Ask the Expert is a column at Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) where members of the community ask questions of experts who treat moms who are pregnant after loss. Visit our Ask the Expert page to submit a question.
*Disclaimer: Pregnancy After Loss Support does not give medical or psychological advice. We are strictly a peer-to-peer support resource and community where we believe in the healing power of sharing our stories. If you have any concerns with your pregnancy, birth, or emotional health please contact your doctor, midwife, or mental health professional, as we all know it is extremely important to take care of yourself and baby during this difficult journey through pregnancy after loss.
Dear Dr. Zucker,
I need some advice. I have a healthy nine year old daughter. Since her birth, I have had 5 miscarriages. I am now 9 weeks pregnant. At my 8 week visit there was a heartbeat! Now since then, I have been non stop worrying that my baby no longer has a beating heart. I can’t sleep, work, and am barely functioning. What can I do to make myself stop worrying so much? How do I stop worrying about it until next week when I have another ultrasound? I’m just so overwhelmed with emotions right now. Any advice would help.
Needing a Break from Worry PAL Mama
Dear Needing a Break from Worry PAL Mama,
Let me begin by reassuring you that your concern makes all the sense in the world. To be preoccupied with something–this pregnancy–and for it to be all-consuming when you’ve yearned for it for so long is incredibly challenging and expectable. Your previous pregnancies resulting in loss make it excruciatingly difficult to believe that this pregnancy will somehow be different, bringing your longed for baby. Being overcome with fear about the heartbeat going away seems like a natural place for your mind to go given all of the disappointment that has accompanied prior pregnancies.
Though your mind might swirl with unanswerable questions, it is important for you and your family that you attempt to be gentle with yourself as you navigate the unknown. It’s easier said than done, of course! When we treat ourselves in loving ways we model for our children a sense of self-care that we hope they embrace as well. You are human, so invariably you are worried. How could you not be?! When we want something so badly and realize that we aren’t fully in control of having it, our vulnerability emanates that much more intensely.
- Endeavoring to get pregnant can be one of life’s most vulnerable acts.
- Do not judge your fear, your grief, or your hope.
- Grief knows no timeline.
- Pregnancy after pregnancy loss is wholeheartedly different than pregnancy before loss.
- Anxiety can be a consequence of wanting something so badly and not knowing if it will happen.
Here are some things I hope help ease the anxiety:
1) When you find your mind wandering in a dizzying state of worry, attempt to return to your breath. Though it can be tough to center your mind in these moments, gently try to remind yourself that this anxiety is an accumulation of dashed dreams and heartbreaking disappointments. You have tried to conceive again because a part of you hopes this outcome will be different. Try to honor your courage to be here now. Though worry can get the best of us, it doesn’t actually aid in attaining the outcome we hope for. Our minds can play tricks on us. For example, one might unconsciously wonder, “If I scurry around thinking of every possible negative outcome, there is no way it will actually happen. My worry will fortify an ironclad inoculation and all will be safe.” We know this isn’t necessarily so but we hope that we might muster the power to stave off difficult events if we think them through time and time again. Here’s the thing: no amount of time spent worrying makes us invulnerable to life’s aches and pains. We know this intellectually, but emotionally we still grip onto hope when it comes to mastering things we simply cannot control. Vulnerability can be a hard place to reside. However, it can also be the place where insights and tenderness fertilize and ultimately allows us to open our eyes/hearts a bit wider.
2) This might be an important time to call upon your loved ones to surround you with support. Resist the urge to weather this alone, to “power” through, or to prove a certain amount of strength by shouldering this trying time on your own. Lean on people who are understanding and can be present with your concerns. Resist the pull to compare or contrast situations with those around you. Life is full of curveballs. If it seems that you are the only one struggling right now, you most definitely are not. At some point or another, we need a compassionate ear to confide in about our darkest fears and our greatest hopes. Reaching out for help shows self-awareness and allows others in on your process. It can be transformative to feel heard or validated when we are hurting.
3) One of the most dreadful aspects of miscarrying is the lack of assurance that it won’t happen again. Statistics are one thing when they don’t apply to you, but once you become a statistic, lenses shift, fears bubble, “what ifs” take hold and color experiences. People often feel inclined to search for a silver lining even when there isn’t one. Inevitably growth can be a result of personal struggle, but most people would opt for comfortability over hard-earned transformative perspectives. How can we expect ourselves to hop gracefully around these unpredictable emotional potholes that too often accompany pregnancy loss? We can’t. We can only do our best and sometimes our best feels like utter crap. Remember that you’ve done nothing to deserve these challenges and again, be as soft with yourself as possible as you struggle to shed some worry.
4) Research has found that a majority of women tend to blame themselves, feel a sense of shame, and/or guilt in the aftermath of pregnancy loss. Ward off self-talk that simply isn’t true or isn’t ultimately helpful. You already feel badly enough. Hurling stories about yourself into the mix will likely be anything but productive. Don’t hurt yourself even more by layering on self-blame when you’re already down in the dumps. It won’t ultimately change the situation and will likely make you feel even worse than you already do.
It is a revolutionary act to believe in ourselves and love who we are just as we are. Perhaps you can incorporate some helpful reminders into your life with the hope of melting away some of the pregnancy worry. These mantras can serve as anchors when your mind feels overtaken by tidal waves.
Remember that you are loved.