Infant and Pregnancy Loss
“About 10 to 15 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester before the 12th week of pregnancy. Miscarriage in the second trimester (between 13 and 19 weeks) happens in 1 to 5 percent of pregnancies.” (Marchofdimes.org) Sadly, many losses occur much later, even full-term pregnancies can end in stillbirth. In some instances, a mother must decide on the quality of life for her child before they are even born. Whatever the case may be—spontaneous miscarriage, stillbirth, an impossibly heartbreaking decision, or other—losing a child is painful. From the moment you see that positive pregnancy test, the little bean on the ultrasound screen, or hear their rapid little heartbeat that child is yours and is loved. Whether you had a chance to hold your little one, or not, losing a child is one of the most difficult times a woman faces—and especially daunting when it happens more than once.
It can be disheartening, disheveling; loss can bring on depression, anxiety, endless pain, no matter the stage of the loss. If you have never experienced this type of a loss, it is difficult to imagine. You cannot simply ‘move on’. Everyone grieves in their own ways, and as women we should respect and support each other, even when you don’t understand how it feels, ESPECIALLY if you don’t know how it feels.
Deedee Britan experienced such a loss. She was devastated but found a way to carry on and is now the happy mother a of beautiful little girl. She shares her story in hopes that it will help other women heal and have hope.
Finding Strength from Pregnancy After Loss
By Deedee Britan
"There's no more heartbeat." Those are words that no parent should ever have to hear about their baby. When we found out that we lost our baby boy who we had prayed for, already named, and loved, it seemed as if every aspect of my world shattered overnight.
Loss on the journey to parenthood forever changes you. The bad news is that the pain never truly goes away, and you will never forget that baby who you didn't get to keep. On the flip side, in a strange way, that is also the good news, because that baby lives on through the forever changed version of you.
When I found out I was pregnant again after multiple losses, the innocence that I felt the first time I saw a positive pregnancy test had vanished. Instead, I was filled with a unique mixture of hope, excitement, grief, and fear. A positive pregnancy test no longer was a promise of a healthy baby who we'd get to keep. Instead, it seemed like there should be a bolded and underlined question mark after the digital words "pregnant." A due date no longer meant that we could count on holding our healthy baby in our arms around that time. Everything seemed so much more fragile and uncertain this time around. Pregnancy was, in reality, a chance at a healthy baby.
I wish I could tell you that I had some magical secret which would made pregnancy after loss totally carefree but unfortunately, I don't think such a secret exists. I was anything but carefree - I did everything I could to keep my pregnancy a secret, didn't have a baby shower or a fun gender reveal, and avoided buying anything for a nursery. I did the best I could to approach the pregnancy with cautious optimism. While I felt like a high functioning trainwreck, in retrospect, I unintentionally found strength and grew as an individual and as a mother.
Below are some of the lessons I learned on this rollercoaster:
1. Grief Has No Timeline - Be Kind, Always
Grief has no defined timeline - it comes in waves and the aftermath of certain painful life experiences can sting long after the traumatic event concludes. The passing of empty due dates and seeing children who would have been the same age as the baby we lost still hurt long after our first miscarriage. I learned not to assume that someone has fully healed from a traumatic event just because time has passed. I now know never to start well intentioned advice to a grieving person with the words "well at least" or to ever insist that the pain should be gone by a certain time. You never truly know what demons people are battling even if on the surface they seem at ease. Be kind, always.
2. True Friends are Priceless
Our losses taught me the beauty of true friendship - I learned how to let loved ones be there for me. I experienced how special it is to have the most supportive group of friends and family that I could ever ask for and from them, I learned the importance of compassion. They taught me how to be a better friend and go the extra mile for someone hurting.
3. One Foot in Front of the Other, Patience, and a Little Faith Goes a Long Way
I was pushed to what I thought were my limits - physically and mentally - and realized how much tougher I was than I ever thought I could ever be. I learned how to be more patient, believe in miracles, and to trust my body again.
4. Man Plans, God Laughs
I learned to relinquish some control and that planning every detail is impossible. Even the most thorough plans cannot guard against a broken heart.
5. Use Your Voice, Even if it Shakes
I learned how to better advocate for myself. I started explaining to loved ones what statements or actions were or were not useful. I stopped dismissing medical concerns as insignificant and learned when it was worth insisting that doctors take a second look at something. I found my voice and learned how to unapologetically say no to unnecessarily stressful personal and professional obligations.
6. Conflicting Emotions are Valid
It is okay to have a confusing mixture of arguably contradictory emotions. You can be genuinely happy for someone else's pregnancy news and still cry your eyes out because you wish you had your healthy baby in your arms. Things in life are not always black and white.
7. Cherish the Miracle of Life - Every. Single. Day.
Our losses reminded me that every day is a gift and every time a healthy baby is born, it is truly a miracle. I finally accepted that no matter how hard I searched for explanations or reasons, life is filled with unexplainable uncertainties. Most importantly, I learned to celebrate life to the fullest each and every day because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Because of pregnancy after loss, I am the mother that I am today. Our daughter is my miraculous treasure, and I will never take her for granted. The day that we welcomed her into the world was the best day of my life. When I held her for the first time, I could not stop crying tears of joy and relief. Even though she probably cannot understand a word that I am saying, I tell her daily how wanted and loved she is. Words cannot fully describe how lucky I feel to be her mommy and she is my daily reminder that miracles happen. The rollercoaster of pregnancy after loss taught me how to be fully present and soak up every moment with my daughter, and for that, I am grateful.