I spent my entire pregnancy searching for that elusive pregnancy bliss. Instead of joy, I hated nearly every minute of being pregnant. Pregnancy blues was the dominant feeling. And then suddenly, my pregnancy ended at 31 weeks via emergency c section.
My twin babies are so far healthy, albeit incredibly tiny, and I’m doing reasonably well physically recovering. Yet, somehow, despite hating being pregnant, I don’t love the abrupt end, either. It’s an odd sense of loss that I’m trying to grasp.
Perhaps this blissful pregnant state exists only in memory. Or maybe we humans cherish things only when we don’t have them anymore? Either way, I feel waves of sorrow, missing the babies’ kicks and being constantly connected to their every move.
From IVF Conception Through The Dreaded First Trimester
I spent over two years of my life trying to become pregnant. After an expensive and emotionally tumultuous round of IVF treatment, I finally saw that magic double line on the pregnancy test. Ah, at last, I can be joyfully pregnant, filled with love and anticipation.
Not so fast. First, I must get through the dreaded first trimester. For the first 8 weeks, my body was processing, not one, not two, but THREE viable embryos. The IVF treatment had worked a bit too well! I was exhausted in ways I’ve never experienced in my life. For most of my adult life, I erroneously pride myself on not needing much sleep. Once pregnancy hit, I was falling asleep constantly, and no naps felt enough.
Oh, the Nausea…
And then, it was nausea and vomiting. For context, my sister suffered through two pregnancies of hyperemesis, where she was bedridden and vomited dozens of times a day through the first four months. In comparison, my daily puke session or two felt minor.
Then, I found out from other pregnant friends that most of them never actually puke; they merely have the sensation of wanting to puke… Everything made me want to hurl. The street food in Taiwan that was once so beloved became a real curse. I couldn’t walk two blocks without a whiff of this smell or that made me want to barf.
More IVF Needles
To top it off, IVF protocol apparently continues through most of the first trimester with two daily progesterone shots and plenty of pills. I endured far more needles trying to stay pregnant through the first trimester than actually becoming pregnant. The hormones were wreaking havoc. I gained weight rapidly and completely lost control over my body.
Active Second Trimester Dream Dashed
I waited for the magical second trimester that supposedly would give me so much energy! Around week 20, I finally felt it. By this time, the twins are growing well. I’ve passed all of the stressful genetic testings via CVS and Amino. I was able to walk again for miles around the city. The rest of my pregnancy was a vision of prenatal yoga and active bliss.
Unfortunately, that pregnancy bliss lasted only two weeks. Just as I entered week 23, my doctor noticed that my cervix is unusually short for this stage of pregnancy. I was ordered bed rest at home to prevent preterm labor. No questions were asked about my life situation or whether I would be able to accommodate. Doctor’s order. The end.
Bed Rest Blues
I was dubious about the effect of bed rest since no research has proven its effectiveness in preventing preterm labor in my situation. Yet, when one ultrasound shows a deteriorating situation after another, I decided to take bed rest seriously to avoid hospitalization.
For two months, I stayed in a horizontal position other than using the bathroom. Physically, I felt mostly fine. Mentally, I had to work hard to not let my mind go to dark places. Despite having an incredible husband who served my every need during this time, I still felt isolated and frustrated.
My grand plans of an active pregnancy and multiple baby-moons had vanished. I lost all ability to concentrate. Despite receiving numerous Netflix recommendations, I couldn’t focus my mind enough to begin a new show. Endless hours of mindless television (thank goodness for Tour de France and the Olympics) and Facetime calls with friends got me through.
All the Aches and Pain
Physically, I was getting impossibly large with twins. Apparently, a twin pregnancy is equivalent in size to a single pregnancy plus 8 weeks. So by 30 weeks, I would already be the same size as a single pregnancy at 38 weeks. The total loss of control over my own body was hard to deal with. I had to really overcome years of body image issues to embrace body positivity and appreciate my body’s fantastic work.
Beyond getting bigger, the other side effects were also mounting. Each night, just as I lay down to sleep, nasty heartburn would attack me. I would be out of breath by simply taking a shower. Worst of all, for a foodie, I would feel hungry but cannot eat beyond a few bites because there is physically no room left in the belly.
