When my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I remember telling my husband how unfair it was that we had an infertility diagnosis and were now facing miscarriage as well. It seemed cruel that we would wait as long as we did for that child and then have them and every dream that we had of them, taken from us. We quickly learned that things weren’t always fair and that becoming parents would be much more difficult than we ever imagined.
After our first miscarriage, we jumped into fertility treatment and quickly got pregnant again. Just like my naive attitude with our first pregnancy, I thought that the chances of being someone with an infertility diagnosis and two miscarriages were extremely unlikely. The odds seemed to be in our favor so when we were told the same exact news at our first ultrasound, you know that I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat spiel, I lost faith in my body and its ability to carry a child. At that point, we had been trying for just over two years, and I was growing tired of being sad and disappointed.
In June 2019, just four months after our second miscarriage, we learned that our second cycle of fertility treatment was successful and we were pregnant for the third time. When you’ve experienced loss you no longer feel the excitement of a positive pregnancy test. And to be honest, I wasn’t completely ready to try again. But after many conversations with my husband, we decided to push through the pain and keep going. When that pregnancy test showed a positive result, it was the first moment that I felt completely robbed of a normal experience, and rightfully so.
When my third, fourth, and fifth pregnancy test showed two lines, meaning that it was definitely positive, I sat in our kitchen and cried as I showed my husband. The tears were a result of utter fear of another miscarriage. That was the beginning of our pregnancy after miscarriage(s) journey and at the end of that pregnancy, we brought home our rainbow baby.
As I write this, he is sleeping beside me, and I’m in shock that after all we’ve been through, we actually brought our child home from the hospital and get to kiss and hold him every day. Often, I’m asked, “How did you manage to make it through 40(ish) weeks of pregnancy after loss?” And now that I’ve made it to the other side of my journey, I want to share the wealth of knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way.
Tips for getting through the first trimester:
1. When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself that today you are pregnant. Don’t worry about what tomorrow brings and take this just one day at a time.
2. Invest in a journal! I swear by journaling, because even if your thoughts are negative and not something that you want to remember when you look back on what you wrote during the first trimester you will see just how far you and your baby have come.
3. Pick up a new hobby such as reading, writing, listening to a new podcast or TV show, or maybe even take up knitting and knit your rainbow baby a blanket. Do something that takes time and distracts you.
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4. Communicate with your partner and know that any anxiety of fear that you have about your pregnancy is okay and normal. You’ve been through loss, which is exactly what every pregnant woman is afraid of, give yourself grace and allow yourself to worry but don’t let it take over your entire life.
5. A personal tip that I like to share with mamas-to-be is not to download the pregnancy apps and here’s why: it may cause you anxiety to see where your baby should be in development. Especially because you’ve experienced what it’s like to be pregnant and your baby not be where the apps say that it is. Wait until you feel comfortable. We waited until 10+ weeks before using any pregnancy apps, and even then I found books to be much more informative and helpful than any apps.
Tips for getting through the second trimester:
1. Book yourself a private ultrasound so you can have some private time watching your baby wiggle in utero! A lot of women don’t realize that this is an option in most areas. It was the best money that we spent during our rainbow pregnancy and the experience was far better than the doctor’s office! For 10-15 minutes, you just get to watch your baby and listen to their heartbeat. It’s truly magical.
2. Take bump photos every single week! If you didn’t start doing this during the first trimester, that’s okay! I didn’t either. It wasn’t until I was 14 weeks pregnant that I felt comfortable taking the weekly photos (and even then it took some convincing) but trust me, you want to document this and if you don’t, you may regret it.
3. If you are comfortable with this, invest in an at-home fetal doppler! One of the more controversial items in the pregnancy community but it’s something that I would have been a mess without. If you have questions or concerns, ask your doctor for their recommendation before purchasing.
4. On days where you feel particularly anxious, watch videos (if you took any and if you didn’t, do) of your baby’s ultrasound, look at the print outs, listen to any audio that has your baby’s heartbeat and remember that what you are seeing and hearing is your baby.
5. During the second trimester, you’ll reach a huge milestone, viability! Celebrate this milestone and find comfort in knowing that if for some reason your baby was born earlier than planned - they would have really great chances of being okay. When we reached the viability stage of pregnancy, I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders.
6. If you don’t feel like you are ready to start a registry or decorate a nursery during the second trimester, that’s okay! Do everything at a pace that you are comfortable with.
Tips for getting through the third trimester:
1. Once you enter the third trimester (roughly 28 weeks of pregnancy), plan a day out with your partner and celebrate. Go on a lunch (or dinner) date, go shopping and buy a special baby item, enjoy the fact that you are in the home stretch and that you’ve almost made it to full-term! Just a matter of weeks, and you’ll be ready to meet your rainbow.
2. The third trimester is the most uncomfortable time of pregnancy so make sure you take care of yourself physically and mentally. Take more naps, go to the spa, get your nails done, do things that make you feel good.
3. If you have days where your anxiety feels like first-trimester level anxiety, don’t worry! That’s completely normal. I tell everyone that in my experience, the second trimester was the easiest and most enjoyable.
Tips for getting through the last few weeks of pregnancy after loss:
No one prepared me for how difficult the last few weeks of pregnancy were. Physically, I was exhausted, sore, and felt basically like I was the size of a small whale. Emotionally, I felt like I was going backward with my progress. Like I said above, the second trimester was the most enjoyable time period of my rainbow pregnancy and that put me in a great headspace. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, you grow so excited to meet your baby but also afraid of going into labor. Some women (like myself) even start to question their body’s ability to do this even though it’s been doing this properly for months. It’s an actual rollercoaster of emotions and I wish I had the perfect tip on how to manage it but the truth is, you just have to get through it and know that when this is all over - it’s worth every minute of anxiety.
My last piece of advice:
Remember that your story is different from others. Just because you know someone who had more miscarriages than you have before they carried a full-term pregnancy, doesn’t mean that you will experience any more loss than you already have. Pregnancy after loss is hard, really hard—there’s no sugarcoating that—but if you take it one day at a time and give yourself grace, at the end of the journey you will meet your rainbow after the storm. All of the waiting and pain that you’ve been through will have led you to that moment where your eyes meet with your baby’s eyes and trust me, it’s the best reward.
Arden Cartrette writes about her personal journey navigating infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy after two losses, and motherhood after struggling to get and stay pregnant. She and her husband spent two and a half years trying to grow their family and after fertility treatment, they welcomed their double rainbow in February 2020. Arden believes in sharing the hard things that most women don’t like to talk about, in hopes that it breaks apart stigmas and normalizes tough conversations. You can follow her on Instagram at @ardenmcartrette.