Saturday, August 13, 2016

14 Truths About Pregnancy After Loss

Pregnancy after loss is different. High risk pregnancy with hyperemesis after MULTIPLE losses at various stages of pregnancy for several different reasons is filled with sheer terror. As much as I WANT this baby, as much as I already LOVE it, I’m barely HAPPY or excited. Anxiety & Fear are the dominant emotions and dwarf any competing thoughts.

Okay, I know what you’re asking “Is this a pregnancy announcement?” Not exactly. I AM pregnant. (I've written a little bit about that pregnancy in this post.) However, the sad thing is I never know how long any pregnancy of mine will last. So with this post, my hope is it has staying power and value beyond THIS pregnancy. That others can relate to my experiences and not feel so alone. Because, let me tell you, I FEEL alone in these emotions.

In the course of my child-bearing journey (my obstetric history is in another post - and this post explains why we decided to try once more after our most recent loss) I have had a rainbow baby after losses AND losses after that baby. I found giving myself permission TO BE and FEEL whatever came (& not apologize for it) to be the most helpful way to manage a Pregnancy After Loss (PAL).

Things I’ve found true in pregnancy after loss:

1.) There is no aspect of my life that is not impacted by pregnancy. From what meds I can take and shampoo I can use (smells bother me) to insurance issues. How much I can take on or what commitments I make are based on sickness & bedrest upcoming. I wrestle with who to tell and when. I don’t WANT to tell people (because, oh the judgment and hurtful comments) but how can I not when I’m too sick to honor commitments or volunteer and the events I DO attend I am clearly sick and throwing up?! The morning sickness tells for me. 

2.) Losing babies does not remove my desire to have another child but it does rob me of the innocence and joy many others get to feel during pregnancy. The illusion that a positive pregnancy test results in snuggles with a newborn is shattered. I want this child AND I DON’T want to have another pregnancy loss. “Why would you risk going through another miscarriage?” (Oh yeah, justifying my pregnancy is another thing I have to do.) Because the reward is worth the risk.  Because I’m not SUPPOSED to lose any of the babies. But oh how I envy those parents who plan and prep for Baby's arrival without the same fears I have. I don't buy gear or clothing or set up the crib. Those are things Moms with Innocence get to do.

3.) A lot of people become VERY interested in my family planning choices. “Did you try for this one?” “Again?” “Don’t you have enough?” “Is this your last ‘try’?” “Aren’t you done yet?” “I thought the last one was your last one?” “Aren’t you afraid this one is going to die too?” “Wow, that was fast – getting pregnant most not be the problem, just keeping it?” (BTW there have been multiple times we tried for a couple YEARS between a loss and a new pregnancy - my kids are all 3-5 years apart.) "Why can't you just be happy with the kids you do have?" (Please know that my adoration of my existing children and blessings I know I have exist AT THE SAME TIME as my desire to have another baby.  Wanting a happy ending this pregnancy does NOT mean I am not "satisfied" with my life. What a ridiculous notion.)

A lot of well- intentioned people say some pretty hurtful things. Some days I feel maybe I want to keep this a secret, private, free from the excessive volume of criticism that comes but I am unable to due to the sickness and life-halting nature of my pregnancies. Then again, I want you to celebrate with me - like "normal" moms do. I'm working on not being so easily hurt by these statements.

4.) I’ve stopped apologizing for making others uncomfortable & I'm done caretaking anyone else’s emotions. I don’t have the emotional energy at this point. I don’t mean for my discussion about my miscarriages to make you uncomfortable but I also don’t really care. I’m not gonna change me. I don’t MEAN to be controversial – I’m just living my life and honoring the choices my family has come to.

If I seem insensitive THAT I do totally apologize; I’m really wrapped up in myself right now. I truly believe in breaking the silence surrounding loss and the lonliness and stigma that comes from keeping quiet so others aren't uncomfortable. I'm done apologizing for all these crazy emotions I'm feeling too.

5.) I understand there are some pretty big things going on in the world around me right now (hey, isn’t this an election year?!) but I am SO selfish these days. So much is going on in MY little world that I don’t always invest much in these other things. I do apologize for being selfish, for not noticing, Dear Friend, that you have big stuff going on in your world too. I’ll be back to reality in a few months. I hope. Part of it is the sickness and once I am past that my field of vision will expand a bit.

6.) A new child NEVER replaces one lost.  It will not “fix” the pain or “cure” the hurt. A new pregnancy doesn’t replace a child lost. But the same desire for a child that was there before still exists. (Therefore deciding NOT to try again won’t “fix” things either. You don’t fix losing babies – you live on as a new person.) I will say though that having a Rainbow Baby after loss DID bring so much healing. I love having that to look forward to.