My body swelled from lack of circulation, and my back ached from the rapidly increasing belly weight. I combat this by wearing compression socks and an occasional splurge of prenatal massage. Each individual symptom is a mere annoyance, but they add up to an incredibly unpleasant state of being.
With each stage, I kept thinking and hoping that things will get a little easier. Surely, all those picture-perfect, joy-filled pregnancies on Instagram contain some truth? Meanwhile, I felt guilty for complaining about my pregnancy. After all, no one forced me to have kids. I chose this adventure willingly. I couldn’t help but feel this entire experiment was a very expensive self-inflicted torture.
Hospitalization and Dramatic Preterm Birth
Things not only did not get easier, they got worse. My pregnancy reached the apex of discomfort at week 30, when minor contractions landed us in strict hospital bed rest. I say us, because despite being the only person pregnant, my husband had been instrumental in us surviving through this pregnancy.
Hospital bed rest meant I could not even get out of bed to use the bathroom. Bedpan life meant my marriage with Xav entered many new levels. It was awful in so many ways. There is a certain level of dignity that one would like to keep to feel human. I did not feel very human in those few days of hospital bed rest.
Emergency C Section
By week 31, everyone involved with the pregnancy has had enough. My body was breaking down with several complications, including infection and high blood pressure. The babies apparently wanted out, and/or my body was no longer able to hold them.
My situation deteriorated quickly. A chain of quick succession events led to an emergency c section, when the twins came into this world. I had felt painful contractions at 1am, and by 3:30am, I was suddenly no longer pregnant. The entire process was maddeningly fast. A piece of my body had been removed and now exists as two individual humans in separate NICU incubators.
Physically Well Yet Emotionally Traumatic
The miracle of modern medicine ensured that my birthing experience was relatively pain-free physically. Yet, emotionally, it’s been an incredibly traumatic experience. Only when I was no longer pregnant did I realize I was not ready for this experience, however tumultuous, to end.
Those 7 and a half months came and went. My mind will eventually only remember the beautiful bits of my pregnancy. The lazy days of bed rest, my amazing body that changed and adapted rapidly to grow two human beings, the baby kicks that created an incredible bond. Perhaps pregnancy bliss exists only in one’s selective memories.
But for now, I mourn my pregnancy’s abrupt end.
My babies are in the NICU and will be for at least a month or more. Due to COVID restrictions, we are allowed only 30 minutes of visitation per day. Fortunately, we can touch them via the incubator. For the rest of 23 hours and 30 minutes each day, my life carries on mostly as it did pre-pregnancy. I am reminded of my motherly duty when I pump breastmilk to send for the twins. Otherwise, the entire pregnancy journey feels merely like a dream.
In the grand scheme of things, we are so very fortunate. We have the schedule and financial flexibility to get through this entire ordeal without added stress. Preterm labor meant I could finally move around and prepare for the twins’ homecoming – something I couldn’t do during bed rest. Xav and I can enjoy childless lives for a bit longer, etc. I try to focus on the positive aspects; count my blessing for this time to reflect without the immediate responsibility to care for newborns.
Permission to Complain. Permission to Grieve.
Yet, the reality is, this is so astonishingly hard. And I want all the moms out there to know that it’s okay pregnancy sucks, and we hate it. It doesn’t mean we love our unborn children any less. It’s okay to complain and rewrite the narrative of joy-filled pregnancy. Birth is also traumatic, and we are allowed to grieve. Whatever plan we had to bring our children into this world, chances are, it all went out of the window.
We’ve lost total control over our bodies and emotions; that’s scary and sad and frustrating. It’s okay to cry randomly. It’s okay to feel like a total madwoman. Everyone should know that this process is complicated. We can be honest if we struggle to conjure joy when faced with congratulations on our new birth. There is no need to smile and grin and pretend all is well. Only when all moms are honest about this grueling process, can our society rewrite the narrative of the rainbow and joy-filled only birth stories.
One day at a time. You are not alone.