Today I want to share with you the story of "Cassandra", a woman I worked with a little while back. (To protect my true client's identity I've changed her name and identifying details about her in the story below.)
Cassandra was a 32 year old woman when she got her first positive pregnancy test. She had been told that after 30 it may take her a few times to get pregnant but after her first try, she saw the words clearly on her digital test: PREGNANT. She was elated, as was her husband who was also shocked that it worked so fast!
Other than some morning sickness during the first trimester, Cassandra had a textbook pregnancy. She gained just enough weight, so her doctor was happy and she felt comfortable. She was active, happy and as she rounded out the second trimester, she started going into nesting overdrive, resulting in the nursery of her dreams.
She delivered a beautiful baby girl at 39 weeks and 1 day and was completely enamored.
They didn't think twice about what to expect going forward
Right around her daughter's second birthday she and her husband started talking about trying again. They were both on the same page - having about three years between the two children would be perfect. Given her history with her daughter's pregnancy, neither she nor her husband thought twice about what to expect going forward.
Again, this time, she got pregnant quickly. Unlike last time, when she didn't tell anyone about the positive pregnancy test until after 12 weeks, this time, she excitedly texted and called her closest girlfriends. She began imagining this little baby coming into their family. She started to make plans in her head about how to rearrange the house to make room for another nursery and how to start preparing her sweet girl for the arrival of what she was sure was a baby brother.
Her world came crashing down
At 8 weeks she went in for an ultrasound at her OB's office and her world came crashing down. No heartbeat. She remembered feeling like someone had physically stabbed her in the heart. She heard a sound like of an animal that had been hurt but didn't realize it was coming from her. Her heart shattered and she felt like she could barely stand up.
Over time, she healed physically and far more slowly she felt like she began healing emotionally.
A happy surprise isn't so happy
Six months later, she was surprised by yet another positive pregnancy test! But this time, instead of excitement, she felt piercing fear. She showed her husband the test with deer-in-headlights eyes and not the tear-filled eyes she had the last two times. She felt like her heart could stop at any second. They hugged and congratulated each other but there was so much restraint to their happiness this time around.
For the entire first trimester, she was constantly checking for blood every time she went to the bathroom. Instead of feeling joyous and excited, she felt depressed from all of the anxiety and fear. She couldn't find it in her to enjoy any aspect of her pregnancy.
"I'm missing it!"
When she contacted me in her second trimester, she told me, "I hate that I'm missing it. Everything's going fine but I just can't enjoy it and I'm missing it." She was in tears and I could tell how torn she was. She wanted to enjoy this pregnancy. She desperately wanted to embrace the new life that was growing in her - and thriving! But she was so terrified of losing this baby she had put up mental blocks preventing herself from being happy.
Cassandra's reaction makes complete sense. She, like so many other women, experienced the worst possible heartbreak for a parent. Losing a child, no matter how early in the pregnancy, is utterly devastating. The fear and worry that it could happen again can become all-consuming and can carry over into the next pregnancy, even if all signs point to "everything is fine".
Making sense of the conflicting and intense emotions
If you're like Cassandra, you might feel confused and overwhelmed by your intense emotions. Your desire to cherish the little life that's growing in you feels in direct conflict with the worry that you may not get to bring this baby home either.
The key to unlocking this tug of war on your heart is to find a way to allow yourself to feel both. I know personally and professionally, though, how hard that can be in practice. You want to move past the loss but your dreams won't let you. You want to talk aout the loss but your loved ones tell you to move on. There's no clear answer of how to do this in a way that feels like you're truly honoring the baby you carry in your heart and the baby you carry in your belly.
There is hope
That's exacty why I created the VIP, deeply personalized Hold My Hand - Healthy High-Risk Pregnancy program, to help you navigate the ups and downs of this pregnancy. Though you may not be experiencing complications or even be considered medically high-risk, the stress you are under from the grief of your loss increases your risk of developing physical and emotional health concerns during this pregnancy.
By guiding you gently to cope with your pregnancy after your loss, you will be able to lower the stress your body is under, thus helping yourself have a healthier pregnancy, and increasing the likelihood that you'll be able to bring this rainbow baby home.
Learn more about the Hold my Hand - Health High-Risk Pregnancy program and I hope to see you on the inside!
Are you currently pregnant after a loss (or have you been pregnant after a loss)? How are you coping? What's been helpful and how do you wish you had more support?
Leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you!