It took five years for us to get to the point of deciding to have another baby after the stillbirth of our first son Walter. For a while, I questioned whether or not I was meant to be a mother. I felt inadequate. I was mad at God because I could not understand why he would allow us to become pregnant only for our baby not to live. We were not even trying to get pregnant but we were excited and full of anticipation.
So after losing Walter, I decided motherhood was not for me, at least not any time soon. Seeing pregnant ladies initially was a painful reminder of what we lost. This got better as time passed and the wall that resided around my heart slowly began to crumble. But I was still scared for us to try. Birth control was my constant companion. The questions and doubt were endless it seemed. What if it happened again? How could I go through another 36-37 weeks long pregnancy and risk the chance of not having a baby go home with me? What if something was wrong with me that caused my baby to die? I now had high blood pressure, how would that affect the pregnancy and my body? What if the baby stopped moving? What if anxiety got the best of me? What if? What if? What if? Nevertheless, there was still a longing deep down to try again.
Many had tried again and succeeded, right? My grandmother and three of my aunts had shown me that success was a possibility. My OB/GYN had also started asking when my husband and I were going to try and get pregnant again. He would ask each year that I would see him for follow-up. I found this encouraging yet scary at the same time. Finally, one day we decided that we were going to rely on faith and medicine and pray for a favorable outcome.
March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month. A range of emotions ebb and flow as you are experiencing pregnancy after loss. You are hopeful and happy yet fearful and nervous. It is quite a precarious position to endure. However, it is also a good teacher. Here are 8 things to keep in mind during a pregnancy after loss:
Recognize the fear and anxiety but do not let them consume you. These are normal and expected reactions and emotions but in large quantities, they can be harmful. To cope, I relied on scripture, one verse in particular, 2 Timothy 1:7- For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, love and a sound mind. This verse was my declaration. Every time worry and concern tried to overcome me I would recite it out loud or in my head and it would help. If scripture is not really your style then you could try affirmations and other forms of positive thinking. The key is to be consistent!
Practice healthy habits. This means being diligent about your prenatal vitamins. Drinking enough water. Eating nutritious foods (but of course feel free to indulge in cravings). Get enough sleep. Maintain physical activity as appropriate and approved by your health care providers.
Have a health care provider you can trust and with who you feel comfortable. After our loss, I stayed with the OB/GYN who had cared for me in Montgomery even though he was over an hour away from where we lived. I did not feel comfortable going back to my original OB/GYN even though what happened was not her fault. However, once we decided to get pregnant again, I learned that I would have to find someone else because traveling from the Birmingham area to Montgomery was not optimal. After prayer and stellar recommendations, I found a new OB/GYN who was a PERFECT fit for me and our family. She and the nurse who worked with her were more than I could have hoped for at this time in my life. Being comfortable with who is caring for you goes a long way to make your pregnancy after loss experience better.
Protect your heart and your feelings. Depending on where you were in your pregnancy that was lost you may or may not want to tell others until you are further along and that is PERFECTLY FINE. You also may not want everybody to know right away and that is PERFECTLY FINE. You may feel uncomfortable in certain conversations or around certain people. If it protects your peace to avoid them, then do it, it is PERFECTLY FINE. In my case, I did not want my family and friends to host a baby shower prior to me delivering a living baby and that was PERFECTLY FINE. If your friends and family love you, they will support you and honor your process. My first baby died just two days after my baby shower so wanting to wait was a part of my process and a part of me wanting to navigate heartbreak.
5. Have a good support system and/or a good therapist. Even just one person with whom you can be totally open and transparent is healthy and promotes healing. You want to know that you have support. A pregnancy loss experience can make you feel like you are on an island and can make you want to isolate yourself. I recall feeling lonely and like no one could completely relate to what I felt because I was the first (and hopefully the last) to experience this within my close friendship circle and it had been many years since my aunts had had their loss experiences (though they were very helpful and supportive). Additionally, organizations like PALS (Pregnancy After Loss Support) offer a ton of resources including support groups. PALS was not around during our first and second pregnancies after a loss but I am so thankful to have learned about it now as I have been able to share information about them with others.
6. Journal or participate in some other self-care or stress-relieving activity. I was never a big journaler though I fancy myself a writer. However, during periods of profound grief or in tumultuous situations writing is my superpower. It is what eases tension and soothes my soul. Figure out what that is for you and do it. Use it to your advantage. It may be knitting, cooking, or reading. Whatever it is, allow it to help usher healing and restoration for you.
7. Do not isolate your partner. Marriages and relationships have been destroyed by grief and pregnancy loss. Pregnancy after loss can also cause strain because of varying opinions. My husband and I worked together and dealt with emotions and concerns throughout the pregnancy. If he felt like I was doing too much, he would tell me nicely and I would be openly receptive (mostly, ha) and vice versa. He also went to most of my appointments with me and there were A LOT of those. Supporting and loving each other is how we worked through our loss and how we got through our pregnancy after loss.
8. Focus on enjoying the pregnancy more than on losing the pregnancy. I admit this is hard but a stressed pregnancy is not good for you, the baby, or those around you. I recall that I was full of nerves when I was pregnant with my oldest living son however, I found comfort in crossing weekly (sometimes daily) hurdles and in his movements. I started feeling him move pretty early and that was so reassuring. My husband and I took a lot of pictures and tried to have mostly fruitful conversations regarding our future with our baby. Pregnant Again! Happy Birthday, Eron!
Pregnancy after loss can be a beautifully scary process but the only way to get to the rainbow is to have weathered the storm. If you decide to keep going after the rainbow baby you may reach a pot of gold!
Can you think of any other tips to add? Do any of these tips resonate with you?