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The knot

I had a prenatal appointment earlier this week. I dread these routine appointments for days. As my dread grows, I tie myself in knots.

In the elevator, my knees feel weak. I sign in with a shaky hand. I sit and ignore the stacks of baby and pregnancy magazines on every table. I watch women and a few men come and go, guessing how far along the pregnant women are based on belly size and severity of waddle.

When the nurse has me pee in the cup, weighs me, takes my blood pressure, I secretly think she’s on a fool’s errand, wasting resources. How does she know the baby is actually alive? It isn’t until I see the midwife or the OB that we know for sure, and that doesn’t come until the very end. She squeezes goo on my belly, turns on the doppler, and I hold my breath.

I know the procedure for when you don’t find the heartbeat. You get an ultrasound immediately. I’ve had those ultrasounds and they end in consultations about when to be at the hospital for a procedure.

I’ve lost four pregnancies. The first loss crushed my innocence and abducted my peace. I’ve never been able to relax in subsequent pregnancies. Loss is so brutal that years later it colors every appointment. I can’t enter a dimly-lit ultrasound room without feeling faint. My tears are poised in the ducts, ready to spill.

I had an appointment earlier this week. I used my doppler a few hours before the scheduled time and found the baby’s heartbeat easily. You’d think that would untie the knot. There is nothing dextrous, nothing nimble, nothing strong enough but faith and an eye on holding the baby in my arms that can even begin to undo what sorrow creates.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have hope or joy or that I spend my days expecting the worst. Rather, that dumb knot reminds me of not only what I lost but what I gained. It makes pregnancy more difficult to handle emotionally—but it also inspires a more profound experience. Every tap from inside is priceless in a way I didn’t fully grasp before loss. The baby has no idea he or she is sharing space with a knot, but that’s the beauty of it all. I may have lost my innocence regarding pregnancy, but someone very close, riding around under my heart, has not. But I owe it to our little one to keep trying to unravel and pull, knowing that there will always be something puzzling and heartbreaking at the core.

17 comments to The knot

  • Whether you’ve experienced that loss or not, this came to mind for me too. I believe the severity is much bigger if you’ve experienced it. And I’m so sorry you’ve gone through that 4 times. Just confirms what a strong and amazing woman you truly are.

  • sonja

    I haven’t dealt with this so I have no idea how brutal it must be. I have four children and we want more – knowing the numbers scares me. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle

    You are so right. After this past Monday I’ve had more losses than living children.

  • Kristy

    I have onle experienced loss through the writings of my friends. Thank you for making me aware. You help me to love my friends better.

  • Hugs to you and all your kiddos. I am extremely grateful I haven’t had those ultrasounds, but it crossed my mind every time with my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies. Until my first was born I hadn’t really realized what was at stake.

  • Amy

    Beautiful post, Gretchen. You’ve made me all teary-eyed once again.

    I have only had one pregnancy which resulted in the birth of my delightful son. I used to feel sorry for myself because we never had any more children. Hearing of your losses and walking with my friends as they deal with loss of their own makes me thankful that I have never known that kind of sorrow. I don’t know that my heart could survive it. I admire your strength.

    May the rest of your pregnancy be worry free.

  • Beautiful and so true. Currently on my fourth pregnancy, with one son. And counting down the days until the next appointment so I can know everything is ok. Since it’s still early, I can’t feel those reassuring flutters yet. I try not to worry, remind myself that everything looked good last time, but I have seen too much to assume that I’ll end up with a normal pregnancy.

  • You’ve explained the pain so perfectly. My subsequent pregnancy after loss was so full of stress, as much as I tried to enjoy it, I just held my breath the whole time. I don’t think I realized how much so until he was finally here and I was able to exhale.

  • I can only imagine what it must be like. I started late (first pregnancy was at 36) so I do know what it is like to have doctors question everything and prod and poke “just to make sure”. I am so sorry that you have the knot. Blessings to you.

  • I’m so sorry for your losses. So sorry.

    Somehow I’ve been spared that. 6 pregnancies and 6 healthy babies. I know how lucky I am.

    Even without loss I have found that I had more anxiety every pregnancy. Just knowing more about what can go wrong. It is one of the (lesser) reasons I am not likely to have another. I don’t like living with anxiety.

  • This post is so perfectly written. I remember these feelings. The knot, the worry, how much more you treasure each nudge and hearing each heartbeat. I lost 6 babies and understand your feelings so well. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  • So much love to you. I feel like I’ve been reading here for almost six years now and I remember…


  • (As a sidenote, my security word is “lovely” which is just about the best security word ever.)

    I understand how you feel about this. I have had only two pregnancy losses, but they stay with you forever. I think about my FIVE babies – my two losses, my living daughter, the baby within, and the child we’re working to bring home through adoption – every day. We name the babies we lose, we plant trees to continue their life when they die, and this brings me some peace…but still, every midwifery appointment, I worry. I have an ultrasound next week and I’m trying so hard not to panic. I can feel the baby kicking, but still, until the midwife looks at the screen and verifies what I feel, I worry.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve experienced such loss. I hope that you find peace as this pregnancy progresses.

  • Kim

    Had this exact thing happen once at 9 weeks and once at 20 weeks. I am now 14 weeks along with #4. You have perfectly described my visits throughout #3 and now this one. I have wondered whether having a doppler would help with the anxiety or not. When did you get your doppler?

  • Jessica

    Beautifully described! That is my experience as well.

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