Much like any other wanted pregnancy, pregnancy after loss is a mixture of joy and fear. However, with pregnancy after loss, an innocence has been lost. There is a naive sense of ignorant bliss that is forever robbed from the woman who has experienced a miscarriage. With a pregnancy after loss the fear often outweighs the joy.
This intensified anxiety is really difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it, because all women, despite what they’ve been through, feel anxiety surrounding a pregnancy. A woman who has never experienced loss is still going to worry if her baby is ok. She’s likely seen statistics on miscarriage or maybe knows a loved one who’s been open about her loss. So I’m not claiming they are actually ignorant or that they don’t experience fear and anxiety for their child.
I was that woman once upon a time and I certainly worried during my first pregnancy. I took a pregnancy test every single morning for three weeks just to make sure it hadn’t “gone away.” I checked for blood when I wiped. I held my breath each time I got an ultrasound or had a fetal doppler on my belly. I Googled symptoms and worried I wasn’t experiencing enough of them.
But after a loss there is a whole new level of anxiety that is truly inexplicable. Because unlike the woman who is lucky enough not to have been through a miscarriage, an angel mom knows firsthand how badly the pain hurts. It’s not a “what if” or a “I can’t even imagine.” It’s a “I can literally feel that deep, agonizing pain every time I think back on that day.”
During my first pregnancy I felt safe after my eight week ultrasound. After 8 weeks with a confirmed heartbeat, there is only a 1.5% chance of having a miscarriage. Now that I have lost a baby at 13 weeks after two ultrasounds and genetic testing, I will never again feel that sense of relief at any moment during pregnancy. A perfect ultrasound with a perfect heart rate and a perfect head to rump length mean very little to me now. Genetic testing with perfect results means even less. There is no such thing as a “safe zone” in my eyes. I will likely worry every day for the next 7 1/2 months until I have a crying baby in my arms (and even then I will worry about infant loss).
For me the anxiety this time around is ten times worse than the worry I felt during my first pregnancy. Because I know if it happens to me again this will break me. I will not recover from this. I know what it feels like to deliver a dead fetus. To finally get pregnant again after months of trying, only to hear my OB tell me my hCG has gone down and it’s only a matter of days until I bleed out my baby again.
In addition to heightened anxiety, there is a sense of deeply rooted guilt that also accompanies pregnancy after loss, because you’re supposed to be happy and grateful to be pregnant at all times. You can’t complain about your anxiety or your morning sickness or your fatigue, because getting pregnant was what you wanted. How dare you complain about your miracle while other angel moms are still waiting on their rainbows? Those women would give anything to be in your shoes. And a few months ago you would have done anything to be where you are now.
You also feel guilty to be happy, because if you dare let yourself get attached to this baby it’s going to devastate you when it all goes wrong. If you let yourself be happy then the joke’s on you when you have another miscarriage. If you let yourself be happy then the pain you’ll inevitably feel is your fault. Of course these feelings are irrational, but their lack of truth certainly doesn’t make them go away.
During my first pregnancy I worried, but deep down I felt a miscarriage would never happen to me. It was just so far removed and unfathomable. Now that I’ve had two, I feel like a healthy, live birth will never happen to me. It just feels so far removed and unfathomable.
I am truly overjoyed to be pregnant again. And I am truly very hopeful and feeling very positive this time around. But there is a lingering fear that eats away at my happiness and I would give anything to go back to the day I had everything I ever wanted in life without the crippling fear of losing it.