Dear Bereaved Expectant Mama,
You are SO BRAVE. You have faced the very worst fears of any parent and you have SURVIVED. You may be ragged and teary and exhausted and heartbroken, but you SURVIVED. And then you did a very BRAVE thing: you got pregnant again. There is not much more serious than procreation after babyloss. And you did it. You let hope lead the way. You faced your fears and you took a chance and now here you are, pregnant again. And it is TERRIFYING. Because you KNOW. You KNOW what it is like to hear that your dear, sweet little baby has no heartbeat, or has a condition that is incompatible with life, or will not survive. You know things no parent no should know. You have experienced so much that no one should have to experience. It is TOO MUCH to bear, really, and yet, you are bearing it. You are doing what mothers have done since mothers were invented: you are getting on with it and getting things done.
These next 9 months will not be easy, but you CAN do it. You can get through to the other side of pregnancy. It will be hard. There is so much time to get through, and you will be missing your lost baby and you will remember that pregnancy and you will wonder if you can possibly make it through another. What can help you? Here's a list of what helped me:
1) Make a list of milestones: break up the waiting. On my list was hearing the heartbeat, dates for genetic screening, various ultrasounds, viability, surpassing the 22 week mark when my daughter died, dates for glucose testing. What are your milestones? Write them down, cross them off. One friend made a paper chain to count down the days until her due date. I thought that was genius.
2) Find a community: maybe it is an in-person support group, maybe it's online. Two excellent resources are Glow in the Woods, especially the TTC/pregnancy/birth after loss threads, and SPALS, subsequent pregnancy after loss. I found it really helped me to read other people's stories, and eventually to share my pregnancy in an online forum and express all my fears. It helped to walk the path with others. Each birth on our board helped light the way, helped bring me hope.
3) Positive self-talk: talk to yourself, talk to the baby. In my case, some of this was more like pleading, "please little baby, be OK!". But it helped, it really did.
4) Remember that you are STRONG, that you have already SURVIVED the unimaginable. I can remember hearing about lost babies before I was a parent. I thought, "if that happened to me, I don't know what I'd do. I wouldn't survive." But you do survive. You struggle, you are miserable, you are lost, but you SURVIVE. You will survive this pregnancy, too.
5) Assemble your team of caregivers: mine consisted of a OB who was especially caring and attentive and experienced in high risk pregnancies, an acupuncturist, and a therapist who specializes in babyloss and reproductive issues. What care do you need? Who are your healers? Find them and keep regular appointments.
6) Make a nest and give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do there to take your mind off of the fear and anxiety. Watch TV and movies, but beware, everything you watch will have a pregnancy subplot. You will not be able to escape fully from the topic, it will sneak into every show you watch. But watching things will help time pass.
7) Walk. I walked hundreds of miles during my pregnancy. I listened to music, I talked to myself. I sang. I cried. I tried to envision a living baby. I've read that exercise is an effective anti-depressant and I believe it.
8) Put yourself first. This is much easier said than done, but be kind and gentle to yourself. You are doing an AMAZING thing that requires a lot of STRENGTH. So rest when you need it, scream when you need to, say no when you need to. Care for YOU.
9) Prepare for your baby, or, don't prepare. Only you will know what feels right. Some people can set up the whole nursery, need to do that. Some can't do a thing until the baby is born. Do what feels right to you.
You WILL make it through. Time will pass. And hopefully, at the end, you will give birth to a live, screaming baby. And every moment of fear and doubt will have been worth it. You will not be miraculously healed from your grieving, but you will be relieved. You will also be consumed by fulfilling all the needs this new little life has. You will be ragged and teary and exhausted and still heartbroken, but you will be very, very busy. The busyness will keep some of the grief at bay and time will pass. It will not heal all your wounds, but you will get better and better at walking this path. This is a path that many have walked before you, and many will walk after you. It is not the universal mothering experience, but as long as there have been mothers, there have been some on this road. Good luck to you, BRAVE, STRONG Mama. My heart is with you as you await that screaming cry.