The Saturday before St. Pats means one thing in Scranton.
It’s also makes me happy to have seannanigans.com.
Play safe kids!
The Saturday before St. Pats means one thing in Scranton.
It’s also makes me happy to have seannanigans.com.
Play safe kids!
I’m going to just say it. Loopy as he is sometimes, Matthew McConaughey has a pretty solid personal philosophy that resonates with me. It first came to light in this Men’s Health article years ago and this one a few years later., and I was recently reminded of its simply wisdom while rewatching his Oscar acceptance speech.
Me in 5 years….what’s he like? I know me today. Not a bad guy at all; I’d like to think a good dad, husband, son, brother, friend. Still have some wild dreams and some not so wild; gotta keep it interesting. Still have some work to do; manage my health and stress much better. So, if I’m fortunate enough to have another 5 years, what does 50 year old Sean look like?
He doesn’t post about new workout programs; he’s stuck to one and found the results he wants.
If he is posting about working out; he’s getting paid very well for it. That means he’s ruminating on it for a purpose.
He’s just as passionate about Star Wars as he’s ever been. The 3rd trilogy will be complete and he’s excited for the next story.
He’s still wearing Hawaiian shirts.
He’s gone to ComicCon in costume.
He’s taken time for himself and his friends. He’s recaptured the vibe of that night at Rocky’s with the guys.
He’s got the power and courage to put things into perspective.
He’s enjoying every sandwich.
He’s no longer learning how the play this game; he’s well on his way to mastering it.
He’s followed through on several of those goals/dreams.
He’s set new goals and has new dreams.
He’s been a good role model and dad to the girls.
He’s made Heidi very, very happy.
He’s been a good son and brother.
50 year old Sean is happy.
I’ve been working on my ‘reset’ this week with adequate results. Life is life and doesn’t get in the way, as much as it simply exists and our reactions to it get in the way of us. One thing I’m trying to do is look less at what’s wrong, and instead look at what’s right and good. Part of this is realizing what you have and finding joy in that, and part is accepting places where you don’t have control and grasping whatever control you can.
8 years ago today a completely uncontrolled series of events came to an end for us, but we didn’t know it yet. Sept 15, 2009 was the day after our last miscarriage and the first day we’d begin preparing for Evie. Looking back on that day, through all the pain we had amazing examples of what’s right, and good in our lives. From the calls and support of our families, to the incredible care of my wife’s doctor and the over and above service from Disney, to the in person support and distraction (especially for Giada) offered by our friend Deneen and her family; Heidi and I were inundated with proof that our lives were full, despite the path we were on being pretty brutal. These people, working together (without realizing it) gave us a sense of control and paved the way for us to continue completing our family.
I’m collecting the full story below. This isn’t for attention or hits, but the hope that it will help someone; whether giving hope, support, or simply knowing it’s not their fault.
Wandering the Wilds of Miscarriage:
I’m still here; just hasn’t been a lot to say. I want to change that. I want to change a lot of things. I’m kinda’ fed up with the status quo and the direction I’ve been taking. Big picture; family is healthy and happy, bills are paid and there’s a roof over our head. I’m very content with all of that. It’s all the rest; my daily routine, my responses to everyday stresses, my new, unhealthy habits and how often I’ve been letting that negative little voice run things around here.
I’m trying to change a lot of that.
Tomorrow, 9/11/17, I’m starting the 8 Weeks to Sealfit program. I’m not sponsored or paid or in contact with Sealfit in any way (but, if you want to talk, I’m willing to chat) and I’m going to do my best to follow the book for the next 16 weeks. At that time, it will be time for New Years Resolutions and a review of what I’ve learned on this program.
But, Sean, why? And, for the record, isn’t this the 300th post about new beginnings and getting back on track? Aren’t you going to punk out in a week or so and 6 more months will go by until something fires you up again and you post how you’re going to change everything?
I hope not?
