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How Keeping A Journal Helped Me Cope With My Rainbow Pregnancy

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4 weeks, 6 days. And so it begins.

Early pregnancy is so damn unfair. The days drag on as if their sole purpose is to drive me mad. Every time I use the bathroom, I check the toilet paper for blood. Every time something brushes up against my breast, I wonder why it’s not more tender.

I wake up after a full night’s sleep and wonder why I haven’t yet had to wake up and use the bathroom. When I smell, or hear, or see, something gross, I wonder why my stomach isn’t turning.

It would be another ten weeks before anyone knew I was pregnant.

After two miscarriages, I’d vowed never to try for a baby again. When I missed my period and then had a positive pregnancy test, my first reaction was denial—because I hadn’t been intending to get pregnant, but also because denial was useful. If I refused to believe it was true, maybe it wouldn’t be as painful when I eventually lost this pregnancy, too.

I would be sticking hard to the first-trimester rule this time. I didn’t want to relive the trauma I’d had to go through a year before, un-telling people after each loss. I told my husband and a trusted friend or two, and nobody else. And in that ten-week dead space between finding out I was pregnant and being able to announce it to the world, my racing thoughts threatened to devour me from the inside out.

Writing was the only way to calm my mind

Thankfully, my doctor was sympathetic with my anxiety and put me on an every-48-hour regimen of blood tests. Being the giant nerd I am, I created an equation [2x = xe^(rt)] and a spreadsheet to track the expected versus actual values of hCG (the “pregnancy hormone”) circulating through my bloodstream.

Each time I got a blood draw, I would add the number to the spreadsheet and try not to get too excited.

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Anything could happen in 48 hours. I knew from experience.

5 weeks, 2 days

My thoughts and heart haven’t slowed down, but I suppose I do feel a little better, knowing the hCG increase was even more than predicted. This number also means that I will likely have an ultrasound early next week since the doctor wants to do it when the number has exceeded 2000. If things keep increasing as they should, I’ll pass that number by Sunday.

My mind is eased, but I know to protect myself. It will be a long while before I will feel like I can relax.

The blood tests calmed my nerves, and the spreadsheet was one outlet for my anxiety. But they weren’t enough. When my older kids were in school, I was alone in the house with nothing but the yammering voice in my head to keep me company.

I’d been writing full-time for over a year by this point — I was on the second draft of my novel if I remember correctly — and I always had my computer open.

And so I created a new document, titled it Journal of a Pregnancy (that might never be), and started tapping away.

I may be a writer, but I am not a journalist. I have bought or been given at least a dozen journals in my life, and I’ve never written more than a handful of entries in each before abandoning them to the bedside table and, later, packing them away with the surprising number of other projects and books I never got around to finishing.

But this felt like something I could — nay, needed to — write about.

When no one could understand, my journal was there for me

5 weeks, 3 days

I talked with my husband the other night and tried to give him just a tiny bit of insight into my cesspool of a brain during the first several weeks of pregnancy. He should get it — because I think his brain is usually just as restless — but I don’t think he really, truly does.

The increase between the first two draws comforted me quite a bit, and I’m also comforted to know that, if something does go wrong, I won’t have to carry around a dead embryo for weeks while I await the next ultrasound. But I know anything could happen at any time, and so I worry. As much as I try not to, there it is.

I have another draw today, and I’ll have to call the doctor on call tomorrow morning to get the number since it’s a Saturday. I feel annoying doing that, but the office is just so kind and understanding. They are so compassionate. They say “good luck” and call me “hon” and “sweetheart.” They never, ever make me feel like an inconvenience, which has always been my experience with doctor’s offices in early pregnancy.

So I’ll call, and they’ll call back, and I’ll have a number. And there’s nothing I can do until then, so I will try to relax and enjoy the day with the babies I already have.

Nothing can compare to the rollercoaster of emotions I went through during that period of time. So far, these entries have spanned just seven days, and I can watch my anxiety ebb and flow several times just in each individual entry, not to mention across the whole of them. I am excited one moment, desperate the next. I expressly deny myself the right to celebrate, but also the right to worry. I allow myself to feel nothing.

If I’d been talking to a friend about all these feelings, it quickly would have become burdensome. (“Not if you had the right friends,” I can hear you saying. But it gets old regurgitating the same mess over and over again when there’s nothing you can do to change it or learn more — and I knew that.)

But my journal was there, and it didn’t care that I was rolling myself downhill in one big ol’ snowball. Which happened, especially after the blood draws stopped.

5 weeks, 6 days (or not quite?)

I got the call early this morning before I left to drop the kids at camp. The number hadn’t quite doubled, but it had reached the requisite value for an ultrasound, and so I scheduled it for 1:45 and existed in a puddle for five hours.

Serendipity allowed for child care, and my husband and I went together. The last time we were at this office together was the day we found out that the last baby was gone. It had stopped growing just a few days after we’d seen the little white flicker on the monitor.

Same waiting room. Same ultrasound suite. I had to fight panic as we waited. My husband later told me he’d felt much the same.

