You made it! You delivered a healthy baby that is living and breathing in your arms after a previous loss. You never thought you would get here as the road was long (or at least felt that way). With this tangible joy that you hold, you take a breath and are grateful that finally, your worry will subside.
Or will it?
For many new baby after loss moms, this winter and spring has been a doozy despite a healthy baby being in your midst. Many of my parents are fearful about taking their baby outside because of the virulent strains of flu and strep that have been circulating. Even trips to the pediatrician for milestone check ups can feel concerning. We are taught (even without the context of a prior loss) that for a newborn to get sick, it can be a scary thing that might require an ER trip, so parents are cautioned about who is exposed to their baby.
With the context of loss added onto this as well as a dangerous flu going around, it can feel downright terrifying to take your baby anywhere lest they become sick. To a parent after loss, our brains tend to go to the worst case scenario (after all, it is what we have previously experienced), and we can start to convince ourselves that our baby will die.
This creates a dilemma
Isolate ourselves with our new baby or manage the anxiety that comes along with the possibility of illness? If we choose to isolate ourselves, as parents, we might feel lonely and frustrated as newborn days seem endless. We might not feel comfortable taking our baby places for normal things, like well visits. We might not feel comfortable introducing our baby to the world.
On the other hand, our anxiety in going out might feel too hard to manage. How would we deal with the guilt should something happen to our child? We have already had to survive that once in our loss, and it doesn’t feel like we could bear it a second time. Our anxiety has led to catastrophic thinking—and the kind that is more dangerous as it is based upon some reality. Yes, we have a loss context and the flu is difficult for an infant with a developing immune system.
However, we need to remember that sometimes, it is useful to look at real numbers—according to the Centers for Disease Control, the mortality rate for influenza tends to be relatively small when compared to the population (1.6 for every 100,000).
We can take steps to feel more in control, like:
- Using masks (or asking others to wear them);
- Ensuring your pediatric practice uses masks for both its physicians and sick patients;
- As adults, get a flu vaccination and encourage those that will have regular contact with the baby to get one; and
- Limit where you go without shutting yourself in completely.
If you are concerned about your baby’s health, call the pediatrician—that is what they are there for.
Being able to balance our own fears as well as our needs can continue to be delicate, even after our child after loss is born. Managing our own anxiety by looking at reality or using mindfulness strategies can help us to enjoy what we worked so hard to experience.