There continues to be a misconception that some sort of safe zone exists in pregnancy. It’s based on the theory that there is a certain point during pregnancy in which nothing can go wrong and it’s generally considered to be around week 12, towards the end of the first trimester. The assumption is that if a baby survives those first three months in the womb, the mother is guaranteed a healthy newborn; a baby who will live and thrive well into adulthood.
I had mistaken these theories and assumptions for truth, until I lost my baby during the 20th week of pregnancy. Not only was I shocked and heartbroken, but I felt deceived. I foolishly believed that once my pregnancy passed that 12th week, my baby and my heart would be safe.
Through loss, I discovered that the safe zone of the second trimester did not exist. However I spent the following months believing that a long life would have been guaranteed for my baby if only my body had carried him for another 16 or 20 weeks. I still believed in the safe zone, but it had shifted from the second trimester to the third trimester and beyond.
After months of wading through the deep waters of grief, I finally found the courage and energy to make an appointment with my doctor to discuss the possibility of getting pregnant again. I had hoped that she could provide me with a set of foolproof instructions that would keep a baby in my womb for a full 40 weeks. I wanted guidance that would result in my next baby being placed into the safe zone of my arms.
As I talked with my doctor, she made it clear that she could guarantee nothing, but she was confident in my body’s ability to produce a healthy, living baby. We discussed a handful of procedures and interventions that could potentially lead to giving birth to a healthy, living baby and our conversation left me feeling hopeful about the possibility of entering that 40 week safe zone in a subsequent pregnancy. I believed that a full term pregnancy would guarantee my entrance into the safe zone of parenthood; a place in which my child would be protected simply by having survived those long months in my womb.
But despite the encouragement and hope that I’d received from my doctor, I left the office that day with the stark realization that there is no safe zone. Not in pregnancy. Not in parenthood.
It was the short conversation with my nurse upon leaving the office that changed my perspective. She noticed the fresh ink of my new tattoo and inquired about it. As I explained that it was a memorial tattoo in honor of my baby’s short life, she showed me her own memorial tattoo. A tattoo that honored her son who had been hit by a car. Killed. At the age of 20.
He had been her only baby. Her baby who she assumed had made it into the safe zone. Her baby, who had lived 20 years, but who was now gone many years too soon. Her baby had died along with her illusion of the safe zone.
I very quickly understood that life is never guaranteed. Whether it’s inside of the womb or out. I too had imagined the existence of a safe zone. And although my perception of it had changed, I continued to believe there was one.
But there just isn’t. No matter what stage of life our children are in, they aren’t guaranteed another day. Which is why we must appreciate each moment we have with them. Whether it’s seeing the flutters of their tiny heart on a dark screen or enduring hours of their endless cries or teaching them how to drive, we must appreciate it. Because there is no safe zone, and those moments together just might be the last.
Jenny Albers is a midwestern girl at heart who is raising two kiddos on earth while remembering the two who are in heaven. After experiencing pregnancy loss, Jenny has found healing through writing. She is a contributor at Pregnancy After Loss Support and has had work featured on Her View From Home and Today Parenting Team. She can be found writing about life, loss, family and faith on her blog A Beautifully Burdened Life. In her free time, Jenny enjoys reading, sewing, and wandering the aisles of her favorite thrift stores. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.