The Longest 40 Weeks: Surviving Pregnancy After Loss
Pregnancy is supposed to be filled with joy, wonder, excitement, and love. Nothing changes that like the death of a child. Nothing.
My first child died before he took a breath outside my body. He was born at 24 weeks gestation in June of 2013.
We knew we wanted to try again soon. Not to replace him, because nothing could ever replace him. We wanted to start our family. Since our first child was now dead, we decided to try again. I was terrified but held onto hope that Parker would send us a sibling.
The day before Parker’s original due date, only 3 short months after he was stillborn, I took a pregnancy test. It was only moments before I saw the word “pregnant” flashing before my eyes.
If this were to be a pregnancy with no prior losses, I would have responded with elation, joy, and giddiness. Instead, I immediately started panicking. I was a mess. Instantly, I became sick to my stomach, hands shaking uncontrollably. I anxiously paced around my house.
Desperately, I tried to make sense of the whirlwind of emotions swirling through me.
Was I happy? Yes. Excited? Yes. Absolutely terrified. YES.
I had no living children. My first child was sick and born still. I had no frame of reference for a “normal” pregnancy. No clue about a full-term, healthy delivery. Was it even possible?
I knew that people had babies all the time, but I could not shake the memories of Parker’s life ending. Of hearing the words, “There is something wrong with your baby”. Being told, “I’m sorry there is no heartbeat”.
It was literally moment to moment. At times I was hopeful and believed that this little one was here to stay. Other times, I was a mess. I was constantly checking to see if I was bleeding. Neurotically checking to see that my pregnancy symptoms were still there. Unable to think of much else.
I had early testing. I had many ultrasounds. All these things pointed to a healthy baby. We found out we were having another boy. We were thrilled. I was also nervous. Scared that it would trigger me into a depression. Terrified that I would be unable to separate my two sons.
Horrified that he might die, too.
The fear of the unknown consumed me. During a therapy session, after zoning out because I was assessing if my breasts were still sore to confirm that I was still pregnant, my therapist said something that made sense.
What if instead of trying to predict if things were going to be okay, you could remind yourself that even if the worst thing were to happen again, you can’t do anything about it, unless it has happened? What if you could stay in the present moment? If and when the present moment brings something horrible, then I could panic. What if you could trust that no matter what you could get through it?
Okay. It was true that I had survived the unimaginable and was starting to heal. As a therapist myself, I knew that by thinking too far in the future, I was only creating more anxiety and panic. All I knew in this moment was that I was pregnant and everything was okay. I knew that by trying to be mindful and stay in the moment, I could reduce unnecessary suffering.
I decided that I would take it moment by moment. When I would start to panic, I’d remind myself of that fact. That as far as I know, in these moments, he is okay. It was hard, don’t get me wrong. But it also created some space for joy and excitement.
Related: Pregnancy After Loss: A Place of In-Between
The pregnancy continued. I continued to remind myself, sometimes many times a minute, that in that moment everything was okay.
Joy started to consume more of my time than fear. But fear lingered in the background.
The closure I got to my due date, which was almost exactly one year from the stillbirth of Parker, the more anxious I became. I needed him out. Safely. Due to increased panic, we decided to be induced at 39 weeks.
Our second son was born healthy, just 11 days before his big brothers first birthday in heaven. I could finally breathe. He was here and I had survived the longest 40 weeks of my life. Although it seemed like an eternity, we had made it. There were a lot of mixed emotions and fear. But also an enormous amount of love and hope.