Pregnancy after a loss isn’t easy.
A year ago my world completely flipped upside down when my husband Nick and I experienced the loss of our twin baby girls. It has taken a lot of strength to get back up to where I am today – standing on my own two feet, healthy, happy, hopeful and almost full term with our rainbow baby! The reason people call it a “rainbow baby” is because rainbows typically follow a storm and give hope of what’s to come. Although there have been lots of ups and downs along the way, our storm has past and we are so close to meeting our baby! Everything about this pregnancy has been different, but mostly it’s been about keeping faith, facing fears and reaching milestones, one small step at a time.
On my first pregnancy, I got pregnant on the first month of trying and with the help of a couple handstands, I was pregnant with twins. (Part 2 will make a whole lot more sense after reading Our Story if you haven’t already). After losing the twins at 19 weeks, the only thing I wanted was to get pregnant again. What I’ve learned, the hard way, in the past couple years is that things don’t always go according to MY plan. The months of grieving the loss of the twins, then turned into months of serious fear and devastation that I might lose my uterus too. Cancer and hysterectomy are definitely two of the ugliest words I’ve ever heard. But, by the grace of God, I was able to keep my uterus, the hysterectomy conversation ended, and I was cleared to start trying to get pregnant again. Praise the Lord! We were so relieved, but absolutely exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster we had finally gotten off of. It was a horrible upside-down ride I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
I continued using the Clue app after I lost the twins to track my periods and ovulations. On the first month of trying, we had hoped I’d get pregnant as quickly as I did the first time. We did lots of handstands and prayed for a baby, or two! The chances of us having multiples again had quadrupled since I had them naturally the first time. Awesome! That was exactly what I thought I wanted!
Guess what? It didn’t happen right away. It didn’t happen the second month. Or the third either. The handstands had stopped, that was ridiculous anyway, right? I was frustrated and starting to get discouraged. A friend suggested we buy an over-the-counter ovulation test. What’s another $20 bucks? The ovulation test synced up perfectly with my Clue app, so we knew that wasn’t the problem. I cried every time I took a pregnancy test and one line popped up (and I knew I took it correctly this time around). You’re supposed to wait 5-7 minutes for two lines to pop up on the test. I would sit in the bathroom for over 10 minutes staring at the stick, praying another line would appear… but it didn’t. We had wasted so much money on pregnancy tests.
On month four of trying, I waited until I was a week late to take a pregnancy test. There was only one sad test left in the box. I didn’t even want to take the test, but I took it anyway. I couldn’t sit there and watch it; I just left it on the bathroom counter and walked away. Nick waited the full 7 minutes before checking it and finally, we got two pink lines! My heart was racing. I needed more confirmation than just one positive pregnancy test. Nick suggested we go out to breakfast and buy more pregnancy tests on the way. This time, I had zero fears of walking into a drug store to buy pregnancy tests. I wasn’t embarrassed, I wasn’t ashamed, I wanted to be pregnant. We went to a restaurant we’d never been to and sat outside next to the river by a waterfall. It was a beautiful sunny summer day and such a peaceful setting! Nick was anxious for me to go the bathroom, but I was flat out nervous. We ordered our food and then I went to the bathroom and ripped open the pregnancy test. Immediately, 2 lines appeared! Just like that, I was pregnant and suddenly terrified of a miscarriage. There were so many emotions that day. We decided to keep the news to ourselves for a couple weeks. I couldn’t bear the thought of putting our families on another rollercoaster ride with us this early in the pregnancy. I called to schedule my first pre-natal visit at 8 weeks and we tried our best to distract ourselves until then. We continued going out on the lake, hiking, hanging out with friends, we even went to a brewer’s festival where I indulged on food instead of booze! I posted pictures with virgin drinks in my hand and, this month, no one questioned if I was pregnant yet.
At the 8-week ultrasound visit, we found out I was pregnant with one baby. We asked the doctor to triple check to make sure there was only one baby, but it was very clear on the screen—one sac and one baby. It was a little bittersweet not having two babies this time, but I tried to convince myself that having one baby would be an easier, lower risk pregnancy and that was a good thing. Lower risk, yes, but the doctor still considered this singleton pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy. Since we never got clear answers on what went wrong with the twin pregnancy, I was now labeled as “high risk for pre-term labor.” Not super comforting, but what do we need to do? The doctor suggested we try a weekly progesterone shot called “Makena” to help prevent pre-term labor starting on week 16 and ending on week 36. It couldn’t hurt the baby and the side effects for me were minimal; so we decided we’d give it a shot, literally. Before we left that day, the doctor tried to prepare us for the upcoming milestones we would likely have a hard time getting through: the 19-week mark and the one-year anniversary of losing the twins. We did not give up our faith or our hope that God would bless us with a child someday, but it certainly hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows along the way.
