Monday, January 30, 2012

Fighting the Fear

I'm writing this in response to My New Normal's link-up that asked how you handle the fear in a pregnancy after a loss.

Unfortunately, I don't have any brilliant advice.  The way I wrap my head around the devastating risks and the potential rewards on any given day changes from bursts of optimism ("This baby is going to be fine!"), to a stoic acceptance ("There's nothing I can do at this point"), to the same kind of hoping/wishing/praying/bargaining I did with Eliza ("Please, please, please let this baby be okay."  You know, because that was SO effective the first time around...).  So even though I'm not very good at convincing myself at any given time that everything is going to be okay, there are some specific things I do to try to keep myself from going totally batshit crazy.

1) I see two doctors.

I'm seeing my regular OB and a high risk maternal-fetal medicine specialist.  This means I have had an appointment every two weeks since I got a positive test.  I hear the heartbeat often, and I've seen the baby on ultrasound several times already.  It also means that I get continuing reassurance from two different people, who are both highly educated and very experienced.  At the very least, I can tell myself that I'm in good hands in terms of my healthcare.

2) I see a therapist.

It's the same therapist I started seeing right after Eliza died when I was sure I couldn't survive the death of my baby AND maintain my sanity (we're still working on that).  She's great.  She is easy to talk to, she validates the way I'm feeling, she disagrees with me if she thinks I'm wrong about something, she challenges me to articulate why I'm having a certain response to a person or situation, and she acknowledges that we've suffered a loss and a trauma and that it's really, really hard.  For a while, going to grief therapy was seriously like the bright spot of my week (oh, that was a sad time).  I always leave there feeling better, and often with a concrete plan of what I can do to make myself feel marginally better and somewhat in control of things.

3)  I don't have a Doppler.

I know that in the world of people who have lost babies, this is crazy talk.  I can't tell you how many times I've read on someone's blog that a Doppler saved her sanity or got her through her pregnancy.  It's not that I don't want to listen to the heartbeat or know what the baby is up to (seriously, if there was an ultrasound app for my iphone, the Deuce would have absolutely no privacy in my uterus).  I actually say to David a couple times a week, "I wish I had a Doppler."  But I still haven't bought or borrowed one.  I guess it's because I am clinging to some version of "normal" this time around.  I think Dopplers can offer peace of mind, but I don't think that they save babies.  So I have decided not to get one.  Yes, it means I sometimes worry when I could just listen to the heartbeat, but it also means that I have to trust that things are still ok, even though I have no way to know for sure.  And for me that's a big deal.  It's one way that I try to feel like I am getting through the fear and acknowledging that so much of this is out of my control, but that it can still be okay.  If that makes sense.

(And it might not make sense to you at all, which is fine.  I'm certainly not saying that Dopplers are bad--I totally get why people have and use them--or use TWO of them, haha!  It's just a decision that David and I made that feels right for us.  At least most of the time...)

4) I go to yoga classes.

I know, so boring, yoga, blah blah, breathing, blah.  But I leave my hour-and-a-half yoga class on Thursday nights, and I breathe easier than any other moment in my week.  It's a time when I think about Eliza, when I think about the Deuce, when I think about my ongoing connection to both of them, and on a good night I'm able to do this with a sense of peace.

When I was pregnant with Eliza, I looked forward to prenatal yoga every Monday night.  This time around, it kind of broke my heart that I wouldn't be attending a prenatal yoga class.  But there was NO way I could show up at the YMCA and join those first-time moms who were so blissfully happy and inquisitive about MY pregnancy and how I was feeling...  The mere thought makes me want to vomit.  So I figured I'd just do my regular yoga until it got too awkward to do it anymore and then I'd quit.

Well, I was only 10 and a half weeks along when certain yoga moves (cobra) weren't working out for me.  Not because my belly was bulging out (I still wasn't showing), but because my boobs were so freaking sore (and gianormous) that I couldn't lie comfortably on my chest.  So I modified cobra, hanging out in child's pose, and my instructor came over to ask me if I had a spinal injury.  At 10 and a half weeks, the only people who knew I was pregnant were David, my parents, and my therapist.  So I kind of panicked and even though we were whispering, I wasn't about to announce that I was pregnant in front of the yoga class.  So I just whispered, "I am just feeling kind of, um, tender here" (gesturing frantically at my boob region).  My instructor nodded and said, "OK, well just keep modifying then."  And I thought that was the end of it.

But no.  After class that day, she stopped me on my way out, all sweet and concerned like the earth-mother hippie that she is, and she asked me if I'd had surgery (as she gestured at her own boob region).  I immediately understood what she was getting at because I was totally at the porn-star phase of pregnancy where my boobs are HUGE and the belly just looks a little thick in the waist.  So I starting laughing and said, "Uh, no.  It looks like I've been augmented, but actually I'm just ten weeks pregnant."