Hey, all of that is part of what’s driving me here. Those aborted attempts at improvement are symptoms of an underlying problem. That’s what got me thinking about trying this program: it’s really just Crossfit, as far as the exercises go. I’m interested in the “mental toughness’ part of this. My mind and body are so very similar. I’m physically strong as an ox but my endurance SUCKS. I’ve nailed the ‘wall of meat‘ thing. Mentally, the same; I’m confident that I can handle a situation and I don’t rattle too easily, but if I can’t make it all better RIGHT NOW, then I’m useless until things get back to normal. Yeah, I get through it, but not without heaping misery and frustration on those around me because I just can’t deal.
When the going gets tough…I’m awesome, at first. I want to be awesome after that too, and THAT is what drew me to this program.
So, where does this begin? With a baseline. I think the paragraph above covers my mental baseline. What about physical? There’s a workout in the book that you do before you start. I did better than I thought:
You know what? I’m really happy with these scores. It tells me there’s more than I give myself credit for when I need it.
I start tomorrow with the first workout, exercises and….a before pic (ughhh.) Let’s see where this goes!!!!
Going through this, we connected with several people who were dealing with infertility. One suggestion kept coming up…given to us or suggested to someone else from a doctor, family member, etc. “Stop trying, relax, take some time off. When you’re not trying, that’s when it will happen.” I don’t know if there’s science behind it, but anecdotally I know several people who can attest to this working.
We got back from Disney, tried in Feb, no luck, tried in March, pregnant for the 5th time. Testing began anew; good hCG levels, ultrasounds showed a heartbeat…all good signs. For anyone else, there would be a little bit of concern in the back of their minds, but not us. We don’t get the happy pregnancies, we spend our time waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Heidi started spotting again. Tests and ultrasounds, everything seemed ok. Still she bled. Weeks went by, I can remember us talking to her belly “stay in there…we want to meet you but not yet.’ The spotting continued and on an ultrasound we finally learned the source; a subchorionic hemorrhage. It’s not completely uncommon, and usually resolves itself. We breathed a sigh of relief, but there was never complete relief. We made it to 21 weeks, which we knew was a point where if this did go south, a NICU could probably keep the baby alive.
In November of 2010 we welcomed Evangeline Violet to our family. This happy, healthy, vibrant baby girl completed our family and is the perfect ending to this horrible story.
What did we take from this? A greater appreciation for our children. Evie had reflux, and any parent who’s dealt with that knows how miserable it is. When we got frustrated, we’d remind ourselves ‘We waited a long time for her. Don’t be mad at her for something she’s not happy about either.” We’ve probably spoiled Giada and Evie, making sure we show them as much love as we possibly can.
We wouldn’t have done it without the help of our families. They never gave up and were there for us when we couldn’t be.
We learned the incredible important of a good doctor. Dr. Brian Wilcox is the man…plain and simple. He understood that we were both his patients through this…not just Heidi and not just Heidi’s reproductive system. When we discuss all of this with his class each year, he stresses treating the whole patient.
Why do we talk about this? We do it for the doctors-to-be so they can see that there’s more than just the science and meat involved here. They’re dealing with people who are going to respond in as many different ways as there are ways to respond. We hope that our story helps them be better, more compassionate doctors.
We talk about this because so many people won’t. People don’t know what to say. It’s a fear all parents have and I’m sure there’s a touch of ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ when they think of it. Some friends have told us they didn’t know what to say, and said nothing out of fear of saying the wrong thing. I completely understand that. Heidi and I don’t hold ANYTHING against anyone for what they said, through good intentions.
We don’t let this define us. We’re a family of 4 now and completely happy with that. Once in a while someone will say ‘when are you going to try for a boy?” We smile and say we’re done. The world was built for families of 4. We joke that I don’t want to lose my home office and move the subject along.
That’s our story. If you’re going through this, or have gone through this, please leave a comment with your thoughts and insights. We’d love to hear it. We hope you find a bit of hope, or at least shared misery here. If your wondering ‘What do I say to friends going through this?” It’s pretty easy. Be their friend. Tell them “I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s not your fault, I’m here to do that thing we do as friends.”