Every weird feeling in my stomach, every time I went to the bathroom, every time I did anything, I had this fear in the back of my head that something might go wrong. And that’s the devil for you. Constantly putting fear in your mind. Several times I literally shouted, out loud, “DEVIL, I REBUKE YOU. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.” Besides precisely following the pregnancy rules of what to do/what not to do, the only other thing I knew I could do, was pray. Oh, have I prayed. Every single day, Nick and I have prayed together for this baby and for this pregnancy. I’m such a control freak, but unfortunately, I can’t control everything. I’ve tried to give the things I can’t control over to God and control the things I can control, like cleaning my house. I might be a little OCD and compulsively clean my house, but that’s OK, I can control that! I can also control the food I put in my mouth (most of the time), how much I exercise, and getting up and going to work every day. Recently, a high school student asked me, “Are you still able to drive? I didn’t think pregnant women were allowed to drive.” I’m pregnant, not disabled! I’ve laughed so many times about this conversation. No matter what though, I can’t control the growth and development of this baby, so we’re trusting God on that part.
I feel like such a hypocrite. On one hand, I believe when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she can announce it to the world if she wants! It’s exciting and anyone who knows she’s pregnant will hopefully just be there to support her if she has a healthy baby or a miscarriage. Why do women keep pregnancies and miscarriages a secret? Women (and men) need support, especially if they have a miscarriage. I understand that not everyone wants to talk about it or write about it on a public blog, but I still believe that people need people. On the other hand, I asked Nick if we could wait until I was 20 weeks pregnant to share our news with friends. Hypocrite. WHHHYY? All I can tell you is that I think I was trying to protect myself. I didn’t want to get too excited or get my hopes too high about this baby, because something could go wrong. Again, that’s the devil putting fear in my head. I thought if I didn’t talk about it or think too much about it, then time would pass, and I’d be at 20 weeks in no time. WRONG. Those were the slowest weeks of my life.
I started showing early. As much as I didn’t really want to tell people that I was pregnant, it was pretty obvious once I got into the second trimester. That’s when the two most common questions started happening. The first question is always, “When are you due?” and that’s the easy one. I’m due on St. Patrick’s Day! It’s our lucky baby! But then the second question almost always follows from people who don’t know me that well, “Is this your first?” Silence. The first several times it happened, my throat completely choked up and I couldn’t even swallow. This isn’t my first pregnancy, but I don’t have children at home. How do I answer that question? Saying “yes” felt like I was forgetting about the twins. Saying “no” was confusing, but did this stranger really want to know about my personal history? I don’t know, probably not. That question has been really tough for me and unfortunately, I’ve been asked that question way too many times throughout the pregnancy. For the record, I’ve answered it both ways. I feel guilty when I say “yes” but sometimes it’s easier. Shame on me for taking the easy route! But when I say “no, my husband and I lost twin baby girls at 19 weeks” the look of horror crosses the other person’s face. I’d like to say it’s gotten easier with time, and maybe it has a little bit, but it still makes me cringe every time.
The best part about a high-risk pregnancy is lots of ultrasounds! Every other week we’re at the OB office for checkups and ultrasounds. We’re there so often, I’m surprised they even ask me my date of birth when I check-in any more. Don’t they have that memorized by now? We love our OB office family! They all know our story and have shown so much compassion to us along the way. Our 16-week appointment was one for the books. At 16 weeks, I started taking the Makena shot. The nurse taught Nick how to give me the shots, so we could start doing them at home. Mondays are shot days in our house now, which means I have to be on my best behavior on Mondays because Nick gets to stick me with a needle in my butt. I must say, Nurse Nick takes his job very seriously and he’s doing a great job! And so am I, thank you very much.
Believe it or not, Miss Planner over here did NOT want to find out the gender of this baby. But taking my eyes off the screen during an ultrasound for even a second is never going to happen. Those brief moments of seeing the baby move on the screen is like Heaven on earth – everything is right in the world in those few minutes. When the doctor started the ultrasound at our 16-week appointment, she said, “I hope you want to know the gender.” The baby had its legs spread wide open and it was very clear that we were having a BOY! I wish I had a picture of the look on Nick’s face when he first found out it was a boy. It was pure joy. As much as I didn’t want to find out the gender, I’m so glad we did! The 19-week milestone was creeping up on us and we needed the extra fuel to get us through the next few weeks.
