The Utter Fear of Pregnancy After Child Loss
This week it was our youngest daughter H’s birthday. Her birthday brings lots of memories back… the joyous and the painful.
Having lost our second child, a boy named Joshua, through stillbirth, we discovered the utter fear of pregnancy after loss with our third child. I can’t even begin to explain how hard our daughter H’s pregnancy was, having lost her brother only a few months before. She was so wanted and needed. Yet we were utterly terrified.
Whenever I approached the hospital for a check-up, my blood pressure would rocket. I could actually feel it rising as we approached the hospital from miles away. I wouldn’t drive; I would use breathing exercises to try to keep myself calm. Every scan — and there were so many — was filled with fear and then relief.
The doctor who scanned us when we lost Joshua was the sonographer who scanned us several times with H. The first time, she wanted to check first that we were OK with her scanning us… in case there was bad news. Perhaps she thought we may have in some way blamed her for his loss or we didn’t want her associated with this baby. Nothing could be further from our thoughts. We didn’t mind if she scanned us; in fact, I preferred it. I knew she would be so careful, so protective of our baby. And she was. She printed off 4D photos for us, ream after ream of them. She wanted our baby here as safely as we did. I remember her tears when we were told by her and another doctor that Joshua had died. I remember them crouching on the floor next to us, sharing our pain, our grief.
We tend to think of midwives as those who deliver babies, happy times. But we’ve seen the difficult times, too. The post-diagnosis of Down syndrome in E’s case. Their gentleness. Their friendship.
Their protectiveness and understanding when we lost Joshua. Their absolute love for him. That stood out.
And in H’s case, their need for her safe arrival. Their chattiness, yet candid approach. The consultants who treated us like royalty. When our lead consultant discovered he would be away for one appointment, he proceeded to introduce us to his whole team. He made us feel safe. They all did.
And then when H arrived, she became poorly. So very poorly. The fear kicked in again. The denial. But they saved her. The doctors and midwives protected us. They cared for us.
And eventually we came home.
We began to live again.
Yet still there’s this overreaching fear that something will go wrong. As time passes, it recedes for a while… but it’s always there, nagging away in the background.
Whenever a friend is pregnant, or if I hear of someone going over their due date, I begin to panic. I am thrilled for them, excited to meet their babies, but oh, the fear. I never want anyone to know this pain. I want to protect my friends from this life, the life after loss. In reality, there is nothing I can do but support my friends as I would have done anyway and conceal my own fears.
My innocence was taken the day our child died. I previously thought the worst thing that would ever happen was losing my parents or my husband.
Never my child. It’s the wrong way of life. You’re not supposed to outlive your child.
You’re not supposed to go to their funerals, choose their grave plaques.
H became so important, so precious. So needed. She is more than we ever dreamed.
H and E adore each other. They help each other.
Our fears of loss could have prevented E from having a sibling. When we lost Joshua, we needed our baby. We wanted our child, a sibling for E. We tried not to think of those fears, our need for a child overcoming the terror of loss.
I lost count of the number of times I wished for a fast-forward button. I just wanted to know our baby would be safe.
I’ve always envied those who breezed through their pregnancies, had simple births, breastfed. It was never that way for me.
With Joshua, I steeled myself for his birth once we knew he had passed. I read to remove myself from the hell on Earth I was then in. I immersed myself in a world that didn’t exist, where I could forget who I was. As I paced my way through his labour, I imagined myself elsewhere. Anything to remove myself from the pain within.
There was silence you see, when Joshua was born.
There was no baby crying.
I can’t remember if I cried as I reached out for him. There must have been tears, yet I just remember his warmth, his smell and the feel of him in my arms.
So with H, we were desperate for her to be here. To be safe in our arms. To hear her cry. To see her eyes. I will always wonder what Joshua’s eyes were like.
The relief at H’s cry at her birth, the feel of holding her — it’s unexplainable.
To feel the weight of her in my arms as she moved. To feed her. To see her eyes. That is priceless.
Because of our children, all three of them, I know the true meaning of love and heartbreak. Children born after loss are called “rainbows.” They are the calm after the storm has passed, the beautiful light and color that enters our life.
Image via Contributor.
If you or a loved one is affected by infant loss, you can find grieving resources at The Grief Toolbox.
A version of this story originally appeared on It’s All About Evie.
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