I love celebrating my birthday, catching up with my nearest and dearest friends over pizza. But in 2015, the occasion was extra special, as I was planning on announcing my pregnancy to everyone in attendance. Eventually, I changed my mind and confided in only two friends that I was expecting. Tears of happiness fell. Little did I know that my journey to becoming a mother would be much longer and more tumultuous than I could have imagined.

Three days after the birthday cheers, I shed tears of a different kind. My doctor informed me that I had miscarried. She assured me that the miscarriage was natural, that it was not my fault for doing or not doing something, but I found no comfort in her words.

The following months were difficult. As everyone around me was getting into the holiday spirit, I struggled to keep my chin up and smile while visiting family. Instead, I wanted to disappear and hide away so I didn’t have to talk about the elephant in the room. It wasn’t until we were on our way back home to San Francisco that I began to settle into some peace and start to feel a new hope blossom within me. That is, until a month later, when I found myself staring at all the pregnancy tests shelved at the drugstore. I was flushed with anxiety.

I got home, tests in hands, but couldn’t bring myself to look at the results alone so I waited for my husband. Sure enough, the stick showed a positive sign. I was pregnant.

How could this be, so soon after a miscarriage? I knew I only needed one normal menstrual cycle to get back on track, but still — it all felt so rushed. With the emotional fragments that remained from my miscarriage, I tried my best to stifle the excitement. In vain.

My maternal desire kicked into full gear, and with controlled enthusiasm, my husband and I sat in the observation room, waiting to see our growing baby. We waited for what felt like an eternity and made awkward small talk — mainly to avoid asking the looming question: what if it’s another miscarriage?

Once in the exam room, the nurse practitioner asked me questions about my history and proceeded with the ultrasound. As I was trying to focus on the monitor, I couldn’t help but study the nurse’s face. There was no sign of hope or joy.

“It’s like deja-vu,” my husband whispered, holding my hand tight. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I knew. There was no baby. Again.

The news and expectation of a second miscarriage paralyzed me. I entered a phase of darkness and loneliness. I cried a lot, and I stared at myself in the mirror periodically, waiting for my body to change back. My marriage suffered, too, as tension permeated the air in our one-bedroom apartment. It was the hardest time of my life.

I eventually reached outside my family and friends and started to see a therapist. We only met a couple times, but our sessions were invaluable. I talked, she listened. I cried, she let me. “Was I broken?”, I wondered. She told me that the emotions I experienced were completely normal and natural, that I wasn’t broken. It was simply my new path of life. I had suffered a loss, and it deserved room to swell, age, and teach before it could be packed away.

Fast forward a few months, to August 2016. The family vacation at our Michigan lakehouse started out on a positive note: it was my birthday, my family surrounded me, I was in one of my happiest places on Earth, and the darkness from my miscarriages had started to fade. Then one afternoon, I saw the tampons I had packed for the trip and realized my cycle hadn’t come. My heart dropped, and I suddenly felt the need to dash off to buy a pregnancy test. I had to know immediately — was I pregnant?

Pregnancy test in hand, I sat in the bathroom absolutely terrified. This was a scene that I was becoming too familiar with and that I was once again facing with dread. The test was positive. Again. But convinced joy and happiness were not in my cards, the positive result didn’t register. Instead, anxiety ruled.

From that point onward, I entered every day anticipating that something would go wrong and that I would get bad news at the next doctor’s visit. Even the abdominal ultrasound revealing our baby boy and seeing my nose on his face didn’t rest my nerves.

As the weeks went on, we only got good news, and I finally allowed myself to settle into the idea that this baby was real and well.

My baby boy was born on April 22, and now that he is with us, earthside, joy abounds.

Katie Center Brooks lives in San Francisco with her husband of 4 years, her stepdaughter, and her baby boy, Lawton Wellington. Before her baby was born, she worked on a recruiting team at a tech startup as the talent operations and brand manager. She’s embracing this new life of motherhood with open arms and humility. To read more about her experience, go here.