Pregnancy is a beautiful thing and the excitement that comes with it is just amazing. However sometimes women are not able to carry a pregnancy to term or keep their babies for long after birth. Miscarriages, still birth and infant loss are heart breaking. Pregnancy after loss is a roller coaster experience – it is exciting and it is difficult all at the same time. I am writing this to share how I have felt being pregnant after 2 miscarriages and a period of secondary infertility. This post is for that woman who may find themselves pregnant after a previous loss and wondering if what they are feeling is normal. If you are a friend or spouse to a woman with a rainbow pregnancy this post will shed some light into what they are going through.
- Trying to conceive after loss is crazy hard.
Growing up I was did not think about motherhood that much. It was something I felt I would do at some point in my life but it was no big deal. Then I got married and got pregnant. And lost my first born at 20 weeks. Soon after I got pregnant with my 2nd baby. I didn’t admit it then but being pregnant this time felt like I was feeling a void. When I lost my second baby I got desperate to be a mother. I wanted it so badly it hurt. Trying to conceive after a loss will break your heart. Sex becomes work. You have an app that says when you are ovulating. And you constantly take pregnancy tests. And when it comes out negative the grief of losing your baby comes back full force. And month after month the despair starts to set in.
- You may not be over the moon about your pregnancy
When that pregnancy test finally turns positive you may be indifferent. You thought you’d be excited but all you feel is indifference. Why? I think all the months of trying take their toll on you. I remember when I found out I was pregnant this time round I took 3 tests just to be sure. I was so used to bad news I didn’t want my heart to get all excited and then be broken again. Your spouse may not be over the moon either. But give him time. The defenses he’s put around his heart will come down soon and the excitement will kick in.
- You will check for blood every time you go to the toilet
Experience is a bitch. It really is. Most women who’ve had a miscarriage know that nasty feeling of wiping and seeing blood which means something is terribly wrong. And now that you are pregnant after loss checking for blood will be a reflex action. As I write this I am 32 weeks pregnant with my rainbow baby and I still check for blood whenever I go to the toilet. Every single time.
- You will dread and love ultrasounds in equal measure
It is at the ultrasound machine that most of us got the earth shattering news that “there is no heart beat”. These visits became a place of receiving bad news. So now that you are pregnant again you will dread these visits. But you will also crave them because hearing that heart beat is what tells you baby is alright. If you feel this love-hate relationship with hospitals and ultrasound places I promise you it is normal.
- You will obsess over baby kicks
You will love baby kicks because they are a constant reminder that the life you are carrying is fine. But be ready to get obsessed. If you haven’t felt baby move for the last hour you will panic. This has happened to me a lot. At some point your baby will develop a routine where they sleep and then are awake at specific times. Before you get used to this you will have a couple of panic attacks. Pick a time when your baby is usually active and use it as the monitoring time. From 30 weeks you are encouraged to keep a log of baby movements. When I count the kicks every evening I feel so much better.
- You will go to the hospital more than other pregnant mums
You will take even small symptoms seriously. Because you don’t want to overlook anything and then you end up where you were last time. Given my first loss was caused by Listeria, I have taken any stomach upset very seriously this time round. I have been to the lab for blood and urine tests at least 3 times so far. The alternative to going to the hospital all the time is to have an easily accessible gynecologist whom you can call and ask even the most ridiculous questions. Most gynecologists require you to see them once a month until you are 28 weeks then every 2 weeks. When you are 36 weeks and over it becomes once a week. I speak with my obgyn at least once a week. I tell her if I’m feeling something different – sometimes it’s something small and she prescribes rest or some meds other times she tells me to go see her. This helps settle me a lot.
- The days will move s l o w e r
Any mum who has lost a baby has done research on when miscarriages tend to happen. I knew that first trimester miscarriages are the most common and so I couldn’t wait to get past 12 weeks. Then I dreaded 20 weeks because that’s when I lost my daughter. Every time you get to a milestone you breath. But this means you are always waiting for a new milestone and this makes days move much slower. If you are on bed rest days have 72 hours and refuse to end. What has helped me is the “one day at a time approach”. Instead of thinking of the weeks ahead and all the things that could go wrong before then, take one day at a time. Focus on getting through that one day.
- Labor and delivery will scare you more than it should
It could be you lost your baby during delivery or shortly after. Or you had preterm labor and your newborn was in NICU for a while before passing away. This horrid experience will inform your thoughts about labor and delivery. All you can do is work with what is in your power. Do your due diligence – go check out the hospital you will deliver in, attend your prenatal clinics as you should, let the midwives/hospital staff know of your previous experience. For instance, if you know you are susceptible to pre-eclampsia make sure your blood pressure is checked often. Push for answers. Be in charge. Don’t just let things happen to you as you keep quiet.
The one constant thing in pregnancy after loss is FEAR. And I have come to learn that fear is a moving target. When you conquer something there is now something else to be afraid of. Once you are past 1st trimester you start to fear 2nd trimester. In 3rd trimester you fear preterm labor. Then you start to worry about labor and delivery. And soon you are worrying about the baby – are they breastfeeding well? Are they walking when they should? You will then worry about them going to school. And then they are teenagers and a whole new fear comes in. My point is in this life there is always something to be afraid of – like I said fear is a moving target. So pick today. And handle today’s fears. Leave tomorrow’s fears alone – all they will do is worsen your panic. Conquer this pregnancy one day at a time.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.