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Greetings to Our Partners in Care!

Welcome to this month's edition of GriefPerspectives!


 
Next week brings us into special evenings of remembrance and times to gather. December 6th is the annual Angel of Hope gathering for bereaved parents and our very own Patricia Kolstad will be speaking at the even this year in memory of her daughter Kori who died tragically last year. 

Tuesday, December 7th is our own annual Candlelight Service of Remembrance at Mariner's Church. Click here for more information - we sincerely hope you'll consider coming to this peaceful and profound evening. 

If I can be of any help to you, please reach out and know I am here to help with resources and answer any questions. 

- Wishing you all a beautiful and special holiday season -
Your partner & resource,

Becky Lomaka, MA, CT
Director of Grief Support & Education
blomaka@oconnormortuary.com
(949) 581-4300 ext. 229
GriefPerspectives
 

Reflections on a Pregnancy Lost
by Carolyn E. Streett

Editor’s Note. This month’s lead article, written by Carolyn E. Streett is a reflection on her own experience earlier this year of an experience far more common than many recognized—the loss of a hoped-for pregnancy. Much of this article is taken verbatim from Carolyn’s journal as she reflected on the miscarriage in the early days after the loss. As daughter to Dr. Bill Hoy (whom Carolyn often introduced to her high school friends more than a decade ago as “My dad, Dr. Death,”) Carolyn’s heart-felt prose is beloved by our newsletter readers. Though primarily a stay-at-home mom, Carolyn runs a commercial writing and editing practice and can be reached at www.CarolynStreett.com and via email at carolynstreett15@gmail.com.

...


The first sign of a problem came on Tuesday, almost two weeks ago. I had some spotting, and I called the on-call doctor crying. I remember barely getting the words out; I was so afraid. She and the nurse assured me it was normal, though. I’d run, walked, and carried Sydney more than usual that day.

Despite their reassurances, I fought internally with myself—my mother’s intuition versus my knowledge that it made the most sense to trust the professionals. I fought internally with myself about the best way to trust God—by listening to my intuition or by listening to the doctors he had placed in my life, by deciding if my “bad feeling” was from God or from baseless anxiety.

 

  


When the spotting stopped for a few days, I felt hopeful again. We traveled to Myrtle Beach, with Sydney’s “big sister” shirt and the hopes of finding a “Fourth Streett” photo op to take our pregnancy announcement picture—there’s a 4th St in a town in North Carolina, only a 50-minute drive up the coast.

In North Myrtle Beach, between the Hilton and the Meher Spiritual Center, there’s a stretch of sand that holds a special place in our hearts. It’s where Matthew played most summers throughout his childhood, where we got engaged in the summer of 2014, where Sydney learned to love the ocean.

But this year, in our condo on that same stretch of beach, the spotting began again. From that first night of vacation on, the bleeding never really stopped. It did fluctuate. Every trip to the bathroom led me on a roller coaster of hope and dashed hope. My emotions and my hopes rode on how much blood I saw each time.

The nurses and doctors again told me over the phone that spotting was normal. They asked if I had cramps. At first the truth was no, but eventually it turned to “Maybe” and to “Only like a period. Nothing too severe.” People say I’m a hypochondriac, and I usually tend to over-exaggerate my pain. But this time, I didn’t want to tell the doctors about the cramping. Maybe if I didn’t admit it was happening, then maybe it wasn’t.

I googled, trying to find every explanation except the one my heart was telling me it was. I was searching for zebras to explain the hoofbeats in Central Park.

Finally, I admitted that the pain was worsening, and the bleeding too, but I didn’t want to get in that car, to put that hospital address into the GPS, to walk into that ER. I didn’t want to tell the nurses what was happening or give them back the urine collection cup that I’d filled (despite my desperate attempt not to) with more blood than urine. I didn’t want to use the bathroom because every time I did, it felt like a part of me fell out. I didn’t want to go into that ultrasound room, and I didn’t want to get an answer. But I also couldn’t go on wondering.

The ultrasound tech was pregnant, too; I noticed right away. But neither of us mentioned it as she searched for the baby in my stomach, the one who was much less clearly there, the one whose existence the world was still mostly unaware of but who our family already loved so deeply.

I knew there was a problem when the tech couldn’t find anything on the abdominal ultrasound at 10.5 weeks, because we saw Sydney that way easily at 8 weeks. I knew the rule, that she couldn’t tell me anything—but I hoped she’d break it and reassure me everything was fine, that she had found a heartbeat. Instead, she looked like she was about to cry as she walked us back to my “room,” which was really just a bed in a room of beds separated by cartoon fish curtains, in the pediatric unit (where they were apparently keeping the non-COVID, non-contagious cases), where everybody heard everybody’s business. What she did say was that she wished she could tell me the news right there, but she couldn’t. What she did say was that she’d close the curtain around the bed to “give us privacy”—an action no one had cared to take before they’d seen the ultrasound.

