Trigger warning: miscarriage and stillbirth.
I am blessed to be 20 weeks pregnant with my third pregnancy. But as I sit here and type this, I simultaneously feel kicks and feel very disconnected.
My first pregnancy was lost a few days shy of 17 weeks. It was a devastating loss that we felt blindsided by. We had just recently waited out the traditional first trimester period before making the announcement to family, friends, and coworkers. We had made so many plans and dreams.
My husband and I approached my second pregnancy with caution. Then the pregnancy was red flagged for a potential open neural tube defect and labeled high-risk for a stillbirth. It would be inaccurate to say we prepared for the worst. We sort of just didn’t prepare for anything at all. We waited a long time to buy a crib and did not set it up until a week before I went into labor. In the hospital, when I was told it was time to push, I panicked and asked what to do. “Do what you learned in your birthing class,” the nurse told me. I hadn’t signed up for any prenatal education classes, because I remembered the pain of seeing unneeded appointments and classes on my calendar weeks after my miscarriage. When my son was born, he was mostly silent. We begged the nurses to tell us if he was okay. Ultimately I delivered a healthy baby boy.
With this current pregnancy, test results so far have come back normal, and at 20 weeks, I feel I should be ready to relax, and start planning, and start enjoying. But I think I’ve held my breath so fiercely that I don’t know how to begin letting go. Some days I have windows of excitement, but often I am trying to let my mind and heart catch up with the reality that our family of three will soon be a family of four.
Whether due to a past loss, a high-risk pregnancy, a difficult childhood, an anxious personality, depression, an unplanned pregnancy, or anything else in-between, pregnancy and preparation for motherhood is more difficult for some than others. It’s further complicated by the fact that your body almost betrays you by proudly presenting your belly to the world. Friends, family, and even strangers want to be excited for you. How do you celebrate a pregnancy when it’s difficult to? Everyone’s path to peace and acceptance is different, but here are a few personal suggestions.
Take it moment by moment – It may sound counterintuitive, but celebrating the positive pregnancy test was the easiest decision of this journey. The ability to get pregnant in and of itself is a gift I did not want to take for granted. Knowing the pregnancy could be lost made it feel so much more real and precious. I planned a reveal for my husband that we will always remember fondly. I was determined to celebrate the fact that, at that moment in time, I was pregnant, and declared that whatever happened after that could not take that moment away from us. Look for your own ways to embrace living in the present. Mindfulness allows us to cherish seemingly smaller moments. It’s okay if the next hour, or day, or week, you are not in the mood to celebrate, but hold whatever small moments you can near to your heart and claim them as your own.
Opt for a “Sip and See” – When I was pregnant with my now preschool-aged son, and friends generously offered to host a shower, my husband and I were hesitant. Could we wait until the very end of the pregnancy for the shower? What would we do if we lost the baby? If your situation is making you consider skipping the festivities altogether, one alternative is to wait and have a “Sip and See” after the baby is born. This would bring your circle together to meet your little one in a beautiful celebration of life after the stress of pregnancy has passed.
Consider a rainbow baby maternity shoot – If you want to celebrate but have a past loss heavy on your heart, a rainbow baby maternity shoot captures your past and present joy in a visually stunning and very meaningful way.
Let someone else be the focus – If you’re ready to celebrate your pregnancy, but in a low-pressure way, consider a party that lets you share the spotlight. One idea we enjoyed is a joint baby shower with another expectant mama, which celebrates your friendship in addition to the upcoming babes. One idea we are considering is a “Big Brother Party” to celebrate the milestone of our son becoming a big brother.
Take care of yourself – It’s okay if all you can handle is addressing your needs. Taking care of yourself puts you in a better state of mind and helps take care of your baby. Treat yourself to a prenatal massage, prenatal yoga, dinner at your favorite restaurant, or a night at the movies. Self-care doesn’t have to mean spending money. Call up a friend, go for a walk, check out a free museum day, or get a new book at the library. Ask your partner for more help, and accept help from family and friends when it’s offered.
Dear mamas who struggle with pregnancy, I wish I could give you a hug! Know that you are not alone.
How have you celebrated in your own way, or what have you found helpful? I would love to read any comments you are open to sharing.
A few weeks have passed since I started putting my thoughts together for this post. Chronicling my journey and putting my emotions into words has contributed significantly to my healing process. We also found out the gender, which gives me a little more to wrap my head around. We’ve started to gather baby girl clothes, and I am looking forward to attending my first event geared towards expecting moms! If you could use a day of new mama treats, check out Bloom, hosted by San Francisco Moms Blog/Mid Peninsula Moms Blog on Sunday, April 22.
I hope you, too, are able to find pieces of hope, or make progress in your personal journey. If you have a story waiting to be told, consider submitting a guest post.