Still Standing

Holding on to Hope

I’ve written about how scared I was to try for another child, but was trying my best to face the fear and jump in. I decided I didn’t want fear to define our next pregnancy; instead I wanted to hang on to hope with everything I’ve got and try to find as much joy as possible in the pregnancy.

With anxious and hopeful hearts, I’d like to share that we are currently expecting our third child, due this summer. When we found out I was pregnant, I was feeling fairly hopeful at first. I was feeling pretty good and felt reasonably trusting that this pregnancy could go well. I would say I was cautiously optimistic. It took me somewhat longer than I had wanted to really feel connected to the baby. I admit that my guard was up in the beginning, but slowly as the weeks went on, I felt hope rising in my heart.

Photo credit: Melissa Russell

However, just before my 20 week ultrasound, we got some difficult news. Not only were there potential problems with my placenta, but some of the early testing indicated there was a risk of potentially devastating abnormalities with the baby. Suddenly our worst fears were staring us in the face. We may lose this baby. We may be forced to make impossible life or death decisions for our unborn child. Everything I had feared was standing in front of me, challenging the hope I thought I had such a firm grasp on. And just like that, fear started to overpower hope.

It was a bitter reminder that surviving the loss of one of our children already doesn’t protect us from bad things happening to us again. It doesn’t ensure that our future pregnancies and children will be safe. Although I want to believe in my heart that “lightening can’t strike the same place twice”, I know that this isn’t true. It doesn’t matter how many losses you’ve endured or what has happened in the past, it could happen again. That is the scariest part of pregnancy after loss for me. We’ve already endured the unthinkable, and yet we have no guarantees that it won’t happen again.

When you are facing your worst nightmare again, how do you remain strong and hang onto hope? How do you hold onto hope when one thing after another keeps coming up abnormal? How do you not let fear and anxiety take over? It was hard enough to feel hopeful when things were going smoothly, but now that there were potential problems, the fear started clawing at me. Much to our own dismay, both my husband and I started assuming that we would no longer be bringing this baby home. This reaction must have been one of self-preservation, our feeble attempts to protect our still healing hearts from the pain of potentially losing another child.

After many scary and all too familiar conversations with various medical professionals, and several nerve-wracking and intense additional tests, we are beyond grateful and relieved to report that it appears that everything looks ok with the baby and my pregnancy, at least so far anyways. There are no words to describe what a relief it was to get this news. We know many couples have had to face multiple losses and impossible decisions, so we feel very grateful for the positive news.

After receiving the news that both the baby and I are healthy, I was back on the roller coaster of pregnancy after loss and found myself desperate to try to reconnect with the baby all over again. I am finding that I have to work harder than ever now to push the fear down and make space for hope to rise up above the fear.

I decided the only way to do this for me at this moment, was to actively find ways to celebrate this baby. This scare made me realize that my heart is already firmly attached to this baby. I can’t protect myself from the potential for pain, because I don’t want to deny myself the opportunity to experience the love that I already feel for the baby. I’ve decided to follow my own advice and celebrate this pregnancy with reckless abandon. So I have started getting out the baby clothes we’ve saved. I’ve started to think about how I want to decorate a room for the baby and make space for this new little person in our home. Perhaps these are not monumental steps, or even that unusual to anyone who has not experienced the loss of a child. But to someone expecting a child after such a devastating loss, these are huge steps. They are steps filled with trust and love and most importantly, hope.

We decided to face our fears and try again for another baby. Then we had our strength and courage tested. We have been incredibly fortunate to receive good news, at least for now. Now I am trying more than ever to hang on to hope with both hands, to make room for the hope to rise higher than the fear. I have no choice, this baby is already firmly entrenched in our lives and our hearts. My only option is to keep hanging on to hope and take each day as the gift that it is, a celebration of life.