My heart broke every time that the doctor tried to find a heartbeat in the coming months.”

I was nervous to ask my wife every night, “Have you felt Hogan kick lately?” His birth was a miracle; I am thankful for the time we had with him. Celebrating Father’s Day: It might be because Angie and I had children later in life than most, or it might be because I didn’t have much of a relationship with my Father, that I soak up Father’s Day. I think about the dad that I need to be for my children.

Yes, my worst fear is losing another child and I struggle at times with letting go and trusting God with the children he has allowed me to parent. Ironically, my son races bandolero cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway and only two weeks ago, he hit a concrete barrier going 50 mph in a heat race. When I watched his car hit the wall I thought I had lost another child. I have no doubt there was an Angel looking after him as his car spun around at the last second to hit on it’s side–a factor that might have saved his life or kept him from suffering severe injuries. I was there for Noah during the wreck. I thought I could help. I was also there for Hogan but I couldn’t help and I knew it. I couldn’t do anything to save or protect my son inside my wife’s body.

I believe that everything happens for a reason for those who love the Lord. The feeling of holding Hogan until his last breath, and watching Angie hold him until his last heart beat, will never go away. The pain is still real but I believe we will all reunite with him in Heaven one day. Father’s Day is just another reminder for me to make memories with my family and to enjoy every minute of the time we have together. To learn more about the power of a father’s love after loss please visit: hogandominy.blogspot.com

Stacey UrrutiaThe Power of a Father’s Love After Loss
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A Father’s Grief Is No Less Important – Just Different

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Article by Stacey Urrutia

As Father’s Day approaches, I am reminded of how differently my husband and I handled the phases of infertility we experienced, as well as how differently we managed the pregnancy losses that followed in our baby-making years. As the female member of the team whose “fault” it was that we couldn’t get pregnant, and also as the one who struggled to carry the baby once we conceived, I have always held myself accountable for the arduous journey we endured.

“I think it’s fairly typical for the woman in the relationship to take on the blame, as we see ourselves as the component of the team from whom much more is required in the beginning of baby-making.”

Our menstrual cycles can become complicated, and our anatomy may not be performing at its best when it comes to reproduction. Women are usually the ones getting physically evaluated for months on end to determine why things are not leading to the successful birth of a baby. And if a baby is lost after birth, it seems women receive more attention, having carried the baby whilst hormones were raging and tears were a-flowing.

As a result, on Mother’s Day, it’s easier for people to remember women who have lost babies or struggled to get pregnant. The thought at least crosses peoples’ minds, urging them to be sensitive to the woman’s perspective on the issue.

But for Father’s Day, there often seems to be a complete lack of recognition for the man’s role in everything, and for the father’s feelings as they relate to infertility, miscarriage, or baby loss. His emotions get brushed to the side, almost completely disregarded in many cases. Why is that? Is it because they usually cry less and they internalize their grief? Is it because they are perceived as stronger? Is it because they are less apt to talk about what happened to the baby? At the core of the issue, men and women tend to grieve differently. But “different” does not mean less important or less consequential!

Men are usually forced to suffer silently. They are quickly thrown into the role of Supporter, Comforter, Encourager. Yet, they too need the chance to grieve, to feel loved, to feel uplifted by others. How do men navigate their way through such a crisis while their hearts are aching just as much as the mothers’? It’s an unfair burden that’s placed on them, whether they want the role or not.

“Men naturally have a strong desire to fix things. The inability of a man to get his wife pregnant or the torment of watching his child being lost through miscarriage, late-term pregnancy loss, or any other circumstance of baby loss, can be brutal.”

Neither the man nor the woman is responsible for what transpired leading up to the loss of the baby. Even if one person can be identified as the “underlying cause” of the infertility or baby loss, it wasn’t an intentional act by either parent. It just happens sometimes, and for one reason or another, that can be difficult to accept.

My husband told me that he wished he could take away my pain, wished he could be the one to carry our baby…so that if something went wrong he could at least offer me relief from the physical aspect of our sorrow. I felt frustrated that he wasn’t more often on the same page as me when we experienced our losses. Saddened as I was, I remained determined to try again, to keep going, to keep pressing on, in order to figure out the source of our problems. If I was willing to go through everything this required from us, why wasn’t he?

