I’m not sure it’s the reaction the ultrasound tech was expecting from me:
“You’ve GOT to be kidding. Don’t DO this to me!”
She blinked a few times, then responded, chuckling uncomfortably, “You’ll do great! Twins are a lot of work, but loads of fun, from what I hear!”
I turned away to hide the tears spilling over my eyes. In the background I could hear my husband chatting away excitedly with the tech, but the loudest voices were those of my own fears:
Twins!?!? So many risks!
All I wanted was a simple pregnancy.
I’m not ready to lose another baby.
I can’t get attached.
I don’t want to go through this again.
You see, this wasn’t the first time I’d been told, “Congratulations! It’s twins!” In mid 2013, we learned we were expecting twins. I’d just experienced a miscarriage several months earlier and was convinced that this was my “double rainbow.” My mind instantly dreamed of two sweet babies growing up together, meeting milestones together, having that special “twin-bond.” I was being blessed with two sweet babies at once, and I felt complete excitement and anticipation.
So when a later ultrasound revealed one of the twins had passed away, I was conflictingly devastated. While I was obviously grateful baby A continued to grow healthy and strong, my dream of raising her alongside her sister had died. I had lost a child.
Since then, my approach toward early pregnancy has changed. I walked into the ultrasound that afternoon prepared to hear the worst. Prepared for no heartbeat. After all, I’d experienced that several times before, as well. Just two months earlier, we’d endured our fourth pregnancy loss. It was what’s known as a “chemical pregnancy.” Just a brief roller coaster with the ups and downs of early pregnancy: seeing that positive test, sharing the news with my husband, experiencing changes in my body, dreaming dreams for the child to come and even discussing names… then waking up to blood and realizing it was all just a hoax. It felt like a cruel joke and I just wasn’t ready to go through it again.
Seeing those two heartbeats flickering away on the screen, then hearing the doctor come in and explain to us all of the extra risks and complications that come with a multiples — perhaps you can understand WHY my tears were tears of confusion and anxiety, rather than tears of joy.
As we drove home, my husband chatted away excitedly. He was anxious too, but more in a “How are we gonna survive four kids under three?” and “How are we going to pay for this?” kind of way. So when I interrupted him in an outburst of tears and sobs, he was taken aback. After trying to explain away my fears with logic and reasoning, he paused and stated simply, “Honey, can you just try to enjoy this? Just because something happened in the past does not mean it will happen again, now. And you can’t control it, so you might as well enjoy it.”
I remembered being an anxiety-ridden WRECK after my first child was born. I’d been told by doctors I would very likely never have children, but my son was my miracle; a testimony to my healing. And yet, the first moment I held him in my arms, I was suddenly so scared I was going to lose him.
You see, I’m not blind to how fragile life is. I have many friends who have lost children. SIDS, miscarriage, childhood cancer, stillbirths, accidents, genetic disorders, and sudden illnesses have stolen the lives of so many babies loved by people near and dear to me. Beyond that, we are bombarded daily with stories of the tragedies happening to strangers around us. This world is a dangerous place. Bad things happen. And with each loss experienced in my own life, I felt an increased vulnerability and sense of “those things can, do, and may happen to me, too.”
But as I sat on the porch, holding my newborn son with tears streaming down my face, I felt a still, small voice speak ever so gently to my soul: “Heather. You can’t control what will happen tomorrow. But right now, you’re letting fear and anxiety rob you of the joy of motherhood. THAT, you CAN control.” In that moment, something clicked, and while I still experienced normal mom worries from time to time, I made a choice to change my thinking and to choose to love my child fearlessly.
Once again, we were faced with a pregnancy after loss. So on that day we learned we were expecting twins, yet again, when my husband asked me if I “could enjoy this,” instead of getting insanely annoyed, I realized that I was again allowing fear and anxiety to rob me of the joy of pregnancy. Instead of allowing myself to experience gratitude and joy for the moment, I was allowing the what-if’s of tomorrow to control my today. And while I believe that’s completely understandable and 100% normal for anyone who’s experienced loss, I also know I have to make a decision to live differently.
I’m making new decisions that are helping ME to ENJOY this pregnancy more than I have any other pregnancy. I am learning to celebrate each kick, enjoy each ultrasound, embrace each doctors appointment, savor each stranger rubbing my bump and asking ridiculous questions, and to remind myself, with joy, that today, THIS day, I am the mommy to these two beautiful miracles growing inside of me. And one moment at a time, I am defeating worry with gratitude.
When anxiety does creep in (and believe me, it does), I’ve employed some very practical steps to calm the waves. I’m honest with my friends, doctors, and sometimes even strangers about my fears. I pray, read scripture, play worship music and sit in the sunshine. When a fearful thought overwhelms me, I take time to sit and enjoy my other children.
The most practical step I’ve taken to overcome my anxiety may seem silly, but it really drove my decision home. I bought a piece of art at Hobby Lobby a few weeks back. It’s a simple, rustic frame enclosing six sparrows sitting on a wire. Each sparrow represents a member of our family, come January when the twins are born. I struggled with whether or not to buy it because… “what if,” but ultimately felt I needed to as a statement to myself that I was going to live that way any more. I was going to live in the joy of WHAT IS, today.
Hanging this beautiful piece on our living room wall has become symbolic to me of embracing this pregnancy, celebrating these babies, and consciously choosing to fill my mind with peace and joy instead of allowing anxiety to rob me of my motherhood.
I know I’m not alone in the pain of my past and the anxiety it perpetuates into the future. I am well aware that many of you reading this have experienced losses that far surpass my own. I may not get it. I know that. But I do know that for me, choosing fearless motherhood has made all of the difference in my ability to face whatever tomorrow may bring.
Because the thing is, we can’t control tomorrow. BUT we can choose to embrace today. In all of its beautiful chaos and uncertainty and struggles and what-ifs, we can rely on what is true of our TODAY, trusting we will have the strength to face whatever tomorrow brings. In doing so, we can reclaim the peace and joy of motherhood.
“Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes…”