Scars That Don't Fade: Fear in Pregnancy After Infertility
By Kristyn Hodgdon
Pregnancy after infertility can be scary. It is incredibly joyful, of course, but knowing that you now have what you worked so hard for is also terrifying. Every milestone seems to matter so much more, and the fear of having it all stripped away from you can sometimes be debilitating.
Looking back at my first trimester of pregnancy, I was definitely slightly depressed. After the initial shock and happiness of finding out I was pregnant with twins, extreme morning sickness and fatigue kicked in. And with that, so did the fear of losing the babies I had fought so hard for. Although I did tell close friends and family about my pregnancy pretty early on, my fear of miscarriage in addition to not being able to tell the world my good news made me want to sit inside the house like a hermit all day and not come out until I reached the 12-week mark.
While my bout of depression did go away after my 12-week appointment, my fear unfortunately didn’t. In fact, the stakes felt like they got even higher as the weeks went on. After the 12-week ultrasound there was the anatomy scan at 18 weeks to worry about, and then there was the huge milestone of achieving viability at 24 weeks. Every time I breathed a sigh of relief at achieving a new milestone, I found myself holding my breath again until my next big appointment.
As many of you know, my biggest scare happened at 26 weeks and 6 days when my cervix shortened and I went into preterm labor. I was immediately sent to the hospital and had to stay there for 8 days until I reached 28 weeks. After being discharged from the hospital I was put on bed rest, where I remained stable for 4 weeks, until I had yet another preterm labor episode. This time, when I got to the hospital the doctors told me that they wouldn’t stop labor and I was probably having my babies within 48 hours, but then I miraculously stabilized again. I stayed in the hospital for another 2 weeks until I reached 34 weeks, at which point it would have been safe if the babies came.
Despite my doctors feeling confident enough to release me from the hospital to go into labor on my own, for some reason I have been more anxious than ever since getting home. As I hit 9 days until my 38-week induction on the 24th, I am more scared now than I was when I was faced with having 27-week old babies in the NICU. Why? I think it’s because when faced with premature babies I knew I had to be stoic for their health and safety. Not only that, now that I’ve gotten this far I feel like I’m finally so close to beating infertility and having two healthy babies that the fear of something going wrong between now and then is stronger than it’s ever been. I have fought through so much over the past 2 years: IVF, 2 preterm labor scares, 7 weeks of bed rest, 25 nights in the hospital, that the thought of waiting 9 more days feels like an eternity, and I am crippled with anxiety.
I am going to talk to my doctor about my anxiety at my appointment later today, because I truly believe that mental health is as important to this process as physical health is, but the moral of the story is this: there is no instruction manual for pregnancy after infertility or miscarriage. Unfortunately, those of us who are lucky enough to be pregnant are coming in with added emotional baggage and a lot of times, debilitating fear of losing everything we’ve spent so long working for.
I know the pay off will be even more rewarding when my babies finally arrive, but it’s so hard to picture right now, even though I’m only 9 days away from meeting my twins. Maybe it’s because this pregnancy hasn’t been normal or easy, but then again none of our journey to start a family has been.
Lately I’ve been turning to one of my all-time favorite quotes from one of my all-time favorite authors (and human beings), Cheryl Strayed, to keep me afloat:
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
To my fellow mamas to be, I want you to know that your fears are warranted. Just because you’re pregnant now doesn’t mean that all of your worries immediately disappear. The scars left behind from infertility don’t fade right away, and that’s okay. But moving forward, let’s try to tell ourselves a different story, one that reflects how brave we really are for all that we have been through and overcome to get to this point. Are you with me?