This blog post is part of a series of blog posts about navigating pregnancy after loss – you can read the introduction, and follow links to the other posts in this series here.
Life. You loose a baby, and eventually life continues, the pace speeds up, you get brave and start RSVPing yes, instead of no, and eventually on the outside it starts to resemble life before. But ‘life’ is hectic and hardwork, especially when you are grieving. Add pregnancy after loss in the mix and at some point something has to give. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and all that.
So how can you go about managing life – and everything that comes with it – whilst pregnant after loss?
DECIDING TO ANNOUNCE AND SHARE YOUR PREGNANCY
I think this aspect is an incredibly personal decision. Social media can be a positive and a negative all at the same time. Often, people remove the ’12 week rule’ from the equation, given that their experiences teaches them that there is no true safe zone in pregnancy, and they wish to gain the support of others (regardless of outcome) from day one, or week 6, or whenever suits them. Others may reason that this baby is loved beyond measure, regardless of the outcome, and so they wish to share them with their loved ones straight away – those people can perhaps hold on to hope for you, when you can’t. On the flip side, that all feels like too much for others and ‘officially’ telling anyone might not happen until much later or even after birth. Its important to follow your gut instinct and do what feels right for both of you. There is no wrong answer.
Again, I think communication is key – whoever you are telling, you may wish to make it clear that this isn’t going to be easy, or that you are trying your best to remain hopeful, or that your older child is going to become a big brother or sister. There is often a fear that with a new pregnancy, people will forget about your previous child or think that you are okay now. By communicating your feelings in regards to this pregnancy (even its just to your closest few), will hopefully allow them to support you in line with your understanding of it all.
DEALING WITH WELL-MEANT BUT UNHELPFUL COMMENTS
“I hope you are going to look after yourself this time”
BRAIN : I looked after myself fine the first time, but thank you for the guilt trip.
“Are you excited about having a boy?”
BRAIN : It a bit of a mindfuck actually. (This is a genuine response I gave once…)
“Please don’t worry, it won’t happen again”
BRAIN : Oh, if you are so good at seeing the future, why didn’t you tell me my first baby was going to die? Oh, and it can.
“Just relax, its not good for the baby”
BRAIN : You try bloody relaxing. And thanks for giving me another thing to add to my worry list.
“At least we know that you can carry a baby until term”
BRAIN : Wow, gee, thanks. I think the aim of the game is to give birth to them alive though. Or so I’ve heard.
“Its best not to listen to other horror stories”
BRAIN : I am not a horror story. Its my reality.
“But they’ll look after you better this time, won’t they”
BRAIN : I had high risk care the first time, and he still died. But thanks for your insight.
“I’m so glad that you are pregnant again and okay now, we’ve missed the old you”
BRAIN : *sigh* No, I’m not okay. My baby died. It isn’t that easy. And I have no idea if this baby will live or die either. And the old me isn’t coming back, so get used to missing them.
BRAIN : For what? I’m pregnant again, which is great – but last time I was, my baby died. Please stop saying congratulations.
Side note: If you want to congratulate someone on a pregnancy after loss, trying saying something like “Please accept my gentlest of congratulations on this pregnancy, I know how hard this is for you, and I’m here if you need me. How are you feeling about it all?” You can skip the actual word congratulations all together, and simply say “I’m really pleased that you are pregnant again, and I’m so pleased that so-and-so is going to become a big brother”
People mean well. I think on the most part, we get that. But sadly, so many of these comments undermine the challenge of pregnancy after loss, as well as the devastation caused by your loss itself. I wrote about it quite early on in my subsequent pregnancy.
I’m afraid my two methods to dealing with these things might not work for everyone – brutal honesty and becoming a hermit. The truth is often hard for people to hear, they don’t want to know the pregnancy isn’t always baby showers and flowers. But I really didn’t have the energy to deliver anything else.
However, if a fake smile and avoiding future eye contact is all that you can muster then I find sharing other peoples blog’s (or writing your own) really helpful. It doesn’t have to be directed at one person – its probably wise not to be. But spending time to gather your thoughts and find something that communicates what you need to say to the world can be really helpful. Its cathartic and will help some people understand and hold a bit more compassion for you.
