Mentally Managing My Medically Normal Pregnancy After a Scare

pregnancy scare at 26 weeks

We had a pregnancy scare recently.

At a wedding in California, for seemingly no reason at all, I went into preterm labor. This already difficult situation was complicated by multiple factors, the most pressing of which were at the time I was only 26 weeks along, and separated from our toddler and our home by a few state lines.

After spending a nervous and uncomfortable night in the hospital, and running just about every test in the book, I was given a medication that brought my contractions to a stop, and then sent on my way, with no clear understanding of why this had happened or if it would happen again.

Two extremely nerve wracking flights, and a 3 hour trip in the car later, I made it home all in one pot-bellied piece. A few days later, I followed up with my midwife who confirmed all was well, and suggested I proceed with my pregnancy as if it were completely normal, because at that point in time, medically it was.

Except it didn’t feel that way.

Instead of being able to take a deep breath and relax in knowing everything was fine, my body buzzed with nerves. Every muscle twitch, every movement was analyzed and questioned to the point of madness. Are the contractions coming back? Is this time the real deal? Is the baby still alive?

Now if this is where you are shaking your heads and saying, “It could have been worse,” please know that I understand this. Even in the thick of it, I could see the discrepancies between how I was feeling emotionally, and the probable outcome as good test results came back, and the night wore on with baby being a no-show. It all could have gone so, so very differently, and so tragically wrong, and trust me when I say I felt absolutely stupid for feeling the way I did.

But man, even now, I am having a hard time letting go of the fear.

Hearing the nurse tell me in the hospital the NICU was ready for us if we needed them sent chills down my spine. Listening to her explain how she would start the baby on steroids if things continued down the path they were initially going, I actually let out an audible groan. Not a groan like a frustrated patron who has been waiting on their check for too long, but a guttural, uncontrollable, I-might-break type of groan, the memory of which still gives me goosebumps.

Because at that moment, more so than ever before, I was completely and utterly terrified.

The fear of potentially losing my unborn baby elicited a response so powerful and all-consuming, that a few totally fine, contraction-free days later, telling me to carry on as if everything is normal almost feels like an insult. Casually suggesting I should be happy because everything turned out okay feels insincere and dismissive. Maybe everything on my labs said I was fine, but my head and heart feel so shredded and profoundly shaken, I don’t even think my husband can fully understand.

But perhaps the worst part of all is knowing I am actually the one in the wrong.

Because medically I am fine. And the baby is fine. And everything worked out fine. And I should be thankful for the care I received, and take solace in knowing that if the baby did show up, they were prepared to give him the very best shot at surviving. Yet even as I sit here thinking through all of this, my head still spins with panicky what-ifs.

My best guess is soon enough my head and heart will calm down and equilibrate, leaving me in a better place to process what happened — and more importantly, what didn’t. Even in this jumbled place I hear how whiny I sound, and how misaligned my focus is. But I also know some of you will get this.

And maybe, just maybe, we can help each other get comfortable with our new normal, as abnormal as that may be.


Related: Giving Up Control During Pregnancy

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  • I’ve been through this. At 12 weeks i had a subchorionic bleed while on vacation. I cried the whole flight home convinced i was miscarrying. I was surprised to find out I hadn’t lost the baby and everything went along business as usual. I never shook off the uneasiness. In the back of my mind i felt something would go wrong and it was only a matter of time.
    One day when i was 25 weeks along that something finally happened when my water broke without warning. I went to the ER and they told me they would try to keep me pregnant for up to 2 weeks if nothing went wrong. Then it went horribly wrong. His heart rate dropped dangerously and i was rushed into the OR for an emergency c-section.

    One moment i was bored lamenting how much it was going to suck being on bed rest, then i was being strapped down to a table and a mask was being shoved over my face. It was terrifying and made me feel like the fates were always out to get my baby. He’s doing wonderfully now with zero issues as a one year old. But i still look back and wonder if i had the power to change the course of events.

