I remember several times in my life, whether riding on the motorcycle or flying downhill on my bike thinking "Well I can't die yet, I haven't had my babies." Like it was the one thing I knew I was meant to do, and something I knew I would do no matter what.
Pregnancy after Miscarriage
Pregnancy after miscarriage is terrifying. Exhausting. The worry and fight to stay positive in your mind is exhausting. I dread pregnant women that complain constantly so I don't write this as a complaint at all, but I write the reality of what my pregnancy has been. If you're reading this you probably already know about the first miscarriage and second. My life after the miscarriages felt like I was pretty lost. I wanted hope and happiness and clarity and to be a light, but I had trouble finding those things. Waiting each month to see if I was pregnant again felt like an eternity. It was-soo-long. And incredibly disappointing to get my period again. It was disheartening even though I wasn't actually trying for that long. 5 months after the first MC I got a positive pregnancy test again. It was the week of my birthday and I was on cloud 9 all day to be celebrating and knowing life was inside me again. The day after my birthday I bled. And although the baby wasn't even actually a baby yet and never implanted into my uterus, another loss clouded my mind and heart and spirit. That miscarriage was physically easier but I began to wonder if something was wrong with me.
This current pregnancy is relatively easy for me physically. It has been very healthy physically. But mentally it has been a whole other world. I worried every time I sneezed. I worried every time I wiped. I worried when I wasn't feeling nauseous. I was constantly reviewing my body for symptoms of pregnancy that would remind me that I am still pregnant. I looked at my pregnancy test multiple times a day to remind me: it was positive and shes still here. I never let myself be really excited or celebrate the baby. I unconciously protected my heart from another huge ache. I didn't write to baby. I didn't talk to her. I actually didn't take very many photos of my belly for a long time. I didn't let myself buy anything. I was sheltering myself from the possibility of losing her. In the second trimester when my hormonal symptoms wore off and I felt great, was the worst mental time for me. I had no movement yet and no sickness so nothing was telling me I was pregnant except my little bump that was forming. I would have a couple panic attacks during this time. My chest would feel like my heart was going to jump out of it. I had to breathe through it so as not to hyperventilate. For some reason, sitting in church 2-3 times made me really hyperventilate. I can't figure out why but it was worse then. I would feel like I was about to pass out. I worked on keeping myself stress free and also worked through the panic attacks with slow breathing. Mentally I talked myself through them and when all else failed, I found myself praying. Eventually that phase went away as I started to feel her move and felt more confident she was growing safely. But the anxiety is hard, and real.
My suggestions for women struggling with pregnancy after loss is this
1. create a healthy environment for your baby to grow (this could mean a billion different things for each of us), try to be stress free as much as possible. your mental and physical health are the best things you can do for your child. take the time to heal and take care of yourself, which might mean sacrificing other things
2. believe in positive thinking and live it, practice having positive thoughts and changing negative ones to comforting and positive ones. believe that you will have this baby and it will work!
3. seek help from someone you trust and is actually helpful to you, be it a friend or therapist or whomever
4. find tools that help you cope with stress or anxiety if you have it (I write about some of the things I did in this post- massages, yoga, past tense doterra oil, baths, exercise, talking to someone, making lists, decreasing work load, releasing yourself from unachievable expectations, prayer, relaxing music, etc)
A lot of people have asked if my doctor had me on some medications or ran tests or watched me differently because of the miscarriages. The answer is no. A lot of people say they think I should be and I should demand it, etc. But you know what gave me a lot of hope and positivity during this? My doctor telling me nothing is wrong with me, it's just a natural thing that happens some times. It helped me to not feel so broken and biologically flawed. I ran with what he said and appreciated that he treated me normal and didn't baby me. I think in my situation, it was a healthy perspective for him to have at this point. He did say that after 3 miscarriages they would start investigating and testing to find out more information, but I am thankful that he had real hope in me and my body and understood the nature of pregnancy.
The work I was doing at this time was stressful on me physically and mentally. I ran around with a load I couldn't bear. The pain of the losses, the stress at work, and my own pressure to be perfect was completely destroying me. I wrote about it somewhat here. I sought professional help, took the time to organize myself and counseled with my husband about what to do. I NEEDED to devote time and energy to my healing. Attention had to be placed on recovering and healing. It wasn't an option to "push through" or put on my big girl panties or tough it out--I had to work on my own self care before I could devote myself to any other aspect of my life.
