Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pregnancy Anxiety after Loss

Pregnancy anxiety after loss

My pregnancy with my rainbow was marked by deep love, gratitude, and unfortunately, anxiety.  I didn't take one day of my pregnancy for granted and I was eternally grateful for each day I progressed with gestation.  However, the fear of something going wrong and losing my baby also consumed each day.

A deep fear was triggered at 37 weeks and the anxiety peaked 10 days before my due date.  Now that my baby reached full term, I was so certain I would lose her.  She's alive today, but what about tomorrow?  I did kick counts twice a day, but still, I was convinced I would lose her when I was sleeping.  I feared I would go to bed with her awake, after a normal kick count, and wake with her….gone.  It was torture, absolute torture.

Even more, the pressure of deciding when to deliver was too much for me.  The doctors recommended delivery between 38 and 39 weeks, and I could essentially go in anytime during that time frame.  How was I supposed to make this decision?  I wanted to make it to 39 weeks exactly, to allow for the most development possible.  However, every day was sheer agony and consumed by a deep routed and primal fear that I would lose her or make the wrong decision. 

What if I delivered too early?  What if taking her too early led to delivery complications or developmental concerns?  But, what if I waited and she died?  What if I JUST MISSED HER?  I would never forgive myself.  The pressure was too much.  I made it to 38+3, and got little sleep those last few days.  What finally got me was – if she died in utero, delivery complications or developmental concerns wouldn’t even matter.  She would be gone.  It would be too late.  I needed and wanted her alive. 

Thank goodness, she arrived alive and healthy.  Her birth was incredibly emotional and overwhelming, and I melted with love and gratitude when her pink and breathing body was put on my chest.  She rooted immediately.  The only word I have for those moments is…magical.  When I heard she struggled a bit during delivery and had the chord around her neck, I knew we made the right decision to deliver at 38+3.

Now that my baby was here - alive and healthy - I thought all my fear and anxiety would subside.  We made it, right?  Everything would go back to normal, right?  However, I’m still learning that the old normal is a distant past after our stillbirth.  In my new normal, fear and anxiety are like unwelcome visitors that never go away.

For the first month of my rainbow’s life, I was almost relieved she had her days and nights confused.  With her up all night, I knew she was alive and healthy.  My sleep deprivation was a small sacrifice for this reassurance.  As she got on our schedule, the fear of SIDS crept in, and I set my alarm to wake every 75 minutes to check on her.  Getting the AngelCare monitor has helped with this a bit, but nighttime still makes me uneasy.  I’ll even sit and watch her nap. 

With my sunshine, I always check on her before I go to bed, and I never used to do this.  I make sure I tell her how much I love her everyday, and I try to have a meaningful conversation about how important she is each day.  I also say a little prayer to my angel, saying how grateful I am for my two living daughters and plead to keep them forever. 

I keep waiting for a sense of security to settle in.  I thought a calm would envelop us after my rainbow was born.  However, the anxiety carries on even though I am so incredibly happy and grateful for my daughters.  What age will my baby have to be before the fear of losing her lessens?  Will it be when she is 1 year old, after the SIDS fear goes down?  Probably not, because my sunshine is 4 and I still have it with her.  Will it be when they are both in grade school?  Will it be when they are 18 and I’m not legally responsible for them anymore? 

Then, my friend asked me, “After you lose a child, does the fear ever go away?”  Click.  I don’t think so.  My unwelcome visitors are here to stay and instead of letting them take the reins of my happiness and meaning-making, I am learning to manage them and keep them at bay.  I’ll share some of my coping mechanisms on the next post. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A test of courage - TTC after miscarriage & stillbirth

TTC after miscarriage, stillbirth

I wrote this early in my journey trying to conceive after stillbirth and miscarriage.  It would take 9 months to conceive my rainbow baby - equaling 3 long years of trying to grow our family that have been marked equally by fear and courage.


Trying to conceive after loss has been a test of courage, strength, and perseverance.

