We have an amazing rescue dog. She is the only giant dog that is truly afraid of her own tail and hides from big dogs and loud noises. She howls like a wolf at the doorbell, but then runs to door to greet the visitor with her tail wagging a full force.
You might be wondering, why does our dog matter when we are talking about our miscarriages? At first glance this is a bit of an odd topic. But she really is a critical element in a few ways.
First, she was one of the key steps in our family plan. For us, the plan was something like this: finish university with a couple of degrees, get good jobs, get a starter home, get a puppy, upgrade to the family house, get the kids, live happily ever after. She has been a critical stage in our plan, but at this time that I cannot help but think of the old quote:
the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry
– by Robert Burns
Anyways, you can probably guess where our plan has gone awry since we’re still working on the get the kid part. And we are learning to accept that it may or may not happen, which also means that our future may not be quite like we planned.
Second, she knows each time we are pregnant. I have known we were pregnant 3 of the 4 times before I’ve peed on the stick based solely on her behaviour towards me. As a very logical person who does not believe in astrology or any of those things, this does makes me feel slightly crazy – I seriously think my dog knows when we are pregnant? However, I take a bit of comfort in the fact that if you do a quick google search, it turns out I’m not the only crazy one out there – it seems to be a rather well documented phenomenon. Anyways, when she’s very excited she will jump and put a paw on your side or stomach. She stopped doing this to me, 3 of the 4 times. She also sticks to my side like my very own shadow, as if to protect me. Everywhere I go, she is right there with me to the point of having to make her wait outside the bathroom door so that I can have a few moments to myself. Interestingly, with the fourth pregnancy, she didn’t seem to even notice or care, her behaviour didn’t change like it did with the first 3. Her reaction was so important to me that I was convinced something was wrong. My husband was convinced I was crazy thinking our pregnancy outcome could be predicted by our dog, and even tried calming down by saying maybe this time is different and it means everything is okay. I’m sure this comment was clearly a loving attempt to get me to relax and calm down.
Third, she may be covered in fur, but she is a child to us. I grew up on a farm, where dogs did not live in the house and were not members of the family. My husband grew up with a family dog, who just like our dog now lived inside and become a member of the family. Our dog is in all aspects a member of our family and she is as spoiled as any first child. Simply put, my life would not be complete without my furball and I am so incredibly thankful that she’s been by my side throughout this journey.
So what happened when we told our friends and family? First, we had to figure out how to tell them. It’s not quite like “oh, did you see that great hockey game last night and did I mentioned that we’ve had 3 miscarriages that we haven’t mentioned previously?” Because our society doesn’t talk about miscarriage, it becomes rather awkward to bring up. We tried to be sensitive to each of our friends/family circumstances, and just found a way to do it. Here are a few examples:
- My Parents – We do not live in the same city, they travel internationally a lot and we aren’t incredibly close with them. This makes it hard to have a face to face conversation, but we decided if we were going to tell them, it had to be in person. As I was actively going through the 3rd loss, travelling to them wasn’t an option. But coincidentally, they were travelling through our city, so we told them we had to talk to them in person. As this was an odd request from us, they came over before they drove home. We just told them what was going on, and made it very clear that the current baby would not survive, and there was no hope. We explained that with this being the third, we are now in that 1% of the population and we would now get sent to specialists. The wait could be up to a year to get into the public clinic, and private clinics would likely be quicker but much more costly. They were disappointed that we hadn’t included them in the earlier miscarriages, and we just explained that we had not included anyone. They seemed to respect our decision.
- My husband’s brother and wife – Telling them was very easy because she’s a family physician. We didn’t have to explain everything and answer a hundred questions. She knew enough and could find out more if they wanted more information.
