After I had my first miscarriage, I always knew a subsequent pregnancy after loss would be an entirely different experience. There’s a stripping of innocence that occurs when you experience the crushing realisation that a positive pregnancy test does not always result in a babe in arms. You might feel robbed of a certain joyful naivety or jealous of women who have had simpler journeys to motherhood.
I’m now fast approaching the final trimester of my third pregnancy and I can honestly say that it does get a little easier: hope is stronger than fear. Here are the things I’ve learnt so far about coping with pregnancy after loss during the first trimester…
Pregnancy After Loss: The First Trimester
Finding out you’re pregnant again
Taking a pregnancy test after loss becomes an act of as much fear as hope. In the moment, I felt very matter of fact about the two pink lines. Unlike the first time where surprise met excitement, met nerves, met rushing to tell my husband, this time it was a far more subdued affair. “Oh, it’s positive…” then I went about my morning routine, showering, washing my hair and cleaning my teeth. When I was done in the bathroom I found my husband and showed him the pee-covered stick poking out of my dressing gown pocket; “so, that’s that then.” (but is it? we’ve been here twice before…)
In the weeks that followed between 4 and 7, when I had a scan at the EPU booked, I was a mess. I struggle to think about that period of pregnancy after loss without reliving the trauma, so convinced was I that this pregnancy too would end in tears of heartbreak rather than jubilation. I cried a lot, spent a lot of time in bed and struggled to be around people. I checked my knickers multiple times an hour, feared going to the loo and spent endless, torturous hours on Google and forums.
I don’t honestly know how to make this part of pregnancy after loss much easier for anyone else other than to say: STEP AWAY FROM THE INTERNET. Google is not your friend and Sally294 on Mumsnet isn’t going to change the destined outcome either.
Tell people straight away
I firmly believe everyone has the right to share a pregnancy whenever they see fit, whether that’s at 4 weeks or 40. However, I’m really anti the ’12 week rule’. It stigmatises anything that may occur before that point and leaves women feeling alone and secretive at a time when they’re most in need of emotional support, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy.
For us, this pregnancy was never a secret. We told close family and friends immediately. It didn’t make it less special (though we didn’t want a song and dance) nor did it add any pressure. It simply meant we had support if we needed to call upon it. Telling the people who didn’t even know I was pregnant that we’d lost our first baby was significantly harder than telling those who already knew.
Note: telling people you love and trust doesn’t have to mean announcing to the world. Whilst it was never a “but please don’t tell anyone else!” secret, I didn’t share publicly until almost 16 weeks.
Different people will have different views on this but for me, I welcomed the extra scans. In fact, they got me through the first trimester of pregnancy after loss. At 7 weeks we had an NHS scan at the EPU and I went along expecting a literal and figurative death sentence. Instead, we saw the teeniest heart beating inside a little peanut and heard the words “there’s your baby” for the first time in three pregnancies. I sobbed whilst poor, lovely Jason the sonographer was still busy wielding his magic dildo wand.
After that we were released from any additional NHS care as everything looked sound, so we booked private scans. We went at 9 and 11 weeks in between our 7 and 13 week NHS ones and breaking what felt like an endless marathon down into fortnightly increments helped.
That isn’t to say scans were exactly joyous occasions. The anxiety beforehand was crippling and the immense relief only lasted so long before a little unwelcome voice creeped in – “just because it was fine yesterday doesn’t mean it’s fine now…”
Turning to the stats
Where I couldn’t trust my own mindset to propel me through, I turned to the stats. I knew that each healthy scan decreased the likelihood of miscarriage and that even the most gruelling of journeys more often than not ends with a healthy ‘take home’ baby. For some, numbers and statistics are entirely unhelpful. For me, they gave me something concrete to focus on during the early stage of pregnancy after loss. I started thinking a little in odds and found that, if I were a betting woman, they were in my favour.
“It is more likely to go right” or “this is in your favour” became my mantra to myself in the loo before scans. Even when I struggled to honestly believe things could possibly be okay, I allowed myself to rely on that.
Recognise when Fear is talking
This was – and still is – the most helpful tool for me. I realised that all of my thoughts, feelings and fears were entirely valid. They weren’t irrational or silly but based on past trauma. And still – it was often Fear doing the talking. I began to take note of each thought and recognise when Fear was in charge. I acknowledged it but tried not to indulge (you know when you let your brain run away with a worst case scenario day dream?), replacing where possible with a hopeful thought about the outcome of my pregnancy after loss.
You cannot possibly jinx it by hoping, just as worrying won’t make bad news any easier
It is simply not possible to want a baby too much, to think too positively, to hope too hard. You will not harm the outcome by clinging to every ounce of hope you can muster, but you might make the overall experience ever so slightly kinder on yourself. Just as, worry and stress won’t suddenly make bad news easier to swallow because you’d already spent hours fearing this. That isn’t to say that your worry or stress isn’t valid – I possess it in abundance – but rather that you are allowed to hope.
Someone I follow on Instagram (@missmalinsara) lost a little girl after a fight in Great Ormond Street. She wrote about how on the darkest days she would picture herself leaving the hospital with her baby and all the wonderful things they would do together. Though their story didn’t have a happy ending, she still cites that level of hope and positive day dreaming as absolutely crucial and encourages others to do the same. I felt lucky to read that caption when I did because it made me feel stronger; if she can do that in a circumstance that is literally my worst nightmare, then I can do this.
Resources that can help
- Pregnancy after Loss by Zoe Clark-Coates: this book is a brilliant step by step guide that literally holds your hand and gives you practical advice throughout the full 40 weeks
- Tommy’s: Tommy’s will provide support surrounding loss and pregnancy after loss. There are stories on their hub of both as well as a helpline.
- The Miscarriage Association: offer practical advice and support
- Sands: specifically supports those who have experienced a stillbirth or neonatal death, including in subsequent pregnancies