“It has only been two months,” my husband blearily responds to my sobs at 3:30am. “It has been TWO years,” I snap back. It’s been two months since we’ve been trying this time, but two years since we have been trying to grow our family.

Two years. It’s been two long years since my husband and I have wanted another living child to enter our life. Two years since we have tried to make Riley a big sister to a living child. Two years since I have dreamed of my first living child meeting my second living child. Two more years of interacting with my own siblings and feverishly wanting Riley to have the same one day. Two years yearning to say “my children” or “the kids” or “the girls” instead of “my child.”

I had a healthy full-term pregnancy with my second child which ended in stillbirth due to a nuchal cord accident at 40 weeks. After eight months of soul searching, healing, regaining balance, and trying to embrace the “new normal,” my husband and I set off on a journey to once again try to grow our family. Soon after I found myself pregnant, however, I miscarried at 9 weeks. And now, the long months roll forward as we try and try again.

Each month I think, this has to be it! We want another baby so much and we have so much love to give. We are good people – we try to put kindness and love into the world. We try to make good choices and be good citizens. We teach our living daughter about gratitude, kindness, and friendship.

Yet, why can’t we have this? Why can’t Riley have a living sibling? After all we’ve been through and all the loss…Why us?

If only Quinn lived. If only I was pregnant.

With each passing month comes more time and more hurt.

The months of our efforts have turned into a year, then two years, and now we have entered our third year of trying to bring another living child into our family. With each passing month and year we grow older. Our daughter grows older. The living children we wanted to have one to two years apart are now a dream’s whisper. The hope of having a big family is now a plea: “…if I could just have one more living child…please…”

My living daughter is enough. She is a true blessing and I do not take one second with her for granted. But, how I yearn for her to grow up in a vibrant household that one with living siblings can offer. How I want her to have a companion as she grows up to share experiences and stories with. How I want her to be able to lean on her sibling as she enters adulthood. How I want her to have her sibling on this planet when her parents grow old and die. Each passing month brings more heartbreak and disappointment, once again shattering our dreams for the future, continuing to test my courage, strength, and perseverance.

After our stillbirth and miscarriage my husband and I have worked so hard to reestablish ourselves and restore hope. Our hope for a future living child is like a fragile stained glass window that is just out of reach. With each passing month of unsuccessful attempts the window becomes more and more fragile and ultimately shatters with the start of a new bleed. With new healing, the window of hopes gets pieced back together, but it is more disillusioned than the time before and slightly further out of reach. I can still recognize the picture in the window, but it is a patchy resemblance of the clear window of hope I once had two years ago.

Each time I work to piece together my window of hope, I wrestle with the loneliness and heartbreak of trying to conceive after loss:

Haven’t I been through enough?

Isn’t it my turn for it to work out?

How much loss can I endure?

Do I have the courage to try again?

When do I give in to time?

How many more times can my window of hope be pieced back together before shattering completely?

I struggle with these questions each passing day, month, and year. I am ever so grateful for what I have and each loss and passing month has taught me immensurable lessons.

However, this journey of trying to conceive after loss is lonely, painful, and heart wrenching. I feel like an outsider swirling in a world where others are fertile and get to keep their babies. I’m putting on a fake smile to go to work or out with friends, pretending everything is OK. When it’s not. Quietly suffering. Each new bleed bringing a dagger through my heart. To want a baby so badly…to have had one, and lost…and now not yet able to have another. The pain. The hurt. The loneliness. The yearning.

As another month ticks by, I try to piece together my window of hope and gather the courage and strength to try again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pregnancy After Loss

Pregnancy after loss

Two and a half years after the stillbirth of my second daughter and nine months after a miscarriage, I found myself finally pregnant again and facing an excruciating and long 40 weeks.  I can think of few other times in my life when I have been as uncertain and scared as with the pregnancy of my rainbow baby.  To have had losses and know it could happen again is agonizing.  To know this pregnancy may end at any point or that an alive baby may not even be the end result is heart wrenching. 

