The Highs and Lows of Pregnancy After Loss
*This blog entry was written by Butterfly Run Committee Member Emily Cordonier.
Anyone who has experienced a pregnancy after loss will know how terrifying and isolating it can be. I was fortunate to carry and deliver two children with no complications whatsoever. For my first years of pregnancy and motherhood an ultrasound was an opportunity to check in and get a cute photo of my baby. I was blissfully naive, and happy to be so.
But that all changed when I got pregnant for a third time. Joy of discovering I was carrying twins was soon replaced by heartbreak when I was told at a 16 week ultrasound that one baby had no heartbeat and had died. A 20 week ultrasound delivered more devastation when I learned the other twin had a serious heart defect - my son my son Lachlan would be born still at 38 weeks.
So after that, how I viewed pregnancy and my body completely changed. You can't go back to being blissfully naive once the curtain has been pulled back. You can't become unaware of the dangers and the fears that now go hand in hand with being pregnant.
I learned that during a pregnancy after a loss you will look down every time you go to the washroom and fear you will see blood. You will hold your breath through every ultrasound appointment. And every second your doctor struggles to find a heartbeat with the doppler - will be excruciating.
After losing my twins I was fortunate to become pregnant once more - my chance at a rainbow baby. But, though I felt joy, I was deeply grieving too. It was complicated. I was reluctant to share my news, even when faced with an undeniably growing belly. I was slow to let myself get excited or hope too much, knowing how things can go so wrong. I also didn't want to carry anyone else’s worries and hopes for me and my baby. The last thing I ever wanted, was to be an object of pity. But perhaps, what I dreaded most of all was having people hear I was pregnant and have them think, “oh good! This will make everything better”. As if a new baby could wipe the memory of the children we'd lost.
For me, there was no “safe zone". Getting past the 14 week milestone meant nothing. Every ultrasound, every blood test, every routine appointment was accompanied by tremendous stress as the worst case scenarios played out in my head. Every time I passed a milestone I thought I might finally feel some major sense of relief, but in reality, I just found something new to worry about.
When I was pregnant with my rainbow baby I was especially dreading that 20 week ultrasound. The day before my appointment I broke down, petrified I would hear those words, "I'm sorry, there is no heartbeat" once again. A fellow loss mom gave me some good advice. She suggested I go early to my appointment and tell the clinic about my history in hopes that whatever ultrasound technician was assigned to me might be briefed on my situation ahead of time.
It proved to be great advice.
I went early and explained to the front desk about losing my babies and my anxiety in regards to this ultrasound. The technician who saw me that day was wonderful. She was sensitive and kind. She asked questions about my son Lachlan. She was confident and reassuring in every moment of my appointment. She left me with no doubts that day that this baby was looking healthy.
My anxieties did not disappear with that 20 week ultrasound. I didn't feel that kind of release until I held my baby in my arms upon delivery 20 weeks later. But I was so thankful for that technician, and indeed the help of other moms who had shared their experiences with loss and pregnancy after loss along the way. It is a difficult time to navigate, but pregnancy after loss is a true testament to how grief and joy can co-exist.