My husband and I have been together a long time. We met in college and got married when we were 26. We were ambitious young professionals who enjoyed our independence. We traveled a lot on the weekends and socialized a lot in the evenings. We didn’t want to be young parents. Besides, people in our generation were having kids later these days anyhow, right? Right???
Sometimes I wonder if I had known then, what I know now if I would have done anything differently. I’m honestly not sure.
In any case, we matured from our 20’s and turned to family planning. We started trying in January 2015. My husband was in grad school and I had a good job. We were living by family back in Chicago. We were finally “ready.”
I distinctly remember the first time we tried to get pregnant. For so many years we’d been focused on prevention. The change was exhilarating. Afterwards, we looked sideways at each other wearing expressions like those of guilty teenagers. We felt hopeful, anxious, and in love. We were embarking together on mysterious journey into the void and towards our future.
We got pregnant quickly, after only two months. My husband was on a school trip and I was coming back from a business trip, so we weren’t even together when I found out. I wasn’t expecting to be pregnant, so when I took the test by myself, I was completely shocked to see it turn positive. My husband was equally dumbfounded. We were accustomed to stories of friends trying for months and months, and yet here we were having success so quickly. We felt lucky, and terrified.
We immediately and rather rashly told family and close friends. Everyone was thrilled. My sister sent me pregnancy books and my friends shared first trimester tips.
I dove headlong into the world of expectant mothers. I bought all sorts of healthy foods at the grocery store as well as ginger snacks and other nausea fighting foods. I downloaded a pregnancy app on my phone and made a daily ritual of reading about the developments that were happening inside me week by week. In my free moments I would scroll through lists of baby names. I started planning the next year of life in my head, pre-cancelling trips and adjusting holiday schedules.
That was a happy time. Hand to God, I still remember those first weeks with a smile even after everything that happened.
It’s five years later now, and with each pregnancy I got a little less excited and a lot more terrified.
I have a friend who also experienced recurrent miscarriages. Her husband visited us while she was pregnant for the 4th time with their now son. He said in those first few weeks, before they knew the pregnancy was progressing normally, they referred to it as “dead baby.” We had only had one loss at that time, and I remember feeling uncomfortable thinking about much pain they must have endured to become so cynical. Now I get it.
At the start of my second pregnancy I re-downloaded the app and took all the pregnancy books out of the drawers where I’d stashed them away during my prior pain. I still felt enthusiastic. I thought I was once unlucky and would go on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy. By my third loss however, my expectation shifted, and every time the pee-stick turned positive, I simply assumed it would end poorly. I waited to make first appointments because it felt so terrible to have to call back and cancel them. I donated the pregnancy books. I still always told my family, but I usually told them via text, because I couldn’t handle hearing the excitement that they were somehow able to hold for me. I remember telling my mom once over the phone; I said I was pregnant and then immediately burst into hysterical sobbing. It’s not that I wasn’t happy, but my fear was so overpowering that I could barely stand it.
The truth is that even for women who’ve had multiple losses, the chances that her next pregnancy will be successful are still higher than chances she’ll lose it. That’s why doctors tell women to keep trying, and that’s why all sorts of stories exist of women having six, seven, ten losses and then a healthy baby.
But it’s hard to keep getting back on the horse. It feels impossible and insane. My therapist once asked me to draw a picture of what it felt like to keep trying and I drew a person trying to climb a mountain while simultaneously working to drag an anchor up from the depths of the ocean.
If this is you, try and be kind to yourself. I won’t tell you that it will all work out the way you want, because I can’t promise that it will. But I will tell you that we can both find a way for life to be OK regardless. I keep two cards on my desk at all times. One is from my mother and reads “Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.” The other is from my best friend and reads “You are BRAVE, you are STRONG, you are LOVED.”