Friday, September 27, 2013

Q & A Session #2: Loss of Our Lydia: Relationship Questions

In this post I'm going to answer the 3 main questions I was asked about my relationship with my husband during the past few years dealing with loss. I have to add a disclaimer, though: There are always 2 sides to every story and I can only speak for myself. 

I'm not going to pretend I know what was going on in my husband's head at that time. I'm only speaking from my experiences and my perception. This post is not about placing blame. It's simply to illustrate what can happen when a traumatic experience, like loss, can cause a rift in a loving and otherwise healthy relationship. But also, to show there is hope for broken relationships!  As I said in my first post in this series, Heavenly Father has healed me. He has placed in me a new heart. He is the source of all peace and joy. He was able to take the yucky parts and turn them into something beautiful.  That is what healed my marriage.

Here's my side:

How did you get to the point where you (almost) left?
The postpartum depression I mentioned in my first post wasn't necessarily what caused my walking out, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. And it was absolutely the catalyst for change in our lives and our relationship, and for that I will always be grateful.

Over the course of our 6 year marriage we were constantly in survival mode. We had a lot of really stressful situations. Most of which we chose, but some we didn't. And something I forgot along the way was that even though we chose the situation, we never get to choose the outcome. And forgetting that, made me feel out of control. The more I tried to have control, the less I felt. And the more I drove a wedge between my husband and myself. And the bigger the wedge got, the harder I tried to control everything. It was a viscous cycle and I was my own worst enemy. I wanted things to be they way I wanted them. I wanted my pregnancies just to "work out" like everyone else's did. I wanted my husband to be the way I wanted him to be. I wanted to be perfected without putting in any of the hard emotional work. I thought I was owed it. I'd had a hard life and made the most of it,  and surely I deserved good things for being a good person, right? I was so wrong. 

Being good doesn't automatically equal good things in life. This was a super hard lesson for me to learn. But one that is absolutely worth sharing in the future. (I'm planning to write a follow-up post on this one!) Once I realized that lesson, I was able to see the good things in life I did have, and not just the "good things" I thought I wanted. Heavenly Father's plan is always so much bigger and better than ours. Hallelujah!

Has your love for Jorge changed?
I remember thinking on our wedding day that I couldn't possible love him any more than I did in that moment. But I can say now, I love him a million times more deeply today than I did then. Our experiences shape who we become, and I'm grateful through these experiences, though long and hard, have shaped our marriage into something I am proud of.

How has your relationship changed in the months since?
It's gotten so much better! Seeing myself in a new light was crucial to our healing. But even more important was being able to see my husband in a new light. I wasn't alone in the suffering.  Jorge was hurting from all this loss too. He was suffering from the lack of partnership in our marriage too. We were falling apart. It was a revolutionary concept. I had been so selfish. Always focused on the things I wanted and all the things I didn't. Marriage is a covenant between 3 people - you, your spouse and God. And somehow I tried to completely circumvent my spouse in this covenant. And by doing that, I wasn't even really doing my job being committed to God either. I was just hanging out by myself thinking I was all good in my marriage. Wow.

My Bishop gave me a talk from the April 2013 session of the LDS General Conference that illustrated this message of unselfishness in marriage. The talk was by Elder Whitney L. Clayton. He said,

"I have learned that happy marriages rely on the gift of repentance. It is an essential element in every good marital relationship. Spouses who regularly conduct honest self-examination and promptly take needed steps to repent and improve experience a healing balm in their marriages. Repentance helps restore and maintain harmony and peace. Humility is the essence of repentance. Humility is selfless, not selfish. It doesn’t demand its own way or speak with moral superiority. Instead, humility answers softly and listens kindly for understanding, not vindication. Humility recognizes that no one can change someone else, but with faith, effort, and the help of God, we can undergo our own mighty change of heart. Experiencing the mighty change of heart causes us to treat others, especially our spouses, with meekness. Humility means that both husbands and wives seek to bless, help, and lift each other, putting the other first in every decision. Watch and learn: repentance and humility build happy marriages."

While we are not perfect, we have adopted this pattern of self-examination and repentance he speaks of.  I can say it definitely is a humbling experience to admit when you are wrong and to ask your spouse for forgiveness.  However, doing so has an effect that is so much more rewarding than any instant gratification derived from self-righteousness. I love my husband. I have been so selfish and hard on him in our now (almost) 7 years of marriage. But I am grateful that God has put in me a new heart and allowed His balm to heal our marriage.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Q & A Session #1: Loss of Our Lydia

First of all, thank you for the wonderful outpouring of support about my last post! I wrote it not to tell the world, "Look at me! Look how great I am for surviving this terrible tragedy!" But to say that God is good and can make beautiful things out of our "yucky parts".