When we were engaged, we went to San Francisco for my birthday. I’ll never forget a special moment we shared at The Buena Vista in the Fisherman’s Wharf. We had a long day of exploring the city and we were ending our day by sipping on their famous Irish coffee. If you’ve never had one there, pace yourself, oh and brace yourself for that first sip! If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, after one too many Irish coffees, the conversation of “no pets, no babies for 3 years” happened there and also a conversation of what we’d name our first-born children. I said if we ever have a little girl, I’d like to name her Marcie Jane, after my grandmother Marceil. I didn’t have a strong opinion of a boy’s name, but Nick did. He said, “Tucker for a boy” and I loved it! So that was that. The next day we re-confirmed our conversation from the night before – there will be no pets and no babies for three years and the first-born children will be Marcie and Tucker. Deal.
When we left the OB office after finding out we were having a boy, I asked Nick if he still liked the name Tucker. He very confidently said, “Yes, do you?” Oh yes! Tucker it is! And just like that I started thinking about the color blue. Blue? I’m so not a blue person, but suddenly the color blue started to stand out to me. About 90% of Nick’s wardrobe is blue, and I maybe have 2 or 3 blue shirts. Maybe. All of the sudden I started buying myself blue clothes and using the blue heart emoji instead of the red one. What’s happening to me? Yeah, I’m definitely pregnant with a baby boy! Also, I’m a firm believer in all of the pregnancy gender predictor myths. With the twins, I craved sweets, my face was broken out all the time, I was carrying high, they had fast heart beats, etc. It’s quite the opposite with this baby!
Getting to and through 19 weeks was tough. The morning I turned 19 weeks, I woke up in a puddle of tears before I had even opened my eyes. It brought back so many memories of the twins. Although I knew the chances of having the exact same thing happen twice was next to impossible, I was a nervous wreck. Nick and I talked a lot about the twins that day. We rehashed the events that took place, I stared at their little footprints I have framed on our dresser, I looked at all of the ultrasound pictures and I cried, a lot. As much as I love reading my pregnancy apps each week, I couldn’t look at them because the words “19 weeks” haunted me. I just wanted to get to 20 weeks. And when we got there, I felt like I had just climbed Mt. Everest! We made it!
First of all, Praise the Lord, I’M PREGNANT! This pregnancy has taken a lot of FAITH to overcome milestones, HOPE to fearlessly look towards the future & LOVE to get through each & every day of this journey. Growing our family has been emotional & challenging, but we are trusting God & praying to bring our baby BOY home in March! #happyherbergs
However, I hadn’t even begun to think about the nursery, baby showers or baby registries, but people were starting to ask. It just felt like déjà vu and I wasn’t ready for it. Once we got through the 19-week milestone, I felt like I needed to get through the one-year anniversary of losing the twins before I could really focus on doing any kind of baby planning. We needed a distraction. Something, anything, to help take our minds off of the pregnancy and keep us busy. When we bought our house 3 years ago, we remodeled almost the entire house – all new flooring, new kitchen, new master bath, painted everything from floor to ceiling, including all the trim, etc. The one room we never touched was the main bathroom/laundry room on the first floor. I’ve never liked the layout or the 20-year-old style of it. You had to walk through the laundry room to get to the full bath which was covered in cream and had little green accent tile everywhere. It was two rooms in one and the laundry side was bigger than the bathroom side. It felt so backwards to me. As my mother would say, “it’s fine.” Yes, it was fine and completely functional, but it definitely didn’t fit with the rest of the updates we had made throughout the house. So why not remodel it? Actually, I could give you a million reasons why you shouldn’t remodel a bathroom while pregnant, but guess what, we did it anyway. (Don’t worry, I was very careful of what I could and couldn’t do during this project.) We gutted both rooms down to the studs and plywood, knocked down the wall in between the two rooms to make it one big room and then started over. No big deal. Ha! I’m going to write a separate post on the bathroom remodel. If you’re a DIYer, check back to see the work we did. We’ve learned everything we know about DIY projects from Google, Pinterest and YouTube, plus a few phone calls to my dad. It was SO. MUCH. WORK. but oh so worth it!! And, bonus, it was a great distraction! So win, win!
