Every morning for the past several weeks, I wake up and lie quietly in bed, waiting to feel our third daughter move within me. She’s a very active little girl, so generally, I don’t have to wait long. Of course, there are the mornings when she’s quiet. Those mornings sometimes feel like the longest of my life. This pregnancy after loss hasn’t been all rainbows.
Pregnancy after child loss is nothing like the pregnancies that came before.
I was innocent then. I had two daughters, 18 months apart. Their pregnancies, while having small annoyances, were uneventful. Their births were healthy. Like most of those who had never lost a child, I complained on social media. There was the need to pee every 30 seconds. And the back and hip pain. The discomfort while sleeping as the end approached. I posted about my baby showers and funny things that the girls did in utero. There were many bump pictures. Basically, I shared the ins and outs of my pregnancy with everyone I knew.
My son’s diagnosis and his subsequent death at five months shattered that innocence. No longer was pregnancy a guarantee of a healthy child with a long life. My unintentional arrogance was gone forever. I struggled with when to announce my subsequent pregnancy to the world. I wanted to do it quietly. The question of whether to have a baby shower or not plagued me. Our son had no shower, and it seemed disloyal to celebrate this baby. Reluctantly, as the pregnancy went on, I shared a bump picture on social media. When friends asked enthusiastic questions about names, I deflected the questions. Acknowledging this baby or showing any excitement about her birth seemed like a betrayal. I didn’t want people thinking that I was “better” or that this child would miraculously heal me.
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I’ve been lost in a morass of guilt, confusion, and anxiety.
It has been hard to shake the fear that this child too will die. Stillbirth haunts my thoughts. An undiagnosed illness found at birth plagues me. Part of me believes that I will never meet my child alive. I’ve come to realize that pre-partum depression is as real as post-partum. I have worried that people will question why I got pregnant again. After all, I’m 39 and already had one child with a chromosomal disease. Why would we roll the dice again?
I am due in 9 days. This is my last. On July 17, the doctor will perform a c-section and then a tubal ligation. My childbearing days are truly going to be finished. I’ve wanted to enjoy this pregnancy, as the last days draw to a close. I want to cement in my mind the feeling of a child growing within me. I want to commit all of the experiences of pregnancy to paper so that I can help my daughters when they one day have children. Some days, I manage to do this. Many days, I do not.
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This has been the hardest nine months of my life.
I’m not certain that I could ever do it again. I am suspended in time, waiting for the next 9 days to pass, so I can hold this little girl and know she is ok. And even if she is perfect and healthy, does that guarantee a long and healthy life? It doesn’t.
Perhaps that is the lesson that loss has so indelibly imprinted upon me. There are no guarantees. Not when you’re pregnant, not when they’re born, and not for the days that follow. We are all mortal. We are all destined to die. Our beloved children are no exception to this rule. Rainbow pregnancies aren’t always filled with joy and laughter. They can be dark and lonely journeys filled with fear, insomnia, and doubts.
If you know someone going through a pregnancy after loss, reach out to them. Listen when they talk about their fears. Do not tell them that everything will turn out “ok” or that they “deserve” a healthy baby. If we got what we deserved, none of us would be on this terrible journey.
Feature Photo Credit: Annie Spratt
I am mother to three children, two beautiful girls and one gorgeous baby boy, James. James was diagnosed with trisomy 18 at 32 weeks gestation. He was born Aug 1, 2016 and lived 154 amazing days cradled in the love of his family. He died on Jan 2, 2017 due to complications of pulmonary hypertension. Because of him, I learned that a mother’s love has no bounds. My grief is enormous, but only because my love is enormous.
Our sweet son is buried in our backyard. We brought his body home and had a home visitation and home burial. This was facilitated by a Cuddle Cot. Due to this, our baby boy never left our arms. He was with us from the moment he was conceived until the moment we gave him back to the earth. Since his death, we have been trying to educate others about the beauty and healing of a home burial.
We live in western NC. I am a veterinarian and mother. My husband is a mathematics professor. We are expecting our fourth child, a baby girl, in July 2018.