I called on our family members to unite in a fast for our behalf. I couldn't decide if it was for a baby, or for my healing I needed, for the power and courage to keep going, or the strength to go through another miscarriage/possible medical problems of the future. I just knew what ever was to become of me, my husband and our desire for a family--I needed the Lord's help in the strongest way. I believe that through prayer and fasting, we can call upon the Lord to aid us in greater measure. He is quick to come to us when we plead with him. And I felt it. So many family members, Mormon and not, sacrificed food and water and prayers on our behalf. Such a humbling experience for me. My heart was filled with gratitude and courage. I could feel the strength of our families filling me.
Two weeks later, Andy and I found out we were pregnant again. It was 6 weeks after the second MC. I was happy of course, it is what I want, but I also was not in a stable state to be prepared to do it again. I continued to pray and work on trying to relieve stress in my life.
6 weeks pregnant
The first trimester was challenging as I have described. I was trying to rid myself of unhealthy stresses and find some balance. I kept my pregnancy test next to my bathroom sink and would look at it everyday and remind myself that I am pregnant, that TODAY my baby is still alive inside me and I am grateful. That pregnancy test with positive lines would be a saving grace for me until I could feel the baby move. I felt confident because I had done it before, that if I would miscarry again, I could do it if I had to. My mind and heart didn't allow me to get too giddy over the pregnancy. I think inside I feared and maybe almost expected another loss. I remember two different women distinctly telling me at this time (around 8 weeks) that I need to plan on having this baby. That this baby is going to work. The baby is coming in November and I need to expect it. They probably don't know it, but this gave me incredible amounts of hope and positivity. Every time I was scared or nervous, I looked at that pregnancy test and told myself, she is coming in November, she is alive and growing.
Early pregnancy felt pretty good up until about 8 weeks. I was still working and was pretty much in survival mode. I let myself eat what I wanted to continue to cope with stress and had stopped moving completely. I told myself no exercise at all until I was out of the first trimester. I literally tried not to sneeze or cough. I thought the tightening of my abs would cause my baby to die. I basically put myself on bedrest for the first trimester. I had pretty bad headaches every now and then and I felt nausea really bad but didn't vomit much. Just always felt sick. I didn't feel a change in diet or desire to gorge myself, just didn't have the energy to watch what I ate. Aside from severe nausea the first tri, I felt incredibly sleepy all the time and my boobs were so sore. The couch was my best friend.
The beginning half of the second trimester was the very worst. Yes, I was physically beginning to feel less sick and tired but mentally it was really hard. I had told myself up until 10 weeks I would miscarry naturally at home if I needed to. But now, my plan after 10 weeks was that I wouldn't put myself through that physically and I would opt for a D & C if I miscarried past that point. Literally, I had a plan for my miscarriage. I didn't know how to not let myself be prepared for the worst. I didn't know how to force myself to not think this way. I had hope and love for my baby and wanted so much for it to work but I knew I had little control over any of it. I spent many weeks in this time period crying myself to sleep and worrying about losing the baby. I couldn't feel her move yet and I wasn't feeling sick any more so there are no signs that tell you that the baby is doing ok. I even had very real physical feelings of something sliding down, like in the miscarriages. I would run to the bathroom and there was nothing there at all. Never any blood or little spotting. Never anything but healthy pee! I think they were like phantom feelings, and they scared me so bad.
By week 14 I began to walk/jog. It felt great to move again and slowly I was gaining confidence in the health of my baby. Sometimes at night I would feel a little swirling motion and I thought maybe that was the baby moving. I imagined her as a synchronized swimmer doing graceful twirls.
Week 16 our doctor said he would check to see the babys gender. From one angle he said about 90% sure its a girl, and that he would check again at a different angle. She moved her foot in front of her crotch though and said well you'll just have to double check at your 20 week appt! I always knew it was a girl though so I ran with it.
By week 18 I began to feel this little girl move. I sat in the temple, the first time I felt her kick. Feeling the baby move was kind of scary. Its so strange to feel movement inside you. It is sometimes jarring and alarming because those kicks get pretty strong and you wonder if your organs are ok in there.