The one-year anniversary of losing the twins, Thanksgiving weekend, happened to be at 24 weeks of this pregnancy, which is ironic because at 24 weeks the baby is viable. That’s a major milestone in itself. Nevertheless, just as we imagined, Thanksgiving weekend was still really hard. I felt like I was walking on eggshells the whole weekend. My head was flooded with memories of the twins and I was constantly on the verge of tears. We had a nice time with family on Thanksgiving Day and everyone was touching my belly and “oohing” and “awing” at baby kicks… just like last Thanksgiving. I’m a woman, I talk, a lot, in detail. Nick talks equally as much, but when it comes to talking about the twins, he definitely uses a lot less words. The one thing he’s said to me, many, many times in the past year is, “I miss them too.” Sometimes it’s when he knows I’m thinking about the twins, other times it catches me by surprise. I know he’s still hurting too. On Thanksgiving Day, by the time we sat down with our humongous plates of food, I felt so choked up with emotions I wasn’t even hungry. He squeezed my hand and whispered in my ear, “I miss them too.” Thank God this day happened to fall on a day where it was acceptable to have two different kinds of potatoes on your plate. We had our moment of sadness and then ate our feelings. I’m just going to be honest about something here – I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep the trend going and wear maternity pants to every Thanksgiving dinner from here on out. It’s okay, you can judge me.
Sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, I decided I wanted to publicly share our story. I talked with 3 people about the idea of starting a blog and then I just started typing. Nick was a little apprehensive of me sharing our story publicly and definitely skeptical of me calling the blog “The Handstand” but he didn’t stop me from doing it. I had no idea where the blog would take me, but I knew that reading other blogs of women who had been through similar situations of losing babies has helped me. So why not? The truth is that writing down our story and sharing it publicly was more therapeutic and healing for myself than I could have ever imagined. It felt like so much weight was lifted off my shoulders when I actually posted it. I’m thankful I took the time to write it and that my tech-savvy husband threw a website together for me in a day. I knew the story backwards and forwards, so writing it didn’t take long at all. I didn’t know if anyone would actually read it – it was long, sad and extremely personal, but I had hoped that someone would find some inspiration in it. And maybe that someone was me, because it was exactly what I needed to do to take a giant step forward in my healing process. I was blown away by the response of my first blog post… people I hadn’t talked to in years reached out to me, strangers who had been through a similar situation found my blog and messaged me, even family who knew what happened gained more understanding about what really happened. All of the comments, messages, emails, text messages and phone calls really helped play a huge part in my healing process. Thank you!
After Thanksgiving, I knew it was only a matter of time until the bathroom would be finished, and I’d need to start thinking about the baby’s room. Choosing a crib was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I just couldn’t make up my mind. I thought I wanted something completely different than the cribs we had for the twins, so I kept searching. Here’s the thing though, when I thought about a crib, I thought about all of the excitement and joy we had putting together the twins’ cribs and then my next thought was always the horror of standing in the return line at Target with two carts and two cribs. I just did not want to go through it again, so I was trying to put it off all together. In the end, I came full circle and with some loving nudges from Nick to hit the purchase button, we ended up choosing something that was very similar to the twins’ cribs. The bedrooms in our house are not big, at all, and we’ve said many times that’s not why we bought this house. We fell in love with our house because of the great room (the open concept living room, dining room and kitchen) that looks out at Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Since that tiny bedroom wasn’t going to be jam packed with cribs this time, we decided we had room for a rocking chair or glider. I had my eye on this navy-blue velvet glider that was probably way overpriced and sold online only. Ugh. I wasn’t sure if I even needed it, but once Nick saw the chair and read the brand, “Abbyson” it was game over. He insisted on putting the chair in the cart, because the chair was indeed for Abby’s son. So, we did it. We ordered nursery furniture and it was set to arrive the weekend of my birthday. How perfect!
