Pregnancy After Loss: Balancing Grief, Realism and Optimism

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve published a new blog post. It’s not for a lack of things to write about. I just haven’t been able to clearly articulate what I’m going through.

Andy and I found out in February (6 months after losing Jensen) that I am pregnant with our second child – our rainbow baby – a girl we have named Madeline.  We are due in October.

For those who haven’t heard this term before, a “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm (i.e., the loss of your baby) and gives one hope for brighter days ahead. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm of grief in comparison.

Words can’t express how grateful we are to be able to get pregnant so quickly after losing Jensen. We don’t take this for granted. But here’s the thing – I’m grateful and grieving at the same time. A rainbow baby can never replace the loss of Jensen. And I am still living with grief; it doesn’t just go away. Processing grief takes time – and there is no time limit to grief. I’m coming to terms with the fact that this is my new reality – living with this pain day in and day out. I am now fully aware that nothing in this life is guaranteed and nothing is promised each day. I’d like to say I have taken it all in stride recognizing that tragedy can hit any one at any time – and why would I be exempt? But I haven’t. I am still downright angry and resentful at the unfairness of it all.

Yet, this pregnancy has given me something to hope for and has brought light into our lives again. I try my best to focus on this. Unfortunately, a dark shadow of fear looms over this pregnancy that I just can’t shake. My worst fear came true with Jensen. Whose to say it won’t happen with Madeline? Will she develop complications later on in the pregnancy like Jensen? Will her kicks decrease one day too? Will we lose her too? And if we do lose her, how will we be able to bear it? I can’t fathom the thought of enduring this pain again.

As I navigate through this pregnancy, a few well meaning people have told me to, “Try not to focus on the fear,” or better yet, “You want to stay positive for the health of your little girl.” I know they mean well, but believe me, I already think these things myself. For someone who hasn’t experienced this type of loss to voice these things out loud, it makes me feel misunderstood, criticized for my feelings, and worse, that I am harming my daughter by being sad or fearful. Now I avoid voicing my fears, grief and struggles out loud for fear of seeming ungrateful. Believe me when I say I am trying my best to balance my grief and the fear of losing Madeline with my natural inclination to be optimistic. I am trying to feel hopeful about being able to leave the hospital with a living, breathing baby in my arms. I want to believe that our little girl will be able to come home with us.

But what do you do when your optimism has failed you? Have you ever heard of the saying, “Your past is your best teacher”? I always had a natural tendency to look on the bright side of things and if something didn’t work out how I wanted it to, I turned lemons into lemonade. In this case, my past has shown me that looking on the bright side of things doesn’t always come with the outcome you had hoped.  This is the struggle I continuously face each day – a hope that things will work out versus the harsh reality that sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them.

There are a string of days where optimism outweighs everything else, but then there are other days where my grief, anxiety and fears catch up and take over. It has been a never-ending struggle these past several months. It is an internal clash of feelings and it is exhausting. I will say that within the last week, however, someone else’s story has given me a lot to think about.

My sister-in-law (Ashley)’s sister (Anna)’s husband Calvin (28 y/o) was recently diagnosed with leukemia. He is currently receiving chemotherapy and will need a bone marrow transplant. When I learned of this, it furthered my anger towards life. Anna and Ashley had lost their father to cancer. After learning the news of Calvin, I could not stop thinking about all of them. Why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Hasn’t their family already gone through enough? It just wasn’t fair.

After learning a bit more, I realized that Calvin and Anna’s mindset was completely focused on facing this head on. Calvin is determined to stay in good spirits through it all and he is cheerfully optomistic complete with a funny sense of humor. I know this cannot be an easy road for them and that the fears and worries are still there. Although our stories are very different and come with different feelings and emotions, his frame of mind has made me reassess my frame of mind.

Up until now, I hadn’t been making plans for Madeline’s nursery or buying clothes or items in anticipation of her arrival. I haven’t been actively talking about my pregnancy to anyone unless they specifically ask. I haven’t been taking any baby bump pictures. I feel like this is too good to be true. I have been afraid that if I allow myself to get excited or hopeful, I will be crushed in the end.

But I look at Calvin and Anna and see their bravery in spite of everything else. They have given me courage to try to be brave throughout this pregnancy too. I want to feel joy and excitement for a future with our daughter. I want to believe it will happen. And so, with Jensen in my heart, today, I am giving myself permission to be optimistic that in a few short months, we will be able to bring our baby girl home with us.

Bravery

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A special thanks to Calvin and Anna for allowing me to share their story.

2 thoughts on “Pregnancy After Loss: Balancing Grief, Realism and Optimism”

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