Now that some time has passed, I realize that all along he was equally as impacted by our journey. Every baby we lost meant something to him, too. And his position of standing in the background while I physically experienced the bleeding, the surgeries, the delivery of a baby that would never make it, was taking a toll on him that I didn’t properly recognize. I was his wife and I didn’t even acknowledge it in the right way. It wasn’t until we were years into our baby-making struggles that I sat down with him and talked more deeply about his feelings.

A father’s feelings are often underestimated and misunderstood. This Father’s Day, if you know a man who has experienced pregnancy loss, baby loss, or even the loss of hope for a baby due to infertility, please take a moment to express your sympathy. A small token that shows you care can make all the difference because a Father’s grief is no less important just different.

Stacey UrrutiaA Father’s Grief Is No Less Important – Just Different
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Learning to Live with Loss

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Article by Stacey Urrutia

You lost your baby. No matter when that happens, you’ve not only lost your child but you’ve lost the hopes and dreams that you imagined for that child since the moment you found out you were pregnant.

It is one of the hardest circumstances any person can ever face. How do you start to accept your new reality? It’s something we all search for an answer to, and yet there never seems to be quite the right explanation. That being said, there are some things I have learned about losing a baby—and the means by which I began to accept what happened—that I think will help get you on the path to living a peaceful, happy life again.


Let me be clear—when you lose a baby, there is never closure to the subject matter at hand. You never learn to forget about your baby; nearly 15 years after I lost my first pregnancy, I remember it as vividly as the day it happened. But quite honestly, I don’t want to forget that baby or any of the others I’ve lost. Forgetting them would deny their existence, and that’s part of what’s so hard about losing children.


As parents, we always remember; it’s everyone else who forgets. I’ve found that over time I have learned to live better with the agony of my loss. I’ve discovered that, while I experienced a pain that was truly numbing, and one I thought I’d never recover from, I could actually survive it. With the passing of time, I even discovered that I could find grace in my life. While time did not heal my wounds, it did allow me the capacity to find some level of acceptance. These are some first steps for learning to live with the loss of your baby

Get help from a professional

We all think we’re tough, but certain difficulties in our lives may require that we seek help from an outsider. There are counselors and therapists who specialize in helping people who have experienced the loss of a baby. Sometimes speaking to a well-qualified professional is easier than sharing your deepest, darkest secrets with the ones you love. This can be especially true if the people around you feel as though you’ve grieved for long enough and you should “just get over it.” Or, it’s important if after several months, you can’t pull yourself out of the funk you’re in.

It’s crucial to be mentally healthy. You need to achieve this for your spouse or partner, you need to do it for the future child you may want to have—or the children you already have at home—and most of all, you need to do it for yourself. You deserve that. I did not at any point seek professional counseling after our pregnancy losses, but looking back, it’s something I wish I had handled differently. I believe my recovery would have been smoother, and that perhaps I would’ve felt less guilt as a result of losing our pregnancies.

I also suggest speaking to a professional because there were so many times that my husband and I did not grieve in the same way. I think this is quite typical, not only because men and women tend to view circumstances from a different perspective, but also because every individual grieves in his or her own unique way. You shouldn’t forget that women naturally experience an altered grieving process by virtue of being the baby’s carrier. Women deal with not only the emotional loss, but the physical loss as well (plus, we have hormones messing with our minds). Any of these disparities can lead to resentment, which is not healthy for a marriage, and is so often why couples get divorced after such a tragic loss.

Pretend to be happy for a while.

This might sound like strange advice, but I believe in it. Please understand, by no means am I suggesting that you ignore clinical depression (see Step 1, above). After our first pregnancy loss, I needed to find coping mechanisms to get through my days. They were simple things, like offering a fake smile when someone showed me an act of kindness, or pretending to have a good time while out at dinner with friends.

For a long time, I wore a mask of happiness, which successfully hid the depression and guilt I carried for months after our losses. To be honest, pretending to be happy was exhausting. But eventually, a genuine smile would sneak through, and for a few minutes, I found myself actually feeling whole again. Those minutes turned into hours, and finally I discovered that I had entire days that felt pretty good. Pretending to feel joy became a self-fulfilling prophecy by physically reminding my body what it felt like to be happy.

