Pregnancy after miscarriage.
When I experienced my miscarriage last year it left a mark — it bruised my heart. I spent days trying to talk myself down from retracing every decision I had made leading up to that day. I was at war with myself. I was guilty, like many women in my position, of looking for reasons to blame myself. I was not kind to myself because I did not understand the science of my circumstance. I was isolated and uneducated and that amplified my self-doubt. Among the things I wish I had known prior to this loss was how it would impact my future pregnancy.
When that plus sign appeared my heart rose while my stomach plummeted – and that’s not because my due date would fall so close to our wedding day that we would be forced to postpone. At that moment, I didn’t care about a wedding. This is what Josh and I wanted; to become a family. That pit in my stomach came from a deep-rooted fear of having this little bean taken from me. The thought of this child being ripped away from me again like the last was overwhelming. I was scared to let myself accept this reality because it would hurt that much more if I failed again. My faith was shaken and I wasn’t brave enough to tear down the walls I had built to protect myself from that hurt. From the moment my second pregnancy was confirmed, a chain reaction was set into motion that completely changed my experience.
I was hyper-sensitive to anything I was experiencing in my body. I was militant with what I consumed. There was nothing worth the risk. There was nothing I needed that badly. I think it took me 3 months or so for my stomach to stop dropping every time I took a trip to the lady's room for fear of discovering spotting. I am being entirely serious when I tell you that my heart stopped every damn time. That anxiety took some time to dissolve, but it never really left me.
I was scared to have sex, which is not something that I vocalized at the time. When we lost our first pregnancy my fiancé and I had sex the night before my cramping and spotting started. I was assured by my doctor in emergency that we were not to blame, but that fear was still present in my mind. This feeling would eventually have a brief comforting dip in intensity before hitting the roof at the discovery of my short cervix.
I was annoyingly aware of every little feeling in my body. Anything that seemed outside the norm sent me down a twisting road of anxiety. The awful thing about pregnancy is a lot of the symptoms that you are feeling are either nothing or the start of the end. That in mind, it can be hard to proceed calmly through the evolution of your body while it creates life.
Acute onset Cherophobia (fear of being happy)
The first time around I immediately headed to Chapters to pick up a couple of pregnancy books. I did my research on what I wanted to read, I looked at review after review to make sure I was reading the right content. I marvelled at the pregnancy app I had downloaded and sent daily updates to my fiancé on what our little dinosaur was growing or doing. When things didn’t work out it was really hard to turn off the “pregnant mode” on my app and putting the books away was equally hard. My memory recall had this on repeat while I held that positive test in my hands. That self-doubt and fear created an anticipatory grief that kept me from having the pregnancy that I always planned. I was terrified of being happy because it all felt like a set-up. I was scared to want it for fear of failure, and that kept me from truly experiencing my first trimester.
"I was terrified that if my body failed me again I would be left with even more torturous mementos of a heart that stopped beating."
During our last pregnancy, all of the things that once brought me intense joy suddenly were painful reminders of what was taken from me. I was terrified that if my body failed me again I would be left with even more torturous mementos of a heart that stopped beating. I had always planned to write letters to my daughter in a journal to tell her all about her life in my belly; cravings, aversions, funny displays of pregnancy brain, etc. I wanted to save it all for her to read first hand. But I could never bring myself to do it. I thought if I believed that the day would come and started to write to her that she’d be taken from me – but she was taken from me all the same. I do not have a single photo of my growing belly. Not one. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The sole evidence of the only home I would ever give her are the two tiny stretch marks on my belly. The closest thing I have is a document saved on my phone with important milestone dates like the first time I felt her move or funny things I want to remember like the time I tried to unlock the front door with my car fob.
I don’t think I started to believe that it was going to happen until I started feeling her move. And even then, that brief moment of paralyzing bliss was met with disbelief. I struggled to shake that feeling. Ultrasound after ultrasound and heartbeat after heartbeat I fought that little voice in my head. I had just lost my father and the thought of losing her too was weighing on me.
It took me a long time to believe that this would happen. I remember any time Josh would talk about the nursery or the registry I was caught off guard, and then I thought “it’s going to happen this time, isn’t it – we’re going to make it”. I had just started believing a little while before our anatomy ultrasound. And that was when we would be told that we were at risk of losing our girl.
I won't let yesterday stop me from enjoying the moments that should be cherished no matter the outcome. I may not have my daughter, but I will always have the memory of carrying her. I will never forget how she moved when she heard her father's voice. I will never forget how she would squirm at night, annoyed that I repositioned myself in bed. I will never forget how she would push hard against my hand when I placed it on my belly. I like to imagine she was pressing her hand against mine, but she was likely telling me to quit cramping her space. I wish that I could have brought myself to document more. But I won't make that mistake again, because someday I will make it to the other side, whole. And when I do, I want to have felt all of it. I don't want to let my fear hold me back from feeling all of the miracles my body is performing.