During my pregnancy after loss, I seemed to be surrounded by people who had the “glass-half-full” mentality. They still believed that pregnancy guaranteed a living baby and they felt optimistic that nothing would go wrong. These people didn’t waste any time congratulating me on what they were certain would be a problem-free pregnancy.
They were quick to assure me that this pregnancy would have a better outcome than the last. But past experience had left me feeling pessimistic. To me, the glass looked half empty as I mourned the loss of one baby and cautiously awaited the birth of another. No matter how much optimism was poured into my pregnancy after loss, it would do nothing to guarantee a positive outcome.
The messages I received from others and my response to those messages went something like this:
Everything is going to work out just fine! There is no guarantee that I will give birth to a living baby.
This baby is meant to be. How come my last baby wasn’t?
You’re having another baby! But I still miss the one who is gone and have yet to actually bring the other home.
This is a different baby, a healthier one. My last baby was healthy too, until my body failed, causing him to die.
I just knew you would get pregnant again. Becoming pregnant is only part of the equation. It’s my body’s ability to adequately nurture life and my baby’s ability to survive that remain in question. Becoming pregnant does not in itself guarantee a living baby.
You must be so excited! I will be excited if and when my baby is placed into my arms, alive and well.
Pregnant again! You must be feeling better. Pregnant, yes. Feeling better, no. I am still grieving and I fear that this pregnancy will only result in more grief.
While their well wishes and optimism should have been appreciated, I found it to be somewhat irritating.
Sure, it didn’t hurt to have a little optimism breathed into my pessimistic world, because I certainly wasn’t feeling it on my own.
But I was more appreciative of the people who worried with me. Who walked on eggshells while waiting for updates about my weekly doctors appointments. Who cautiously asked me how my pregnancy was progressing. Who shared my hope that everything really would turn out okay, but who also shared my reality that it might not.
Society doesn’t seem to understand the trauma that results from pregnancy loss. The flashbacks. The fear. The images of blood and death that are impossible to forget. Just like the grief that results from losing a baby, trauma and its lasting effects tend to be overlooked as well.
Sure, a woman who is pregnant after loss can acknowledge that normal, problem-free pregnancies happen all the time. After all, she has seen those around her give birth to healthy babies on a seemingly endless rotation. And perhaps she too has experienced a normal pregnancy in the past.
But experiencing loss makes it very difficult, maybe even impossible, to comprehend the possibility of a good outcome during a subsequent pregnancy. Others don’t seem to understand that through loss, pregnancy becomes associated with death and grief.
During my pregnancy after loss, I remained pessimistic.
There were flashes of hope when I felt the baby within tumble and kick. And when visits to the doctor confirmed the beating of his heart. But I had difficulty imagining that his life would continue outside of my womb.
I have no doubt that others confused my pessimism for ingratitude. I rarely, if ever, smiled when discussing my pregnancy. I wasn’t enthusiastic. And people seemed disappointed to find out that I wasn’t decorating a nursery, or participating in a baby shower, or filling a closet with tiny baby clothes.
But I was, in fact, grateful.
For the tiny life that had already consumed me. For another life, another baby to love. For another chance. It’s just that I was also terrified that it would all be taken away from me far too soon. And the only way I knew how to survive from one day to the next was by expecting the worst. It was how I coped with crushing uncertainty. It was how I dealt with all of the ‘what ifs’ of a pregnancy after loss. It was how I protected my heart.
It took more than nine months for my pessimism to fade. Nine months of anxiety, fear, and panic. Nine months of worry and uncertainty. Nine months of cautiously hoping. It took cradling my crying baby in my arms for the light of optimism to break through. And much to my surprise, my pregnancy after loss ended not just with a glass-half-full, but with a glass overflowing.
Being optimistic is a wonderful trait to have. But, if guarding yourself under a veil of pessimism feels more comfortable during the long days of pregnancy after loss, that’s okay too. Just be sure to let yourself hope every now and then. Because with a little hope, anything is possible.