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And in our hearts, we still pray for sons and daughters

And in our hearts, we still pray for sons and daughters
November 23, 2015 12 minute read

“And I, will hold you tight, like the moon in the arms of the sky
And I, will keep you warm, I will build a fire in this house
And I’ll build a fire, you fetch the water and I’ll lay the table
and in our hearts, we still pray for sons and daughters
and all those evenings out in the garden, red, red, wine
These quiet hours turning to years

And I, I’ll wrap myself around your heart I’ll be the walls of his heart
And I, I’ll keep a light on, to call you back home

And I’ll build a fire, you fetch the water and I’ll lay the table
and in our hearts, we still pray for sons and daughters
and all those evenings out in the garden, red, red, wine
These quiet hours turning to years

And it’s all to come for now we’re still young
just building our kingdom but it’s all to come

And I’ll build a fire, you fetch the water and I’ll lay the table
and in our hearts, we still pray for sons and daughters
and all those evenings out in the garden, red, red, wine
These quiet hours turning to years

It’s all to come for now we’re still young”

I had this song, Sons and Daughters by Allman Brown & Liz Lawrence on repeat in the weeks following Reid’s passing. I’d be soaking in an Epsom salt bath, trying to alleviate a bit of the physical pain I was feeling from Reid’s birth, clutching my iPhone in my hands as I played this song on an infinite loop. For some reason I needed the emotions of our loss to wash over me. This song brought them all up, not just because of the tune but because of the lyrics too.

I loved the imagery of the moon wrapped in the arms of the sky – the moon has been one of our biggest connections to Reid since the very start. I loved the part about being the walls of his heart. If I could have kept Reid’s heart beating by wrapping myself around it I would have. And I loved the line about praying for sons and daughters.

This is a prayer Aaron and I have made continually since April. Shortly after Reid was born we decided that we would try again as soon as I was cleared. It took a year and a half to conceive Reid (we weren’t actively trying but based on my cycles we might as well have been) and if I’m being honest, for each handful of tears we cried for the loss of our son we cried a tear for the loss of the beautiful future we held in our hands before it was cruelly ripped form our fingers. This will sound insane to anyone who hasn’t been here before, so I don’t know how much my explaining will do to help you understand. We didn’t make this decision lightly; it’s not an act of trying to replace Reid in any way. Because it’s quite simple: Reid can never be replaced. You can’t take one child and have them fill the space of another. Children aren’t interchangeable. We made this decision to heal our hearts. Aside from getting Reid back, the only thing that can bring us any true happiness again is another baby. We want a sibling for Reid. We want to hold that future – albeit a completely different one in light of everything that’s come to pass – in our hands again. But let me be clear when I say that having another child won’t ever fill the hole that Reid left and that this isn’t a solution to our problem as many may think. Another child will fill our broken hearts in a different way but they’ll never be whole again. That’s the harsh reality of life after loss.

So in June, Aaron and I decided to start trying to conceive again. I hadn’t gotten my period yet, but my doctor said that while she recommended we wait one cycle to help with dating a future pregnancy with the length of my cycles it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference anyways. She said it was completely up to us. Physically, my body was healed. Emotionally, well, we’d never know.

My first postpartum cycle arrived the second last day of my yoga teacher training at the end of July. I was so excited that I nearly announced it to the whole entire class. I marched triumphantly to the emergency supplies in the cupboard behind the reception counter, pulled out a tampon, and all but skipped to the bathroom. My body has never been very intuitive when it comes to my cycles so I was convinced that Reid had healed me and that I’d be pregnant again in no time.

In September, on day 45 of my cycle, I got my second period. My cycles have always been between 38-45 days with periods between 8-9 days, so this was reassuring to me. While I was hoping my cycles might have become shorter so we wouldn’t have to wait 45 days for a chance to try each cycle, I was happy that I was having cycles at all. But as anyone who has ever tried to conceive for multiple months will know, that period is it’s own double-edged sword. It devastates you to learn that you’re not pregnant but it’s also comforting to know that things are normal. Well, in our case this was false comfort. Things were not normal.

