In my experience, when you become pregnant after experiencing loss, people tend to treat it like a normal pregnancy. As if it has magically fixed the problem and pain or your loss. As if nothing can go wrong. As if a bringing your baby home is a given. But after experiencing two losses, and then another pregnancy, I would argue that pregnancy after loss is anything but normal.
Here are 12 ways pregnancy after loss is different.
1. The positive pregnancy test doesn’t just evoke excitement, but real, breath-holding fear.
I’m pregnant. It’s exactly what you’ve prayed for, but the realization that you are carrying a baby isn’t complemented with the light-hearted excitement that came with being pregnant before having experienced a loss. There is excitement, sure. But there is also intense fear. What if I lose this baby, too?
No matter how far along you are. The popular belief that it’s safe to announce a pregnancy upon crossing the threshold of the second trimester means nothing anymore. You know that pregnancy is never really safe. You worry that once you announce your pregnancy, you might later have to announce the loss of your pregnancy.
3. You are grateful for every pregnancy symptom—even the difficult ones.
No longer is morning sickness (or all-day-and-night sickness) something to be loathed. No longer are pregnancy related headaches a source of complaint. You don’t enjoy these things, but you are strangely grateful for them, because they are a signal that you are progressing through pregnancy. They are a source of hope because you interpret such things as positive signs that your body is caring for your baby.
You become overly cautious about what you eat and drink. You worry that if you move your body a certain way, it could hurt your baby. You are anxious about using the bathroom because you’re afraid to find that you’re bleeding. You are scared to exercise, and to do many other things, even if your doctor assures you it’s safe.
5. You feel a sense of guilt.
There are so many things to harbor guilt over during pregnancy after loss. Not that you should. But often we do. You might feel guilty for moving forward, for hoping that you’ll bring home another baby because you wonder if that means you’ve forgotten the baby you lost. Or you might feel guilty for being pregnant when there are so many women with broken mama hearts who would love to be in your place right now. Why your good fortune and not theirs? You might even feel guilty for the range of emotions that are part of pregnancy after loss, for not feeling as excited as you want to be or think you should be.
6. Anger bubbles up sometimes.
Anger isn’t an emotion that’s usually associated with a much-wanted pregnancy. But it does creep in during pregnancy after loss. You find yourself feeling angry that you know the devastating pain of pregnancy loss. You feel angry because you should already have a baby in your arms. You might even feel angry that your pregnancy is so emotionally taxing when all you really want to feel is happy.
7. A baby shower isn’t a given.
Having a baby shower is often an assumed part of pregnancy. You can’t NOT have a baby shower! People might find it odd if you aren’t interested in being showered with gifts for your baby. But when you are pregnant after loss, you know that you might not have the chance to put those gifts to use. Emotionally, it might be easier to wait until your baby’s safe arrival to celebrate.
8. You are no longer naïve to the miracle of a healthy pregnancy (and childbirth.)
Pregnancy is commonplace, isn’t it? Babies too many to count are conceived and born every hour of every day. But when you are pregnant after loss, nothing about the process seems common. You are acutely aware of how fragile the life within you is and just how many things must go right for pregnancy to successfully end with a living baby. You know just how miraculous it is to not only conceive a baby, but to bring one safely into the world.
9. You pray. Constantly.
Well, maybe it’s more of a beg. You plead with God to let this one live. You never stop praying for your baby. For your heart. For hope. For healing. For the storm to let up. You pray to hear your baby’s heartbeat, to feel your baby’s kick, to bring your baby home. Please, God, please.
10. You might not plan for much of anything.
When you are pregnant, you start planning for the arrival of your baby. But when you are pregnant after loss, you aren’t sure that your baby is going to arrive. Not safely anyway. You aren’t sure if there will be anything to plan for. So, you might put off making a birth plan, or preparing a nursery, or stocking up on diapers, or securing a pediatrician. Because you know that your plans might crumble.
11. Hope is hard, but you choose it anyway.
During pregnancy after loss, you are sure of nothing. And yet, you hope. Because each day that you carry your baby in your womb is one day closer to carrying your baby in your arms. It’s not easy to imagine that this time will be different, but you know it can be. And you cling to that hope.
When you’ve lost a baby, it takes courage to try again. When you’ve had a pregnancy that left you grief-stricken and sobbing, it takes courage to believe that maybe, just maybe, it won’t happen again. When you’ve opened your heart to a baby who didn’t get to live outside your womb, it takes courage to open your heart to another baby who could meet the same fate. It takes courage to try again, to love again, to hope again.
Certainly, this isn’t an all-encompassing list. We each experience pregnancy after loss differently. We each choose to approach it in various ways. But there are many common themes, and through my experience and conversations with others, this list is a few of them.
Need encouragement for pregnancy after loss? Find it here: Courageously Expecting: 30 Days of Encouragement for Pregnancy After Loss.