Every time I talk with someone new at the doctor’s office, they ask me why we’re going through this nonsense and I have to say aloud, “I had two miscarriages last year.” They really need to write that in red at the top of the file so I don’t have to keep repeating it.

The tech made quick work of the exam and told us there was a yolk sac, a gestational sac, and what she thinks is an embryo.

I am measuring 2–3 days behind.

I’m to come back in two weeks “to check for viability.”

It’s good news, it really is. But for fourteen more days I’m going to be a mess.

I don’t have to go back for hCG levels anymore, but that removes the frequent checkpoints and makes me all the more prone to worrying.

But they say worrying won’t help the future but it will ruin the present. So I’ll try to stop worrying. I’ll try to stop poking at my boobs, feeling for tenderness. (It’s there.) I’ll try to stop looking for nausea. (It’s not there.) I’ll try to just keep going about my daily life and forget for the next two weeks that I’m pregnant.

I’ll try.

Two days or two weeks: When it’s a matter of life or emptiness, pregnant or not pregnant, adding another family member or making another trip to the D&E clinic, you can live a hundred lives inside the time between checkpoints.

6 weeks, 4 days

I woke up yesterday, convinced something was wrong. I didn’t feel pregnant enough, I was sure of it…

7 weeks, 4 days

“No bleeding or cramping?” they always ask at the doctor’s office, as if the absence of these symptoms is evidence that there’s a human incubating inside me. Well, past experience indicates that my body is very willing to hold on to a failed pregnancy long past its expiration date, so forgive me if I don’t trust that particular set of indications…

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When the day finally came, despite the 336 hours of anxiety that had built up in my gullet, I just couldn’t help the hope from peeking through. I was simultaneously convinced things would be fine and resigned to the possibility that my heart would break into a thousand tiny, dripping pieces right there on the exam table.

7 weeks, 3 days

Wait, did I just go backward in time?

Yeah, kind of. The ultrasound today verified that I was measuring 3 days behind (same as 2 weeks ago) and so I’m going to go ahead and adopt the new dating.

What else did the ultrasound today show?

A HEARTBEAT.

That little, tiny, unmistakable heartbeat. I can’t make out anything else on that grainy black-and-white screen, but I know what a heartbeat looks like.

Biggest sigh of relief.

I’m sure the anxiety will return soon enough. I’ve got a couple of weeks until my first official appointment with the doctor or midwife, and another few weeks after that until the first-trimester anatomy scan. But, tentatively, I’m hopeful. Maybe for a few days, I can concentrate on my increasing grossness instead of wondering if it will all be for naught.

I’ve said before that the excitement we feel about our pregnancies is always tentative. Seeing the heartbeat for the first time started moving me from tentatively-excited-yet-still-in-denial to actually-truly-excited-like-this-might-just-turn-out-all-right.

I stopped journaling privately when I felt comfortable talking publicly

Over the next few entries, I can watch myself get increasingly more hopeful.

At 7 weeks, 6 days, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about all the things keeping me up at night — from the gerbils we were taking care of for the school over the summer recess to the songs from my kids’ favorite movies playing on repeat in my head.

I wrote about the surprise ultrasound that was sprung on me because of what looked like a second, undeveloped gestational sac.

I wrote about a trip I took with my girls and how nauseated I was feeling as we rode in the car to the beach.

And then, suddenly, the journal stops. I try and scroll, but I’ve reached the end.

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I can imagine a world in which something terrible happened and I chronicled it in writing because I had no one to talk to about it. But that’s not what happened. What happened is that I eventually got comfortable. I kept going to the ultrasounds, and exercising, and doing what my care team told me to do. Being pregnant was on my mind, but nothing noteworthy happened.

And soon, the end of the first trimester had arrived. After all the stress of blood tests and early ultrasounds, finally, we had come to the big benchmark that says, “You’re probably going to have another child when this is all over.”

Now, anything I wanted to say about my pregnancy could be said in a public forum. I wrote poems and articles and stories, and I posted photos of my bump and ultrasounds on social media from time to time. I didn’t need the journal anymore.

Even if you defy the first-trimester rule, a journal can be a useful tool

There are not a lot of people in my life I could count on to provide the right kind of comfort in a bad situation. Also, I don’t like being sad — and the more people I told (and then would therefore have to un-tell), the more times I’d have to relive my sadness if something did go wrong. After so much loss, I just couldn’t handle it.

So I chose to only announce my pregnancy after I was pretty confident things were going to turn out well.

Plenty of people, though, don’t follow the first-trimester rule. And I think that’s great. It’s amazing when people have such a wonderful and trusting relationship with their family and friends. And it’s great that there are people in the world who will help normalize discussion around pregnancy loss if it does happen.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, if you, like me, are so full of feelings about your fertility, loss, or pregnancy journey that you can’t seem to quiet your mind, I hope you’ll give journaling a try.

Nikki Kay writes about fiction, poetry, personal essays about parenting, mental health, and the intersection of the two. 

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.