Pregnancy after loss isn’t easy. It’s a complex myriad of emotions and contradictions. Each day is an intense game of tug-of-war surging beneath the surface. There are two sides to every feeling, creating a multifaceted dimension of the mind. Excitement is accompanied by fear, hope aligns with despair, unbridled happiness teams up with guilt. Balancing these things requires a determination of the soul, as “one day at a time” becomes the daily mantra.
As a PAL mama, this pregnancy after loss may be the most difficult thing I’ve ever journeyed through, aside from saying goodbye to my beloved firstborn two years ago. It’s proven to be an exhausting match of tug-of-war, each side equal in strength.
There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by in my PAL experience that isn’t filled with constant contradictions. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life after loss, yet I’m still in the trenches of grief in many ways. As my growing baby boy kicks and moves within me, calming me, I’m also jolted back to my first pregnancy with his sister. Her little tush sat in the same place, her hiccups made me smile too. I feel elated and sad all at once. So much of me celebrates this pregnancy and this baby, but simultaneously, a distressing guilt resides in the back of my mind.
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The guilt comes from the concern that as I celebrate this little one, I’m celebrating my love for his sister less. I try to rationalize this, knowing full well that a heart can hold endless love, but the guilt still eats away at me. With each sigh of relief, I exhale after a positive report on my rainbow baby, there’s a sharp inhale filled with worry to back it up. Any peace of mind gleaned from knowing that everything is okay at the moment doesn’t last long when the whisper in the back of my mind adds, “for now, or until it isn’t”. I am constantly contradicting myself.
Who Am I To Assume?
As a naïve expectant mom in my previous life before loss, I simply assumed that I’d bring my baby home. I learned, in the harshest way possible, the negative power of assumption. However, after all I’ve been through, I still find myself making assumptions about this baby. I catch myself doing it and the jaded piece of my soul then says, “Who are you to assume anything?” It scares me. Always, the mental tug-of-war yanks me back and forth.
I believe wholeheartedly that I ought to be thinking positively about the outcome of this pregnancy. I should be focusing on leaving the hospital parking garage with our infant son snuggled securely in his car seat. I should feel joy when looking at our active baby boy on the ultrasound screen. Yet, through those scenarios and so many others, I mentally caution myself for being too hopeful. I imagined the same things with our daughter, and her car seat remained empty. I’m proud of myself for maintaining the ability to hope and look ahead with optimism; I only wish experience hasn’t taught me that those sorts of assumptions have no guarantee.
Embracing The Unexpected
As with so many things in life, sometimes we are merely passengers along for the ride. That feeling of not being in control, of simply being the passenger, is perhaps one of the toughest aspects of pregnancy after loss. It can easily feel like we’re on the losing team in this big game of tug-of-war. Each little sigh of relief, good health report, or milestone met is usually greeted with anxiety, which takes away from some of those small victories.
As my pregnancy after loss progresses, I’ve encountered unexpected triggers that interfere with my elusive feelings of well-being. Because I lost my daughter Lucy at full-term, this last trimester has been wrought with doubt and quiet fear. What if the same thing happens to our little boy? What if he doesn’t get to come home either? My emotions can quickly slip out of my control as those questions breed more worry. In those moments, I do my best to stop, breathe, and think.
I embrace the fact that I am justified in my worries and fears. I embrace the idea that it’s okay to be scared, it’s fine to have doubts. I embrace the fact that I’m imperfect and that PAL is difficult. I even embrace the grueling game of this emotional tug-of-war. I embrace all of this because while it’s tough, it’s certainly worth it.
In doing so, I’m also allowing for space to keep embracing the hope and optimism that has carried me this far, both through grief and learning to live again.
Photo by LEMUR on Unsplash