It felt like an eternity before the doctor came; it was really just an hour. He came in and said he wished he had better news. Even in those last few seconds, I hoped I was hemorrhaging. I hoped that I would “just” be put on bed rest for nine months. I hoped I’d be stuck in this hospital thousands of miles from home until February. I hoped for anything except the news that my baby was gone.

The diagnosis on the final paperwork is “inevitable abortion.” Even as we drove back to our vacation condo, I kept praying for a miracle. I googled whether there was any way the baby’s measurements could be four weeks off due to a mistake; after all, they were only dealing with fractions of inches. Maybe they’d just missed the heartbeat and also just mis-measured. The chance of loss after the heartbeat we’d already seen was less than 5%, I thought. How could I be so unlucky to be in that 5%? The chance of a “missed miscarriage”—where my body didn’t recognize the loss for many weeks—was small, too. Together, weren’t these odds nearly impossible? Was this expelling of my baby from my womb really “inevitable”? And if it was, how could he (we’d only just found out it was a boy) have been gone so long and I never even knew? How could I have lived my happy life, planning for his future, while he was dead inside me? And if his mother hadn’t known, then who had grieved his loss for all these many weeks?

The doctors gave me stronger meds, a warning of the pain to come, instructions to follow-up at home with my own doctor. I lived for maybe half a day with a slim shred of hope, but at 4 a.m. I woke up with undeniable pain. The warned-of heavy bleeding hadn’t started, but I knew. Laying there in the bed in our vacation condo with Matthew and Sydney, I knew these were the last hours of our family of four being all together, that this was the last time we would rest together in this lifetime.

The medicine helped me fall back asleep for a few more hours, but when I woke up the childbirth-like bleeding came. I think I even saw him. I held him in the toilet paper, in the same travel park bathroom where I’d done my hair and makeup before Matthew proposed to me, seven years ago this month. I saw his tiny body, only recognizable by the human color of his flesh in a sea of dark red.

And then I let him go, in this place that has meant so much to Matthew and to me over the years, but where this year we were forced to say a goodbye we didn’t want to say, to someone we never got to meet. And after that, the bleeding slowed again.

Giving him a name ensures he can never be erased, even as life goes on in a world that never knew or even knew of him, so we named him Samuel Levi. Within the pages of the Old Testament is the story of Samuel, the son that Hannah prayed for and then gave right back to God to serve as a priest. Even though thousands of years have passed between our lifetimes, I kind of feel like Hannah, giving our own Samuel straight back to God. Levi means “attached” or “joined.” Though our hearts are broken that we won’t know him in this lifetime, our Levi is forever attached to our family as our beloved second child.

Friends and family who know have shown so much love and care for us, and for the little life that was only with us for a while. They send us food and flowers, and they ask how I’m feeling.

Well, I feel a little empty. For the past seven-ish weeks since that second line on the First Response told us he was coming, Samuel was always with me. Today he’s not. Today it’s just me and an empty womb. Today it’s just me and decreasing HCG, a sign that my body knows it’s over. Today it’s just me and a newfound ability to make it through the entire day without a nap. Today it’s just me and as much caffeine as I want. Today it’s just me and a desire for the foods I always loved except the last seven weeks, but an inability to eat them because of the pit in my stomach.

I feel a little betrayed by my own body. People say it’s most likely he had some kind of problem, and that my body somehow knew. But I would’ve loved him no matter what, and there’s an anger burning within me, directed at my body for giving up on him when my heart never would have.

I feel a little hopeful, because I know our son is in the arms of Jesus, and he’ll never have to know a pain like this. I feel a little hopeful, because I’m starting to remember that there was life before him.

And I feel a little different, because there was life with him, too. I feel a little different, because there’s a new handprint on my heart.

 ....

Forever in our Hearts

Samuel Levi Streett
July 30, 2021

....


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Our Events Calendar
We hope you'll join us for our annual
 CANDLELIGHT SERVICE OF REMEMBRANCE
 
RSVP to Becky Here
 Reiki + Meditation Circle

Relax, rejuvenate, and heal with meditation, Reiki, and other mindfulness practices.