Seek help from your faith, and know that questioning it is normal.

As a Christian, I was offered the most significant help by a dear friend who was somewhat like a father figure to me. His name was Timothy Coke Doughtie.  In my book Making Angels, I share a series of letters that Tim wrote to me after the passing of one of our babies. He so eloquently explained to me that, “acts of God and acts of nature are wholly different. Nature rules the random course of things . . . part of the dynamics God put in place for Creation.”

When we lose something so precious, we may question God. Why would God have imposed this pain on us? Did we do something to deserve this? We even wonder, Is there really a God at all? I believe it is through that very suffering that we learn to see the gift in our tragedy. For me, it was only after I began to understand that there was a bigger purpose, and a divine plan to my journey, that I fully accepted what had happened to us. Strengthening my faith is what really helped me find peace again.

I am fully aware that not everyone shares this sentiment, or even believes in a God. For those of you in that category, hopefully the other suggestions I provide will get you on the path to recovery. I will say that, despite my faith, (ironically) I found it very hurtful to hear people say things like, “God always has a plan,” or, “There’s always a reason for things like this.” I know, I know . . I came to some of those very same conclusions myself. But, in the midst of my mourning, it was NOT what I wanted to hear.

One of the worst things people could say to me was, “Everything will work out fine.”

I was so unsure of my faith and what I believed at the time that it only made me angrier to hear those sorts of things. I needed to travel my own path to those conclusions, for them to make any sense. A simple, “I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know,” would have been sufficient after losing my pregnancies. I hope that one of the things I do better now is offer words of comfort to other people who are experiencing grief, of any kind. I used to feel desperate to find the right words, but now I realize that saying something extraordinarily simple is perhaps the best. If the other person indicates a willingness to talk more, or is comfortable having a discussion about faith, then I am happy to discuss it further.

Surround yourself with loving people who will support you while you recover.

I have gained an enormous understanding for the pain that others feel when losing a baby. As a result, I can help other women and couples in a manner that only someone like me can. I don’t have to imagine how you feel. My firsthand experience has equipped me with an insight unique to those of us faced with a devastation that seems insurmountable. My suggestion is that you seek out women who have a story of loss similar to your own. They will know how to help you more than most other people, even family, who want so desperately to alleviate your pain.

In today’s world, we are fortunate to have access to online support groups, chat rooms, blogs, and other professional resources that cover just about every type of pregnancy loss. Depending on the size of your hospital or community, you may have access to a local support group. You can also ask your doctor or nurse for advice on how to get help with perinatal loss.

Find ways to bring joy into your life again.

One of the most important things you can do to start feeling better is to find ways to bring joy into your life again. Examples of this would include: volunteering your time in an environment or organization that is meaningful to you, establishing (or re-establishing) an exercise routine, scheduling a lunch date with a friend, taking a cooking class, or joining a book club or Bible study group. It’s not always enough (or even an option) to bury yourself in work as a way to preoccupy your mind. And quite frankly, that’s not necessarily going to bring you joy—it’s just keeping you busy. I want you to experience authentic happiness. The baby you lost would want that for you, and if you have other children in your home, they want to see you happy as well.

It is my hope that these five beginning steps will aid you as you journey through your own grieving process of learning to live with loss.  Above all else, please know that you are not alone!

Stacey UrrutiaLearning to Live with Loss
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Supporting Your Partner After a Miscarriage

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Guest Article by- Wayne Parker

Every family faces challenges in their lives, and one of the most emotionally fraught challenges a family faces is a miscarriage.   Frequently, mothers and fathers react differently to the experience of a miscarriage, and it is important for both men and women to understand the physical and emotional impacts of a miscarriage on each other, the family and the relationship.

My friend Scott and his wife Sarah are a good example of how difficult it can be. Both Scott and Sarah were excited for his wife’s second pregnancy. They loved and adored their 3 year old daughters and were excited for her to have a little brother on the way. Unexpectedly, Sarah began spotting and having serious cramping. A visit to the emergency room confirmed that she was having a miscarriage. The mix of physical impacts, emotional feelings and the need to explain to Zoe that her baby brother was not coming after all was just devastating to Scott and Sarah.

