You are in the home stretch. You have made it through all (or at least most) of the milestones of a pregnancy after loss: the confirmation ultrasound of hearing the heartbeat, the second ultrasound at 12-weeks that confirmed the heartbeat and the first check to see that all was forming as it should, the blood tests, the 20-week anatomy scan which continued to show that all looked good, the glucose test, and perhaps even a third trimester ultrasound. Or perhaps you’ve been monitored more continuously this pregnancy with additional tests like an MRI or Fetal Echo. Nonetheless, all the tests that there was no studying for, you sailed through. After each one, you let out some oxygen of the giant breath you have been holding.
Your due date is in sight.
Perhaps it is a few months away or less. Maybe even just a week or a few days away. Perhaps you are planning for an induction, a C-Section or hoping that birth will begin spontaneously. Hopefully, it feels as if you have a team that is holding your hope, when the doubts creep in. You’ve spent all pregnancy worrying about staying pregnant, and now, you are able to shift your focus to the birth. It makes sense that you might feel nervous or anxious about the prospect of delivery. Your last delivery had such a different context and outcome. The room was solemn whereas the room in your near future will be joyous and full of sounds. The cries in the room will be of joy and of a baby adjusting rather than gut wrenching sorrow.
It might be difficult to shift gears to think about what a baby will need once you leave the hospital, rather than leaving the hospital empty-handed.
Fortunately, babies don’t need too much those first few weeks, in case it is hard to buy things to prepare. Some people feel superstitious about bringing things into the house before the baby arrives. If this sounds familiar, you might want to consider having an amazon order saved and then putting it through while you are at the hospital. Or you might ask to store items that have been purchased or gifted to you at someone else’s house.
You might be struck that your feelings continue to be mixed, as perhaps you had the hope that once you got through the pregnancy, your feelings would simplify and be more straightforward.
You might find yourself missing your lost baby more once you have a baby in arms, which seems counterintuitive, but the concreteness of holding and caring for a baby contrasts the experience of wishing to do so, and thus realizing all at once the magnitude of what was lost might strike you.
Prepare your support system and be thoughtful about when you might need them to descend.
It is important to communicate that you might have a plan before the baby is born and change your mind (either needing support sooner or holding off). Let them know that the plan will be flexible. Allow yourself to talk about all of your children-to the baby, to your partner, and to your supports. Bring an item that represents the baby you lost (a picture, a stuffed animal, etc) to the hospital so that you can have a complete family picture taken while there. Start to think about your family as both the family you can see and touch as well as the parts of your family that you are without.
Seek out other PAL moms in your area or online.
You will have unique questions and feelings that come up during this time that non-loss moms won’t have a framework for. If you are able to connect with a PAL mom in person (whether a friend or in a group setting), even better! Know that the feelings will come and go—they won’t be permanent. In so many ways, your journey is just beginning.