It is difficult planning for a future with the baby you’re expecting after a loss. The expecting industry, pregnancy magazines (like this one that I am honored to write for and are courageous enough to bring the reality of pregnancy loss to light in their magazine), pregnancy books, and even our OBGYN’s try hard to reassure us that once we get the two pink lines on the pregnancy test it means you should plan on walking home with a bundle of joy in your arms. Well, unfortunately as a mom pregnant again after loss, I don’t have the luxury of believing this beautiful fairy tale that I once so desperately wanted to embrace.
Now, I want you to know excitement is still there, one can be joyful about a subsequent pregnancy, but in all honesty every step I take into joy and thinking about future happiness with a living baby, I take three big leaps back into fear. Fear of envisioning a happy future for myself holding a baby when I know my dreams are not guaranteed. So how do I plan for a life with a baby that’s not certain? Very carefully and I do so in a cautiously optimistic (and sometimes not so optimistic) manner. Here are three ways that planning for a baby after a loss is different than if you never experienced one.
#1. Your language is different. I start sentences with “If this baby lives…” when planning for the future events after delivery. It works like this in conversations with my loved ones, “If this baby lives then we will register for the dependent care at work, or search for daycares, or get child locks on the knives drawer in the kitchen.” It’s never “When the baby is here” anymore.
#2. Instead of nesting you’re just resting. There is no planning for the nursery, buying baby items, or accepting “mommy and daddy’s little girl” onesies as Christmas gifts while still pregnant. Heck even buying maternity close is heartbreaking and something I try to avoid as I always carry the thought in the back if my mind “Will I need this tomorrow?” Sure, you pounder the idea of making a change to the nursery or you know you should buy a car seat so you can bring the baby home. But the moment the thought crosses your mind you think you have jinxed yourself. I might change the nursery or buy a new baby outfit down the road, but the thought of doing so is terrifying. And don’t even get me started on the car seat. Something about that car seat makes me hesitant to even think about until she’s here. I already have visions of sending Nick out after the baby is born alive and in good health to purchase one. We will NOT be bringing one with us to the hospital, as seeing the empty car seat on the way home last time was heartbreaking.
#3. You don’t talk about your big belly with anyone. Questions about your pregnancy are now often dodged and not happily welcomed like they were once before. You keep your pregnancy secret longer, fearing to share the news with others as it might cause them discomfort. Even worse, you wonder if your growing belly now makes them think you are over the loss of your other child and you fear that your first child is overshadowed by the one now in your belly. Easy questions like, “Is this your first?” and “What number is this one?” become daunting to try to respond to, and at times a haunting reminder of your loss. One day you might respond with “Yes, it’s my first,” and then next day it’s “No, my first baby died.” There are no more “easy” conversations this time around so you just choose not to talk about it.
That is how life with baby No. 2 is different for me now. Each day I lean into being cautiously optimistic, letting some room in for making plans for the future, mostly immediate ones like planning the next prenatal appointment or buying that bigger maternity shirt. However, plans farther than two weeks or a month in advance, I don’t really pounder. I live more in the moment and enjoy ever kick, move, and present delight in the here and now, holding on to hope that maybe this baby will come home in the car seat that we buy after she is born.
How do you plan for a future with a baby when you know it might not be guaranteed?