How I Manage My Anxiety

I have been asked by a few people how I do so well at managing my anxiety, grief, and fear after losing three babies and being pregnant with another one. The short answer is: I don't. When I got that question over the weekend I literally started laughing. If people think I'm good at keeping it together after everything I've shared, I don't know that I want to find out what their idea of falling apart is. For the sake of full disclosure (even though I don't have to), I want to share what I do to deal with all the feelings. There is no shame in my recovery, and I will be the first to tell you that it is a constant work in progress. If you're looking for ideas or just to know you're not alone, then welcome. Because I feel like i've tried pretty much everything.

Since the second we found out we lost Carter, I have allowed myself to feel every emotion. If it looks like I've got a brave, happy face on, it's more than likely because I had a meltdown the night before. Meltdowns can consist of a few tears, loud sobbing, or angry outbursts. Sometimes a combination of the three. I allow myself to really feel my grief, because how am I going to live with it for the rest of my life if I can't live with it today? When I'm sad, I let myself be sad. But also, I let myself be happy too. If something is funny, it's okay that I laugh! Emotions are supposed to change, that's what is so fun (I guess?) about them. I don't need to be sad or happy all the time, and that's not healthy for me anyway. Feeling out my grief has helped me work through everything.

Exercise is probably something that helps too, but I honestly couldn't tell you right now. We got gym memberships a couple months after we lost Carter, and I enjoyed it. It gave me a place to get my energy out and essentially make myself so tired that I almost didn't have the energy to grieve. Sometimes though, if we went to the gym when I was already upset, it would backfire, and I would end up trying to push myself so hard that I started crying at the gym. We tried to go to the gym after we lost little bean, but it pushed my social anxiety limits, so we stopped going.

I have always been an emotional eater, and that definitely has not changed with all our losses. If I want ice cream, I eat ice cream. I try to do everything in moderation, but some days you just need to have a junk day. It's kind of like having a meltdown: let it out, and the next day will be better. So I eat the ice cream, then I eat better the following days.

A couple weeks before we found out we were pregnant for the third time, my doctor put me on an anti-anxiety medication. I feel like I should be afraid to tell people this, but I'm not. I guess it's because it's better to have me functioning well than not at all. I don't think there's any shame in asking for a little extra help. At the same time, he suggested that I start seeing a grief counselor. My thought was that if the medicine helps me function at a higher level, then I can go through therapy and learn the tools I need to stay at that level of functioning once I stop taking the meds. The majority of loss moms I talk too have also been put on some sort of medication, especially to get through subsequent pregnancies. I noticed a huge difference in my anxiety right after I started the medication, but have noticed a few setbacks since getting pregnant again. Like I said though, I am not ashamed! If this is what it takes to get me out of bed today and be the kind of person others can stand being around, then I will take it.

Having some sort of routine really helped immediately after each loss. Brandon and I had discussed how we could work together to prevent or minimalize post-partum depression, so when we lost Carter, it was almost like we were prepared. We opened the blinds every morning, showered every day and changed out of pajamas, and tried to go outside to see the sun for at least a few minutes each day. It wasn't necessarily a schedule, but it all helped. Routine after the other two losses was easier, because I was working. Now that I'm not working, I still do all the same things as before, and try and do certain things (like shower) at the same time each day.

Open communication with others has really helped too. Brandon is my go-to person for everything, but especially my emotions. I can share anything with him, and vice versa, even when we are feeling impatient with each other. We've gotten really good at taking a step back and recognizing that when we are angry or upset, it usually can be traced back to missing our babies. I think it is so important to communicate with your spouse or partner after any hard time. I don't expect Brandon to be my counselor, by any means, but he is my husband, and being so open with our emotions only brings us that much closer. I've had to learn to have hard conversations with other people, especially when my gut instinct is to just punch them. You can't just go around punching people (no matter how much we'd like to) so learning how to have those conversations with people has allowed me to set boundaries that I need for my own mental health.

I don't know if any of that made sense, but it's just something I have been thinking about for the last few days. I am obviously not a grief expert, nor am I licensed to give out this information and say that it will help you (because I don't think emotional eating is something most counselors would suggest), but I hope that it helped in some way. What has helped you work through a difficult time in your life? When it comes to overcoming grief, I will take all the suggestions I can get!

Hi Little Bean: March 23, 2017

Today I would have been 18 weeks pregnant. Three more days and we would have been halfway through this pregnancy.

