My husband learned of my pregnancy before I did. I had assumptions. My breasts were achy. My body was shaky, and I was queasy.
My stomach was an unsettled mess.
Plus, I was having dreams: very vivid dreams, which for me are pregnancy symptom No. 1. But the first test, the one I took on Father’s Day, came back negative.
I saw one little pink line.
And so, I ignored my symptoms, at least for another week.
But when I still didn’t get my period, I took another test — after going to a carnival, riding the Himalaya, eating oysters and indulging in a few beers. And this one? It said in clear, bold letters that I was pregnant.
A digital stick informed me I was expecting another child, a little boy or (another) littler girl.
That said, as I mentioned, it was my husband who saw the test first. I was putzing around the kitchen waiting for the allotted two or three minutes to pass when the results popped up, and he was overjoyed. We both were. But the moment was overshadowed by something deeper. By something darker. By something sadder.
By a loss I had experienced nearly seven months before.
You see, in November 2017, I didn’t know I was pregnant either. Much like my current pregnancy, there were symptoms, but I ignored them. Plus, the first and only test I took yielded a negative result. But one cold night, I learned the truth: I was pregnant, and I was losing the baby.
It started with cramping — periodlike cramping and lower-back pain. The cramping was followed by bleeding, bright red gushes of blood. And then came the clots: sinewy, tissuey masses.
Thick, stringy clots.
Of course, the whole event couldn’t have taken more than an hour. Maybe two. But my surprise pregnancy (and miscarriage) affected my greatly.
I was sad.
I was despondent.
I was angry, emotional and numb, and I spent months trying to avoid the pain, consuming copious amounts of liquor so I couldn’t think and certainly wouldn’t feel. But then came the positive test. My rainbow baby. And every thought and feeling I had about that dreaded day came rushing back.
I was and still am forced to face it head-on.
I enter every appointment with anxiety and apprehension. I expect to hear nothingness, to see stillness or, worse, to be greeted by an empty womb. I track my unborn child’s movements obsessively. I spend time each day (and night) waiting for flips, punches, jabs or kicks. And every time I go to the bathroom, I worry I will see blood.
Bright-red streaks that will stain my hands and the stark-white toilet paper.
But that’s not all. I worry when I exercise, afraid the movement will somehow induce labor. I worry when I see the number on the scale. I fear it is too low to be safe, and I am consumed by guilt. Guilt I won’t love this baby enough. Guilt I can’t love this baby enough, and guilt that the grief of my loss — our loss — will overshadow not just my pregnancy, but this child’s entire life.
That said, it isn’t all bad. There are moments of joy — pure, unadulterated joy — optimism and hope. Not to mention I am grateful for this pregnancy, more grateful than I ever have been in my life. But the fear overshadows it all.
I worry that in an instant, it all will be over, and I will be grieving once more.
So what do I do? How do I cope? Well, I go to a psychiatrist. I see a psychologist, and I try to take it (and life) one day at a time. Some days are better than others, i.e., some days, I give into the fear. I let myself be overcome by sadness, shame and guilt. But other days — the “good days,” as I call them — I am thankful. I enjoy the little things, and I fantasize about baby feet and new baby smells.
Will it be like this my whole pregnancy? I don’t know. I am 22 weeks and “the fear” doesn’t show any signs of waning, at least not yet. Probably not until I give birth. So until then, I am staying healthy. I am trying to stay happy, and I am focusing on the end game: giving birth to a beautiful baby boy or girl.