I held the phone to my ear, anxiously waiting for my mom to answer from her end. She didn’t know it yet, but I was carrying the weight of a new pregnancy, one that wouldn’t have come into existence had my previous pregnancy not resulted in a stillbirth.
It’s not necessarily that I wanted to tell her. After losing two babies in a row, sharing the news of another pregnancy that wasn’t guaranteed to produce a living child felt so vulnerable. But just as her heart and head had carried the loss of my previous pregnancies and the grief that came after, I needed help carrying the emotional weight of another fragile pregnancy.
“Hello,” she said, her upbeat tone acknowledging that it was me on the other end without actually having to say it aloud. “What’s up?”
“Well, I just thought I should tell you I’m pregnant,” I blurted out before I had a chance to change my mind. I needed someone else to know about this emotionally turbulent pregnancy, because somehow releasing that information made it feel slightly less heavy than it was.
“Oh, are you scared?” she asked in a hushed tone.
With tears in my eyes and a catch in my throat, I croaked out a meager “yes” before a single sob escaped.
Unlike other responses to my whispered pregnancy announcement that would come later on, hers wasn’t exactly congratulatory. But it was real. And exactly the response I needed. Because yes, I was scared. Terrified, actually. And the acknowledgement that my pregnancy after two losses wasn’t a normal, unblemished one, was refreshing at a time when I was emotionally parched.
As the weeks turned to months, and time wore on at a startlingly slow pace, my mom checked in regularly. With weekly appointments at my specialist’s office as well as a weekly visit from an in-home nurse, it seemed there was always something to report, usually including some combination of panic and hope.
Like me, she remained cautiously hopeful and anxiety-ridden all at once. She was afraid that she’d have to watch me, her daughter, experience the devastation of another loss. She was afraid that one day she’d pick up the phone only to receive news that again my baby was gone. She was afraid that I was carrying another grandchild she’d never get to meet.
And her anxiety from not being able to eradicate the emotional burden of my pregnancy or ensure a happy ending was palpable. She couldn’t fix anything. But she could help carry something.
No, she couldn’t physically carry me, or my baby for that matter. She couldn’t take all the fear off my shoulders and place it on her own. But she carried us and it in the best way she knew how—by assuming the role of caretaker as much as possible, by begging God for the same thing I was begging him for, and by validating my feelings.
My mom traveled several hours by car every other week in order to cook, clean, run errands, and fill our freezers with meals to eat during her off weeks. She helped care for my living child. She worked to ensure that my everyday life—basically everything outside of my pregnancy—was in order to promote as much ease and as little stress for me as possible.
She eased the burdens that she could and acknowledged the magnitude of the ones she couldn’t.
She was my mother and my unborn baby’s grandmother, and she did what a woman who holds those positions does best—put the two of us first. At the expense of her own time, energy, and well-being.
Her care and concern, sacrifice and sympathy during my pregnancy after loss were far more valuable than any baby gift could have been. They were gifts that she handed me over and over during those months, priceless offerings of herself, really.
Gifts that could never serve as a guarantee, but helped carry me through the tumultuous waters of pregnancy after loss because I knew I wasn’t swimming alone.
Grandparents hold a unique position for their children who are enduring a pregnancy after loss. Their helping hands and attentive hearts can promote the well-being of both baby and mother, and their ability to truly help ease the stress of a subsequent and uncertain pregnancy isn’t to be underestimated.
My mom nurtured her unborn grandchild by mothering me during my pregnancy after loss. And it’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given—one in which a simple thank you spoken even a hundred times over will never seem like enough. But somehow, I think that hearing the voice of her grandson when she picks up the phone now—the baby boy I carried with fear and trepidation while she carried me—is as much a thank you as she ever hoped for.
This post originally appeared on Pregnancy After Loss Support.