Pregnancy after loss has similarities and differences for everyone, but it usually comes with some degree of anxiety. Intense fear about another baby dying may be consistent throughout an entire pregnancy for some, while for others the worries may come in waves. For many people, anxiety is high during the beginning of pregnancy, when pregnancy loss is statistically more common. Nearing milestones of previous pregnancies/losses also can cause an increase in anxiety. In my pregnancy with our third child (first living child), my partner and I were most anxious leading up to the 20-week ultrasound, when we had found out that both of our sons before her had passed.

In my current pregnancy, with our fourth baby, I was again very anxious around 16 to 18 weeks, awaiting confirmation that there were no visible concerns on ultrasound of the syndrome that affected the sons we lost. We had done IVF with preimplantation genetic diagnosis to test for this before embryo transfer, but getting the confirmation at that point on ultrasound confirmed that that testing was accurate. Following that point, I was able to settle in and not stress about the pregnancy as much.

Kasey's 34-week bump - The Anxiety of Preparing for Birth in Pregnancy After Loss

Author’s Personal Collection/Kasey Schultz-Saindon

The third trimester, however, has brought anxiety with it. Getting closer to delivery and the potential birth of another child increases my worry that something could happen to prevent us from being able to bring our fourth baby home safely.

Once you have entered the world of pregnancy and infant loss, you are no longer naive to the risks to babies in pregnancy and infancy.

It can feel like you know “too much” to be able to relax and trust the process anymore. You know there are no guarantees.

Now, at 34 weeks, the pressure to protect my baby has increased. I know that if there was a sign of something bad happening in pregnancy, this baby could have good odds of survival outside of my body. Most days I feel the weight of my job as this baby’s mom to notice if something changes and to make decisions about calling the doctor to get checked out in the case that he or she may be in distress.

When I wonder whether I have felt enough movement on a given day, it is impossible for me to not worry about losing this baby, too.

I can very easily envision going to my next appointment and hearing that this baby has no heartbeat. I can imagine delivering them stillborn and having to say goodbye. I can feel the pain, and I don’t want to have to go down that path again. There are all sorts of bad things that we can’t prevent from hurting our children, but if there is something I might be able to prevent, I need to do everything in my power to stop it.

Trying to listen to my intuition while knowing that my intuition is not separate from anxiety from traumatic pregnancy loss is no easy task.

At the same time, the third trimester also necessitates preparing for this baby. This baby deserves to be prepared for. On the days and moments where we really believe he or she will be coming home safely with us, it can be exciting to look forward to what is to come, to buy things for their nursery, and to prepare for their arrival. We need to prepare for the process of labor and birth. We need to paint and decorate their nursery, and we need to buy newborn necessities.

In pregnancy after loss, preparing for birth feels like preparing to welcome a baby home while simultaneously bracing yourself for the pain if this baby dies, too.

It takes courage to prepare our home for a baby when we also fear that if something goes wrong between now and their first few days of life, we may have a nursery with no baby.

We are also preparing our family for the changes that are to come. Our 3-year-old rainbow “baby” is “so excited to have a new baby” in our family. We have talked more about her brothers that used to be in Mommy’s belly than any time before this pregnancy. I am so happy to see her excited, and I also have moments of fear that she would have to experience the sorrow that we experienced before she was born.

We are talking about and planning for our future when this baby should be a few weeks to a few months old. Sometimes we can easily talk about the future with confidence, but there are other moments where we are hesitant with our language. Instead of making assumptions that this baby will be a living part of our family, we sometimes give a caveat, like “if all goes according to plan” and “if this baby is here with us.”

Just like every other piece of pregnancy after loss, we have to find a balance for ourselves of letting the connection, excitement, and preparation happen while tending to our fears and past wounds.

We may do things a little differently than non-loss parents, whether it is using different language or buying fewer diapers. We have to accept ourselves for where we are at, letting the love and excitement for this baby grow and being gentle with the parts of ourselves that are afraid.

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