Thank you for reading.
What does this do to people?
Since starting this series of posts I’ve had a few friends reach out and thank me for sharing this. They’d experienced miscarriages in some form and told me “people don’t talk about it.” I’d love to know why. I understand that some people want to keep certain things private. You don’t need to know all the dirty details. But this isn’t something shameful. This isn’t something we chose, or acted in a way to cause. This is bad luck for so many of us, yet we keep it quiet and people prefer not to acknowledge it.
But the pain remains.
We came to learn that people really don’t know how to talk about it. People try to be understanding. They usually end up saying all the wrong things. Yeah, we’re Catholic and believe in Heaven…spare us your comments about Limbo or the chances to meet the babies when we die. While you’re at it, yes, we’ve considered that maybe a biological sibling for Giada isn’t in the cards….no need to tell us to give up. And, for the record, I’m pretty sure God isn’t sitting there with a furrowed brow muttering ‘I planned for one kid for the Gowdens and they just keep trying! When will they get it through their thick skulls I didn’t plan it that way!”
Your tastes change: Right around this time the game Dante’s Inferno came out and a friend told me I HAD TO PLAY IT!!! Read the reviews….level with unborn baby-zombies trying to eat you. Yeah, no thanks…thematic fail for me. I also tried to get into the Walking Dead; all my friends said how great it was. 3 eps in and I decided I had enough misery in my life…didn’t need it from my entertainment. My tastes were changing…I was softening. I can tell you that 6 years later, I’m still not watching Walking Dead and other shows that heap misery upon the characters and audience.
Here is a paragraph I’ve been trying to write for 2 days. What does it do to a marriage? It does all the horrible things you can imagine; fights, selfishness, distancing There was no single, memorable moment to tell you about…it was simply months of trying to cope, understand and keep moving forward. We were fortunate to have the support of our families, to have never blamed one another and never gave up on each other. Looking back, its very easy and understandable to see how this could devastate a relationship (and ends a lot of couples.) We’re thankful we walked away bruised, but not beaten.
Back to the story….
Pathology report came back within about a week. Baby#3 suffered from Triploidy. A lot of the common genetic defects involve an extra chromosome somewhere. In Triploidy, you get 3 of EVERY chromosome. Life span, IF the child is born is measured in single digit hours. Most end in miscarriage; I guess you could say the more merciful result.
So what did that mean to us? Nothing! It’s another fluke! As our doctor said, we did nothing wrong and nothing to cause this. Were the odds comically against our favor? Yes. Was there any evidence anywhere to say we wouldn’t be successful with another pregnancy? No.
Heidi and I talked, a lot. We needed time off from this. We agreed that after a year of miscarriages, her body, our marriage and our sanity needed a break. It was late September, maybe early October and there would be no talk of babies till after the holidays. Giada would get our combined attention and we’d spend some time healing. We’d spend time as a couple, party it up and refocus on us.
Along with this came the decision that we needed a Disney do-over. Heidi couldn’t look at the pictures without feeling the pain and loss. The trip was tainted for her. We settled on another trip, in January of 2010, no pregnancy, no stress, just the three of us and a magical time.
And it was.
I’m a firm believer in balance in life. Call it Karma, call it whatever, but I believe that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. If something good is happening to you, chances are there is an equal amount of bad that has happened, or that will happen. It’s cumulative, so it’s not like blessings lead to tragedies…just that in the big picture, things are balanced.
That day in Celebration Hospital in Florida cemented that belief.
To recap; pregnancy #4, score is 1 kid, 2 blighted ovums and this one is going south…fast. We’re waiting in a triage room with a bunch of strangers after a hasty, uncomfortable experience with an ultrasound tech. And we wait…..and wait.
I don’t know how long, but the next moments stretched on for days.
