As April is Stress Awareness Month I thought I should write about my own experience of stress regarding pregnancy after loss. I’ve written a lot about Poppy and the stress of losing her and the stress of going back to work in The Return To Work: After Loss & After Paternity. I’ve also highlighted the anxieties and stress you have after loss in Parenting After Loss Anxieties. I felt it was important to also share my experience in Pregnancy After Loss. Some people might think that it is strange thing to say: A Dad getting stressed about pregnancy because you don’t grow the baby. That is indeed true but I was stood side by side with Emily while she pregnant with Reuben and I can tell you hand on heart it is stressful for both Mum and Dad. Especially if you have lost a baby before.
Poppy was if you can say it, a textbook pregnancy. Everything was fine, we had no dramas until the labour and her birth. After you have lost a baby it is 100% natural to stress out when your partner becomes pregnant again. When we found out Emily was growing Roo in her tummy we were both over the moon and then it started. The little voice at the back of my head. Are we going to be able to bring this baby home? Are we going to make it to a birth this time? How are we going to survive the next 9 months?
Early Pregnancy Scan
When we told Emily’s midwife the first thing she did was get us an early scan. Now this was meant to give us a little peace of mind to start with. The truth is it just made the stress and worry worse. We found out at 4 weeks so a scan this early doesn’t tell you much. It’s all so small and hard to see. The sonographer found it tricky to pick anything up from a normal scan and had to do an internal scan.
It freaked me out, all I could think about was that we’d lost another baby. I had a dark cloud hanging over me. The internal scan found little Roo but he seemed to only be 2 weeks. This just made us feel worse, an extra 2 weeks now to get through. Emily was upset obviously and this just made me worry more. Worry about Roo and her. How can I see the woman I love go through loss all over again.
There was an incredible midwife there though that refused to le us leave until we felt ok and reassured about things. She took the time to sit down and listen to our worries, anxiety and talk us through it We left feeling a little better about things but just counting down the weeks till the next appointment. We found that giving ourselves milestones to hit were a big help. If we can just get to the next one we are another step closer to Roo being here with us.
Countdown To The 12 Week scan
The first real milestone was our 12 week scan. That was a long long few weeks to get there. I just remember being at work worrying every day that something was going to go wrong. I think I googled miscarriage rates in pregnancy weeks every day. I must have read the same articles about a million times. When you have been through the worst you are so aware of what can go wrong that you can spend your days worrying over every little thing. Then my mind would switch and think that I’d lose Emily instead or both her and baby. For weeks thats all I could think of and it just terrified me to the core. What do i do if I lose Emily this time, how will I be able to live without her? What will I do with life if I lose both of them?
One small bonus for us was having our puppy Holly. She can us something to focus on each day to get us through to the next milestone. At times it felt so lonely having all the worry. Not being able to say that while grieving Poppy I was also stressing over us losing our rainbow baby. We weer so scared to share our news to the world at first. Scared of having to possibly let people know again that we had lost another baby.
We got there though and we went in for the scan. An expectant Mum was there getting her elective section date. I just though that for us that moment seemed so so far away. How are we going to get there.
We went in for the scan and your heart stops while they look for the heartbeat. Maybe 30 seconds go by but it feels like 30 years. Then I see it, a tiny heart beating away in there. Little man is doing ok. At this tiny moment all is well and I can relax for a small moment. But then my mind starts to worry, right we have to get to the next milestone. I remember thinking, how can I do this for 7-8 months. Worrying everyday, scared that we’ll lose another baby.
Gender Scans & 20 Weeks
Th next few milestones were our private gender scan and the big 20 week scan. We’d gone for a private gender scan with Poppy and we wanted to do it again this time round. As well as finding out if Poppy was sending us a little brother or sister, it was also another scan to see if Roo was ok. I remember sitting on the reception couch just a bucket of nerves. I think for every scan I had that pit of dread in the bottom of my stomach. There was no sound on the scan to start with so that just freaked me out. I could see something beating but was it the heart? Was it all ok? I had a minute when I thought the dream was all over. It had happened again, we’d lost our baby again. For us though it was ok. The heartbeat was good and we found out Roo was a boy. That made both Emily and me cry. Part of me wanted another girl because we wanted Poppy so much. But it was a boy, a whole new experience. Poppy wanted us to be able to go out and buy boy things for him. She wanted us to have all the moments we had buying and sorting things for her. I like to think she just didn’t want to share all the stuff we’d bought her with a little sister.
