I thought I was strong.

I may have given myself a little too much credit.

I can hold babies, I can talk about my boys, I can visit their tree where their ashes are buried, I can think about most things now without feeling that all too familiar feeling of dread in my stomach, pain in my heart and emptiness in my soul.

I thought I was strong.

Then I got pregnant.

Pregnancy after loss.

That’s a hard one.

There was a moment of elation followed by the old familiar feeling of complete and total fear.  Wanting to trust in the miracle I had growing inside me but much too aware of how quickly a miracle can turn into a nightmare.

There’s some weird sort of thing mothers say when they talk about their loss, or worse, when someone else says it in regard to your loss.

“At least…”

At least they weren’t older.  At least you didn’t get to know them.  At least I didn’t feel it move, become more emotionally attached….

At least nothing.

I’ve had three losses in pregnancy.  One was very early and it was devastating.  Years later, the circumstances couldn’t have been more different, and I faced loss again.  My Tucker at 18.5 weeks and his brother, my Fletcher at 20 weeks.  Did it hurt because I saw them, held them, recognized my nose on Tucker and my husband’s lips on Fletcher?  Yes it hurt.  But it didn’t hurt any more or less because of how long I carried them.

I’ve caught myself thinking, when hearing about a baby who passed at 3 months, or 18 months, or 6 years or 19, “At least the boys weren’t that old, I can’t imagine.”

That’s unfair to myself and my boys.  I can imagine.  I do all the time.  When school starts and I see 1000 back to school pictures.  Or when football, baseball, soccer pictures are all I see on my facebook news feed.  Every day it’s a loss when you are missing your heart.

There’s a sweet quote passed around that says giving birth is to have your heart walking around outside of your body.  It’s sweet, really, to think about.  What happens, though, when you did that but it’s just no longer there?  I can promise you know more than a handful of mother’s who know, first hand, how that feels and would love the chance to share.

So, pregnancy after loss.

There is no, “At least.” A loss at 5 weeks is no less of a loss at 16 weeks.  I can promise the hopes, dreams, love, and joy are just as strong at 26 weeks as they are at 38.

I was talking to a friend, who is also a mother, about how crazy I feel.  The doctors appointments I dread because of the fear.  The what if’s, the nightmares.  She told me something and I could see the struggle on her face before she told me. “I hope I don’t hurt your feelings, but I want you to know, that’s every mother’s fear.  Walking into each appointment, not knowing what you’ll find out, you’re not alone in that.”

Pregnancy after loss isn’t all that different from any other pregnancy, really.  We all hope for the best, we all have dreams for our babies, we can picture them in our arms, wondering what they will grow up to be like.  Pregnancy after loss just adds a level of first-hand knowledge that not every miracle comes with a happy ending.  It doesn’t change the mother’s heart though, no matter the outcome.

I lost my boys, but at least I’m a mom who knows what it means to love something so much more than I ever could have imagined.

And for this baby I carry, at least there are 2 big brothers in heaven who will forever be looking out for my baby.

For that, I’m proud and I’m hopeful.

How did you get through your pregnancy after loss?  Any words of encouragement for others facing this?