You’ve just received a positive pregnancy test. Your mind is a swirl of thoughts, feelings and conflicting emotions as you begin this journey of new life growing inside of you.
Perhaps you feel excited, nervous, overwhelmed, hesitant or downright scared.
Pregnancy after loss is a different kind of journey where joy and pain continually collide.
After you lose a child, there is a loss of innocence in every subsequent pregnancy.
Pregnancy no longer holds the notion that all will be well. That you will always be glowing.
That baby showers will commence, and the baby room will be ready months in advance.
When you’ve lost a child, you become brutally aware of how frail life is.
Every woman who enters into pregnancy after loss will navigate these emotions differently.
I have lost two children in two pregnancies. I have a son who was adopted and a daughter who I just birthed, alive and well.
My pregnancy with her, my third pregnancy, was filled with conflicting emotions. Some I navigated well, and some I simply had no idea how to navigate.
So for those of you who are in the midst of a pregnancy after loss right now, here are four helpful tips for navigating the emotions that come with pregnancy after loss.
Give Yourself the Freedom to Be Where You Are
After finding out we were pregnant for the third time and that our child did not have the condition our first two daughters did, many asked me, “Aren’t you so excited?”
I have to be honest, excitement was not my first emotion.
Nor was it something I ever really felt during my entire pregnancy. All I knew of pregnancy was loss.
Even though I knew this baby could live, I still felt the tension in my hope of meeting her alive.
I felt hesitant to believe it was all real.
I was so thankful that this baby could live.
But it wasn’t until she was on my chest, alive and breathing, that overwhelming joy took over.
Pregnancy stirred not only the hope of new life but all of the emotions I felt carrying my first two daughters, knowing their lives would be short.
There was new grief to navigate along with new joys. I had to learn that it was okay for those emotions to sit together.
I had to learn not to force emotions I didn’t feel on myself nor to feel guilty for emotions I did or didn’t have.
Not every woman will feel the emotions I felt during pregnancy after loss.
Some may feel more excited than fearful.
Some may feel more hopeful than hesitant.
And still, some may feel as though they can’t truly breathe until that baby is in their arms alive.
Whatever emotions stir in your soul as you step into pregnancy after loss, don’t wish them away or try to stir up new ones.
Try to allow the ones that exist to be a part of your continued healing.
Give Your Partner/Spouse Freedom to Be Where They Are
This was a hard one for me. My husband felt mostly excitement through the majority of our pregnancy. It was hard for me to connect with him in his excitement.
My feelings were so different and so intertwined with my previous pregnancies. But I didn’t want to invalidate his emotions even though mine were different.
This took communication and work to share how we were feeling. To allow each other to be in different places.
It took communication to embrace his excitement and prepare for our daughters’ arrival, even though I wanted to wait to do things like this until we actually knew we would bring her home.
We both gave each other space to be where we were at. Kevin graciously waited for me to be ready to begin the preparations he was ready for long before I was.
I had to learn yet again that it’s okay for my husband to be where he is at and for me to be in a different place.
We could be a team and work together as we navigated the emotions pregnancy after loss stirred in each of us.
Invite a Few Trusted Friends into Your Journey
Not everyone will understand the emotions that come with pregnancy after loss.
One thing that was so helpful to me, though, was inviting a few others to share the emotions I experienced as I anticipated the birth of my daughter.
These friends sat with me, validated what I felt and just allowed me to be present in the joys and pain of what this pregnancy stirred in my heart.
I needed people who would affirm what I was feeling. This both allowed me to be present with where I was but also move forward in embracing the new joys that this pregnancy brought.
Sometimes this may be a friend you least expect, a counselor, or even your spouse.
It’s important as you navigate the often-conflicting emotions that exist in pregnancy after loss to not go it alone.
There Is No Right or Wrong Way to Navigate Pregnancy After Loss
Regardless of how you choose to navigate pregnancy after loss, know that there is no right or wrong way to do it.
No doubt, new and old emotions will be stirred up in however you choose to navigate your pregnancy.
My hope for you is that this pregnancy will also produce greater healing as your heart expands to embrace another new life, as equally loved and valued as those you no longer hold in your arms today.