For the most part, I was filled with joy and hope during my rainbow pregnancy. It was an inner calm that I find difficult to describe. I even thought to myself, "Where's the crippling fear???" During the first half of my pregnancy, that fear was kept at bay. Maybe because I knew it would do no good, that I had no control if I lost the baby that early, that doctors could do nothing to save a baby that early.
I first felt my anxiety truly spike at 24 weeks, maybe due to that being "viability" in the medical community. There was a CHANCE that if the baby was born it would survive (albeit a very small one). The fact that I knew so many women who had lost babies due to complications of prematurity helped me to stay somewhat calm about staying pregnant.
When you've had a stillbirth, no matter "why" it happened (which in my case I will never know), you no longer trust that the safest place for your baby is in the womb. (I'd even venture to say you no longer trust that the safest place for ANYONE's baby is in their womb, as evidenced by the anxiety many loss women feel simply seeing another woman pregnant!)
I started monitoring movement and tried doing kick counts, even though I wasn't advised to do so for four more weeks. Typically, I would feel pretty regular movements. Thankfully, I always felt a kick or movement while on my way to my OBGYN appointments. Loss moms know why this is so important. You see, many of us had to hear those horrible words, "I'm so sorry" while at a routine OBGYN visit. This makes visits to the OBGYN during a subsequent pregnancy especially stressful, as they serve as triggers for our traumatic experience. I found that my anxiety was significantly calmed as soon as I felt the baby kick, typically while driving to the appointment or even in the waiting room. I mean really, what would be the chances of a baby dying in between sitting in the lobby and then going in for an ultrasound? (I have yet to hear such a story even with all the contacts I have in the community.) So not much to worry about there. I always thanked this baby for being active right before an ultrasound was to be performed. It made the whole doctor office visit experience so much easier for me.
Well, one day I was driving to an appointment, and I was maybe 25 or 26 weeks along. I did not feel any movement on the way there. I took a deep breath and poked my belly. Nothing. Okay, NOT MESSING AROUND HERE I said, and pulled into a drive thru to order a milkshake. Surely that would wake baby up, right?
I remember choking down this chocolate milkshake, which under normal circumstances would have been absolutely delicious. But not this time. Worrying that your baby might be dead kind of kills your appetite. I waited and waited. Nothing. The tears started falling and I chugged more milkshake, which to me tasted revolting, all I wanted was my baby to be okay.
Sitting in the waiting room, still nothing.
Waiting in the examination room, still nothing.
My OBGYN took longer than usual to come in, which made things ten times worse.
My husband hugged me and told me things were going to be fine. That worrying and crying wouldn't help anything even if something was wrong, but that nothing was wrong anyway.
I said, "How do you know?"
My OBGYN came in and once he heard my concerns gave me a hug and let me cry. I just looked at my husband and we later talked about that moment and how we both were thinking, "STOP HUGGING ALREADY AND JUST DO THE STINKIN' ULTRASOUND!"
I couldn't even look at the screen. I was so afraid of what I would see. I squeezed my husband's hand as my doctor said, "Okay, baby looks great. There's the heartbeat." I let out a huge breath and started sobbing. He stopped the ultrasound so that I could get myself together. After, he continued to examine the baby, and everything was perfect.
Lesson learned: really, kick counts don't work well before 28 weeks. This is why they don't prescribe them until 28 weeks, people.
Easier said than done though when you feel an insane amount of pressure to make sure you are doing everything in your power to bring your baby into the world kicking and screaming this time.
So relieved baby was okay.
I don't think I will ever truly enjoy a chocolate milkshake ever again.