I'm Never Not Afraid of Losing My Baby & Here's What It's Like


By most accounts, pregnancy is a magical time. I'm not referring to the aches and pains, of course, but to the sense of wonder that grows as your due date approaches. But the experience is much different when that excitement is missing, like it is for me right now. I'm pregnant, and although I'm thrilled to be adding another member to our family, I can't enjoy the process because the truth is, I'm never not afraid of losing my baby.


It's not a completely irrational fear either, given my personal and family history. When I was 8 years old, my mom lost a baby five months into her pregnancy. To make a terrible situation even more tragic, the doctor botched her D&C (dilation and curettage) and was forced to perform an emergency hysterectomy. Mom lost not only her child but also her ability to have more. My sister has twice experienced pregnancy loss.

When I successfully had my daughter, I thought I might be spared from miscarriage. A year after she was born, I found myself expecting once again. It wasn't even a week after seeing those two pink lines that I started to bleed. The fact that I was only five weeks along didn't make the loss any less devastating. We weren't able to get pregnant in the several months that followed, and then my husband deployed for a year, leaving me to stare down my 35th birthday and the specter of secondary infertility alone.

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I was lucky, though. I found out that I was pregnant again just two months after my husband's return. We waited until well after the first trimester before we told anyone, just in case, even hiding it from my mom until Christmas. I recently hit 20 weeks, the halfway mark. It's an important milestone for me on what has been a challenging road, both physically and emotionally. I accepted early on that talking myself down would be part of my daily reality for the duration of the pregnancy.

For me, everything is a reason to worry. In both of my first trimesters, I’ve experienced hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. It's hard to throw up everything you eat and not worry that the constant retching will dislodge the embryo or that the baby isn't getting the necessary nutrients to survive. Cramping is another distressing symptom for someone like me. Although a certain amount is to be expected, even a mild twinge sends me running to the bathroom, checking my underwear for any sign of blood.

Before the quickening, the only way for me to know for sure that things are OK is when my midwife performs a fetal Doppler test. I cannot put into words the utter panic I feel every time she listens for my baby's heartbeat. I'm so scared that she won't be able to find it, especially because that's how my sister found out her baby had died. When the probe finally detects those steady thumps, I finally let go of the breath I didn't realized I'd been holding.

This time around, I felt my baby's movement much earlier, at around 16 weeks. I've been feeling flutters and rolls on a fairly consistent basis for about a month now. The respite is only temporary, though. Within a half an hour of feeling a little jab, I'm worried again about when and if I'll feel another. I'm hyperaware of my baby's movements, and I'm a compulsive kick counter. It's hard not to take even the most minor of deviations as a sign that something is wrong.

Perhaps the worst part of the constant fear of losing my baby is all the ways I can see it happening. As someone who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I'm no stranger to intrusive thoughts. As an expectant mom, I imagine car crashes or falling down the stairs. I've even pictured myself throwing myself in front of an out-of-control truck to save my toddler's life, sacrificing myself and my unborn child in the process.

I had these fears with my firstborn child, too. When I was in labor with my daughter, the midwife was alarmed to see that her heartrate dropped every time I pushed. She called the obstetrician in for a consult, and the doctor determined that I would need a vacuum-assisted delivery. Suddenly, there were a dozen staff in the room. I burst into tears, terrified. When I delivered my daughter and the nurse held her up, I was so scared that she wasn't okay.

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But she was, of course. Not only was she completely healthy -- she was perfect. And in all likelihood, my baby boy will be, too. Pregnancy is a scary time for me, but it's not a burden that I bear alone. I have a support system that includes my partner, female relatives, and close friends, who know what to say and do to help calm me. I see my primary care provider every few months to check in on my mental and emotional well-being and go over concrete coping strategies, such as mindful breathing and self-care. Under my doctor's guidance, I've chosen to continue taking my antidepressant, which also has anti-anxiety applications.

And so, I am managing. And as I get closer baby's arrival, my anxiety lessens. I still have apprehensions, because I know too well all that can go wrong. Fortunately, my experience tells me that, most of the time, everything turns out just fine. In all likelihood, I will end up with a healthy, beautiful baby. That doesn't diminish the fear that marks my experience and that of women like me, nor does it guarantee a happy outcome. It does, however, give me the hope and reassurance I need to sustain me through this pregnancy.

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