What is #normalize and Why is it Trending?

Social media has united silenced voices across this globe. Where every single human is a keystroke away, from your favorite celebrities & Presidents to your work colleagues; the platform that social media has given to the freedom of speech is unprecedented, scary and ultimately massive. The “normalize” trend has been reaching me lately, and I agree with many of the tagline key phrases. #normalizebreastfeeding is a big one. First let’s just get breastfeeding out of the way … this is normal. It always has been and it always will be. It’s a personal choice, you either choose to do it or you don’t. Not one person on this planet can tell you that you are right or wrong for your choice — therefore, we have no need to “normalize” something like that. It should be #normalizemydecisions instead, no?

I am going to move into some sensitive topics here, most of which, men will shudder and run with fear from. Guess what, guys? The miracle of life … the menstrual cycle.  Cue The Twilight Zone music. Congratulations on avoiding it as much as you can, but if you want a steady lady in your life, you’re going to have to: hashtag, normalizeperiods. When you’re at work and you have to go home because the clots are the size of grapefruits, let’s normalize this for women in the work environments of the world that are dominated by men. How many of us can actually sit at a desk blasting through a super plus every hour, only to laugh, sneeze or cough (and give yourself a quick Chiari migraine) and ruin your favorite pants? Ugh. What was that you said? Try a cup? What? I would drown that sucker in ten minutes. All joking aside, there are a few (and by a few, I mean like 20) odd Instagram hashtags for normalizing something. Do some lunchtime browsing and see what has inspired others to trend along with the “normalize” movement.

Before you proceed, this is now officially a sensitive post. I have warned you. This is a therapeutic and personal story that very few individuals in my life are aware of. 

Where I might have come off a bit harsh in that intro, I am going to soften to break my silence on an experience that changed my life. I am about to #normalizemiscarriage. As a mother of two, I was fortunate enough to have been blessed with two children in my twenties. I did not think for a hot second that I would ever want to think about being pregnant again in my thirties. I was very careful so as not to conceive as I never even had to try for long in my early twenties when planning Ben and Emma. Without any surgeries under my belt, I was younger and diagnosis-less (yep, I did that), it was simple. Fast forward ten years … a lot had changed. I was divorced, I had been under the knife five times, had about 25 MRI’s, been diagnosed with a few odd things here and there; I had been through therapy, focused on self-care and fallen in love with my flame, Sam. So much had changed in a decade. Including such a deep desire and yearn to try. Sam and I had made a conscious decision between the two of us, meaning we did not share with any family, that we had been facing infertility. After a year and then some, Clomid & Femara were on the table. My thyroid levels were finally in range, we had gone from Armour Thyroid to Synthroid, increased the dosage and my levels dropped from 9.7 to 0.35. I was prescribed Metformin for insulin resistance, diagnosed with infertility, PCOS, you name it. To top it all off,  I had recently been tapering down from a  daily dose of Xanax for some pretty ugly anxiety. So, there we were … fighting a personal battle with my body, yet again, just begging on a monthly basis to “please stick, little cluster of cells – stick, stick, stick, stick!” On the 4th of March, 2019, my wonky 21/40 day cycle was meant to be in its “short” phase. My boobs were sore which was not a typical cycle symptom for me. I think after a year plus of peeing on sticks with negative results, the anticipation was purely to receive another negative result. I took five tests. I went to the ob-gyn that day. I went to buy more tests. I peed on digital tests with diluted urine at 4pm. I was pregnant! We were pregnant! We had conceived! We had conceived three weeks before my ob-gyn was prescribing Femara. I truly could not believe it. I laughed, I cried, I took ugly selfies out of the shower with my positive test. I wondered how I would tell Sam? I wondered what I would feel like in the morning, if it would feel like a dream or if the shock would still feel like tasers soaring through my blood?!

I went to the Nike outlet to find a tiny pair of black, white and gold Nike shoes. I bought a pink Hallmark box. I found the perfect card and I wrote the perfect words. I kept it in all day, even making a pit stop to take forgotten work keys to Sam … I wanted to throw up and burst at the seams when I saw him, but I knew I had to reveal the news at home. It was a ridiculous day. Every other minute or so, I was either laughing or crying. Finally, after what felt like years, Sam came home to find a gift box on the bed. He read the card and I had intense butterflies dive bombing out of my nose. “SHUT UP!” was the repeated phrase for a few seconds, then tears, kisses and hugs. The digital test an even bigger confirmation other than my ultrasound that morning. We kissed, we cried, we laughed in disbelief some more and did this over and over again for hours. It was a beautiful moment that was conjured up after an unsuccessful year with the ultimate, successful conception. I had never understood the journey of infertility as I had never been in those emotional valleys of booby traps before. There we were … after months of coming to terms that it might never be our path together — and we had confirmation of a tiny miracle of the two of us. 

Pregnancy is normal, right? Should we normalize that in the workplace, hashtag? Don’t get me started, America. But in all seriousness, pregnancy is different for everyone. Every pregnancy is different for the same person. I was feeling the feels. Lordy. I was nauseous. I was sore. I had bloat in my gut so good that I could not button my jeans. At 6 weeks. By 8 weeks, I caved. I had to buy new jeans with some stretchy panels at the hips (why aren’t all jeans made like maternity jeans?). Each day passed with more affirmation that everything was okay. My hCG numbers were rising, everything looked good. I felt pregnant. I felt like I should have felt. But this isn’t a post about #normalizenormalpregnancy – this is my post about loss.

