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. 

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