This month marks the one year anniversary of my first pregnancy – and also of my subsequent miscarriage.

I remember at the time, I worried obsessively about how I would get through these anniversaries: the day I found out I was pregnant, the day the baby would have been due, the day I found out I’d lost it. When got back from the hospital after the ultrasound that confirmed it was gone, I took that year’s diary, which was already filled up with midwife appointments and the date of what should have been the 12-week scan, and I threw it into the bin, without even opening it. The dates, though, were already engraved on my brain, so the damage was done, and, for me, August would never be the same again, filled up as it was with all of those anniversaries, all of those memories waiting to be re-lived.

“How will I survive next August?” I asked Terry.

“You’ll survive it,” he said, confidently. “You’ll get pregnant again, and by this time next year, we’ll have a new baby to focus on.”

He was only half right.

I did get pregnant again – just two months later. That pregnancy, though, was already different from the first: I couldn’t allow myself to feel happy, or optimistic about it, and I was right not to, because that pregnancy turned out to be ectopic.

It would be fair to say that 2016 wasn’t our year.

When I found out I was pregnant again this May, I didn’t write any of the midwife or scan appointments down in my diary: I worried that yet another month would be forever ruined by looming anniversaries – little black marks on the calendar just waiting to ambush me every single year.

Pregnancy after loss is very, very different.

The first time I was pregnant, I knew there was a risk of miscarriage – I even knew how high that risk was. Somehow, though, I just couldn’t let myself believe it would happen to me. The decision to even start trying for a baby had been such a hard one for me in terms of my health anxiety and general fear of hospitals and childbirth, that, as ridiculous as I know this sounds, I felt that, having made the decision to do something filled with so much risk, the universe would somehow conspire to make the rest of it easy for me.

Stupid, huh? I mean, as if the universe has nothing better to do than make sure a middle class white girl gets exactly what she wants, right? I don’t actually believe that, obviously, and yet I still couldn’t quite shake off the idea that deciding to try had been the hard part, and that I just couldn’t be so unlucky as to take the risk anyway, and then have my worst fears come true.

Well, my worst fears came true.

Twice.

Is it any wonder I didn’t want to try again?

pregnancy after loss: dealing with pregnancy after miscarriage or ectopic

Of course, after the miscarriage, I DID want to try again: more than anything, in fact. I just wanted to get back those feelings of hope and excitement that I’d had the first time round, and even although I knew the second time could never be like that, I still felt that it was the only way I could fix this thing that had gone so horribly wrong – the only way I could make this coming August bearable.

After the ectopic, on the other hand, I felt totally different: in fact, I think the first thing I said to Terry after I was diagnosed was, “I am never doing this again: not ever.” In the hospital, they told me my blood type was rhesus negative, and that they’d have to give me an anti-D injection, to protect future pregnancies. “There’s no need,” I said tearfully. “This will never happen again, I can guarantee it.”

The nurse gently suggested I have the injection anyway, because, “You never know what might happen.”  I went along with it, because I was too broken to put up a fight, but I DID know – and what I knew was that I could not go through the same thing again: that it would kill me to even try, and that I’d reached the end of this short but painful road, which we’d started out on just a few months before.

Famous last words, huh?

I changed my mind because of Rubin. When he did, back in March, I once again felt like nothing would ever be the same again: that he’d left a hole in our lives that could never be filled. I also, however, felt that the best days of my life were now behind me, and I didn’t want to feel like that any more. I wanted to have something to look forward to – some kind of future – and so, although the thought of getting pregnant again absolutely terrified me to my core, once we’d gotten through the three-month wait that you’re advised to take after being treated for an ectopic pregnancy, we decided to try again.

And this time has been different, too.

When I first found out I was pregnant again, this May, I was absolutely terrified. There wasn’t even a single moment of joy or hope, like there was the first time, or even the second: instead, there was just the crippling feeling of, “Well, here we go again: I wonder what it’s going to be THIS time?”

My biggest fear, of course, was of having another ectopic. Once you’ve had one ectopic pregnancy, you have a greater risk of it happening again, and so those first few days were filled with fear: with obsessively checking for any signs of spotting (Which had been the first symptom of both the ectopic and the miscarriage), and with worrying that every little twinge meant that the nightmare was about to begin all over again.

There were a lot of little twinges in those first few days. I’ve since learned that it’s very common for women who’ve had ectopic pregnancies to have some pain around the ectopic site, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening again, but at the time all I knew was that if it WAS happening again, I would not survive it – and I was scared out of my mind.