  • After four + years of infertility, I know too much. I know that my body doesn’t have the right hormone amounts and I know way too many people who have lost children in the womb, and I know all about the many things that could go wrong.

    And now we’re pregnant completely naturally (a surprise, as I thought this past cycle was a total bust like always), 5 weeks along, and I can’t wrap my mind around being truly happy about this… it feels like tempting fate. All the tests are coming back okay, I’m getting all the hormone support I need, but I’m terrified. I can’t lose this little one, not after trying for this long. I don’t think I’d be emotionally stable for a long time… and I feel a little like I’m just going to worry about a healthy pregnancy until this little one is born. And then I’ll worry about everything else…

  • Thanks for sharing this – I feel the same way, to a degree. This is my second pregnancy and my first was born at 33.5 weeks and spent 15 Days in the NICU. Every ache and pain has been reeling panicking thinking I’m in preterm labor again after not knowing it the first time around. Every week is more assuring but also more nerve wracking as I get closer to the 33 week mark.

  • I’m currently 31 weeks pregnant, but it’s been almost exactly a year since I lost my last pregnancy. It’s been scary the whole 31 weeks, but this week feels extra scary. It’s hard to be rational with myself, I have no medical reason to think something could be wrong this time around, but my mind keeps bringing me back to the “what ifs”. Thank you for sharing your story. Even though I’m in a different situation, it’s nice to know that there are others out there just as nervous & scared as I am, even if everything is “fine”

  • I went to the ER at 18 weeks with serious bleeding and spent several terrible hours being shuffled around and told I might be losing the baby, before being dismissed and told everything was fine despite not having an explanation for the continued bleeding. After a few days I was able to have another ultrasound that revealed a partial previa, and it cleared up on its own in about two months. I was reassured constantly by my midwives that everything was fine, and that only made me feel worse about what the scare did to me emotionally. There’s nothing quite like being told you’re fine when you’re afraid. Thanks for writing this.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, and please don’t feel the need to be dismissive of your very rational emotions. My daughter was born 5 weeks early (and spent 16 days in the NICU) and I experienced additions complication during the birth. Even now, almost a year later, I don’t think I have fully processed those emotions. And I am starting to realize I may not wish to get pregnant again knowing I would spend the whole time nervous and wondering if it will all happen again – or worse. Thank you for sharing…you are not alone and I needed to read this today!

  • Thank you for sharing. I went through a scare where I was bleeding poufusely bright red blood, everything ended up ok, but I am still walking on pins and needles. I completely understand, but not everyone will. Again thanks for sharing!

  • I can’t even tell you how much I relate to this and needed this article today. Thank you for sharing your story, and I’m glad you’re OK. I had a subchorional hematoma (bleeding) at 12 weeks, and my OB didn’t explain anything to me, just sent me home without even saying what was wrong, to rest and hope I didn’t lose my baby. I already have anxiety, and the fear of those days, until I fired my OB found a midwife who actually told me what was wrong and that I would be OK, were nerve shattering. Now, at 26 weeks myself, I worry over how many kicks, what kind of discharge, every weird tweak of my body. I know, like you, it could have been worse, and others have it harder, I do feel lucky and can’t wait to meet my son. But the fear and anxiety of this time is wrecking me, and I don’t know how to let it go and trust my body again. Thank you for helping me feel like I’m not alone in this.

  • I can relate to this too. I had a really bad case of placenta preevia and 46 days in the hospital with the baby. I was ok at the time, and baby is amazing now, but looking back on it makes me really upset, and thinking about doing it again is terrifying. Everyone keeps saying, "but it all turned out great." yah, and I know I’m wrong and should get over it, but that’s easier said than done!

  • I can relate to this. I had a partial abruption with my first child at 40+ weeks. Even though he was never in distress and was born perfectly healthy, now that I’m pregnant again every little twinge or ache or even sometimes a little more discharge than usual freaks me out and sends my heart racing until I know everything’s okay. It’s tough.

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