Scott, while feeling the pain of loss, tended to be a little more philosophical about it. He felt terrible about losing the baby, but he also knew that they could likely get pregnant again – it was not the end of the world. But for Sarah, it was almost the end of the world. Her hopes and dreams for this child were dashed and she didn’t know what to do or where to turn. And while Scott was sad, he didn’t feel her same level of emotional devastation.

This is a pretty common scenario. Father feels bad but feels hope, but mother is beside herself with grief and loss. But even in this very common situation, fathers can be a rock of support for their partners, and work through their own sense of loss if they will give it the focus is deserves.

Console but don’t try to fix it. Way too often as husbands, men tend to want to get to a solution quickly and don’t take the time or energy to process the whole experience. Our partners don’t so much need us to fix the situation or try to get them to peace, but they do need us to listen, empathize and support. Just holding your partner and listening to her while she grieves is a great first step.

Don’t set artificial time lines. There is no magic timeline for a grieving mother, and any effort to impose one is a big mistake. Let her take the time she needs. You may worry that she will never “snap out of it,” but she will. If you are concerned about how long it is taking for her to be recovering from the experience, talk with your doctor, but don’t apply any pressure to her to. Be “done” with her feelings.

Try writing as therapy. For both mother and father, writing about your feelings in a journal or on a blog can be very therapeutic. Putting the experience into writing can help give voice to the grieving process and help put things into perspective. In addition, if you are comfortable wit sharing your experience and process, you can help others with their own unique grieving and recovery process.

Miscarriage is a hard thing for mothers and fathers. Dads can take a special role of support and love while still working through their own process of grief and return to more normal life. Life may never be wholly back to normal, but it can get better as we work through the process together.

Wayne Parker is the author of Power Dads: The Ten Basic Principles Successful Fathers Use to Raise Happy and Responsible Children and is the fatherhood expert at About.com. He is the father of five children, grandfather to eight and husband to his wife Julie for the last 36 years.

 

Stacey UrrutiaSupporting Your Partner After a Miscarriage
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Carrying the Burden of Blame

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Article by Stacey Urrutia

The topic of “Carrying the Burden of Blame” for all the pregnancy losses we endured is really personal to me . . . and pretty much most women I talk to about this subject. It seems especially prominent in women who have tried to get pregnant for a long time and can’t, or who have lost a baby later in gestation, during childbirth, or shortly thereafter. We all feel some level of horrendous, chronic, self-deprecating, gut-wrenching guilt.

Intellectually, I know I am not to blame for the losses we experienced. If it were a family member or friend going through the same thing, it would sadden me tremendously to think that parents could feel responsible for their infertility or for the loss of a child they so desperately wanted. I would explain to them that the inability to bear children is a disease like any other, whether it be cancer, diabetes, or COPD. Everyone looks for a cure, and in this case, the solutions might include IVF, adoption, surrogacy, or even learning to live childless. Yes, sometimes, for one reason or another, it just doesn’t work out.


Though I accept this concept intellectually, acceptance on an emotional level is another thing entirely. As irrational as it may seem, the guilty sentiment stays with me, like an appendage I can’t cut loose from my body. I am reminded of it constantly, even though I want nothing to do with it.  Stacey Urrutia


My husband has never truly understood why I carry this burden with me, particularly after we’ve finally had two children to call our own. I have tried to explain to him that this feeling lingers with me because, when I evaluate all of our circumstances, there is only me to blame. In other words, it was my body that had a difficult time getting pregnant. It was my body that failed to keep our growing baby safe. Let’s not beat around the bush here. It was my fault.

He would argue that it was an act of nature, which of course it was. He would say that there’s nobody who tried harder than me to get pregnant, stay healthy, and live my life with caution until I was able to safely bring a healthy child into this world. And he’s right. So why do I continue to harbor this burden? Why can’t I seem to shed it from my body and wear a new skin that’s free of guilt?

