The day after I found out I was pregnant again, I didn’t go the bathroom for a full 24 hours. Despite the fact that I now had the official bladder of a pregnant woman, even the thought of going into the bathroom filled me with rising panic.
Because last time, it happened in the bathroom.
It had been an ordinary morning, when I was most likely thinking about what to eat next or whether I could stomach a cup of coffee. Without a care in the world, I sat down on the toilet … and saw blood. I remember my stomach dropping and the rush of fear that roared into my body, because in that moment, I knew.
I knew it was the beginning of the end, even though I couldn’t possibly yet know just how grisly the details would be. Nor could I realize just how hard it would be to hold onto the slightest shred of hope until the bitter end.
I couldn’t have known how my miscarriage would break me and shake the very core of my confidence. I couldn’t have known how the loss would continue to haunt me, long after it was over.
There have been times when I wondered what it would be like to try again, but every time I thought about it, an iron drawbridge went up over my heart as a swift wall of protection. Nope, not going to happen, it seemed to say. She knows too much now. She knows exactly how much it could hurt.
But somehow, somebody slipped by that iron bridge and now? I honestly don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to keep going, day after day, waiting for something that feels inevitable.
Every single night I dream about the blood with dreams so vivid, I wake up in a cold sweat. My dreams are so full of details — details that include calling my midwife or texting my husband in tears. They’re enough to convince me that I’ve lost my baby all over again.
I hold my breath tiptoeing to the bathroom in the morning, afraid to look. I scrutinize my symptoms, squinting to assess my body: Do my boobs look bigger? Is that a dark line on my stomach I see already? Do I feel nauseous or is it all in my head?
It is so early in my pregnancy, but I can’t see how I will possibly make it the whole way through. There will be no sigh of relief if I make it through the first trimester. There will be no relaxing as I coast through that renewed energy of the second. There will be no groaning jokes about making it to delivery, as none of us are offered that guarantee.
I know too much now.
I know how it can all be taken away at 7 weeks, 14 weeks, 37 weeks, delivery, or after. I know that there are no guarantees; no “safe” time to sit back and relax.
I marvel now at the sheer bliss of ignorance. It was so easy to sail through my other pregnancies before my miscarriage. How could I have been so confident that I would get to keep those babies? How did I have the arrogance to assume all would be well and that I would hold a healthy, squalling newborn in my arms? How could I have been so boldly stupid and still so lucky?
It seems impossible to me now. And I feel grateful for the gift of motherhood when I was too young to know any better … because now, I don’t know how to feel.
I hear other people talk about “rainbow babies” like they are a healing balm to the soul, a miracle of light and hope and happiness, and I wonder what is wrong with me when all I feel is fear. I want to give into the river of excitement that is flowing somewhere inside of me, but the barrier of apprehensive ice crusted on top is too thick to break through.
The truth is, I don’t know how to live in limbo. I don’t know how to get through the day pretending that I am not screaming on the inside.
I don’t know how to navigate life when I can’t even go to the bathroom without panic and fear.
I don’t know how to plan for anything or talk about the future.
I don’t know how to look at babies in the grocery store, see pregnant women without my stomach clenching, or walk past the diaper aisle without tears burning.
Our old crib sits in my daughter’s room where we had been waiting to turn it into a new bed for her. The mere sight of it as an abandoned hope that may never be realized brings me so much pain.
I hate talking to my husband and seeing the veiled excitement in his eyes. I hate planning doctor’s appointments and the pregnancy app on my phone that reminds me what should be happening with my baby’s development, when I’m convinced none of it is actually happening.
I hate feeling like I am basically waiting for the loss of my baby, because if it happens, I’ll feel like I willed it.
But more than all of that, I hate that even with all of my fear, there is still that little sliver of unshakeable hope that is hanging on for dear life — my tiny rainbow, just waiting to be recognized.