As I near the end of pregnancy and delivery is on the horizon, I am so excited to meet our 5th child (and of course be done with being pregnant)! However, I have also noticed more and more fears and anxieties creeping in with each passing week. Whilst this pregnancy has (on the whole) been much more exciting and less worrying than my last, I cannot escape the fact that despite time, therapy, positive affirmations (and all the rest), the trauma after having a still birth still ripples into life and that a pregnancy after a big loss like that, can trigger so much and still carries with it for us a lot of anxieties and worries.
Every morning (without fail) I wake up with an element of dread and hold my breath until I know that baby is moving and that those movements feel normal for him. I have a bit of a pit in my stomach and hope things are fine, but also ever so slightly worry – okay panic at the thought of “what if”, if it does take more than a few moments to feel something. Those early few minutes of the day at times feel like forever and as we near the due date, I can’t help wondering If again will we get to the end only to discover our baby has died.
At the end of this week I will be 37 weeks pregnant – medically “full term” and so very close to having and meeting our 5th child.We are so close to the end. So close to birth and meeting him. His little clothes and crib are waiting and every single one of us is excited to see who he will look like, how big he will be and what kind of character he will have. And yet in and amongst all of this excitement and anticipation, I still worry it may not be a reality again. I worry (not always, but sometimes) that something might again go wrong – because after all it has and it does! I know all too well how fragile life is and how in the blink of an eye, the baby you have carried, loved and nurtured can be gone. I don’t like to think about it because it terrifies me. Of course I have hope and try my best to focus on that, but I also have the real memories of what I have had to endure. Sometimes these feelings sit comfortably beside one another- there is on one side the realisation of problems, but then on the other, the hope and the awareness that this baby is doing well balances it. But then some days, like very recently and this last week or so especially, where they all get a little foggy! Be it is just one of those days or a piece of information from a Dr or a movement not quite as frequent, and suddenly things no longer feel in sync.
I worry and I feel anxious.
I’ve come a long way in my healing in the last 6 years and I have learnt to carry my grief and loss in a different way. It’s weight isn’t felt as frequently as it was before and nor does it debilitate me as much either. However, it is there and there are things in life or milestones and anniversaries that still raise those emotions and grief and, subsequent pregnancies are certainly one – they really bring up a lot – especially in these latter weeks.
I’ve realised though that there will always be worry in a pregnancy after loss, be it the immediate one or subsequent pregnancies. How can there not be? And not everyone will get or want to discuss that. Having had 2 subsequent pregnancies after stillbirth now, I see there are some things that are always going to be a part of that journey – both internal and very real fears and also the level support over those fears and worries. Even so, I feel it is something that really needs to be talked about and highlighted as for many couples, it is the harder side to pregnancy after loss. So, here are a few of the specific anxieties that loss can create in subsequent pregnancies.
Fears of miscarriage
I have never had a miscarriage so I am aware that I have no experience in writing on this topic. I have however had close friends and family who have and listened to their experience and grief. Even so, having lost a baby at term, baby loss at any stage becomes a massive fear in subsequent pregnancies and each milestone and new trimester brings a sense of relief.
In both pregnancies, in the early days especially, there was not a day went by where I wasn’t checking for bleeding etc when I went to the bathroom. Despite never having had a miscarriage, the fear of it happening and losing another baby at some stage was still very real.
The next boulder to navigate was the stats and the possibility of abnormalities again. We have since had a healthy baby, but does that ensure that the next one will be too? Well no, not necessarily!
My age increases the likelihood of abnormality and the fact we already had a baby with Edwards Syndrome and heart defects, also increases the possibility of us having that again in subsequent pregnancies and was certainly something we feared and discussed at length before even trying again for another. With those in mind, I attended the scans with halted breath until I knew that all looked well, and we both breathed such a sigh of relief when we knew it was and our little boy seemed well!
Pregnancy Complications and Illnesses
Initially a big fear I had stemmed from the fact I had a low lying placenta and some of the complications that can come from this. It has since self rectified and moved, but even so, for several weeks I stressed and worried about what issues that could create for our baby, delivery and me.
My current fears and anxieties though lie around the fact that I am diabetic in this pregnancy and according to research this means that you are about 5 times more likely to experience stillbirth than a healthy woman.
5 times more likely!!! Another stat that cannot be ignored and that rightly triggers worries.
I have written before about how when these things are and have been your reality, any possible increase of being on the side of loss is absolutely terrifying. It isn’t just words, warnings or risks, it is something very very real that you have to navigate and be aware of… because those risks are huge to you and you know exactly what that outcome and experience means, how it feels, what it looks like day to day and how it impacts every facet of life and parenting.
I have cried over this fear several times this last week as we near the end – I want my induction brought forward (it is currently scheduled only 4 days before I am due) becuase each day we get closer to my due date the fears magnify! I want to ensure baby is here safely and whilst we hope things go smoothly, there is a real and bigger risk here than with a healthy pregnancy!
Being asked which number pregnancy this is
It still baffles me that Drs and those doing the scans, with my notes in front of them, ask me which pregnancy this is. Sometimes they want to talk about how busy I must be with 4 kids at home and one on the way? Having to then explain it is my 5th and talk about how one of them was stillborn 6 years ago is at times triggering and quite uncomfortable. I can often go to an appointment feeling positive about everything and then leave remembering how hard and unfair that pregnancy and experience was for us and worry about if it might happen again!
I am grateful for those who approach it with sensitivity and also who acknowledge that we all bring our life experiences with us into the delivery room or pregnancy journeys.
I have also realised that whatever their source, that anxieties in subsequent pregnancies are all normal and understandable. I have tried with each one that has cropped up, to talk it out and just be kind and gentle to myself and work through it. I am grateful that I have been mostly level in my emotions and feelings this pregnancy and it has been lovely to feel a lot more excitement and do more prep than I allowed myself or was able to in my last pregnancy. Time certainly has made me better able to carry my loss and the experience of having Alice has also helped us to have a lot more hope in happy endings! However, that said, we still lost a baby at term 6 years ago and the reality of that has been lived every day since and it still ripples into life today. Our conversations recently as a couple very much focus on the awareness of complications in pregnancy and delivery and, whilst we have so much hope and excitement of a new addition in the coming days or weeks, there is always a niggle (or massive weight some days) of fear created by having a pregnancy after stillbirth and what can possibly go wrong or happen again!