“Mr and Mrs. Gowden?” the doctor boomed. He was a tall dude with a deep voice and African accent. “I have reviewed your ultrasound. Your baby has expired…” and then he quoted Scripture…something about returning to dust. Neither of us can remember it exactly and many online searches have come up empty…close but no direct quote. We’re stunned….trying to process this. We discuss options, the hospital is willing to send us home and let nature take its course. We’re on vacation…leaving for home in 2 days, we don’t need nature taking its course on the plane. (Seriously…explain THAT to the TSA!!!!) Their OB is busy, come back tomorrow. ‘NO!” Heidi demands….channelling Ralph Kramden. ‘Get it out!”
Out of nowhere, a nurse grabs our hands…and the hands of anyone else around and starts a prayer circle. We’re religious….but this wasn’t our thing. We wanted to make plans for a procedure that would get Heidi back on her feet and test the baby to see if there was a cause for this. We wanted to call our families. We wanted this to set in and let our emotions catch up. Instead Nurse Prayercircle is droning on. As awful as this is, God/Karma/whatever is giving us an absolutely bizarre experience to soften the blow.
Finally they agree to bring in a doc that day who will do the D&E. I remember they asked if we wanted the remains. Gallows humor at this point…because, heck, you need to laugh or you’ll go crazy. I recall thinking “Are they going to give us a little box? A tube? Baggie with the biohazard label on it? Does it go in carry on or checked luggage? Probably checked because it’ll be more than 3 oz of liquid.”
Heidi was taken for surgery and G and I had something to eat and waited. Soon enough and nurse came to us, told us everything had gone well and we’d be able to see Heidi in a few. 2 hours later we were on our way back to Port Orleans: French Quarter; no longer pregnant, pathology ordered and hopefully some answers in our future.
We’d been given some temporary ‘balance’ by way of the Hospital staff’s behavior. We can look back now and shake our heads…and it gives us something less painful to remember than the calls to our families, the hurt in their voices, the empty feeling in our lives. Disney was about to step up in a major way to cement some positive memories.
Our taxi driver told us that Disney would take care of the cost of the taxi. We went to the front desk, gave them the short version of what happened and they said they’d take care of things. We went back to the room and went to bed. The plan was for me to take G the next day and meet up with some friends. Heidi would stay back in the room and rest, possibly meeting us all for dinner. We knew the routine and this was G’s trip…let her enjoy it.
At Magic Kingdom and my phone rang. Heidi called to tell me that Agata (wish I had her last name) the manager called to check on her, sent room service, free wi-fi (it wasn’t free in 2009) and told her to call if she needed anything. Then all of a sudden a couple of people showed up with a gift basket for us and toys for G.
Disney outdid themselves over the next 48 hours. They made sure Heidi was taken care of, but also Giada and me. Knowing Heidi was in good hands was HUGE for me and Giada was thrilled with dolls and coloring books.
For all the terrible news we’d had on this trip…the stress Heidi had felt knowing something was wrong, the worry about something happening on our trip. The sadness of finally getting the news and having miscarriage #3, which happened to be 364 days after our first…Disney did what it could. For all the awful memories, we do have some good ones and I guess it all did balance out.
Some would say 3 strikes and your out. Not us. To be continued…..
In the first 6 months of Giada’s second year of life, we’d suffered 2 miscarriages. This took a lot of attention from her and we were feeling pretty bad. She was our first kid, and completely and totally awesome in every way. She deserved better than to be put on the back burner while we healed physically and emotionally.
When it comes to miscarriage, women tend to share the experience when someone ‘joins the club’ so to speak. We’d tell people and so often they’d tell us “Yeah, I/my sister/someone close had one, two, three, etc” But…guy don’t talk about it. And kids? They definitely don’t talk about it. We don’t know to what degree G processed it, but we’d told her she was going to be a big sister and there was a baby in Mommy’s belly….and then she wasn’t, and there wasn’t.
We chose to make things special for G for her 3rd birthday; a trip to Disney World. Keep in mind, for a 3 year old girl…Disney is all real! That’s really Ariel! Cinderella just gave her a kiss! Holy crap that’s MICKEY MOUSE!!!!!
