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Sunday, June 26, 2016

pregnancy after miscarriage: choosing hope versus fears

Being pregnant after a miscarriage has been very different than my first two pregnancies. With my first two, I was blissfully naive. I hadn't known someone at the time who went through a miscarriage. People didn't talk about it as much, or at least I had not noticed. I worried about that word, but it never really phased me beyond 8 weeks or so. I figured once we saw a healthy ultrasound once things would always be healthy and fine. I didn't fear the entire pregnancy. I did not worry about every little thing.

I wish this time around was like those pregnancies where I didn't worry. I hate that I have succumbed to fear throughout the ultrasounds. This is what being pregnant after a miscarriage has done to my emotions. It's unfortunate and unfair, and yet I'm grateful being pregnant. 

I've been afraid. Holding my breath at times. 

I wonder what that feeling is and then I wonder when I don't feel the baby moving as much. I wonder if things are OK. I won't eat certain things. I figure that's something I can control, so why not? I Google daily. It's kind of ridiculous, and my brain knows this to be true, but the emotional side of me (and let's face it, the emotional side totally takes over in pregnancies right?!) can't let it go. I am nervous that "something will go wrong," not being sure what that could be. I pay attention to terms I didn't think about before like gestational diabetes and placenta previa and hypertension, whereas in my last two pregnancies when I did the glucose screening test or when they checked me for swelling it didn't phase me, nothing could go wrong, those things were not for me. This time I'm hypersensitive to the what ifs and could bes. 

When I was no longer fitting into my regular clothes and decided it was time to take out the maternity clothes, I sat on the floor worried that I was "jinxing" things by taking my regular clothes out and having to put the maternity into the drawers. I thought something would surely "go wrong" now that I'd done this. I told my husband, who said I was silly and to just wear the comfortable clothing. 

Every ultrasound in the beginning, I held my breath. I closed my eyes the first few ultrasounds, not wanting to see something going wrong. Every doctor's visit for the first six months I needed my husband to be there with me. I couldn't face "whatever they were going to tell me" alone. My last two pregnancies I went alone for most of them, as logistically it was hard to have my husband there from work. This time, I needed him by my side. I didn't want to be alone if they told me "something's not right." The anxiety was real. And it wasn't made up, it was from past experience, unfortunately. 

I've Googled every single week what it will be like this new week in pregnancy, wanting to memorize the good things that would happen, as if by reading about them I'd make them so and our baby would continue to grow.

I had deadlines in my head. I needed to get past certain weeks in the pregnancy in order to feel better. The first, of course, was I needed to get past the date of my previous miscarriage. Then I needed to get past the weeks I knew others had had a miscarriage at, as if we could pass the negative points and all would be positive and OK. 

Then I had to see a doctor in the ER one time because I was having contraction pains early on. She told me that it was not a "viable pregnancy at this point." I hate the word "viable." Who says that?! Please don't say that to me. I wanted a badge saying "this mom has had a miscarriage in the past. Please DON'T use the word viable to her, as it will freak her out and scare her and take away all the little hope she's acquired the last few months." She told me if I were past 20 weeks I'd have been sent to a specialist to help stop the contractions and basically save the baby if possible, as it would be more "viable." So then I had to move past 20 weeks in my mind, in order to be OK. Then I read that premature babies can survive at better rates past 23-24 weeks... so I had to get to that point. It was like running a race. If I could just get to that next mile, I'd be closer to the finish line and more OK and able to relax. 

I want to be naive again. I want to unknow what I know. 

For me, pregnancy after miscarriage has been filled with fears and worries, mixed in next to excitement and gratitude. It's a strange place to be. I don't like admitting that, like perhaps it makes me sound crazy or ungrateful to be pregnant or something. Here's the thing though, I'm all about honesty, especially about anything related to miscarriages, as we don't talk about it enough. So here I am sharing with you that yes, I've been afraid for six months now. I'm going to be afraid until a baby is in my arms staring up at me asking me, "What were you so afraid of, Momma? I'm here and I'm OK." 

My purpose in sharing the fears with you is not to alarm you. It's not to make you worry about yourself or about me even. It's to share the positive side. The side of the story that is filled with hope and positivity and perseverance, just so you know you CAN get there. I'm getting there.  

