How Loss Has Affected My Parenting
Loss is a difficult thing to overcome. Wether it be a miscarriage, stillbirth, or any other kind of loss. It changes a person, understandably. Everyone is different in how they handle it. I, myself, have experienced two miscarriages. This happened with my first marriage and I didn’t handle it well. I think sometimes people downplay the pain of a miscarriage. Because the baby has not been born yet, it makes it less sad. I did not feel this way when it was happening. Now that I have experienced 40+ weeks of pregnancy, I couldn’t even imagine going through all of that just to experience loss. To go home without a baby, to see an empty nursery. Those things passed through my head while I was laying in the hospital. Every time his heart rate dropped, I pictured losing him. I remember in the middle of the night, the nurse came in and I looked at her and with tears in my eyes I said, “I just love him so much”. It still makes me want to cry. She assured me that he would be okay and he was, so I feel very blessed. But ever since I saw that little blue line, and to this day, I still feel the affects of my miscarriages.
Okay so I got divorced, and just started dating this awesome guy. Who, at the time, told me that he wasn’t going to be in a real relationship until he was 50 and he never ever wanted children. I never really took him very seriously. He was so good with his little cousins and, despite wanting to “not be in a relationship” it was him that called me every night and it was him that wanted to see me everyday. I so I just went along with it, and paid a visit to my doctor for some birth control pills. A few weeks later I knew I was pregnant, I didn’t need any test. I had a feeling. I had been pregnant twice before. I remember sitting in my bathtub crying, wondering if this was some kind of joke. I ignored it. I didn’t have any bad habits that would have been dangerous to the baby, and I avoided alcohol easily since we don’t usually drink that much anyway. I didn’t talk to my husband about it. I was in denial. In my mind, I was just going to miscarry anyway so what did it matter? A few weeks later, my husband must have noticed some changes because he came home from work (he worked nights) with a box of pregnancy tests. Sure enough there was a very dark blue line and we were… excited. We hugged for a long time and he looked at me and said “you’re a mom now, and I’m a dad”. Once I accepted it, and had my husband to support me, I was much happier.
But I was still worried. Not only had I been through loss before, but I’m a worrier, and a nurse. I know what can go wrong and I focus on it. I worry even if there isn’t anything to worry about. In my previous pregnancies, I miscarried around 9 weeks. My first pregnancy I didn’t know until I should have been 11 weeks and I started bleeding. My second pregnancy I knew at 8 weeks that it was a matter of time, the heart rate was only 80 and at the one week recheck, the heartbeat had stopped. 9 weeks came along this time and I was at work. I worked 8a-4p that day and my husband was coming in for a double shift 3p-7a. It was a swap so he couldn’t leave. It was around 2:30p when I went to the bathroom and had some spotting. I was walking to the break room when I saw him come in, I told him I had to talk to him but I was leaving soon and asked him to call me on his first break. He didn’t get a break until about 6:30p and I told him what had happened. It had only been that one time and I knew, clinically, that spotting can be nothing to worry about. But still, given my history, I was scared. I finally accepted my pregnancy and was so excited for our adventure. He begged me to go to the ER. I didn’t want to but I did. They did a bunch of tests that I have been through before, and the ultrasound showed a perfectly healthy baby with a strong heartbeat of 171.
14 weeks came around and I still didn’t want to tell anyone. My husband was getting impatient. He looked at me and said “It doesn’t seem like your happy about this, it just seems like your worried” I was worried, and I knew what it was like to announce a pregnancy, just to have it result in a loss. I was happy too- and I wanted him to know that, so I opened up Facebook and posted the picture I took of our dog with a sign saying “Baby (last name) guard dog starting July 2015”.
I worked as a correctional nurse, we try to do as much as possible in house (your welcome, taxpayers) so we had a doppler. On my breaks, I went in the med room and stalked my baby. When he started kicking, he would kick the probe as if to say “enough, mom“. I didn’t care. It made me feel better… most of the time. A couple times I couldn’t find him and had to get my coworker/friend to help. As he grew bigger, his heart rate went from 171 to 140s-150s depending on activity. But now that the risk of miscarriage was lower, I worried about literally everything else. What if he has no limbs? What if his intestines are on the outside of his body? What if he stops growing? What if my placenta ruptures? I could go on but I’d be here all day. My coworker set me up with a off-the-record ultrasound with one of her friends. I got my first pictures of him and at 17 weeks found out he was a BOY! At my 20 weeks ultrasound my husband and I pretended to be surprised when we found out about our baby being a boy, and we also learned he was doing great.
