May 16, 2019 | By Emily Remba | Subsequent Pregnancy
I’m not sure what compelled me to take a pregnancy test one mid-November morning in
2016. As the second pink line started to form, my heart began to race and filled with both
excitement and dread. Hope that this could be our rainbow baby, and fear that this could
be our fifth miscarriage.
So began my pregnancy of “and.”
As a therapist, I am no stranger to helping others with anxiety. When it came to
grappling with my own pregnancy anxiety, I was suddenly lost.
Sitting in the waiting room at the RE’s (reproductive endocrinologist) office for an hCG beta blood draw, waiting for the phone call with the results, or waiting in that fraught moment as the doctor was locating my tiny baby bean on the ultrasound made my heart feel like it was a hummingbird’s. I had trouble sleeping before appointments, had trouble controlling worries about something going wrong between check-ups, and had trouble letting myself get too excited or too attached to this pregnancy in fear that it could end like the previous ones. The “ands” continued: daring to daydream about giving her the name I had always loved, picturing decorating a nursery, and imagining how cute my baby bump would be; and fear it could all end at any time.
And somehow she kept growing and developing. I was thrilled when we graduated to monthly appointments with the OB, and I missed the weekly reassurance from the RE. I was scared, overwhelmed, and also excited to start telling people that our luck had finally changed, to start a baby registry, and to make plans for welcoming a new person into our family, at last.
One day when I was about 15 weeks pregnant, I saw the most beautiful rainbow after a big rainstorm and felt my anxiety ease. Maybe this was a sign.
My anxiety continued to ease as the weeks passed uneventfully and as I was able to feel her moving around.
The end of my pregnancy was filled with more “ands.” I was hospitalized for nearly a month beginning at 30 weeks, hooked up to IV medications due to placenta previa complications and preterm labor. It was scary knowing she would likely be a preemie, and I also knew being in the hospital was the safest place for us.
...And we made it! Our beautiful rainbow baby was born six weeks early in June 2017. She is now 22 months old and more amazing than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.
I share my story in the hope that it can normalize the emotional challenges associated with a rainbow pregnancy, and to share a few of the coping strategies that worked for me:
1) Weekly “family dinners” with our close friends the nights before our RE appointments to take my mind off of my worries, and frequent text check-ins with beloved friends and family.
2) Deep breathing (breathing in for 3 counts and out for 5 counts) to try to slow my rapid heartbeat and regulate my breathing.
3) Mindfulness exercises to just notice what was going on both within my body and around me. For example, noticing and thanking my beating heart for pumping blood all throughout my body.
4) Regular exercise (e.g., taking walks) with friends and family.
5) Cuddling our sweet dog.
6) Positive affirmations and positive self-talk: reminding myself I was doing all I could to care for myself and my baby; remembering I am strong and capable, and could withstand anything that came my way.
7) Advocating for my needs with my care team: asking for additional appointments with my fantastic OB for reassurance, not worrying about bothering my doctor’s office with questions, etc.
8) Regularly meeting with my own wonderful therapist.
You are not alone. Please find a therapist who is well versed in pregnancy loss to help you cope with your “ands”. Your worries do not negate your joy, you can (and probably will) feel both fear and excitement, and avoidance does not mean you aren’t attached. There is room for “and.”