By Amie Lands
My daughter lived for 33 days. After a healthy pregnancy and no indication to think otherwise, her death was unexpected. The grief I felt was inexplicable and I didn’t know how I would ever live life again. But, the immense love I had for her was deeper than the grief I felt. My husband and I had so much love to give and no place to put it.
As scary as it felt, we couldn’t imagine not having more children or at least trying for more. The possibility that we might face grief again terrified us both. But a year after our daughter’s birth, we welcomed a son and 3 years later our second son was born. Their presence in our life has healed parts of us that may not have healed otherwise. But it hasn’t always been this way. It has taken years to move through the grief, fear, and worry that comes with such a devastating loss.
Experiencing a subsequent pregnancy is difficult and at times terrifying. Ask any mom who has experienced a loss and you will discover that the carefree days of pregnancy no longer exist. Instead, worry, fear, stress and wondering if baby will survive, become the norm. For both of my sons pregnancies and until they were born, I lived in fear of facing the same loss as their sister. It took a great amount of emotional work for me to remain present and hopeful for a healthy delivery and baby.
But I did find that it was possible to have moments of reprieve during a pregnancy after loss and it was important for me to create those times. Throughout each subsequent pregnancy, I utilized tools to pull myself back into the present and hold hope that this time the story would be different than before.
Here is what I learned during my pregnancies after loss:
Process your grief - It’s important to find someone in which you can process your grief. Discussing your current concerns can help calm and focus your attention in a more positive manner than one can typically do on your own.
Find support, online or in-person - There are great online websites such as Pregnancy After Loss Support and Still Standing Magazine that offer articles and resources for support. Reading others’ experiences can help eliminate the loneliness of a subsequent pregnancy and normalize your feelings.
Connect with other bereaved moms - Nobody can quite understand the emotions behind a pregnancy after a loss like that of a fellow mom who has experienced it herself. There are many private Facebook groups to connect moms online and a local support group may be able to connect you with someone in real life who can support you along the way.
Hold a Mother Blessing or blessingway - A blessingway is a beautiful tradition that honors mom as she waits to meet baby. This sacred ceremony includes trusted women that can support you and hold space, reminding you that you don’t need to carry the emotional or spiritual weight alone. Your loved ones can hold hope with you as you wait for baby’s arrival.
Create affirmation cards - Affirmation cards are a great reminder to remain present during pregnancy. These cards can be easily made using index cards and markers or more elaborately collaged cards that feature positive statements for you to recite when feeling anxious. Some moms will pull one card a day to focus on while others hang them visibly around the house.
Write in a journal - Whether you write for your own release or messages to your baby, a journal allows the thoughts to flow from your mind onto paper. Once written, you will feel your worries release while documenting this time, should you want or need to revisit your writing later.
Consider a doula - A doula can be of great support during pregnancy, delivery and postpartum. Having a trained professional whose only job is to support you in welcoming your baby provides a truly safe space.
Interview your birth team - Making sure you feel supported by your birthing team is of top priority. This team should honor your experience and emotions while empowering you to trust your body and its strength.
Ask for support from friends - Having a few trusted friends on speed dial is always a good strategy. Knowing that you can call a friend day or night offers reassurance when you need it.
Give yourself grace - You are doing an amazing job. Make sure you give yourself the same grace you would offer to a beloved friend.
Breathe - Just breathe. You have so many resources at your fingertips. Use them and breathe. One breath, one moment, one day at a time.
And the most important tool that I used in my subsequent pregnancies was to remember the mantra, “Today I am pregnant, so today is a good day”. Reminding myself that each baby has his own story and that every day pregnant with him was a good day allowed me to stay present, to be grateful for this baby and to let go of what was beyond my control.
About the Author
Amie Lands is the author of Navigating the Unknown: An Immediate Guide When Experiencing the Loss of Your Baby and Our Only Time: Stories of Pregnancy/Infant Loss with Strategies for Health Professionals, as well as an ongoing contributor at Still Standing Magazine. She is the proud founder of The Ruthie Lou Foundation and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®. Since her daughter’s brief life, Amie’s passion is offering hope and providing support to bereaved families. Amie lives in California, United States with her husband and their two sons.