Pregnancy with my youngest didn't come easily. For years (after the birth of my oldest), my husband and I tried to conceive with no success. I suffered two miscarriages and a lot of guilt and grief along the way. By the time my body managed to cooperate, the doctors had already written off my baby-to-be. Some of the things I felt when my pregnancy was labeled as a threatened abortion, I still carry with me today. It doesn't matter that my son is now 5 and healthy as can be. I can still think back to that period of time and feel such an intense fear, remembering how I would have done anything for my son to make it through pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Anything.
For those who don't know or have never experienced it for themselves, a threatened abortion refers to vaginal bleeding during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, which can indicate a potential miscarriage. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women will experience vaginal bleeding in the first 20 weeks of their pregnancies. Approximately 50 percent of those women will go on to deliver healthy babies.
My first miscarriage took my partner and I by surprise, as we hadn't been trying all that long and didn't expect I'd end up pregnant when I did. The day I found out, I was elated and my husband and I celebrated. We were so grateful, I must've missed the signs that something was wrong. I remember light cramping — something I also had during my successful pregnancy with my daughter — but thought nothing of it. Pregnancy is mysterious with its symptoms, so it felt easier to write everything off as "normal."
I found out later that week I'd lost the baby. Confused and devastated, it took some time after the removal procedure to come to terms with what had happened. It didn't feel real and I felt betrayed by my own body. How could I carry life once before, only to "fail" to do it again? I tried to hold onto the hope that someday, I'd have my rainbow baby in my arms, but I was overwhelmed by the fact that pregnancy just wasn't happening.
Over a year later, I miscarried again. With the same kind of unexpected shock and confusion, my dreams of having another baby were quickly disappearing. I felt as though it wasn't going to happen, or worse, something might happen to me in the process of these losses. It was then we decided to stop "trying," and to focus on our daughter. A few weeks of "not trying" later, I miraculously became pregnant. While I didn't invest in that pregnancy at the start (due to my fear of loss), I held onto cautious hope that this would be the one to make it.
At the first doctor's appointment, before the sonogram where I'd hear my son's heart beat for the first time, the doctors labeled the pregnancy a threatened abortion. Here are some things I felt when I heard those words:
Initially, when the doctor pulled me into her office and sat me down, I feared the worst: that I'd already lost this baby, too. While she told me my son was alive, she also told me she didn't think he would make it. I remember clinging to the words "he's alive," because it's all I needed to feel any sort of hope at that point.
The more she explained, though, the less hopeful I felt. It was almost as if she didn't want me to believe this baby could survive. I left that appointment more confused than ever. Was I supposed to celebrate again, or wait for what was described as an inevitable loss?
Once the initial shock settled in, I felt more afraid than I had with previous pregnancies. With the two miscarriages before, I wasn't prepared for losing them. This time, however, I was waiting for the worst to happen. It's a hard way to live, waiting around for something horrible to happen, afraid to move or even breathe. I didn't know how to get through the pregnancy, or if my son would make it, but the continual fear was what kept me level-headed during times I'd normally naively celebrate.
Upon returning home from the first couple doctor visits, I refused to let anything happen to my baby. Somehow, someway, I'd figure out how to prevent the loss by trying nearly every suggestion I stumbled upon. From what I wore to how I moved, there was nothing I didn't try if it meant keeping my baby alive.
I know now I couldn't have prevented the two losses before, but I took comfort in these ritualistic behaviors, no matter how little they helped. It was my way of rewriting the past while, hopefully, preserving the future I still had embossed in my mind.
Once I made it past the first few milestones (8 weeks, 10 weeks, and 12 weeks), I began to feel triumphant and defiant. While I still listened to doctor's orders (which would eventually lead to bed rest), I also remembered how that first visit, and that doctor's words, made me feel as if I'd done something wrong and how my baby wouldn't live because of it. Even with a long ways to go until delivery, I had a feeling my son felt the fight of resistance, too. I was right, because he's here now.
Even through those early weeks and months, just knowing there was a strong heartbeat was enough to fill my empty hopewell. Then, as time progressed and my boy defied the odds and surpassed the doctors' expectations, it was almost as if I'd been reborn. When I held my son in my arms for the first time, that's exactly what happened.
There's a lot of feelings I went through on the day I found out my pregnancy was high risk and labeled as a threatened abortion, but the one I hold onto the most was the acceptance that, regardless of what happened thereafter, I heard my baby's heartbeat. It was strong, it was resilient, and it was everything I needed to believe I could have a baby again.