On April 17th, our 10 week appointment, we were scheduled for a routine check-up and sonogram. I’m pretty sure Sam was about as anxious as I was, but he is always calm and cool – despite being a passionate Italian – he is my rock (a very personal rock who gave permission for this blog post to be out there). Here’s the part where we #normalizemiscarriage – because it happened. Full of hormones, no bleeding, no warning … no heartbeat. I wailed. The sonographer left the room and I wailed. I do not think my husband has ever heard the depths of sorrow come from my lungs before. I cannot recall another moment in my life when I have howled in sorrow. My husband held me – he consoled me – he let me cry. We moved into an exam room and I continued to wail and sob. My ob-gyn (she’s a lovely human) was outwardly devastated for us. I had not seen her since finding out that we were pregnant. At my previous appointments, the office shuffled me around to a new provider, which I was not too pleased about, regardless, my doctor came in on this occasion. She had been with us through the struggles over the year she had been helping to get my thyroid regulated. She knew how badly I resented my own body for not being able to conceive naturally. She knew how badly we wanted to conceive without medicine. She was there for every step of the way – and in that moment, she was there to do her job.

After the news was delivered once again, protocol, I suppose,  is where you’re presented with options. None of which are pleasant. Six days from that day, Sam was scheduled to have kidney stone surgery and stent placement, where he would be placed under anesthesia and I would be his driver and nurse. Thirty-eight days from that day, we were scheduled to get married on the beach in Sarasota. The options presented were:

1. Misoprostol, induce labor/force “abortion” and be in quite a bit of pain, take narcotics, pass visible remains and possibly require surgery if the pill did not work …

2. Wait, essentially, do nothing and let the miscarriage happen naturally, meaning at any point within the next 38 days you might have a miscarriage naturally or you might not (we asked) – the thought of marrying Sammy on the beach with a lifeless fetus in my uterus was particularly disturbing …

3. Schedule the surgical removal procedure, the “D and C” – dilation and curettage and run a slight risk of bleeding as the embryo had implanted on scar tissue from previous c-section/uterine incision.

Sitting in an exam room, contemplating how to make this decision with all of these factors was excruciating. I could not breathe, I could not think … I did not know what to do. I looked at Sam, I looked at my doctor … I was in disbelief. Let’s try this again. Miscarriage is normal. Making the decision on how to handle your miscarriage is also normal.

With a prescription for Misoprostol and Percocet, a doctor’s note and a plan of how to take the pill, when, and time it correctly so that I was not taking Percocet when I needed to drive Sam to and from the hospital the week after … we left the office. The girls looked at me with sad eyes, which is also, normal. I stopped again just a few feet down the hall and leaned against the wall to sob. My husband, my Sam, my incredible partner had just found out that he too had lost his baby – his first baby. He held me, he looked into my eyes and he told me, “We did it. We made a baby, we can do this again.” I debated tirelessly about how to tell my family. I needed my mom and my sister to know; I was beyond excited to share positive news when the time was right. We were so close. Sammy and I were overjoyed to make his parents grandparents for the first time. Sure, B & E are amazing bonus grandkids, but it is different when you have your own child bring another life into this world.

Facing some pretty heavy anxiety and depression that night, Sammy helped me to calm my nerves. The next morning, I woke up in a complete panic. I could not take that medicine. I could. not. do. it. I called my ob-gyn before they opened; left a voicemail for the nurse and within an hour had a call back with an appointment time set at the hospital for a 3pm dilation and curettage. As Sam and I are intermittent faster’s (that looks so funny), they asked if I had already had anything to eat or drink that day. I was relieved and devastated in the same breath. The pregnancy that Sam and I nurtured between the two of us, was about to be stripped away. 

Text_Mom_Victoria_April17
When you cannot speak without crying …

I thought of how to break this ugly news to our families. I wanted to be able to share this without sadness, but in the positive light that Sam allowed me to see. We were able to conceive, therefore, we were no longer considered infertile. I sent a group text message (how mature of me) to my mom and my sister. I knew I would not be able to put the words together if I had called.

I sent a message to Sam’s mom. We spoke, I sobbed. Sam was laying beside me, he sobbed. My mom called, I sobbed. It’s normal – but it does not make it any easier because it’s normal. This “rainbow baby” trend is a subtle nod in social media for women to be allowed the opportunity to share normality with an emoji and a phrase, as if it is socially unacceptable to have acknowledged a miscarriage prior to a successful pregnancy. We should be able to normalize miscarriage without a hashtag, without a 🌈 and without judgment. 

If and when we are able to conceive again, which at the moment folks, will not be anytime soon, I will have no choice but to recall this experience and live in the face of miscarriage as every other woman. Today is August 31st and my body is still giving me a giant middle finger (#normalizemiscarriagefact I bled for 58 days after my D and C procedure, holla!), I will likely fall victim to feeling like I need to acknowledge a successful pregnancy by sticking a rainbow icon by the face of a positive pregnancy announcement. Perhaps, we will share the news (again, if and when) and acknowledge the birth of a healthy baby without the mention of the journey prior to that moment? Who knows. Until then, I celebrate the success and ease of conception in my twenties with two wonderful children, who have an amazing stepdad. A personal tribute to my Samuel, who still today, four months later, helps me through the pits of recognizing, accepting, understanding and conquering miscarriage. This man, the other half of my soul, is a phenomenal stepdad — and I cannot wait for the moment he will hold a child of our own his arms for the first time. ❤

After recovering from the procedure, Sam whisked us out to our favorite beach. We stood on the sand where our upcoming wedding would be. We watched the sun until it melted into the ocean.

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