I didn’t care, ultrasounds are wrong all the time, doctors are wrong all the time. Just thinking back, I don’t know how my husband put up with me. I made my coworker measure my belly to make sure he was growing, I continued checking the doppler even though I could feel him moving, I kept fetal movement counts and made charts. I was also, for the first time ever, getting nervous around the inmates. I didn’t want them to kick or punch me and hurt my baby.
Note: I opted out of quad screening. I was not over 35 and the risk of false positives made me apprehensive. The test doesn’t tell you if your baby for sure has something wrong or not, only if there is a risk- which there always is. I didn’t want to be even more worried for no reason. I also didn’t care if he had down syndrome or anything like that, it would not change anything.
My son always measured big in my belly. If I was 25 weeks, I measured 28cm. If I was 30 weeks I measured 34cm. So I had quite a few ultrasounds towards the end to check his growth, make sure he wasn’t like 20lbs or something. It’s funny, since I was so worried about the possibility of his growth stopping. I didn’t mind seeing my cute little baby though. He was snug as a bug in there. Now that I had more ultrasounds than most, I knew the chances of something being wrong was probably unrealistic. It would have been caught by now. That didn’t stop my worrying. Now it was labor. What if he got stuck? What if the cord was wrapped around his neck? What if he was stillborn? What if I went into labor and didn’t know it? Again, the list goes on. My doctor kindly informed me that I forgot about maternal hemorrhage. But that goes to show you, my worry was with him- not me.
I went to the hospital a few times with false labor. I had contractions but it was not labor contractions. I was also hoping maybe he would come a little early so my husband would be home to go through labor with me and meet our son. He didn’t come early. And after my husband left for basic, I had a breakdown in the doctors office and they let me decide if I wanted to be induced early. I decided to wait until after 40 weeks. If he hadn’t come naturally by then, then they would be talking induction anyway. I wanted to give him a chance before I evicted him. But, as stated before, he was snug as a bug.
I won’t bore you with my labor story again, but if you would like to read about it- click here
Okay, so now I have my healthy baby out safely and home in his crib. All is right with the world, right? WRONG. Not for me. I slept in his room for weeks. Wether it was in the recliner, or on the floor. I didn’t leave him, not for a second. What if he stops breathing? What if he rolls over and suffocates on… well nothing because there is nothing in the crib. What if he has cancer or some other disease? The media doesn’t help. Every time I open Facebook I see a story about a baby that died of SIDS at 3 months old or a poor little baby or toddler with cancer. I was starting to think my “fears” were bordering on “phobia”. I couldn’t sleep, I just worried all the time. I knew in my head it wasn’t logical but I still couldn’t help it. When I had to switch to formula, I was devastated not only because I knew breastfeeding was healthier but also because I had read that formula babies are more likely to die of SIDS because they sleep deeper (I know this is likely to be untrue, what makes SIDS so scary is that no one really knows why it happens and you can’t prevent it). I bought a breathing monitor (TWICE- because my freaking dog ate the first one) and most of the time it was the only thing that brought me enough peace to sleep.
But still, when I would stop worrying so much, someone would tell me a story that would bring it all back. Like a coworker that told me the story of her nephew that died at 11 months old of SIDS. I don’t want to worry all the time, it’s stressful. I want to enjoy my son and my husband. Thats what most people think, “Whats the sense of worrying, why don’t you just enjoy your family?” I know that, I am aware that is how the normal thought process goes. But when you have experienced loss, it’s different. I had to have my gallbladder out, and as a nurse I know this is a very routine surgery with low risk, but all I could think about was dying and leaving my son- not getting to watch him grow up and not getting to grow old with my husband. Even this morning, my eyes opened at 7:20am and my heart just about stopped because my son was not fussing. I flipped on the video monitor and his eyes were open but he was not moving, and just as I was about to LEAP out of bed, I saw him chewing on his fist. He was just chillin’… happy and content, but my mind jumps right to “something is wrong, he’s not breathing”. I kiss my son about a million times a day and tell him how much I love him, which I’m sure most parents do, but I do it because if something happens to either of us, I want him to know how much I love him and will always love him.
You can’t change what has happened before. And when you have a loss, you are obviously going to worry more than normal. It’s going to be stressful. But all you can do is take it day by day. It’s hard to say “listen to your gut” when it’s always in the back of your head that something may be wrong, but if something really is wrong then you will know. You probably think I’m nuts at this point, but even with all that- when my son gets the sniffles or starts to cough, it’s my husband that thinks there is something wrong with him. I’m like “nah, he’s just got a cold”. Pretty much every time he cries, or has a tummy ache, my husband is like “what’s wrong with him” Um, he’s a baby. He’s fine. Sure, one of his colds got pretty bad and I took him to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t RSV, but most of the time, I don’t worry about stuff like that. I worry about the unknown. That’s whats most scary to me. But those are my demons, I have to fight them like everyone else. And I will, for my son.