I really struggled with whether to write this post, but I’ve decided it’s important and real and should be addressed. It’s hard to admit to feeling anything other than overwhelming excitement and joy when you’re pregnant because of the fear of being judged, the fear of having someone think you aren’t deserving of what you’ve been given, the fear of “jinxing” yourself and losing the babies. Please know that I love our babies with all my heart and would give my life for them.
I think everyone has a vision of what their pregnancy and parenting their first child will look like. I assumed I would have a healthy, “normal” pregnancy. I knew labor would bite, but then I would bring home my first child and have two or three years to love on and enjoy this little gift before our next child arrived. I would be an active, involved mom, just like mine was, and our evenings and weekends would be full of books and art and adventures galore.
Regardless of what your vision of pregnancy and parenting looks like, if it gets shattered or altered, it takes a little bit of adjustment and mourning before you can really embrace your reality. Having to mourn the loss of one dream while you are accepting reality does not mean you’re a terrible mom, that you don’t love your baby, or that you don’t deserve every thing to work out in the end. I read a book about expecting multiples and the author, Dr. Barbara Luke, noted that her patients all appear to go through stages similar to the stages of grief as they adjust to the idea of multiples. This struck a chord within me because I had been really struggling with our news, even while I was excited about our two babies. Let me demonstrate.
Shock – Within one hour, we discovered that we were having two babies, they were at risk for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), and my pregnancy was now considered a high-risk pregnancy. It honestly just didn’t seem real that an hour before I was simply hoping the baby had a heartbeat and was growing like it should. Now I was processing that I would never be able to really relax about the health of our children until they are born, I would have multiple ultrasounds and doctor’s appointments, I was far more likely to have to go on bed rest or go into preterm labor, my babies are more at risk for spending time in the NICU, and after all that, we still had to figure out how to pay for and raise two babies at the same time. I wandered around for the first few days trying to decide if this was really happening or just a surreal dream.
Denial – After the initial shock wore off, I found myself saying that TTTS was probably not really as big of a deal as the doctors made it sound, that I was sure I would still be able to work right up until they were born, that this was all going to be just fine. While my babies may not develop TTTS and while I may work right up until I go into labor, I eventually had to face reality and recognize that these were things I needed to consider, address, and be prepared for in the event that they occur. My pregnancy isn’t the perfect, healthy pregnancy I envisioned. I have ultrasounds every other week because my doctors need to know as early as possible if our babies develop TTTS. Treatments for TTTS have improved the odds of survival greatly in the last few years, but there is still a high degree of risk. At 12 weeks, my OB asked me how my life would work on bedrest because she wanted me to take steps to prepare in case it happened. Eventually, reality won out, and while I’m certainly hoping to avoid all the “bad things,” I’m much more prepared now that I have acknowledged them, researched, and considered our options in that event.
Anxiety/Anger/Depression - In some ways, I felt cheated. I don’t get to go to ultrasounds and just be excited about seeing our babies or finding out the gender. Our ultrasounds are every other week on Friday, and without fail the Monday of ultrasound week, I always start worrying about what they will find. Will the babies be showing signs of TTTS? Will one be far worse than last time? Will I suddenly be shipped off to Houston (10 hours from home) for laser surgery? Not only do I have some anger and depression about the risk to our babies, but I also find myself having moments of sadness that I will never have the one-on-one time with my baby that I always expected. I won’t be able to focus and bond with just one; I’ll have to divide my time between both babies. I worry that I won’t be the mom I always wanted to be because I’ll just be too exhausted from mommying twins. Further, I feel guilty for even having those thoughts. I feel like expressing that I’m not perfectly happy all the time will somehow mean I don’t deserve our babies and that one or both will be taken away from me, which would without question be the most devastating event of my life to date.
Bargaining – I often find myself thinking or praying, “If the babies can just be okay, I’ll do . . .” or “If I can just bring them home with me when I come home, I would . . . “. When the doctor talked about bed rest, all I could think of is what I would say to her if that really came up, “If I lay in bed all evening, can I keep working?” or “If I can work just two more weeks, I’ll stay in bed the last two weeks?” It’s hard not to think of all the things I would do or give up if only it meant my babies would be safe and healthy and my pregnancy would be smooth and easy.
Acceptance - Truthfully, I think I’m only beginning to get to this stage. Of course, I hope and pray that our babies will have no issues, that they will be born safe and healthy, that I will be able to carry them full term, but that may not happen and I am infinitely more prepared for those possibilities now that I’ve struggled through adjusting to the reality of having twins who are at risk for TTTS. It’s not the pregnancy I envisioned, but it’s all a part of my babies’ stories, and I wouldn’t give either of them up for all the “perfect” pregnancies in the world.
If your vision of pregnancy or parenting gets shattered or adjusted by a risk to your child, a risk to you, a developmental issue, or just having more babies than you planned, know that you are not alone. It’s okay to mourn the loss of the ideal that you had, as long as you don’t let it steal the joy of your reality. One of the most helpful things has been getting plugged into a group of mommies that know exactly what I’m going through. They get it when I say that I sometimes struggle to be excited or not consumed by fear, and they don’t judge me for having to take time to adjust. They don’t shrug off my feelings by telling me it’s twice the blessing, even though they know that eventually it will be. They tell me it’s okay to own the way I feel, that it doesn’t make me love my babies less to need to adjust to what my world has become, that they get how frustrating it can be when everyone around you gets irritated if you don’t seem excited 100% of the time.
That is what all mommies should do for each other no matter what our own pregnancies look like. We should judge less and love more. We should listen more and speak less. We should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I’m so thankful that Hellobee tends to be a supportive place that all moms can own who they are and what they are going through.
If your pregnancy or parenting didn’t go as planned, how did you adjust? What tips do you have for other women who are faced with unexpected trials?