I'm filled with worries, but I'm also filled with strength, courage and hope. I'm determined to enjoy this pregnancy. 

I'm taking a zillion pictures of the belly bump. I'm rubbing it with lotion every night, enjoying the feeling of my growing body. I'm taking moments to stop and feel the baby and share the excitement with those around me. I'm talking about the future. I'm trusting that I'll be OK, that I can deliver this baby safely, that we will have a baby here in our arms. I'm believing in the process. I'm praying tons and believing in God letting this happen for us this time. 

I'm taking a leap of faith, because that's all we have. That's what I've learned. What helps me ease the anxiety is to jump in with everything I have in me to believe that it's just fine. It helps me to force myself to believe it's OK. It helps erase the fears when I have hope instead. When I cling to possibilities of goodness, I'm surprisingly able to move past the worry and wondering. 

I bought a black and white polka dot skirt early on in my pregnancy. It's an XL, thinking that I'll get that big at the very end when I return to work and have to dress up again. I bought this skirt because it's a sign to me that I'm believing I'll have grown a baby, I'll still be pregnant, I'll get to the end and it'll be all good. This type of small act makes me feel more comfortable. 

I bought a baby book and wrote in it. We talk about baby names. We discuss who could be the Godparents someday. I am creating a baby nursery in my mind. I've made a list of items we need to buy. I've gone through the baby equipment to make sure we have what we need for our little one. I've scheduled maternity pictures to document this beautiful time in our lives. I'm dreaming, wishing, imagining and planning. It's a wonderful feeling. And it makes the fears seem stupid, insignificant and like they are fading away with every week we get past in this pregnancy. 

You cannot possibly be fearful and joyful in the same moment. It's not possible to smile while harboring fear or holding your breath.  

I am choosing to be brave, to focus on the good. And it IS a choice. I have to force myself sometimes to not think about the dumb worries. But it's working. Hope is working.

It's taking a moment at a time. It's realizing you can't control things, so may as well plan as though things are working out all right. It's taking deep breaths. It's exercising, taking walks to keep my heart strong and body moving in the right direction. It's spoiling myself with treats like strawberry milkshakes and smoothies and Reeses peanut butter cups and massages. It's talking aloud every single time about the stupid worries in my mind to one or two people who I can trust not to judge me, but who also will ground me and make me realize things are OK. It's putting my feet up more this pregnancy, realizing it's OK and good to rest. It's writing and blogging and sharing my truths in hope that they will help another mom who feels alone in her feelings of fear, too.

It's accepting that it's normal to worry, but I will NOT allow the fears to consume me during what should be a wonderful time. It's forcing myself to let things go and focus on the positive. It's laughing it off even. 

"The odds are that we will probably be all right, odds are we gonna be all right, odds are we gonna be all right tonight." 
-Barenaked Ladies 

It's good to believe in something bigger than ourselves. It's good to focus on positivity. It's amazing when you can feel stronger than you did before. 

I went to my first two doctor's visits alone the last few weeks. It was kind of exhilarating, because I was choosing to believe it was OK and that I did not need my husband there to reassure me this time around. It's a good feeling to realize that you are OK.

It's so good to move to the other side away from the fear, toward believing in good. It's so nice just focusing on normal pregnancy things like where the baby's crib will go and what names we like and what the baby may look like. It's so good.

The fear is still there in the back of my mind. When I heard terrible news about someone who experienced the loss of a baby late in pregnancy, I couldn't breathe easily for a few days. I was uncontrollably crying, sad for them and worried for me and the life I carry inside my body. And yet, days later I was able to move from that place of fear, pledging that I cannot and will not be afraid for three more months of pregnancy, because that's not good for me and it's not good for the baby and I can't control anything anyway. 

So I'm choosing hope versus fear. 
And that's a powerful thing. 

I hope you, too, are able to move to this place of possibility and happiness in your pregnancy after a miscarriage someday. You can get there, I promise. And so will I. 

"And ... you're my favorite thing... oh the happiness you bring, oh it feels like I've opened my eyes again, and the colors are golden and bright again... it's a better place since you came along. Now I'm all right. Now I'm all right. Everything's all right." 
-Rachel Platten

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