after loss or infant loss
Pregnancy after perinatal bereavement
Living a pregnancy after loss (PAL) is part of the journey for many parents who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. It is estimated that between 50% and 80% of couples choose to embark on a new project of pregnancy during the 12 to 18 months after the loss of their baby. A PAL can be a difficult time for bereaved parents who often swing between rejoicing for the new pregnancy and crying for the baby they have lost, combined with anxiety at the thought of losing again their baby.
We’ve put together ideas that might be helpful for you during this time.
- Acknowledge that pregnancy after loss is difficult. It’s helpful to provide yourself with compassion and nurturance throughout your journey.
- Remember that it’s okay to still grieve and be sad about your loss(es) during your current pregnancy.
- Understand that you will have an array of emotions. It’s normal to feel afraid and anxious one minute and hopeful the next.
- Realize that this is a different pregnancy, with a different baby and a different outcome.
- Surround yourself with an empathetic support system including family, friends, other pregnant after loss parents, mental health providers, and those on your pregnancy health care team.
- Know that you are the expert of your own body, baby, and pregnancy. You have the right to be heard by your health care providers and your concerns taken seriously. You have the right to find a doctor or midwife who will respect and listen to your needs.
- Educate yourself about the mental and physical challenges of pregnancy after loss and how your previous loss affects your decisions in this pregnancy.
- Plan for the birth experience you choose and hope for, understanding that this is part of the healing process.
- Seek reassurance from others when needed and allow yourself to turn down reassurance from others when needed.
- Decline invitations to baby showers, birthday parties, holidays, and any other event that is triggering for you. It’s not rude or self-centered — it’s self-preservation.
- Accept that remembering during this pregnancy your baby that died is a healthy way for you to separate this pregnancy from your last pregnancy.
- Give yourself permission to celebrate or not celebrate this pregnancy.
- Believe that you deserve this pregnancy and baby.
- Allow yourself to let go of guilt and feel hope and joy for this new life you carry inside.
Living without rainbow baby
Mourning another pregnancy
This information is intended for parents who have experienced the loss of a baby and have not been able to have a hopeful baby or who have chosen not to have a new pregnancy.
For many women and couples, secondary infertility is a very real problem. Or maybe you chose not to try to conceive another baby. When you make the decision not to have another child or when you realize that you will not have another child, you will have to learn to integrate this new parameter in your life. You may have to grieve again, the possibility of being the parent you imagined.
Many bereaved mothers feel responsible for what happened or blame their bodies for not being able to keep their babies safe. The inability to conceive again can also add to this feeling of inadequacy.
It is quite normal to feel misunderstood. Being a bereaved parent is hard enough, but adding to it the pain of never raising a living child is unimaginable for most people. It’s just as normal to feel out of step with what most people are going through.
At first, you may feel a sense of belonging to the community of bereaved parents. However, as time goes by, there is a risk that pregnancies will multiply around you. You can feel like you’ve been left behind, even by people who previously understood what you were going through. Many bereaved parents cannot grasp the full extent of the sadness of living without a baby hope. Don’t hesitate to protect yourself, such as removing yourself from pages / groups / people that prioritize pregnancy after perinatal bereavement, or pregnancy and childbirth in general.
You are still a mom and dad. It can be confusing, as if you have lost part of your identity, but know that this part of you does not disappear with your child. The story of your child’s birth is as valid and important as the story of those with living children. People may be uncomfortable, but that remains your story. Don’t be afraid to share it.