Pregnancy After Stillbirth
Today I thought I'd blog about what it's like to be pregnant after a stillbirth. Of course, we are overjoyed and thrilled to be expecting again. Those are the parts that people see on social media, so you already know the joy that we are experiencing this pregnancy. But it doesn't mean that it is an easy journey to go through pregnancy again, so I thought I'd shed some light on our struggles these past 6 months.
The biggest thing is the loss of naivety. In pregnancies past, I was subconsciously comforted by my naive thoughts.
"I've had 2 healthy pregnancies and babies, why should this be any different?"
"But that would never happen to me."
"I've made it past XX weeks, the baby is fine now!"
But now those thoughts are negligible. My eyes have been opened to the fact that the unthinkable can in fact happen to me. I lost my son, and I shouldn't have. There were no reasons. There was nothing to have done differently to prevent it. So now, this pregnancy has been plagued by new worries.
"What if we can't get pregnant again?" (Though I've gotten pregnant on birth control the other 3 times haha)
"What if we miscarry?" (Though we never have)
"What if the baby has something wrong?"
and the ultimate "what-if" that plagues me daily, "what if we lose this baby in the end too?"
This pregnancy has been filled with fears and doubts. It is something that I daily have to bring before God and ask him to carry this burden, because when my thoughts get a hold of me, it can be suffocating.
One thing I regretted after losing Roman, was not being as "excited" with his pregnancy. I very much had a "third child" attitude towards the pregnancy. I took all of 3 pictures of my pregnant belly, I didn't decorate his little nook, I didn't even have diapers purchased yet (we just thought, eh, we'll just take a bunch home from the hospital!). Once we lost Roman, I instantly wished that I had more photos of me pregnant with him. I vowed to fully celebrate each milestone of the next pregnancy. But then I got pregnant again, and it wasn't that easy. I want to celebrate and be excited, but in the same breath, fear and anxiety plague me. My good friend Liz offered to come to the hospital the day Jackson is born to take pictures. Of course I absolutely want this, but at the same time it felt so hard to be certain that he is going to be born healthy and alive. Those certainties just don't exist in our mind anymore. Sometimes it means going through the motions, even if anxiety threatens to overwhelm me. And most often, it means celebrating each day pregnant with Jackson, because I do really want to cherish every day I have with him, even now inside my womb.
The emotions that go along with being pregnant again are so extreme. I have near panic attacks before every appointment and can only calm down once I hear that heartbeat. I had one appointment at my OB's office just a couple days after my hospital check up. She had me in a room without the ultrasound equipment and was just using her handheld device to check his heartbeat. It took her probably about 2-3 minutes to find his heartbeat. Though she was saying, "Don't worry, he's just hiding." I was completely panicking inside. I was immediately transported back to that triage room when I heard the silence of the heartbeat monitor. The emotions came flooding back to me, and I felt for a brief second the pain of what it might be to lose another child. As soon as I heard his heartbeat coming through, a flood of relief washed over me.
It's also so hard to wrap our brains around Jackson actually coming home. One day, I am pulling Fynn's old clothes back out of storage, and the next day I'm thinking things like, "Well if we lost the baby at this point, it would be considered another stillbirth." Our minds are constantly on this pendulum. We want to be excited and celebrate and prepare for Jackson's homecoming, but at the same time, instinct now tells us to guard and protect our hearts, because what if we lose him too? Our four year old daughter knows that she has one brother who lived and one who died, so to her, it seems pretty 50/50 that Jackson will make it home. She constantly says things like, "If Jackson doesn't die..." So we have to coach her through this and help her (and remind ourselves) that he shouldn't die. Roman's death was tragic and never should have happened, and we will speak like we know Jackson is coming home.
The questions and conversations can be hard. "Is this your third?" "He's going to be a big brother soon!" "Wow two boys!" Sigh. I know that strangers mean nothing by their comments, but I also know that they aren't expecting to hear about my loss in a short conversation. I love to talk about Roman, but it can be difficult to do that in passing conversations. We recently shared a cab home from Aly's dance recital with a friend from her class. At one point during the conversation, Aly said, "I have 3 little brothers!" The moms eyes widened, and she was so confused, until I could explain a bit. But I actually quite love that Aly takes such ownership of all 3 of them, and that she can naturally speak about Roman.
This pregnancy is also filled with so many more precautions. I don't think I've gone more than 2-3 weeks without seeing a doctor. I am beyond cautious in my day-to-day routine, I don't ride my bike, I don't carry Fynn in stroller down subway stairs, I take my prenatal vitamins religiously, and I count kicks all day long. With each kick, I mentally note the time, thinking, "This could be the last time I feel him move." Because experience has taught me that I can do all the right things, and it still not be enough. With Roman, I fell asleep to his hiccups and kicks, only to wake up to the news of his death. There is little that could comfort me this pregnancy.
I asked Ron what it was like for him through during this pregnancy. He summed up this pregnancy in one word-anxious. Anxious about losing Jackson, anxious about losing me, anxious for Jackson to be born, anxious about inducing early and potential NICU stay. And I would agree, this pregnancy has been riddled with anxiety.
All of this can seem pretty overwhelming...and it is. But thankfully I don't walk through this alone. The one thing that does comfort me is my faith in God. When I feel overwhelmed and helpless, I remember that he is control. I know he has a plan for Jackson, just like he did each of my other 3 children, and I trust him fully. Of course, I cannot even fathom losing another child, but then again I couldn't have fathomed surviving the loss of one, yet through God's mercy and strength, here I am. So when my mind wanders to the worst, and I think, "There's just no way I could survive again." I remind myself that I am imagining walking through it alone and without Christ, which isn't true. I firmly believe He can carry me through any troubles that could come, just as I've seen him carry me through the loss of Roman. And of course, we also pray daily that God would allow us to bring Jackson home. We so desperately want him home with us, and I hope and pray that it would be God's will for our family.