March 23, 2017

Hi baby bean! We got to see you again yesterday at our doctor’s appointment! They didn’t realize that we’d had an ultrasound last week, and they wanted to measure you. It was a super quick ultrasound, but you measured at six weeks again. I’m sure everything is fine, but I’m not going to lie to you, I’m nervous. I haven’t said anything to your dad, because the doctor said he would have measured you a little bigger than the tech did, but still. We’ll go back in for another ultrasound on Wednesday next week and make sure that you are still growing like you should be. And once we get that ultrasound done, I’m hoping maybe we can get another one when we go back for our next appointment. I just want to see you all the time and check your health! Plus, it makes my day just to see you.

There hasn’t been much going on around here. We told all your grandparents about you over the weekend. We told grandma and grandpa Robbins on Saturday when we were in Logan visiting your brother, and then we told grandma and grandpa Quast on Sunday. Dad and I are going to Idaho Falls this weekend to see grandma and grandpa Quast, but we aren’t going to share our news about you for another six weeks or so. We want to make sure you are safe! 

I’m telling my friends about you tonight, though, and I am so excited. I put one of your ultrasounds in a big box, and each friend gets to open a box. The boxes are clothes boxes, so they’ll be surprised when they open it and find just a little picture inside! I’m hoping at least one of them cries haha. We told Adrian about you on Tuesday when he and Tiffanie stopped to spend the night. He seemed pretty excited, but he didn’t cry like I was hoping he would. So hopefully my friends pull through for me haha.

Today has been a weird day, little bean. The doctor told us yesterday that we could be induced at 37 weeks, which is super great. That means you will be born 51 weeks after your brother. But I’m having a hard time figuring out how we’re going to celebrate him, but also keep you safe from flu season and germs and all the people. We could have a party at home, but then I feel like we need to go up and see him. But if we go up to see him, I feel like all these people will want to see you, and I want to make sure you don’t get sick. And to be honest, I don’t really know that I’m going to want to share you with people for a while. I want to be selfish and keep you at home with me and daddy for the whole six weeks he’ll have off. Six weeks though, isn’t that crazy awesome? We’re going to have so much fun, the three of us!

I sure love you. Stay safe and healthy in there. I can’t wait to see you on the ultrasound again next week!

 How far along? : Seven weeks, even though the ultrasound measured you at six again
Baby is the size of: a blueberry!
Total weight gain/loss: No idea.
Sleep: Still sleeping super well. I’m tired all the time, but I know I’m only going to get more tired as the weeks go on!
Best moment this week: Seeing you on the ultrasound again, and having the doctor confirm that we can deliver you early.
Movement: None
Symptoms: Less cramping this week, but still some. More nausea, but still haven’t puked, sore back (and other things), and so many hormones.
Food cravings: One night this week I wanted this pasta dish that Brandon’s mom made for us after we lost Carter. I don’t know why I wanted it so bad, but I had to have it! And Nutella, but that’s probably just because we had waffles the other day.
Food aversions: The break room down the hall has a coffee pot in it that is going all day. I have to stand in the hallway while my food heats up because the coffee smell is too much.
What I miss: Carter. I want to have both my babies at home.
What I am looking forward to: Another ultrasound next week, and getting out of the first trimester.

What today should have been.

I did a silly thing a few weeks ago and let myself get excited about the pregnancy. You all know how much we love Disney (too much, probably), and at the end of April we had booked a trip to Disney World so we could announce the pregnancy and gender there. We had the whole thing all planned out: Mickey balloons, a just celebrating pin, and cotton candy. And in my head I already knew it would all be pink. I wanted to take the picture in front of the castle, since last year we announced we were having a boy in front of the ferris wheel in California Adventure. We were so, so excited.

We're supposed to be at Magic Kingdom right now riding Pirates. I just got the notification for our fast passes.

After the visit with the specialist, we decided to cancel our trip. We would have hated to be so far away from our doctor if anything happened, and we decided that even if we lost her before or after, the trip still would have been a little hard. Of course we still would have had fun together, but I know I would have cried every time I saw a pink Mickey balloon.

When we were discussing how we could announce the pregnancy at Disney, Brandon was pretty adamant that we don't use the balloons since that is how we announced Carter's gender. I think he was nervous that if we planned to use the balloons, it would be a boy, and then it would have been pretty much the exact same picture as last year, minus the background. Isn't that so silly for me to have to say? Last year. Our official due date for little bean was November 8th, six days after Carter's due date last year. We found out we were pregnant with her a year and one day after we had found out we were pregnant with Carter. And, had we been announcing the pregnancy today, we would have been sharing her (and her gender) with the world 363 days after we shared Carter's. I kind of loved that we were on the same time frame as our pregnancy last year. It makes me feel like both of our babies were already really close. There was a short period of time where I was super stressed about how we would do Carter's birthday with a newborn. We would have been induced at 37 weeks, so about a week and a half before Carter's birthday, and I didn't know how we could properly celebrate him with the restrictions of a new baby. I would give anything to still have that struggle.

