On Not Holding Back Joy

When I read this guest post I felt parts of my insides ache and the tears dribbled down my face. The author so perfectly describes the grief surrounding pregnancy loss and the subsequent struggle of imagining a new pregnancy. The author wishes to remain anonymous and I know we all hope she is finding joy again.


Due to some health issues that my husband and I had known about long before we starting trying to have children, we had to try to conceive in a fertility clinic. That process is not fun. At all. But our third month of trying, I went in for my blood pregnancy test. Later that day, we got the phone call I’d been imagining for the past ninety days, and in a way, for the past 31 years of my life. I put my phone on speaker and grabbed my husband. “I’m calling with great news,” said the nurse. “You’re pregnant!”

My husband and I started screaming. All I remember saying is, “we’re going to be parents!” We hung up and just stared at each other. We’d done it. The roller coaster of the medicalized baby-making process was over. We were going to have a child, and it was growing inside me as we spoke.

We called our families immediately. This lucky kid was going to be everyone’s first grandchild, first niece or nephew, first great-grandchild. We got to see our parents’ faces when we told them that they were going to be grandparents. We called our friends who had been with us on the fertility journey and shared the news. Next to our wedding, it was the happiest day of my life.

All signs pointed to a healthy pregnancy. I took a pregnancy test every morning for the first week, and each day the line got darker and came up faster than the day before. I was exhausted. My boobs were growing by the day. No spotting. With every pregnancy symptom, I felt relief that things were progressing the right way.

My husband and I made a clandestine trip to Babies R Us and tested out strollers. He rubbed my belly and said goodbye to our baby each day before we went to work, and at night we talked to it, laying belly-to-belly so it could get to know its daddy too. We made a secret nursery Pinterest board. We went to the beach and bought an impossibly tiny onesie with a crab on the butt, our baby’s first souvenir. We had five weeks of pure, unadulterated happiness. We did not hold back.

Then, at what we thought would be our farewell visit to the fertility clinic, we went in for an ultrasound. A formality before they turned me over to my OB. I chatted with the tech as I climbed up on the table. My husband squeezed my hand. We were going to get to see our baby for the first time.

The amniotic sac was there, but it was empty. No baby inside. Blighted ovum, we learned it was called.

The next month was the hardest of our lives. I was a shell of a person, as empty as the sac that had been growing, uninhabited, inside me. All I could do was stare at the wall and cry.

Now, seven weeks after that horrible ultrasound and the D&C procedure that followed a few days later, we are waiting around for my period to show up and then we can start trying again. But as sad as I am about the loss of this pregnancy, what I’m saddest about is our shattered innocence. The next time, I’m not going to feel that pure elation that I felt when I got the call from our nurse. Our excitement is going to be tinged with the knowledge that the hammer of bad news could come down at any time and smash everything to pieces.

And then I feel angry. Because our eventual kid, the one that makes it past the hazing that is pregnancy, deserves better than that. It deserves our excited screams the moment we learn about its existence. It deserves to be the one who causes the unforgettable look on my mother-in-law’s face when we said, “You’re going to be a grandma!” It deserves the celebratory flowers that my in-laws sent us the day after we shared the happy news. And it probably won’t get those things, because I don’t think any of us could muster those same emotions even if we tried. Instead, it’s initially going to get a mix of caution, fear, and uncertainty. Its grandparents probably won’t find out about its existence quite so quickly, and the look on their faces when we tell them is going to be different, their parental instinct of wanting to shield their children from pain at first superseding the excitement of impending grandparenthood. I’m probably not going to sign up for emails that give me weekly updates on the size of the baby until I’m past the first trimester, lest I re-experience the agony of checking my email the day after the ultrasound and seeing four different emails informing me that our baby, who we now knew would never exist, would have been the size of an olive. Early pregnancy will be more about self-preservation and fear than anything else.

