I’m eight months pregnant, and it can be a terrifying thing for me to speak openly about.
I find it therapeutic to write about it, oddly, but talking it about it casually with loved ones still isn't easy. I even have family members and friends who I don’t see regularly who still don’t know, even though I’m due to give birth in just a few weeks.
The reason behind this is simple—at least, to me: During my last pregnancy, I miscarried twin boys and it was devastating. The miscarriage happened with no warning at 14 weeks, a time when I thought the pregnancy was considered “safe.” In reality, there is no such thing.
Before our loss, my husband and I had already told our sons that they would be having not one, but two little brothers, and we loved telling everyone about our news. We also started talking about childcare and learning about all the twin gear that’s out there. Suddenly, none of that mattered anymore.
It took six long, agonizing months to get pregnant again, and I’m so incredibly grateful that this pregnancy has been going well. But I’m still scared to allow myself to believe it actually will work out. I know it’s unreasonable, but I carry the fear that, if I allow myself to think everything will be OK, something will definitely go wrong.
As a result, I’ve struggled with making plans for the new baby. It took me two weeks to psych myself up to ask my children’s daycare to hold a slot for the new baby in the future, and I cried the whole way home, worried that I had somehow jinxed things.
Friends who I see regularly in person (from whom I clearly can't hide the fact that I’m pregnant) have passed on hand-me-downs that sat for weeks untouched before I managed last week to bring myself to go through them. I only just recently filled out hospital paperwork and told work that I’m expecting. And, when well-meaning friends wanted to throw me a baby shower, I asked if we could just have a regular brunch with no baby theme instead.
Doctor's visits are also scary. In my ob/gyn's office, I'm reminded that we learned our twin babies no longer had heartbeats during a routine ultrasound. Every time I have an appointment (which is now weekly), I have to take deep breaths to try to stay calm. I have trouble celebrating the positives in these appointments; instead, I find myself searching for little clues that aren't there, pressing for more information from my doctor that something may be off. Up until this baby started kicking regularly, I cried during every visit after getting confirmation that the pregnancy was still viable.
It's a very real emotion to fear that history will repeat itself.
I realize that thinking so negatively is unhelpful. I also acknowledge that not all people react with grief after a miscarriage, or react the way that I have if they get pregnant again—but many people do. The rational part of my brain knows that believing in and getting excited about this pregnancy won't somehow wish it gone. But I was and probably always will be scarred emotionally by the loss of those babies.
The fear associated with pregnancy after a miscarriage may differ from that of other traumatic events in that you can’t avoid it if you want to carry another baby, Tamar Gur, M.D., Ph.D., a women's health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. When people have been in a serious car accident, for instance, they may want to avoid driving for a while or try to steer clear of the scene as much as possible—but that type of avoidance and distance is impossible with pregnancy, she points out. “You’re performing the act of ‘driving’ at the scene of the accident on a constant basis,” Dr. Gur says.
Pregnancy is a constant, often-triggering reminder of the loss that you experienced, Dr. Gur goes on. “That can be very stressful in the sense that it reminds you repeatedly and acutely of your loss,” she says, adding that she hears worries about another pregnancy loss from patients who are pregnant after a miscarriage “more times than I don’t."
Being pregnant again after a miscarriage can lead to a person feeling a range of emotional symptoms, including anxiety, preoccupying thoughts, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or panic attacks, Jessica Zucker, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in women's reproductive and maternal mental health and creator of the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign, tells SELF. It's also not uncommon for a person to search for symptoms that will give them a clue of another loss, like inspecting their toilet paper after they wipe to look for blood or analyzing any change in their pregnancy symptoms, she says.
The negative emotions someone feels may also come in waves. For some, they may peak around the time of the previous loss, but for others it may spike every time they have an appointment, Dr. Gur notes.
“Before miscarriage affects you personally, you don't really think it'll happen to you,” Zucker says. “Once it does, it can become hard to trust that it won't happen again.”
While you may have to learn to live with your fear on some level, there are a few things you can do to lessen it.
First, it’s important to make sure that you’ve dealt with the loss appropriately, Catherine Birndorf, M.D., founder of the Motherhood Center in New York and an associate professor of psychiatry and obstetrics & gynecology at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells SELF. “It’s hard to push past something if you haven’t dealt with it,” she says. “You can’t pretend it didn’t happen and have to acknowledge to yourself what the loss was like and how it affected your life.”
Everyone handles a miscarriage differently. Some people may choose to mourn the loss, or possibly even commemorate it in some way. Some may find it helpful to lean on and open up about how they are feeling to trusted loved ones or perhaps someone who has been through it before. You also may benefit from professional therapy or counseling.
To handle fear in the moment, one tactic worth trying is to mentally bring yourself to the present when your concerns start to take over, Zucker suggests. That can mean doing something as simple as reciting a mantra to yourself, such as, “In this moment, I am pregnant. This much I know,” or, “As far as I know, everything is going smoothly.” Anxiety often manifests as “what if” questions, Zucker says, and this type of mantra can help ground you if you feel yourself start to go down a bad mental path.
Keep in mind, too, that if you feel like going to the same doctor that you saw during your miscarriage is triggering you and only making you feel anxious during every visit, it’s okay to look for a new one, Dr. Birndorf says. But overall, Dr. Gur recommends taking it one day at a time and feeling grateful for every day of your pregnancy. “Allow yourself to enjoy things like a positive ultrasound or big kicks,” she says. “This isn’t like a light switch flipping—this is a daily practice.”
And, of course, if you feel like you can’t handle the stress on your own or by talking through it with your support network, it’s a good idea to seek out counseling. Your doctor or midwife should be able to recommend a good mental health counselor, Zucker says.
It may also be comforting to consider the fact that most people who have a miscarriage go on to have a healthy future pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) specifically calls repeated pregnancy losses “rare.” But, even though statistics say otherwise, it can still be hard to believe that things will be OK after you’ve lived through a pregnancy that wasn’t, so numbers alone may not give you peace of mind, and that's OK.
And if you feel like you just can't feel at ease until your pregnancy is over, don't beat yourself up.
“Oftentimes I find that, until you are able to bring home a healthy baby, there is sort of a difficulty believing that it could happen,” Dr. Gur says. “There’s nothing wrong with that.” While carrying fear through a new pregnancy after a miscarriage can make it tough to prepare for a baby the way you might have otherwise, it's not a known risk factor for postpartum depression or something that will interfere with your ability to bond with the baby once it arrives, she notes.
As for me, I’m still taking it one day at a time. I’m grateful to be pregnant and that everything has gone well so far. And, while I still haven’t allowed myself to get excited for the day that this baby will be born, I hope with every fiber of my being that it’s coming.