Trigger warning: Pregnancy loss mentioned. Please be kind to yourself and don’t read on if you think it will do more harm than good.
It was the headline that caught my attention “After IVF: Pregnant, but still stuck in the past” but it was the beautifully written article by Amy Klein for the New York Times that really struck a chord, particularly the quote above.
Amy is pregnant after a long journey that has included nine rounds of fertility treatment, two egg donors and four miscarriages.
Our situations are very different; I never had to go through the physical and mental challenges of IVF – in all honesty I’m not sure I would be strong enough. However, what she says about always preparing for the worst despite your dream of being pregnant becoming a reality resonates.
I remember before every single scan of my third pregnancy (and there were many as a result of my first baby being diagnosed with the fatal condition anencephaly when I was 12 weeks along) steeling myself for the bad news I was sure was coming, as if it could some how soften the blow.
And even if the scan had been perfect, the calm probably lasted an hour, if I was lucky, before the doubts started to set in. As the next scan got closer and everything still seemed fine, I could almost convince myself that it would be ok but on the day it would only take one thing – sometimes not even connected with the baby; seeing a single magpie on the drive to the hospital, for example – for me to spiral into the darkness.
As a result of this anxiety (and some medical issues I am now sure were caused by it), I took maternity leave as early as I could – even though it would mean having less time at home with the baby had all gone to plan – simply because I couldn’t cope with it and everything else at the same time (and I am forever thankful that we have that option in the UK). I wanted my entire focus to be on the baby, maybe because I wasn’t sure how long I would have before it went wrong?
As Amy says further on in her piece.
“You can’t all of a sudden turn the switch on for happiness and well-being because you were in such a dark and scary place for so long.”
I thought you could. I thought once I was pregnant again, particularly after the first loss, I would feel like the old me rather than a shell of me; that seeing those two pink lines would magically fix everything.
Even when I did get pregnant quickly the second time, not only were the mental wounds of the first pregnancy still weeping but then I also had a new set of concerns – especially when the pains began. I couldn’t be that “unlucky”, as people told me I was the first time, again though, could I? The answer was yes, although this time a blighted ovum.
I think the third time, the scans in the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU), where I ended up with both previous pregnancies, were the worst – not least because the sonographer said at the start that he was not going to speak until he had finished. Although at one point he had to remind me to breathe.
Someone recently asked me if I had enjoyed being pregnant and I found it really difficult to answer. I was grateful everyday, joyful at different points and I loved each and every time the baby kicked but the experience as a whole? Not so much.
The trouble is, once you have opened the door on pregnancy loss you step into a room where you meet many other people, with many different stories. Even if you get beyond your own past, what has happened to them could happen to you or anyone. At any point. And now you know it has nothing to do with luck. It is terrifying.
What I also found was that no one pays any attention to you or your mental well-being, the focus is on the baby. I tried to think that way too, I really did. I would convince myself “what will be, will be” and there is no point worrying for all of about five minutes before I would need to start the process again. I wish I had continued counselling now but at the time I thought pregnancy would cure all of my issues.
Amy says she needs to “rewrite her brain with positive images” and “try and let myself be happy”. I really hope she can do it and especially that she goes on to have an enjoyable (and healthy) rest of her pregnancy.
Have you experienced pregnancy after loss? Were you able to enjoy it? If not, what did you do to cope?