Some people who haven’t experienced a loss would think that getting pregnant after a loss would be exciting. You’re pregnant again! Yay! What they don’t think of is the gut wrenching anxiety that comes along with it. The roller coaster ride of emotions. The fear of the unknown. The lack of blissful naivetes of an expecting parent.
When I first found out I was pregnant with my rainbow, it was a few days before leaving on vacation. I told my husband in a card and we were both very excited. We decided not to tell anyone for a while, but took advantage of the anonymity of vacation by practically telling anyone we spoke to.
But once we got to our first OB appointment, it hit us. First, we found out when we got there that the doctor was no longer doing OB and was focusing strictly on GYN. Why the receptionist didn’t tell me that when I made the appointment, and saying it was because I was pregnant, was beyond me. But as he did the ultrasound, he said the baby was measuring smaller than it was supposed to be. Possibility of Turner’s Syndrome again (which we did not know at the time is rare to happen).
For those of you who do not know what Turner’s Syndrome is: It’s a genetic condition that only affects females and is when the X chromosome is missing or partially missing. This results in a whole slew of medical conditions that, if the baby survives pregnancy and birth (it’s one of the highest causes in miscarriages), will need continual medical care. One “symptom” is delayed growth.
We needed to see the doctor a week later. We continued with frequent ultrasounds and numerous blood-tests until it was confirmed baby did not have Turner’s and appeared healthy. The first 4 months was torture. Besides my normal pregnancy symptoms of awful morning sickness (all day long) and extreme fatigue, my husband and I were both emotionally strained. I won’t get into my husband’s experience- because that is his story to tell. But for me, I was mixed with being excited another baby is coming, wondering how I can open my heart more to another child, and what if something happens? As a bereavement doula, I have seen more tragedies than I could ever imagine. I knew what could happen. I walked on eggshells for months. 13 weeks was a huge milestone for us. We lost Gabriella at 13 weeks- a week past the mark of when it’s “safe” to tell people you’re pregnant. We only told close family and friends by this time. We didn’t make a huge announcement.
The second trimester, I tried to be excited, but it was hard. I tried to stay positive for my little family’s sake. I wanted my son to be excited and not miss out on this amazing moment in life. I kept a great mask on to the public to be strong. But I was still terrified. Most of the time, alone, I tried to distance myself from the pregnancy. I made sure to take care of myself, but I didn’t focus on my pregnancy like I had in the past. There were no frequent baby bump pictures or anything of that nature.
Then 28 weeks hit. I started having contractions. In my head I said I was crazy, they were just Braxton Hicks, and “they” always say subsequent pregnancies tend to be more sensitive and things feel stronger, more intense. After a few days, they became a little stronger and a little too consistent for my liking. Maybe I was dehydrated. Maybe I was just tired. But then I started to keep track. 20-30 minutes apart. Ok- I need to rest more, eat better, and drink a ton more water. It wasn’t until the day I sat down, went to go stand, and was in excruciating pain in my stomach and pelvic area. Three tries of standing, crying, before I could move. Achiness in my lower back. I felt awful. I had to pick up my son from school and called my OB while waiting in the parking lot. She confirmed my dreaded suspicions – it sounds like you’re in preterm labor. Meet me at the hospital tomorrow morning, unless things get worse tonight, then head in right away.
Hours I spent at the hospital being monitored, tests done, blood drawn, ultrasounds. After a thorough medical history and a cervical exam, I was prescribed strict bedrest. No getting up for anything except the bathroom and if there is a fire. At the moment, I think I was in denial, because all I kept thinking was how I was going to keep my house in order, see clients, teach classes, get the house ready for the baby, and most importantly- take care of my 3-year-old and spend the time with him I wanted to spend before the baby came.
But deep down, all I can think was “shit” and tried to prepare myself for the worst. I called my insurance company about hospital coverage. I researched level 3 NICUs in the area. I looked through my training to remind myself where the baby was developmentally at 28 weeks.
Throughout the rest of the pregnancy, I had consistent contractions for days, would stop for a few days, then continue again. It was exhausting. The unknown. The planning for something that can’t be planned.
By the time we got to 34 weeks, I was breathing easier. 37 weeks – I felt amazing. At 39 weeks 2 days, I gave birth. Wasn’t quite picture perfect, but it was still better than I could have imagined (thank you to my amazing midwife I was able to transfer back to very last minute). I vaguely remember him coming out quiet and not quite pink. My heart skipped a beat, but I vaguely remember saying he was great. I breathed when I heard that little squeal not quite a cry. Recovery was beautiful.
Then, as the rollercoaster of my pregnancy went, I was informed that because of a skin tag on his ear, they needed to check his kidneys and heart by ultrasound. While listening to his heart during a routine checkup, they heard a murmur. Give us a break!!!! (I was relatively calm at this point and said we would deal with whatever it was, but man I was exhausted). Thank goodness the ultrasound came back clear. The heart murmur did not. We needed to stay an extra night to monitor it and then decide from there if we needed to see a cardiologist. I am so grateful that my husband spent the nights at home with our 3-year-old. It gave me a chance to process (without worrying about anyone else) the whirlwind of the last year and a half, this pregnancy, this birth, these potential problems.
By morning- the murmur was gone. Someone was listening.
It took about 3 weeks for me to really start bonding with my baby. I saw him. My mommy instincts kicked in and I cared for him, loved him. But it wasn’t until one day he looked at me- really looked at me- that it clicked. This is my baby. He is here. He is healthy. He is in my arms. He is mine.
No one understands the stress a rainbow family goes through unless they have experienced the death of a child themselves.
The pregnancy- a beautiful moment in life, is seized by the unknown. The anxiousness. The fear. The joy. The beauty.
This continues through birth. Through recovery. Through postpartum.
Outsiders don’t understand why we can’t leave our babies with a babysitter so soon. Why we can’t have them out of our sight. The anxiety of just *thinking* about the baby being left with someone not ourselves or partner (and even that has a level anxiety).
Be gentle with us. Be patient with us. You don’t need to understand it all, but understand we need these things. One step at a time.