The good news of the anatomy scan brought such intense relief and has led me to want to enjoy the “silliness” of pregnancy and this baby. To have fun with my kids. To make beautiful moments or days of remembrance to mark the end of this family-building experience for us. To actually be happy, holding space to breathe, moving to distract my brain, and immersing myself in the elements.

Carmen's 26-week bump

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

However, I’ve been denying something that keeps coming up that seems to be even more spotlighted every time I’m pregnant, replaying the milestones, recurring memories of our pregnancies, fears, and recounting our history. Normally, these things play in the background of our lives, but right now, they are all front and center. I know this baby is not a replacement, but it does bring with it revisiting trauma. There is, at times, extra pressure for this “new baby” to fill the previous emptiness.

I made the decision to start taking anti-anxiety medications again.

Carmen holding a bottle of anxiety medication

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

I want to reclaim my grief. Through feeling supported to see my strength for myself and discover it, sometimes I get down on myself for needing so much help.

The racing thoughts don’t stop and, in turn, lead to me not sleeping, and we know lack of sleep can cause psychosis. My coping has been ineffective.

The meds are currently making me so exhausted, and I’m tempted to stop them, but I know I need this. My husband says he thought I was doing so well because, the thing is, when I’m the most productive, I’m usually the most anxious. But, eventually, you run yourself down. It’s always been my way to “do all the things” to distract from the truth, and I’m currently finding this anxiety-provoking as I’m too tired to do all the things. It’s fine when pregnancy causes this, but somehow, when it’s drugs causing it, we can just stop them. Maybe the extreme fatigue makes me unable to do anything more, which is how they work. Either way, it is helping, and I know it is deep down.

There is no shame in knowing what you need.

I so often talk about the gifts my babies have given me, but rarely do we talk about the depression, anxiety, heartbreak, and re-wiring this whole process has “caused” us or at least exemplified. If I had these tendencies before they are much worse. There’s no denying this came from our grief.

We push through and keep going, but we’re forever broken in ways we can’t deny while still seeing the beauty. They, unfortunately, go together. It’s the only way we can pay more attention to the glimmers, because we know so intimately the darkness.

We appear bright and appreciative, and we are. But, underneath it all, we are struggling because this experience has brought death by 100 cuts, small losses coupled with big griefs. Every period, recurrent loss, not being pregnant, appointment, healthy pregnancy, baby burials/cremations, feeling baby move, the pain of empty arms, c-section, epidural headaches, induction, deliveries, funeral homes, final birth, fear of loosing, heart-block, wishing I did things differently, pictures/lack of pictures, scars, etc. remind us as we push them down because they’re “not that big” until the next difficult thing.

Recurrent losses have serious psychological effects on anxiety, emotions, and symptoms and affect every aspect of our lives as we associate with our loss.

Different birth traumas blocked out earlier losses, bringing focus to the latter ones, feeling, for me, like they were less valid. They all count because they all play a role in my emotions.

I recently read that 1 out of 2 women will describe their birth as traumatic. That number is way too high, and we need to try our very best to make that better. It’s hard to ask for what you want, and we know too well, as someone who never made a birth plan again after Kaia, that we have no control over what happens, but we can control how we feel.

Every birth I have ever had has been traumatic: our first Amity I think in the toilet; Will a miscarriage that took two weeks to pass slowly; Kaia and Jude, my inductions and the shock of how quickly we got bad results and we’re delivering our babies…suddenly un-pregnant, case a forceps; and Maelie and Ayda both emergency c-sections. As I recount this, it’s no wonder I have the fears I have, but I got a healthy baby at the end, so I never grieved these things properly.

I’m so lucky and consider it a blessing to get to be here and decide to have another baby and relate to being overly grateful for my healthy babies, but our bodies do remember, and I’m not going to hide that fact anymore.

Carmen being silly with her kids

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

Right now is really real proof of that, as I fear so much.

Not wanting to feel everything and not wanting to miss a thing.

With my anxiety meds and permission to stay a little longer in bed some days, seeing a counselor, getting outside, dancing, calling a friend, reading, journaling, or being alone, there is no shame in knowing what I need. I went from not wanting to feel anything to wanting to feel everything and not wanting to miss a thing. The only way I can do that is to hold space for myself to feel it all exactly as I need to.

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