Pregnancy After Loss: When Fear Overwhelms the Joy

Robin Marty

I didn't expect to say this for some time.  I'm pregnant.  And I'm terrified.

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.

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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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