Wow, you guys… can you even believe I am entering into my third trimester? I feel this pregnancy has flown by in so many ways, and I just feel so excited. I cant wait for labor! I laid in my bed with tears last night just telling Paul I can’t believe we are ACTUALLY getting this baby and we will actually hold her. I think majority of this pregnancy has been exactly that, having to remember this isn’t a dream and it’s really happening. Pregnancy and life after a miscarriage is wildly unexpected and grief-filled. I can feel out of body at times and my recovery has been filled with a variety of emotions from anger, anxiety, and grief mingled together with joy and giddiness for the baby growing healthy in my belly. I touched on this a bit once in my stories in just a Q&A with y’all, and it seems there are quite a few of us in this community who could benefit from talking a little about it.
How am I doing?
While I haven’t yet shared a ton of detail about my delivery of Blakely and then my triggers after loss, I have known I wanted to at some point but haven’t felt quite ready. In fact, some of it feels incredibly scary to share while others are embarrassing. Trauma can make you do crazy things, and in the months directly following the birth and loss of Blakely, I found myself doing things I couldn’t believe were happening. It also all felt so confusing to be experiencing so much anxiety and grief alongside the joy of being pregnant again. To put it in short, I feel so happy right now. I am so thrilled and excited to have CC and I weep every time I envision holding her for the first time after delivery. Since making it to about 25 weeks, I have felt such a relief. I didn’t even realize what a daily pressure I felt from anxiety until it was released, and I can’t believe how much freer I feel. I am praying for another successful VBAC like I had with Rory and, as always, plan to labor from home for as long as possible. I labored to 6cm with Rory from our home and Paul actually had to convince me I was actually in labor because I wasn’t convinced… haha. So all this to say in regard to CC, I am so excited and I cannot wait. Making it to viable weeks changed things drastically for me mentally.
PTSD & Triggers
Okay, so the tougher stuff… but I want to share because of the amount of you who asked me to. So many of us have walked this journey of loss. And if sharing my experiences helps you navigate your own, I am happy to. I feel like I am in a place I can now. Brief background, Blakely was a surprise pregnancy. Like… MAJOR surprise. I found out I had a severe hematoma over my cervix while in Alabama at 12 weeks pregnant for a conference with our church planting network, ARC. I bled heavily after feeling sick and uncomfortable all day and we rushed to the hospital. This is how we found out so early we were having our long awaited and prayed for, Blakely Amelia.
We got home to my doctor and she confirmed everything the hospital in Alabama told me, and I began fighting for my baby. I was on bed rest and was seemingly doing great. I think trigger #1 for me in my current pregnancy is that with Blakely, aside from my first big bleed… I was seemingly doing great and things were getting better… until they weren’t. I stopped bleeding and felt good. Out of fear that I would feel tricked again if a loss did happen, I have felt incredibly emotionally guarded with this pregnancy up until really this week. I feel for the first time in the last week or so, “Wow, I think this is actually going to happen and I am actually going to have this baby.” … I am almost 27 weeks.
After losing Blakely, one of my first very traumatic experiences that I have felt so embarrassed to share was starting my first cycle post loss. I actually convinced myself I was losing another baby and dug through the toilet for them. This is incredibly difficult for me to share. But trauma has zero logic and I have processed this with counseling and friends, so I feel ok to share now. I literally wept digging through the toilet trying to find the pieces of my baby I convinced myself I must have just lost.
The amount of times I have ran to the bathroom, particularly the first trimester, is numerous. From when I bled in Alabama in public for the first time to the incredibly traumatic way I delivered Blakely in the middle of a hallway at L&D, I constantly needed to make sure I wasn’t bleeding or worse. I had phantom deliveries where I could feel the same sensation of delivering Blakely.
One time, Knox and I were making strawberry popsicles less than a month after I lost Blakely. We had these popsicle molds that were little bunnies and cowboys. I almost passed out and puked when I pulled them out of their molds, because it was unreal how much the mold looked like the dead baby I had held weeks before. Size, color, everything. It was too much to handle and I couldn’t believe a popsicle triggered me. I said it before and I will again, I have always believed life [whether planned or not] within the womb is life. And now, I believe it more than ever. Blakely wasn’t a life because I wanted her to be, she was a life because she had full hands, legs, a heartbeat, a face, and eyes at just 13.5 weeks and I held that life in my hands for hours.
