by Ann Douglas
It takes courage to try again when your previous pregnancy ended in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. As you know only too well from past experience, there is no guarantee that you’ll end up with a storybook happy ending nine months down the road. While other pregnant women seem to have nothing more earth shattering to worry about than whether the nursery will get decorated in time for the baby's birth, you're focused on one question and one question only: will I actually end up with a healthy baby in my arms this time around?
Are you ready to start trying again?
The first thing you have to consider when you're planning a subsequent pregnancy is whether or not you're ready to start trying to conceive again. In addition to factoring in your physical readiness for another pregnancy, you need to consider how emotionally ready you are to step on board that roller coaster ride known as a subsequent pregnancy. That means weighing such factors as:
•Whether or not you've had the opportunity to work through some of your grief about the baby who died
•Whether your partner supports your decision to start trying again
•Whether you would be able to cope if you were to have trouble conceiving or if you were to experience another miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death
•Whether you're ready to cope with the stress of a subsequent pregnancy (a major consideration if your next pregnancy is likely to be classified as high risk) and
•Whether you actually want another baby -- or whether what you really want is the baby who died.
You may find that you have a burning need to become pregnant right away so that you'll have something to look forward to -- a reason to be happy again. Or you may find that you want to give yourself a bit more time to grieve the loss of your baby before you plunge into another pregnancy.
You may also feel quite strongly that you would like to allow certain significant milestones to pass before you become pregnant again -- the due date for the baby you lost, the anniversary of your baby's death, and so on.
The question of timing is very much a matter of personal choice. Health considerations aside, there's no "right" way to time your subsequent pregnancy.
Getting pregnant again won't make all your problems go away, of course. In fact, it'll simply make a whole flock of new problems appear on the horizon! Here are some tips on weathering the emotional highs and lows of pregnancy after a loss:
•Be prepared to experience a smörgåsbord of different emotions when the pregnancy test comes back positive -- everything from joy at being pregnant again to fear that something could go wrong this time, too, to guilt at "betraying" the baby you lost by moving on with your life.
•Put your support team in place. Surround yourself with people who are prepared to support you during the stressful months ahead. You might wish to join a face-to-face pregnancy after loss support group (if there's one available in your community) or you might want to join an online support group such as ours here at Pregnancy.org. At the very least, you should arrange for a friend or family member to accompany you to your prenatal appointments and/or ultrasound appointments in case you need some additional support.
•Make sure that you've got a supportive caregiver. You need a doctor or midwife who will understand that you will likely need extra reassurance -- and perhaps even extra prenatal visits -- this time around. If you're not getting that kind of care and support from your current caregiver, it's time to think about making a change.
•Find out as much as you can about the cause of your previous loss and what, if anything can be done to prevent the problem from recurring this time around. The more knowledge you have about the medical aspects of your pregnancy, the more in control you will feel.
•Take things day-by-day -- hour-by-hour, if you have to. Rather than focusing on the fact that there are 40 weeks of pregnancy ahead of you, focusing on achieving the next milestone -- making it to the end of the first trimester, passing the point at which you lost your previous baby, and so on. Cyndie, a 35-year-old mother of two, found that taking this approach was the only thing that kept her sane when she became pregnant again after experiencing three consecutive losses: "It was like holding you breath for nine months, afraid to breathe, afraid to let your guard down," she recalls. "Every waking moment was lived literally from moment to moment. Every internal twinge or sensation signaled a rush of adrenaline as a surge of panic raced through my bloodstream. How I lived through nine months worth of seconds like this I still have no idea. I guess because I never allowed myself to live in the future. Every day, every hour, even every minute, was only that and nothing more."
•Rather than focusing on all the scary things that could go wrong, try to remain positive about your chances of giving birth to a healthy baby this time around. The majority of couples who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death go on to give birth to healthy babies the next time around. And if you do luck out and end up with a healthy baby in your arms, you'll soon forget the agony you experienced along the road to motherhood. "When Renée was born -- five-and-a-half years after the birth of my first child, and following three losses -- she brought me completion," says Cyndie. "She gave me pure satisfaction and joy. I smile inside every day. She alone numbs the pain of my losses and makes three-and-a-half years of hell worth every step. I'd do it all again if I knew she'd be the reward. Now I take nothing for granted and I enjoy every moment with my children. They are my priority, my happiness, my life."
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.
Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.