It is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month, and in the five years since my losses I have spoken a great deal about loss and my subsequent pregnancies. My choice to speak openly and honestly about some of the more difficult experiences has resulted in a lot of questions over the years. Whether from friends on behalf of other people or strangers on the internet or even couples I met at the support group I sometimes facilitate for families experiencing loss, the questions have been consistent over the years. For most, their losses were fresh and their questions came while openly grieving. Since my faith is an important part of my journey, people often ask about that aspect of my experience.
It would be very difficult to remember every single question I was asked, but these are ten of the most common questions about being pregnant after loss that I am asked, followed by my honest answers.
1. How did you know you were ready?
I wasn’t. My pregnancies after loss have all been unplanned. I was neither ready for them nor fully recovered from my loss but I knew that regardless of how ‘ready’ I felt I was going to give my growing baby the best chance I could at life. I was going to follow every instruction, take every medicine prescribed and avoid all unnecessary risks. I was not ready, but I was determined.
2. What did you do differently in your rainbow pregnancy?
Everything. Let me say that while we all know that pregnancy is not an illness, for me, pregnancy made me very sick. So I completely changed my life during my successful pregnancies. I gave up working and went on bed rest (as prescribed by my OB-GYN), radically changed my diet and took medication daily. I am not suggesting that all women need to do this, but this was how my life worked out.
3. Should I stay with my doctor?
Only if you want to. Many women, myself included decided to switch health care providers for our pregnancies after loss. Many women have decided to stay with their OB-GYN. The only thing that matters is that you feel cared for and supported by your health care provider during the months leading up to and following your labor and delivery.
4. After your losses, do you still believe in God?
Maybe even more so. This is a hard one to answer. People experiencing loss have a lot to work out when it comes to their faith. But as with every other question, I try to be honest with them about where I am. And where I am is a place where I believe that even in the depths of my pain, God had a plan for me. So yes, I still believe in Him.
5. Why would God allow this to happen?
I do not know. More often than not when I am asked this question, people are questioning why God would allow them to become pregnant, bond with the baby, only to take it away, not just why their baby died. And my answer, from the bottom of my broken heart, is always the same: I do not know why, but I know that there is no answer you can receive that will take away the pain so for me, I chose to question less and instead hope in the God I still believed in.
6. Were you scared during your pregnancy after loss?
Every single day. Pregnancy after loss is such a blessing but I was scared that history would repeat itself. So I prayed a lot and I read a lot. I focused on stories of hope and tried to acknowledge that even though my fears were understandable, I had to try to stay positive and enjoy the time I did have with my growing baby.
7. Aren’t you angry that your babies died?
I am angry that my and any other babies died. I am angry that 1 in 4 babies still die before birth, and that 1 in 6 babies are born sleeping. I am angry every time I hear about a child or infant death. But I am choosing to work out my anger with action. I do not know how much of an impact my actions will ever have but it is what keeps my anger in the right balance. I do not want to become bitter and focusing on others, and not my anger helps me with that.
8. How can I make my partner understand that I want to/do not want to try again?
Tell them. Then listen. And then keep communicating. Having open and honest conversations is the safest way to navigate these difficult subjects. Partners grieve differently and you must each understand where the other is at the moment.
9. I can’t imagine my life ever being okay again, how did you go on after loss?
Very, very slowly. Some days I did okay, other days not so much. Eventually, things began to make sense again. This wasn’t the life I planned or even wanted but right now, I see so much beauty in the life I live that I can’t help but be grateful.
10. Now that you are a mother to rainbows, are you still grieving?
Yes. It may not look like your grief but I am. In the five years since I have learned a little about my grief. I understand the things that trigger it and have gotten good at saying no to people, things and events that trigger me. I have also learned to not let my grief take over all of me. I can recognize that I am grieving yet still feel other things. It is no longer all or nothing. Grief for me is a part of my experience but it is not all of me.
Pregnancy after loss can be difficult and my experiences may differ greatly from yours. I encourage you to find ways to grieve your loss and if you need to, please seek the support from your health care providers, family, friends, pastors, and the loss community.