‘His eyes wouldn’t leave the screen. ‘I’m so sorry.’ I barely heard him. My body betrayed me.’: Woman discusses pregnancy fears after loss, ‘This baby is not a replacement’

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“July 22, 2019, was one of the happiest days of my life. I was flying home that morning after celebrating a friend’s weddings in Vermont, and I was 2 days late. As someone with very regular menstrual cycles, I had a sneaky suspicion I might be pregnant. My husband Ethan and I were not actively trying to conceive at the time, but in an ‘if it happens it happens’ phase.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

When I got to my apartment, I went straight to the bathroom and took a test. Low and behold, two pink lines appeared. I came out of the bathroom and into the kitchen where Ethan was making his breakfast and just started crying as I shoved the test in his face. He hugged me and we stood there, with the happiest tears streaming down my face.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

A few weeks later, we went to our very first ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. The second that image popped up on the screen and I saw the little flutter of a heartbeat, my own heart swelled. It was real. We were going to have a baby!

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

My pregnancy progressed the way it was supposed to. I had morning sickness, I was exhausted, my boobs were swollen and larger. I cried over the silliest things and the smell of meat completely turned my stomach. When I was 11 weeks along, we flew back to Vermont for another friend’s wedding and surprised our family in person with our news. Everyone cheered and cried — our parents were over the moon to learn they were going to be grandparents for the very first time.

On September 12th, we were scheduled to have our 12-week sonogram and genetic testing done. We were so excited to see how our little one had grown since last time and hopeful everything would check out just fine. But when the screen turned on, my stomach dropped. The ultrasound was almost blank. There was no baby like shape, no heartbeat flutter, and the technician was silent and wouldn’t look at us. I looked over at Ethan and his eyes wouldn’t leave the screen. He knew too — something was wrong.

It felt like an eternity before the doctor came in. The second I saw his face, tears sprung to my eyes. ‘I’m so sorry, guys,’ he said. I swear my own heart stopped beating.

I barely heard him as he explained this happens a lot without knowing why — usually a chromosomal abnormality, there was nothing I did wrong and nothing we could’ve done differently, etc. But all I could think about was that my baby, the same baby who I saw wiggling up on that very screen 4 weeks prior, was dead.

The weeks and months that followed, I was completely consumed with grief. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I’d like to admit. The life I had been imagining and dreaming about had been completely stripped away from me. My heart ached every time I saw a pregnancy announcement. I couldn’t bear to walk past the baby section at Target. I felt empty. It felt like my body had betrayed me in the worst way possible. I didn’t know how I was supposed to go back to living my life.

As the new year began, so did my journey of working on healing my body and my mind. Rather than my rigorous workout routines to punish my body, I switched to yoga and meditation. I gave up alcohol as I found it was sliding me further and further into a depressive state. I went to therapy to help me navigate the overwhelming grief and PTSD I was feeling. As painful as it was, I was taking the steps to move forward.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

Then on January 24th, I noticed my period hadn’t come yet. With shaking hands, I went into the bathroom and took a test. I paced back and forth as I waited for those dreaded 3 minutes. And then I looked. The word ‘PREGNANT’ showed across the screen.

I just stood there and stared at it. I questioned whether or not it was real. I felt a fleeting moment of complete gratitude I was able to conceive just 4 months after my miscarriage. And then I immediately felt fear.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

I came out of the bathroom and eerily similar to the first time, Ethan was in the kitchen making breakfast. But this time there weren’t tears of joy. We were both happy, of course, but as we stood there hugging he spoke aloud the words that were swarming in my brain… ‘I hope it doesn’t happen again.’

The days leading up to our first appointment were challenging. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and would randomly burst out crying because I was so terrified of getting bad news. Ethan did his best to stay positive and remind me this was a different pregnancy, a different baby, and everything would be okay. When I sat down in that exam room for the first ultrasound, my heart was beating out of my chest. ‘Please let there be a heartbeat. Please let there be a heartbeat,’ I thought to myself over and over again. And sure enough, there on the screen was our little baby with a strong heartbeat. Tears immediately filled my eyes, relief coursed through my veins but in my heart, I knew we weren’t out of the woods yet. We got a good report the last time too. This was only the beginning.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

The rest of my first trimester, I was an anxious mess. Every morning, I woke up and went to the bathroom and checked for blood. I would run through my list of symptoms to make sure they were all still there. In my mind, the stronger the symptoms were, the safer my pregnancy was. Then around 10 weeks, I woke up with no nausea. No breast tenderness. *Que immediate panic.* I called my doctor and asked if I could come in to get an ultrasound. I needed to make sure the baby was still alive.

When I got to the office, the nurse took me back and told me the doctor was running late and would be with me shortly. Sitting there by myself on the exam table my mind started to spiral. I had 0% confidence I was going to walk out of that exam room with good news. When the doctor arrived, she was incredibly kind and positive. I held my breath, preparing for the worst. But then that little wiggling body appeared on the ultrasound screen. I saw the flicker, followed by that sweet sound of the little baby’s heart. I immediately started sobbing, that full-on, body-shaking-choking-because-you-can’t-breathe, sobs. The doctor just hugged me. Over and over and she reassured me everything looked great and the baby was growing right on track. I was okay. The baby was okay.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

I wish I could say from that point forward I felt reassured and able to enjoy this pregnancy. But as with every appointment, the reassurance only lasted a few days. Then the fears would creep back in. ‘Is his heart beating? Is he growing? When should I be worried if I don’t feel kicks? Was that one or was it gas? That girl I follow on Instagram felt them at 18 weeks but I haven’t yet, so something must be wrong.’ Endless google searching at 11 p.m… stumbling across horror stories of second-trimester miscarriages… This is my reality.

There have been so many times I have envied women who haven’t experienced loss. I wonder how different their pregnancy experiences must be from mine. The excitement and joy they feel thinking of names and nursery themes, and building their baby registries. If only I could walk in their shoes for a day. If only I didn’t know what I know. But that isn’t my story.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey
Courtesy of Megan Clokey

Pregnancy after loss is hard.

As I sit here writing this, I am only a few days away from the start of my third trimester. I feel my baby rolling around. He just gave me a little jab to the rib cage. I live for these movements. Two weeks ago, we started to buy furniture for the nursery. I waited as long as possible because I couldn’t bear setting up his room and then having something happen. I even find myself closing the door every now and then so I don’t have to look into it every time I walk by. So I don’t get attached… just in case.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

I think it’s a big misconception that women who are pregnant after a miscarriage don’t struggle. People seem to think, ‘Well you got pregnant again! You got your baby! You should be grateful!’

No one is saying we aren’t grateful. I thank God every single second of every single day I have been blessed with the privilege of carrying this baby and I was chosen to be his momma. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

I also think it’s important to point out rainbow babies aren’t replacement babies for the ones we lost. It is another baby, another soul. It can’t ever fill that hole in your heart following a loss but instead, it creates a whole lot more love. More hope. It shines a light into a very dark place.

Courtesy of Megan Clokey

So as we move forward, we take things one day, one week, one ultrasound, and one milestone at a time. ⁣

While I can’t be certain of what’s going to happen throughout the rest of this pregnancy, I do know that today, I have carried and loved this baby for almost 28 weeks. And for that, I am so incredibly blessed and grateful.”

Courtesy of Megan Clokey
Courtesy of Megan Clokey

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Megan Clokey from Raleigh, NC. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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