Join Reiki Master and event host, Kathy Brook-Wong for our upcoming Zoom circles:

Reiki + Honoring Grief (During the Holiday Season) Circle
with Alejendrah Kamille East 
December 12, 3:00pm - 4:15pm 
Register Here

Advanced Registration is Required // After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining us on Zoom.
Resource Review
RTZ HOPE is a resource for mothers and fathers in immediate crisis. Their website is full of excellent resources for the many journeys of perinatal loss. The Bereaved Parents page offers in-hospital advice for parents preparing to birth a baby that has already died or a baby not expected to live. Moments like these can feel so surreal and completely terrifying - having a place to go to with encouragement and thoughtful steps can be sanity-giving and grounding. 

Beyond their crisis-focused content, there is a wealth of information in their Pregnancy and Infant Loss Directory that hosts everything from individual loss support to local support groups and national and international perinatal loss organizations. 

RTZ HOPE's website is an excellent resource for those in immediate need, families looking for support in the wake of the death, and for those looking to use their story and heart for perinatal loss to help others. 
Your Professional Library

Rothert, Donna. (2019). At a loss: finding your way after miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Open Air Books.
 
Reviewed by Molly A. Keating, MA, CT
Editor, GriefPerspectives

Donna Rothert, PhD is a psychologist with over twenty years of experience in private practice.  After suffering two pregnancy losses in the course of a year, Rothert began to focus on perinatal loss and now specializes in helping families through reproductive and pregnancy loss. 
Her book, At a Loss, is comprised of thirty essays on various aspects, concerns and moments that are unique to the perinatal loss experience. 
Her expertise as a therapist comes through in an authorial voice that provides the supportive strength of a trusted guide. She writes in her introduction about the difficulty of processing or sharing the experience of perinatal loss - “Such a loss is private and physical, and at the same time public and relational.”

An important emphasis of her work is that while the stories or losses may sound simiilar, we as individuals bring a multitude of factors to our situation that create unique grief experiences. Rothert is also concerned with the particular struggle that the LGBTQI+ community experiences in pregnancy and reproductive loss. 
Rothert's book is a trusted, honest and compassionate companion read for anyone in the tremendous grief of perinatal loss.

Research that Matters
Grauerholz, K.R., Berry, S.N., Capuano, R.M., & Early, J.M. (2021). Uncovering prolonged grief reactions subsequent to a reproductive loss: Implications for the primary care provider. Frontiers in Psychology, EPub ahead of print, 12 May 2021. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.673050
 
Beginning with an overview of the research literature from the last couple of decades, the authors set the stage for their research and practice in the arena of pregnancy loss by detailing the pronounced elevated levels of depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD following in the wake of these losses. Even though an estimated one-quarter of all pregnancies end in loss, they assert there is little in the way of mental health training for OB/Gyn primary care providers related to these losses. Therefore, the intense long-term bereavement effects often go undetected and/or inadequately addressed in clinical practice.
 
To mine the effects of this grief on the lives of bereaved mothers, the researchers innovatively undertook an analysis of 166 blog posts through summative content analysis, a research methodology whereby researchers look for keywords or phrases based on their literature review and then inductively interpret content from the narratives. While results from these kinds of studies are not generalizable (i.e. x% of bereaved mothers experience y), they help us see the breadth of experiences. For clinicians and support volunteers, these discoveries provide important ideas for question-asking in our supportive interventions. The anonymous narratives were collected from two website: miscarriagehurts.com and abortionchangesyou.com in late 2019 and early 2020.
 
The researchers who are trained in nursing and mental health watched for words and phrases indicating what they noted as maladaptive responses when considered in contrast to the time since the loss. “Maladaptive mental health issues depicted by the women’s disclosures included intimate partner relationship strain, divorce, or break-up, distress in parental or subsequent child relationships, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety with and without panic disorder, ubstance
misuse, anorexia, and occupational dysfunction” (p. 5). Approximately 40% of the narrative authors indicated a time period of greater than one year post-loss; 12% indicated the losses had occurred 11 or more years previously.
 
One difficulty in interpreting this study is the researchers’ mixing of reactions between mothers whose pregnancy ended in miscarriage and those whose pregnancy ended in an abortion, at least some of which might have been coerced. One 63-year old blogger reported the abortion of an unintended pregnancy when she was 15, noting “…All these years I have never spoken to anyone about this…And over the years I put it in the back of my mind, but it always seems to be there” (p. 5). What is certainly most significant for clinicians is the reality of the loss experiences and its long-term effects rather than the causes of the loss. In spite of this limitation, the study has much to teach us about better support of mothers who have suffered a pregnancy loss.
 
This article was published through OpenAccess and as such, is available free of charge for downloading at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.673050/full

 
GriefPerspectives is published monthly by Grief Connect, Inc. Copyright ©2021. All rights reserved, including publication or distribution in any form, electronic or printed. For reprint permissions or suggestions for content, please email us at GriefResources@msn.com.
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