Fortunately she was totally cool about it.  She congratulated me, asked no prying questions, and then said she was glad I told her because she'll help me modify my workout.  I asked if it was fine if I kept coming for the duration of my pregnancy and she said absolutely.  So...  prenatal yoga without any other pregnant ladies?  But with incense and hippie chanting and affirmations?  Yes, please!  It's like a dream come true.

5) I'm picky about what I eat and the bath/body products I use.

I was already sort of zealous about this with Eliza, but I definitely use it as a way to feel a little bit in control of things with the Deuce.  I'm not at all convinced that organic produce is always necessary, that a glass of wine would actually hurt the baby, that paraben-free cosmetics make any difference at all.  But if it makes me feel the tiniest smidgen better about things?  I'm all for it.  So I splurge on the organic produce, I smell David's beer instead of tasting it (even when it looks delicious), I put mozzarella instead of blue cheese on my salad, and I only buy lotion that rates 4 or lower in the Skin Deep database.  I know people have healthy babies all the time who pay no attention to any of that stuff (hell, I'm friends with some of them).  But I also know that this is a way for me to take charge of a situation that is mostly out of my hands.  So I do what I can.  Organic produce never hurt anybody, right?

6) I'm quiet about this pregnancy.

I do not volunteer the information that I am pregnant to acquaintances or strangers or sales people or students.  I'm still wearing loose fitting shirts and scarves to hide the bump when I'm teaching.  If friends ask how I'm feeling, sometimes I just say, "I miss Eliza."  Because sometimes THAT feeling is stronger than any other.  I don't mind discussing this pregnancy with people who have fully acknowledged and shared the grief of our loss, but I don't have a lot of patience with people who want to be happy for us but are unwilling to be sad with us.  If I talk about the future, I preface statements about this summer or next fall with, "If this baby lives..." or I follow up comments about a future baby with "hopefully."  It's important to me to be honest and cautious as I proceed with this pregnancy.

7) I distract myself.

I read four novels while we were in Mexico.  I now have three magazine subscriptions.  I troll home decorating blogs like I'm a scout for HGTV.  I scour Pinterest for little projects (you can follow me at  I plan our evenings at home by the week so we have little things to look forward to (Monday:  Blackthorn Pizza and Breaking Bad; Tuesday:  massage and Mexican food; Wednesday:  go to the movies; Thursday: coffee with a friend, etc.).

After we got home from Mexico, I still had weeks before my semester started.  In addition to prepping for class, I cleaned out my closet, I worked on sewing projects, I researched furniture sales, and I reorganized our file cabinet with the help of a freaking LABEL MAKER (which I bought specifically for that purpose).  All in the name of Distraction.  Because sometimes (read: often) I need to think about anything but babies/pregnancy.

8) I read nothing about pregnancy.

Last time, I read everything I could get my hands on.  Books, blogs, websites, magazines--if it was about pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, parenting, baby products, children's toys, I wanted to read it.  I thought the more information I had, the better prepared I'd be.  Well, nothing prepared me for what happened.  And while it's true that my brain can recall a whole lot of what I read while pregnant with Eliza, I just don't let myself think about it.  I don't go to pregnancy websites, I don't browse for baby clothes, I don't look at pregnancy calendars, I'm not going to take another childbirth class.  There is no way I could be more prepared than I was the first time around, so this time I refuse to do that stuff.  After all, I've done this before.

9) I've scaled back on reading about grief.

There was a time when I wanted to read Everything Ever Written On the Internet Or In A Book about stillbirth or grief or loss or death or sadness.  I wanted to hear every story.  I wanted to know that I wasn't alone.  It's still true that I wand and need to know that I'm not alone, but I no longer want to be immersed in that kind of story.  I'm just in a slightly different place right now.  I'm eternally grateful for the parents I've met who are struggling with the same grief that we deal with every day, but I think of ya'll as friends, not as grief-stories.  I no longer troll the internet for blogs about loss, and I rarely (or never) visit some of the websites that were lifelines to me in the early days.  It's not because I don't care about those stories, or because I don't want to connect with people who have experienced a similar sorrow, but because sometimes (lots of times) it's just healthier for me to spend that time baking banana bread or watching The Big Bang Theory or reading a book.  At first I felt guilty and strange about that, but I'm trying to accept that my grief is evolving and this is where I need to be now.

10) I listen to '90s rock.

