Surviving Pregnancy After Loss
When I was 19.5 weeks pregnant with my second child, I became a sad statistic. Somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of pregnancies are lost between 13 and 19 weeks’ gestation and despite having had a healthy and uneventful first pregnancy, my second baby was lost. We were sent to the maternity ward so I could be induced, and many hours later, I delivered a very tiny, very loved fetus. We joined ranks with those parents who would never know their baby.
To say I was devastated feels like an understatement, even now, so many years later. I had never felt more empty and unsure, never doubted my body so wholly—until then, I had never known such sadness. I trudged through my days for my then-two-year-old daughter, so thankful to have her. There was very little support available for me at the time—something that’s thankfully changing now.
Right from the start, we were made to feel as though pregnancy loss is taboo. Often couples withhold their happy news for fear of loss, women lack support systems for dealing with the emotional fallout and there is a distinct hole in our health care system when it comes to handling the grief and complications that are results of pregnancy loss at any stage.
When I reached out to a well-known charity set up specifically to support those who had experienced pregnancy loss, my emails and calls went unanswered. Drastically underfunded and run by those without the needed skills, they simply could not provide the amount of support needed for the one in four women who suffers a miscarriage.
Almost worse than the experience itself was moving forward afterwards. My own family doctor said, “You’ll feel terrible for a while, depressed, and then you won’t. You’ll get through it.” That was that.
Alright, I thought, let’s do this healing thing. Except it’s incredibly hard to heal from such a physical and emotional trauma without help. Ontario’s new pregnancy loss awareness bill has the potential to change the lives for all who suffer these losses in such huge, positive ways. Not only will October 15 be officially recognized as Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day, but the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Act has been amended, and they’ll now fund “research and analysis on pregnancy loss and infant death that assists those, including mothers and families, who experience such loss.”
For me, the steps we took following that loss were just as heavy as those we walked in the midst of it. Deciding to try for another subsequent child was fraught with fears, guilt and worries. Were we trying to replace the lost baby? What had gone wrong before? What if something happened again? I wasn’t sure I could emotionally handle another loss like the one I’d already had. When I became pregnant six months later, I felt the most confusing combination of emotions—so happy, yet so terribly frightened.
There was no real joy in my post-loss pregnancy, just fear and anxiety. I bought a Doppler so that once the baby’s heartbeat was strong enough, I could listen to it multiple times a day. We had extra ultrasounds done, and I had a very lovely obstetrician (who had delivered our lost baby) who cared for me gently.
We don’t have enough care for families in subsequent pregnancies. They’re broken, and if not given the care needed, their lives suffer so many negative consequences. If you’re going through this, let me share some things I think are necessary to survive pregnancy after loss.
Speak to your doctor
It’s okay to have anxiety and worry and it’s okay to feel like you’re a little off your rocker. You’ve been through a lot. Your doctor can help allay some fears, and monitor your moods carefully with you.
Be open with your partner
I know for myself, it took me awhile to realize my husband had suffered a great loss, too. It felt so personal, but he had to process his grief and fears, too. Including your partner in the process will help you both feel so much less alone.
Find a support group
For some people, finding others who’ve been through the same thing can really help. PAIL Network has local in-person support groups and resources that can assist in the healing process. And if you prefer online support, there are many forums where you’ll find warm, welcoming members, too.
Go easy on yourself
It’s ok to not feel the bubbling excitement you may have felt prior to a loss. Try not to feel guilty about that. Pregnancy does a number on everyone, so expect the emotional rollercoaster, and be kind to yourself.
Pregnancy after loss can be incredibly difficult, but from experience I can tell you that there are (most often) happy endings. Self-care, nurturing oneself, and understanding will go a long way in helping those who’ve suffered losses manage to get through subsequent pregnancies healthily.
Alex Durrell is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker and entrepreneur. She does in fact blog at I Don't Blog and she covers everything allergy-related at Irritated By Allergies.