I have been 21 weeks pregnant three times now. Each of these times I have gone to the hospital for a significant event related to the pregnancy. At 21 weeks, 0 days in my first pregnancy I had a dilation and evacuation procedure 48 hours after we found out that we had lost Lentil. I also experienced a postpartum hemorrhage and received a blood transfusion that day. At 21 weeks, 0 days in my second pregnancy we checked in at Labor and Delivery so that I could be induced to delivery Danny, about 36 hours after finding out that we had also lost him. In this pregnancy, at 21 weeks, 0 days we went to that same hospital for our anatomy scan with this baby, the same appointment at which we had discovered that we had lost the first two.
These past few weeks have been difficult. Eric and I have been more emotional than we were for many, many months. Nearing and passing the anniversary of Danny’s delivery, finally reaching the 21-week mark in this pregnancy, and having the anatomy scan for this baby are all huge milestones. At these points of high anxiety, even little things can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The everyday work stress and regular household duties feel like too much to manage. The small reminders of the babies that we don’t have bring up intense emotions. These reminders are all around us and are often unavoidable, such as pregnancies or children of friends and family passing certain milestones. These are reminders that we have learned to manage in the past two years, that at times hit hard and at other times are okay. In these most anxious times, though, they all pile on top of one another and can be too intense to handle.
I am not sure anxiety is the best term for the emotions that Eric and I felt in the couple of days before and morning of the anatomy scan. Terror is probably a more accurate word.
It felt impossible not to replay in our minds the events of the previous anatomy scans. I also felt an intense amount of sadness for the babies that we had lost. I found myself asking why we had to lose two babies and why I have a tiny one-letter change in my DNA that has wreaked such havoc on our journey towards parenthood. In the days before the scan, it felt like we were on the verge of a moment of truth. Would we be able to continue this pregnancy for another 20 weeks, or would we be saying goodbye this week? Were we in for another year of grief, heartache, pain, and loss? Or would we also get to continue moving forward, experiencing the grief but also adding in more joy and success along our journey?
Even though we have 99% confidence that this baby does not have this same genetic mutation, it was impossible to envision that we could walk out of this appointment with no bad news. We were preparing for the worst.
We contemplated what it would be like to not be able to attend our friend’s wedding this past weekend and did things we wanted to do this pregnancy, just in case it was all going to be over in a few days. Our previous experiences tell us what to expect in future experiences, and Eric’s and my schema for an anatomy scan contains only devastation. We knew how much we had to lose, and we were not prepared to do all the really hard parts all over again.
We survived the terror. We survived reliving our traumatic memories and our grief. We somehow managed to get through these past few weeks and past few days, and here we are.
I am 21 weeks pregnant, and I still have a healthy, living baby with a heartbeat inside of me.
Our anatomy scan went great. The ultrasound tech and our doctor were wonderful and supportive, and they helped us understand what we were looking at. We got to see a good 3-D picture of our baby’s face. We saw the heart, brain, stomach, kidneys, diaphragm, legs, feet, hands, arms, and spine.
Hearing the heartbeat, as always, brought tears of relief. Being told that all looks good made me feel a mixture of emotions. I am happy to have crossed this hurdle and passed this milestone. Passing this milestone also brings some sadness for the babies that we lost. It is as if by moving forward with this baby I am further from the other two. We want to be moving forward. We want to have a healthy baby. There is no way to change history and find a way to make our first two baby boys healthy. Logically, I know that it is healthy for me to be moving forward, but there is also a bit of sadness with it. Sometimes the sadness is specific to missing the babies that we didn’t get to bring home alive, and other times the sadness is related to the realization of all that we have been through to get to this point.
In the hours after our first successful anatomy scan, Eric and I both feel some relief. It is not as though all our worries are gone. It still feels like a long road ahead. There are still many, many things that could cause an issue for this baby. But our risk level is now at the same place as anyone else who has had the same healthy scans. It is not as though all the weight has been lifted from our shoulders, but some significant portion of that weight is gone. I feel a little lighter today. I feel less tense than I have this entire pregnancy. The anxiety of the fight/flight/freeze reaction from the past few days is gone, and I feel the sense of calm that our nervous systems create as a response. I feel tired and like it is time for a nap. I don’t feel worry-free, but I feel a little less worried, and I am going to try to enjoy that for a little while.