The place in time for when a pregnancy after loss occurs differs for each of us. For some, the loss occurred as part of the first pregnancy experience. Others might have had several children before experiencing loss. There can seem to be a lopsidedness in sharing the stories of loss and pregnancy after loss—especially when those loss stories aren’t connected with an initial foray into pregnancy. I wanted to speak to the pregnancy after loss experience when it is connected with those who aren’t strangers to pregnancy.
When you have had a history of pregnancy being an uncomplicated event, it might be difficult to wrap your head around other people’s losses. It might be that this outcome hits too close to home, in the sense of feeling like you “dodged a bullet” or that we are uncomfortable as a culture with death. Suddenly, you are thrust into a place of understanding when experiencing loss for yourself during pregnancy. The enormity of our past behaviors might also strike us—did we give the comfort that we received well or were we ones that gave empty sentiments and went through the motions? The sense of “why did this happen” might be more pronounced as it is an aberration from previous experiences. Another potential complication might be the timing of this pregnancy. Losses that occur as women age might mean rethinking whether or not a pregnancy after loss is possible.
It is this particular nuance of timing and potentially age, when the pregnancy after loss which is seen as a “last chance” for reproduction that I wanted to focus on. This pregnancy experience can have an additional layer of urgency as it might not be possible to continue to add to a family. This might be for age-related reasons, fertility reasons, financial reasons, relational reasons, or a host of others. The pressure of a PAL to have a healthy outcome can be amplified in light of these factors. Physicians might also make assumptions that a person experiencing a pregnancy after loss might not be as anxious because they aren’t a stranger to pregnancy. However, with the idea that this is their last chance before closing the chapter on reproduction, this can be a very faulty assumption.
As women that have experienced loss, our PAL tends to be a time when we have to manage our own anxiety and often educate others about anxiety being a normal feature of a pregnancy after loss. Playing the role of someone experiencing something while simultaneously having to normalize it for yourself and others can be exhausting, as it can feel that advocating for your needs is non-stop. It might be at work, to family or friends, or even strangers, as many previous articles have spoken to before. The factor of a “last chance” pregnancy might also seem difficult for people to understand as another anxiety point can complicate who feels safe to talk to about all of the feelings that are going on. Discerning when you step into the role of an educator or advocate is another decision point that a person might weigh several times throughout a day, and the answer might change in different circumstances.
To the extent that you can separate the anxiety of a PAL from the additional anxiety of the idea of not having another chance at parenting, do. Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Some potentially helpful ideas include: distract yourself, practice mindfulness, establish a gratitude practice, find mantras that feel true to you, exercise, and practice grounding techniques using your five senses. Something that might be more difficult is to enjoy the moments of pregnancy and take them in-perhaps journal, or keep some kind of log. Write a letter to your baby. Take pictures. Snuggle living children or children that you have a connection to.