If you’re anything like me, you fully expected pregnancy after loss to be incredibly difficult.

You prepared yourself for the worry that would wash over you upon discovering your pregnancy test was positive.

You knew fear would be overwhelming during the seemingly endless stretch of time before hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.

You knew anxiety would fill the days and weeks between prenatal appointments—that you would always be wondering if your baby was still alive when you couldn’t watch him moving on a screen or hear her heartbeat fill the air of an exam room.

You knew that unless you could be monitored literally every hour of every day, you would worry constantly that your baby might not be alive in the dark space of your womb.

You knew grief would be part of your pregnancy. Grief for your baby who died and grief that your pregnancy after loss could never be the carefree pregnancy you desired.

You knew it would be a delicate—and difficult—balance between grief and gratitude, joy and panic.

You expected the fear. The uncertainty. The anxiety. The range of emotions—excitement one moment, hopelessness the next.

You expected it to be HARD, but not PANDEMIC hard.

On top of the usual, yet unique and serious concerns during pregnancy after loss, you are now dealing with a host of others that you fully DID NOT expect.

You are dealing with attending appointments alone, wondering if you’re going to be given bad news without the hand of your husband or partner or loved one to hold.

You are dealing with appointments being rescheduled, perhaps even canceled, when you rely on appointments to be scheduled at regular intervals in order to help keep you sane.

You are dealing with high-risk circumstances without outside help due to social distancing requirements.

You are dealing with more uncertainty than you once thought possible. Knowing what you know, you aren’t certain that your baby will live. But on top of that, you aren’t certain your husband or partner can be in the delivery room with you. You aren’t certain if you’re going to get this virus, or if your baby is going to get it. You don’t even know exactly how it might affect your pregnancy, your baby, your own body. You aren’t certain you’ll be able to get diapers, wipes, or formula. You aren’t certain you’ll be able to get the help, support, or supplies you need.

You are dealing with an added layer of grief, over the loss of support during appointments and delivery. You are grieving the ability to gather for a baby shower, the ability to rely on help from others as your pregnancy progresses. You are grieving the ability to shop at your leisure, for baby clothes and nursery décor. There won’t be visits from family and friends once your precious baby is born. There won’t be help from your mom or sister when you are exhausted from caring for a newborn.

And if the worst happens? Because I know you’re still telling yourself it might—though believe me when I say I am desperately praying it won’t. If the worst happens, you’ll be losing and grieving your baby alone.

It shouldn’t be this way. None of it should be this way.

Pregnancy after loss is hard enough without the added stress of a pandemic and all the restrictions that go along with it.

And dang it, it’s just not fair.

But even though you didn’t expect it to be THIS hard, you can still courageously choose to hope for the best, though it won’t be easy.

Because hard doesn’t mean hopeless.

In this hard-on-top-of-hard season, choosing to hope might mean choosing to make other decisions that will fuel hope instead of fear.

Maybe that means turning off the news. Maybe it means participating in an online support group. Maybe it means focusing on stories of healthy babies being born during this time and choosing to believe that your baby can be born healthy, too. Maybe it means an extra phone call to your doctor or a virtual therapy session with a mental health professional. Maybe it means intentional time in prayer or reading Scripture. Maybe it means time spent outside, focusing on the new life that is springing up in the natural world.

Whatever it is for you, make sure you are filling up things that will satisfy your need for hope.

You didn’t expect THIS, mama, but the fact remains that you are still pregnant.

And when this unexpected storm finally blows over, it is my prayer that you’ll be able to look into the eyes of your rainbow baby, and know every minute of hard was worth it.

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