A year after my daughter died and a bout of secondary infertility, I found out that I was pregnant! Finding out I was pregnant again brought a myriad of emotions. I was numb, happy, sad, terrified, cautious, excited, and So. Damn. Out. Of. Control. I frequently doubted my ability to carry a baby to term and was convinced that even if I did carry a baby to term, I wouldn’t leave the hospital with a baby. I struggled with this in my two pregnancies after loss. I was very anxious. Pregnancy after loss is difficult, to say the least. Each pregnancy contains its own unique set of nuances, but somehow, I survived it twice.

Finding Strength in Fear: Navigating Pregnancy After Loss

Adobe Stock/Alessandro Biascioli

Here’s how:

I was straight Delulu.

I lived in delulu land. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. On some level, you have to be delusional. Knowing that your baby could die at any point and still choosing to try again. To embark on the pregnancy journey again in hopes that it ends with a live baby that you get to take home with you. You have to believe that this pregnancy is different, that lightning won’t strike twice when deep down you know it can and it has for so many others. I chose to believe that each pregnancy would be and end differently.

I became very focused on creating routines and tasks.

Pregnancy after loss can feel powerless. You know just how little control you have in carrying a pregnancy to term and even leaving the hospital with a baby. Instead of focusing on what was outside my control, I focused on what was in my control. I focused on tasks and creating goals.

After the first trimester, it is often seen that you are in the “safe zone” as the chance of miscarriage lessens. If you have experienced a 2nd or 3rd trimester loss, stillbirth, or infant loss, you know that there truly is no “safe zone.” I sat down with a calendar and labeled each week of pregnancy. In my first pregnancy, I was 23 weeks and 6 days when I went into premature labor. So, I was hyperaware of premature delivery and survival rates. I labeled the weeks based on the level of prematurity and survival rates. With that information, I created goals. My first goal was to make it 24 weeks and surpass my first pregnancy. Then 26, 28, and so on, as the chances of survival increased. I scheduled my appointments in advance, when possible, to have them on my calendar. I put everything on the calendar, weekly progesterone shots, appointments…everything, and focused on following the routine. I checked things off as I did them. In addition, I took weekly photos in celebration of being pregnant another week!

Deneé Canady at 17 weeks pregnant after loss - Finding Strength in Fear

Author’s Personal Collection/Deneé Canady

I planned for a premature delivery.

With cervical insufficiency, the risk of premature delivery increases. Delivering prematurely was a very real possibility and I wanted to do what I could to be prepared in the event that it happened.

A common question that I see asked in PAL support groups is, “When did you allow yourself to buy things in your subsequent pregnancies after loss?” It is such a relatable question and really made me think. How do you plan for a premature delivery when you can’t bring yourself to purchase anything for fear of not bringing a baby home to use it? The dilemma.

I decided this “sweet window” existed between 28 and 32 weeks. The chance of survival is high at that time, so although still risky, I decided that is when I would purchase and prepare for my baby’s arrival. I didn’t need much for my 3rd pregnancy, but I felt slightly safer earlier on to purchase the things that I did as my cerclage and cervix held up very well in my second pregnancy. I allowed myself to think I would at least make it to 32 weeks of pregnancy. I purchased almost everything that I needed in that window. I also had my baby shower about midway through that window.

I packed the baby and my bags by 32 weeks. I would also recommend keeping your hospital bag in your car if you work outside the home or taking it with you for doctor’s visits just in case you are admitted to the hospital for any reason. I was admitted to the hospital during my third trimester in both my pregnancies after loss. We have “hospital districts” here, so I chose my OBGYN near hospitals that had amazing NICUs and were close to a children’s hospital with a level 4 NICU. I didn’t travel so that in the event I did go into premature labor, I would be where my doctors were and near family/friends. I researched and learned the process for NICU hospital stays and graduations, etc. My oldest son was born a few days prematurely. While he did not have a NICU stay, he still had to “graduate” to be discharged. I was thankful that it was something I planned for.

Deneé Canady at 27 weeks pregnant after loss - Finding Strength in Fear

Author’s Personal Collection/Deneé Canady

Things that I did differently in my 3rd pregnancy.

In my 3rd pregnancy, I felt a little more grounded. I had a routine that helped me survive my previous pregnancy, and I felt good about implementing what had worked again. With my severe perinatal anxiety, I decided it was best for me to go to weekly therapy and talk through my anxieties and fears in a non-judgmental space. I was able to process the unexpected things that happened and the major life changes that occurred.

My first pregnancy after loss, I developed preeclampsia and had to be induced. This led to an unplanned c-section. I decided that I wanted more support in the delivery room. Rules were changing frequently due to COVID protocols, and I wasn’t guaranteed multiple support people. I had considered hiring a doula, and when I found out it was a guaranteed support person regardless of COVID protocols, I was SOLD! Getting a doula was extremely empowering. She helped me plan for labor and advocated for me when I was unable to do so with hospital staff. She directed my support people during my labor and helped me remember the skills I had learned to manage labor pains. She also did so much during pregnancy, talking through ways to address things with my doctors and managing my gestational diabetes. It was a great support and one I would gladly choose to utilize again.

Embrace the fear, tolerate the discomfort, and figure out what works for you in your pregnancy after loss.

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*A version of this article was originally published on the author’s personal blog.

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