But even given all this, I’m so glad we didn’t hold back our joy this past go-round. I’m glad we told our families and close friends, rather than waiting and then telling them in one breath that we were pregnant but now were not. I’m glad we bought that onesie, our indulgence of first-trimester optimism that we will never have again. I’m glad I learned each week about my little sesame seed/blueberry/raspberry, because the next time I won’t. Most of all, I’m glad I let myself go all-in and experience that exquisite happiness. I can’t wait to hold our eventual baby in my arms so I can experience it again, and maybe treasure it a little more deeply for knowing what it took to regain it.

The author, a college professor and hopeful future mom, wishes to remain anonymous.

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  • I have been there 3 times. This post sums up my feelings, fears etc., Being robbed of the pure innocent joy is the worst part! Wishing you a healthy happy pregnancy!

  • I read this with tears. I am so sorry for your loss, and the loss of innocence for future pregnancies as well. I lost my first pregnancy too and I don’t think that pain will ever go away, though it does lessen over time. I was lucky enough to get pregnant again about one year ago and once the panic attacks subsided, I truly enjoyed every moment of it. I now have a beautiful 4 month old daughter and I know I will never take her for granted. Thank you for writing this and sharing your story. I wish you the best for the future.

  • Thank you for sharing your heart. We also suffered several losses through fertility treatments before our little miracle girl was born this past July. Such an exhausting and emotional journey. Hoping and believing for your miracle. Take care.

  • After miscarrying in July, I became pregnant right away. I approached it cautiously but I was excited. Unfortunately 2 weeks ago we found out it was ectopic. Part of me just wants to get pregnant right away again but I am so scared for the what if’s now.

  • [email protected] says:

    Almost this exact same thing happened to us. 2 years into infertility we learned that we were pregnant. Went in for an ultrasound at 7 weeks and there was a heartbeat, went for a second one a week later, no heartbeat. We had no idea, I was having morning sickness and everything. I go over and over that week in my head wondering if there was some clue that I missed. The absolute worst part of all of that was that we thought everything was fine. We got pregnant the next cycle we tried, but I could no longer trust myself that when everything seemed fine, it actually was. It was a very hard pregnancy, lots of panic attacks on my end and very little excitement. The pregnancy had its share of complications too, but at the end my son was born 2 weeks late and exactly a year to the day after I had the D and C. Holding him made everything ok again. My advice, buy a heartbeat monitor as soon as you can reliably find the heartbeat and find a good therapist and prenatal yoga class. Without those three things I would not have survived this. Oh and spoil yourself now, I got a massage after the D and C and it helped a lot. Best wishes.

  • This is so wonderfully written, and painfully accurate. I’m sobbing at my desk, reliving our painful experience that was very similar. Our little Olive. I still mourn for that baby regularly, and always will. We have a 10 month old now, and went through the cautious excitement of that pregnancy. Our son is the light of our life, and I know his sister is always watching over him. I send love to the author and thank her for this candid writing!

  • [email protected] says:

    I fully understand the feelings in this article. I lost a pregnancy at 20 weeks last year. It came out of nowhere – a healthy, seemingly normal pregnancy until there was no heartbeat at the 4 month OB appointment. I became pregnant again a week after my D&C procedure and I was terrified. I don’t think I relaxed until I held my beautiful baby boy in my arms. With my first, I never even considered losing her and enjoyed a blissful ignorance. After the loss of my second child I will never approach pregnancy as a given ever again. Nothing is promised but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying and hoping for the best.

  • I understand. My first pregnancy was a blighted ovum and we also suffered other devastating losses. The joy becomes bittersweet, but it is still present. I hope your happiness is around the corner and I am so sorry for your loss.

  • [email protected] says:

    Exactly that. I wish I could have been so excited and full of joy when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. But I couldn’t, not after having an ectopic pregnancy 9 months before. I was scared, and cautious. But I still told my parents because I wanted them for me if it went wrong again. I am lucky that I disn’t hVe to do fertility treatments, That I now have two beautiful girls. But it robbed me of the fearless joy. What I gained instead is an appreciation for the miracle of getting pregnant, the preciousness of a heart beat. I can never take my children for granted.

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