Pregnancy After Loss: PTSD

It had been 6 months since our Sweet Pea died before I felt ready to conceive again. The trauma was intense. It wasn’t limited to the grief of my first kid. It also included post partum depression and a feeling that I’d never even wanted another child. After months of therapy, a move to another continent, and daily prayers of lament, I was finally convinced that I wanted a second baby. It took James at least that long. I’ve heard it said that “a mom becomes a mom when she becomes pregnant, but a dad becomes a dad when he holds his child.” This couldn’t have been farther from the truth. James was deeply traumatized too. He took the loss of his first child seriously and also needed time to find healing.

We confirmed our second pregnancy on December 2, 2019. There were so many feelings that flooded my head. First, excitement. I felt the same disbelief and excitement I felt with our first pregnancy. Second, fear. This one could die too. Third, how and when do we tell people? I had become a huge advocate that every pregnancy matters so was I a fraud for wanting to wait to even tell our parents?

We ultimately chose to wait. To be honest, it was still taking time to set in that we were pregnant with a second baby so the time passed pretty quickly. We took a trip to Austria where my first trimester symptoms kicked in to high gear as I CRAVED greasy french fries from McDonald’s. We arrived back in Rotterdam and it was time to put on my 8 week sticker and pose for my first ever bump photo. This was something I hadn’t done with our Sweet Pea. I was now pregnant with a child who had lived longer than the first. It stung even deeper to know that these were monthly stickers I intended to use with sweet pea and ended up tucking away. I remember crying because I longed to have this same experience with both of my kids.

Due to an insurance mix up I had to wait until 11 weeks for our first midwife appointment. For most women this might have been a disappointment, but I felt relieved that I could put off the fear of sorrow for three more weeks. When the day finally arrived I put on my miscarriage necklace, miscarriage bracelet, and said a prayer as James and I headed to the appointment. When I sat down in the waiting room I began to cry. I remembered this experience all too well. Sitting, waiting, anticipating. With the first pregnancy I was full of hope. With this one I was full of dread. The PTSD had never felt more real and I was just sure this child would die too.

The midwife called us back and began the intake. The inevitable question was asked. “Is this your first?” My voice began to quiver, “No, I had one die inside of me last year.”

Before I knew it, it was time to lay on the table for the ultrasound. James held my hand as tears flooded my eyes. The midwife placed gel on my belly and the image of my second child showed up on the screen. I squeezed James’s hand as I longed to hear a heartbeat. Nothing. Panic ensued me as I asked, “Is there a heartbeat? Is my baby dead? Please tell me there’s a heartbeat.”

“Oh yes, I didn’t have the sound on. Do you see your baby’s legs kicking?” The midwife turned on the doppler and I heard a rapid thump-ump, thump-ump, thump-ump. It was the most rapid, and incredible sound in the world. For the first time in almost a year I finally cried tears of joy.

Post traumatic stress disorder is serious. I knew pregnancy after loss would be difficult. What I didn’t know was how scary every appointment would be. I didn’t know how I would cling to every moment with this child, and I didn’t know cherishing another life would make me love our Sweet Pea even more.

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