I attribute it to an underlying maternal instinct that is so strong, almost nothing can overcome it. Much like mothers who would fight to their deaths to save a living, breathing child, I think this is where I see my failure. I would have been willing to die for my unborn child, too. But instead, the baby was ripped from me, far too early and not yet ready to make it on her own. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I had hopes and dreams for the child I carried. I had names selected, images of kissing her goodbye on the first day of school, getting a mani/pedi together, and even a wedding in her future. I had ideas for holiday cards, and they included my husband, me, our dog, and finally, the baby we’d been wanting for so long. I had a Christmas stocking bearing her name, ready to be hung on the mantel.

Too often, my womb had become more like a tomb—a place where my child met the end of her life, rather than flourishing into an earthly life that could be shared with us. With every miscarriage, I felt as though I let down my unborn child, and a part of me died, each and every time we lost a baby.

Fifteen years ago my seemingly perfect little world was shattered by the loss of our first pregnancy, when at eighteen weeks gestation I was told our baby no longer had a heartbeat. The virus I’d had was tough on me, but it had literally killed our baby. The waves of guilt came crashing over me. Ever since then, my time has been spent trying to reconcile this emotion. I preferred being blissfully ignorant that life could contain such tragedies, and especially, that I could be “responsible” for them.

I have decided that the guilt was linked to my unresolved grief. The thing that has finally brought me to a place of peace has been my faith. I decided I could no longer hold onto this blame. My life and all the experiences in it were divinely chosen. Perhaps to my disappointment, I am not really in control of everything. Learning to welcome both the good and the bad, to actually be thankful for it all, has taken me more than forty years.

The now wiser version of me sees God as the driver; I simply sit behind the wheel, following a path specifically created for me. There will be unforeseen obstacles and unexpected blessings. I am now grateful for them all. I comprehend that there were gifts delivered to me amid the pain, and only in recognizing these gifts could I see the bigger purpose behind our baby loss journey. Understanding the losses of our children in this way allowed for a new perspective on how I grieved, and as a result, it has eliminated most of my guilt.

I recently had the opportunity to practice what I preach. Not long ago, I was diagnosed with early stage melanoma. The old me would have reacted in quite a panic, obsessing about my future health and all the things that could go wrong. It doesn’t help that I did cancer research for years, and at one point, even worked in sales for a pharmaceutical company that, at the time, sold the only FDA-approved drug for the treatment of melanoma. On a regular basis I had witnessed patients dying from their disease.

My husband would tell you that I am a professional worrier. I’ve worked hard in the past few months/years to do away with that title. While I took the necessary steps to aggressively remove the melanoma, I was proud of myself for the remarkable calm I felt on the inside. I accepted my diagnosis, did what I could, and have put it behind me. What happens next is not up to me.

Today, I carry a much lighter burden of blame. I am certainly not perfect and the full relinquishing has yet to come. However, I have travelled far enough on my journey that, at the very least, I can find some peace in every day. That accomplishment alone has been a great relief.

 

Stacey UrrutiaCarrying the Burden of Blame
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Imprint on my Heart: Sawyer’s Story

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Guest article by Jessica Davis


How very softly you tiptoed into our world.  Almost silently; Only a moment you stayed.  But what an imprint your footprints have left on our hearts.


On August 17, 2015, our entire world came to a crashing halt within moments. But our story starts long before that day. On our wedding day we exchanged the vows “for better or for worse.” At that time in my life I completely meant my vows and what they stood for, although I never imagined the extent to which they would be tested.

After being married for a year, my husband and I decided it was time to add on to our sweet family. I didn’t think it would take long and figured within a few short months we would be pregnant. Month after month went by with disappointment and tears. We gave it a year of trying and by the end of the year I just felt something inside of me saying we needed further workup…something wasn’t right. After a couple of visits with my OB, she wanted to send me for more testing, which led us down the route of going to a fertility specialist.

The first year was full of test after test to see where the problem laid.  The second year was full of procedures to see if it would help to solve the problem. The third year of fertility appointments came to the conclusion that it was time to take the route of IVF. Finally, we had a plan. Even though it was not exactly the way we envisioned it, it was still our plan. Being a young woman in my late 20’s at this point all of my close girlfriends were having babies. I was so envious of them that having babies came so easily and naturally. My husband and I prayed for that moment for so long and all we wanted was for our house to be filled with laughter, cries, and the pitter-patter of little feet.

