I spend a good portion of my professional life educating health professionals about “reproductive life planning,” or, basically, helping someone articulate whether or not they want any (or any more) kids and the steps they need to take to achieve their desired number of children. As a recurrent miscarrier – 7 pregnancies, but only 1 live birth – the irony is not lost on me.
I’ve always been a planner. I used to have every facet of my life planned out with such precision it would put a 5-star general to shame. When my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby, I knew exactly when I should get pregnant to interfere least with my master’s program’s comp exams and summer internship. Then the first miscarriage happened. I had to tinker with my plans, but I decided I could still make it work. Then came miscarriages two, three, and four. My plans were in shambles.
During this time I was studying maternal and child health and then working with healthcare providers to improve tobacco cessation during pregnancy, meaning my whole life was thinking, reading, and talking about pregnancy. It was painful, constantly looking at the thing I most desired, but watching it move further and further away. Everywhere I looked, all I could see were happy families with babies and children – children I was afraid I would never have.
With timing so excruciating it was almost funny, my fifth miscarriage started at a maternal & child health conference during a session on the state of the science on pregnancy loss and stillbirth. That was…a new low. My husband was several states away, I didn’t want to burden my colleagues, and I knew what was happening. I numbly made it through the rest of the afternoon and then went to bed. I’d never felt so alone.
Some of the hardest things about miscarriage, particularly recurrent miscarriage, are the isolation – isolation from your family, your peers who are successfully bearing children, and your community supports – and the loss of the illusion of control. Friends and family checking in, bearing witness to the frustration and grief, showing their love through care, meals, transportation, etc. for the women and men facing these losses can help. Acknowledgment from clinicians of the emotional toll of these losses in addition to the physical toll can help.
Infertility, which includes recurrent miscarriages, affects one in eight couples in the US. It’s a disease that affects women and men from all walks of life – rich/poor, young/middle-aged, all races and ethnicities – although, since treatment is rarely covered by insurance, we usually only hear about the experiences of relatively well-off women and their families. Those of us working in maternal and child health spend a lot of time thinking about how to help ensure all women and men are able to create and actualize their reproductive life plan, but what we usually focus on is preventing mistimed pregnancies through the provision of education and access to contraception. While that focus is important, I think that we must also become comfortable talking about infertility, pregnancy loss, and infant death and how that affects reproductive life planning, helping people access the limited diagnosis and treatment resources available and acknowledging their loss and helping them find support.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and Oct 15th is designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day – the day when you are supposed to light a candle at 7pm to create a wave of light around the world. I love this unabashed acknowledgement of loss intertwined with the reclamation of hope, and I’ve got my candle ready.
Erin McClain, MA, MPH, is a Program Manager for the Every Woman Southeast Coalition and a Research Associate with the Center for Maternal and Infant Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a bio-mom, an adoptive mom, and an unofficial, self-proclaimed tour guide to the “Land of Infertility.” Erin is also co-founder of Project Pomegranate (http://projectpomegranate.org).
We’ve all had it, the message from our email server fussing to let us know our account is 99.9% full. First response? Sort emails by size, save and delete a few of the largest offenders, then continue on with the day. Sound familiar? A few days ago, I took a look at the actual number of messages I had. Like a BMI reality check. It was a wake up call: Inbox = 12,543 messages, Outbox = 13,203 messages. And people wonder why I don’t take vacation!More Link
I am a die-hard optimist. I am not only a “glass half full” kind of gal, I am a “glass is half full with half the calories OR I’m already partially hydrated”. I have always had a sunny outlook on life – to the point of being referred to as Pollyanna during a Fellowship interview (which felt insulting but hey I landed a spot). For many years I thought this positive attitude was genetic. In our family on my dad’s side there is the “happy” gene that can be traced across the generations. My grandmother Ethel had it as does my Aunt Mary, my cousin Marla and I, and Elaina in the newest cohort. This is the Monty Pythonesque “my arm is cut off but not the one holding my sword…how lucky” gene. This has been my truth for many years.More Link
Vacations are good for us. They enhance our productivity, happiness and health.
I have an awkward relationship with vacations. I think about them – wish for them – have plenty of days to take them – and yet it’s July 27th and I’ve taken not taken more than one day off here and there this year. I’ve heard the recent stories on NPR about how
Vacations are good for us. They enhance our productivity, happiness and health.
It is time for white people to wake up from “the Dream,” recognize the pain our privilege causes, and begin to make amends.
There has been so much said on social media since the seven murders last week and now today. Some powerful words have been shared. Some people have remained silent because they don’t feel they have to comment while others have been silent because they just don’t know what to say. Each time I think I’m ready to put my thoughts out in the world there is a Huffington Post article or a blog that either encapsulates it all – much better than I could – or just shuts my mouth and forces me to think. As a human relations fellow and a social worker who has endeavored to learn about and discuss power and privilege, the readings I share below made me realize what a beginner I am in this essential work. Here is some of what I’ve been reflecting on recently.More Link
Black women and their babies have suffered centuries of injustice. Black women’s voices are co-opted, but not heard. Change must happen.
Facts are facts, Black women living in the South face historic, ongoing challenges to their health and wellbeing. While we can argue that all women in the South could have better health outcomes, the reality is that Black women and their babies have suffered centuries of neglect and injustice. Further, Black women’s voices are often co-opted, paraphrased, summarized but not heard. There are insightful and important solutions, strategies, and stories out there that most of us never take the time to hear. Change must happen.More Link
Accepting messy and the need to apologize sometimes for inadvertent mistakes are better than silence.
No matter how frustrating life was the day before, or how long the night, out of the dark each morning rays of light emerge. Dawn is a cosmic reset button. I’ve always loved the idea of new beginnings – I am a fearless “resolutioner” every January. I start each day with a fresh “to do” list. I believe in second chances. And so, here we are, months after allowing this blog to lay fallow, a post.More Link
Oral health is KEY to overall health and the well-being of pregnant women and their babies. It is also a time when women are particularly vulnerable to poor oral health outcomes. It has long been known that hormonal changes commonly are associated with gingivitis (Löe, 1965). If left untreated, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis, which in turn may be associated with tooth loss (Russell, 2008), poor glucose control (Xiong, 1999) and preterm birth (Walia, 2015). Mothers with high rates of caries are also more likely to have children with high caries rates (Boggess, 2006) that may lead to pain and impact nutrition, speech development and permanent teeth eruption patterns.More Link
Throughout the country governors, mayors, and even the president are issuing proclamations recognizing May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. But raising awareness about mental health and connecting people to service needs to happen year round. For me, as the Communications Specialist at NAMI North Carolina (The National Alliance on Mental Illness), it’s one of the most exciting times of the year. It gives me, and the rest of us at NAMI, the opportunity to talk about the importance of mental health awareness and eliminating stigma.
Millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness in a given year.More Link
In my eyes as a Public Health MD, there is a fundamental difference between prevention and intervention. I practice prevention if I proactively address an outcome that has been experienced by some, and I make a concerted effort to trace that condition up stream and work to find opportunities for change, especially for those most at risk. I practice intervention, on the other hand, when I wait until the disease process has already started and then start treating the symptoms. More Link