Being pregnant again after losing a baby was… terrifying.
It was so much harder than I anticipated. Everything caused me to worry. At the beginning of the pregnancy, my anxiety was terrible. I slept badly, couldn’t focus properly & some days I would burst into tears at everything.
It wasn’t just the anxiety of losing the baby again. It was the thought of going back to the unknown. If the worst happened, I’d be back where I started. The endless trying every month, tracking my cycle, the awful two-week wait. Constantly on the lookout for symptoms. Then doing it all over again. Or worse still, the thought of going back to IVF. Going back to those mornings of watching all the other desperate women in the waiting room at the clinic. Wishing I was anywhere else and the waiting. so much waiting.
I had built up many great tools during my fertility journey
My yoga & meditation practice had regularly saved me on days where I felt overwhelmed. Yet even these weren’t helping me during early pregnancy. Most days, my morning sickness was so bad that sitting in meditation or trying to hold a yoga pose made me feel incredibly nauseous. Because yoga has the wonderful ability to bring your awareness to your body, I found that bringing that focus to how I was feeling really amplified how sick I was. I couldn’t win!
I read lots of articles that other women had written about how they coped with their pregnancy after loss. These helped me to feel reassured, and at the very least to realize it was normal to be worried. I also had several counselling sessions which was probably the best thing I did.
We found a kind & patient doctor who was very happy for me to go into the clinic every week for a scan, which helped a lot, too. Yet every week was still a struggle. Even as my morning sickness got worse & worse, I hated sitting on that couch waiting for my appointment. Wondering if my nausea was real or if I was just imagining it all.
My journey of pregnancy after loss
By 15 weeks, I had become cautiously optimistic. Our 15-week scan showed the baby was growing well, moving well. Everything was healthy. I could feel my anxiety starting to ease.
The next night I started bleeding.
An emergency trip to the doctor showed that my placenta was sitting directly on top of my cervix (placenta previa). This was creating pressure on surrounding blood vessels & causing them to bleed (ideally the placenta sits above the baby in the uterus). Gentle exercise, lifting & certain movements could all make it worse. I was put on modified bed rest for the foreseeable future. My doctor explained that placenta previa wasn’t often one of the causes of miscarriage, but in rare cases it could be. My anxiety returned to full volume. I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I had to stop working, stop playing with & caring for my daughter, and stop exercising completely. After everything, I couldn’t believe there was yet another obstacle to worry about.
Thankfully, half way through the pregnancy things improved
It was a long couple of months, but thankfully as my pregnancy continued, my uterus expanded & the placenta moved forward & away from my cervix. By 22 weeks, my doctor agreed to let me go back to work again. I returned to very gentle pilates & yoga exercises.
Slowly, being pregnant became easier. Time helped more than anything, really. I began to trust my body and my baby. I don’t think there is ever a point in pregnancy where you can “just relax,” especially if you’ve been through trauma. However, here is what I found to be most helpful. I wish I’d had this list at the start of my pregnancy.
10 things you can do to help
1. Sit with your baby in the present moment
I realize this is WAY easier said than done, but you can’t predict the future. All your past experiences are not your current situation. You can’t control everything that will happen, but you CAN stop, breathe, and remember your baby is here. Right now. It’s just the two of you. Enjoy that feeling of knowing you got to where you are.
2. Remind yourself that your thoughts are not reality
The brain can’t tell the different between perceived and real danger. It assumes anything stressful is a threat & will keep you constantly vigilant & in a stress response. When those thoughts arrive, it’s helpful to gently remind yourself that you’re not in danger. Thank your brain for trying to keep you safe. Acknowledge this, but then you have the option to choose a different thought. Instead, think about how you will feel when you hold your baby for the first time. When you introduce them to your family. The more you can focus on these feelings of joy/relief/excitement, the more you can start to override those constant feelings of fight or flight.
3. Yoga & Meditation
If it works for you, practice some gentle restorative yoga & a few minutes of meditation. Bringing your awareness to your body gets you out of the constant dialog in your head.
4. It’s ok to distract yourself
Read a book, watch Netflix, go for a walk. Meet a friend. You don’t want to spend all your time pushing away your feelings & pretending that your anxieties aren’t there. Yet sometimes an hour of focusing on something else can change your mood entirely.
5. Find a doctor who gets you
I felt like such a crazy person – I went through 5 different OBGYNs before I found the doctor I really liked. I thought it was just me (well maybe it was!) but I knew I hadn’t found the right person. I needed someone to hold my hand & be gentle with me when I burst into tears during scans. I didn’t need someone who was going to remind me of my age & the stats & everything that could go wrong. Maybe you DO need that kind of doctor, someone who just spells it all out bluntly. I needed someone much softer. So spend the time and find the one.
6. Go with what your body needs
During my pregnancy where I lost the baby, I was so careful about what I ate & what kind of exercise I was doing. It was such a focus. I would stress if I ate the “wrong” things or didn’t do some kind of exercise each day. When I fell pregnant again, all that went out the window. My morning sickness was so bad that some days, all I could look at were fries. And you know what? That is totally ok. I found myself lying on the couch during the day, falling asleep at 2pm. I did zero exercise for my first 12 weeks. It was all just too hard. But it felt MUCH easier to go with what my body wanted. Embrace it.
7. Confide in a couple of close friends that you’re pregnant
The last thing I wanted to do was let everyone know I was pregnant again. For the first couple of weeks after I found out, I told no one. But that was isolating & very hard. I chose 2 close friends & decided to tell them how I was feeling. I didn’t want advice & I didn’t want someone reminding me of what could go wrong. It was much easier to seek advice when I needed it, rather than have someone keep offering it. But women are intuitive. You’ll know who the right people are.
8. Connect with your baby
Before you go to sleep, place your hands over your womb and talk to your baby. Give them a nickname if you like. Tell them about your day. Tell them how excited you are that you’re on this journey together, and all the incredible things you’ll do once they’re born. Ask them how they’re doing, ask them if there is anything they want you to know. Don’t be fixated on receiving the answers, just opening that connection with each other is incredibly helpful.
I know it’s a commonly recommended practice but it can really help you to work through how you’re feeling. Get the thoughts out of your head & onto paper. It can show you some perspective & is a good way to remind yourself that they are only thoughts.
10. Speak to a professional
There are lots of wonderful therapists & psychologists who specialise in fertility work & pregnancy loss. Personally, I found it more helpful to speak with a fertility coach (I found the tools she gave me were far more constructive than traditional therapy). But there are so many amazing women in the world who dedicate their work to helping others through these kinds of struggles.
But in the end I did get through it…
I thought I’d finally feel confident about the pregnancy when I got to the “next” stage. The NIPT results. The second trimester. The 20 week structural scan. The 24 week viability stage. Feeling the constant kicks & movements. But to be honest, I never did. Even driving to the hospital to deliver the baby, I remember sitting in the passenger seat thinking “please let him be okay…”
The thing that really helped me through all these worries was to know that – they’re normal. The causes of miscarriage are not your fault. Worries are to be expected & you can’t wish them away. Thinking the worst does not mean the worst is coming. It’s possible to feel all the bad stuff, acknowledge that you’re scared, but also trust the miracle growing inside you.
It’s hard to allow the possibility of happiness after so much disappointment. When you finally have the one thing you wanted most – especially when for so long it felt out of reach. But remember that you got here. You’re pregnant! And how exciting is that?