Thankfully, I didn’t have too long to wait to be able to rule out that particular fear, first of all with blood tests (You can’t really read too much into early blood tests, because things CAN look normal, but still be ectopic: in my case, though, I was told my hormone levels were so high that it would be “almost impossible” for the pregnancy to be ectopic – which gave me some degree of comfort, right up to the point where I started worrying about it being a molar pregnancy instead…), and then with a very early scan (at 5 weeks, 4 days), which revealed a tiny, flickering heartbeat, in exactly the right place.

I had about 24 hours worth of relief from this, before it occurred to me that I was now headed into week 6 – which was when I’d miscarried the first time round. That week seemed cursed to me: I feel like I held my breath all the way through it, telling myself over and over again that if I just got through week 6, I’d be able to relax, and finally start enjoying the pregnancy. Instead, at my 8 week scan (I was scanned every two weeks, purely for reassurance), I found myself confiding in the sonographer that I’d almost been sick with nerves in the waiting room, and that these “reassurance” scans were the most frightening things in the world to me.

“But of course they are!” she said, much to my surprise. (I was expecting her to just dismiss my  fears, the way so many other people do…) “Until now, you’ve only ever had bad experiences: why would you expect this one to be different?”

And that’s the crux of it, I think. I know people at roughly the same stage of pregnancy as me – or even earlier – who are out buying prams and decorating nurseries, while I’m still too scared to write my next midwife appointment down in ink. Those people, though, tend to be the ones who have not experienced loss: so, to them, being pregnant means that you’re going to have a baby – so why wouldn’t you plan for that?

For me, though, being pregnant only means that I MIGHT have a baby… or I might, once again, have to go through one of the most horrific and traumatising experiences of my life. So although I saw that heartbeat again at 8 weeks, and at 10, and 12, and although my genetic testing came back saying I was as low risk as it’s possible to be, I STILL couldn’t let myself relax and trust my body to know what it was doing. It had let me down twice now, after all: why would this time be different?

I told myself the 12 week scan would be the final line in the sand, and that once I’d successfully crossed it, I would FINALLY be able to relax. Instead, I felt worse than ever: telling our friends and family felt like indulging in some elaborate kind of lie, and when, at just past 12 weeks, a couple of people told me stories about traumatic late miscarriages, my confidence once again crumbled, and I found myself, not just marking off my own personal landmarks, but waiting to get past the points that other people had had miscarriages at – because only then would I be “safe”.

I told myself the 20 week scan would be the one to aim for: that, after that, I’d finally have all of the reassurance I needed. The weeks between 12 weeks and 20, though, were painfully slow. I’d gone from having scans every two weeks, to having nothing at all for two months. The midwife wouldn’t see me until week 18 to listen to the baby’s heartbeat, and, in the meantime, not a day went by without someone asking if I could feel movement yet – and looking horrified when the answer was always “no”. Online, people continued to insist on telling me their pregnancy horror stories. Offline, people repeatedly told me they just couldn’t understand why I was worried.

So, it’s been hard – and also lonely, because, the fact is that people who haven’t experienced pregnancy after loss really can’t understand how frightening it is – or how risky it feels to those of us who have. Again and again I’ve been told to just stop worrying, because there’s nothing to worry about: some people have even scolded me for not “enjoying” the pregnancy the way I “should” be: because everyone loves being told that their feelings are not valid and that they should feel totally differently, am I right?

Which brings me to 20 weeks: I’m now halfway through my pregnancy, which is a stage I never, ever thought I would reach, but I’ve finally accepted that I’m probably never going to reach that mythical time when I just suddenly relax and accept that all will be well. I don’t think that time even exists, really: I’d say that I won’t truly relax until the baby is here, but I know that will just prompt a chorus of “Oh no, it’ll be even WORSE then: you won’t ever be able to relax again now!” so I’ll just leave it at that.

(Honestly, though, I know I’ll obviously worry constantly about him once he’s here, but at least I’ll be able to SEE him then, you know? Right now, if I need to be reassured that he’s alive, it requires a trip to either the hospital or the midwife, which causes all kinds of stress in itself. It all just feels so RISKY to me right now, though. I mean, can you imagine if the baby was here, and someone said, “Tell you what: let’s put him somewhere you can’t see him without the aid of a sonographer!” You’d be horrified, wouldn’t you? That’s basically my life,  every single day…)

Right now, though, I feel like I’ve been pregnant, not for 20 weeks, but for a year. I’ve been pregnant three times in that space of time, after all, and since this time last August, I’ve either been pregnant, recovering from being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or worrying about the possibility of trying to get pregnant, without a break. It’s been kind of exhausting, really, and I guess my one comfort in all of this has been the knowledge that I’m not alone.