Every scan was the same. Dread on the drive in, where things ok? Was Roo doing ok in there? We’d sit and wait to be called in. Partly not wanting to go in just, just in case we were going to be given bad news. You’d go in and have the 30 seconds of worry until you’d hear the words “There is the heartbeat” the best 4 words to hear. Now every scan we had was brilliant and we were told every little thing. What was being looked at was explained to us and we were made to feel so at ease in such a stressful moment. We’d hit another milestone though. Another week closer to D-Day. Another moment to relax for a day knowing all was ok. But the stress and worry always came back. We’d been here before, everything being ok and then the worst had happened.
Weekly CTG Monitoring
One thing that an expectant father can’t experience is all the movements baby does in he womb. Being a baby loss Dad meant this was something that I couldn’t feel to give me peace if mind that Roo was doing ok. His movements gave Emily comfort but again she too would stress out worrying if they were ok. Swings and roundabouts I suppose. All the scans were a great way for me to see Roo was ok. After we had one awful consultant appointment where our fears seemed to be brushed off. How can you just brush off our fears that the same thing can happen again? If you’ve not been through it how can you know what it is like to be going through pregnancy after loss?
Emily complained and it ended up leading us to having weekly monitoring at the hospital. Every Friday for pretty much the last 2 months of the pregnancy we were there. Every Friday morning we’d drive in at 7am. Scared, worried but also a little excited. I was going to hear Roo and see that things were ok. We had a goal, milestone to hit every week now. We’d rock up, park the car and work our way up. On the bed Emily would go, monitor on and there was Roo’s heartbeat. He was ok, and I got to help. I pushed the movement button for Emily. A small token job but one I loved doing. It made me feel helpful where I felt helpless most of the time. This lasted an hour and then we’d go and get breakfast and head to work. Head off slightly at ease for another small moment. Nothing though could really take away the stress and worry that you have in a pregnancy after loss.
In pregnancy after loss there are moments that truly worry you to the core and that require you to go into hospital. One of these was after a midwife check up and Emily had protean in her urine. That was it the flood gates opened and the mind started to go to worst case. This is it all over again, something is going wrong like it did with Poppy. I freaked out and was so scared that the same thing was going to happen again. Thankfully though we went in and all was actually fine. Thank god all was ok.
The only real other scare was actually a week before Emily’s elective section. She noticed movements weren’t as normal. So off we went into hospital. Scared that we were so close to Roo being here yet it still felt so so far away. All I kept saying was he’ll behave when we get there, it all be fine. Inside I was shitting it, so scared that at the final moments again we’d be coming home with empty arms.
What was great was a midwife we’d had at our weekly monitoring was there and straight away made sure she looked after us. She made sure we were ok and actually had us on the monitor for a little longer than we should. She wanted us to have peace of mind. Just seeing Roo’s heartbeat on the machine was amazing. Each time I saw and heard it just made me feel so at ease. Not being able to feel him move made hearing his heart on the machine such an important thing for me. It was my reassurance that he was doing good. We ended up being in for a good 4-5 hours as the midwife wanted a Doctor to sign off on us going him. She didn’t want us to have a week of worrying before the C-Section.
I won’t go into detail about Roo’s birth as I’m going to try and write that soon or maybe around his birthday. Getting to that day and Roo being born safely was a hard hard 8 and a half months. Each day was a countdown filled with worry, anxiety and stress. Fears that history would repeat itself. As a Dad during pregnancy you can feel so helpless and after loss you just feel so powerless. You have no control and can’t see how to make the worry go away.
Having goals and milestones to reach was a big thing for us. It would be another step closer to Roo being here safe. For us we got there and Roo is here and he is ok. It breaks my heart to know that others have had a loss and then had another. I hope that that can dare to keep their dream alive of being able to hold their own rainbow baby in their arms. Pregnancy after loss is hard and you get people saying it’ll be ok this tome don’t worry. Unless you’ve been through baby loss you can’t say things like that. We’ve been on the wrong side of the odds before and no amount of it cannot happen again can stop the worry. You just have to take each day as it comes and slowly one step at a time try to get to the end. Get as much reassurance as you wanted and need. Don’t be scared to ask for anything. If you think that babies movements are off hen go and get checked over. Don’t brush anything off, go and get checked. Your peace of mind and mental health are so so important.
Below are some help links on help during Pregnancy from Kicks Count and Tommy’s The Baby Charity:
If you are going through a Pregnancy After Loss the below ladies have blogged on their own experiences: