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Pregnancy loss: Surviving the loss -- one woman's story

October 20, 1999
Web posted at: 12:16 p.m. EDT (1616 GMT)

In this story:

Trying again

Moving on

RELATEDSicon



By Ann Douglas

This is the second in a two-part series on pregnancy loss.

(WebMD) -- Three years ago this month, the unthinkable happened: Twenty-six weeks into my fourth pregnancy, I found out that the baby I was carrying had died.

When the radiologist at the hospital told me that my baby was dead, I felt like I was going to go crazy. "This can't be happening to me," a voice inside my head screamed. "Not when I want this baby so badly. There must be some mistake." But there wasn't any mistake. My baby was gone. In fact, she'd been gone for a couple of days at least -- perhaps longer.

  ALSO
 

I met with my midwife to discuss options for the birth. She explained that I could either wait to go into labor spontaneously -- something that could take up to two weeks or longer to happen -- or I could ask that labor be induced. The thought of walking around looking six months pregnant, dealing with strangers' thoughtless comments, was too much to bear: I asked for labor to be induced as soon as possible.

Less than 48 hours later, I gave birth to a 1-pound, 1-ounce baby girl. The cause of her death was a knot in the umbilical cord. While learning this was difficult, other couples who have lost babies through stillbirth haven't always received a satisfactory explanation for why their baby died. Some have told me that it is far more difficult to not know the circumstances of your loss. In this sense, we were lucky -- if, in fact, there is anything "lucky" about losing a baby to stillbirth.

During the weeks following my loss, I was overwhelmed with grief. I would go to bed crying and I would wake up in the middle of the night still crying. I spent hours on the Internet, frantically searching for information that would explain why I had lost the baby I had wanted so much and wondering how I was ever going to manage to find joy in living again. I also joined a number of online support groups. These online friends kept me sane when I awakened at 3 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep.

Trying again

While having a new baby cannot replace the baby you have lost, many couples who go through stillbirth feel an overwhelming desire to have another baby. That was certainly the case for me. I became obsessed with becoming pregnant, spending a small fortune on pregnancy books and ovulation-predictor kits and putting my husband on notice that he was required to perform on certain days of the month until I achieved my goal.

Fortunately, we managed to conceive quickly. While I was grateful to be pregnant again, I was also scared to death. What if something happened to this baby, too? Fortunately, my pregnancy was uneventful, and I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Moving on

Do you ever get over a stillbirth? Not if "getting over" it means forgetting. I still have days when I cry for the baby we lost and wonder what she would have been like. Would she have had her older sister's flyaway blonde curls or her older brother's mischievous smile? Would she have enjoyed looking at books and listening to music, or would she have been happier diving off couches and making forts out of pillows and blankets?

Losing a baby changes you forever. You don't look at the world through quite the same eyes. You no longer take pregnancy and birth for granted, but rather appreciate them for the miracles that they are. And if you're fortunate enough to be blessed with the safe arrival of another baby, every day of your new baby's life feels like Thanksgiving.

Ann Douglas is the coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Having A Baby. She is currently writing a book about pregnancy after miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death.Copyright 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.



RELATEDS AT WebMD:
Ectopic pregnancy
Repeated miscarriage

RELATED SITES:
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
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