It was Easter morning, April 16, 2017 and day 29 of my cycle. My period had not come yet. This was the first cycle in the two years of trying to conceive that I did not test early. (Yes, I’m that girl.)
Three months before, I had gone through the most traumatic event of my life, saying goodbye to my angel baby at 15 weeks, who I had fallen head over heels in love with in that very short period of time. Alas, he was not meant for me, a concept I struggle to understand to this day. He was my second pregnancy, the first ending early on at 8 weeks. At the time, my first loss rocked me to the core. But it turned out that it was the second goodbye that changed my soul forever.
So on this Easter Sunday morning and with only three months of recovery under my belt, I really didn't think it was possible that I would get pregnant so quickly. Sure, I had been taking care of myself, praying daily, and making space - literally and figuratively - in my life for a baby that I hoped would come to us sooner rather than later. However, I just didn't feel pregnant.
I was apprehensive as I took out that dreaded stick and took the test. My hands shook as the three minute timer went off. There was the "+" sign. I fell to my knees. Every emotion ran through me. "Thank you," I repeated over and over, now shaking all over my body. "Calm down" was the next thought that ran through my head. "You have to calm down."
I was getting ready to go to my in-law's for Easter celebrations and my husband was feverishly studying for his upcoming CFP exam downstairs. Do I wait to tell him? Give it a few days? A week? Spare him if this time is not real, again? Nope, I can't do this on my own - and I don't have to. One of the greatest lessons I've learned along my journey. I went downstairs, forced his attention and showed him the positive test. "We get another chance," I said.
It was an interesting day, as the day you get that positive result always is... Trying to carry on as normal, having to let the wine hit your lips and secretly passing the glass off to your husband to drink. Thoughts running wild in your head. So many thoughts. I thought about the two cocktails I'd had the night before - no don't think about that! Took stock of the last month. Wondered if I was healed enough for this. I was not even letting myself get excited, but summoning gratitude. That's all I could do.
An uneventful week or so later we did the math. The baby would be due on Christmas Eve (later to moved by the doctor to December 18). Having found out on Easter and due at Christmas my husband joked, "Well, we are having the next coming of Christ!" Ever the optimist. Optimism continues to turn into reality and here we are, 31 weeks pregnant with our baby boy.
Being pregnant after a difficult journey is both torture and a miracle. Melissa Rauch describes the experience so well in this piece that I wanted to jump through the computer and hug her. As we know, there is never a point where the story ends, there is no completely "safe" zone. I cross off each week that passes on a calendar, say a little prayer of gratitude and ask for protection and health for this baby.
Being pregnant after realizing my purpose is to help women who have experienced a pregnancy loss or are going through fertility issues is not without its challenges. I'm all too aware of the pain that my pregnancy can cause women who are aching for the same, because I’ve been told and, mostly, because I have been there. For a time after my last loss, I avoided so many people I love because their pregnancies were a trigger for me. It wasn't healthy for me at the time to be exposed to that. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazingly understanding people in my life. Still, we chose not to do a social media announcement and you will never see our sonogram photos or me showing my bump online.
I also hear all of the stories. From multiple early losses, to a year(s) of trying without success, to failed IVF attempts, to 30 week stillborns, and deaths of day old infants. I've had to study all the stats and I hear from groups formed by women of late pregnancy losses trying to help others as well. It is painful, it is terrifying, and it is a constant reminder that each day is a blessing and nothing is guaranteed. Above all else, it inspires and motivates me every day to focus on my work and help the women going through this difficult battle.
The combination of the knowledge of reality and my past losses tries to seep in and get the better of me, and it did especially in the first half of this pregnancy. On a particularly anxiety-mixed-with-grief filled day, my husband offered me some beautiful advice. He said, “It’s not really fair to this baby to think he’s anything less than strong and healthy or to hold on to what happened last time.”
There was freedom in those words, and truth. This new baby could either hold a new joy and fresh start for us, or I could allow myself to be stuck in my loss and fear of it happening again. That would not be fair to the little soul I am now responsible for. And so, I adopted a new attitude. Whenever the past starts creeping in, I do whatever is necessary to shift my focus to what’s real, here and now. I focus on how grateful I am and what a miracle every day that I get to be pregnant is. I make sure to enjoy every symptom and I’m pretty sure the receptionists at the doctor’s office think I’m insane as I call with every little question. (Whatever it takes to keep peace of mind, right?!) I allow myself to get excited and online shop for baby clothes and nursery decorations. I look at all the photos of others' smiling babies as a reminder that the miracle of a healthy baby does happen every day - more often than not. Because if not, what do I have? The past cannot have power over this moment and cannot take anything away from this baby's experience.
Above all else, there is love. A new kind of love - a careful, appreciative love - for this child that I know so well yet haven’t met yet. A special kind of love I never would have known to give if it weren’t for what I’ve learned from my past.
What I really want people to know is that if you’ve experienced a loss, or have been trying for so long you think it might break you, pregnancy will not be easy at first, or maybe ever, but it will be what you make of it. You must believe in yourself, in your strength, and above all else, in your baby; knowing that whatever happens, you will deal with it (a mantra we took on in our household this year). Know that with every passing day, there is hope, gratitude and excitement that grows and overtime, gets louder than the fears.
Lastly, you and I know life isn’t always fair and it doesn’t always make sense, but we forge on, motivated by love.
Have you had a healthy baby after a battle with fertility? How did you get through the fear and challenges? Please share in the comments below!