Back in June 2022, on a Wednesday morning, my husband and I found out I was pregnant. We were both so overjoyed when that test came back with two lines to indicate this news. My mother-in-law was visiting us at the time and she shared in our joy. But my joy was short-lived.
Almost immediately my anxiety took over and I found myself in panic mode. You see, this was not the first time I had received a positive on a pregnancy test. The first time was in July 2021. I was at the doctor's office to go over some unrelated test results and because I was a few days late getting my period that month, she had me take a pregnancy test. The test immediately came back positive. I still needed to do a blood test to confirm, but I was over the moon!
The next morning when the bleeding started and we drove to the emergency that feeling was replaced with dread. After eleven hours in the hospital we came home devastated. I was miscarrying. My doctor was encouraging, she said these things happen with first pregnancies. Often the body takes time to adjust to something new. But hey, at least we knew we could get pregnant. I was disappointed, sad, and depressed even. This is not how I thought my life would go. I had not expected miscarriage to be a part of my story, but here we are. Slowly I got my energy back and it seemed like everything was back on track.
Then came January 2022. I was late getting my period again and the bells were going off in my head to test. After the previous time, I was so nervous about taking another test. I waited over a week before taking the test and when that test turned positive, I thought to myself that surely it would be different this time. But a few days later (before I could even make it to my first doctor's appointment), I started bleeding again.
Following the second miscarriage, we requested to meet with a fertility specialist to find out if there was something else going on. Our doctor ran some tests just to be sure; a few weeks later we were given the bad news - my hormone levels showed that I was most likely headed for premature menopause. That was definitely not something I expected to hear at the age of 34!
At our follow-up appointment, the specialist told us that this was probably the reason for my miscarriages. Women who were heading for menopause often have miscarriages. We were given the only option our specialist thought would work: IVF. Those were difficult times to be sure, but that’s a story for another day.
Fast forward to the first day of us starting our IVF journey, and what do you know, that morning in June I took a pregnancy test before my IVF appointment and it came up positive. Two blood tests following that test showed that my hormone levels were rising appropriately, and confirmed the pregnancy result. I was indeed pregnant.
Over those early days, I hoped that the initial panic would go away, but it didn't. During those early weeks, I worried that I would wake up bleeding, or that when we went for our first scan there would be nothing to see. Neither of those things happened. I caught the flu early on which only heightened my anxiety. I spent so much time coughing and sneezing that with each cough I was convinced I would miscarry.
To add to this I was not experiencing any other obvious early pregnancy symptoms like nausea or tenderness. Fear and anxiety were my daily companions. It was like I was living in a fog that I couldn't shake. I wish I could tell you that these fears and anxieties disappeared over the course of the pregnancy, but they did not. There was never a moment where it felt that if I could get over this hump, the rest will be smooth sailing.
I struggle daily. I need comfort and reassurance daily. I need God daily. Even writing this blog post has been a challenge. I started writing this earlier in the pregnancy and kept needing to pause it because the fears overtook me. Now at just over 28 weeks pregnant, I'm picking up where I left off. So I can confidently say that I am not writing this blog as someone who has 'overcome this' or 'gotten over it, instead, I come to you as someone who is still walking this path, and I'm doing this one step at a time.
One reason this journey of pregnancy loss (early loss, miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss) is extra challenging is how our society views this type of loss. This type of loss can be viewed as something only women undergo, and typically, things that affect only women are not talked about openly in society (and I don't mean Indian society or Western society, I mean in society in general).
Most women are advised to not announce pregnancies until after the end of the first trimester when the probability of a miscarriage significantly lowers. Elders will also warn against telling those outside the family, sometimes until after the baby is born. And if the pregnancy does end in loss, then the loss is often not disclosed, especially to anyone outside of the immediate family. I don't believe these things are done out of malice, or out of superstition, just as a protection for the family and the woman who is going through the loss. And in all honesty, some women will need that protection as sometimes women are blamed for losing their babes while in the womb like it's somehow the woman's fault.
However, while it all comes from a good place, I don't believe that keeping these things a secret is helpful. Keeping loss a secret can feel like the world is pretending it didn't happen and hence it didn't matter. But this is NOT TRUE! Your loss matters, no matter how early it was. Your baby matters.
