October 15, 2015, was the first time that I heard of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I had never had a miscarriage or lost a baby. Scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed, I noticed that a few of my friends had marked the day by sharing the names of babies they had lost in miscarriage and the dates that they would have expected these children into their lives. One particular post from a college friend resonated with me because I didn’t know that she had miscarried; her post was her first public announcement of her loss. Eight weeks pregnant myself, I privately reached out to her, sending my condolences for her loss. She responded with a heartfelt message about her story, and with the encouraging news that she was pregnant once again. I confided to her that I was terrified of miscarriage with my pregnancy, even though I had delivered three healthy boys before with no problems or losses. We commiserated about the anxiety that the first trimester holds for so many women.
Ten days later, my bleeding began, and I knew. On my way to the hospital to confirm my miscarriage, I messaged that same friend. Hours later, I learned that I had I lost my baby in the same gestational week that she lost hers, near the end of the first trimester. My friend proved to be a constant support during the agonizing months that followed–she, a friend who I had all but lost contact with apart from occasionally “liking” one another’s posts on Facebook. The connection that I feel with this friend now is strong and permanent.
Since last October, my friend has gone on to give birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. In February of this year, my husband and I also learned that I was once again pregnant. I was hopeful, because how could I not be? However, I was also terrified. My fears ran deep, particularly in the first half of this pregnancy. We weren’t sure what had caused our miscarriage last fall, and so we didn’t know of any preventative measures to take. What if I miscarried again? My miscarriage had morphed into a physical emergency, resulting in emergency rooms, surgery, and transfusions. What if the same medical complications occurred again? What if we had pushed our luck too far and a fourth child just wasn’t meant to be? What if I chose to love and then lost again? Losing my unborn baby had been the greatest calamity of my life.
So far, things have been different with this pregnancy and baby has thrived. As of this writing I am 33 weeks pregnant, and we are expecting our fourth boy (to be named Jude) nearly to the date that we lost our baby last October. Sometimes it gives me chills just thinking about it. Undoubtedly, the emotional framework of this pregnancy has been complicated, and at times I haven’t known how to handle it well. As the weeks have passed, I have held Jude emotionally at arm’s length. My instinctual self-protection kicked in good and hard. I have smiled knowing that I am pregnant, but I have refused to allow myself to love Jude deeply for fear that he might not be here to stay.
And then what?
My heart might not be able to handle the loss of another unborn son. With previous pregnancies I have spent quiet time savoring the future, imagining the intimate moments of middle-of-the-night feedings, how he might look, how he would smell, how it would feel when he rested his little bum on top of my arm while nestling his face into my neck.
This time, I can’t give myself the freedom to imagine.
In 33 weeks of pregnancy, I have allowed myself this kind of daydreaming only once, for about ten minutes, before shutting it down and returning to business as usual. I feel guilty for not having bonded more, but I think I just can’t help it. I want to fall totally and completely in love this very minute, like I did with all of my other boys before they were born, but I don’t know how to with Jude.
Friends have reassured me that the moment Jude is born, this will all wash away and the love will hit me full-force, once he is safe and sound in my arms. Probably my friends are right, but the uncertainty in the meantime is unsettling. Alternatively, with each milestone of the pregnancy that we have reached, I feel a deep joy and relief that I never felt with my other pregnancies. I have left ultrasounds and doctors’ offices with tears of happiness that I never shed in years past.
I’m interested in hearing the experiences of other mothers who have miscarried or lost babies and then had subsequent pregnancies. Did you run the emotional gamut as well? Did you find yourself guarded, or was it easier to love right off the bat? Did you embrace the pregnancy with all of its risks and rewards, or did you find yourself stuffing it down and attending to daily life, taking it one day at a time until the baby either made it or didn’t? Did all of the prenatal milestones you reached seem sweeter?
The support of other women can be so solacing and strengthening. I think of my friend, who dared to reach out into her Facebook populace to speak her heart, and through her courage she changed my life for the better. She and I are sealed together in our losses, but we are also linked in our joys. So dear reader, let me share hugs and encouragement with you. Whatever your emotional and physical responses have been to your “rainbow” pregnancies, know that there is at least one other woman out there who has spent significant time trying to figure out what to feel–and how to feel it.