About 6 months after the silent birth of our firstborn child and 5 months of trying for another child, my husband and I decided to go back to the fertility doctor. Since the birth of our son, my once like-clockwork cycles were all over the place. Even if we were able to conceive a child, my luteal phase had shortened and wasn’t long enough for any pregnancy to actually implant. It seemed like a cruel joke. We struggled for a year to conceive on our own, went through 5 months of fertility treatments, got pregnant, miscarried, got pregnant naturally with our son immediately after, lost our son inexplicably at 32 weeks, and then the one thing that worked before everything happened (my cycle) was no longer cooperating.
During the two months of treatment with the fertility doctor (in which we did cycles of Gonal-F injections and IUI with progesterone suppositories to lengthen my luteal phase), the focus was on getting pregnant. We didn’t allow ourselves to think about what would happen if it actually worked. That was too much, a rabbit hole we weren’t ready to go down yet. Our second round worked and we found out that we were pregnant with not one but two babies. I remember thinking during that 6-week ultrasound “well with twins, maybe I’ll get to keep one of them.” I felt absolutely horrible after thinking that but that is the reality of being a loss mother.
Related: Pregnancy After Loss is Complicated
The fear and anxiety that have followed ever since that 6-week ultrasound have been overwhelming. Gone were the days of not thinking that babies died after the first trimester. Instead are the days when I not only fear the same outcome we had with our son, but I also fear the outcomes I have learned about from meeting other loss mothers. Pandora’s box of infant loss was opened up to me the moment I became a bereaved mother, and I learned of all the various ways in which babies can die. In addition to all of those fears with singleton pregnancies, I now had the fear of losing not one but TWO babies. I went from an already high-risk pregnancy after having a stillborn to an even more high-risk pregnancy by having twins.
Pregnancy after loss (PAL) is its own special breed of psychological torture. You analyze and freak out over every small detail. Things that you would’ve never worried about in your pregnancy before loss can become catastrophes. My initial blood work showed that I am anemic; I thought I was dying and going to lose the babies. The other day I had a bug bite on my toe; I somehow convinced myself that it could be a poisonous spider bite that could cause me to lose the babies. I had horrible gas pain and thought it was possibly pre-term labor. I got up from the sofa and felt my stomach pull, only to panic that it was a contraction. This is PAL—Nothing is safe or harmless anymore.
PAL is a cluster of happiness and fear, oftentimes with fear being the overbearing emotion. While it is something we wanted, it is also something we need to just “get through.” We have to fight through the fear that wasn’t present with our other pregnancies. We have to take it one day at a time and just hope for the best. We have to advocate for more appointments with our doctors. We have to avoid the pregnancy apps. We have to embrace the pregnancy apps. We have to use words like “hopefully” or “if”—words that don’t imply bringing home a baby is a guarantee. We have to buy our own doppler to check the heartbeat at home. We have to keep the pregnancy a secret. We have to share the pregnancy to force ourselves to celebrate it.
Each one of us is different in how we handle the fear. But we all do whatever we can to keep ourselves sane, whatever will help us “get through” the pregnancy and, hopefully, welcome home a baby.
Amy Lied is a wife and a mother to her son, Asher, who was inexplicably born still on February 19th, 2017 and twin daughters. Before losing Asher, she suffered a miscarriage and struggled with unexplained infertility. She has documented her journey from the beginning of her infertility struggles on her blog, Doggie Bags Not Diaper Bags. She is also a co-founder of The Lucky Anchor Project , an online resource for loss families that houses an Etsy store whose profits are donated to loss family non-profit organizations. She hopes to help others by sharing her journey as she continues to navigate the bumpy road that is life after loss.