The Fear of Loss in Motherhood

The Fear of Loss in Motherhood

Trigger Warning: infant/pregnancy loss

One night during my first pregnancy I just felt off. My back was bothering me. I felt crampy. Just not myself.

I took at a long hot shower and felt just a little better, and went back to bed. 

It wasn’t until I woke up at 2am to blood that I started to panic. I was 8 weeks pregnant, and my worst fear seemed to be coming true. Why else would I be bleeding? 

I woke up Mike and we went to the hospital. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know at the time that there wasn’t really anything they could have done to help me at the time. But I hoped. 

During the ultrasound they wouldn’t let me see the screen. They don’t allow the women to see the screen while they are doing them in that circumstance. I wasn’t even allowed to see what was happening inside of my own uterus. So I just had to lay there with a wand in my vagina and wait. 

Afterwards I waited some more until the doctor came back to deliver some mostly good news. 

The baby was fine, but I had a subchorionic hematoma. Basically some blood gets trapped behind the placenta when it forms. The blood I saw was that blood releasing. It CAN cause the placenta to detach and a miscarriage, but it looked like we were going to be just fine. Seven months later, Carolyn was born healthy as can be. 

I had a perfectly healthy and uncomplicated birth for my next pregnancy… besides the fact that I happened to have twins, everything went off without a hitch. 

It was the pregnancy after that, or rather the maybe pregnancy that broke my heart. 

Mike and I had been separated for about 7-8 months during the year 2018. There is nothing that will convince me we are not soul mates. Our relationship seems fated. Yet, just because someone is a soulmate doesn’t mean that the relationship has no problems or complexities. 

We are humans, not saints. And part of being human means we have shit to unpack and deal with. 

Both Mike and I had traumas (big and small) to work through in order to be the best partners (and parents) we could be. And it became clear to me that our marriage had become too toxic to continue as it was. 

So I left. 

However, after months of successful coparenting and therapy, we decided to give it a go again. 

That first month we were back together I could sense I was pregnant. Call me crazy, don’t believe me, I don’t care, but I know when I am pregnant. With both of my successful pregnancies I could sense that I was pregnant within 2 days of conception, before a pregnancy test could confirm what I knew to be true. 

And this first month after we reunited, I knew I was pregnant. A handful of at home pregnancy tests around 6-8 days past ovulation showed me the faintest of lines. My logical brain will always question whether they were real, my heart will always know they were.

But I had an IUD. And the IUD did it’s job. The pregnancy didn’t last. When I was about 7 days past the expected start of my period, I started bleeding. There wasn’t time for me to have it removed before I could really confirm the pregnancy and see my midwife. 

Part of me will always feel like it was my fault. 

The thing about motherhood and birthing children is that you also become very acquainted with the idea of death. 

Death is everywhere. 

From the moment you learn you’re pregnant you worry. Every little cramp or odd feeling sets off a chain of thoughts leading you down a rabbit hole of potential despair. And for almost a quarter of those pregnancies… they will end long before we hope. Sometimes before we are even sure if there was ever a baby there. 

As soon as that baby bursts out of our body we are on hyper-alert for any and every danger. It’s programming. Our survival instincts are still staying around from the days when we lived in caves and jungles. The danger was lurking around every corner and we need to be at the ready constantly. 

Now? Of course, there are still dangers to shield our children from, but now they come in the form of the curtain cords and electrical outlets, or perhaps parking lots and cars. 

A healthy level of alertness and even fear is a *good* thing because it helps us ensure our children’s safety. 

But there is this subtle layer below the surface of our vigilance. That is the terror. The terror and agony that even getting a brief glimpse of is maddening. It can make a mother insane.

The idea that we could lose our babies. 

And yet, because we have become intimate with the creation of life and the birth of life, we are painfully aware that its opposite exists. That death exists. That just like our babies took their first breath, they will some day take their lasts. 

We pray we will be long gone before that happens, and yet at the same time can’t imagine not being here to hold and comfort our child when they are hopefully 150 years old and their body finally gives out. 

But if life takes the course we hope for our children, we of course will not be here to guide them through exiting the world. No that isn’t our job (we hope). Our job was to bring them forth into this world and nurture them until they are able to nurture themselves. 

And in this process of learning how to nurture another being and guide them through life WE must change and adapt and nurture ourselves as well. 

We also become acquainted with death as one version of our selves is destroyed as a new one is created. With every new stretch mark that pops forth on our bellies and other bits, the body that existed in this space before is slowly killed and replaced with a new one. 

Our bodies transform from the maiden to the mother. We take on a new identity. 

Then as our children grow and enter new phases of development, the old them and the old us both die and are replaced. 

The newborn is gone, then the baby is gone. Suddenly your baby is a toddler, then a preschooler… and the progression continues. And as each iteration is replaced with a new one, so are you changed and replaced.

Do you know our bodies are completed replaced every 7 years? All parts of our physical form are made up of cells (remember high school biology class?) and each cell eventually dies, but another is created to take its place. After 7 years every single cell has died and been replaced.

So even if we look at the physical manifestations of who we are, we are changed completely over time (as are our babies). We are also irrevocably changed on a metaphysical level. Our soul changes. 

As we learn to navigate the choppy waters of motherhood we must adapt. We must change. We must learn to become someone new over and over and over again. 

Our psyches, our souls… they go through these mini-deaths and rebirths over and over again. 

This is good. This is natural. This is normal. As hard as it is, death and loss are as much part of life as birth and joy.

Like how the leaves of trees die and fall off to be replaced each year. Parts of us that may have once been beautiful and healthy will eventually fade and leave us to be replaced with something new as we continue to grow. 
If we are lucky, we are able to remain the sturdy tree. Rooted and grounded as the leaves surrounding us come and go. 

There is a chance however, that with each little death and transformation we face, that we are segmented. Fractured. That our soul is spread into thousands of pieces, that we must at some point go back and retrieve. 
Some day we look up and realize the so much of us has died without being replaced that we are not whole anymore. 

Something is missing. 

While the joy of our children may be intensely palpable, we are still missing something

Or some things that were integral to our soul’s foundation that has crumbled to dust and were blown away with the wind. The problem? We haven’t replaced those missing bricks, and as our foundation disappears the entire house falls in on itself. 

We fall in on ourselves. 

Perhaps we find ways to keep the house together. We find old pieces of lumber to brace the beams. To give support. 

But eventually… we can’t keep up the charade. 

We have to rebuild. Rebuild who we are.

And as we rebuild ourselves over time and over the course of motherhood, we become stronger, smarter, and more able to fulfill our role of leader and wise woman to our little ones and our village.

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