Guilt. Along with anxiety, it’s a hallmark of pregnancy after loss. Expecting again makes it bubble to the surface again no matter how much time has passed. Every ounce of joy is followed by guilt. Guilt that you are forgetting the baby you lost. Guilt that you are moving on. Guilt that bringing home a live baby means you won’t have time for the baby you lost. Guilt that the one who lives gets to experience things the other will never. Guilt that the thought of bringing a baby home might just heal your heart.
Processing guilt and coping with it are hard. It’s something I’ve struggled with for 10 years since my baby died, and in every four pregnancies after loss. I know how hard it is to not feel guilty.
Recently, a friend said to me, “I just needed someone to tell me it was okay to feel this way or do this thing.” Sometimes you do just need permission. Permission to let that guilt go and not feel bad about what’s happening now.
So here it is. I’m giving you permission to not feel guilty about any of the following during your rainbow pregnancy.
Wanting to rush through pregnancy
Pregnancy is hard under normal circumstances. Every pregnancy is different and can bring different challenges – physically and emotionally. There’s no exception to these challenges during a pregnancy after loss. In fact, it’s harder. And it can feel scarier.
It’s normal to feel like you just want to fast forward to delivery or the part where you bring baby home. 40 weeks can feel like a lifetime. Don’t feel guilty if you just want this part to be over. It’s hard enough without feeling like you need to treasure it all. You don’t.
Not wanting a shower or a sprinkle
It’s okay if you don’t want to have a baby shower or sprinkle. You may have done that already and feel it’s unnecessary. You may not feel like you can handle the emotions of getting all sorts of baby items that you fear you might have to return.
No one needs you to have a shower. Not your mom, not your in-laws. No one. You don’t need to have one if you don’t want to. Don’t feel guilty. People will shower your baby with gifts upon arrival too. You don’t need a big to-do if it’s too much right now
Feeling joy or excitement
It’s okay if you want to shout it from the rooftops that you’re having a baby again. If you’re elated to be pregnant again and cannot wait to tell everyone, celebrate every moment, buy all the stuff, have all the showers, etc., feel free. After all you’ve been through, you deserve it.
It’s okay if you don’t feel excited about it. If it’s too much to bear. You don’t have to. You don’t owe a public spectacle about how much this baby is going to mean to you. We know you love your babies. If you can’t feel joy and excitement right now, it’s fine. After all you’ve been through, we’re not expecting you to.
That you’re not thinking about the pregnancy
It’s okay if you’re avoiding the subject altogether. If it’s easier on your heart to just not think about the pregnancy, then so be it. Sometimes you need to protect yourself to get through something hard. So long as you’re taking care of yourself, seeing your doctor, and preparing in your own way, it’s okay if your pregnancy and your new bundle isn’t on your mind 24/7. We do what we have to do.
Having a preference for the baby’s sex
It’s okay to want to have a [fill in boy/girl here]. We know that everyone says, “all we want is a healthy baby.” And that’s true. Everyone agrees that in the end the only thing that matters is a take-home baby. But it’s okay if you have a strong preference for one sex over the other and for whatever reason that may be. Your feelings are valid and normal. I really wanted a boy after losing my baby girl. My heart couldn’t handle another girl. I know moms who really wanted and needed another girl after losing a girl. That’s what their hearts needed. If you have a strong preference, it’s okay. We understand.
Using the same stuff
It’s okay to use the stuff that was originally bought for the baby who died. It can feel weird to do so. You may feel like you’re dishonoring that baby in some way by using that same bouncy chair or that cute onesie. You’re not. In a world where babies don’t die, you hand down some of that same stuff to younger siblings. Hand-me-downs are a rite of passage for younger siblings. It’s okay to keep the baby clothes, bottles, blankets, and other items for the next baby.
Answering “yes” to the question, “Is this your first?”
It’s okay to lie and say this baby is your first when that old lady in the elevator asks you the inevitable question: “Is this your first?” This question and the “How many kids do you have?” question are the worst to have to deal with after loss. You don’t need to give the person who you will never see again your life story. You’re not dismissing your first baby by answering, “Yes.” You know the real answer. Strangers don’t need to. If it’s easier to say yes and move on, then do so. Don’t feel guilty.
Calling your OB over “nothing”
You have the right to call your medical team if you think something is wrong or off even if it turns out to be nothing. They are there to answer your questions, help you determine if that twinge is something to be concerned about, or whether it’s amniotic fluid or just urine! Even if everything is okay, you didn’t waste their time. It’s their job to be there for you in those times. You should call when you’re concerned.
These are just a few things I’m giving you permission to let go of the guilt during your pregnancy after loss. What else is causing you to feel guilt during pregnancy after loss? Let those go too, mama. I’m giving you permission.