I did not cope with the early days of my rainbow’s pregnancy well and was in denial for the first 14 weeks.  I wouldn’t let anyone talk about it.  I was preparing for more loss.  My mind was trying to protect my spirit from more heartbreak.  In fact, once in my second trimester, I had to put an ultrasound picture on my refrigerator to remind myself there was a baby inside of me and to encourage me to embrace this pregnancy. 

Finally, at 20 weeks, I became more accepting of my pregnancy and even more terrified at the same time.  At first, all I could think about was how 20 weeks was another marker of stillbirth.  If the baby died at any point from now on, it would be another stillbirth.  I would have two stillborns. 

This realization knocked some sense into me.  It’s true – I could lose the baby at any time.  It has certainly happened before and I have more deceased children than I have alive.  I came to the realization that since my pregnancy could end at any time, the only choice I had was to live in gratitude for each day I had with the baby inside of me.  What if the baby did die and I didn’t even appreciate the time I had with it?

As my fellow loss mom’s know, it takes a lot of courage to love, knowing it might result in loss.  At least it did for me.  The various journeys I have been on since Quinn’s stillbirth came full-circle to lift me up for the remaining weeks of my pregnancy, mostly: living in the present moment and living with gratitude.  There has simply been no other way to live and these lessons have been my survival skills.  Mantras such as “I am grateful to be pregnant with this baby today” and “day by day” were the only way to make it through the day.  Little by little, the days accumulated to a week, and the baby made it to another week of gestation. 

When faced with the ignorant and innocent happiness of others, my mantras kept me cool.  When I was frustrated that others planned for the future and talked about life after the baby was here, my mantras re-centered me and brought me back to the moment, not taking anything for granted.

I would also whisper another mantra to my belly each day: “Alive and healthy baby.”  How foolish I was to only wish for a “healthy baby” with Quinn. 

Now that I am approaching my due date, my gratitude and daily presence is at its strongest, which is a great gift from this baby.  These have kept me sane and healthy during the last 37 weeks of excruciating uncertainty.  I still have not bought any clothes for the baby or set-up the co-sleeper.  There’s time, I tell my husband.  We’ll do it if we need to.  Hopefully we will. 

For now, I live in the present with extreme gratitude for the 255 days I’ve been lucky enough to have this baby. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

She's Mine

Stillbirth legacy

My deceased daughter’s legacy lives through me.  This is what I’ve come to learn in the twenty-seven months since the stillbirth of my second daughter. 

I welcome with an open heart and arms other people who join me, and I am especially grateful for the close family and friends who do carry her legacy.  However, I certainly don’t expect it from those beyond my intimate circle.

As the saying goes, life goes on.  The world keeps turning.  Each night births a new day and people have their own lives to be present with.  And I have mine, which includes the daily reality of being a mother to both a living and deceased daughter.  This was the hand I was dealt…no one else’s.  As other people’s lives carry on, I am ultimately the one left with my daughter’s legacy.  Everyday I decide: how will I choose to honor her? 

Lately, I have chosen to honor her quietly.  I enjoy picking roses and wildflowers from our garden with my living daughter to put by her urn or tending to her memorial tree in the park.  Other days I simply give her a squeeze in my heart.  And, for now, that’s enough…because she is mine. 

Sometimes I need to honor her loudly and shout from the rooftops.  I want her name to be seen and heard and her story to be known. 

This is how my grief has evolved over the last twenty-seven months.  I get to decide how her legacy gets carried out, big or small.  Both are ok.  Both are meaningful.  As my grief ebbs and flows into infinity, so will how I choose to honor her.  If others join me, they are welcome.  But how freeing it has been to not expect it.

I will always accept a hello, a hug, a picture, a thought, a prayer, or a candle lit in the name and memory of my deceased daughter, for I know her beauty and grace has touched many.  These moments are pure gift and fill my heart.  However, as the world keeps turning and the night keeps falling, her legacy returns to me to carry on.

So join me if you want, quiet or loud.

If not, I will always be here honoring her.

She’s mine.