I know I probably sound absolutely crazy to most of you right now (I should probably say here that I use this blog as a kind of dumping ground for all of my thoughts and fears: it’s always really helped me to be able to write things down like this, and although I know it gives the impression that I’m permanently teetering on the brink of madness, on a day-to-day basis, I actually cope pretty well!), especially those who’ve never experienced pregnancy after loss, but I’m a member of a few Facebook groups for people who have, or who are going through it right now, and they’ve really helped me realise that my feelings are actually pretty normal. In fact, there are many women in those groups who don’t generally suffer from anxiety, but who are having an even more difficult time than I am right now: even with the added burden of health anxiety to deal with, I’m really not that unusual – which is as sad as it is comforting, really.

Does it ever get better? I’m told by the women who’ve been through it that no, not really: that I’ll probably always feel anxious about this pregnancy, even when things seem to be going well. I’m also, however, told that it’ll be worth every second: and I wholeheartedly believe that to be true.

So here’s to the next 20 weeks or so: and if you’re reading this now, or at some point in the future, and are also dealing with pregnancy after loss, then please know you’re not alone – and that I’m always here, should you fancy a chat.

28 Comments
  1. I feel all of this too. Every day. I will be 34 weeks on Wednesday. I’ve been telling myself “after 12 weeks, after I’ve *heard* the heartbeat, after 20 weeks, after 24, after the appointment, after 28, after 30. I’m currently telling myself “after 37”

    The midwives keep asking me about birth plans and pain relief and it’s almost funny because I hate hospitals, I hate them. I am terrified of medical staff and the whole shebang but I’ve been so scared of not getting to the birth I haven’t had time to be scared of it.

    I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you luck. <3

    1. I feel a bit like this too – before I was pregnant I assumed I’d spent the full 9 months obsessing over the birth, but I have such a hard time believing I’ll ever get there that I’ve barely thought about it at all so far! Best of luck to you, too – I wouldn’t wish this on anyway, but I’m a little relieved to hear I’m not the only one with the fear of hospitals etc!

  2. I am now 48 and my having a baby days are long behind me, but I still remember spending the majority of my pregnancy being absolutely terrified. I had endometriosis so couldn’t get pregnant naturally and went through IVF which failed the first time. I knew when I was pregnant that this could well be my only chance to have a baby ( it was, all subsequent attempts failed) so every twinge I panicked. I remember thinking if only I can get to 28 weeks then if there is a problem at least he should be ok. After 28 weeks I did relax a bit and he was born at 32 weeks. He was and is the most amazing thing ever. Even though he is now very definitely a teenager, but that’s another story. My sister, who had no problems never understood why I spent my pregnancy worrying and in hindsight I wish I could have enjoyed it more. But I couldn’t. But it is worth it. I even missed my alien in my tummy after he was born, and the kicking is just the best feeling in the world! I am sorry my thoughts are a bit muddled but what you are feeling is totally valid.

    1. It really was – everyone at the hospital has been really lovely, and has told me that I’m definitely not unusual: one nurse told me they regularly have people in floods of tears or having full-on panic attacks before ultrasounds, because they’ve had bad experiences before, which have led them to always fear the worst 😢

  3. A great post, and I love that you have been so open and honest, I actually could have wrote most of that post in my 1st pregnancy. People who haven’t experienced pregnancy loss don’t understand the extra anxiety you feel.

    I have suffered from recurrent miscarriage – 3 in 2 years before going on to have my little boy who is just over 18 months old. During the whole pregnancy i was constantly checking for spotting even though all the other signs were that everything was ok, i just couldn’t settle. I couldn’t even face decorating a nursery, buying stuff or anything like that just in case. If I had my way i would have just brought it all once i’d given birth but in the end after i had a scan at 31 weeks I had to admit that I needed to get stuff prepared. Even my birth plan was minimal and just stated that i would do whatever to make sure the baby arrived ok. I also felt like the 40 weeks i was pregnanct seemed to go forever, and by the end i’d been pregnant for about a year! Yes the aniety/worry never goes as once you have a baby you are obviously worrying about looking after it etc but I found that in fact my anxiety did settle to be similar to that of other mums i knew.

    I am now 33 weeks with m second baby – and it came as a bit of a shock so I have been a lot less anxious and kind of had a what will be will be attitude as I haven’t had as much time to focus on it with a todller running around. However as I near the end I feel the anxiety about everything being alright setting in.

