Preparing for a rainbow baby: Tips for navigating pregnancy after loss
It’s time that we begin to recognize and accept that not every pregnancy is a joyful one. You also can’t will your pregnancy into being what you want it to be. This can be especially true for anyone experiencing pregnancy after loss. If you’re trying to conceive again or are currently pregnant after experiencing pregnancy loss of any kind, preparing for a rainbow baby might feel emotionally complex. A rainbow baby is a name coined for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death.
Since 2012, March has been designated as Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month. It’s a month set aside to acknowledge the difficult journey of carrying joy and grief during a subsequent pregnancy after loss. When the unimaginable happens, you are forever changed. You lose the innocence and the belief that everything will be fine which can make it especially hard to lean freely into feelings of hope, joy or even making any concrete plans around the pregnancy or the birth.
Whether you are currently pregnant after loss or trying to conceive after loss, here are 4 things you can do now to prepare for your rainbow baby.
Resist the temptation to compare
You first need to acknowledge that this pregnancy is different. As a result, any comparisons you may be tempted to make to the previous one(s), are not helpful. Every pregnancy is different and so is this one. Just like every chapter in a book is unlike the previous one. Each chapter tells its own story and this pregnancy is its own unique chapter, unlike the one before it and the one after it.
Other comparisons may extend outside of your own experience. You may be tempted to compare your journey to someone else’s. Even then, remember that your story is your own.
Use mantras and affirmations
Pregnancy after loss can be filled with worry and overwhelming fear. It’s easy to fall prey and be consumed with thoughts about all the ways your pregnancy can go wrong. You’re not being dramatic for thinking this way. You’ve lived this reality so you know that it is possible. However, this is or will be a new pregnancy.
Mantras and affirmations can be a healing balm during this emotionally challenging time. Find and use what works for you. Pregnancy After Loss (PALS) support is one of my favorite resources for this. If you need help with this, this is a great place to start.
Honor your experience
It can be hard to feel hopeful and joyful when you’ve experienced the devastation of losing a baby. You don’t have to choose between joy and grief. There is an incredible duality that is undeniable. In fact, multiple realities can and do exist. You can celebrate the joy and hope of a new baby while acknowledging the grief of losing the baby that you hoped for. Be intentional about this and make time to do both. This is a helpful way of honoring the reality of your experience and being with all the emotions that are present on this journey.
It’s not useful or helpful to deny or avoid the hard parts of it. There’s no need to feel shame about anything you might be feeling. It’s also okay for you to talk about what you’re feeling with someone you trust.
There are no “shoulds”, there is only what is. The belief that you “should” be happy or grateful is false and unhealthy. You shouldn’t be anything but what you are. All feelings are valid and allowed. All yourself to feel them all and breathe through each one.
Pregnancy loss is a life-changing and traumatic event. Not everyone experiences it the same, but everyone who experiences it is impacted by it. We know from statistics that rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are higher. People who are pregnant after a loss are also at an increased risk for perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. It’s important to know that this isn’t dependent on having a successful subsequent pregnancy and birth.
Try committing to doing these 4 things to better navigate your pregnancy after loss. Being pregnant again after losing a baby is truly a privilege. Remember that you can be grateful and have struggles. They are not mutually exclusive. Whether or not you celebrate each little milestone along the way is totally up to you. There’s no right or wrong way. There’s only your way. Just be sure to be kind to yourself and care for yourself well.
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