Subsequent pregnancy - Part One of the ultimate goal. Part Two, of course, a baby to take home and care for. It was in the hope that Part Two would actually happen that allowed me to survive Part One.
When my husband, John, and I lost our first son in March of 1984, we shared the grief. When the unthinkable, happened January 26, 1985 and our second son died hours after his birth, we grieved again. Though our ups and downs rarely coincided, we understood each other's need to talk, cry, vent, or to be left alone. Our babies had died. We knew why we were sad.
Her we go again. Another pregnancy. I was consumed with anxiety and fear. My body had failed me twice. Would I ever be able to trust it again? Would my body's failure to function adequately cause heartache for John again? Every mention of the baby was prefaced with "let's hope"..."maybe"... "if only"..."what if." It was a time of unbearable uncertainty. How I wished I'd had someone who had already done what I was trying to do. I needed subsequent pregnancy success stories to cling to. I knew of no one. John and I tried so hard to reassure each other, but at times I wanted to stand on the roof and scream at the top of my lungs, "I'm scared to death my baby is going to die."
On November 14, 1986, Ryan was born, full term and healthy. I was a subsequent pregnancy success story. So it worked. My body had done its job. I could relax for my next pregnancy, right? I thought so until I got pregnant again. Then when I started bleeding at 12 weeks I had to make some "sanity saving" decisions. I decided that this was to be my last pregnancy, whenever and however it ended.
I didn't realize it at the time but that decision, as right as it seemed, only added to my fear and anxiety. If this was it, my last pregnancy, I had to make it work. I didn't want Ryan to be an only child, and I certainly didn't want to go through the hell of losing another baby, I was terrified.
During the pregnancy I was on two differnet medications and a home monitor used to track uterine activity. John and I bought our first home, and I had a toddler to care for. I had become involved with SHARE Atlanta after Ryan's birth and was doing as much as I could with organization. As I tried to help others deal with their grief, I felt it was important to convey a sense of hope and an air of calm anticipation around my own pregnancy (that's how I felt then, not how I feel now). For the SHARE members I was positive and hopeful. At home I was a scared, tension-filled lunatic.
John and I had weathered the storm of our losses. We had pulled together and pulled each other through, but this was different. It was harder to define our feelings. Harder to understand each other. I felt resentful, almost, that John could go to work and not think about this pregnancy. He could escape for awhile. I, on the other hand, could never be away from it. I found myself needing someone to talk to who could understand my head.
SHARE Atlanta had a subsequent pregnancy group scheduled to begin during my sixth month of this pregnancy. Finally I had a room full of other lunatics to talk to! These meetings were for "moms only" - until the end of the six weeks when the dads were invited. There had been some discussion about changing this, but when we did, very few dads came, and the moms said that they felt more comfortable with just women. I think it has to do with what I said about John and me. We were able to grieve together and support each other after our losses, but this was a brand new kind of stress. John couldn't get on the "front lines" with me now. I had to work this out with the help of other women who were there.
At the meetings we had a rotating agenda of topics. I'm sure we touched on the topics each time, but what I remember most is the laughter, the camaraderie, the figurative and literal handholding, and the sighs of relief every time one of us "made it". One by one each of us became a success story.
Colin was born June 27, 1988, full term and screaming, which he continued to do for two-and-a half months! Maybe he was paying me back for punching him "in-utero" every night before I went to sleep just to make sure he was still alive. Colin completed our family and represented a beautiful end to my child bearing triumphs and tragedies.
We all know there are no guarantees when we get pregnant. When we have lost our innocence to the death of our baby and we decide to try again, we do so with much trepidation and fear. Family and friends often have a hard time understanding why we're so confused and scared when this is what we wanted - to be pregnant again. What we want is to be joyful, carefree, and pregnant. It will never be that way again. We need to accept the fact that we will never look at a pregnant woman the same as we did before our loss, and we will not exhale for nine months.
For me, I found that my fear of not having children outweighed my fear of losing another baby. There had to be a sense of hope deep within my soul or I could not have done it.
Being with the women in the subsequent pregnancy group gave me the outlet I needed. I had a place to let down my guard. I didn't have to pretend to be strong. I also learned that even though most of our husbands had been wonderful during our time of grief, they weren't able to fully understand the depth of our anxiety during pregnancy. After all, they weren't the ones who broke out in a cold sweat and whose heart raced every time they went to the bathroom for fear that this could be the beginning of the end. In our group, we understood this panic.
SHARE is built around supporting each other, talking together, and crying together at times; but most of all, SHARE offers hope when we need it the most. I never needed it more than during my subsequent pregnancy. I got it from the women in our group and, for me, it couldn't have come from anywhere else.Lynne A.
copyright(c)SHARE Atlanta 10/97