Help Handling Pregnancy After A Miscarriage Or Stillbirth
In October of 1996, my life changed forever. Twenty-six weeks into my pregnancy, I gave birth to a stillborn baby -- a tiny 1 pound, 1 ounce baby girl named Laura Ann Douglas. The reason for her death was cruelly obvious: My otherwise perfect baby had a knot in her umbilical cord.
Laura was my fourth baby, but I knew as soon as I lost her that she wouldn't be my last. I needed to have another baby in order to heal my broken heart. A few days before Laura's due date in early January -- a milestone that I had been dreading -- I was both ecstatic and terrified to learn that I was pregnant again.
Here's what I wrote in my journal shortly after the home pregnancy test came back positive:
"I've already done two pregnancy tests and they were both positive. Other than feeling tired and a bit of breast tingling, I don't have a lot of symptoms. (Other than sheer panic, that is.) I'm about 6 weeks pregnant. This morning I had an appointment with the midwife. I suggested that she stamp every page of my file with the words 'headcase.' (Thought it would save her time later on, since she wouldn't have to write the same word over and over after each visit.)"
Afraid to be happy
Two weeks later, I was still second-guessing whether my pregnancy was for real, and wondering whether I should dare to get excited about it:
"When will my heart and mind relax and let me 'enjoy' this pregnancy?
Every time I get excited (and I really am very happy to be pregnant!) my
mind says, 'Cool it. You don't want to get too excited because this could
end, too. And then think how awful you'd feel.' The other part of my brain
says, 'Enjoy it while it lasts. If it only lasts eight weeks, you might as
well make it a happy eight weeks.'"
I was tremendously relieved when I reached the end of my first trimester-the peak period for miscarriages -- but my relief was short-lived. Instead of checking for bleeding every time I went to the bathroom, I began to fret about whether my baby would manage to tie a knot in his or her umbilical cord.
Draining reserves of emotion
I had five ultrasounds during my pregnancy and about five extra prenatal visits, all ordered because of my need for reassurance that all was well with my baby. Somehow, I managed to make it to my due date without completely losing my mind-but there was still no baby.
Here's what I wrote in my journal while I was waiting for my baby to arrive:
"My baby is now three days late, and I'm fast approaching the end of my sanity. This pregnancy has been so long and so stressful that I really don't have very many emotional reserves left at this point. I just want the baby to arrive safe and sound and soon. I'm spending every waking moment looking for movement, and when the baby is quieter than I would like, I go into panic mode. All anyone has to do is ask me how I'm doing and I burst into tears."
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