Angelique Serrano and her daughter

Learning About My Second Pregnancy Helped Me Be Grateful for My Support System

I was only a day or two late. On a whim, I took an old pregnancy test that I had found deep inside my bathroom cabinet. I wasn’t supposed to pick it up and see two lines on it. When I did, I thought I might pass out.

I screamed for my husband, who was changing our 2-year-old’s diaper across the hall. I showed him the stick, the two pink lines. He started to smile, and then quickly stopped as I sunk to my bedroom floor in total, complete shock.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive for almost three years before we had our first baby, whom we named Liv. We had visited a fertility specialist—twice—but never moved forward with treatments.

I was told I had "unexplained infertility." Then, on another whim, I tried acupuncture for a month. A few weeks after that, I found out I was pregnant. (Did the acupuncture help? I’ll never know for sure.) We were elated.

My days soon became a blur of morning sickness; my nausea lasted for months. Intense acid reflux followed, along with an issue with my liver called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP), which caused my skin to itch severely. Visual hallucinations post-delivery helped lead my delivery doctor to diagnose me with HELLP Syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, and Low Platelets).

Liv was born prematurely at around 34 weeks, so we had to stay in the hospital for almost a week before landing safely at home. The idea of having another baby after that felt near impossible. Truthfully, I didn’t really let myself think too much about it. I was stunned when, two years after Liv was born, I found myself holding a couple of positive at-home pregnancy tests.

My fears spun on a loop in my mind. I was scared about the costs, the childcare, the scheduling, and terrified of being sick all over again.

I remember driving to see my in-laws just hours after I found out about my new pregnancy. I sat in the passenger seat, staring out the window and whispering out loud, "Two college funds...two tuitions...more vomiting, more itching..." My fears spun on a loop in my mind. I was scared about the costs, the childcare, the scheduling, and terrified of being sick all over again.

It took me almost two days to process. And when I could finally think more clearly, I apologized to my husband. I wasn't alone in this; I felt like I'd stolen his opportunity to have his own moment, his own joy and excitement at the news. I slowly started calming down in the following days...and quickly started throwing up again.

This time around, I made some proactive moves to set myself up for a smoother trimester. I talked to my OB/GYN about my previous pregnancy, my age (I was 39 at the time), and my prior diagnosis of HELLP Syndrome.

We decided I should make appointments in those first few weeks with a high-risk doctor, who then gave me a plan to handle my symptoms and try to prevent, or navigate, another potential HELLP diagnosis. Those collective personalized plans included a suggestion to take the medication Diclegis, a prescription medication that helps with vomiting. I decided to try it out.

During my first pregnancy, I was nervous about taking a prescription to help curb my morning sickness. I thought I could handle it with remedies like lemon candies or pressure-point wristbands, but they never worked for me. So I did some research, talked to my doctor, and decided I was comfortable with taking Diclegis. And, I can only speak for myself, but I think it helped keep me off the bathroom floor. 

As for my little girl, well, she was a very verbal, enthusiastic, curious toddler. She loved talking and asking questions. But in those first few weeks, I just wasn’t ready to handle an explanation. I could barely wrap my mind around my current situation, let alone figure out how to explain it to a 2-year-old.

My solution: I didn’t say anything to her (yet). Instead, I talked to my husband about preparing little weekend trips, playdates, and activities for her outside of the house. It allowed me to spend as many weekend hours as possible in bed, resting up for the week ahead. Enlisting a friend, family member, or partner to create mini excursions can really help distract a little kid, and keep them from focusing on mom’s low-key mood.  

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned from my first pregnancy was that I couldn’t carry this mental load alone.

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned from my first pregnancy was that I couldn’t carry this mental load alone. I worked as an editor in New York City; I commuted more than an hour each way, and my days were full of deadlines, meetings, and more deadlines. I had a toddler at home for which I wanted to be present.

As a result, I became more vocal to my partner and parents, who received the news of my condition almost as soon as I did, and I let them know how I was feeling. I needed to cultivate safe spaces in which I could say whatever was on my mind. The fears I was having, no matter how unfounded, were real to me, and caused real emotions; I needed people I could trust and talk to, and I wanted to feel like I didn't need to hold back.

So I shared my fears, my worries, my hopes, my everyday feelings with my partner and, at times, my parents. It helped me feel supported, which was pivotal, especially in those early days. And I am, to this day, forever grateful.

 

1 Source
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  1. Niebyl, J., Nuangchamnong, N. Doxylamine succinate–pyridoxine hydrochloride (Diclegis) for the management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: an overview. Int J Womens Health, 2014; 6: 401–409. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S46653