At our 20 week appointment we got to see her 3D profile and saw how big she was getting! The doctor didn't get a super clear picture of her parts AGAIN but said 90% sure she was a girl. 4 chambers of her heart, adorable little fingers, even got to see the iris of her eyes. Ultrasounds are so amazing and my favorite thing to see.
Around 20 weeks I began to go to yoga a couple times a week. It has been incredible! I have really loved it. It wasn't a prenatal yoga, just a regular class but I knew enough about exercise that I could modify what I needed to. Yoga has been so relaxing for me. It really has helped a lot with decreasing any aches or pains, particularly in my hips and back. I've also been able to strengthen my body in ways I know will be helpful for labor. I strongly suggest yoga for pregnant moms to be! It's my greatest tip!
In the second trimester, I got over all the nausea and felt awesome physically. I had so much energy, slept great, and was getting a lot done. I remember at my 24 week appointment the doctor said to me, "Well it is possible that you could have this baby now and she would likely live." What comforting words. I was over the stage of loosing her. This eased my heart and I slept so much better.
We had the wonderful opportunity to photograph an elopement in Rome, Italy when I was 28-30 weeks. We were thrilled to go to Europe and loved to see different places. It was pretty hot and humid though. And walking 8+ miles some days 7 months pregnant is NOT awesome. I personally wouldn't suggest Europe to any pregnant women but I am sure thankful we got that time together before the baby and got to eat tons of gelato!
in the cinque terre region, italy
a castle in romania
in budapest, hungary
Around 28 weeks things changed with this pregnancy. The baby began to be big enough that I could feel where she was and possibly which parts of her body were pushing out on my belly. She began to be heavy. I think that is when I realized shes a real baby. Like big enough to be a healthy baby. A lot of my nerves and stress began to calm as I realized she is here to stay.
I began getting somewhat nervous about delivery in this last trimester too. I have seen quite a few births from photographing them and some of them frankly have been scary. Like my palms sweating, holding my breath, praying for the mother and baby scary. And I just wasn't sure I wanted to be that woman on that bed haha. But realizing there is literally no turning back and nothing I can do to avoid it, I needed to embrace it. I began to replace any thought or feeling or visualization of fear associated with birth with a happy picture of it being peaceful. After many weeks, and possibly because I have become so uncomfortable and annoyed with being uncomfortable, I feel much more at ease about it. A lot of women asked me the past month or two if I was "just SO done and ready for her to be here" and that filled me with panic. No. I didn't feel done and ready at all. I knew the nursery was mostly ready and we had the car seat etc. but I wasn't mentally ready to get up and go to the hospital. I wasn't ready to be a feeding machine immediately. I knew I wasn't prepared for her to be real and be here to see and touch. I hadn't grasped the reality that at the end of this pregnancy story, comes a baby. a little human love.
pregnancy and weight gain
let's just say its never ok to let a pregnant woman know they are getting fat. thats rude and inconsiderate and you might get punched in the face. there is probably no one in the world that is oblivious to their weight gain. especially a pregnant woman who gets weighed every couple of weeks and has little control over most of what is happening to her body. i have had to fully accept my weight gain for what it is. i knew that spending my first trimester putting myself on bedrest so I could increase my chances of not having another MC and also being under a lot of stress at that time meant I would be in survival mode. I knew I would gain weight at that time. and I knew my baby would be worth it. After that first trimester I had just finished working full time and was regaining balance in my life and also made it far enough into pregnancy that I felt good about moving. Exercise and having time to devote to eating better felt good but didn't make a HUGE difference in my pregnancy weight gaining at that point. And that's ok.
I have always considered myself an athlete, have a degree in Exercise Science and multiple personal training certifications. Of all people I know how to be healthy, I know how to work out while pregnant, and I know how to eat right. I have demanded much of my body over the years and have had goals and expectations for what I look like and feel like. It has been a little bit of a struggle to let some of that go as I realize the more important thing is to be sane and provide a good, stress free environment for my baby to grow. That is the most important thing I could do at this time in my life and I don't regret "losing my body" for a second.
