5 Ways to Navigate Pregnancy and Motherhood After Loss
Editor’s note: This article discusses miscarriage, stillbirth, pregnancy and infant loss and grief associated with these losses.
When I got pregnant with my firstborn son, never in a million years did I think at 28-weeks’ gestation that I would be told, “We’re sorry, your baby no longer has a heartbeat.”
That one day – five years ago changed the trajectory of my life and has shaped the way I mother my two living children: Grayson (my rainbow baby) and Gavin (my pandemic/golden). It also shapes the way I choose to mother and honor my angel baby DJ in his absence.
When babies die, people often think the best way to “get over it” or “move on” is by never discussing the baby and getting pregnant with another baby. I often say, rainbow babies are NOT replacement babies. Just because you have a baby after your loss, doesn’t mean you will be magically healed.
Angel Baby: a baby that dies due to miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, SIDs, Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR), pregnancy loss and infant loss.
Rainbow Baby: a baby born after the loss of your angel baby
Golden Baby: a baby born after your rainbow baby
If you have experienced pregnancy and infant loss and are looking to try to grow your family again, here are five ways to navigate pregnancy and motherhood after loss.
DEAL WITH YOUR GRIEF HEAD ON
Before trying to get pregnant again, I would suggest dealing with the grief and trauma of your baby loss.
- Acknowledge your grief (don’t try to outrun it)
- Seek out help from a professional or trusted source
- Sit with your emotions (remember: emotions aren’t good or bad, they just are)
- Grieve in a way that feels authentic to you
TAKE EACH DAY ONE MOMENT AT TIME
Getting pregnant again after experiencing loss can be an extreme challenge. While physically everything could be going well, often times there is an internal battle. Mentally you might be dealing with high levels of anxiety.
That is why it is important not to overwhelm yourself in your thoughts. Take your pregnancy day by day. If that is too tall of a task, take it hour by hour, minute by minute or even moment by moment.
- Practice breathwork when you get overwhelmed
- Meditate (to clear your mind)
- Read devotionals or books that help you stay mentally focused
- Listen to music that soothes your soul and inspires you
- Take in the beauty around you
- Practice gratitude
- Allot space for your emotions that arise
CAPTURE YOUR PREGNANCY
Because of the scars of pregnancy loss, it can leave you scared to enjoy your rainbow pregnancy. You may feel like you can’t talk about your pregnancy in fear of losing your baby. You may not want to get attached to your baby in fear that they won’t be here tomorrow. You may hold off on sharing the news with others because you don’t want to have to follow-up your announcement with “bad news.”
All these scenarios can be true. But it is best to live in each moment. Capture photos of your growing bump. Journal, take videos, and more.
- Find ways to connect with your baby
- Talk to them
- Sing to them
- Read to them
- Recite positive affirmations over yourself and your baby
- Take vlogs of yourself (this is a great way to look back on your journey)
- Take pictures of your growing bump
- Find a fellow rainbow mama you can discuss your joys and fears with
CELEBRATE YOUR RAINBOW, HONOR YOUR ANGEL
Often times when you are pregnant after loss (PAL) people think you are healed and you can move on, because another baby is in the picture. But that is far from the truth. Truth is, subsequent pregnancies after your loss can be huge triggers and cause intense anxiety; especially if it feels like you’re “moving on” from your angel baby.
Remember, you don’t’ have to “move on” from your angel baby. They will always be with you. You can hold space in your heart for both your babies. Celebrate your rainbow (you can be joy-filled with your rainbow baby) and honor your angel baby (hold space for your angel baby: continue to talk about them, grieve their absence, include them into your daily life).
GRANT YOURSELF GRACE
You have experienced extreme difficultly after the loss of your sweet baby. Please note that being a mother of an angel baby is not something that you dreamed of, so it may be challenging to navigate motherhood after loss. Even if you don’t have any subsequent children after the death of your baby, or choose not to pursue having additional children after losing your angel baby, it doesn’t mean your life is depleted of meaning.
Find ways to tap into things you love, practice self-care, say no to things that no longer serve you, create healthy boundaries around you, and most importantly grant yourself grace. Give yourself the space to fall apart, to cry, to heal, to laugh and build a beautiful life around your grief.
Alishia “Ali Ande” Anderson is a Los Angeles-based grief companion and support coach helping mothers deconstruct grief while trying to conceive, through rainbow pregnancies and while navigating motherhood after loss.