And then, we got pregnant for the 4th time! We joke that Heidi called the doc while peeing on the stick, within moments of conception. It was that early. We were happy…as happy as we could have been at this point, and went on with our Disney plans. Heidi went for hCG level testing and the numbers were good…not spectacular, but good…good enough not to be too concerned (though she knew something was wrong.) We had also gone through the usual battery of genetic testing to see if there was there anything funky hiding in our genes. Nothing…genetically, we were normal. (Heidi will argue that’s the only normal thing about me…) We were paranoid, or is maternal intuition that strong?
Time came for the ultrasound and there it was…a heartbeat! We had a baby in there!! This was definitely NOT a blighted ovum!! Wooohooo!!!!
Except it was tracking a week behind. It was exactly one week behind, but Heidi knew her conception math wasn’t off by a week. Still, there was a heartbeat and we’d be back for more ultrasounds. Note: Our doc was awesome. He’d give us ultrasounds just to make us feel better. Sadly, they rarely did, because the baby was tracking, consistently, 1 week behind. Heart-rate and size were fine, for one week earlier.
Then Heidi started spotting. She knew something was really, really wrong and we were 2 weeks away from our trip. She took it easy, ultrasounds were consistent, and there was no explanation for the bleeding. We went on with the trip (the doc said it was ok) and decided to make the most of things!
Akershus in EPCOT; princesses are coming by the table and Heidi excused herself. Several minutes later she returned “I’m bleeding…bad, we have to leave.” Please, dear God, no…not here, not now, not this.
We called her doc who advised us to get to a hospital. Disney got us a cab and sent us to Celebration Hospital.
That’s when things got weird. This was during the Swine Flu scare and we were moved into a common triage room. Giada was out cold in her stroller (Thank you Disney for exhausting her….having a sleeping child was the saving grace of this day), Heidi was in a chair next to someone vomiting their who knows what into a bucket. Someone came to take us for an ultrasound; the tech was ALL BUSINESS. I tried to look and see what was going on, and she kept moving the screen or adjusting the wand so I couldn’t see a heartbeat. I saw the baby…head, 2 arms, 2 legs…looked just like G’s ultrasounds at this point. ‘Ok, a doctor will take a look at these and be with you in a bit.” she said while hurriedly packing up her equipment. ‘Wait, ” Heidi said “can I just see the heartbeat?” ‘No ma’am, you came through the ER, not for a regular checkup, we can’t allow that.”
Now, for the second time we were completely alone in a hospital full of people. I didn’t see a heartbeat…but that’s not to say there wasn’t one. We knew something was up. We had that sick, worried feeling while waiting for a doctor in a room full of strangers.
To be continued…..
Miscarriage one behind us, it was time to try for Gowden Child #2 again. Come early January, sure enough…there was a positive pregnancy test. Celebration all around…but a little muted this time. We felt optimistic and things were good….till they weren’t.
Heidi was accepted into the EAGeR study. It was the study of aspirin on the effects birth rates. They were checking to see if a baby aspirin could help with conception. Apparently, it didn’t hurt.
Something you have to know about my wife. She knows her cycle. Open her calendar and there’s little dots every couple of weeks. ‘Hon, what are there little periods for…OOOOOHHHHH!!!!” So, she KNEW when she was due and when to test. She also called our doc. He ordered the hCG bloodwork and the first couple of results came back. Low…but not terrible. And not quite doubling every 24 hours like they’re supposed to. Heidi remained a pin cushion for a few more days and it became obvious, her numbers were not tracking the way they should and something was wrong.
Onto another ultrasound….and another empty sac. WTF!??!?!?!!? REALLY??????
This one was quick. It’s funny, we went out for our friend’s (who was still pregnant) husband’s 40th birthday that weekend and drank like fish. Like…some serious liver damage because we were angry and sad and just didn’t care. Heidi felt strange because technically she was still pregnant and you’re not supposed to drink…especially the way we were, but come Monday, the pregnancy would be over and it’s not like she was going to do any more damage!!!
