It’s the moment that should bring exquisite joy. Seeing two blue lines emerge as your pregnancy is confirmed. Only it didn’t. Instead of joy, it brought fear. And as I watched the second line form I began to cry. Pregnancy after miscarriage is a completely different experience. It is a whole new game, with new rules to navigate and a fear, which lies just beneath the surface, robbing you of the joy that is supposed to come with pregnancy. What should be one of the happiest times in your life can be filled with trepidation. For the first 20 weeks I lived in fear every single day.
I spent most of last year conceiving, losing pregnancies and recovering from the losses. After three consecutive miscarriages, I had become known as a “recurrent miscarrier”. Each loss was painful, but my third miscarriage almost broke me. After two miscarriages I was equal parts delighted and terrified to be pregnant again. On International Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day, people worldwide were encouraged to light a candle in honour of all the babies lost during pregnancy. As I prepared to light a candle, I stroked my tummy and that’s when it happened. I felt the first drops of blood escape my body. I went cold. Panic set in.
On a day where lost pregnancies are recognised all over the world, I lost my third baby. I can’t say which emotion was stronger in the days that followed, grief or anger. I felt the full magnitude of both emotions and believed my dream to have another baby was over. I was wrecked.
Losing a pregnancy
Losing a pregnancy introduces you to an entirely different world. It thrusts you into a “club” that you never expected to join. And it’s a lifetime membership. I turned to online groups for support and hope, becoming fluent in the language of fertility and miscarriage. The physical recovery took time but the emotional recovery took longer. I felt my wound would never heal. But slowly it did.
Pregnancy after loss
About six months later I fell pregnant again; making me a mother of what parents in the child-loss community call a “rainbow baby” bringing beauty after the storm of child loss. With a pregnancy after the loss of a child, you have two choices — live in fear or live in hope. And miscarriage provides fertile ground for fear. In the early weeks I over-analysed every twinge, pain, cramp and ache. Early spotting and cramping echoed my previous pregnancies and I felt certain that it was only a matter of time before this baby was taken away from me as well. I was gripped by a panic so strong; the residue of grief too powerful to shake.
I counted the days until I was able to get an early ultrasound and make sure that there was, in fact, a baby growing. It was the longest seven weeks of my life. As I lay down on the technician’s table, I murmured an apology for my trembling legs and let silent tears fall. I prepared to hear those haunting words again, “I am sorry but this pregnancy is not viable.”
Only I didn’t hear them. The doctor assured me the tiny blob on the screen was an embryo and he dated my pregnancy. I was supposed to be happy. Only I wasn’t. I thought the dates were wrong, and the baby was measuring too small for the expected date. My second pregnancy had been an agonizing 11-week wait of weekly scans until the baby’s heart stopped. I thought this pregnancy would follow the same script.
The next five weeks were torturous. I felt terribly sick, but my body had tricked me last time by continuing to pump the pregnancy hormone until I had undergone a D&C. At my next scan I was certain I would be told the baby hadn’t grown. Only it had. My little rainbow embryo showed perfect growth and my doctor told me I could be “officially” happy. As I clutched my 12-week ultrasound photo, I resolved to look forward, not back.
I told my girls and allowed myself to be swept up in their excitement. And their elation was off the charts. Buoyed by their love and enthusiasm, I have been able to embrace and enjoy the remainder of this pregnancy.
Pregnancy after loss feels nothing like pregnancy before loss. Love and loss have become interwoven but hope has outlasted fear. In just a few weeks I will meet my precious rainbow baby, a living symbol of healing and hope. When he or she is placed onto my chest, I will remember my lost babies too. And in that exquisite moment, grief and gratitude will likely meet and I will swaddle my baby in love.