Experiencing loss as an (international) family

Amy and Husband in Clonmacnoise Ireland 2013 | Notes From Another Land
Amy and Husband in Clonmacnoise Ireland 2013 | Notes From Another Land
Visiting Clonmacnoise, Ireland in 2013. Photo by my sister, Shauna Lynch.

Please be aware I am about to discuss items related to sensitive topics which may upset some readers. I am sharing from a place of experience, with supporting resources if readers would like to explore further but I do not wish to be perceived as providing advice as every individual’s situation is unique to them and their own personal experiences.

This post is a continuation of my last post about 2019 as a year of character-building and soul-destroying ‘milestones’–we are on the roller coaster ride of life. 🎢

Read my last post here: https://notesfromanotherland.com/2019/10/30/when-the-show-cant-go-on/.

We experienced loss again in 2019, this time while expecting our third child.

It has been both a whirlwind and slow motion series of events, involving multiple practitioners and professionals as things didn’t quite go ‘as expected’.

As I prepare to turn 34 years old, I have found my 33rd year has contained some of the most challenging experiences of my life to date.

After three moves abroad, almost a dozen immigration applications, job and accommodation searches in markets where I didn’t have any contacts, an overseas wedding planned from another country, experiencing the death of loved ones, the birth of loved ones and navigating another move with a seven-month-old, I am pretty good at taking things as they come and thinking on my feet.

With two pregnancies under my belt, one labour, two deliveries (which didn’t go as planned of course), the journey of breastfeeding two children…I thought I had seen, experienced and actually been the epitome of vulnerability.

Over the past four years as I became a Mother, I believed my body had morphed into a warrior-like female Goddess figure becoming stronger than I had ever imagined.

How right I was and also, how wrong I was, as I had much further to go.

I had a feeling things weren’t right weeks before my instincts were confirmed (points for heeding that intuition). I tried to remain positive but the physical difficulties and differences were too noticeable to ignore, so I began to steel myself toward the unexpected.

After a couple of appointments where things weren’t quite able to be confirmed, I decided to keep going with the flow, continue with work, attend networking events and meetings, while working on client commitments-maintaining that stiff upper lip.

Within a few days, my body decided the show would not go on.

This meant canceling plans, including:

  • An event I was hosting
  • Client meetings I had scheduled
  • Company meetings and events I had planned to attend

I also started asking for help with my family, thank goodness for:

  • Grandparents who live nearby and helped us to look after our two kids, grocery shop and generally keep things as ‘normal’ as possible
  • Friends who checked in on us, brought food, stopped by to visit
  • Daycare we had already organized so the kids could be looked after on weekdays
  • Colleagues and clients who didn’t ask too many questions when we started cancelling things
  • Other contacts who sent notes of understanding, well wishes and support despite not knowing what our family emergency meant

I also had to seek out medical assistance multiple times and am grateful for:

  • A public system that despite gave me the run around multiple times and required me to advocate for my own health, provides an opportunity to speak with experts some people do not have easy or affordable access to in other countries
  • The fact we live in a city full of medical institutions and practitioners
Amy Maureen Lynch and husband in Silverstrand, Galway, Ireland | Notes From Another Land
Strolling along Silverstrand, Ireland 2014. Photo by my mom, Cheryl Lynch.

As someone who doesn’t cry often and usually appears calm, this experience has knocked me off kilter and quite literally shook me to the core.

I know it wasn’t my ‘fault’. I know I couldn’t ‘prevent’ anything from happening.

I wasn’t ashamed of my body. I was ashamed of how my body was treated.

The facts, statistics or procedures couldn’t do anything to stop the physical experience I had and the emotions I don’t think I have ever felt before.

I have been in many professional and medical environments where I felt exposed. But, this to me was very different and on a whole other level.

I had an idea of what the emotional aspects of miscarriage could be like: the anxiety, grief, fear.

But I was not prepared for the physical reality of miscarriage and losing a child.

It was disempowerment in action.

Over the course of two weeks during appointments, examinations and interventions, I wasn’t given options even though I asked for them, many times.

I was overcome by a strong wave of hot shame, humiliation and vulnerability as I miscarried in waiting rooms, surrounded by strangers as I waited to be seen by a doctor on multiple visits.

I didn’t want to be there but my midwives said I required more urgent care.

I was miscarrying in public. Then private. Then public. Then private. Then public. Then private. Then public. Then private. Then public. Then private. Then public. Then private.

When the unplanned and unmedicated interventions I hadn’t asked for didn’t work, I was told I could go home and wait it out.

Talk about being in limbo.

After much Googling and speaking with friends and family who have experienced miscarriage, I realize my situation doesn’t fall under one of the three categories of treatment for miscarriage:

  • Expected Management
  • Medical Treatment
  • Surgical Procedure

I had a mixture of some of those but as far as I could see, it was categorized as one which didn’t quite go ‘as expected’. And everyone’s experience is unique.