Another motivation was to let other people know you are not alone. I think its easy to think when life gets hard to think we have nowhere to turn. But that's not true. I felt VERY alone through much of the past 3 years. However, I realized recently if I had shared my burden from the beginning of this journey, although still so hard, the process may have been just a little bit lighter to bear.

So, in the spirit of sharing my burden, I thought I'd do a few Q&A sessions. I was asked a lot of questions regarding Lydia's birth/death, my relationship with my spouse and how my living children have been coping, just to name a few. Over the next few posts I hope to answer these questions the best I can.

In this post I'll write about the specific questions I received about Lydia, her pregnancy and birth/death.

How far along were you when you found out she died?
I was heading into my 18th week of pregnancy. Lydia died sometime the week prior.

Was her death a complete shock?
Well, yes and no. Yes because I don't think you ever really expect a loss to occur  - especially so far into a pregnancy. But no, because I did have a bit of "mother's intuition". I noticed that my abdominal growth had plateaued the few weeks prior. In fact, I remember telling my husband, I felt like I wasn't growing at all. (And you can see from the photos, I wasn't. I look smaller in the 18 week photo than I do in the 15 week photo.) I also had only felt her kick a few times at that point, but I assured myself it was because I wasn't that far along. and there would be many more months of kicking joy to follow. I also had started losing weight. I attributed this to the fact that I had gestational diabetes. I was on a very strict diet and thats why I wasn't gaining weight. I tried to compensate by upping my caloric intake. It didn't help. I weighed about 10 pounds less after delivery than when I found out I was pregnant.

Was her loss a miscarriage or stillbirth? 
Technically, and medically speaking, her loss was a second trimester miscarriage. Had she been "born" at 20 weeks, she would have been considered a stillborn.

Why do you refer to her as a stillborn?
This is absolutely out of personal preference. While we were 2 weeks shy of her loss being considered a stillbirth, because of how far along I was, I had to be induced. Yes, you read that correctly.

I checked into the hospital Labor & Delivery and was induced. I labored for almost 9 hours. I delivered her. My husband and I got to hold her. They gave us photos of her along with her fingerprints and footprints. They encouraged us to name her and mourn her loss. For this reason I consider her a stillborn baby.

How was she so tiny?
Firstly, I was only halfway through my pregnancy, so she wasn't the size of  full-term baby. Secondly, we didn't know at the time, but because of the reason for her death, she had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).  Basically her weight was really low for her gestational age. A baby at around 17 weeks gestation (when she died) would have been approximately 5 1/2 inches long and 6 ounces. She was 5 1/2 inches long and only 1.9 ounces.

What happened to her? Why did she die? How do you know?
There was an autopsy performed. This is pretty standard in a loss that is after the first trimester -especially if the baby is chromosomally normal. Lydia died as a result of an umbilical cord accident. More specifically, she had a hyper-coiled umbilical cord. This is a little bit confusing, so bear with me, and I'll try to explain it in the most non-medical way I can.

Every normal umbilical cord has 2 arteries and 1 vein. As the umbilical cord begins to grow, the arteries inside create a minor twisting of the cord. Doctors really aren't sure why it is necessary, but it is vital for the outcome of the baby for this minor coiling to occur. If the coiling is too little, it can be fatal. If the coiling is too much, it can be fatal. Our baby's cord had too much coiling.

So, how much is too much, you ask? There is a direct correlation between the length of the cord and the number of coils. It should be 1 coil per 5 cm of length. Our baby's umbilical cord length was 20 cm, which should have made it 4 coils. Lydia's cord had 18 coils. Because there were so many coils the umbilical cord was not bringing her the nutrition and oxygen she needed to survive. They also discovered that her placenta was 1/10 the size it should have been. This is thought to be in direct relationship with the compromised umbilical cord findings.

Was her loss preventable?
This question is assuming a lot. Technically speaking, if she had survived to 24 weeks and the compromised umbilical cord had been discovered, I could have delivered her early and they would have tried their best to save her (Babies born at 24 weeks of gestation have less than a 40% chance of survival). However, umbilical cord anomalies of this nature are really difficult to diagnose prenatally on ultrasound. They are usually only found if the doctor knows exactly what to look for. Considering most women only have one ultrasound during their entire pregnancy which is done around 20 weeks (the one where they determine the gender), no. Not really. Her loss was not preventable.