10 days later I got my third period. It came the morning of the first birth I attended as a doula – my first birth since Reid’s. The birth was a long one that went overnight, so I just assumed a combination of stress, hormones, and lack of sleep had brought it on. It started to lessen, but then I attended my second birth – another long overnight one – and that morning the flow picked up significantly. At this point I was on day 16 of my period and I was starting to get concerned.

The next day I went to see my doctor. She was a bit puzzled but thought that it might just have something to do with my cycles still trying to regulate themselves. She sent me for a blood workup and said we’d go from there. When my results came back we got some surprising news. My thyroid was going completely nuts. This gave me a preliminary diagnosis of postpartum thyroiditis, affecting between 4-7% of women in the first year after childbirth for a year. My thyroid was in the hyperthyroid stage, but it’s common with postpartum thyroiditis for it to switch to the hypothyroid (underactive) stage before either going back to normal or staying hypo permanently.

Our plan was to follow up with another blood test to rule out an autoimmune disease, get an ultrasound on my thyroid, and then test my levels again in a month. My doctor said the thyroid was likely causing my irregular cycle and that I should stop bleeding soon, but that if I didn’t and instead started to bleed excessively then I should go to the hospital so I could be seen right away, reason being that the soonest appointment I could get with my OB was December 4th. It was also decided that I should take a break from doula training since this all seemed to revolve around the births I was assisting.

Feeling defeated, I was determined to take matters into my own hands. I starting getting acupuncture again, saw a doctor of chinese medicine, and practiced yoga regularly. On day 30 of my period, with the help of chinese herbs that my doctor prescribed, the bleeding stopped for a few hours. I was so convinced that I’d done it – I’d healed myself! – I nearly kissed my chinese medicine doctor. She then put me on a new concoction of herbs to try to help balance my hormones, keep them in check, and prepare my body for (fingers crossed) another baby. But, this good news didn’t last.

emma hansen and aaron and reid

Later that night my period picked up again. I was devastated. I switched back to the herbs that we used to stop the bleeding and relaxed for the next two days, but on day 33 – Halloween, an already difficult day for us – my period became heavier than it’s ever been before and so Aaron and I made our way to the hospital. I felt ridiculous, going to Emerg for a period. But it had been over a month – longer than I bled after Reid was born – and I was exhausted, feeling nauseous, and had a bad headache. Long story short, after a full blood workup, a pelvic ultrasound that was extremely stressful (the last pelvic ultrasound I had was when we found out Reid’s heart had stopped beating), and a handful of doctors later we had no new answers. Aside from confirming my postpartum thyroiditis, everything else looked normal. They said I did the right thing coming in though because the bleeding had to stop. So I was given two options. The first, take tranexamic acid, which was harsh but would stop the bleeding within 24 hours. The second, go on birth control to control my cycles while my thyroid was sorting itself out.

Can you imagine what it was like to hear that? That one of the only two options to help your body is to prevent the one thing – aside from getting your child back – you want the most. That after 33 agonizing days of bleeding, extreme exhaustion, a rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, and insomnia one of the only things to do would be to go on birth control. All of this with the added stress of having had a terrible experience with birth control before.

Birth control and I have a history. I was on it for years to regulate my cycles. As a young athlete with debilitating periods that lasted two weeks I had no other option – I couldn’t afford to be out of commission for fourteen days at a time. Once my athletic days were over and I realized what I was doing to my body I decided to go off it in 2010. But it took nearly two years and two rounds of hormone therapy to get my cycles back. Naturally, I was a sobbing mess just at the mention of it. I refused the birth control and said I’d take the tranexamic acid starting immediately.

But, again, it seems our path isn’t meant to be easy. The tranexamic acid caused my bleeding to become frighteningly heavy, and I was bleeding through a tampon in less than 30 minutes. I went in to see my doctor the next day to follow up after my trip to the ER and also to tell her that the medication they gave me was doing the complete opposite of what it was supposed to. She gave me a look of concern and told me I should stop taking it right away. I knew what she was going to say next, that the only option I was left with was to start birth control. I begged her to come up with another solution but this is where we’d arrived: “Take the pill, Emma. It’ll only be for as long as it takes for us to figure out what’s going on with your body. This bleeding needs to stop.”

