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October 6, 2021

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Cari – Pregnancy After Multiple Losses

March 27, 2022

Pregnancy after loss is a constant battle between overwhelming joy and overwhelming fear. It’s knowing the tremendous pain that could be around the corner, but so desperately wanting your baby that you are willing to potentially face it again.

At the age of 18 I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I was told that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant and that I definitely shouldn’t wait past age 27 to start trying.

Life happened and 27 came and went. I had never given up hope that we could have a baby, but I had also accepted that we would likely need to pursue other avenues, so we started the adoption process.

Then at the age of 30, much to our delight, we got pregnant with my daughter Addison, and we put our adoption file on hold. The pregnancy and birth were nothing short of eventful, but she arrived as a relatively healthy baby and we became a family of three. So when we decided to try for another baby, I didn’t really give it much thought. I was able to get pregnant and deliver a baby once, I should be able to do it again right?

About 18 months later, I saw those beautiful two pink lines again. My kids would be exactly the age difference that I had always dreamed of. It felt as though everything was working out perfectly.

From the very beginning of my pregnancy, I experienced a lot of cramping. This went on for months but I was continually assured that as long as I wasn’t bleeding, I didn’t need to be concerned, so I wasn’t.

On Thanksgiving Day, at just over 10 weeks pregnant, we broke the exciting news to our families that we were expecting another baby. We bought an adorable announcement shirt for our daughter and took some adorable pregnancy announcement photos. It was such a joyful day.

Two days later, I started to bleed. I went to the ER and saw one of my wonderful nurse practitioner co-workers who, in her very gentle way, tried to break the news that the baby was way too small on the portable ultrasound for what he or she should be measuring. Either my dates were very wrong or I was having a missed miscarriage. I had never heard of such a thing and was in complete denial that it could be happening to me. I was booked for an ultrasound the following week and I went home excited at the thought of getting an early ultrasound. I would get to see our little baby without having to wait until 20 weeks, which is customary where we live. Complete denial.

For the next two days, the bleeding and cramping worsened. On Friday the 13th, I woke to the feeling of strong contractions and I delivered the tiniest little baby in our bathroom at home. How was this even possible? My body had continued to change this whole time and I was starting to show, yet my baby had been dead for over a month. How could I not have known….

The days and weeks that followed were incredibly painful and filled with multiple trips to the ER as my body continued to try and deliver everything that did not get delivered with my baby. This led to days and days of labor, hemorrhaging blood clots the size of baseballs, an induction, a D&C, and multiple intrauterine infections.

It took about three months for the infections to finally clear, the blood that had somehow made its way into my abdomen to be absorbed, and for me to finally begin to physically feel better. Mentally however, was a completely different story. I was consumed with wondering what I had done wrong that had caused this to happen.

The day prior to the start of my bleeding, I had been working at a food & clothing drive at my church. I knew that I had been careful with doing any heavy lifting, and yet for months I beat myself up over that day. In my head I must have done too much and somehow caused my pregnancy to end, even though in reality, my baby had died at least four weeks earlier. It was hard for me to grasp on to the facts. My mind so desperately wanted answers as to why this had happened.

My head also started to play tricks on me, making me question if I had in fact miscarried before my D&C; Making me question if I had killed my baby with that surgery… Looking back, I realize these thoughts were completely ridiculous, but at the time, they were all consuming. Thankfully I had an amazing family doctor who printed out my ultrasound report that stated, “No heartbeat detected. No fetus visible.” I read that report over and over in the coming months until I finally actually believed that my baby was already gone long before I needed the surgery.

Four months after my missed miscarriage, I again saw the positive pregnancy test. This time however, I came to know my baby and lose him or her in the same day. This loss didn’t feel as devastating as the first, but after everything I had been through in the previous few months, it felt incredibly discouraging. I was so upset that I didn’t even save the picture of the positive test. Something I’ve regretted ever since.

A few months later, I was pregnant again and my anxiety was in full force. Every little cramp or twinge would send my mind spiraling into “Here we go again…” Everyday I would expect to go to the bathroom and see blood. No matter how well things seemed to be going, I couldn’t even let my mind go to a place where this pregnancy could potentially result in a living baby.

Even when telling others that we were expecting again, it was awkward. I’m sure that they could see my hesitancy. This time there was no adorable pregnancy announcement for our families and pictures weren’t even taken until much further into the pregnancy. Even when we did take pregnancy photos, the whole time I was thinking that we were wasting our time and we were just gearing up to be hurt all over again.

This anxiety continued throughout my entire pregnancy. When we reached 24 weeks, a milestone when a lot of women start to feel some relief that they have reached the point viability, things actually worsened for me. At that time a family member had a massive medical emergency and it caused my mental state to worsen over night. I had to dramatically increase my anxiety medications and go on sick leave from work.

My anxiety took over every aspect of my life. I was terrified that something horrible was about to happen to my daughter and every vehicle on the road was about to run a stop sign or red light and come smashing into our car. Even in our home I had thoughts of light fixtures falling out of the ceiling, electrical wiring suddenly sparking into flames and even the slightest breeze gave me visions of trees crashing down into our house.

When it came to thoughts of my baby, the catastrophic feelings were even worse. I felt like something was wrong. Every day I expected to see blood. Every day I expected to go into early labor. Every day I expected to stop feeling movements. Every day I expected our world to come crashing down.

I tried so hard to put on a brave face and not let people know how much I was struggling, and to this day, I don’t think many know how hard that time was for me. (Until they read this that is!) I felt like I was losing my mind. I knew that the things I was feeling were completely irrational, but I could do nothing to control those thoughts. I struggled tremendously to feel like I could connect with my baby. I felt so much love for her and wanted her so badly, but I was so scared of losing her at the same time, thus forcing my mind to distance itself from the pregnancy.

Once Hallie was born, I don’t think that I felt that instant connection with her the way that I did with my first daughter, Addison. I had kept my heart so guarded all the way through her pregnancy, that it actually took a little bit to feel like I could allow myself to fall in love, like I no longer needed to protect my fragile heart. It felt so shameful at the time, but looking back at it now, it was a natural response to a situation that had caused so much pain and grief.

It was at that point that my perinatal anxiety shifted into postpartum anxiety. In my case however, this was far more manageable than the anxiety that had been controlling every aspect of my life during my pregnancy and in the months following my miscarriage. It’s strange to think that postpartum could somehow be better, but the anxiety I dealt with during my pregnancy was so far off the charts that I don’t know how it could have actually gotten any worse postpartum.

One thing that I am grateful for during that time, is the promptness of by family doctor and OB to recognize that I was not doing well and put me on medication and on leave from work. Although I was struggling tremendously, I was scared to bring it up in my appointments, but would be secretly hoping that the doctor would ask.

If there is any advice that I can give looking back on that situation, is to be upfront about your situation and don’t try to be a hero and manage it on your own. Pregnancy is hard enough, then when you add previous losses into the mix, it is just so much worse.

Pregnancy after loss is a constant battle between overwhelming joy and overwhelming fear. It’s knowing the tremendous pain that could be around the corner, but so desperately wanting your baby that you are willing to potentially face it again.

-Cari

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More Blog Stories

Why I Remember

October 6, 2021

Ashley – We’re Not Giving Up

March 13, 2022

Christopher: When Miracles Don’t Happen

March 3, 2022