How I managed my new pregnancy after loss
There is a famous spiritual song that says, “when it seems like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.” In the forums about motherhood and childbirth, infants born healthy after the experiences of a miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden death are considered rainbow babies. I am grateful to have two rainbow babies, Genesis, 19 months, and Joelle, four months.
Prior to having our daughters, our first pregnancy ended abruptly with a miscarriage at six weeks, and our second pregnancy concluded at 38 weeks with the stillborn delivery of our son, Joshua. These were very tough experiences to say the least. Then, managing the fear and anxiety of a reoccurrence during our subsequent pregnancies was even more taxing.
On March 27, 2013, we went to the ob/gyn for our 38-week appointment and the doctor was unable to find his heartbeat. She thought the silence was due to awkward positioning so she grabbed the in-office ultrasound machine to confirm. From the moment his limp body appeared on the screen, I could tell he was no longer with us.
A baby pronounced deceased after 24 weeks in-utero is considered stillborn and has to be delivered naturally or extracted via c-section.
While the doctors were setting me up to be induced, they offered me all kinds of pain and psychiatric medicine for coping. I declined it all. My intentions were to be fully conscious and aware of the suffering I was to endure at the hands of the loss. This was my first step in the grief management process: the act of recognizing my own pain.
The days to follow were surreal and humbling. My husband and I spent the next 18 hours in labor preparing to deliver the lifeless body of our sweet little baby boy. We spent the next three months reconciling how to move forward.
Quite naturally, we were not excited about the onset of pregnancy symptoms I began experiencing in late May 2013. We discussed the possibility of us being pregnant, but the grief of Joshua was too fresh for us to think about managing pregnancy after loss. Out of fear of another miscarriage, we postponed all medical confirmations and care until mid-July at the 10-week mark. We also waited to tell family and friends until we cleared the three-month mark.
Hiring a grief counselor was our next course of action. It was also the best decision we made. Although postponing medical care was not wise, the unmanaged anxiety from the thought of being in a doctor’s office again was debilitating. By preparing our mindset with a grief specialist focused on infant deaths, we set up a pillar of support to stabilize our psychosis.
This helped us find joy in the possibility of new life and eliminated our fear. We continued to see our counselor bi-weekly throughout our pregnancy with Genesis.
She offered us great words of encouragement like: “You are allowed to say your child’s name whenever you want.” “One child does not replace another, and all our children have special places in our hearts.” “You are still a mother even though your baby passed away.” “God is the author and giver of life.”
Bonus for us, our counselor happened to be of the same faith and supported us with scripture references, as well as mental logic. When choosing a grief counselor seek referrals from your ob/gyn office or your community of faith. We did both and we were very happy with our team of support.
After Joshua’s death, I took a year off from work to focus on my own health and wellness. Yes, our income took a major hit and we had to downgrade our lifestyle, but the benefits far outweighed the negatives. While pregnant with Joshua, I did not really have the time to make choices about which types of parenting styles were good for our family. All the decisions I had made were based on what I saw and heard from friends and family members. After taking the time to study books on motherhood from various sources, my husband and I created a blueprint for our family in alignment with our hopes and needs.
The first decision we made that was focused on our future with Genesis was to change doctors. Genesis was born in a hospital with the assistance of midwives instead of an ob/gyn. Our midwives empowered me as a woman and they gave me the freedom to have the type of birthing experience I desired. Not being chained to a bed for 18 hours freed me to move with my contractions, lean on my husband for support and usher in our new baby in an atmosphere of love.
Born on January 23, 2014, Genesis’ arrival truly represented a rebirth for our family. Her infant cries were sweet music to our ears, and the sight of her alive was truly a rainbow in our clouds.