Around the time this was all happening, there happened to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness campaigns running and Glamour published a series on ‘The 10 Percent‘, bringing to light some topics which still appear to be taboo.

Amy Maureen Lynch in London England 2015 | Notes From Another Land
West Hampstead, England village walks in 2015.

If you are going through a pregnancy or fertility loss or have already gone through it, I am so, so sorry.

It seriously is a horrible time and I can’t quite believe how much it has impacted me.

I have even more respect for women’s bodies and the resilience people have both during and after experiencing life events which are completely out of their control.

Things which have helped me so far have been:

1. Being self-aware and listening to my body. I knew when things were happening and tried to advocate for myself in our healthcare system as best as I could. Although it didn’t help when it came to the ER interventions, I strongly believe the practices I started to regularly maintain over the past year in order to hone my intuition served me well when it came to knowing my body better.

2. Speaking regularly with my midwives and other strong women I am personally and professionally close to, who have been through similar life experiences. Their wisdom, kind words, empathy and compassion made me feel less alone, despite going through a very solitary and individual experience.

3. Cancelling plans, setting boundaries, asking for help, relying more on others, being gentle with myself, resting, writing, reading and eating well. I also needed extra fluids, lots of bloodwork and regular checkups but when not in a medical environment, I tried to relax as much as I could. Thank you to my parents for helping us with childcare so I could rest in the evenings and go for the day surgery.

4. Spending time with my family, doing things like eating popcorn out of dump truck loaders while watching Daddy rake the leaves, pretending to be ghosts as we practiced our best Halloween impressions and lots of cuddles…when they let me cuddle them. Our toddler’s favourite games are chasing and hide and seek, with our preschooler loving back-to-back bedtime stories, so I felt I could still play with them even if I wasn’t my usual more energetic self.

5. Speaking up for myself. Over and over again. People I asked for a D&C over a period of two and a half weeks before actually getting one included: my two midwives, two Triage nurses, four ER doctors and two OB/GYN doctors. I also spoke with nurses, receptionists and sonographers. Don’t be afraid to speak up! We live in a great country with access to public healthcare but people are busy and you are your best advocate. You only get one body to live in during this lifetime.

Other simple and small things I did to help me so far:

  • Wrote about the experience
  • Talked to a professional therapist who specializes in women’s issues
  • Planted flowers for next spring when the baby was due

Do what you need to do, to get through this time…only you will know what feels right.

I know I am young, time will heal all, I have two healthy children, a brilliant life partner, a loving family, supportive friends – insert other positive yet unhelpful in the moment affirmations here – I am grateful for all of those things and more.

But it doesn’t resolve the physical or emotional experiences, which are now part of what I will carry around in this lifetime.

As an international family, there is the added challenge of deciding whether or not to share it with others, how to best do that and then the overall process of going through it while isolated from some family and friends.

I know this is not unique to international families and that many people are choosing to live in cities, towns or countries away from loved ones and would experience a similar challenge of a lack of personal support locally.

We are fortunate in that my parents are nearby, we have friends locally and as we have been here two years and previously had our second child in the same city, my medical information and records were up-to-date, we knew of the services available and were familiar with many of the places we had already visited.

When you move to a new place, there is a lot of life admin to take place and sometimes you’re so focused on getting a job, phone number, banking setup and accommodations organized, you forget about the need to reach out to local service providers whom you may require the use of in an emergency or crisis situation.

It is always a good idea to research your local community resources, support networks, medical service providers and confirm any benefits your employer may provide for when it comes to engaging with and paying for speciality service providers which may not be covered by your public health insurance.

Notes From Another Land | Red leaves gray door
London, England blooms, gates and doorways in 2016.

Hopefully, you don’t have to go through this very solitary experience alone.

Be sure to reach out and ask for help if you need it.

Local Ottawa and surrounding area resources for current and expectant parents include:

Sometimes all you can do is cancel plans, rest, regroup and reset – it is OK to drop the ball on things and say you can no longer commit.

Others will have to start going with the flow more and think on their feet but they will eventually go about their daily lives and get on with things.

Your most important focus is to look after yourself first.

As before and as always – I am still here, I will keep showing up but the show doesn’t always have to go on.

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Published by Amy Maureen Lynch

Over the past decade, Amy Maureen Lynch has negotiated remote work arrangements, freelance client work and validated business ideas, in between living and working in Canada, Europe and Australia (and having three kids). She writes about travel, international family life, creativity and flexible work on her blog, where you can read about her experiences bringing her children into business settings and access flexible and remote work resources to help you navigate the future of work: notesfromanotherland.com. She produces and hosts the Mixing Babies And Business™ Podcast, parent-friendly professional development events, digital resources and advises others on creating inclusive and flexible work solutions at: mixingbabiesandbusiness.com Amy’s first book, Startup Blogging: Validate A Business Idea and Build Your Audience, is based on her journey as a blogger, writer, founder and parent to date.

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