I am sixteen weeks pregnant in my last pregnancy after loss. This is a hoped-for, wished-for baby. If all goes smoothly, this baby will be twenty months younger than my next oldest, who is fifteen months old.
One year and three weeks after our first was stillborn, we welcomed our first rainbow.
In that one year and three weeks, I saw parts of myself I had never seen before. I saw what true, raw love and grief look like. I saw the world around me through hazy, cried-out eyes. And I saw myself pregnant, anxious, nervous, fearful and hopeful despite trying not to be too hopeful this time around.
My heart will never truly recover from the loss of my first son but we as a little family made it through my first pregnancy after loss. My husband and I instantly felt so fortunate to see this tiny being smiling up at us, so relieved that she was healthy and alive.
We welcomed our second rainbow a bit later than we originally hoped to due to a uterus surgery I needed, but his safe arrival was so worth the wait. Our rainbows are two years and nine months apart.
My pregnancy with him was nerve wracking for sure, but I felt more strongly that I could trust the high-risk team that had seen me through my first rainbow pregnancy, as well as my own instincts. I started to enjoy pregnancy, trying to recoup some of the joy I had experienced in my first pregnancy before our sudden loss.
We had one living boy, one living girl and a big brother to them in heaven. With my high-risk pregnancies, my biological clock, diminished ovarian reserve and a family history of early menopause, to some it may have seemed to be a good time to call our family complete.
But I didn’t feel that our family was complete yet.
I felt deep in my soul that I wanted one more. To be honest, in my heart I could see several more. But both my heart and my head agreed on just the one. One more little one to join our crew.
I prepared myself mentally to grieve that desire for one more, in case, for some reason, it didn’t happen for us. But we were so lucky and did conceive.
Despite four pregnancies in less than six years, I have experienced just six months of pre-loss pregnancy and 22 months (so far) of pregnancy after loss. My pre-loss pregnancy memories are almost vague now. I have a pregnancy journal from that time that is hard for me to read; one thing I wrote was, “I haven’t even met you yet, but I already love you.” I was trusting, hopeful and full of big dreams. Pregnancy after loss, though: I get that. I feel that. I remember.
Now that it’s my last time, I am trying to hold onto the lasts of this defining phase of my life.
The last time taking several home pregnancy tests to confirm I’m still pregnant in those very early weeks. The last time I look at my body in the mirror with instantly softer eyes after finding out; shifting from thinking, “One year later, I still have six pounds to lose after gaining 40 pounds during my last pregnancy,” to, “Wow, my body is so strong, my body is doing amazing things right now.”
The last first ultrasound, taking a quiet moment to myself, my eyes closed tightly with tears, waiting for the ultrasound technician to say, “There’s the baby’s heart beating,” before opening my eyes to look at the screen. The last times waking up to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m. and not being able to fall back asleep. The last times I first feel those little flutters in my belly and first hear the baby’s heartbeat on my home doppler. The last time I give into comfort food cravings and try to eat healthy-ish the rest of the time to offset them.
The last time I get to a more comfortable point in my pregnancy when my appointments start to feel routine and I can consistently feel the baby moving. The last time I go to a baby clothing store and buy one gender-neutral outfit so I can later say to the baby, “I picked this out before we knew your gender!” The last time I browse pregnancy websites, pregnancy magazines and cute, happy pregnancy apps.
The last time I bring out my dear old friends from the closet: my maternity clothes. The last time I make my hospital stay checklist. The last time I wash the hand-me-downs from my angel and my first two rainbows in Dreft because I just love the smell and the memories and the preparation and the hope.
There are also things I probably won’t miss about pregnancy after loss.
I won’t miss crying on my way to the hospital when I think something is wrong, mentally walking myself through what a loss at X amount of weeks might feel like. I won’t miss the constant looming thoughts in my head of, “What if this little one doesn’t make it? What will my life be like then?”
But in the calm, smoother moments, I am just grateful for this opportunity, for this ‘one more’ whom I pictured as part of our family. In those moments I say to myself, “Right now, I’m pregnant. Right now, the baby is safe. I envision bringing this baby home after a safe delivery.” Having survived my previous pregnancies after loss, in addition to leaning on Pregnancy After Loss Support, I have learned those mantras and gained back much of my pre-loss hope and joy. Here’s to the health and safety of our one more.