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Stillbirth, Bravery, and Letting Guilt Go

Recently, I had the true honor of working with a special woman who showed me what true bravery looks like.  Beth* had gotten married in her mid-30s and had tried to conceive naturally for several years before choosing to do IVF. After several failed attempts, and having depleted her bank account, she and her husband decided to try IVF one last time. This time it was a success. She was beyond elated to discover that she was carrying twins. The biggest blessing of all was that she was going to be a mother to both a boy and a girl. Beth was grateful.

At around 20 weeks, Beth’s doctors discovered that Baby A was not developing as well as they would have liked. The medical staff kept a close eye on Baby A. At 24 weeks, Beth went to the doctor for a routine visit and was heartbroken to discover that Baby A, her son, had no heartbeat. At the same visit, Beth was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy), and emergently admitted to the hospital where she would remain until the safe delivery of her daughter over two months later.

This is when I first met Beth. I found her in her room overlooking the city, looking tiny in her huge room, and enormous bed. Our visits would become a regular part of her day and mine. Every week I would come to Beth’s room, give her the latest People and Us magazines, and we would talk. Beth felt trapped in her room. She was desperate to go home and begged the doctors religiously to let her take her show on the road. The answer was always a firm, “NO!” She […]

Holiday Reflection on the Year’s Pregnancy, Loss, Grief and Hope

“This time last year, I was eight months pregnant.” “I should have a baby that is almost turning one year old by now.” “I have been pregnant, and doing IVF for 2 years and still I have no baby.”

These are the words of the women I sit with on a daily basis. Holidays are difficult for many people, but for our community at The Blossom Method, it is yet another reminder of what they do not have.  Calendars mark time. They are a snapshot of progress and success. Many people feel foolish that they were so excited to deliver last December, only to lose their baby days before their due date. They feel silly that they were so excited and ashamed that they have nothing to show for that pregnancy, or the other failed ones that came before that one. As I see it, there is nothing foolish about how they behaved. In that moment in time, they were expecting a child. They were beaming with excitement and joy and ready for the journey of parenthood. Those emotions were real and honest. Why would anyone want to erase feeling good and happy?
Moving Past the Grief of Loss
Those moments of feeling hopeful, happy and excited are as much a part of one’s life as are moments of despair and heartbreak. Happiness, joy, devastation and heartbreak are all patches on our quilt. It is hard to have one without the other—not all days are bleak and not all days are euphoric.

The holidays are a period of weeks where we take stock—where have we been? Where do we still want to go? Who has made this journey bearable?  What will we do differently next time?
Celebrating Change, Keeping […]

All The Pain & None Of The Gain: Losing a Pregnancy, Not the Pregnancy Body

One common experience of women who have lost pregnancies is the frustration that comes from having to go through the pain and struggle of a changing body during pregnancy, only to be left with no baby. Obviously, this pales in comparison to the grief that comes from losing a pregnancy. In today’s blog, we recount the experience of one of our patients, a woman named Mona who lost her pregnancy at 38 weeks.
Mona’s Story of Pregnancy Loss
Mona came into my office and the moment she sat down, she began to cry. “Look at me! I am wearing a fat suit!!! You don’t even know me, and you must think I am the chubby girl-the one who always cannot pass up a dessert!”

Mona made me laugh from the moment I met her—she is one of my most favorite people to see!  One of the many punishments associated with a loss-seems to be the lack of a justification for the weight gain. For women like Mona, who had gone to 38 weeks, delivered a stillborn daughter, and left the hospital empty handed-having endured all that pain for a poor outcome seemed incomprehensible to her. She was right! Her milk had come in, her breasts were tender and painful, she was in pain, and most of all she had been denied the joy and privilege of being a mother to a live baby. Over many heated sessions and debates, Mona came to realize, as many women before her had, that life is not fair, and she deserved better. A lot better.
Coping with Post-Baby Bodies with No Baby
How do I explain to a pregnancy loss patient that having the postpartum body and physical ailments associated with child birth […]

A Genuine Smile: Coping with Pregnancy Loss

When a woman is told her pregnancy is low-risk and there’s nothing to worry about, getting past the first trimester generally means they are out of the woods, so to speak. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Read this account of one woman who experienced the loss of a pregnancy at 24 weeks along and how she is managing to cope with the grief.
A Mother’s Story of Pregnancy Loss
July 22, 2014 – 24 weeks and 1 day pregnant: In my heart, I knew something was wrong; call it a mother’s intuition. You failed to show up for our designated time together the past two mornings. I would stroke my belly after my 7:30 a.m. shower and you would always respond with many loving kicks. I would tell you how much I loved you and how excited we were to meet you and I could tell you felt the same way.

