This is a series that I’ve conjured up in my brain for quite some time. Admittedly, I should have posted the first edition about a month ago which is supposed to be about the realities of social media according to some who know it best but life has been very busy lately between work, improving this site and well, life. Don’t worry, it will come….
I definitely didn’t anticipate writing about a subject like this, especially during a time when we should be celebrating.
For me, when it comes to uncomfortable topics, it’s much easier for me to write things down. Preferably, in a place where no one can see me or look at me and where I can cry in peace and be a crazy woman if that’s what the day calls for. It feels as if the month of May so far agrees, with strange, oddly cool weather and many looming clouds, something I notice a lot more now as I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking out onto the city’s terra-cotta tiles through our often rain-slicked windows.
I feel as if the city of Florence as times feels my pain right now which in a weird sort of way brings a strange level of comfort.
First, I want to set up a trigger warning because not everyone might want to read this post. I know I focus on Florence, travel and life in Italy 99% of the time so if that’s what you came to this blog for, I certainly won’t be offended if you don’t want to read about my personal story of loss or grief.
I should start with the fact that I believe that if you stand by being truly honest and transparent online, you need to stick to that – this of course should be taken at every human’s own personal discretion.
I am the first to say that cookie-cutter aesthetic perfection does not appeal to me, online or offline, even though I naturally love taking beautiful photos of my city. I like the idea of doing what you love but without living in fear of being judged for being human when shit truly hits the fan.
The unfortunate truth is that we lost our baby last week and as you can imagine, we are devastated, shocked and overwhelmed with a kind of grief that I didn’t even know was humanly possible.
I was nearly at the five-month mark and predictably felt quite safe knowing that we had made it past some important pregnancy milestones. These are the kind that you literally count down the days to get to with a mix of fear and happiness that interchange within the day; 9 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks…. often marked with notifications in an app with pings saying “today your baby is the size of an avocado” offering advice to stay hydrated or invest in a new bra.
To say we were happy would be a gross understatement. It was such a beautiful time in our life because I felt this enormous responsible for something larger than me, and so did Nico. He was ready with our “dossier” of pregnancy documents, and tubs of 5% greek yogurt, he was way more updated on my body than I even was. We were both ready for what we knew would be an extreme life change, that which would bring a new chapter in our story; albeit one that would come with sleepless nights and endless amounts of poo.
I was a little nervous in the beginning of this year because last year we suffered an early miscarriage, something I’ve never mentioned before on this blog but dealt with by confiding in the few that knew I was pregnant and by reading articles like this. I was devastated and very confused, however I knew at that point that it happened to many women that early out of the gate.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only life hurdle there was to confront in 2019.
Earlier this year my husband lost his mother after a long bout of cancer. Just the summer before we were back in his hometown of Castelnaudary, reveling in the local food festival celebrating cassoulet, their local beloved dish, so it was rather unbelievable that in just a short time things could change so quickly. It was the worst way to ring in a new year but the knowledge of a new and unexpected pregnancy, helped us cope with the terrible loss of someone we loved.
Growing up, I rarely envisioned what the future might be like other than what I didn’t want it to be and trust me, I had plenty of examples of that around me at the time. My dreams were mainly aimed at going far, far away and to reinvent life in all of its possibilities in a big city like NYC or Los Angeles to do something I loved, something with people, somewhere where I felt could be the “real” me.
With that thought in mind, Los Angeles is the place I moved to as soon as I was 18 and I worked several jobs while getting myself through community and then normal university. California became a happy place where I could be finally free of hot, humid climates that carried an air of hope, possibilities and future. You might have read this already on the blog so sorry for the repeat, but I often think to understand who someone really is, you need to know a bit of backstory too not just the glossy side they choose to show after.
I worked with study abroad students at my university of Cal State, students who wanted to study abroad, and those coming to America from China, Europe and even as far off as Saudi Arabia. We would twirl our fingertips over destinations on maps as shared their own coming to America dreams and expressed fears and hopes for their own experience in America, land of unstoppably dreams and possibilities.
Eventually life brought me to Italy, first as a study abroad student and then to live full-stop because I was crazy enough to take the extreme highs and lows of not having “a plan”. Believe me, it’s better to have a plan.
I’ve written about this several times on the blog, here and there but I can tell you that expectations were nil because I didn’t want to think too far into the future and didn’t have much to go on as I mainly met expats who were married and established in Italy for 10+ years or students content to “enjoy their experience” for a limited time. It was awkward to be in that “middle world” and just before it was extremely easy to meet anyone on the internet from Facebook community groups and meet ups. It bit how I feel about being considered a technical “millennial” because I was born in 1984.
I just wanted to see if I could “make it” as an actual functioning working adult in Italy on my own merit. Luckily after years this did happen and these past few years have been a wonderful example that life can be what you make of it if you have the right person along for the ride.
Nico is most definitely that person.
We met in 2008 (you can read more in this post here) and I initially wrote him off as a nice-but-serious biomedical engineer who was light years ahead of most of my friends in terms of life. At the time, most of the people I knew were juggling just as many jobs as I was, dealing with just as mediocre relationships, ranting about permesso paperwork, and apartment hunting was nothing short of frightening combined with the next best/worst option of living with one’s Italian family gifting fuzzy-bear pajamas for Christmas.
Despite being a year younger than me, Nico was far too mature for his age for all of us friends and yet still accepted our penchant for late nights and bad drinks in mediocre bars in Florence.
I found myself always wanting to be next to him at parties, dinners or more often aperitivi, a chance to converse with a person with an interesting life experience (he had previously lived in Canada for his masters and came from a small town that he referred to as “depressing” in the southwest in France).