    I think when you have been through some kind of pregnancy loss, the anxiety never leaves you, its just part of how pregnancy will be for us. Wishing you all the best for the second half of your pregnancy.

  4. Wishing you and Terry every joy during the second part of your pregnancy and of your baby. I hope you have moments when joy is all you feel

  5. I totally get this. I lost my first baby at eight weeks and was anxious the entire way through my second pregnancy, worrying about every twinge and checking for bleeding. It’s one of many reasons we’re only having the one child. I love him more than I ever could have imagined though and although I still worry about something pretty much every day it’s worth it for that unconditional love.

  6. I can completely relate to this Amber, and I think it’s also a very natural response. My fears stem from my car crash, I know that things go wrong, often terribly so. Throughout my pregnancy ( I actually think this is the first time I’m saying this) I was always expecting the very worst. My son has to have a small operation soon which requires general anaesthetic and I’m sure you can imagine what I’m thinking. I’m going to be really trite and say that despite these worries it also makes you hugely appreciate what you have and it is all very very much worth it. You’re not going to stop worrying but I think the best we can do is try to relax and distract ourselves. Lots of love xxxx

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your story. We lost our first baby in June, with a very traumatic set of procedures after a diagnosed missed miscarriage at almost 11 weeks. Worst Ob/Gyn ever in terms of empathy. I’m still working through all that trauma. Even though I’m still recovering (mostly mentally) from losing the first baby, I can only imagine how you must feel. What you are writing is exactly what I’m talking about with my therapist at the moment. How to do this again and how to work on finding joy in the process when there’s absolutely no guarantee things will go as we’re hoping for.
    When people ask me if I want to try again (which is a phrase I hate, this first baby is not getting a do-over, it’s a life forever lost) I always tell them that I think I’m ready, even longing for a healthy pregnancy and baby, never again for a miscarriage. How can you ever be ready for so much loss?
    Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  8. I can relate to so much of this! During the first few weeks I found the waits between each scan so hard and I was terrified of something going wrong. I also heard lots of horrible stories which like you’ve said previously, no one should say to a pregnant woman who is already anxious! I was convinced if I could just make it to 12 weeks I would feel totally relieved and “accept” it more but I still find myself worrying constantly. And now we are telling people I still feel nervous about it in case something happens. I wish I had tips to deal with the anxiety but I don’t. I’m just trying to remind myself that the chances of everything being fine are really high and to try my best to enjoy this time and not be always wishing away the time between scans!

  9. I read somewhere that you won’t feel relief until you’re holding them in your arms. I had a loss about a year before my current pregnancy and I worry everyday that something could happen. If I feel slightly tired or uncomfortable I stay home or rest, and I know to some people I seem needy and overly anxious but when you’ve had a loss you can’t help it. I know when I’m holding my little boy in my arms it will be worth the 9 months of anxiety I’ve been dealing with! So here’s to holding our heads high and dealing with our anxiety the best we can. Good luck love!

  10. My heart goes out to you and everyone else who has ever had this happen to them. Thank you for writing this very honest account of your experience. And for sharing you thoughts so openly with all of us.

  11. Thank you for your writing and your honesty.
    “Oh, so THAT’S what empathy sounds like!”
    I hope you can relax enough to enjoy some of this special time. Good luck love.

  12. This is exaaaaaactly my experience too, after two similar early losses in 2015. For me, I managed to enjoy the pregnancy a bit more towards the end, when I could feel lots of movement etc. But it’s COMPLETELY normal to worry and not be able to enjoy it. I always used to say ‘if only there was a window in my tummy so I could check on the baby’, like a Teletubby! Now that my son is here, of course there’s still worry but I can SEE him, and my husband can too, and give a second opinion! My only advice would be to just hang in there for the second half, which will hopefully go much faster for you than the first (it did for me). Accept that the worry will always be there, and that that’s normal and ok. If you can find any element you enjoy then that’s a bonus, but if not, that’s fine too. It feels like forever now but it’s only a few more weeks in the grand scheme of things, and it’ll be so, so worth it! Xxx

  13. Please don’t feel bad about feeling anxious. If that’s what you need to get through this, then so be it. And if you do feel bad, then don’t feel bad about feelin bad about feeling anxious (I can go on like this if you like). It will be worth it. Also, all the baby needs is you, some nappies and cot. All the rest is just a fun shopping opportunity. Who could guess my daughter would not be in the least bit interested in the fact that her room was painted in the perfect shade of minty green, huh?

