Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Pregnancy After Loss: Daring to Hope
When I first found out I was pregnant with this baby, I was grateful and excited, but mostly, I felt disengaged. It was almost exactly a year since we had learned I was pregnant with Avaleen, and it had been a hard year: months of pregnancy-induced nausea, a terrible death, endless doctor's visits and insurance phone calls, and grief that had only recently begun to ebb. I feared we were headed down the same road again, and everything seemed to remind me that this pregnancy was just like the last: finding out the news just before Ellie's birthday, telling our families over Easter, filling out the pool registration form and thinking about maternity swimwear. It all felt eerily familiar.
I was terrified to hope, couldn't imagine that we'd actually be holding a baby in our arms this December. My first doctor's appointment was early due to my history. The day of my appointment, six weeks pregnant, I convinced myself the baby had already died. I had started to feel nauseous, and then it had stopped, just as it had a day or two before we found out Avaleen was gone. I frantically smelled the spices in my pantry, searching for an odor that would turn my stomach, but I felt fine. I knew we'd lost this baby too. I just knew.
And then, at my doctor's office, in the very same room where Avaleen's death had been confirmed, we saw life. On the ultrasound screen, there was the faintest of flickers, a heart beating in a tiny form barely recognizable as a body. Still, I struggled to engage. My heart didn't want to dream or plan or love because I was so scared of feeling the pain of loss again.
The nausea hit full-force shortly thereafter, and I was quickly reduced to survival mode. My goals were simple: make it through the day until CJ got home from work and somehow keep the three of us fed even though the very thought of a menu plan or grocery store could send me running to the toilet. I didn't have time or energy to worry much about the pregnancy, which was perhaps a strange sort of mercy. I was simply getting by.
Because my nausea continued until 17 weeks and to a lesser degree beyond, it's only been recently that I've even been able to consider my heart again. When I look at the facts, there is much to be encouraged about. We've made it past the 14.5 week point in the pregnancy where we lost Avaleen, past the 20 week ultrasound where any number of problems might have surfaced, and past the 24 week mark when there is hope of a baby surviving apart from its mother. My doctor says this is a textbook perfect pregnancy.
But she still has me come in for more frequent appointments, still does regular ultrasounds just to make sure everything looks okay. And I'm still very much aware that loss can happen anytime for all kinds of reasons, that whatever took Avaleen's life could still affect this baby, that something new could surface. There are no guarantees.
I'm trying to engage my heart all the same, allowing myself the pleasure of planning for baby girl's arrival, allowing myself to dream of Ellie's new bedroom, of the simple nursery updates I'd like to make. I've booked a newborn photography session. I've started thinking about a birth plan.
But, still, just this morning, I woke up turning around a thought in my brain that felt both foreign and surprising: You have a baby inside of you. You are going to have a baby.