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Pregnancy Loss PTSD

Pregnancy Loss PTSD

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’m not really sure what I’m expecting from this – I’ve never been very good at reaching out to people, and I honestly don’t know what I expect. You’re a very busy woman and I don’t expect this is interesting enough or special enough to warrant anything.

The general gist is this. Last year my boyfriend and I lost 3 babies. With the first one, we found out at our 12 week scan that baby had stopped growing at about 7 weeks. I had a D&C the next day, 2 weeks off work then back to teaching. Then, 2 months later we had another very early loss, but that was natural loss. Doctor told us to take a break and that was the plan, until we fell pregnant accidentally a couple of months later. Had a scan at 6 weeks and saw a heartbeat, then a ‘reassurance’ scan at 9 weeks showed baby had made it to 7 weeks again then stopped growing. Tried medical management this time which failed so had to return to surgery, I then contracted an infection. Basically last year was really really difficult. We had all the genetic tests/blood tests etc etc and came back with nothing – we’d just been very unlucky.

Fast forward a little bit to April this year and I fell pregnant again. We had bleeds at 4.5 weeks, 6weeks, 10weeks and 12weeks and scans to check them. And they terrified me – I’d been a nervous wreck for each one. We had a sexing scan at 17weeks – I was terrified, same with my 20week scan. But my midwife appointments where we listened to the heartbeat were never a problem – possibly because I didn’t associate them with such heartbreak.

Except for my 28week check last week. Midwife couldn’t find the heartbeat, and even got to the point where she double checked I’d actually felt him moving today. I just fell apart, in fact just thinking about it now is making me cry. Until he kicked her. And she found it.

I was terrified, and I was back there – being on that sonographers table and being told our babies had died. It took me hours to calm down – I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. The midwife and my boyfriend were amazing, but I just couldn’t stop.

I thought I’d managed to put last years losses behind me by now. I was terrified in the early stages, every last twinge and with the bleeds, I was convinced we’d lost him so many times. But I was no longer classed as high risk after the 20week scan showed no problems, he is growing perfectly, I have no issues with my blood pressure etc, the pregnancy is technically going brilliantly. I’m just terrified. I honestly don’t believe we’re going to get to bring home our son, and I love him so much already. I just don’t know how to shake this fear, I have no reason to believe there’ll be a problem, there has been no sign there’s a problem from anywhere. I just can’t shake this and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to relax and believe that everything will be ok. Thing is, I’m not on my own, I have an amazing boyfriend who puts up with me and I couldn’t ask for more. An amazing support network of friends who listen if I need to chat and families who know about our losses (well, the two that required surgery).

I just feel like I should be past this. I’m 29 weeks pregnant, with a little boy who is very active, squirms and wriggles with the nest of them and uses my bladder as a punching bag. I should be over the moon. And I am. I’m just so so so scared too, and it’s the scared I can’t shake.

Just taking the time to read this is amazing, so thank you. I sat here crying typing this. I’m scared.

I’m sorry for babbling at you for so long. Your boys are beautiful.

C

It’s not often that an Advice Smackdown question makes me cry. In fact, I’m not entirely sure it’s ever happened before. This may be a first.

I just — and oh, I realize how trite this sounds — so very much wish I could reach through the computer screen and give you the Biggest Hug Ever. A nice hard one, the kind where after awhile you’d be like, “I’m okay, I’m okay” and I still wouldn’t let go because I just felt like you still needed more hugging.

You have PTSD from your losses. Because losses are traumatic and devastating and stressful. Even if you’re “just” unlucky or dealing with a known genetic problem. Even if you “just” had one early loss or a series of repeated losses — it is perfectly understandable for you to feel what you are feeling. It is not something you “should” be past feeling because you “should” be over the moon about your current, much-loved-and-cherished pregnancy. In fact, there are no “shoulds” or “supposed tos” in the land of pregnancy losses and grief. You feel how you feel. Whenever you feel it. And getting past your experiences is not a linear journey, where every day is better than the last until ta-daaaa! You’re Officially Past Everything Bad That Ever Happened, here’s your grief diploma, a gold star and a healthy full-term infant.

I was in a car accident when I was 18. A very, very bad one. And yet I was very, very lucky because I was fine. Banged up and bruised and needed some stitches, but basically: I was fine. Except for the raging case of PTSD I developed. I freaked out every time I heard a car slamming on its brakes. I was terrified to drive. I had a full-on panic attack in a movie theater during an extended car chase scene and had to leave, sobbing and gasping and shaking. And it was hard to explain to people why I couldn’t shake the gnawing sense of dread I was carrying around all the time because I WAS FINE, RIGHT?

That sounds awfully similar to what happened to you on the sonogram table — the very scene of some of the very worst days of your life. I think it’s incredibly understandable that you would have a visceral, panicked reaction there and flashbacks. And goodness, I’ve never experienced any pregnancy loss ever and I STILL spent decent portions of my pregnancies irrationally worried that something was going to go wrong at any moment and I would not get a real live baby out of the process. So it’s also incredibly understandable that you would have that same feeling, only amped up to 11.

I don’t know how to help you get “over” your fear — everybody heals from PTSD in their own way, in their own time. Some seek counseling, some take anti-anxiety meds, some turn to the Internet to blog about their feelings or connect with other women who are pregnant after multiple losses. I do hope it helps to hear that you are not alone or freakish or wrong to feel this way — the combination of terror and anger that you’re unable to “enjoy” your pregnancy because you’re consumed with waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In the meantime, while you decide what level of emotional help you need — a counselor, a journal, a long talk with a doctor/midwife, etc. — here’s an acronym to repeat whenever you feel waves of fear, panic, whatever: NBHHY. Coined by the original superstar of the infertility/loss blogging community getupgrrl, it stands for Nothing Bad Has Happened Yet. It always helped me whenever I felt overwhelmed by everything that could hypothetically go wrong before viability and/or full term, since it was a nice, quiet blend of cautious optimism. It’s neither doom-and-gloom nor YAY TWO LINES ON A PEE STICK LET’S BUY ALL THE BABY THINGS. It speaks to your experiences and acknowledges that yes, sometimes bad things do happen. But this time, today, right now, this minute: NBHHY. Deep breath in, and out.

I’m so sorry for your lost babies. I’m so sorry I can’t make the pain magically go away for you or offer you a money-back guarantee on a magic protective spell for your little boy. I hope, though, that in some small way this post and the comments will bring you some measure of peace to know that you are not alone in these feelings and that there are many, many strangers on the Internet rooting for you and your pregnancy now.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Published October 3, 2011. Last updated June 27, 2018.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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