  14. Amber, I want to tell you that I think you are a very, very brave person. Having to go through all the events of the past year, still not giving up, and even telling all the world about it requires a tremendous amout of courage, and I truly applaud and admire you for it!
    I cannot understand why -given your personal history- there are still people out there who insist on scaring you with horror stories. That behaviour is nothing but cruel and should be a punishable offence.

    My thoughts are with you and Terry (BIG SHOUTOUT TO TERRY, THE MAN LIKE A ROCK! YOU ARE A HERO, TOO!!!) and your little one, and I wish you all the best!!! May everything go smoothly and happily for you.

  15. No, you’re definitely not alone. Last time around, I DID relax a bit after the 20 week scan, but until I was actually holding my baby, a part of me was preparing for the worst – of course it was; when had my body ever proved I could trust it to do this thing properly?! This time around, I’m a lot more relaxed post-20 week scan – I feel very much “I’m taking my vitamins etc; I’m doing everything I can to help things go well” – BUT I still felt sick with nerves for the first half of the pregnancy.

    Although, I realised after the event that I had made it through the anniversary of my loss without even thinking about it this year – it’s not been completely obliterated by parenthood but it has become much less significant. I hope the same happens for you. x

  16. You perfectly described my feelings about my third pregnancy. First pregnancy was easy-peasy, aside from the 40 weeks of morning sickness. Easy pregnancy, easy childbirth, easy recovery, perfectly healthy baby. Then a few years later we tried for baby #2. At the 8 week mark I started hemorrhaging so badly from the miscarriage, my husband had to rush me to the hospital for an emergency d&c. That was so scarring for me mentally that I had no desire to get pregnant again. It took a long time to talk myself into trying again. But even though I managed to get pregnant again fairly quickly, and even when I made it past the 8 week mark again, I was absolutely terrified throughout the entire time in a way I hadn’t been with my first. I completely understand what you mean by not wanting to write down appointments or think about decorating the nursery. There was always this impending sense of doom. But on a positive note, everything did go along normally, childbirth was easy just like my first, and he’s a healthy, happy 9 month old now. So fingers crossed, I hope all will work out for you this time.

  17. This post made my cry, because I recognise so many of your thoughts. I’m currently in week 11 after having a miscarriage in January, and I hope I’ll be able to relax a little after week 12, but I doubt it.
    Earlier this week, the midwife told me, “next time we meet, you’ll have quite a tummy, and you might be able to feel the baby’s movements by then”, and I felt surprised and confused, because until then I somehow hadn’t thought of that part of pregnancy as something that would concern me, sometimes it seems like I will be in this vaguely nauseous limbo forever.
    Take care!

  18. Thank you for writing this. I had a missed miscarriage first time round and was terrified through both subsequent pregnancies.

    My wish is that you feel your pregnancy gors quickly and please ignore anyone who tells you to enjoy it. My focus was always the baby at the end not the pregnancy. Xx

  19. I think it’s completely understandable to have those fears. I am currently 37 weeks and am feeling fairly relaxed about things at present but f experienced terrible anxiety earlier in the pregnancy and had also convinced myself it was a molar pregnancy, plus checked obsessively foot any bleeding. Together with bad sickness I was completely unable to enjoy the pregnancy. This is my first pregnancy and everything has been straightforward but I am actually a doctor myself and think that is why I was so anxious. I never normally experience anxiety about my own health do it was an alien experience to me to be so on edge. I felt like no one understood at the time. Since then I have shared thoughts with a friend who is also pregnant, and she had also had her own anxieties. It just doesn’t feel “normal” to be so worried at a time that should be joyful, and I think society has difficulty thinking about pregnancy as anything other than that glowy happy time, which makes it all the more difficult when you actually are pregnant but are struggling with anxiety as there just isn’t the acknowledgment of those feelings in the general population.

    1. “I think society has difficulty thinking about pregnancy as anything other than that glowy happy time, which makes it all the more difficult when you actually are pregnant but are struggling with anxiety as there just isn’t the acknowledgement of those feelings in the general population.”

      This is SO true: there’s just so much pressure to be “grateful” all the time that I feel I’m almost scolded for worrying so much – I even had one person tell me I should be enjoying the first trimester vomiting, which is just an insane amount of pressure to put on someone, really!

  20. I cannot even begin to understand everything you’re going through. My heart goes out to you and I hope you are having some moments of peace amongst all the difficulty.

  21. Your honesty throughout this difficult process is so refreshing. I wish you every happiness, and I’m sure you’re giving massive reassurance to so many people by not being all ‘sunshine and rainbows’. Thanks so much for your blog xx

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