All the medical work-up was done and we planned to start the IVF process in November of 2014. It was not an easy process to get through and it took a toll on our relationship both emotionally and financially. I knew if we could make it through this our marriage was going to come out stronger than before. It had to be the part in my vows “for worse.”  I remember thinking to myself It can’t get much worse. The night the shots started is a night I will never forget. My husband’s uncle was dying from pancreatic cancer and he happened to be a patient whom I was helping to care for.

The night of November 10 we received a phone call letting us know that he had passed away. That same night my cycle started, which meant my injections were to start. I couldn’t believe that the night we lost a sweet uncle we were trying to create a new life to be born. I cried every day when giving myself shots, not only because of the emotional toll it was taking on me, but because I am also a wimp. I am a nurse and am used to giving everyone else shots.


Although I needed to keep looking at the bigger picture, I would sometimes let myself go to a place of self-pity and madness because no one around me had gone through such a thing.  Though I would never wish it upon anyone; I had moments of questioning Why me?


I had no one that could relate to me until I met a sweet girl who has now turned into such a good friend and confidant. Even though 10% of the population experiences infertility, it is kept so quiet. I didn’t want to broadcast our situation, but I also just wanted to find one person who understood my feelings.

All was going well with our IVF plans and doctor’s appointments were consuming our lives. I can now understand the feeling my oncology patients have when they are tired of being in doctors’ offices. The day finally came when things looked great and it was time to plan our transfer day. It took place on Thanksgiving, which was November 27, 2014.  We transferred one embryo that day and I just knew our lives were about to change forever. Thanksgiving is meant to be a day full of blessings. How could this miracle not work? We had endured so much over the years that it was just meant to be. All went well with the transfer and we went home to wait those long fifteen days before the pregnancy blood test was to be drawn. We made it; we were PREGNANT!!!  In that moment everything was right in the world. My husband and I just held each other, the tears flowing down our cheeks.

My pregnancy went smoothly. I enjoyed being pregnant so much. I was so thankful to be pregnant that I embraced every aspect of it. I didn’t have too many days of morning sickness and I could eat anything! We found out that we would be expecting a sweet little girl. We had been waiting for that moment so names came easily for us. She was our sweet Sawyer Rae Davis. In utero she was so active and constantly moving, especially at night. I would come to work half asleep most days because her activity would keep me up. I would give anything to have those nights back again. At each appointment everything always looked perfect and she was progressing. I prayed every night thanking God for this sweet miracle growing inside of me. I prayed she would have her daddy’s red hair and dimples. She had so many people anxiously awaiting her arrival and they were all praying for us. During the last doctor’s appointment we had on August 13, 2015 all went well. Her heartbeat was strong (in the 150s), I was 1cm dilated, and she had not yet engaged into my pelvis. My due date was August 15 and if she did not come by then we were going to induce on August 19.

The morning of August 17, I woke up expecting to go to work but the contractions were coming on about every 25 minutes. I decided it was better to stay home. I remember going outside to walk with pure excitement and nervousness because I knew this was it. Next time I would be walking these beautiful country roads I would be pushing our sweet girl in her stroller showing her all of our dairy cows. The contractions got closer so my husband and I decided to call the doctor and they said to come on in to the office because we lived one hour away.

Of course on the way to the office the rain was coming down so hard we could barely see the road in front of us. I was now having contractions about every 8 minutes. We finally made it to the office and were brought back. All the normalcy was done with taking my blood pressure and weight.  The nurse put the Doppler up to my stomach and could not find the heartbeat. I remember her asking me, “Is your child breech?” I could only reply, “She wasn’t four days ago.”  She decided to move us into the ultrasound room to just make sure she wasn’t breech or too far down into my canal and couldn’t get the heartbeat with the Doppler. I remember saying to my husband, “This isn’t good.” I knew he had the same feeling by looking into his eyes, but he stayed positive.

