My relationship with pregnancy has always been a bit rocky. My very first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and I was blessed with a healthy boy following that pregnancy after loss. I assumed my reproductive troubles were over.
Lo and behold I was wrong as the pattern repeated itself: another early miscarriage followed by a healthy baby boy. So, I felt elated beyond words when, in my fifth pregnancy, I made it through the first trimester without any issues. I thought to myself, “finally a child that doesn’t have loss surrounding his existence.”
Then at thirty-one-weeks and five days gestation, my sweet, healthy, too perfect for words little boy passed away in the night. We named our angel Lennon Rhys. We then set out on the long, arduous journey of trying to mend the pieces of our broken hearts while parenting our first two boys.
About six months after, my husband and I started the difficult conversation to decide if we were going to try to have another child. It took us some time to agree that trying again was best for our family, even now that we were acutely aware of the fragility of life.
We knew the extreme lows and highs of bringing new life into this world. We decided that if we were to try again, we needed to keep ourselves in the mindset that absolutely nothing wrong would happen to this child.
Most may see this as burying our heads in the sand but it was the only way to ensure we kept our sanity intact as we faced the possibility of pregnancy after loss.
After our first month of trying, I nervously took a pregnancy test. Sitting alone in the bathroom, listening to the collective snores of my sleeping boys, I couldn’t help but realize how different this pregnancy would be if the test came back positive.
The same excited feeling no longer lived in me, it was replaced with a quiet resolve to be ok no matter what. As the test read the word “pregnant”, I felt overjoyed and scared to death simultaneously. It was at that moment I resigned myself to the idea that this pregnancy is going to be filled with polarizing emotions.
I would have to learn to cope with them in a healthy way to ensure the safety of this new life inside me. Our first hurdle of pregnancy (the first trimester) felt easy, for lack of a better word.
To me, somehow, I believed if I were to lose the baby early on, I knew I could survive it.
The more difficult point in our pregnancy came as soon as the second trimester began. I knew I would need to inform people that I was expecting again. I was right to feel unease for this step.
While some were very happy for our family, others were not. They didn’t hesitate to tell me that to my face. Suddenly my reproductive decisions became fodder for some. Some told me I should not have done this to my family, as if I were knowingly inflicting harm upon my young children.
Worse yet, some people close to us showed no reaction at all, giving us deadpan responses.
Long gone was the excitement and joy of announcing a pregnancy. Being a mom to a stillborn means you have to create the joy for yourself. While I did receive plenty of nice reactions, I felt the bad ones overtook the good, so I changed my expectations of others.
I learned that the only real opinions that mattered in this situation were mine and my husband’s – and we wanted this child.
Every visit to my OBGYN was fraught with nerves and anxiety. I had an excellent team of doctors who allowed me to come in if I was feeling overwhelmed. At every visit, I was able to see my growing baby boy (our fourth boy!) on the ultrasound. Doctors patiently heard each of my concerns and reinforced that all would be well.
No matter my feelings of elation in the OBGYN office, as I left, I felt the fear and nerves creep back in. Having lost Lennon changed every moment of my subsequent pregnancy, it crowded my mind with uncertainty as is often the case in pregnancy after loss.
Related Post: Pregnancy After Loss: Fear and Anxiety
I honestly never let myself imagine our child being born, it was as if a wall was built up in my mind, an attempt at self-preservation. I was aware of this wall and its futility. I knew if I lost this child, nothing, no amount of preparedness, would alleviate the pain I would feel.
So, we marched forward. Every kick I felt allowed me peace. Every positive doctor visit felt like I was that much closer to meeting my boy, holding him in my arms alive and well. I joined a rainbow mom’s group, a tool I credit with keeping some more irrational feelings at bay.
I remember discussing in detail my fear that if I were to write down some of my more terrifying feelings, that they just may happen. My fantastic counselor’s response was perfect. She said that I had classic childlike thinking, believing I had any control over what actually happens to me.
The reality of any pregnancy, particularly after loss and like pretty much everything in life, is that we have no control over what happens, we just like to think we do.
Yet in an attempt to feel in control, I decided to do everything in this pregnancy by the book.
I ate only pregnancy approved foods, I avoided hot showers, I slept on my side surrounded by a laughable number of pillows. I denied my cravings for a Primo’s Italian and refused every hot dog offered to me over the summer. Each act made me feel like I was doing all I could to ensure his health.
Reaching the point in my pregnancy when I lost Lennon was my most challenging hurdle. I had these intense flashbacks of the day I lost my son. I would catch myself in quiet moments repeating, “don’t tell me he’s dead, just don’t tell me he’s dead.”
Those same words I’d chanted before, and then I’d heard the phrase that forever changed me, “there is no heartbeat.” I ran into labor and delivery three times in a relatively short period of time – no matter what positive thinking I attempted to force myself into, I couldn’t not be scared that something horrible would happen to this new little life.
Miraculously, I made it to the end of my pregnancy with our fourth boy with the emotional support of close family, rainbow group, and the tireless efforts of my doctors. Although his birth was traumatic (my uterus ruptured, and I was put under to have a quick emergency cesarean section) the joy I felt when I held my boy in my arms for the first time is indescribable.
If you’re struggling through pregnancy after loss, remember, you are NOT alone. Reach out for help if you can, speak your fears out loud. Allow yourself to feel what you need to and don’t be afraid to be “that mom” who rushes in to get checked out!