Speaking of birthdays:
The past couple birthdays have been all about facing fears for me. Last year I sat in the hospital parking garage for an hour working up the courage to walk up to the 7th floor and thank all of the delivery nurses for their compassion. This year, I’ve been putting off the nursery by consuming myself in a bathroom remodel (pics to come!), but today we’re turning the pretty room/the twins room/the pretty room into our baby boy’s room. Thanks for all of the love and birthday wishes! 💙
Next up, the first baby shower. Sigh. Of course, I wanted a baby shower, but the first one was hard. It was with my close friends and family on the same date, location and time as the shower we had planned for the twins a year prior. Talk about déjà vu. The room was filled with people who know me, love me, have prayed for me, have cried with me and have been my support system over the past year and really, my whole life. Blame it on the extra estrogen if you want, but I was emotional. Our journey hasn’t been easy, and these people knew it. A month later, we had our second baby shower with Nick’s family and friends. I don’t know if the practice from the first shower helped or that I was further along in the pregnancy, but something clicked, and I was excited! We’ve been showered with so much love and so many wonderful gifts and supplies for our sweet boy. We are so grateful. Trying to find a place to put all of the baby gear is a whole other story. All along, I’ve tried to keep things in their original packaging, you know, just in case, but Nick has zero hesitation of destroying the packaging. He’s been my steady rock that keeps telling me, “We are bringing this baby home. This is happening.” And he’s right, this is happening. Get rid of the boxes, we’re not returning any of this stuff. We are bringing this baby home! In Jesus Name!
Our hospital offers a child birthing/newborn care class. I know every pregnancy and every delivery is different, but I’ve already given birth to the twins, so I know what that is like. We figured it couldn’t hurt to soak up more info on newborn care and maybe we’ll learn something new about childbirth. We signed up for the weekend condensed class which was originally planned for 2 days, 4 hours each, but due to weather the condensed class got really condensed into one 6-hour class. There were 7 other couples in the room, all first-time moms with their partners. We briefly went around the room and introduced ourselves and said our names, when we were due and when the last time we changed a diaper was. It was a fun introduction that made everyone giggle, but that was the extent of the group interaction because the rest of the class was the presenters racing against the clock to go through all of the material. I would have liked to have spent more time talking with the other pregnant moms and getting to know them. We’re all due around the same time, so maybe we’ll see them again in the birthing center! Anyway, the majority of the class was about child birth. I kind of wanted to scream, cry, run or just tell someone, anyone, in that room that I’ve already been through it. I remember my water breaking, the labor pains, the contractions increasing with speed and intensity, a room full of medical strangers staring at my crotch, all of it. I felt like I had a big secret and it needed to come out, but there never seemed like an appropriate time to raise my hand and share our story. I think I would have felt guilty if we didn’t attend and even more guilty if we walked out. So we just sat there silently and pretended like it was our first time as well. We learned some new laboring exercises and got to meet one of the local pediatricians, so even though it was kind of painful to sit through the birthing portion of the class, I’m still glad we went.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a church home since I’ve moved to Vermont. We’ve definitely been church shopping over the years but just haven’t found a good fit yet. So we have church at our home instead. It’s not ideal, I know, but it’s what’s working right now for us. Our Sunday mornings usually start with a big breakfast and streaming last week’s sermon online from my old church in Indiana, Nappanee Missionary Church. Watching it live always seems to have hiccups, so we’re happy with watching it a week behind. Anyway, right now the sermon series is called “You’ll Get Through This” and it’s some really good stuff. The key phrase is:
“You’ll get through this.
It won’t be painless.
It won’t be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive.
But don’t despair either.
With God’s help you will get through this.”
If you have any interest, check out the sermon series here. We love Pastor Dave and are thoroughly enjoying this series right now.
The past couple weeks we’ve been doing some serious nesting and planning for our little boy! We’ve re-organized kitchen cupboards and bedroom closets, cleaned everything from floor to ceiling, made several goodwill bags, made freezer meals and stocked up the pantry. The baby’s room is completely, 100% done and I’m so in love with how it turned out! I’ve sat in my Abbyson chair so many times just admiring the room and dreaming about what it will be like when our little boy is here! I’ve even caught Nick standing in the doorway of the room just soaking it all in! All of the baby clothes, bedding and blankets have been washed in Dreft and are perfectly folded in his drawers. The car seat is installed in my car, we’re stocked up on diapers and wipes and I’m working on packing a hospital bag. We’re ready. So ready. We can’t wait to meet our little boy and bring him home! I’m days away from my last Makena shot and then a week away from being full term. Full term! The thought of making it to full term and this close to meeting our son makes me so incredibly happy, excited, nervous (OMG what do we do with him once we bring him home!), but mostly just thankful that we’ve made it this far! I don’t think the rainbow fully appears until the baby is in my arms crying. Call me crazy, but THAT is the moment I’m looking forward to the most. Our rainbow is in sight and I’ve never wanted to touch it so badly in my life! Get ready baby boy, mommy is going to smother you in kisses!