I have written a blog post on the mindset in pregnancy after loss that I know others have found a helpful way to express just how challenging it can be.
WORKING WHILST PREGNANT AFTER LOSS
I really struggled to return to work after Leo died, and within a week, I discovered I was pregnant again.
I think its really important to have an open and honest conversation with your employers and/or closest colleagues as early as possible so that they understand what you need from them. The approach of sending an email around often helps, just to clearly communicate what you need to, and will help them to understand. This can help if things change along the way too.
Find an ally, or two – someone who you feel able to talk to if you need it or who will whisk you away at the nod of a head.
Have all your contact numbers in your phone (partners workplace, midwife, hospital, Tommys Midwife helpline) so you can call if you need to with ease. Find a place at work that is regularly free and private so you can make those phone calls / cry / do some breathing exercises without running around like a mad person and ending up in the broom cupboard.
Be prepared to have to just go home some days, or visit the hospital – make sure your employer is aware of this possibility, as it’ll make it easier at the time to just get up and go, no questions asked. You are a better employee for dealing with the anxiety or concerns straight away and being able to come back in and focus. Make sure your partner has done the same at their workplace incase you also need them to leave.
Talk to your employer about your method of movement tracking if you are using one – so they can understand perhaps why you have your phone/notepad/wristband out (if this isn’t usually allowed).
Ask to be able to listen to music if you need a distraction from background noise/your own mind.
Consider a flexible working request to either reduce your hours, work flexitime, or work from home or another location that is quieter/more convienent/away from past triggers. Use any annual leave that you can to reduce your days prior to your maternity leave starting.
Consider if there is a way to alter your commute to make it less stressful. If you car share, consider whether you find this an issue in terms of your flexibility to leave/go to the hospital if you need to. Its about minimising extra stressors.
Arrange your maternity leave for the earliest opportunity that you feel able to – don’t be a hero working until the last opportunity. Look into Shared Parental Leave, so that after birth the pressure is off a little and you have more support at home. It can feel really daunting to organise this, but I always reasoned that whatever happens post-24 weeks, I’m entitled to the leave so I need to organise it regardless.
Get out at lunch time, find some headspace. Eat cake.
If you struggle to agree some of the adjustments, or in attending the volume of appointments that you will have (especially if you are a partner as the rights are different unfortunately), ask your GP or Midwives for assistance in addressing the medical need for whatever situation that you have set up. I’d hope that most employers would be reasonable or offer some form of compromise. Speaking about it and coming towards an agreement as early as possible reduces the most about of stress involved. There is some information about Health and Safety rights in the workplace during pregnancy here.
SOCIALISING WHEN PREGNANT AFTER LOSS
For me, this is all about balance. Depending on how well you’ve coped in dealing with grief whilst socialising, you probably have an idea as to whether you need to limit it or not – or just prepare for it sensibly. Especially if you are working it is wise to not overstretch the weekends. You need time to just be, to recoup, to connect and the flexibility to address any concerns. Its okay to say no.
If you are going away or on a whole day event, it can be harder to be in-tune with movements and lead to a spiral in anxiety. This is pretty hard to juggle if you aren’t close to your hospital or in your own surroundings. Consider whether you need to arrange reassurance before an event, and immediately after – with a midwife appointment for example.
Always take your notes with you, incase you are away and feel the need to visit another hospital for checks.
Be kind to yourself, and if an event feels too much – just got for half of it, or not at all. Be honest with your friends – they are your friends, they should be understanding by default. Being busy has an impact.
If you aren’t actually a hermit (like me!) try and arrange (or ask your friends to arrange) smaller local gatherings so that you can still enjoy their company and support, but not push yourself and your energy to the limit. Little and often really is the way forward.
IN CONCLUSION… Overall, you do not need to be superheroes. Do what you feel that you can manage, communicate your needs, and be kind to yourself.
I really hope that this series of blog posts is helpful – if you are considering a pregnancy after loss, or are pregnant after loss, you are never alone. Whatever you feel, others have felt it before.
Carry on reading here :