Pregnancy after loss is a great paradox, laced with the highest highs and lowest lows. After losing Darla, we waited 8 months before trying for our rainbow baby. The day I found out I was pregnant again, the words “thank you” fell out of my mouth as a response to those two pink lines. I felt warm, I felt hopeful, I felt ready. But I also felt afraid.
From the moment Gracie came to be, we grew together in a tornado of extra appointments, extra tests, extra worries. We were a high-risk pair. No amount of preparation could take away the sting of my recent loss. I went into the same offices, but for a different pregnancy. I saw the same providers, but for a different baby. I had to reconcile using the new-baby items purchased for Darla for Gracie; hand-me-downs that had never been used. I had walked this road before, and it leads to heartache. I was trying the same road again, hoping for a different result.
I quickly realized that striving to forget the past was counterproductive: if I suppressed my memories, they couldn’t teach me anything, and they couldn’t make me stronger. I had to continue to acknowledge what had left me broken, head-on. I worked to learn to love my new pregnancy, but also make adequate space for my residual grief.
We grieve what was, and we grieve what was not. There was no map I could find for this type of pregnancy. I recently learned that March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness month. I can wholly attest to the difficulties and the need for continued support. This month, I aim to share three parts of my pregnancy after loss that I found challenging.
I hope to be the voice I needed 5 years ago. I aim to be a steady force in a journey that can feel shaky at times. I want to remind you that although walking this road broken is immeasurably hard, it is so worth it.
ONE – The benchmarks
Every mama of loss can pinpoint the moment when “it all changed.” A trip to the bathroom gone wrong, a phone call unplanned, an outcome unexpected. Maybe for you, it was birth. For me, it was the anatomy scan ultrasound. Every loss story has a tipping point.
Much like benchmarks, tests can only tell us so much. They are a guide, not a guarantee. The more weight I put on these worldly measures, the more vulnerable I became. With Gracie, up until 25 weeks, I had so many extra scans, I could point out my cervix and her diaphragm on my own.
It is critical to acknowledge there is no benchmark to guarantee safety from pain. If we look for security in tests and scans, there will never be enough affirmation. Instead, pregnancy must be a walk of steps in faith. Until we accept this baby as unique, it is impossible to reconcile our loss and our life. Loving this new baby means becoming vulnerable again, relying on the One who loves us to number our steps.
TWO – The advice
If your experience doesn’t match the “barefoot and breezy” image of pregnancy, it’s easy to feel obligated to hide your truth. I never wanted to bum anyone out. I felt the need to make things comfortable for everyone else, but inside I was confused. And I felt guilty for the confusion I felt.
Every time I let a little of my residual hurt spill out, people felt the need to comfort me. People have good intentions. “At least you have this one,” they’d say. Nursing that tiny blow, I’d blame myself for putting them in that position by showing my true emotion. I’d scold myself for making that person unintentionally diminishing what I truly felt.
My mom told me that, in her pregnancy with me, her doctor recommended that pregnancy comes with a set of earplugs. People mean well; forgive them, but don’t internalize what they say if it doesn’t fit your narrative. Take the intention, leave the pain. It’s your story.
THREE – The facilities
The same place, but a different baby. If you visit the same offices for appointments, if you plan to deliver at the same hospital, you may feel trapped by nostalgia. I remember staring at a poster promoting skin-to-skin contact right after I lost Darla. The poster was in my recovery room, silently mocking me every time I opened my eyes. Staring at the content new mothers, bonding with their fragile newborns, took my breath away. It was a visual reminder of what I couldn’t have.
That same poster was in all my exam rooms during my pregnancy with Gracie. It was also in my recovery room after birth. To this day, I could spot that poster a mile away.
There will be things that take you back in time; sit with whatever your trigger is. It is challenging to transform a physical space that was once traumatic into a place you can trust. Share with your providers your concerns, your triggers, your wishes. Know your helpers; know who will advocate for what you need. You deserve to feel comfortable and heard in your unique walk down this road again.
Remind yourself: as much as you still love that last baby, this is a different baby. This baby is unique. This new baby has something else to teach you. This baby will challenge you in ways you can’t even imagine.
You have been through hell. You have climbed out of the deepest, darkest pain a mama heart can stand. But look at you now. You might still be hurting, but you are here. You are reading this, and you are changing every day. You are growing life again. Remember that fear cannot prevent pain. Seek comfort in the truth: God loves you, your last baby, and this new baby.
Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV) : 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
You have to let God keep writing your story.
Allow yourself to fall in love with this new baby. The mama heart can stretch so very far. You can love your last baby, this new baby, and still, have some love left.
Love has no bounds, it only grows as your heart grows.
Congratulations mama. Rooting for you always.
Do you know someone going through pregnancy after loss? Check out this helpful list: 12 Things to Say to the Mom Pregnant Again after a Loss
Next month: “in pieces”: parenting after loss
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