The fact that he would choose to come to Florence, forcing himself to learn an entirely new language from scratch; content to work in an entirely Tuscan ambiance after two years in Canada was intriguing.
Our romantic relationship didn’t start until six years later, when I became single and we both realized that there just might be more to us than a close friendship. I should say that It really kicked off after sharing a meal of Tuscan cow guts, at one of the very first dinners I was ever invited to for the blog. We stomached our way chewing through cold trippa salad and boiled cow tongue with green sauce, but we had a good time and plenty of wine to wash everything down, including my feelings that maybe, just maybe, there was something there.
From the very beginning, it was as if a courage lightbulb finally decided to turn on.
I understood for the first time that relationships could be easy. Mutual respect being for us, the most important thing; to also always remember that as individuals we were people that liked to be around other people and as a couple, we made it a point to always stay independent. To value our friends and family and alone time and also make sure we were each other’s priority.
Devoid of torturous emotional mind games and (thanks to improved life conditions at the time) it was blissful to be without the pressure of the constant struggle in those early years of “how can I stay in Italy and uh…survive?” I know a lot of you guys can relate to the struggle, an important time to discuss lest anyone think it was as easy as buying a plane ticket or getting sent abroad on a work contract.
Life was good, and after a year we moved in together in my small flat near Piazza della Passera, and a year after that we got married. A winter wedding in late November of 2015, home to Florence’s moody skies and a day that brought together three cultures: French, Italian and American with an old-fashioned commonality everyone could understand, plenty of alcohol and well,love, one hopes.
Now four years later, as life moved on in a normally pleasant way, we are dealing at times with real-life problems that hit you like a hurricane wind in the face. The one thing that never changes though, is my faith in Nico, which has only absolutely grown as we confront these wave-pool like moments in life together that I sometimes desperately wish remained more like a calm pond of boring.
Losing a baby is a terrible, horrible, awful life event for anyone, period.
It’s not something I personally can easily get over, nor should it, but everyone processes their pain differently. I don’t want to hear about a “bright side, “at least you’re fertile” or god’s will” or “next time” at this moment used to ‘help’ take today’s away. I want to be able to feel this now in its entirety, it’s officially part of my life and part of our story as a couple.
Of course, I have questions, serious concerns even, about why I wasn’t admitted to Careggi hospital to undergo observation as the situation got progressively more concerning. Careggi is one of the best hospitals in Tuscany and in Italy. The facts are that we were there three times in two days for the extreme pain and contractions and were told time after time that they couldn’t be uterine contractions with no way to test that with a belt or any machine, was bizarre. AND why was it so hard for these hospitals to give a person pain relief when they are withering in absolute terror and agony after hours, days, of pain at home. Why should you have to scream for like an insane person after losing your baby at home and getting a D&E because they will only design to give you paracetamol (tachipirina)? It’s not ok, and this is something I strongly believe in local health care that they really need to work on, even as a culture. People have a right to not be in constant agony.
It’s been a week now, to the day.
A week of waking up with sadness tinged with the realization of a future that will no longer be there and most of all knowing that while one day everything will be ok, it’s also normal to not want to think about that right now and live day by day. Our dog, a beagle named Ginger, has been tremendously appreciated during this time. Because I work alone, she’s often my butt-buddy on the couch, leaving an endless trail of fur but always making me laugh with her funny expressions and need for constant cuddles.
I have communicated with people about the loss on online forums where people are going through the same thing and we are taking person steps to create a memory box for our son who we only briefly got to meet. My friend Rebecca sent me this article and it really resonated with me, because like the poster, I’m not exactly on planet earth right now but I know I will be eventually.
Nico and I are beyond grateful for the support from our local community and friends who have gone above and beyond to be there for us in every imaginable way, even if just to listen to us tell our horrific story over and over and over again.
We haven’t had to do food shopping or cooking this entire week and every day we get messages of love from so many that it’s overwhelming in the best possible way. A friend of mine even wrote me yesterday that a group of them donated money to a local charity that supports children affected by chronic and complex pathologies and their families, this completely blew us away. A friend planted a tree in the baby’s honor and another couple purchased a star/constellation for child of Jupe-Pradier, acts that made me both cry but smile, as we start to collect things for our memory box for our son.
It’s true that I don’t respond as quickly as I would normally do, usually it’s what I’m known for, being consistent, being dependable and very present but I do want people to know I appreciate every single one of their kind thoughts and gestures.
So many people have gone through similar losses and I had absolutely no idea… as we’ve learned from friends, colleagues who have shared their own painful stories.
I’ve read online that if a woman knows about the pregnancy, the risk of loss is about 10 to 15 percent, but that between weeks 13 and 20, the risk of experiencing a miscarriage is less than 1 percent (source). It honestly feels like more from the number of people I’ve spoken to this week who have opened up and shared their own stories.
I wish miscarriage and loss weren’t such a taboo subject, but luckily there are communities/online accounts/places where it isn’t.
People should feel more open to share their stories with people they trust and love and most importantly, in a way that makes them feel the most comfortable, no matter how hard it might be to share that kind of very personal grief. This is precisely why I am writing about our loss today, to hopefully help other people not feel alone in pain.
If you have gone through something similar or even just want to talk, know that I am here, there is a human behind this website, and I will listen.
As for the generosity that we have received, well that can never really be repaid.
It has served as a reminder for Nico and I to be better people.
To make sure to check in with those we love and be truly there for them not just through well wishes and condolence cards. As life moves on it, world sometime tilts in a way you would never expect and all you have is what you can do as a person, giving the most precious gift of all; your time, patience, compassion, emotional support, errands done and deadlines forgiven. It really helps and it really matters…