Making the decision to add to your family can be daunting, regardless if it is your first or fourth baby. Growing your family after having a baby in the NICU, is even more overwhelming and can even be quite terrifying.
Can I carry to term this time?
Will I have another preemie?
Are we going to have another NICU stay?
Is it safe to have another baby?
Can I go through this again?
My firstborn was born 11 weeks early and was in the NICU for 52 days, which isn’t too bad considering he came home 23 days before his due date. I have a condition, though, which I feel like almost guarantees that any future pregnancies will end with a preterm birth.
I want to have a second child, but I am so nervous to get pregnant again, after the NICU.
Even if you do everything absolutely, 100% by the book, and follow all the doctor’s orders, there is a chance you could go in to labor early. If you’ve given birth prematurely in the past, your chances of delivering early again are heightened. It’s scary, but we have to remember that preterm delivery and a NICU stay are not a guarantee.
My NICU experience was with my first pregnancy and first child, which has scarred me a little and caused some fears that most women don’t have.
I delivered my son 75 days early because I have a bicornate, or a heart shaped, uterus. My doctor informed me that with this condition typically also comes an incompetent cervix.
I had the most picture perfect pregnancy up until the day I gave birth. I rarely felt nauseous, I only threw up twice, and I had no complications until I woke up in labor.
The odd shape of my uterus was not detected on any ultrasounds, and we never had any reason to suspect that I could not have a full term pregnancy. The only reason my doctor knows I have this condition, is because she saw my uterus with her own eyes during my emergency c-section.
Now, my son is almost 16 months old, and that prickling feeling of baby fever is starting to worm its way back in to my head. It has me terrified some days, and excited others.
While I have always envisioned having two children, I never thought that the itch of getting pregnant again would strike so soon considering the traumatic experiences I endured with my son’s birth and subsequent stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if the fever is hitting me because I’m truly and honestly ready for another baby, or if it is because I’m starting to notice other mothers working on their second babies, and their pregnancy announcements are starting to hit my Facebook and Instagram feeds.
The bad memories are still close to the surface, and while the pain sometimes still comes rushing up out of what feels like nowhere, but the good memories of being pregnant are still fresh, too.
Since I had such a smooth pregnancy in the beginning, I was one of those weirdos that enjoyed being pregnant. I loved knowing that I was awesome enough to grow a human being inside of me. I relished in every little movement and kick, even when it meant my bladder was being used as a trampoline. I overflowed with love and joy every time I sang to my little nugget en utero, and he would wiggle and dance to the music.
Then, just as I hit the third trimester, all of that and more was stolen from me.
I was suddenly empty. There were no more baby kicks, there was no more wiggling, there was no more dancing.
I had just started to see my little wiggle worm move on the outside of my belly. My husband had only felt my son move once.
I never took maternity pictures. I didn’t get a baby shower. I didn’t get to experience all of the things pregnant women typically complain about. I didn’t get to beg my husband for a foot rub when my feet started swelling and my ankles got lost. I didn’t get to perfect the preggo-waddle. I didn’t get to complain about how bad my back was hurting, or how my little one was stretching out and pressing on my lungs and bladder at the same time. I never panicked as I felt Braxton Hicks and wondered “is today the day?”.
I’m sure it’s true with most women that had their babies prematurely, but I feel like I was robbed of all of those experiences; good and bad.
Of course I wanted the pictures and baby shower and baby kicks, but I also wanted to be uncomfortable and to complain about how big I was and miss the sight of my feet.
If I get pregnant again, there are things I can do to help prevent another early birth. I would be seen by a high risk doctor in addition to my regular OBGYN, I would get additional ultrasounds to check on Baby, I would get a cervical cerclage (a cervical stitch to help strengthen the cervix so it does not thin and open early again), and I would get progesterone injections. All these things can be done to get me as close to that 40 week mark as possible (or at least to a planned, scheduled c-section since I am not a candidate for a VBAC birth).
Still, I am afraid.
Even with that fear, I know the enormous amount of love I have for my son, and I know that I have grown so much as a woman and as a mother because of the strength he has given me over these last 22 months (my pregnancy and his life outside of the womb).
I know I have more love to give, and that my family is not yet complete. I know that if I have another baby and s/he ends up in the NICU like my son did, I will survive it. I know it will be heartbreaking and probably even harder because my son will need me at home, too.
Every day, though, I am a little more prepared for the possibility of having another preemie/NICU baby. Of course I hope for the best, and I hope for a happy, healthy, full term baby, but I also know that the odds are not necessarily in my favor.
So, until my husband and I make the definitive decision that we are ready for baby number two…I prepare myself, and my heart.
If any of my readers have been pregnant again, after the NICU, I would love to hear from you.
If you would like to share your story with me and fellow readers, I would be honored to post your story and experiences as a guest author blog.
Pregnancy after the NICU is totally possible, and does not mean it will end in preterm labor, but that does not eradicate the fear and anxiety.
Sharing stories and experiences helps though, and I would love to hear from you. Please email me at: