The midwife slowly moved the wand across my stomach, smearing the cold goo back and forth. I resolutely pursed my lips, unable to look anywhere but the tiled ceiling.
Woh woh woh
I released a stream of air, unaware I’d been holding my breath until that moment.
“Strong heartbeat!” she smiled as I realized I’d been clinching my fists so tightly my nails left marks on my palms.
This. This was a routine part of my visits. She would do a quick check for my son’s heartbeat. I would flex every muscle in my body and prepare for the worst news possible.
I had recently lost a baby at less than ten weeks and the pain was palpable. We had excitedly told everyone we knew, daydreaming of names, Halloween costumes, sporting events, and what baby would call grandparents. That is, until we arrived at our first appointment to hear: I’m sorry. There’s been a loss.
And yet, with this “successful” pregnancy, I could not shake the feeling that this baby, too, was doomed to be a “loss.” I waited as long as possible to share the news and refused to discuss names. Any day void of nausea was a warning sign. I obsessively pushed on my stomach, searching for any signs of movement. I had a draft email read to send to my principal at any time (I was a teacher): Please inform the faculty and staff that I have lost my baby. I do not wish to talk about it.
I lived in constant fear of losing this baby, just as I had lost a baby before. I second-guessed every decision I made, regretting spending too much time in the heat or not eating enough fruits and vegetables, so certain that I was on the precipice of yet another miscarriage.
Three children and yet another loss (an ectopic pregnancy) later, and I can look back with perspective on that pregnancy that was so fraught with fear. I regret now that I didn’t allow myself to connect with my son in pregnancy and that I allowed a past experience to rob me of the joy of pregnancy. Pregnancy after loss is SCARY. I will not deny that. But an entire pregnancy spent joyless in fear? That is a type of loss, too. I might have carried my son to term, but my pregnancy with him was not one on which I look back with fondness.
If you are battling fear after a loss, reach out to a friend. After my ectopic pregnancy loss, I reached out to several bereavement doulas to help me process my loss and my fear of trying to conceive again. I strongly believe it was my attempts to healthily process my experience that helped me to enjoy my following pregnancy and celebrate my daughter.Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.