I’ve always found comfort in being prepared. I was a girl scout, I make lists (countless lists), I practice safety drills with my rainbow daughter and husband at home, and I generally feel prepared for the unexpected. As a loss parent, I’ve experienced the most unexpected outcome, the loss of our first daughter, Mary Francis, at 23-weeks gestation. In my second pregnancy with my rainbow daughter, I did everything I could to prepare my heart and home— for both a live and a still birth. And, while I knew the outcome would be out of my hands, knowing I did all I could to prepare was a big part of my stress management during my pregnancy after loss.
I currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my rainbow daughter and husband. For the past few days I have clung to my phone scouring social media for information and updates about the power outages, water shortages, multiple major fires burning across the state, and dangerous air quality. As I watched the news my heart ached for the moms pregnant with their rainbow babies right now. All pregnant moms would be nervous or concerned during a natural disaster like we’re experiencing in California, and loss moms have all the extra stress that comes with a pregnancy after loss experience.
As a rainbow mom to a preschooler, I try not to have the TV on too much, because I don’t want my 3-year old rainbow daughter to feel the stress and concern I feel when I watch the news. So, I thought, what advice would I give myself if I were pregnant right now?
1. Create a circle of support.
Collect and write down phone numbers for friends and family (don’t be reliant on cell phone memory), both local and out of the area, so you can stay in touch and seek support if you need it. Keep in contact with medical providers, and know they are experiencing the natural disaster as well.
2. Be prepared to go without.
Have a few days of water on hand, flashlights, extra batteries, and some easy snacks and meals that don’t require refrigeration, things like PB&J sandwiches, canned soup, and fresh fruit and veggies. And throw in a few comfort snacks that you crave/enjoy that will make this stressful time a little more comforting.
3. Balance news with quiet.
It’s important to be aware of what is going on in your area, but it can also be triggering and stressful. Unplug when you can. Read, play cards, and put up your feet and concentrate on your breathing to center and calm yourself in a stressful time.
4. Have a go-bag with your essentials.
This could look very different depending on where you live, what type of emergency you are facing, and the size of your family (including pets or livestock). Universal items might include photocopies of critical documents, medications, a change of clothes, first-aid kit, diapers and formula, and a few distractions (like cards and coloring books) and portable phone charger or radio.
5. Know you are doing the best that you can.
A natural emergency is out of your control, which is tough if you’re an organizer and list maker, as I am. I like to feel like I have some control over my life and surroundings, and there is nothing like a fire, storm, or natural disaster to remind you that so much of our lives is out of our control.
There are many good governmental websites to help prepare during an emergency, and they should be relied upon for expertise:
- CDC Reproductive Health in Emergency Preparedness
- FEMA Emergency Preparedness
- FEMA Emergency Supply List
My recommendations are simple, and I hope that if you’re experiencing a storm or emergency, they bring some comfort and reassurance. It is important to acknowledge how you are feeling, share those feelings with others, and have a plan or resources to make you feel safe and comfortable.
For all those currently evacuated, without power or water, and living with the poor air quality in California, we send strength and hope. And to the first responders and firefighters, we send gratitude. These events can bring people together, and as we all know, it takes a village to raise a child, even before they are born. On behalf of the PALS community, we are with you.