A pregnancy, no matter how long it lasts, changes a family. Suddenly there are parents who no longer have a child to look forward to. Moms and dads in the making who through no fault of their own, remain in this limbo state of "in-the-making". Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations become cruel jokes rather than holidays to look forward to and celebrate with loved ones.
But this is not what we see in the Bible. In Psalm 139:13-14 it says
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
This verse is such a beautiful example of God's heart for the baby in his or her mother's womb; it shows that your baby matters to God.
Pregnancy also physically changes a woman, way more than is commonly known or acknowledged. I remember with my first loss, I was so confused as to why I had to be in the hospital for so long. I was new to Australia at the time as well, and on the day of my loss, they had to verify that my blood group was not one that would cause issues if the baby's blood accidentally got mixed in with mine. Because a baby, even at that early stage, has its own DNA, its own blood group, all separate from mine.
I also had so many follow-up blood tests to track my hormone levels back to what they should be pre-pregnancy. My hormone levels went back to normal, but it never felt like my pre-pregnancy levels after that. There is also scientific evidence that foetal cells and DNA transfer into the mother's bloodstream from early pregnancy. Sometimes these cells can live on in the mother for decades. So you might carry the DNA of your baby in your body even if you lose your baby in early pregnancy.
When we see all this, how can we not acknowledge that pregnancy loss matters? Loss is tragic. But in our aim to diminish its sting in the area of pregnancy, we have chosen to bury it instead of acknowledging it. And as any good therapist will tell you, burying your pain will not make it go away, and it will definitely not help you heal faster. Healing from loss is a difficult journey; it is not linear (time does not dull the ache), and there is no magic formula. But we can get through it one day at a time, with the help of God and others.
When I struggled with my losses a friend suggested we do something to acknowledge our babies. Phil and I went out and bought a plant. We called our plant 'Hope'. This worked out so well for us because as we nurture it, and watch it grow, it reminds us of God's promise over our lives. We know we will meet our babies one day, and we have that hope in Jesus. We also know that even though we are hurting, God has a purpose through that pain and we can trust Him through our circumstances.
Have you gone through something similar? Did you go or are you going through pregnancy after experiencing loss? You may find that you, like me, live for those ultrasounds, those doppler heartbeat checks and crave any movement from your little one, once you start feeling those precious movements. Or perhaps you get anxious before each ultrasound appointment, fearful you will hear the words "I'm so sorry, there is no heartbeat" and you find yourself holding your breath until you hear that reassuring sound of your baby's heartbeat.
Perhaps you find yourself reaching for the phone to call your doctor at every cramp or abdominal pain, fearing the worst. Maybe you struggle to share the news of this pregnancy with friends and family or announcing on social media. Perhaps you struggle to make plans to bring your baby home (like making big purchases or decorating a nursery) or plan things like baby showers because at the back of your mind you have this nagging doubt as to whether your pregnancy will even get to that stage. When other first-time parents panic at the thought of parenthood, maybe you find yourself panicking instead at the thought of buying maternity or nursing clothes, car seats, bassinets, or other baby things because you think that somehow doing those things will jinx this pregnancy as well.
You are definitely not alone in this! When I first started telling people about my loss (and later, losses), I was astounded at the number of women who came forward with their own stories of loss. I was so encouraged that there are more of us than we know. The statistic is that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss and that's a really high number!
That's a lot of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and others mourning this loss and often mourning in silence. God was good to me and He surrounded me with people who understood my loss (those who had gone through it and those who hadn't). They encouraged me and surrounded me with so much love. A friend told me about a Facebook group community that had helped her get through her loss, and I quickly joined one as well. This group was such a godsend when I was healing from my losses and it continues to be a blessing through this pregnancy.
I would encourage you to find your tribe. It could be fellow mothers who have gone through something similar, it could be your church group, your college friends, a support group, or anybody else who's got your back. This can be a challenge if you're not quite ready to talk about your loss or your experience being pregnant after loss, but you will be so blessed if you do have a tribe you can share with.
Perhaps you can join an online group where you can share anonymously, or even just be encouraged by reading the stories of others. We were not meant to go through life alone (no matter what the popular belief is about independence). We were created for community, to bear each other's burdens, and this is never more obvious to me than it is in times of loss. My prayer for you will be that you find a group that loves you and can be an earthly expression of our Heavenly Father's love for you.