When I got back to the car, holding my prescription for two months of birth control (just incase), I sobbed for a good 30 minutes before I finally pulled myself together enough to make it back home. The next few days I was a self-pitying mess. I was taking the pill and the bleeding wasn’t stopping and I was exhausted from a combination of my hyperthyroidism induced insomnia and the bleeding. On day 38 of my period I called my doctor, who said that I needed to start taking a double dose immediately and stay on that until she said otherwise. I sobbed again and melted back into a pool of depressing tears and was convinced that I’d never stop bleeding and that I’d stay on the pill forever. Or, better yet, I was convinced that they’d have to remove my uterus and I’d never have a child again. This is where your mind goes when the worst has already happened to you once. Why wouldn’t it happen again? Aaron was my rock through all of this though. He made sure I had food to eat, had a fresh pair of PJs to throw on, and had a clean shirt to cry into. I don’t know much right now, but I do know that I couldn’t do any of this without him by my side. Our relationship has only grown stronger since Reid came into our lives, and our love has only grown deeper since he left them too soon.

Alas, two days later on day 41 of my period, the bleeding stopped. I felt horrible on the double dose though so I went back down to a single dose and have been spotting on and off since, which I decided I’d rather take over the nausea and headaches. This is the last thing I wanted to do to heal myself, but I’m trying to believe that this is happening for a reason. This all has to be happening for a reason. Otherwise bad things happen to good people for no reason at all and I think that’s much worse than believing that this is being used for a greater purpose.

I’ll admit this has been a huge test to my faith. I guess I just thought that after everything we’ve been through already that we’d get a break. I can’t see the point to being dragged through the mud yet again. Don’t we deserve to heal? Can’t we get pregnant again quickly? Won’t the stress I’m under during a subsequent pregnancy be enough pain for me to manage?

We’re at a point in our healing where we’re ready to move forward – moving forward is very different from moving on. We will never move on from Reid. He will always be our firstborn son. It’s just that the pain of losing him isn’t as sharp and missing him has become normal – normal, not easy. We are finding more ways to bring him into our daily lives and we’re settling into this new reality of parenting a child in heaven. So now we’re feeling the absence of that future even more. We want to raise a child on this earth. But this is our path and we can either make the most of it or not. Those are our options.

I’m taking a huge leap by sharing this part of our lives. I’ve never written about something as an ongoing journey, only as a finished event: finding out I was pregnant, the trimester recaps, Reid’s birth and death. I can’t tell you if this will have a happy outcome or a sad one. I can’t tell you if we’ll get pregnant right away after coming off birth control or if it’ll take a year and a round of IVF. I can’t even tell you if it’ll ever happen.

Right now the plan is that I’ll to go off the pill at the end of November before seeing my OB on December 4th to see what my body does on its own. We’ll also discuss any and all plans we have for moving forward with trying to conceive with postpartum thyroiditis. Then I’m seeing an endocrinologist on December 14th to take a look at what we might be able to do for my thyroid besides wait a year for it to regulate. I’ll write updates on my blog about this journey when I find the strength, bravery, and words to do so. I just know that we can’t be the only ones struggling to conceive after loss. I think this mama’s story, and the comfort I felt in not feeling alone yet again, gave me the little push I needed to write this post.

Ultimately, I just wish it were my turn to write a happy story. But it’s not. Not yet. I have to believe that I’ll get that chance eventually. Until then, I’ll just find the strength to be open about this new plan placed before us. I’ll just keep leaning on the compassionate friends and family I’ve been blessed with. I’ll just keep managing the symptoms of my thyroiditis. I’ll just keep loving Reid with my whole heart. I’ll just keep finding things to be thankful for. And I’ll just keep singing that line “It’s all to come for now we’re still young.”


PS I ask that you try to refrain from offering medical advice, but if you truly feel you have something to say that might help, please be respectful. I am, however, open to other advice that may help me during this journey. Especially any natural solutions that may aid in healing my thyroid – dietary or supplementary.

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