The idea of being “ready” to try to have another baby is hard for bereaved parents. There are many factors to consider about trying to conceive again in the first place. Deciding what makes the most sense for your family is a complex decision that is further complicated by the existence of the pandemic.
People who have shared their experiences about being pregnant during the pandemic have highlighted some of the ways that the pandemic has added to the stress of pregnancy after loss. Pregnancy in a pandemic has meant missed or adjusted celebrations such as baby showers. For some loss parents, the excuse not to have them may be a relief, but for others, this is another loss. The celebrations and joys of pregnancy have been taken from you in previous pregnancies and missing out on them again can be disappointing and sad.
Given the traumatic experiences that many loss parents have had at ultrasounds and doctor’s appointments, the idea of having to attend appointments alone may be one of the most intimidating aspects of contemplating a pregnancy during the pandemic.
As a loss parent, you don’t just imagine your partner missing out on the joy and connection with the baby if they can’t attend these appointments, you imagine what it will be like to get devastating news alone and then have to call your partner to share it with them. The pandemic has made that a reality for far too many bereaved parents.
Pregnancy after loss is a stressful journey, with joy and hope walking hand in hand with fear and grief.
While the research has shown that many pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19 have not had adverse outcomes, there is evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness from and have some increased risk for preterm delivery following COVID-19 infections. Facing the reality of increased risk is scary for loss parents, as we have been on the wrong side of the statistics before. This may make pregnancy after loss even more stressful than it already is.
The isolation that has come with distancing from friends, family, and coworkers also may mean missing out on some of the joys of celebrating a pregnancy in a more public way. While for some this may be a welcome break from attention and intrusive questions, for others it may take away some of the joy that you wish to hold onto in a pregnancy after loss. Knowing that the isolation may need to continue after a baby is born is another stressful part of the decision making.
While many families have endured pregnancy after loss and welcomed babies home during the pandemic, making the choice to do so feels complicated.
If you are anything like me, as you have been contemplating this decision over the past few months you may be coming up with more questions than answers.
If you and your family are able to be relatively isolated, should you just choose to try for a pregnancy now and get that part over with so you can see others again sooner rather than later? Might some aspects of being pregnant while physically distancing or working from home be appealing? When will you have access to a vaccine? Will you be allowed to get a vaccine if you are pregnant? Will there be a recommendation to wait to try to conceive or pursue fertility treatments after being vaccinated?
For some potential answers to the vaccination questions, see Pregnancy After Loss and the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Not knowing the answers to all of these questions, some parents may choose to wait, while others may not feel they have the choice.
Age, fertility history, and the factors connected with your previous losses, including the current makeup of your family and the number of living children you hope to have, are all factors in whether you feel you can wait or not. Delayed fertility treatments during the Spring 2020 stay at home orders may have also affected your timeline.
Even among those of us who feel we can and may want to wait, as a loss parent, planning to wait to try to conceive feels like tempting fate.
You know the complications to be had. You know the potential for secondary infertility even if you haven’t experienced it before. You know the risks of a miscarriage, a stillbirth, and infant death. You know that you should not take anything for granted. You know you can’t expect anything to go to plan. So when you think about planning to wait until things might be safer regarding the pandemic, you can’t help but remember that making any plans when it comes to having children seems risky.
Having experienced pregnancy, infant, or child loss, you know the pain of your family makeup being defined by factors outside of your control.
The number, ages, and sexes of our children and the timing of their births are influenced by the losses we experienced. The pandemic has thrown another wrench into our plans. As a loss parent, the desire to not have your life choices or your family makeup dictated by events outside of your control is natural.
Things didn’t go to plan before. You didn’t get what you wanted or expected. The pandemic’s effect on pregnancy is much the same, whether you are choosing to wait because of it or hoping to be pregnant soon.
Just as with so many aspects of pregnancy after loss, there is no one right answer. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each person has to find the best answer for them given the reality of the situation they face. But, just as is true for so much of life after loss, you are not alone in this. So many of us fellow loss parents are right here with you, feeling unsure but continuing forward with the support of each other.