I read in some pregnancy forums from time to time and women are boasting about being sick in the first tri and loosing 10-20 lbs, etc. Women take polls on each other asking how much weight gain they have had at which weeks and "OMG I'm still in my size 4 pants at 20 weeks!". It is so scary to see how unhealthy the perceptions of body image are consuming women, especially during pregnancy! Pregnancy is truly not a time to be comparing our bodies to one another and certainly isn't a time for trying to hit our weight loss goals. A healthy pregnancy for mom and baby should be the only goal and each woman can determine what that is with their doctor, not with any one else. It isn't any one elses business if you gain or loose weight, and you certainly should feel ashamed for gaining weight during pregnancy. Some women may stay very thin and not even look pregnant, while other bodys blow up like mine! But to shame women for it and have them feel insecure is unhealthy. My body is incredible. It is doing incredible things that are divine. I am thankful for it.
And i personally suggest not getting on the scale at home. No reason to dwell on it more. Your doctor weighs you at every appointment anyway and keeps track of what is healthy for you.
things that people say about pregnancy that weren't true for me:
- the glucose test: big whoop. it's totally no big deal and doesn't taste that bad (tasted like gatorade to me--had the lemon/lime one). people made it sound like the end of the world. the tip the nurse gave to me was to drink a lot of water (can't have any food or other liquids before the test but you can have water!) so that you are hydrated. she said it would make the blood drawing hurt less. i'm a chicken with needles and it was just fine!
- pregnancy brain. never happened for me. i don't get it.
- weird cravings. didn't have any cravings outside of the norm. i did at one point get on a jalapeno poppers kick and a pepsi kick. whoops! but that was just me being normal and gross.
- being starving/eating a lot. i never felt any of that until the past week or so! she must be growing big right now! but up until now, I wasn't any more hungry than usual
- glowing. sounds lovely.
- people don't really touch my belly at all and it doesn't bug me if they do (except my belly button because its super sensitive)
- fast growing hair and nails. nothing has changed with mine
- feeling the baby move. a lot of people say its their favorite thing about being pregnant. probably because there simply aren't a lot of things to love about being pregnant besides getting a baby from it. feeling her kick was jolting. it felt disturbing. i felt alarmed that my insides were being punched and this twitching life inside me was knocking at my uterus walls. i loved knowing she was alive, but the kicks and movements, meh. not as magical as they're cracked up to be.
- my stomach is smashed up under my left breast and it has really weird swirly/burning kind of feelings when i lay on my left side/when my heartburn is acting up. im over it.
- the way your body changes. its so freaking weird. its kind of foreign to see the transformation of what you knew as your body. its amazing, but its also totally weird.
- not being able to use your abs
- i have dark spots on my skin, especially on my face. its from hormones (everything is)
- baby stops moving every time andy tries to touch my belly and feel her
- losing your belly button
- farted really uncontrollably loud in yoga during a bridge like exercise. no one laughed. i wanted to die laughing. the instructor had just brought everyones attention to me saying, "ah, very nice! You're able to still get into these poses with that big of a belly!" whoopsies
- my left boob growls. my stomach is squished in/under it
- peed the bed at 33 weeks. thought it was my water breaking.
- maybe not so funny, but i can barely wipe my own butt. i just can't reach any more unless my pants are at my ankles and im doing a complex yoga move
- big boobs
- sewing cute things for baby
- decorating a nursery
- i get a baby
must have/do things
- I didn't use the magical pregnancy worm pillow or any extra pillows at all. I run hot anyway, and pillows touching me makes me sweat. I slept awesome almost all of my pregnancy and I think it's because of my 3" memory foam bed. It conforms and supports my hips and belly really well. Its insanely comfortable! We got ours at costco a year or two ago ;) Go get one!
- doterra Past Tense roll on oil. it calmed me when i was anxious and stressed and it also helps put me to sleep
morningall day sickness in the first tri: eat often and mellow foods, peppermint gum or tea or oil
- made this sugar/salt scrub at home and used it the whole pregnancy on my belly and body. it just feels awesome whether you're pregnant or not. I didn't get stretch marks on the places I used it regularly (use it in the shower each day) but maybe thats a coincidence
- yoga. it is a miracle. i think its the most influential and positive thing you could do for yourself during pregnancy. it took away any back pain or hip pain i had. i continuously felt loose and flexible. it kept cramping in my muscles away. it was therapeutic to meditate and breathe. it strengthens you for labor. I can't say enough good things.
- massages. don't be afraid of them during pregnancy--they're awesome
- lay with feet up the wall while you lay on your back on the floor, felt good on my feet and helped keep swelling down. and it was relaxing!