I have been in therapy for most of my adult life, and therapy has been especially important over the last two years as K and I tried to get pregnant. We go to couple’s therapy together, with fertility and family-building being one of the main topics we focus on. I also go to individual therapy, with part of my own work being to cope with the trauma that has come with miscarriage and IVF.

Alli and K holding a pair of baby shoes - Alli's Bump Day Blog, Week 8: Therapy After Loss

Author’s Personal Collection/Alli Baker; Photo Credit: Chelsea Smith

This week in therapy, I brought up how “far away” I feel from this pregnancy most of the time.

I thought this feeling would go away after seeing the baby’s heartbeat last week, but so far it hasn’t. “Telling my family I’m pregnant feels like a lie, and it feels really uncomfortable. It’s like my brain doesn’t really believe I’m pregnant yet,” I explained.

My therapist helped me understand that that is a pretty spot-on description of the trauma response I’m having: dissociation. My brain was traumatized by my wife’s miscarriage last December and the subsequent hardships of IVF. My brain now wants to protect me by distancing me from my own pregnancy. Although it feels fine to acknowledge that I currently have the medical diagnosis of “pregnant” (and the really tough symptoms like fatigue and 24/7 nausea), my mind and body don’t feel safe or comfortable with the idea that there is a baby actually growing in my uterus right now. Most of the time, I can’t believe that I will hold this baby next summer or that he will ever come home with us. I can’t let myself call him by the name we picked out for him months ago. I can’t talk to him, or buy him clothes, or imagine him playing with his cousins. My mind won’t let me go there.

I get brief glimpses of what it might be like when this dissociation lessens and when I will feel more connected to this baby.

For example, on Fridays, I check my pregnancy apps to see how big he is now and what changes he’s going through, and for a few minutes, he feels real. For the most part, though, I’m focusing on surviving the pregnancy symptoms one day at a time, and I know that eventually, my mind will accept this new reality. For now, it feels ok to believe what my therapist reassured me: for folks who have experienced the traumatic loss of a pregnancy, dissociation can be normal, and it will pass.

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