First, let me say, I am so blessed. I wake up every day so thankful for my beautiful family, and that I was able to have 18 months with my angel. Having a grateful heart has been the only way I have been able to survive and thrive for my living children. I have been blessed with not one, but TWO healthy rainbow babies. I have met so many mothers who have lost their miracles or been unable to have children at all. Nothing breaks my heart more than a family who wants a child and cannot have one.
Pregnancy After Loss, or PAL, is a rollercoaster. Pregnancy alone causes a flush of hormones and irrational emotions (anyone else cry at random VISA commercials?), but pregnancy after loss adds the complexity of grief and fear into the mix.
The extreme fear that you will lose this child too. Liam was 18 months when he passed away in an accident, but throughout my entire pregnancy with Graeme, I was terrified that something would happen and I would lose him too. Even now, 31 weeks along with my second rainbow and first baby girl, I'm still obsessively counting kicks, anxious for the next appointment where I will hear her heartbeat again. This fear is all too real, especially for mothers who lost their babies in utero or had babies born with genetic problems. We are robbed of the joys of pregnancy after loss because we know what it is like to have that joy ripped away. Sadly, even after the baby is born and healthy, there will always be the fear of loss because we now know that this isn't just something that happens "to other people". WE are now the "other people".
People act like you are "over it" or like your angel never existed. Fortunately, I am so very lucky to have an amazing support system who always remember Liam, but many moms do not have that same support. I've spoken with so many mothers who suffered miscarriages or stillbirths and they all expressed that no one mentions their angel or thinks that are "all better" because they were able to have other children. As soon as they saw those lines on the pregnancy test, those mothers loved those babies, and losing them was devastating. No baby can replace the one or ones that were lost. The best advice I can give is to mention them, always, no matter how uncomfortable it makes anyone else. It is our job as mommy to keep our baby's legacy alive.
Guilt, so much guilt. Pregnancy After Loss is filled with guilt on so many levels. When Liam died, we were actually in the process of trying for another baby. We always wanted a large family, and I loved the age spacing between the boys. Obviously, we stopped trying for some time, and couldn't fathom being intimate at all after our loss. When I decided I was ready to start again, I had such immense guilt that I was even thinking of having another baby. I felt guilty when we got pregnant, guilty every time I would get excited about my pregnancy, then guilty for not feeling happy enough, and then oh so guilty at my happiness when Graeme was born. I'm still learning that it is ok to be happy, ok to smile, because my angel would never want me to live in misery.
Every milestone for your child will be tinged with sadness. Each first day of school, every birthday, the first word, and so many other milestones for your rainbow baby will feel incomplete because your angel was never able to do those things or isn't there to participate in them now. Liam never said actual words before he passed away, so I never got to hear him say Mama. The first time that Graeme says Mama will be extremely difficult for me. The upcoming school year for my oldest will be hard for me since his little brother should be getting on the bus with him to start Kindergarten. Which brings us to the guilt again for feeling sad during such a happy time.
I hope that my experiences help prepare you a little for the emotions that come with Pregnancy After Loss. The best advice I received during my first rainbow pregnancy was to remember that this is a different pregnancy, a different baby, and a different experience. I repeat that to myself often when the feeling overwhelm me.
Wishing you light in the darkness ~Rachael
What do you wish you would have known about Pregnancy After Loss? Let me know in the comments.