Is this loss related to the others?
I wish! And I mean that in a sincere way. If there was any direct relation, I think it would have made the process a little bit easier to bear. I mean, if we knew I would only keep having losses because of a specific genetic component, we could be assured that we should stop trying. But none of our losses have been related. In fact 3 of the 5 were completely random, isolated events not likely to ever recur. They were also like 1 in 10,000 chance they would have occurred in the first place. The other 2 losses were not investigated, so we have no known reason for them. Seriously, our luck sucks. That is a direct quote from the Geneticist we met with after her loss.

Wow. I covered a lot of detail in this post, so thank you if you are still reading! Hopefully I was able to answer the bulk of the questions you guys asked. Next post I'll be answering the questions asked about my relationship with my husband. So stay tuned!

Friday, September 13, 2013

6 Month Anniversary - Loss of our Lydia

It's been 6 months. 6 months since I last posted on this blog and 6 months since we lost our baby girl. Lydia Elise Hernandez was born still on March 13, 2013. She was 5 1/2 inches long and weighed 1.9 oz.

And she was beautiful. So, so tiny, but beautiful. She had long fingers like me. A cute little chin like Charlotte and full lips like Amelia and Jorge. She was a perfect mixture of our whole family. And oh, how we miss her.

There isn't a day that passes without the girls asking about her. In those raw first few weeks, it hurt to talk about it. They would say her name and it felt like my insides were being ripped apart. I took the girls to the park about a week after her delivery. (We live across the street from a retirement community and there is a park that separates us from the community.) We saw an acquaintance there with her sweet dog and the first thing the girls said to her was that the baby in Mommy's tummy died. I lost it. That poor unsuspecting elderly woman! But something amazing happened. As I collapsed into an emotional heap on the park bench, she wrapped her arms around me and held me while I wept. In that moment, I decided I was going to start sharing my heart and my burden.

I've been pretty good about hiding my heart. My family of origin has enough skeletons to fill many, many closets, so I was taught well!  I'm not going to live like that anymore. Life is full of ups and downs, mistakes, forgiveness, tragedy, loss, hope, happiness and joy. And there is no shame in it. No shame especially for the yucky parts.

I'm no stranger to loss. You can check out this post about my many miscarriages here. But this loss affected my family so differently than the others. Things got worse before they got better. Much, much, worse. My marriage fell apart. Postpartum depression mixed with grief is a terrible emotional cocktail. We were fighting all the time. Damaging old habits began to resurface and the anger in our house was at a fever pitch. Something snapped inside me - I didn't want to feel that way anymore. In that delirium, the only common denominator I could see was me. So I left. And my sweet husband caught me 2 blocks from home and talked me down from a ledge (not literally a ledge, just the "ledge" of leaving our family). It's not that I wanted to leave, I just felt like I was suffocating. I wanted things to be different and I was desperate for change. But I didn't know where to begin. My Bishop (clergy in my faith) suggested therapy. He made me promise not to leave again without letting him know 24 hours in advance. I have to admit, I called him every day that first week. But slowly things got better.

My therapist is awesome! Ironically she was pregnant (recently had her sweet baby!), and when I walked in that first day, I felt like God was playing a cruel joke on me. I know now she is the perfect therapist for me. She's helped me remove the untruths I've learned over the years about my worth and my idea about who God is and my relationship with Him. It's helped my marriage a lot too. Men & women experience and process loss and grief all so differently. And being able to see not only myself in a different light, but also my spouse has been priceless. My marriage is stronger than it has been in years. Sure, we still argue, but I also know I love Jorge. I love our family and I'm in it forever.

We have literally been to the depths of hell and back in these past 6 months, but we've come out on top. Days are still hard. I still desperately miss my Lydia. I'm still jealous when I see other women with a beautiful round pregnant belly. I still fight with my husband over whose turn it was to wash the pots and pans. I still yell at my girls for not picking up their shoes. But now I realize all those things are normal. Feeling shame about an event you had no control over is not.

Although I give credit here to my amazing therapist, I should actually give credit to the real source of my emotional recovery. Heavenly Father has healed me. He has placed in me a new heart. He is the source of all peace and joy. He was able to take the yucky parts and turn them into something beautiful. He has given me the comfort I longed for when no one and nothing else could. And I am truly indebted to Him for His patience with me. It's taken many years and many tragedies for me to finally & truly see He is the source of all joy in this world. My faith is in Him. Not in myself, not in my husband. Not in what I think I need. My faith is firmly planted in God. So for those days that I feel myself slipping, I allow God to gently remind me, it gets better. We can choose joy and be happy.

Happy 6 months, Lydia. Thank you for teaching me such an invaluable lesson. We love you forever.