During my subsequent pregnancies I have often felt like “I should” being doing this or “I should” be feeling that, which I find ironic. I tell other mothers who are pregnant after loss to be kind with themselves. There are no “shoulds” in pregnancy after loss, or as we say in my work, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” Through this, my second pregnancy after loss, I find myself allowing more room to ignore those feelings and “I shoulds” and giving myself permission to do what I need to do during this difficult and challenging time. This permission involves NOT doing some things as well. Here are nine things I’m NOT doing during my pregnancy after loss, and that’s fine by me.
1. Having a baby shower/receiving gifts – Oh, the pain that comes with cleaning out the nursery of your baby who died! It’s one of the worst things you can go through in your life. Taking each item you received from friends and family at your baby shower, who shared in the love and excitement of welcoming home baby, only to have to return cute pink dresses, pack away handmade quilts, and donate diapers. I do not want to have to do that again. This baby can have a “welcome home, baby” party instead–where loved ones can bring gifts if they like. The great thing about a “welcome home, baby” party is that baby will hopefully be there for others to meet and gush over.
2. Prepping the nursery – Honestly, you don’t need anything for a baby’s room in the weeks and months after he or she is born. You just need a safe place for your baby to sleep, which will probably be in your room. All you really need is a few sets of onesies, a blanket or two, and diapers, all of which can be bought by friends and loved ones on the day baby is born if that makes you feel more comfortable.
3. Announcing my pregnancy on social media – Sometimes during life after loss we just want to keep our grief and our new joys and anxieties of a pregnancy and baby who follows to ourselves for as long as possible. Maybe it’s out of fear we might lose this baby too. Maybe it’s because of self-preservation, as we want to savor every moment we get with this baby and not have to share, because we only had such few precious moments with our child who died. Whatever the reason, it’s cool if you wait longer than you did with other pregnancies to share on social media or if you don’t share at all. I know moms who didn’t share until the baby was born, which worked for them.
4. Taking weekly bump pictures – I have never seen one picture of my mother pregnant with me. Not one! And guess what? I think I turned out okay. I took weekly pictures with my first baby, the one who died. It was fun. I enjoyed it. But now it just seems like something else to keep up on during a PAL, and sometimes it’s just hard enough to stay above water with my worries. Letting go of this expectation has helped me reduce that anxiety. But for others it may be a way to celebrate this pregnancy. Either way, do what works for you.
5. Googling – Say it with me, “I will not Google during my Pregnancy After Loss!” Believe it or not, Dr. Google does not have a real medical degree! WebMD, Wiki, and random blog posts in mom forums do not know you, your body, your baby, or the answer to your medical questions. When in doubt or during a state of panic, call your doctor or nurse’s line for reassurance and guidance. Unlike the Internet they will actually be able to provide you with medical advice and appropriate action. It’s also nice to get that human interaction that you might need to calm the nerves versus the cold, harsh, World Wide Web.
6. Getting too excited – When people ask me any questions about my subsequent pregnancy I usually respond in an even tone, with little inflection in my voice, and reply with the same statement for every question, “I’m just taking it one day at a time.” Yes, a part of me is excited AND another part of me is terrified this baby will die too. To stay sane during my day-to-day activities, I usually tell myself my favorite mantra, “In this moment, everything is okay.”
7. Getting too detached – Just like I don’t want to get too excited, I also work hard to not get too detached. The reality is that if this baby died too, I would be devastated and sad. No matter how much I want to psychologically detach, the truth is that the baby is already here, already a part of me and my life. So, I make a concerted effort to let the reality of this baby slip into my conscious mind. I’ll talk to baby here and there, and I’ll take time to notice baby’s movements.
8. Packing a hospital bag early – The idea of packing a hospital bag makes me anxious. Thoughts of, “Will I actually use this baby’s take home outfit?” run through my mind. Since I know my scheduled delivery date, I plan on packing the week of, not two months before. Maybe you don’t know when baby will arrive; take measures to pack your bag when you see fit. Really, all you truly need for labor is for you and baby to arrive safely.
9. Caring what other people think – My friends and family would say I have never really been concerned about how others view me. The day my baby died, a switch flipped inside of me. During this grief, I have learned more and more not to give a f@&! about what others think. It’s helped me immensely to let the opinions of others go, and I recommend that you do too during your subsequent pregnancy. The person who knows what’s best for you and baby during this time is you, beautiful mama.
No matter what you decide to do or not to do does not determine the amount of love you carry for the baby you are currently pregnant with or the one who died. Your decisions are your best efforts to take care of you and parent ALL of your children in the best way you know how. Roar on, courageous mamas!