Please don't mistake my sadness and grief for depression. I think I mentioned some in the post about losing our little bean, but there are a few things that make this round of loss a little easier than the last one. I'll write about them sometime. It's funny; some days I feel like I can only talk about all of this emotionally, and other days (or minutes, really) I feel like I just talk about it intellectually, with facts and no emotions. I'll write about the bright spots when I'm feeling more intellectual and not emotional.

I think I'm still going to go buy pink balloons today, because I was really looking forward to buying baby girl her very first Mickey balloon, and her first set of ears. The ears will have to wait, and so will the Mickey balloon, but she still deserves some pink balloons, just for making our lives that much brighter while she was here.

Losing Little Bean.

A year and a day after we found out we were pregnant with Carter, we found out we were pregnant again. March 8th. I had known for a while, but we didn't get a positive pregnancy test until that day. It was the best day we'd had in a long time. And we were finally getting another chance to bring home a baby.

Everything was really good for a long time. We had an ultrasound at six weeks, then another at seven weeks, and another at eight weeks, not because anything was wrong, but because we wanted one early, and then our doctor was so nice and did one each time we saw him. We got to watch our bean grow from a tiny little dot on the ultrasound until she looked like an actual baby, and it was wonderful. I don't know how many doctors allow their patients to have eight ultrasounds by the time they are 14 weeks, but if yours does, I highly recommend it.

The first trimester was, like Carter's, a dream. I was more nauseous than I was with Carter, and food didn't seem to help, but I still never threw up! Sleep was hard to come by, but I wasn't as tired as I was with Carter, so it seemed like a fair trade. We were in Amsterdam right during the thick of my sickness, so that was a fun thing to deal with. But it didn't really matter, because I was so happy just to be pregnant again. And with this pregnancy, unlike Carter's, I craved sweets all the time. Fruits and vegetables made me want to throw up, so I just ate a lot of breads and chocolates and cookies, and already little bean and I were the best of friends.

Two Tuesdays ago, May 9th, I woke up and thought I had leaked fluid. We hurried to the ER (where they, of course, didn't hurry) and waited to have an ultrasound. When we finally got in there, the tech told us that the baby's fluid looked like, so Brandon and I relaxed, and enjoyed being able to see our wiggly little babe. She was so wiggly, just like Carter. We went back to our room and waited for the doctor to discharge us. He came back in with the nurses and sat down, and told us that the fluid levels looked fine (I just peed my pants, no big deal), but that there was something else we needed to talk about. He told us that the baby had what is called a Cystic Hygroma. He told us it was abnormal growth on the brain, and that we were going to lose the baby. We were devastated, and kind of blindsided. Everything had been fine, and we'd just had an ultrasound six days before and our doctor didn't see anything, so we had no idea where this was coming from. We went in to see our OB the next day, and he was just as frustrated as we were. He said the radiologist didn't tell him where the growth was, or how big it is, and furthermore, the ER doctor hadn't exactly given us accurate information. A Cystic Hygroma is abnormal swelling of the lymphatic system, and while it can be fatal, it can sometimes go away too. He did an ultrasound that day and said that he could maybe see what they had been looking at, but that he couldn't confirm it. We had gotten my blood drawn the week before to do DNA testing on the baby, so he said we would need to wait for that to come back before we drew any conclusions or made any plans.

That same night, he called us and said he had our results, and that he wanted to see us first thing the next day. All night we worried and talked about worst case scenarios. We sat around the house for too long, then finally left and drove around for about three hours before coming home and crashing on the couch. When Thursday morning finally came, we went to his office and waited. Our results showed that the baby had Trisomy 13, meaning she had an extra 13th chromosome, and essentially confirmed what the radiologist had seen on Tuesday. Trisomy 13 babies often have the abnormal swelling, and generally have failure of all internal organs. The hygroma would not go away, and neither would the chromosomal abnormality. Babies with Trisomy 13 can sometimes live to birth, or even one year, but the majority don't make it a full 40 weeks, and if they do, they don't usually live more than a few hours. We found out then that she was a girl, just like we knew she was. Our doctor sat with us for a long time and answered all of our questions. He told us he'd had his nurse send a referral over to a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist, and that we would probably hear from them by the end of the day. We left the appointment shocked and sad. We were going to lose another baby.

