• Alex Mae

Lily

Updated: Jun 3


When I come up against a struggle I research. I read everything I can on the topic, ask as many questions as possible of people willing to talk about the topic, attend classes, seek out experts, if necessary speak to my therapist, and listen. I gather as much information as possible. Once I understand why something is happening, I can better deal with it. For instance, panic attacks. Once I finally understood what a panic attack was, why it happened, and that I was not a bad person for having them, the coping techniques I learned were easier to implement. Prior to finding that understanding I would mentally block the calming techniques. I did that subconsciously, but I did it. I always know the moment I get a concept. I may not have a light go off over my head or shout, "Eureka!" I do, however, have a visceral reaction to acceptance. I know when I've finally grasped what I've been working towards, and acting on that specific situation gets easier by leaps and bounds. That happened again this morning.

Mom is my first job title. It's the job I chose before I decided to get pregnant over sixteen years ago. It's not my only job title. I am also an exceptional artist. Mom is the job title I hold with the most honor and that I build my life around. Mom is not a job title all women want to have. I honor that choice for them. Motherhood is not a requirement of womanhood. I chose it. I still choose it. I may not be overly fond of other people's children but I live for mine. Not in the, it defines my identity way, but in the I have chosen this career path and not only excel at it, I strive to learn and grow and elevate my position as Mom.

Last September I had my first miscarriage. I have three beautiful teen/pre-teen boys. I assumed, at the time, that I would have trouble conceiving since infertility issues run through my family. I did not. The moment their father and I decided to bring them into our family I got pregnant. Almost as if the mere thought of having them caused me to conceive. As I empathized with friends and family who struggled to achieve and/or maintain pregnancy I could not personally relate. Becoming pregnant was apparently as easy as breathing for my body.

Last August I met my current partner. He was like nobody I had ever met before in my life. I'm a feisty, loud, gregarious woman and the night we met he embraced that and ran with it. We were at my friend's house and he had been invited by a friend of a friend. We still laugh that we had scared one of the party goers who thought we were fighting. We were explosive. Physically, emotionally, mentally. It's like I was firing all cylinders for the first time in my life. When we decided to meet up again, a week after the party, we couldn't keep our hands off each other. It was raw and primal and we threw all safety and caution to the wind. After that first night and day together we wised up and started using protection. I even took a morning after, or Plan B, pill. When my period came a few weeks later we were releived and laughing about how stupid we had been.

A while later I went to the doctor to get my IUD replaced, which had been taken out earlier in the year due to minor complications, and they made me pee in a cup to verify I wasn't pregnant. I did not leave with an IUD that day, I left with the knowledge that I was pregnant. Even after taking the Plan B pill and having what appeared to be a normal period. I was floored. Numb. The last thing I expected to be told that day was that I was pregnant.

After the initial shock wore off and my partner and I talked through the situation, we were both elated. We weren't sure what the future held for our relationship and we didn't care. We knew we wanted the baby and that we would work together, in whatever capacity arose, to raise her.

I knew it was a girl. My dreams were so vivid. The most vivid of my life. Even before the doctor told me I was pregnant I saw her. She was beautiful. I love my boys. Beyond anything I ever thought possible, I love them. I always saw myself with a baby girl. I've dreamt about her since before I can even remember. When the ultrasounds came back for each boy I was surprised. Accepting and excited, yet surprised. This time she was in my dreams every night and it's almost as if she was present with me every day. I was beside myself with joy. I have recognized for a long time that my relationship that produced my three amazing boys would not have been a safe home for a daughter. I am grateful that we produced males. I also recognize that I would not have been a fit mother for a daughter before now. I had a lot of self discovery and healing that needed to be accomplished before I could raise a daughter in such an unhealthy world. I finally feel up to that task. I know that I could help my daughter navigate the complexities of womanhood without piling on to societies unhealthy rhetoric. I am ready. I welcomed the adventure and the next phase on my chosen career path. The close friends that I told were excited for me. Unconventional? Absolutely. I didn't care. I welcomed the experience with open arms. I was finally going to have my daughter.

Shortly after I began to feel weird. I was depressed and didn't understand why. I was having dreams of my little girl being torn away from me. I saw fire and darkness pulling at her. I watched, in my wildly vivid dreams, as she burst into flame and the embers and ash floated away. I didn't understand why I would have such awful dreams until I started bleeding. The pregnancy was still in it's early stages and passed quickly. Within weeks I went from not planning on having a baby, to the absolute joy of having a baby, to losing my baby. I have never in my life dealt with pain and anguish so deep and acute, let alone completely unexpected.

I cried and let myself grieve a little, even sketched and painted these pieces, but then I put on a happy face and told myself that, "It was really for the best." I mean, partner and I barely knew each other. We didn't have a plan. We didn't know if we had a future together. The list goes on. So many reasons why the miscarriage was a relief and a good thing. Rather than accepting that I wanted the child, and that I had never wanted to be with anyone more than my partner, I logicked my feelings away. All the lessons I had been learning about allowing myself to truly feel and be authentic went out the window as I shoved my grief down. When it would pop up I would lash out at my partner. I broke up with him twice in the early days of our relationship. Having him around, I realized later, was a reminder of what I wanted and what I was refusing to allow myself to want.

After we got back together we decided that we wanted this child and that while we wouldn't proactively try that we would discontinue all forms of birth control and see what happened. What happened was multiple "chemical pregnancies." In non technical terms it means that an egg was fertilized, came in contact with my uterine wall but didn't implant. That meant several positive pregnancy tests yet no viable pregnancy. The pregnancies were lost within a few days of the positive test. Rather than allowing myself to fully mourn these losses the dialogue within myself was something along the lines of, "These happen all the time. It's not even a 'real' pregnancy. No reason to be upset. It wasn't even a thing." Big mistake. I was piling on the grief without allowing myself to healthily process it.

