What comes up when you think about pregnancy after loss (PAL)? For many of us, it is fear, anxiety, worry, and wonder, all wrapped up in excitement, hope and yearning. But does it have to focus on the negative and scary? OK, bear with me now. I know you’re thinking, easy for you to say, you’ve come out on the other side. And while this is true, in many ways, my PAL journeys will always be a part of me, shaping who I am today. Again, I realize hindsight is 20/20 (especially when you know the outcome). That said, is there actually a way to enjoy pregnancy after loss? What if we could redefine the PAL experience to at least set us up for emotional success?
Navigating Tricky Dynamics
I’m a seeker of information. I want to know all the things, and how all the things are done. (which often leads me to want to do all the things, but that’s a topic for another post). Luckily, there are great podcasts to keep my mind busy. The Tilt Parenting podcast is one that I have come to love for many reasons, and the other day I was listening to a back episode which was focused around Navigating Tricky Dynamics with Parents and In-Laws. While talking about parenting, there were actually many parallels to life after loss, and pregnancy after loss. When life coach Kanesha Baynard talked about her “PAL System,” it really connected for me. In her system, PAL stands for Patience, Assistance, and Love and Learning—key aspects for getting through the pregnancy after loss journey.
Give Yourself a Break
Baynard talked about having patience with yourself, and with the situation. She went on about the importance of having patience about your growth and learning, and how you navigate your journey. She recommends extending that patience in situations you know how to handle (for me, this was in grief and loss, and allowing myself to feel all of the feels); and for those you don’t (for me, this ranged from staying present in the moment where things were OK, to hitting new milestones and unchartered territory). Patience is a challenging one, since each of us have had our patience tested to the extreme. Perhaps a better way of looking at this is if you equate patience to kindness toward yourself.
Define Your Needs
I don’t know about you, but I became quite stubborn in my early losses, with an attitude of “I can do this. And not only can I do this, I can do it on my own.” As time went on, I realized this was not the case. We needed Assistance, and those around us didn’t know what to do. That’s why I like this idea from Baynard of coming up with a clear list about what you need and your expectations. The idea here, is that regardless of how things are going, you have ways in which you can be assisted. You don’t have to scramble, you can ask for what you need when you need it, and feel better about getting the exact help you need.
In PAL, this could be asking a friend to come over the night before/day of a big appointment; working with your therapist to keep anxiety at bay; talking with your doctor and nurses about week-to-week updates; or having someone cook meals for you, enabling you to rest or simply binge watch shows to take your mind off of reality. The best part? It’s your list about what will best assist you.
Learn to Love Again
There’s so much self-guilt associated with pregnancy and baby loss. It takes time, and often therapy to forgive yourself, trust yourself, and to trust your body again. There’s truth in the notion that you have to love yourself before you can love others. And no, I’m not saying you have to love your PAL journey, rather, it is the love for yourself, and the love for your children, that can give you the strength to endure the unknown. After all, this is a new pregnancy, so everything that is happening to you is new, each and every day. Sure, you have your routines and coping mechanisms, which is great. It’s also OK to give yourself the permission to love and learn along the way. On good days, and bad.
You Are Not Alone
Think of this as your PAL self-care plan. You don’t have to do this alone. The Pregnancy After Loss Support Community is strong, and there’s surely family and friends who want to be able to support you. They just don’t know how. So go ahead, create your list. Lean on your assistance. Have patience with yourself. And above all, never stop loving and learning. You can do this.