Published on July 20th, 2018 | by Fiona Smart1
The Reveal: Celebrating Pregnancy After Loss
As any mother who has suffered the loss of a baby during pregnancy will know, celebrating a subsequent pregnancy can be very difficult. You may want powerfully to conceive again, but the experience can be 9 months riddled with acute anxiety, panic attacks, stress and fear.
My first pregnancy was a dream. I enjoyed and was grateful for every stage. I took monthly bump shots, was humbled with an adorable baby shower organized by my sister with all my close friends, and went on a relaxing babymoon with my husband to Greece. I did all the things that happy, excited expectant mothers do when they are nesting. I was blissfully unaware of all that could possibly go wrong. I believed that if I hadn’t miscarried by the 12-week stage and my scans were healthy then I was due to have a perfect baby. Sure enough, my beautiful baby daughter was born at 40 weeks and 6 days and she was a miracle.
My second pregnancy followed suit. Nine months of a perfect pregnancy. Our little family was eager to welcome a seemingly very active baby boy who kicked powerfully and regularly. We took videos of his tiny feet trying to push their way out of my stomach from within.
At 38 weeks our midwife couldn’t find his heartbeat and we were told the devastating news that our baby boy had died. I don’t think anyone ever “moves on” from that kind of heartbreak, that earth-shattering grief. But you somehow learn to cope with it over time. It’s shocking how common stillbirth is and how on very few occasions healthcare providers can give families a reason for their loss. For our family, there was no clear answer.
Since we lost Sebastian on the 6th of April 2014, we have been fortunate enough to become pregnant three more times. We have two of the sweetest little sons and I’m pregnant now, with a baby due in October. With each subsequent pregnancy, I haven’t allowed myself to envision the future beyond each day or share our happy news with the world. Our immediate family know, and the friends and neighbors closest to us know, because they begin to see me grow, but we haven’t made announcements beyond the closest circle. There have been hospital dashes when I have thought the baby was kicking too much (to which the nurse on duty responded by giving me a very strange look and reminded me to only worry if the baby wasn’t kicking enough) and scares when I felt sudden pangs of discomfort. Of course, for the most part these were all normal activities and side effects of a healthy pregnancy. With one of my youngest son’s pregnancies, we bought our own heart monitor (which we found difficult to use and only increased our anxiety).
For a long time, I believed that I was not allowed to celebrate a pregnancy again. It was a superstition and a penance. After all, we are all too aware of the risk, the danger of lost hope. When I was pregnant with my second son, anyone who did know, they were sworn to secrecy for 9 months. I didn’t even tell some close family members when my due date was, because I couldn’t bear the added pressure, fussing, and questions.
This may well be my last pregnancy. And despite all the above, I find myself grappling with our decision to keep secret. First, there’s the practical matter. When it’s your 5th time in 7 years, it’s very hard to disguise your bump! I looked about 5 months pregnant when I was 3 months in. No joke. I couldn’t disappear off social media entirely without raising suspicion, nor would I want to stop sharing photos of our family at all with friends back home (we live 3000 miles away). So, any photograph of me in the last 6 or so months, I have a child strategically placed in front of my belly, or I’m knelt on the floor hiding behind a plant, or I’ve got a handbag shoved in front of me, like the classic sitcom actress whose life situation doesn’t match her character. Although it’s getting increasingly more difficult to find a big enough bag!
We have a family wedding in a few weeks. I would rather not be the annoying guest who is ducking and diving out of photos, which will inevitably be posted all over the internet. So, here we go: I am taking the gigantic, unprecedented step of admitting to the universe that we are expecting another baby. And we couldn’t be happier.
Don’t worry, I’m not totally self-obsessed enough to believe that the world will bat an eyelid at my handwringing over posting yet another baby bump on Facebook. But the declaration, as everyday as it may seem, is profound and therapeutic for me. It’s perhaps one of those important steps in the grieving process—when to admit that you’re looking forward to something again. I hope that writing about this process may lead other expectant mothers who share a similar journey to me to believe that they, too, can get to this stage, of again looking forward. While a pregnancy after loss is extremely challenging, it is possible, and so is joy in it. And if you aren’t there yet, please know: You are not alone.
I have also found myself having to defend my decision, among family members in particular, to keep my pregnancies private in the past. Naturally the people who love you are thrilled, and want to celebrate your news with everyone from their next-door neighbor to the complete stranger in the gas station. It’s hard to keep a lid on this joy. But it must and can only be done when the parents themselves are ready. That is the support that we need, and the respect.
We celebrate my first son, Sebastian, in our daily lives; we hold him in our hearts and as part of our family as it grows.
I’m going to take a leap of faith, because just like his eldest brother, this adored baby of ours is so very loved and deserves to be celebrated, too. We welcome you to the world.
Photo Credit: Wanda Murtha