‘This one won’t last.’ I was scared to get pregnant again. Anxiety can fool you, make you believe a lie.’: Mom opens up about anxiety after loss, ‘There’s no rulebook’

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“Nothing could have prepared us for the 4 and a half years we were about to face or the anxiety that would haunt us after. When my husband and I started trying for our second baby at the age of 25, we really had no concerns. We had our first baby with ease, by accident to be completely transparent. So when we started trying for a baby again our thoughts were, ‘Are we sure this is the right timing for us?’ It was never, ‘How long do you think this will take us?’ and it definitely was never worrying over potential heartache and losses.

For the first few months, we weren’t trying that hard. It was just a natural process, and we kind of figured we would just let it happen when it happened. I was pregnant by the fourth month and we were like, ‘Okay, that happened pretty quickly!’ It was kind of surreal to be growing our family and we were so excited to give our then 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter a sibling to grow up with. This excitement was short-lived. Just 2 weeks after finding out we’d be having another baby, it all came crashing down. I started period-like bleeding and knew that couldn’t be good. I didn’t know what to do but rush to the ER to see if my baby would be okay. The news was ‘threatened miscarriage.’ Sobbing, sad, and angry, I would soon go home to lose the pregnancy.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

We followed up with our obstetrician shortly after and was told this was normal and common. One in five women will miscarry in their lives. It didn’t make the pain or the reality of the loss any less. No matter how early the pregnancy, you mourn the life that was and would have been. I remember sobbing in the shower as I realized the gravity of what just had happened to me, to my baby. I was anxious and scared to get pregnant again because I thought the magnitude of my pain was too much to bear again, but we were longing to grow our family. My doctor told me it would be fine to get pregnant again right away and that very next month, I was in fact pregnant again.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

I had thoughts like, ‘This one is different. Lightning won’t strike twice. What are the odds?’ This next pregnancy felt much different, even though it was only one short month after losing our last one. I felt confident there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me, that it was common. I went ahead prepping for this next baby, looking at maternity clothes for the future months, and fantasizing about nurseries and newborn clothes. After the first 2 weeks went by and I surpassed the time when I lost my last pregnancy, I breathed a sigh of relief. This has to be okay. A few days later, I started heavily cramping and spotting. I had unreasonable hope and thought this might still be okay, but it wasn’t.

This time it was an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy that implants outside a woman’s uterus. The baby had implanted in my fallopian tube and was not living any longer. I would need to take a strong double dose of medication that would save me from the tube rupturing. The next day, it was too late. Heavy bleeding began and I was feeling faint as I laid there, contemplating what to do. My husband ended up rushing me to the ER. It all happened so fast. I was in utter shock and denial. They quickly scanned me and then immediately started prepping me for surgery. They said I had been bleeding into my abdomen and could die if they don’t go in and remove the ‘mass,’ which was the baby.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

As I laid there, frightened and crying uncontrollably, I was wheeled off to surgery and woke up a bit later to find out I had lost my entire fallopian tube. As I arrived home from this ordeal, I noticed my husband had accidentally mowed down the sunflowers sprouting on our lawn. At that moment, I sobbed as I reflected on my inability to grow or nurture anything. I was angry at myself, my body, my mind. I felt like I somehow brought this on or even I had done something wrong. I shouldn’t have drunk that cup of coffee or maybe it was that negative thought I had one day that brought this on.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

As we moved forward from these experiences and decided with extreme strength to continue trying for a baby, we would go on to have three more early losses. 1 and half years later, I found out I had PCOS, a common but very under-diagnosed hormonal disorder. PCOS can cause a higher rate of miscarriages and problems with conceiving. I wondered in disbelief why this didn’t impact my pregnancy with my firstborn and why it was changing things for me now.

Doctors didn’t have many answers but said I should just keep trying to move on to fertility treatments, so I did. After months of fertility treatments (like IUI and using a drug called letrozole and progesterone), nothing was working. We were fed up, mentally and financially. The anxiety of it all had really taken its toll and we were ready to either go all-in with IVF or call it quits.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

It was an emotional time trying to decide what we would do next. IVF runs at a steep price of over $20,000 and is very emotionally taxing. We knew we couldn’t just jump into anything without being totally ready, so we put it off a bit longer as we tried naturally and hoped for a miracle. After about a year of trying naturally, we were realizing nothing was happening. We needed to either be happy with our family of three or move on to IVF. We were set up to travel to a clinic in Seattle, Washington to start IVF right after we got the payment in. Then COVID hit and all flights and clinics shut down. We felt as though we were robbed. I was in utter shock we would have to put this off after we had made such a huge decision. I finally accepted this was reality after a month or so and started frantically searching for natural treatments for PCOS in order to conceive.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

I came across a girl who had a very similar story to mine. She used some natural supplements that balanced her hormones. The outcome of taking these was her brand-new baby boy. I was completely amazed by this discovery and immediately went and ordered everything she said she took and started religiously taking it all. 2 months later, I was pregnant. I still can’t believe I am typing those words out. I am sitting here 5 months pregnant with our rainbow baby girl. Yet, as amazing as that feels to say, it doesn’t come without complete and utter fear of loss. Fear of what could go wrong because so much did before, and you tell yourself it could again. The anxiety of the past comes and haunts you in your present and it feels completely real.

When I first got pregnant with this current pregnancy, the first month was brutal. I spent an insane amount of money purchasing pregnancy tests to watch to see if the test line would darken each and every day, sometimes twice a day. I was a testing addict. Test after test, line after line, nothing was good enough, even as the test line darkened each day. The anxiety of my past was haunting me in an unimaginable way. I was traumatized by my losses in such a way I could not fathom this was actually working out.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

The thing with pregnancy anxiety is it can and will hit you at the most unexpected times. Sometimes with no background of problems and sometimes with a past of pain. As I finally got pregnant this time, I immediately questioned everything. As we went into the first weeks of this pregnancy, I was monitored in case I had another ectopic pregnancy. ‘It was a 20% chance it would be ectopic again,’ a nurse told me in a matter-of-factly tone. Just hearing that threw me into a whirlwind of anxiousness. I assumed it had to be ectopic again just hearing that, even though the 80% chance of not being ectopic was obviously much higher.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja
Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

I didn’t believe it would go well for me. I didn’t believe good things could happen for us again pregnancy wise. I believed fully history would repeat itself. Anxiety can fool you into these things. Anxiety can make you believe a lie with ease, over and over again. ‘This one won’t last.’ ‘This one is no different than the others.’ ‘There is something wrong with you, you can’t possibly do this.’ But then things do go differently and anxiety fades but then re-introduces itself as nightmares, insomnia, and constant worry as you get further along.

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

As my pregnancy progresses, I am faced with the experience of life after loss. I am faced with the experience of trying to make sense of emotions of the intense fear of the unknown and worry about what may happen. After going through the motions, feeling almost detached from this pregnancy, I have decided it’s either embracing the anxiety and that total fear of the unknown and choosing joy anyways or embracing it and letting it hurt me, hurt my bond with my baby. After so many losses, so many years of trying for this baby, I have decided to let myself be afraid but also be joyful. To let myself feel all the feelings but also allow the feelings of excitement to exist. You are allowed to be anxious and pregnant, but also be joyful and pregnant. There is no rule book for anxiety. There is no rule book to life. Today, I am choosing joy but tomorrow, I may be anxious, and that is okay.”

Courtesy of Jennifer Skilja

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Skilja from Anchorage, Alaska. You can follow their 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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