Pregnancy After Loss: When Fear Overwhelms the Joy


So here’s something I didn’t expect to say for quite some time.

I’m pregnant.

Yes, I appreciate the irony, too.  Less than two weeks after writing about the pain, frustration and loneliness of miscarriage and infertility, I found myself staring at two pink lines.  Well, actually one dark pink line, and one very, very faded possibly pink-tinged line. 

No, let’s be totally honest, I found myself staring at 7 strips containing one dark pink line and a steadily and progressively darker pink tinged line as each strip lay one above the other.  Because, yes, I had to check again and again to see if it was really true.

There is an overwhelming sense of emotions that come with being pregnant again, especially so quickly.  Although the miscarriage was back in October, my body didn’t fully turn to hormonally “non-pregnant” until the end of February, so this really was our first try.  I’m overjoyed, beyond a doubt.  I wanted this so, so badly, and never believed it could happen so fast.

But there is a sense of guilt, as well.  Not for “replacing” the baby we lost so quickly – believe me, after losing a wanted pregnancy, there is no such thing as “too quickly” when it comes to getting pregnant again.  But I do feel somewhat guilty getting pregnant when so many in my support circle are still struggling to conceive after their loss.  I fully expected to be one of them, and part of me feels like I have abandoned them.

And even more so, is the horrible, unshakable fear that comes from being pregnant for the first time after a miscarriage.  You have truly lost your innocence when it comes to pregnancy once you have experienced loss.  There is no safe moment, no feeling that being nauseous enough, tired enough, achy or cranky enough truly means that the baby is healthy and growing and safe.  There is no reassurance that his or her heart is still beating, that it won’t slow, won’t stop again, or that your body won’t once more betray you into believing your pregnancy is normal and progressing, when in fact it ended weeks earlier.

I try to come up with anything I can point to that might prove this pregnancy will work out.  This child would be born just a few days after my daughter’s birthday; surely that is a sign, right?   I tell myself I was never this nauseous before (although I thought that last time, too), my breasts never ached like this, my temps never went up so quickly after ovulation. I have gone back to the total paranoia of the first time pregnancy, heating my lunchmeat and washing my hands repeatedly, scoping for the possibility of rogue bacteria, listeria, raw egg or meat.  I live in terror of cross-contamination that might somehow get by me and make it to the baby.

I’ve been calling it the “doom surge.”  It’s the moment when I’m overwhelmed with the idea that I’m crazy to think anything would be different this pregnancy.  Last time everything seemed fine and it was a loss.  How can I expect a happy ending this time?

Then I find myself slightly reassured.  This feeling of inevitable miscarriage, the impending doom?  Maybe that is hormones, too.  A new symptom I never had last pregnancy.  Maybe it’s somehow a sign this one will survive.

As soon as the second line turned pink I called the doctor for an appointment. I expected blood tests, ultrasounds, maybe weekly monitoring.

Instead, I got a pep talk.

“There is no reason this pregnancy shouldn’t be successful,” his assistant said, trying to comfort me.  “A vast majority of the women who experience a miscarriage have completely normal, uneventful pregnancies the next go around.”

I was hoping for an early ultrasound and reassurance.  Instead, I got a ten-minute lecture on positive thinking and an order to come back at around 12 weeks for my first checkup.

It was at my first checkup the last time that he couldn’t find a heartbeat. That was when my doctor said some bloodwork would be in order.  That was when he told me my dates looked off based on his little portable handheld bedside ultrasound, and maybe a transvaginal needed to be booked.  And that maybe it would be best to have it done sooner, rather than later.

I didn’t know then that these statements were all code for a probable miscarriage.  This time I do, and I’m terrified.

But I also know that I can’t do anything more to keep myself and the baby healthy. I know so much more about loss, and continue to set personal goals that mean the pregnancy is moving on normally.  So far, I’ve made it past the point of a chemical pregnancy, and still see no sign of miscarriage.  I’ve made an agreement with myself that every day I don’t see any blood, I will just believe that when I do go in I WILL hear that heartbeat this time.

Today, I am pregnant.  I have to believe that tomorrow I will be, too.

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  • jrm83

    I’m very happy for you and I hope everything goes well.  I don’t know if you are religious or not, but I’ll be praying for you and your baby.

  • robin-marty

    I’m certain I can’t have too many prayers right now…

  • cpcwatcher

    And thank you for this wonderfully human yet informative piece about the range of emotions women can feel about pregnancy after loss.  I’m just beginning to learn more and more about supporting women (as a doula and a human in general) who are experiencing loss, or who are becoming pregnant again after a loss.  I’m happy to see it in such a wonderfully prochoice, prowoman forum as well!

  • mechashiva

    Wishing you the very best through all of this. Anxiety can be a godawful thing to have to work through, and I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be when you are growing this new life inside you without knowing for certain that you won’t experience the pain of miscarriage again.

     

    Try to think positive. Doctors and yogis alike say that it does wonders for physical outcomes.

  • virginia

    … that is how I would describe how I felt when I got pregnant after miscarrying.

     

    what a great post & a not often talked about topic.

     

    all the “think positive” advice can seem trite, but to me it was about staying in the present & savoring every moment of pregnancy.  I did not want to end up having 9 months of fear/worry– I could be miserable, or I could be happy… the outcome would be the same (either the pregnancy would stick or it wouldn’t)… so why not be happy.

     

    I’m not going to lie, it took a while & I spent LOTS of time that first trimester checking my underwear :)

     

    best of luck & congrats again!

  • crowepps

    You have truly lost your innocence when it comes to pregnancy once you have experienced loss.

    This is an absolutely true statement, and having experienced this myself, I will tell you right now that you can NEVER go back. To this day when somebody tells me they’ve just gotten their pink line and they’re going shopping because they’re all thrilled and happy I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from saying ‘keep your receipts just in case’.

     

    I remember looking for ‘signs’, being obsessive about my activities, bargaining, the rituals, and although I’m sure none of that had any effect whatsoever on the pregnancy, they served their purpose by giving me the helpful illusion I had some control over what would happen, so don’t beat yourself up over being a little irrational and just go ahead and indulge in them.

     

    I sincerely hope you have a good outcome this time. The odds are in your favor. My daughter, born healthy after two miscarriages, is now almost 30!

  • phylosopher

    New one on me – please define?

  • ack

    Thank you for sharing! Congratulations and all the best to you and your family!

  • bj-survivor

    It’s when there are still-detectable levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), aka the pregnancy hormone, in the urine and/or blood even after abortion has occurred*.

    *Abortion, in this case, refers to the premature expulsion of a developing embryo/fetus. Elective abortion is the act under controversy, of course, while spontaneous abortion, referred to in lay terms as “miscarriage,” is pretty much a non-issue with forced-gestation proponents. Apparently it’s a-okay if God/Master of the Universe/Nature kills a precious pre-borned human, but an unforgiveable crime for a woman to arrive at and act upon the conclusion that creating a new life would not be advantageous at the current time.

  • bj-survivor

    I wish you overwhelming success in your current effort at creating a new life!

     

    Thank you for sharing your heartache and your joy. Would that no one was ever pregnant when she didn’t want to be or couldn’t afford/didn’t have the necessary support to be. And would that nothing ever went wrong during pregnancy.

  • radicalhousewife

    Congratulations, Robin, and thank you for sharing your story.  I know so many women who have struggled with miscarriage, infertility, and the associated pregnancy terrors you describe.  They all confessed to how difficult it was to share their stories, yet how much relief they felt when they learned they weren’t alone.  You’ve helped someone today!