I called the doctor and told her that I hadn’t felt you move in about 36 hours, they told me to wait 48 hours, but I insisted that something was off.
The Pain of Losing a Baby
The doctor agreed to see me at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23. I went in with every intention of having the doctor see your heartbeat but I saw the ultrasound and you were lifeless, a floating entity that I would never feel alive again. My world shattered in that moment, I broke and will never be the same. One minute you were kicking, the next you were gone.

My first baby, my only baby and my future, just gone and without an explanation. The moment when my life fell apart will forever haunt me through recurring dreams and repetitive thoughts. […]

Coping with Fertility Issues – Supportive Tips

Fertility issues: it’s something that is more common than you may think, but something that people often don’t talk about for fear of over-sharing, or appearing vulnerable or “broken.” The double-edged sword of this complex situation, though, is that often, people find it helpful to share their experiences with fertility complications, to discuss their struggles with people who have gone through similar issues. Coping with fertility issues isn’t something you have to do on your own. Here at the Blossom Method, we have a few tips for people who are trying to cope with infertility that can help make things easier on you.
Spend Time on Non-Pregnancy Activities
It’s easy to get wrapped up in baby-related activities. Whether you have friends or family members having babies, or you keep getting invited to baby showers and just need a break, remember that it’s okay to decline an invite if you don’t feel comfortable to attend. Struggles with infertility can feel magnified when you have to spend time with people who had no trouble conceiving, so don’t feel bad if you need to sit some parties or gatherings out.

It’s important to also spend time doing things you like, rather than devoting all of your free time to things like researching ways to get pregnant or stressing out by Googling all the potential things that you think could be keeping you from conceiving. Take time to take care of yourself and enjoy your hobbies; pursue your interests—though it’s easier said than done, trying to get your mind off of the problems can help a bit.
Get Infertility Support from Friends, Family and Counselors
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can help to open up to those around you. Letting […]

One Size Does Not Fit All: Coping with Pregnancy Anxiety After Loss

The majority of women I work with come to me because something happened to them during a previous pregnancy that resulted in some type of baby or pregnancy loss. Now, they are pregnant again—anxious and frightened. The formula they had put in place last time will not work for them now. I’ll hear things like, “I adore my OB, but going back into that waiting room, seeing the receptionist, hearing those phones ring sends me into a panic,” “The second bank of elevators in that building is where I was when the call came in,” or, “The ultrasound room has too many bad memories for me.”
New OB/GYN with a New Pregnancy
For many of these women, they want a fresh start. They want a new office, a new doctor, and in some cases, a new hospital altogether. Their OB may have graduated at the top of their class from Harvard or Princeton, but to these women, it’s a bad feeling, a foreboding premonition, a bad omen to return. I tell them that there are no rules—it is up to them to make the decision that feels right. One patient told me that after she became pregnant again and went to several visits at her old OB’s office, the OB told her that seeing how painful it was for this patient to return to the “scene of the crime” each month for her checkups was too hard to watch. The OB told the patient to switch to another doctor, and to return once the baby was born. That is exactly what the patient did—that OB clearly cared about her patient.
Extra Medical Care to Avoid Pregnancy Loss
I have other patients who decide that being seen by a […]

Fertility Friends: Finding Support through Shared Experiences

At the Blossom Method, we are proud to inspire those who struggle with infertility issues to seek the support that they need and deserve. One of the groups we refer our patients to is Shine: A Light on Fertility. Today, we have a guest post from Katie O’Connor, the founder of Shine, about what the program strives to accomplish.
Friendship and Advocacy
By: Katie O’Connor, Founder, Shine: A Light On Fertility

When you are going through a hard time, a good friend is what you need most.  It helps if the friend has experienced a similar struggle as you, and that is where Fertility Friends comes in—a new mentor program by Shine: A Light on Fertility.  Fertility Friends is a matching system that pairs a new member with someone who has successfully completed their fertility journey.  This program provides one-on-one support that can help with the day-to-day stresses of fertility treatments, and acts as a supplement to group sessions.  It allows the new member a chance to ask personal questions and get support from someone who has experienced similar challenges.  Fertility Friends can lend support and guidance to help new members navigate fertility treatment procedures as well as talk through options.  Mentors are sensitive to the new member’s journey, because they can closely relate to their experience.