7.) Time moves VEEERRYY slowly. I measure life in gestational dating “8 weeks and 5 days pregnant.” When I am THIS sick and my anxiety is THIS high, time seems to stand still. The time between ultrasounds seems an eternity. People, hear me. I am not being dramatic – I am really THAT sick. My days consist of crawling from the bed to the bathroom in between vomiting sessions. I cannot even keep ice cubes down. I’m so nauseous and weak that I cannot talk, read a book, or even use the computer for more than a few minutes at a time (I intended to post this a couple weeks ago – sickness is delaying it). I’m losing a fair amount of weight - even with going in for IV fluids a couple times a week. I’m being real with you here. Pain from the hunger. Weakness from dehydration. Anxiety wondering if Baby is okay. While time passes at a normal speed for the world around me, for me, minutes feel like DAYS.

8.) My faith falters. As long as I’m getting real with you, I may as well admit it. I have a pretty strong Christian faith but I DO struggle at times. I still somedays wonder WHY – what is the purpose or tangible take away from all this hurt? All of that sickness. All those blood thinner shots. Yet, eleven of my babies are in Heaven. Stillborn TWICE. Flukes, not a repeat health problem. No lie, just lightening striking repeatedly (that luck never translates to winning the lottery though).  I prayed daily for my son to live. It’s not the baby dying so much as all the rest that comes with – extra surgeries, the hyperemesis, the criticism. So, yeah, sometimes I falter. I get upset with God. I forget to pray. He always draws me back to Him – God is good all the time, in all things. Most days are good ones. He carries me.  But yeah, some days I struggle. Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

9.) I feel like I’m experiencing PTSD each time I go through pregnancy. I lost babies at different stages so I don’t feel like there is a “safe point.” I had a healthy baby born between losses and can tell you the fear doesn’t go away ever. Not even when I was holding my precious son after delivery. Joy finally was allowed through the emotional doorway but Anxiety still stood firm. I can’t imagine my life without that boy and everything we went through was worth it to get us to him.

So I’m basically reliving painful experiences because I am pregnant again. I have to go to the clinics and get the blood draws and vomit profusely and over analyze every cramp and pain and visit the same hospitals for IV fluids. Frequent ultrasounds with all the same techs. The ladies in the lab, the nurses, the gals at the front desk, and my doctor all know me well. The miserable symptoms. The shots of blood thinners in the abdomen every day, other weekly injections in the thigh, doctor visits more than once a week. The same conversations in the same rooms with the same staff about the same topics. Ultrasounds on the same machine that previously showed my baby was dead. I WANT THIS, yes, AND I feel like I’m reliving my worst nightmares. (I attend a different perinatal clinic than I did with Bentlee’s loss but the same as with Oliver’s).

10.) I want to be pregnant. I am GLAD I am. I have hope. There IS excitement there. I can’t help but imagine what life will look like with this child living and look forward to it. I already love this child, even when I try to put up a guard around my heart. But there is that caution “living.” “If” “Cautiously Optimistic.” “For however long this lasts.”

11.) Being pregnant now does not remove the jealousy I have over other pregnant women. NOT because they are pregnant- I am always happy for that. Or that their baby is alive – again ALWAYS, ALWAYS what I pray for. Maybe more because I wish I didn't know how much a loss like this hurts. Or maybe I’m just jealous that they are closer to their happy ending than I am. I was DUE FIRST. In 6 months I have seen TWO due dates come and go with NO living baby while OODLES of friends get their newborn.

On the opposite end though, I still want to be a part of this special event in their life. It is hard, there are tinges of sadness, AND I am happy for them and celebrate with them. I don’t want to be shut out or treated as fragile AND my sadness can be increased. I have to reconcile emotions and that's okay.

12.) Worry. I over analyze the past, google self-diagnosis and worst case scenarios. There is no ONE thing wrong with me, but I have had a few incidences of bad luck, if that’s the right term. So I am paranoid rightfully so. I think this is allowed. The pressure to “be calm, no stress during pregnancy” is too much. Checking for blood every time I pee with my heart racing each time, terrified of miscarriage. Waiting for the good news to turn bad. Never feeling peace or reassurance for long. The same logic that says nothing bad should happen and the odds are in my favor being overshadowed by the blinding reality that those things that should not happen have many times.

13.) I feel guilty about a lot of things. That maybe I’m not honoring Oliver’s memory by being pregnant. That maybe I will lose this baby too. That I’m not soaking up and celebrating this pregnancy and telling everyone around me with excitement like this sweet child deserves. That I make decisions now based on prior experience. That I’m an inconvenience to those around me that deal with my sickness and my crazy.

14.) I feel a deep appreciation for those closest to me that support me through this. A Momma friend who has been there before and brings me meals. My friends/PCAs that are going above and beyond to help my family function while I’m sick or on bedrest. I feel intense love for my husband, who does so much to care for the kids, the home, AND me. Who is my total rock in such a difficult emotional roller coaster. Mostly, I’m thankful for life in general right now. The one I have, the one growing inside me, the children snuggling me…