After several of these chemical pregnancies and too many trips to the lab for blood work to count, I got pregnant again and while my progesterone wasn't looking good, my hCG levels were rising like normal. My doctor kept using the term, "Cautiously optimistic." I was sent in for an ultrasound but the baby was too small to show so we waited a week or so and went back in. There she was. I had been having similar dreams. They were different but she was still there. She was still beautiful. On the scan she was barely visible but her little heart was beating. Everything was still in the, "Cautiously optimistic," phase but a heartbeat was a good sign. My doctor set up another appointment and told me if everything looked good then, that we could remove the caution from the optimism.

I had scheduled family portraits for my boys and me. I wasn't feeling so great but we got dressed up and had an amazing time shooting with Cat Palmer.* At the end of the shoot I asked her to take the shot attached here for me. I hadn't told the boys yet but thought it would be a cute photo opportunity. I ended up showing them the picture after it came back from Cat and they were adorably excited about a baby. This time it was real and our family was ready to embrace her. We even built a room for her in our new house. Who needs a formal living room anyway?

My dreams started to change. I could see hands holding her tiny sack body in my uterus. Holding her against my uterine wall. I could even see a hand plugging my cervix with it's finger. I laughed about it as I told people. What a funny thing. Then the depression hit again and my dreams turned dark. I could see a vacuum of darkness was pulling her from my womb. I did not enjoy those dreams but the labs and scans were promising so I kept up the cautious optimism. When I got to my doctors office she could not find my baby's heartbeat. She sent me to radiology to see if their machines could pick up something she couldn't. There was very little hope at that point but I refused to believe it until I saw it for sure. She has passed away a few days prior to the scan. Coinciding with my dreams.

My partner and I told my boys about the miscarriage, explaining that these things happen all the time and are considered normal. We told them that it was normal to be sad and confused and if they had questions or needed support that we would be there for them. They were sad. They seemed to get over it quickly and hoped that I would get pregnant again soon.

I opted for a D&C. I did so because I wanted the grief to end. Besides the change in dreams I was blindsided. My body was continuing to grow. My nausea remained. Not even a single spot of blood had escaped my body since the initial bleeding. I hadn't started cramping. There was no physical sign that I had lost the baby. Honestly, I didn't know what to do so I chose to get it over and done with so I could move on. I wish I hadn't. What I ended up doing was once again shoving that grief on top of the festering pile that was already eating at my soul. I allowed myself a few days to grieve and then firmly attached my mask and soldiered on.

Over the last few months I have watched myself slowly die emotionally. I also found out I have a chronic illness so physically I have not been doing well either. Life took an unexpected and devastating turn about two weeks ago that has left me with a lot of time to reflect and mourn. I thought I was doing a good job. I was patting myself on the back for once again taking the time to process and heal. All the while, I've been pretty sure I was pregnant. Menstruation came but it was incredibly light and I've had menstruation with each of my pregnancies in the last year. My abdomen is growing and firming. My breasts are growing, getting firmer, and hurt like there is an electrical storm brewing in every nerve. I've taken test upon test and they're all negative. It's been over a week since menstruation so at this point something should be showing up. This morning it hit me. I haven't allowed myself to mourn, and all roads lead to psychosomatic pregnancy which, when I sit back and truly listen, is the only thing that makes sense and since I'm so stubborn, the only way I could get kicked hard enough to stop and listen.

After the initial shock of the realization wore off and I was able to convince myself that I'm not crazy, I need to mourn, I opened the flood gates. I sobbed like I've rarely sobbed before. I reached out to a therapist that specializes in Infertility Counseling. I have an appointment set up with a specialist to see what might be causing the miscarriages. I've started gathering information. I'm also letting the pain do it's job and I'm creating a safe space to be authentic. I'm recognizing that it doesn't matter what others would say about how wild and non traditional our relationship has been from day one, I want to be with my partner and I want to have a child with him. I am an intelligent, resourceful, independent, self reliant woman and if this is the partner I've chosen and the path I've chosen to take, it doesn't matter what anybody says "should" happen. I let those shoulds eat away at me, my ability to allow myself to grieve, and how much I love my partner. He is an incredibly loving and caring man with a tough and spiky exterior to keep all the jerks away. I'm lucky enough to be one of the few who know about his soft center.

I don't know what tomorrow holds or even what tonight will bring. If there is anything I've learned over the last thirty-nine years it's that when I limit myself for others, or what I think I "should" do, I'm miserable and I can't give all of myself to those I love. This lesson has been front and center for the last few years and I just can't seem to learn it. I have a lot of grieving and healing to do. I'm glad I'm finally ready to dive in and immerse myself in it. There's a lot to be learned here. Even with all of the pain and suffering that I've worked through in my life, I'm shocked at how powerful this particular grief is. I'm sure that's part of the reason why I've been avoiding it. It's raw and feels like it extends through every cell in my body.

My babies may have only been with me for days, weeks and months. Others may not have such an emotional connection so early on. That's okay. We're all different. For me, I was all in from day one. I can't be any other way. I tried. It didn't work. I will no longer beat myself up because I felt something for a ball of cells. I loved every single cell. Every one. My heart broke with each miscarriage no matter how early. I still want to carry a child to term and then have the joy and privilege of raising them. I don't know if that's a possibility anymore and I'll do everything I can to research and consult with specialists to figure it out. I love my job. I love that I can love so quickly and fully. Now, I need to breathe, start my research, write, paint, cry, whatever I need. No more hiding. No more covering the parts of me that aren't "acceptable." Time to start healing.

*Cat Palmer Photography