- My brother and wife – They announced their second pregnancy, with twins, the same day we found out our third baby was dying. Not the best timing, but definitely not their fault. We didn’t say a word about our situation as we were not going to take away from their happiness, although I hung up the phone and burst into tears. It might not make sense to everyone, but hearing someone else is getting a baby when you cannot is heartbreaking – it’s a terrible reminder of what you are going through and what is missing in your life. But, this story doesn’t end here – a few months later, they lost one of the twins. At this point, we told them about our situation, because we thought it might help them to know that although very different, they did have someone to talk with if they wanted. They have chosen not to talk to us. They now have a healthy baby.
- Friends (Couple A) – They were pregnant. We waited to tell them until after their baby was born, as we felt it was very important to not add to their worries as we figured that every parent worries about having a healthy child, so we didn’t need to increase that worry by sharing our experience. Needless to say, I did eventual tell her. She was obsessed with the details, of when, how far, etc. As if any of the details mattered, which they just simply don’t to us. It took over an hour on the phone, explaining and often repeating myself. It was the most challenging conversation I have had with anyone, and one of the most hurtful. She was one of my closest friends, and he was one of my husband’s best friends. Together we were all great friends, they were a big part of our lives, we saw them almost weekly, travelled internationally together, and shared many laughs over the years. Given their personalities, we weren’t expecting them to be too supportive, but we still wanted to include them in our journey because we had been such good friends. I felt that by not telling them, I had not given her a chance to be a good friend and I owed our friendship that. However, they have chosen to not speak to us since – it’s now been 6 months. I’ve been devastated by the loss of our friendship, I didn’t expect it. I feel like screaming at her – are you kidding me?! They aren’t contagious!! If I honestly try to think about why she made the decision to end our friendship, I think she was really hurt that I didn’t include her in the earlier pregnancies and she was mad at me for not being a bigger part of their babies life (something I just couldn’t do right then). But I cannot change our decision not to include them earlier, nor would I. We simply weren’t ready to tell people, and we had to do what was best for us at the time.
- Friends (Couple B) – No kids and not currently trying to our knowledge. They were awesome. We told them one late night after a dinner party with a larger group of friends and acquaintances, which also happened to be the night before I was scheduled to have surgery. They have been great – they have not treated us differently, they don’t ask us a tonne of questions but let us talk about it if/when we want to.
- Friends (Couple C) – No kids and not currently trying to our knowledge. We were wrong – they are currently trying and it’s not working for them. The connection with these friends is through the men, who are not big talkers. I think the guys have had a few conversations, but otherwise none of us talk a lot about it. I think it’s because we come from very different situations, but somehow it’s nice to know that they sympathize with our desire not to always be hanging out with all the friends having babies; and, therefore, they understand why we haven’t been as social in the last year as we were before.
- Friends (Couple D) – Pregnant (child is now born). This friendship is also through the men and although she and I get along we don’t hang out together without the guys. He has been awesome and very understanding when we said we weren’t ready to meet there baby. They gave us the space we needed and let us take a few months before we met their baby. They didn’t try to force me to hold the baby (which many other people do and I despise), and this meant the world to me. She was a little less sensitive when she proceeded to tell us about their plans for baby two. But I just let it go, and reminded myself that of course they are thinking about their long term family plans (even if we cannot even dream about our old plans for multiple children ).
We didn’t tell everyone. We made very careful decisions on who we would include and why. We were very technical and logical in our decision making process. The two most important factors in our decision making process was that we had to believe whoever we told would be supportive and that they would keep our news to themselves for the time being. Not surprising to us, but probably surprising to anyone reading this, this meant a lot of family and some friends didn’t find out. We don’t come from the most supportive family structures (a story for another day), and based on past life experiences we knew not everyone would provide the support we needed. So, for example, my husband’s parents do not know about our situation and neither of our extended families.
These decisions have been hard, and we know one day we will have to answer for them. But, for now, we are being selfish. We now live by the motto that if there is a time to be selfish, the time is right now. We need to do what’s best for us, and hope that eventually people will understand or at least accept our decision. But that’s a bridge to cross one day, and we’ll cross it when we get there.