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PAILS of Hope

Suggestions for Pregnancy After Pregnancy/Infant Loss
by Maribeth Doerr, cubby moderator
The following list is a complication of coping tips suggested by parents who have had a successful pregnancy after loss. Many of these tips would apply to those going through a pregnancy after infertility treatments or any high-risk pregnancy.

If you have any suggestions to add to our list, please email me!

  • Find support from whomever and wherever you can. Take advantage of support groups or from someone who has had a successful subsequent pregnancy so that you can visualize a positive outcome after tragedy. Support from parents who have survived pregnancy loss or infertility treatments can be a valuable resource.

  • Most everyone feels they have sufficiently coped with their grief before conceiving again, and most everyone feels they haven't at some point in their pregnancy. Don't try again just because everyone else thinks it would be best for you. The decision is personal.

  • A new baby deserves the very best you can give him/her. That means being as healthy as possible both physically AND emotionally before, during and after you conceive. If you are still deeply immersed in grief, it may be difficult to give a new baby 100% of you. A new baby is not a band-aid for the grief of pregnancy loss.

  • You may experience a bittersweet feeling when discovering you are subsequently pregnant. You may feel excitement about the new baby and sadness about your lost baby. It will be a different kind of feeling than you experienced before. That's normal.

  • Ask your doctor if you can have more frequent appointments, freedom to call at anytime with questions, or the opportunity to go to the office to hear your baby's heartbeat whenever you feel especially anxious. Having extra tests reassure some parents while being extremely stressful to others. Be open and honest with your careprovider.

  • Try to relax by doing things that make you feel good about the pregnancy. That may mean doing whatever you didn't do during your unsuccessful pregnancy(ies). For example, some moms who were extremely ready for their baby who died find it very painful to prepare a nursery for the new baby. That's okay. You can always stop at the store on the way home from the hospital or have dad or grandma do some shopping for you. Or, if you were totally unprepared before, you may want to have everything set up and waiting. That's okay too. What is important is that you feel comfortable.

  • Remember that every pregnancy is different and most do have positive outcomes. After a loss, many feel as though losing babies is the 'norm' for them, rather than having healthy babies. Try to redirect your thinking. Easier said than done? Perhaps - but try to focus on the new pregnancy and the promise of new life growing within instead of the "haunted womb" syndrome.

  • Surround yourself with life. Make yourself aware that you are capable of nurturing living things. Sometimes, bereaved parents feel as though they have a dark cloud hanging over them. This, of course, isn't true, but when you've been so devastated, going through nine months of pregnancy may feel like a trip through the Twilight Zone. Find something you can nurture and love during this time - your family, a pet, a garden - anything that is living and you can watch thrive under your care and love.

  • If you have sleep problems, some parents find it helpful to fantasize about comforting things while trying to go to sleep - creative visualization.

  • Learning new things can be morale boosters. Try a new craft or take a fun class - nothing that takes too much brain power since concentration may be difficult. Try something fun you've always wanted to learn - as long as it's safe for you and baby.

  • Keeping a diary during your pregnancy can be helpful. Seeing your feelings written down can help you make sense out of your emotions. Write letters to your baby.

  • Try to take it one day at a time. Thinking about nine months of pregnancy can be overwhelming. Some find it helpful to set mini goals such as getting through the first trimester, etc. Achieving these mini goals gives you something to celebrate.

  • Expect to feel uncomfortable if you're asked if it's your first pregnancy while subsequently pregnant. This can be a difficult question so thinking about it ahead of time can help you prepare an answer.

  • Many moms fear not being able to cope with another loss. While we don't like to think negatively, it's important to remember that should you have another loss, you will find it within yourself to draw upon your previous experiences to pull you through.

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  • You may have alarming thoughts about being so happy about your new baby. This is common. Try to remember you are not dishonoring your dead baby but rather looking toward the future.

  • Many parents feel an intense grief after the birth of a healthy baby. It's as if you become acutely aware of how much you've lost. It can be a shock to feel this way when you are rejoicing the birth of a healthy infant. By being aware this may happen, you can prepare yourself. Also, bonding may not be instantaneous. You may be afraid if you become too attached, you will be hurt again. Don't be alarmed if you don't bond instantly. It's okay if it takes you some time. If you're concerned about your bonding, call upon a therapist who specializes in postpartum issues. It's okay and appropriate to seek help.

  • For many bereaved parents, the news of a subsequent pregnancy is often greeted with a bittersweet feeling - intense joy for the hope of holding a healthy baby and extreme fear that the new pregnancy will fail and all that pain and anguish will return. This is unfortunately, part of the rollercoaster ride of pregnancy after loss.
Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you. The best advice I can offer is to give yourself time to grieve, try to rationally understand the difficulties of a subsequent pregnancy, educate yourself about your condition, and when you're ready, go for it. And - reach out for support.
Maribeth       

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