By the beginning of my second trimester, I began to see the pattern. After each OB appointment I would feel great, the next week I’d become a little nervous, and the next week I would start to feel the anxiety seeping in. I would become irritable, emotionally sensitive, and eventually be overwhelmed with fear that this pregnancy, like the three before it, would end in loss. As many as 25% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage so I was certainly not alone but the feeling can still be terribly isolating.
Pregnancy loss is a topic that isn’t discussed nearly as much as it should, so it’s natural for those of us who have experienced it to internalize our emotions and attempt to simply “get over it.” If we are fortunate enough to become pregnant again, we do our best to be happy and move forward but sometimes it’s just not that easy.
When I did get pregnant again in the fall of 2020, I was thrilled, yet cautious.
Home pregnancy tests and blood work with my IVF clinic had positive results, and eventually, I developed the textbook symptoms like food aversions, smell sensitivity, sore breasts, and exhaustion, but the doubt remained. My first ultrasound at 8 weeks was terrifying. Fortunately, a sonographer I had become friendly with knew to tell me right away, “There’s the heartbeat, it looks strong.” I breathed a sigh of relief and could again tell myself, “Today, I am pregnant”.
Even when I made it through the first trimester, I shied away from sharing our news too widely for fear of jinxing our good fortune or having to let someone know down the line if I lost the baby. Each trip to the bathroom I checked for blood and every twinge frightened me.
I knew that dwelling in my apprehension was no way to spend the next six months. I wanted to connect to my growing daughter in a positive way, so I sought out ways to manage my anxiety responsibly.
The first step I took was to communicate my feelings with my obstetrician. She assured me my fears were completely natural for someone with my history and was sensitive to my fears. We try to schedule my appointments no further than 3-4 weeks apart and if I am having a particularly difficult time, I know I can call the office and speak with a social worker or schedule a quick visit just to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
I also found it helpful to connect with other women who have experienced loss and had the same fears that I was feeling. Specifically, I benefitted from online groups and a safe anonymous space to vent fears, ask questions, and share personal stories.
Embrace the Feelings
Just knowing my anxiety was common and natural helped me to recognize my feelings, sit with them and manage them appropriately. I realized that sometimes I was ignoring my emotions when they were especially difficult. Instinctively, I would internalize any tough reaction I was experiencing rather than dealing with it. I had to accept that there was nothing wrong with how I was feeling but holding it in did not serve me. Sometimes, there is nothing more therapeutic than a good hard cry to release the stress.
Along with strengthening emotional health, I committed to staying active and following a safe fitness program. Walking and yoga have been the perfect combination to keep me feeling strong on the inside and out. The release of endorphins at just the right time can be a magical cure for stress and it feels good to know I’m taking care of my body and my baby.
At the time of writing this post, I am 23 weeks pregnant and feeling more secure and confident every day that in just four short months I will hold our healthy baby girl. I still hold my breath before every exam and choke back tears when I see her moving on an ultrasound, but after a beautifully boring 20-week anatomy scan I breathed a sigh of relief and bought her a gift. An adorable sleeper with pink rainbows honoring the babies before her that we will never know. I’m not a big fan of the saying that everything happens for a reason, but something tells me she was the one I was meant to hold in my arms and that brings me peace when I’m thinking of the losses.
I’ve shared here the strategies I have used to calm my anxieties, but every person and situation is unique, so I urge a woman struggling with anxiety after pregnancy loss to find her way and not hesitate to ask for help because it’s out there for you.