“Pregnancy PTSD”: Fertility Treatments and Pregnancy

Finally, she is pregnant.  Finally, Amy Klein is pregnant. I have been following her fertility journey on Motherlode for years.  And now she is into her second trimester.  And I can’t breathe for her.

In “After IVF:  Pregnant but still stuck in the past,” Klein talks about a term I used as well during my pregnancy with Ev, that came after eight years of stop and start fertility treatments, several failed rounds of IUI (or as I called it, the “turkey baster method”), two miscarriages–one that came after hearing the baby’s heartbeat–and one subchorionic hematoma that resulted in two weeks of bed rest.  “Pregnancy PTSD.”

This story is longer and harder and is the subject of a book that I hope to put the finishing touches on this summer.

But I wanted to share Klein’s piece today because I get it.  I get that she thought getting pregnant would usher in nine months of happiness.  And instead it brings with it nine months of terror and anxiety.

I am taken back to the fear in my cells as I carried Ev when I read Klein’s description:

But I’m still mentally preparing myself for the worst, running through the scenario at the doctor: the silence of the ultrasound technician when something is wrong, the stillness of the fetus, the trauma of everything suddenly being over. The knowledge that I’ll have to go through it all again. And maybe again.

Because with Ev, I know she was the last shot.  That there was no way I could put myself through all of the preparing for the worst Klein perfectly describes.  Because those moments are trauma.  Deep, awful silent trauma.  And then we are expected to confront the exact same spaces, the same people, the same apparatus over and over.  It hurts.  A lot.

So how did I manage?

The first few months, I was doing what I now call the “sandbag method.”  Instead of allowing myself to be happy, I told few people, I said I wasn’t having a shower, I didn’t move much.  Just as a community puts up sandbags to protect a town from a flood, I was putting up barriers in an attempt to protect myself from pain.

Through yoga and writing, I realized that those sandbags wouldn’t work, that there was NO WAY to protect myself from the silent room, the hospital, that if those things happened, no amount of sandbags would shield me from the flood of sadness.

So I let go.  I told myself this was the only time in my life I would be pregnant.  I surrendered to the fear and told myself that breath by breath I would bring her into being.

I did.  And when she was born, I didn’t cry out of happiness.  I cried out of relief.

I pray for Amy that in a few months she will taste those same kinds of tears.

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8 comments

  1. lotusgurl · · Reply

    I always enjoy reading about women’s experiences with pregnancy. It’s unknown territory for me and I’m accustomed only to stories of joy; my mother, for example, always described her pregnancies as “fun” and “wonderful.”

    It’s somehow refreshing, though, to be reminded of the unpleasant and sometimes traumatic realities that pregnancy and birth can entail. I think Charlotte’s character from Sex and the City does a nice job of this, although her story ends happily, unlike some women’s.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I remember watching her story with great interest. That show undid so much of its subversion with its last episode. I was so disappointed.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I never thought I’d be blogging about something like this, but people do tend to come out of the woodwork when they know you’ve experienced a miscarriage or two. This story brings tears to my eyes because I tried to have hope after one miscarriage. My husband and I feel that the window is now closed per having a child of our own because of our age and some minor health issues, but just this past weekend as I was celebrating a milestone birthday with a close friend of mine, I was touched because one of her nieces–a young woman who I knew when she was a child–offered to be a surrogate mother for my spouse and me. Though we did consider adoption, we never ever considered this possibility. The thought of someone outside of my family being so kind brought tears to my eyes then and does now again as I think of it. Losing a child or two is a very sad event indeed.

    I am glad you shared your and Amy’s stories. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for sharing your struggle. It is helpful when we can all share our stories, as you know.

  3. This sends feelings and emotions flooding back. It is painful to relive, but I feel like those experiences for me (which I know were different from yours; but still hard, traumatizing, and painful) are what make what we have with Ev so awesome and special. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like Ev has the spirit of those that didn’t make it to us in the flesh.

    1. Yep, she is the end all and be all.

  4. Odd to say, but sometimes I wish I could articulate helplessness.

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