Being pregnant is hard. It’s even harder after a miscarriage or stillbirth.
For most women, pregnancy is pretty crappy. Sure, there’s the joy, anticipation and “glow” (if you’re lucky). But the average pregnant mom also has to deal with nausea and exhaustion. There’s the insomnia, constant need to pee, sudden onset of acne, hormonal ups and downs, heartburn, swollen feet, stretch marks and 30 pound weight gain.
And if you’re pregnant following a loss, there’s an extra weight to carry beyond your growing bump.
There’s the weight of grief.
It may seem like a new baby on the way could ease the pain of a previous loss. And it does, in a way. But the grief never goes away completely. There is no replacing the child that has been lost. And so sadness exists during a pregnancy after loss. The prenatal vitamins, soft fetal kicks, and blurry ultrasound pics are all reminders of the previous pregnancy and the baby that is gone.
There’s also the weight of fear, an anxiety that can be overwhelming at times. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep the doubts and fears at bay.
Not long after we lost our baby girl Frances, Richard and I talked about having another baby. My doctor warned us not to try for at least 6 months, until I had time to recover emotionally. But getting pregnant with Owen and Carmendy didn’t happen immediately for us, so I figured trying again after our loss would take a while. I dreaded the months of disappointment that I assumed were ahead — anyone who is trying to get pregnant knows that dejected feeling each month when your period arrives. I didn’t really think about how I would feel if I did actually get pregnant.
And amazingly, I did get pregnant immediately. I was shocked when I saw the pregnancy test results, and my heart filled with joy. WE ARE HAVING A BABY. And then it instantly filled with terror. WE MIGHT BE HAVING A BABY.
And so my fourth, most difficult pregnancy began. It has been the longest 9 months of my life. Today I am 37 weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby; not a single day has passed since I first saw the positive pregnancy test that I have not worried about the baby in my womb.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have followed my doctor’s advice and waited at least six months. I don’t know if I was prepared for the emotional roller coaster of pregnancy after loss, only two months after saying goodbye to our stillborn baby.
I prayed. I cried. I stressed. I threw up (a lot). I counted the days until I would be past 21 weeks. And then once I reached 21 weeks, I kept counting the days.
This pregnancy is nothing like my previous pregnancies. I cry every time I have an ultrasound, because my mind always flashes back to the moment when they couldn’t find Frances’ heartbeat. I follow every guideline precisely. I refuse to think too far ahead – no nursery decorating plans, no looking at newborn baby clothes, no happy thoughts that may jinx the well-being of our baby. I feel vulnerable and overly cautious. Rather than feeling like my uterus is a safe haven for our baby, I feel like my body can’t be trusted to carry a baby. I lay awake at night, imagining the worst case scenarios instead of imagining what he or she will look like. Because now I don’t just know that bad things CAN happen. I know that they DO happen. In fact, it feels like they WILL happen.
And so now here I am, three weeks away from my due date. Having spent most of the past 37 weeks waiting for something bad to happen rather than waiting to meet our newest little one, I’m completely unprepared. But I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that the day I get to hold my healthy, living baby in my arms will be the happiest day of my life, and that Richard and I are more than ready for our rainbow after the storm. I can’t even begin to imagine the peace and relief that I will feel, but I most definitely can imagine the GIANT glass of wine that we will be celebrating with.