Why the Fear of Miscarriage and Motherhood Almost Held Me Back

After two kids, two miscarriages, and a journey through postpartum depression, I became afraid to try for the third baby I always knew I wanted.

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I looked at the second negative pregnancy test and felt the familiar range of emotions. I wasn’t sure whether I was relieved or disappointed.

Did I feel relieved because it was easier than facing the disappointment? Did I feel relieved because maybe deep down another baby wasn’t really what I wanted, but what I thought I wanted because others wanted it for us? Did I feel relief because for another month I could avoid the daily fear of worrying that I might miscarry again—that the girls and my husband and I were going to get their hopes up to just end up crushed? Did I feel relieved because I am simply scared of going through early motherhood again? Maybe I’m not ready yet to take on the emotional rollercoaster that I anticipate coming with another baby.

That, for me, is much of the experience of motherhood—it’s full of conflicting emotions. It’s never tidy, nor black and white. I wanted another baby, but I feared having another baby. I felt relief. I also felt disappointment, and I couldn’t untangle the two.

Like most decisions in parenting, going from two kids to three takes serious consideration—especially after experiencing multiple miscarriages.

My husband and I always said we wanted at least three children. But after the rough transition to two with a colicky baby and year of depression followed by two miscarriages, I wasn’t so sure what I wanted anymore. I finally felt like I was in a good place in my life again. I feared that another pregnancy and  baby could disrupt all of that.

My last miscarriage was particularly devastating. I wondered if and how I would handle a third one if it happened again.

As I reflected and took a deep dive to figure out what I really could handle, I remembered how I felt as a 25-year-old when I stood at the altar with my soon-to-be husband. I imagined and wanted a future with him and a big family—three, maybe even four kids. I then remembered how I felt at 27, when we welcomed our first baby girl into the world. At that moment, I could clearly imagine experiencing that surreal moment of meeting my baby for the first time at least two more times. At 30, when I welcomed my second baby girl, I did not see all of her firsts as lasts,  because I still imagined the bigger family of at least three kids.

But here I was now as an almost 34-year-old mother of two, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore.

Would I be letting myself down if we didn’t have the one more child we always thought we would have?

Though I’d tell myself that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be and try to accept it, I knew I would forever be letting myself down if I didn’t keep trying. I finally recognized that I was just letting my fear control me and hold me back from what I wanted. At some point I needed to let that fear go and embrace the challenge of making my motherhood dreams a reality.

It didn’t help that my social media newsfeeds were overloaded with the births of everyone’s babies. I was happy for my friends and family but couldn’t help feeling disappointed for myself. Why do they get to have more children, and I don’t? Was I really not ready? Would I ever be ready? Was I disappointed because I couldn’t be what my younger self had envisioned?

I realized that my disappointment would always outweigh any sense of relief. If I didn’t try again, I would live with regret. I couldn’t abandon the hopes and dreams I once had; I knew I couldn’t let my fear rule my future.

As a mother of two, I feared motherhood more now than I ever had the first time around. I understood now how it could strip you down to your rawest emotions.

Ultimately, we decided to try again for a third baby.

Then there it was. Two clear pink lines. We were pregnant again. It was finally time to face the uncertainty that lay ahead. I wanted this. I did. I wanted a third baby; I wanted the bigger family.

Still, I was scared of so many things. I didn’t want to lose another baby. I didn’t want to lose my sense of self like I did after my second baby. I didn’t want to lose the sense of balance and contentment I had finally found as a working mom in the past year. As a mother of two, I feared motherhood more now than I ever had the first time around. I understood now how it could strip you down to your rawest emotions.

Confronting and fighting those emotions terrified me this third time around, but I also knew that motherhood was harder and more terrifying than my younger self could ever have imagined. I also knew it was some of the best parts of what my life had become.

And when that precious third baby, my first boy, was placed in my arms, I knew that facing the fears were worth it. Some nights, when I hold that little body curled against mine, I remember how he was almost the boy I let get away.

After two losses I almost gave up my hope of ever meeting him—the boy who would forever steal my heart. When his little hand grasped mine and those big brown eyes looked at me like I was his whole everything, I remember that he was the boy I almost let my fear keep me from meeting.

I almost gave up trying to find him for fear of breaking my heart even more, but here he was, the boy who had my heart before our eyes ever met.

I lay awake for eight long months, riddled with anxiety about whether he'd survive long enough to be here with me, but here we were—after loss and fear—finally together, me and the boy I almost let get away.

Angela Williams Glenn is a published author who writes about the struggles and joys of motherhood on her website Stepping into Motherhood.