I lay on the ultrasound table in hopes of seeing and hearing the strongest heartbeat. At this point the PA was the one rolling the wand over me. As soon as she put it on my stomach I knew. My poor child’s body lay there limp with no movement. My entire life came to a complete stand still.  How is this happening? Everything was perfect, wasn’t it? Perhaps things had been too good to be true. All of our struggles came before the pregnancy, not now.  She left the room saying she needed to get the doctor. My husband and I just held each other crying on that table. The doctor rushed in and couldn’t believe it either. I remember him asking me, “What happened?” All I could reply is, “I don’t know.” What I really wanted to say is “Really? You tell me. Shouldn’t you know?” The doctor was beside himself and cried with us and prayed over us. I was grateful in that moment for that kind of doctor. He truly cared for us and for our daughter. We didn’t know at the time what had caused our tragedy, but he said he was guessing it was a cord accident. We needed to go straight to the hospital and deliver the baby.

I do not wish this upon anybody but I remember saying to my husband, “Why us? We lead good Christian lives. We may not go to church every Sunday but God is the center of our relationship. We help people in any way that we can. I am an oncology nurse and take my patients pain with them. What have we done to deserve this punishment? Just how did this happen?” All I could do was profusely apologize to my husband. It was my job to get our daughter here safely. I was her lifeline and I let her and my husband down. The guilt I felt and still feel is intense. If it was her umbilical cord how could that take her life when it was giving her life? How did God allow this to happen? So much was running through my head and in between all of it I had the constant reminder of pain via contractions going on reminding me of what needed to be done. We headed over to the hospital as my poor husband made the horrific phone calls to our families.

All kinds of blood work was done since we did not know the cause of Sawyer’s death. I eventually was able to get an epidural. I went back and forth with myself with having the epidural because I felt like I deserved all the pain and so much more because of what had happened. I failed everyone and deserved to hurt. The laboring process progressed much faster than what the nurse once had anticipated which I was thankful for.  One part of me didn’t want to face reality and deliver my stillborn, but the other part of me wanted to hold my baby so badly. At 12:09am on August 18,, 2015 our angel of a daughter, Sawyer Rae Davis, was born sleeping.  She weighed 6lbs and 3oz and was 20in long of complete perfection. I just knew the moment she came out there was going to be a mistake and she would come out crying. It couldn’t be true. After delivery we learned she had a “true knot” in the cord and also a quadruple nuchal cord. What are the odds? I can’t even wrap my brain around how something like this happens to such an innocent life.

Watching my husband hold his daughter is a moment I longed to see.  It is a memory I will always hold dear to me. I still carry a lot of guilt because I feel like I should have known something was wrong, even though I know I had no way of knowing. I know God has a greater plan for us, but to say my relationship with him has been perfect after this tragedy means I would be lying. My faith in him is being restored and I do believe in him and the amazing things he has planned. I just feel my daughter should be in my arms. We were supposed to be there for all of her “firsts”. I wanted her to want me as much as I need my mom even in my 30’s and married. I wanted to worry about what cute outfit and matching bow she was going to wear for the day. I shouldn’t have to be worrying about her flowers at the gravesite and if they need to be replaced, or go out there to wish her a “Merry Christmas,” or decide what we are going to put on her headstone. We are supposed to be taking her “monthly” photos and not lighting a lantern filled with messages sending them up to her. It is all just not fair.  Families should not have to endure such heartache.

I promised our daughter Sawyer that her spirit will live inside of us and within our family that we pray to have. She may have been small but she has left an imprint in peoples hearts and a legacy that will never be forgotten. Grief is quite complicated. You never know what it may bring day to day. There have been plenty of days I want to give up, but I know Sawyer wouldn’t want that. I know I need to thank my husband who has been the anchor I needed through all of this. I know it has made for some rocky days but his love is unconditional and he hasn’t given up on me. I think people forget (myself included) that the dads are grieving too. Yes, I may have birthed her, but she was equally his child. I pray he looks at me for being the strongest woman and wife to him to birth our child stillborn. It is a part of the scars I carry with me now, and I pray God will bring us through stronger. I want clarity on why this happened and I know that is not feasible. I lost a part of myself the day I lost my daughter, but I know my child is watching over me. I keep talking to women who have unfortunately experienced losses too. For the hope they give me- I can never thank them enough. One thing I have learned is to try and hold on tight to your faith even when you don’t understand and also hold on to your significant other.  At the end of the day it was the two of you before any children. The day I get to heaven I will be scooping Sawyer up and never letting her go.

Stacey UrrutiaImprint on my Heart: Sawyer’s Story
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