This is called Wandering the Wilds for a reason. We found ourselves in so many situations we just weren’t prepared for. A positive pregnancy test for most couples trying to have a family is a joyous celebration. For us, now “that’s great…lets get another hour of sleep and hopefully this one will work out.” When do you tell people? We’ve kinda’ cried wolf twice…and we know it’s a bummer when we have to tell you things ended badly. Oh, and in the absence of information and explanations, you kinda’ create your own. “Maybe we shouldn’t put the laptops on our laps anymore?” “Maybe we should take this (or that) vitamin.” Then there’s the joke that she flunked out of the EAGeR study!
Let me pause here for some mad props to my Heidi. The D&E was on Monday and on Tuesday, Giada was taken the hospital with respiratory infection. I was at work all day (our choice…I could have taken the time,) and that left Heidi to hang out at the hospital for 4 days and carry the burden of the situation…48 hours after another dreadful experience. Her strength has never ceased to amaze me.
That’s something I want to close with. Life goes on, regardless of how you feel here. Had we experienced the loss of living, breathing child (God forbid), would we have had the discussion about me going to work while G was in the hospital? Would she have been alone at all in the hospital or would the family have swarmed in, making sure her needs were being met? Mind you, we weren’t forgotten; our families have always been supportive. But there’s just something different about this.
To be continued……
We had our first daughter with no problems. Second month of trying, slipped one past the goalie and 9 months later, there’s little Giada. “This is easy!” we thought. We wanted at least one more kid and planned on waiting till G was a bit older, 2 years old or so. Right before her second birthday we started trying again, and sure enough, the second month, SCORE! Come April of 2009 she’d be a big sister! Heidi called her friend, G’s Godmother and told her the great news. She thought ‘Hey, I’m a few days late, come to think of it…” and soon they were cheering on the phone ‘We’re gonna be pregnant together AGAIN!!!!” (their first daughter and G are 2 months apart.)
We got this pregnancy thing figured out.
We headed in for the first ultrasound, planned on seeing a little circle with a piece of rice inside, and tiny flashing thing…the heartbeat.
Here’s the first time you feel completely alone in a hospital full of people. The techs aren’t really qualified (on paper) to tell you anything. They’re there to take measurements and leave the explanation to your doctor. We kinda’ knew what to look for…I think any second time parent knows, and we didn’t see a baby. We saw an empty sac. ‘This is a blighted ovum!” Heidi whispered to me…panic setting in for both of us. The Tech had gone into all business mode and was doing things as fast as she could. “You’ll have to talk to your doctor” was all she’d say to us. Then she packed up, told Heidi to get dressed and vanished.
Fear, confusion, sadness festered in that room. We had a worst-case idea of what was going on, but no direction, no guidance…no idea what came next. Our awesome doc told us that it was early, there’s no clear reason to panic, and to get some hCG level testing done. If the numbers are doubling, Heidi’s conception math was off. If not, we’ll take things from there.
They didn’t double. We had a sac with no baby. Heidi and her friend weren’t going to be pregnant together. G wasn’t going to be a big sister yet.
We opted for a quick D&E procedure and were home later that day. Think about any time you’ve suffered a loss of a family member. The family kinda’ converges around you, there’s meat trays and bagel baskets. You’re not alone in any way. That’s not the case for miscarriage. Sure, our families were supportive and made sure there was nothing we needed. But we found ourselves going about our usual Friday night routine. G was at my folks, we were free to do whatever we wanted. Wings? Beers? Target? How about a movie? Yeah, let’s see Tropic Thunder, something funny and get our minds off things.
We didn’t laugh. I try not to blame the film. We went to visit a friend at work. What do you say? “Hey, how’s your day? We had a miscarriage and D&E…like you do.” It was a lonely feeling.
Our doc was good, he told us that we didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t cause this, it wasn’t or fault. That helped us move forward and start thinking about trying this all again. We did it once, quite successfully, why shouldn’t we be successful again? This miscarriage thing…bad roll of the dice. We’ll do better next time.
To be continued.