Dear Mama Afraid to Hope,
It can be hard to believe this is real. You may feel like you will never get to the end of this pregnancy. 40 weeks can feel like 40 years in a pregnancy after loss. You may not believe that you will bring a living baby home.
Are you feeling scared? Are you numbing yourself to emotions? Are you bracing yourself for another heartbreak at every appointment? Do you feel like experiencing any joy or expressing any hope at all will result in that being immediately stolen from you… again?
Is it hard to be hopeful?
Oh sweet mama, I know how that is. When I was pregnant again after losing my first child at 20 weeks, I vowed to enjoy every moment. Savor every bout of nausea, every flare of heartburn, every bit of discomfort be it from my body changing or from medical procedures necessary to keep us safe. I felt guilty because I took for granted time spent with my first baby, I wasn’t going to do that the second time around. I was going to cherish every second.
But then my cervix started shortening, and we worried about an incompetent cervix surfacing again. Then I started having contractions at 24 weeks and subsequently was put on bed rest until delivery or 36 weeks, whichever came first. We were meeting with doctors about preterm delivery and what it would be like to have a preemie. We discussed survival rates at 28 weeks versus 32 weeks versus 36 weeks. We thought in terms of “if” rather than “when.”
I stopped believing he would be born alive. I started losing hope that I would bring my baby home.
So what saved me during this anxious time? A few things. My therapist was there to remind me feel whatever I was feeling. But also that if I felt excited about this baby, it would not hurt more if I lost this baby. Refraining from joy would not mitigate the pain if something happened again.
I had to force myself to find 10 minutes a day to find joy. There was a conscious effort on my part to celebrate something – anything – while pregnant.
I bought myself a small a bunny holding a star reading “HOPE” that I kept by my bed. Bunnies remind me of my first baby and this felt like a sign from her that it was not only okay that I was pregnant again, but also that she was hopeful for me too. It was a small daily reminder for me to not give up.
But what helped me most of all was other PAL mamas. Knowing and confiding in other moms who had travelled this path before me and knew exactly what I was feeling helped immensely. These moms would go on to snuggle their newborns who were born alive and healthy. They were real life examples that dreams do come true.
So when you feel all hope is gone, try some of these things. Force yourself to focus on the joy you feel for this baby, even if for only 10 minutes a day. Seek out other moms who are experiencing pregnancy after loss. Find a hopeful mantra or sign to place somewhere you’ll see it every day.
“If your wings are broken, borrow mine so yours can open too.” – Rachel Platten
Also, remind yourself of all the courageous mamas who came before you. Remember our journeys. Remember our rainbow babies who are thriving today. We made it through this, and you will too.
And if it is all still too much to bear, let us hold onto hope for you. Let us remind you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know all too well that it can be so hard to feel hopeful after such devastating loss, but I know there’s joy after all of this.
So, let us carry you through the fear to joy and the hope of the rainbow after the storm.