We drove to Logan that day to spend time with Carter. We visited with Brandon's parents while we were there and delivered the bad news, then called my parents that night to tell them. We felt so bad telling everyone, because nobody really knew what to say. We didn't even know what to say. It just seemed so unfair. But spending time with Carter that day helped. I've had a lot of spiritual experiences since we lost him that I won't go into detail about, but I know our other children have been with us through all of this, and that they were preparing for their sister to return to them.

We had Friday off too, and went to see the specialist that day. They did another ultrasound and talked us through everything they were seeing. We saw the swelling then, and it made us so sad. The baby was probably about ten centimeters long, and the swelling was 1.5 centimeters on either side of her neck. It spread down a little over her chest too. The specialist said it had grown significantly since the ultrasound on Tuesday. They told us that we would probably lose her, because the hygroma would grow and her heart would get weaker, but they couldn't give us a time frame. We could have lost her that day, or I could have carried her through to delivery. They talked about us making the decision to end her life, not that we had to, but that it was an option if we didn't feel like we wanted to carry another baby full term just to lose them. I didn't even want to think about having to consider a decision like that. No parent should have to think about that.

We were supposed to go to Boise that weekend. After the appointment, we went home to grab our bags, got an hour away from home, and I decided that I just wanted to stay home. I wanted time alone with our little family, and I felt like I needed a few days to let everything sink in before I went back to work. Little Bean was super active all weekend, and Brandon and I both got to feel her move a little. We spent Mother's Day as a little family of four, soaking up all the time we had before anything happened, and not thinking about what the future could bring.

Monday morning I woke up at 4:30 to our little bean kicking, but when I got up an hour later to shower, I felt different. I didn't say anything to Brandon, because I didn't want to believe it, but all day I think I knew. I went to Costa for lunch with Alycia and had a Diet Coke to see if the baby would move, but I didn't feel anything. I called Brandon and told him I wanted to go in and listen to the baby's heart, even though we were supposed to have an appointment on Wednesday. We showed up at the office, and even though we weren't on the schedule, our doctor made room for us right away. I felt so bad for the nurse, because it wasn't the usual nurse we see, and we had to explain why we were there. I wanted to tell her not to listen, and that the doctor should be the one to do it, but I didn't want to seem high maintenance, so I let her do it, and in turn, broke her heart. She finally gave up and went to get the doctor, who fought it for a long time too. Finally he took us into the ultrasound room, looked at her fluids, and essentially everything but her heart, until it was the last thing left to look at . There was no little flutter, no heartbeat. I had asked Brandon the day before to download the recording app so we could record the sound of her heartbeat, and we didn't get to do it. That was what made me the most sad. I knew she was gone before we went to the doctor, but I'm glad I listened to my instinct and asked to go in.

Losing our little bean wasn't as much of a shock as losing Carter was. We had known it was probably going to happen for about a week, and were honestly glad that it happened on its own, rather than us having to have considered ending her life. Her pain didn't go on for longer than necessary, and we had her with us for Mother's Day. Really, the timing was okay. We hadn't planned to do the blood draw for the genetic testing until this last Wednesday, but I got antsy and did it two weeks early. Had we not done it then, we would have had to wait on an autopsy from her to find out why we had lost her. Had we miscarried in the first trimester, we would never have known why, and would have wondered if it would be safe to keep trying. We had a karyotype done in November to check mine and Brandon't chromosomes, and both are completely normal. This was, once again, a rare stroke of bad luck. 

The chances of having a stillborn are 1 in 23,000. The chances of losing a baby to Trisomy 13 are 1 in 20,000. The chances of both happening to us are 1 in 460 million. And this is why we don't gamble.

The doctor got me on his schedule for a D&C the next day. I could have been induced and tried to deliver her naturally, but more than likely I would have needed a D&C anyway, so we decided to make the process as stress and pain free as possible. We went in Tuesday, and had our little girl.

Our doctor was so sweet, and treated everything as much like a normal birth as he could. He took the giraffe receiving blanket we had for her and told us he would get it to her. He told us she was born at 2:45, and he told us she was pretty.

And just like that, we became a little family of four.

There are bright spots among all the clouds of our situation. We know we can have healthy babies, it just hasn't happened for us yet. But it will. We are as optimistic as we can be right now, even though the days are painted with occasional meltdowns and fits about how life is really unfair. I miss being pregnant, and I miss having a reason to get out of bed smiling every morning, but it will happen again.

We love our little bean, and are so happy to have had her for the time we did.


**We took the picture in the hospital for the sake of remembering. We wanted the "delivery" to be as typical as possible, even though it most definitely is not, and wanted to remember May 16th as the day our little girl was born.