I know this sounds stupid, but usually I listen to NPR in the car (nerd alert! nerd alert!) and sometimes it makes me feel too anxious.  Guess what?  The economy is still bad.  The environment is going to hell in handbasket.  The Republican primary is going on and Newt Gingrich scares me.  Nobody is confident that Barack Obama will get reelected.  And if you think THAT's bad, let me tell you about the lack of education for young girls in Afghanistan, or transient teenagers dying in a warehouse fire, or Heidi Klum and Seal's divorce (I'm starting to think that renewing your vows is just asking for trouble...).  Sometimes the world is just too much.

So instead I listen to the gen-x radio station.  Because when these songs were cool, I was not tired and frightened and grieving.  I was confident and young and unafraid of life.  And, amazingly, even now those songs can transfer me right back to cruising around town in my 1968 Plymouth Valiant, with the Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead and Alanis Morissette and Bush playing on my tape deck.  There are a lot of wonderful songs I love to listen to that make me think about Eliza, but Green Day doesn't sing any of them and sometimes I need to turn off the Eliza playlist and turn on Pearl Jam.  It's amazing how a soundtrack can alter your mood sometimes.


So that's how I manage the fear.  It's an imperfect system to be sure.  I just hope it's good enough to get me through the next 22-ish weeks.  Any other tips or suggestions you can offer me?  (Except I don't want to hear how much you love your Doppler, peeps.)  Anyone else use a label maker?  Anyone else sometimes feel guilty about or surprised by their way their grief evolves?  Anyone else looooove '90s music as much as I do?


  1. Can I comment on how much I hate the Doppler? Hate it.

    Have one from my first singleton pregnancy. Didn't ever try it last time since I heard that with twins it just doesn't work well.

    Yet for some reason (I'm going with the stillbirth of one of the aforementioned twins), I decided to try it this time despite being twins again. And I've now tried it a half-dozen times or so and maybe I've found someone twice, but not completely sure.

    I'm great at finding me. And I'm 13 weeks tomorrow and the manual and everyone and their dog says you can find it by 10 weeks.

    So I am NOT a fan. I should confess to my husband and get it taken away from me really...

  2. I'm amazed that anyone likes their doppler. We borrowed one (single baby), and never got it to work once. This stressed us out until our next ultrasound, then we gave up on it.

  3. I am not doing the reading thing this time either. I know what happens around this time of pregnancy, I don't need to read about it. I am also not shopping. My husband says we can start a savings account but no items are allowed in the house until this baby comes out kicking and screaming. I guess this is just the best way to cope. We kind of ignore, hope and in some ways prepare for the worst.

    Wish it was all different and we could just enjoy this time.

  4. Can't comment on subsequent pregnancy :p but I say do whatever works!

    I am now following you on Pinterest. : ) I only recently signed on and yes, it's the timewaster I knew it would be. But soooooo much fun...!!

    Dh & I listen almost exclusively to a classic rock radio station(primarily 1960s through 1980s music). I guess we all turn to the music of our youth like comfort food. I do love me some Green Day now & then, though. : ) (Although I consider them a derivative of the punk rock of my youth.)

  5. I felt guilty and weird when I started to scale back on my internet/blog searches for stillbirth/baby loss. I was in an online support group and that changed from reading/commenting about stillbirth to reading/commenting about pregnancy after loss to not much of either to nothing. But I'm ok with that. I guess I'm just realizing that I'm becoming one of those people that I never thought was possible - a survivor.

    There came a point in my pregnancy with Finn, near the end, where my distraction from the fear of loss was the hope and excitement of the future. So I got ready for him just as I had Cale. I unpacked, decorated, folded clothes, got things monogrammed and focused on what I wanted so badly and was terrified not to have. Everyone is different and I understand not wanting or being able to do that, but for me, it helped.

    And last but not least, about 4 years ago my mother-in-law got me a label maker for a Christmas present. BEST. GIFT. EVER.

    Happy labeling. Happy distracting.

  6. YES! to all of it but especially this:

    "I don't mind discussing this pregnancy with people who have fully acknowledged and shared the grief of our loss, but I don't have a lot of patience with people who want to be happy for us but are unwilling to be sad with us."

    I'm 13 weeks and have only shared with my parents and 2 close friends who have really been there for my grief.

    I'm also doing less reading about grief and about pregnancy, but haven't found a good distraction that can waste a bunch of time online. You have given me some good ideas!

  7. I got a label-maker, too! Love it.

  8. Despite thinking I would need it, I've managed to get to 24w3 days without a Doppler. Those first months until I felt the baby move were scary, but now that I feel movement I don't feel like I "need" it, does that make sense?

    I read anything and everything, still. I buy (way too many) things.

    Whatever works, you know?