Twice this pregnancy I have been to large gatherings for ARC. Early on at 6 weeks pregnant and then again for conference in Charleston last month. Both times I came on the verge of a panic attack and actually almost walked out of the auditorium. I had to force myself to think logically and breathe, remembering my baby is healthy and safe, and it wasn’t being at an ARC conference that killed Blakely.
Grief is nuts. In addition to trauma like the scenarios above, I also experienced depression and anxiety. Both of which I presume to be expected in some capacity after loss. I began having intrusive thoughts again like I had postpartum with Knox when I was diagnosed with PP OCD/Anxiety. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was convinced my sons would die. In the immediate months following my loss, I also had incredibly heartbreaking relationship losses in my family over differences of faith and medical decisions. I was so blindsided and hurt. The timing felt cruel. I got to a point so low I started wondering if everybody was going to die or leave me. Again… this is so vulnerable for me to share. As a pastor’s wife and leader of our church, I have felt so afraid to share these things from fear it could discredit me. You know what I mean? Like, why would people want to hear me talk about Jesus if I was struggling so much. BUT, truth is, Jesus is LITERALLY the only reason I can write today about this and say I made it. Not once in my heartache last fall or over the last year did I question my faith. It was my faith that kept me grounded.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I was a mess. I felt everything I have felt in my prior 3 first trimesters significantly more. I was hyper aware of everything and was afraid I had multiple conditions that would lead to loss. I hated my first trimester because I literally couldn’t enjoy it. We also had to navigate another pregnancy with Knox and he kept saying this baby wouldn’t go to heaven like the last one. We welcomed questions about Blakely and still get them. It was very difficult to speak positively about this pregnancy to Knox when I, myself, was so afraid. But, we have taught Knox through loss and this life currently growing in my tummy that God makes us and knows how long we will live before we are even born. We have explained that Blakely just wasn’t going to make it to this side of my tummy, and while that makes us sad and angry, God knew what we needed and her life was perfect even though it wasn’t what we wanted. You would be amazed what kids are able to hear and process even at just 4 years old. His profound understanding of Heaven and God through this is mind blowing.
When I found out at 10 weeks I had another hematoma with my current pregnancy, I had a major breakdown. I was angry and I yelled at God through gut wrenching groans the entire way home. I had to do weekly checkins for the next 3 weeks to see if my hematoma was shrinking or growing, and mustering up the courage to lay on the bed again for a sonogram each time was painful and felt like reliving trauma every single time. The day we found out my hematoma was gone was the best day and I felt hope for the first time in 10 weeks that this pregnancy might just work.
Friend, if you are walking the journey of pregnancy loss and/or pregnancy after miscarriage, please hear me loud and clear: Whatever you’re feeling, it’s valid. I don’t think there is anything somebody can say to you to prepare you for grief like this. But, I think what is most encouraging is to just know you’re not alone. And, that the things you may be facing are quite normal. However, no matter how normal, don’t do it alone. Find counsel, find best friends to share with, and do not process this internally alone. Miscarriage is incredibly isolating as it is, and the trauma can only further isolate you if you’re not careful. Miscarriage makes you feel alone and like nobody understands the grief you feel, because you are the only person in the world who knew that baby you’re grieving. You’re the only person who had a connection to them as they lived inside of you. I always wondered why women who spoke of their miscarriages used the word “lonely” but I get it now. It is incredibly lonely, because while others around you grieve the dream of the baby you were carrying… you truly felt and knew that baby within you in a way not a single other person could.
From the moment I got a positive test, I choose to approach this pregnancy day by day. I wake up and thank God for another day to carry this baby, regardless of if they will make it outside of my belly. I honor them, their life, and the connection we have for as long as I get to have it. That is how I have made it 26 weeks, and I hope that encourages any of you navigating a rainbow pregnancy after loss. Every day is a gift, so as much as you can, treat it as such.
You are loved and you are not alone. If you know somebody walking the journey of grief and pregnancy after loss, please share this with them. There is such hope and encouragement in knowing other people’s stories of grief and redemption.