Being your own advocate is important when going through any life challenge, but combining that with knowledge and awareness creates empowerment.  Shine puts a focus on early education and taking a proactive approach to one’s fertility health through their Advocacy Initiative.  Every woman knows that when they turn 40, it means the start of mammograms, and we are taught even earlier to start performing self-breast exams.  However, there is nothing like […]

Abrupt Endings, New Beginnings: Coping with Pregnancy Loss

At the Blossom Method, we feature real-life stories from some of the people we have worked with and helped. This week, we feature a story from a former patient of ours who had difficulty with pregnancy loss and turned to the Blossom Method support system for help coping with the frustration, anxiety, and nerves that are inevitable when one becomes pregnant again after losing a pregnancy. Often, patients find comfort from stories of others’ experiences coping with loss as well as in sharing their own stories. 
Babies, Loss and the Future
When I was four years old, I asked my mom, “How do you become a mother?” She thought about it for a minute, and then she said, “You just put your heart into it.” So, at the ripe old age of four, I set for myself the ultimate goal of my life: Eventually I would “put my heart into it” and become a mother.

Three days before my tenth birthday, my mom went in for her 20-week ultrasound and discovered that my baby brother had died. It stopped me in my tracks, essentially ending my childhood at the exact moment my dad told me. How could a baby die before it was born? How could there just be no reason? What other tragic horrors awaited me in life? We were all sad, but I took it the hardest. I always imagined him as with us, as part of our family. I think of him each year on his due date—how old would he be now? When people asked me if I had siblings, I responded that I had a sister and also a brother who was in heaven. Mom told me not to mention my brother–people […]

Asking Pregnancy Questions: Do You Really Need to Know?

It breaks my heart–week after week, I meet with clients who are struggling with getting pregnant, a recent loss, or maybe a new pregnancy after previous losses. They’re making progress, but are suddenly completely derailed by a simple (yet unnecessary) question or comment from a stranger. I’d believe more often than not, the stranger has no ill intention by commenting or asking a question, but I would like to challenge everyone to consider what others may be going through that you don’t know about before speaking up. Just think: how often you have asked, or have heard someone ask, “When are you due?” or  “Are you guys trying to get pregnant?” or comment on someone’s cute baby bump?
The Importance of Consideration
Recently, I had a client (we’ll call her “Sarah”) who had just delivered her baby at 37 weeks, but the baby passed away shortly after birth.  Although Sarah was prepared prenatally for the loss of her daughter, the grief and overwhelming sadness was a lot for her and her husband to handle.  Two weeks after losing her baby girl, she decided she needed to face the world again and went to the grocery store. In a mere 30 minute trip, Sarah was approached by two strangers who made seemingly benign, yet very hurtful comments, given the situation.  The first asked when she was due – she was two weeks postpartum, so she naturally still had a “bump,” but she sadly did not have the baby.   After tearfully walking away from that stranger, she tried to summon the courage to get through her shopping list.  Then, as she was paying for her groceries, the cashier said, “Oh, I love your little bump – enjoy the […]

Pregnancy Termination Support for Genetic Testing and Complex Medical Diagnoses

I could barely understand what she was saying on the phone. Finally, her husband took the phone from her and spoke on her behalf.  “Jane Doe” had been given the all clear at her 19 week checkup and thought that everything was going fine with her pregnancy. However, a mix up at the lab confirmed that their baby had a severe heart defect along with chromosomal abnormalities.

Jane’s experience with her OB was less than stellar. Both she and her husband were recent transplants to the United States, and noted that where they come from, there is no such thing as changing doctors depending on new issues and needs—one doctor manages everything and all decisions go through that doctor. She felt, after the complex medical diagnosis, that her OB was rushing her out of the practice once it was realized that the baby would not make it to delivery and that the pregnancy would be terminated. She felt alone, isolated. Her OB gave her a phone number to call regarding what she should do next, then stepped out of the equation. He also gave Jane my phone number.
After the Testing and Diagnosis
In the state of Illinois, a pregnancy can legally be terminated under 24 weeks. Twenty-four weeks is the magic number; after that a patient looking to terminate would need to leave the state and travel elsewhere. Jane understood that time was not on her side.

Fortunately, I was able to help Jane navigate through the maze of doctors and providers who do this type of work and don’t make the patient feel even worse about their decision. Initially, Jane was not told that she had the option to have surgery where she would be put […]