  9. I tried to just take it a day at a time. I lost my first two very early and have had two healthy babies since. I also had severe morning sickness, for which I was grateful because I knew as long as I was feeling terrible, the babies were okay. Luckily (unluckily?) I was sick for pretty much the whole nine months. I also prayed a lot, though I am not very religious, but it made me feel better, like if I just prayed, maybe it would help; it certainly couldn't hurt.

    Keeping you all in my thoughts!

  10. I am also obsessed with the Skin Deep database. I am currently in love with California Baby-- we use everything on the whole family, and the calming lotion is awesome. They recently went corporate and added some shit to their products that wasn't there before, but everything is still a 2 or less on the database. Also, Tarte has some freaking phenomenal face products (primer, moisturizer, tinted moisturizer) that rates 4 and under. Have you found any good hair products? I am back to Kerastatse which will probably kill me because all the hippie stuff is terrible.

  11. Still thanking you for the lotion recommendation! LOL! xo

  12. The "Summer Hits of the 90s" station on Pandora is also worth a look! We've been listening to Gen-X sometimes since we moved back, though it does get somewhat repetitive...

  13. So funny you bring up the 90's rock. I was listening to Lithium on XM the other day and there were like 5 songs in a row from my high school years, all I could think about was how much simpler life was back then. It made me breath a little easier that afternoon.

  14. Yeah, Brooke, the doppler...

    Like Brandy said, it's a love/hate relationship. I fully acknowledge that if it ever alerts me to something, it will likely be too late. It gives me small moments of comfort, but usually 20 minutes later I'm just as worried as I was before.

    Good for you for avoiding the Doppler. I broke down and got one. However we can push through, right?

  15. "I don't have a lot of patience with people who want to be happy for us but are unwilling to be sad with us" struck a chord in me as well. It's interesting how you can have an emotion but not know the cause or how it originated until you read someone else's words. I'm like; oh, that's what that annoyed impatient feeling is.
    Looks like you have awesome ideas on how to get through this as healthy as possible. I appreciate you shared them.

  16. #10 rocks my world. ;)

    And the label maker sounds like something I would totally enjoy wasting hours away using.

  17. Coming out of lurkdom to comment. I took up knitting during my first post-baby-loss pregnancy. That's what kept me mostly sane during those months of anxiety.

  18. Yes, to so many of these (though you know I lurved my doppler)...

    Erik is crazy for our label maker. I think it got him through my pregnancy.

  19. I find I'm not wanting to read as many stories about loss as well. Not that I don't care or can't relate, but I just don't have that need like I used to.

    I bought a book called the rough guide to pregnancy. It's basically a pregnancy book that's funny with some useful info without all the boring medical parts. It doesn't take itself too seriously which I like. I get a good laugh at it and learn a few things too.

  20. What a great, exhausting list! I keep telling Kari that I can't imagine what she must be feeling, with a baby that kicks and moves inside of her every moment of the day. I have the fear, a deep resounding fear, but it has to be different. Even so, I've got my things.

    I actually enjoy hearing about births now, and reading about them, which might sound crazy, but they remind me that most babies actually live. So I read about these birth stories on FB or wherever and I think, see, it usually turns out well.

    Unfortunately, Pearl Jam IS on my Margot mix. And Eddie Vedder. :)

    BUT, Bush and Smashing Pumpkins and Alanis and Live are not. So I listen to these guys too, praying for respite.

    And there is RADIOLAB, the best podcast ever, to distract me from pending heartache or liberation.

    Thanks for sharing, and for blogging. Reading every post, hoping a mountain of hope your baby makes it.


  21. I have a doppler, but I am not doppler crazed. It is there when I NEED it, but mostly I rely on kicks and movement. I didn't even use it until 18+ weeks since our doctor was having trouble with his doppler I wasn't going to try ours until I knew I could find it! It's certainly not the cure all!

    My favorite thing you said was "I don't have a lot of patience with people who want to be happy for us but are unwilling to be sad with us" I echo that a million times over!

    I have noticed I am listening to old school music (which include a lot of 90's music) I never made the connection that it might because times were happy in my life when I heard those songs, but it sure makes sense.

  22. omg i am so happy for you, im so so so sorry i didnt see this sooner!
    wishing all the best for your little one and YOU.

  23. Girl, so many of these things were on my survival list too. Except for the yoga. I learned early in life that my body just doesn't do that...that...bendy stuff with any kind of grace.
    Pregnancy is a race of endurance, that is for sure. Anything that can help your mind not go to the crazy place all the time is worth its weight in gold. opinion on the doppler thing is quite different than yours. They can save babies. If we had one with George and were able to catch his rapid heartbeat just a few days earlier he would have lived. A $60 investment would have saved our son. It still boggles my mind.

    Hugs to you friend. You are doing great.

  24. Just realized that I commented twice. Goes to show you how much I liked reading your list. LOL