There are so many things running through my head during this pregnancy after pregnancy after loss. One of them is, how do I describe it? Truth be told, I’m not even sure myself.
My third pregnancy. My second pregnancy after loss. My current pregnancy. PA(PAL). PA-squared L.
It makes me think about the growing distance between the me now, and the me who watched my son die. Every day takes me further from that moment. While that may make the reality of the loss softer, it also makes the reality of him existing fuzzier.
1. My most recent pregnancy was positive.
My living child was the result of my previous pregnancy. So calling myself PAL right now doesn’t seem quite right. My nearest experience isn’t a loss, it’s a vibrant toddler. Recency bias tells my lizard brain that everything will be fine. Even though I know things could go wrong at any moment, it’s not buried in my gut like it was right after my loss.
2. My body can do this.
During my first PAL, whenever I thought about statistics it would come to mind that 100% of my kids died after birth. No statistics in the world mattered more than that one. But now, 50% of my kids lived. It is possible for me to have a living child. That makes it much easier to hope.
3. I’m less anxious.
It’s true. I hate to admit it, because it feels like Oberon has less impact on this pregnancy and therefore less impact on my current existence. So while I’m less anxious about something happening to this baby, the hole in my heart feels bigger and more empty.
4. Less anxious doesn’t mean not anxious.
Even though the emotion of it is less intense, the anxiety is still there. I panic during kick counts. Thoughts of losing this baby cross my mind every day. Most of the time my emotional reaction is a disconnect instead of intense fear and sadness.
5. I can’t control the disconnect.
It seems easier to deal with being disconnected than with overwhelming sadness. It is probably easier to put on a brave face when I’m in public or taking care of my toddler, but it also makes me feel less human. I can feel it impacting the way I connect with my living child and my husband.
6. Planning still feels overwhelming.
I’m not as fearful of planning this time around, but I am fearful of missing out. What if I go into labor before our scheduled maternity photos? What if we don’t have enough energy to celebrate Oberon’s birthday? What if I don’t have a cute enough plan for newborn photos? What if I don’t get enough pictures of our family and this baby dies too? I’m fine procrastinating certain things – like housework – but other things make me go off the emotional rails – like picture-taking.
7. I’m better at responding when people say the wrong thing.
Most acquaintances know about my living son, Everett, and I’m obviously pregnant. When they find out I’m carrying a girl, the most frequent response is something like, “the perfect family!” It’s always kind of grossed me out that one boy and one girl is somehow seen as superior to other groups of children, but it’s even worse now. Depending on the situation, I either don’t say anything or I bring up Oberon. “Actually, we have another son, but he died.” I will often cry, but I can get the words out. During my first PAL, I did a lot more running away or sobbing without being able to form words.
8. I sometimes forget I’m pregnant.
This is happening less often as I get much bigger, but it really startled me in the beginning. I would forget when I was getting dressed, until clothes didn’t fit. I would forget while meal planning and then suddenly remember. How could I forget? I can only imagine it’s because there’s so much taking up space in my brain. During my PAL, it was on my mind every second of every day. The loss, the subsequent pregnancy, the grief, the fear, all of it drowning my days. During PA(PAL), I have to focus on other things, primarily my rainbow son.
9. Guilt is a huge part of my life.
Guilt about not doing enough in Oberon’s memory. For example, we recently took a weekend trip to visit family and I forgot to pack one of Oberon’s “O”s for group pictures. The way I dealt with the guilt was…we did not take any family pictures. I otherwise would have pushed for it. The living kids are always growing and changing, and I remember loving to look at pictures of me growing up. I want Everett (and his cousins) to have that option, but at the same time I had to look after my heart. I have guilt about not being fully present for Everett. I’m exhausted for the typical pregnancy reasons, and then the emotional layers on top. I’m not run-around happy mom very often right now, and that makes me feel guilty that I’m not building a strong enough bond with him. Guilt about not taking good care of myself for the baby I’m growing. Food is often rushed and not the healthiest. I give myself way too many passes on junk food. I’m not as active as I was with my first two pregnancies. That doesn’t even touch the guilt for not maintaining my relationship with my husband the way I want to. I know we’ll stay strong, but I still feel guilty not having him as a top priority right now. The guilt from all sides can be paralyzing, like I’m doing nothing good enough – so why bother? It adds to the disconnect.
I struggle a lot with stories and articles that tie up with a neat bow at the end. I don’t have answers for everything. Managing the disconnect and the guilt are at the forefront for me right now. If I’ve learned one thing during this grief journey, it’s that you can’t fix it all. It will never be fixed. Sometimes I’ll wallow, sometimes I’ll try to be a better mom, sometimes I’ll just make it through the day.
And during this PA(PAL), it’ll have to be enough.