All birthing couples need birth preparation, especially loss couples. After a loss, the couple may not think they need classes but it is even more important to be properly educated this time around.
With a subsequent pregnancy, there is additional stress.
Many parents report stress over fear of the unknown or fear of a repeat experience. Your medical provider will be doing everything they can to support this pregnancy and birth including genetic testing, early and frequent ultrasounds, and extra growth monitoring. Although these tests are designed to be safe and effective and their intention is to help the parents to know the pregnancy is progressing normally, they can cause additional stress as waiting for test results can be nerve-racking. And for others, these extra opportunities to check on the baby reassure families.
Sometimes after a loss, the subsequent pregnancy may require significant medical assistance during the birth, as scheduling an induction is often desired and recommended as it can balance stress and help to control known outcomes. So focusing on reducing interventions may not be helpful for couples after loss. These families need a balance between being “normal” and appropriate medical care. Most importantly they need compassion as they are not “just another mom.”
Online classes which cover all aspects of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are important as each birth is different.
The purpose of childbirth classes is to reduce birth fear and explain best practices for the whole family. Loss parents have an intimate knowledge of how stacking the odds in their favor could make a big impact on the birth outcome. It is critical that they have the information and freedom to make informed choices about their care and their baby’s care, as the parents are the best decision-makers for their baby but they also need to learn how to advocate for oneself and their children.
As seen above, unlike other new parents, loss parents have additional fear of unknown outcome. Their loss is upfront and they cannot get away from the idea that they will or will not have a baby to take home, bond with, and breastfeed. They may exhibit a lack of excitement over the current pregnancy. The pregnancy itself may lack joy and just be something they have to suffer through. They may be afraid of bonding with the baby inside of them in case they have a repeated loss. Every new sensation is something to be worried about, every similar sensation might be a trigger for what when ‘wrong’ last time. There can be obsession over symptoms, testing, and potential outcomes. These families may also be defensive of their choices and concerns as it is challenging to grieve fully while in a current pregnancy.
What type of class is best for loss parents?
Group classes are considered ideal as they encourage classmates to learn from each other. These classes can foster a sense of bonding and develop long-term last relationships in and out of the classroom. Depending on the couples in the group class, having a loss couple in the class can be beneficial. A miscarriage loss can fit into a group class with more ease than a stillborn couple, especially if the instructor covers early warning signs and miscarriage statistics as part of class. Sometimes they also can fit into a birth refresher class with parents who have living children but may have not had ideal birth experiences. Remember, birth trauma can be perceived to be equally traumatic as loss. I personally have had success with both group classes, online classes, and private classes as long as the loss couple is given the option of choosing the class that best suits their needs.
For some couples, a group class is not practical for a variety of reasons. The loss parents may not have had a positive warm experience the first time. The loss family may feel left out in the classroom or feel that they do not belong as the other couples are unable to relate. Loss couples can also have a hard time concentrating in the group environment as they may need more time to process their last birth before moving forward and learning something new. For these parents an online class is ideal. With online classes, the parents can learn together or separately. The time frame is flexible so clients can learn at their own pace, waiting and processing as needed.
What do I need as a loss parent?
Create time for yourself, alone and with your partner, to discuss your fears, concerns, and desires. Be compassionate, sincere, and honest with one another. Many couples do best to process their birth with their doula or a mental health provider BEFORE the upcoming delivery. By working through your hopes and dreams you can learn what you need to know in order to have a safe and healthy delivery for you and your little one.