Mental Shift: Pregnancy After Loss

It’s interesting the way your thinking shifts after you experience baby loss. Two years ago, when we set out to start a family, I thought about the future and how it would look. There were questions like, do you think we will have a boy or a girl first? What if we end up with two boys or two girls? Would we try for another just to see if we could end up with one of the other gender? Would I have a C-section, or would I birth at home? Nursery themes, names, lists of books I wanted my kids to learn to read. What would my schedule look like? What daycare would we enroll in?

We were told Ava’s fate on a Friday. On Monday, I had to call the daycare that I had fallen in love with, and cancel the second tour and meeting to enroll that was scheduled for later that afternoon. “Is something wrong?” the lovely staff inquired. “Yes, we apparently no longer need a daycare,” I responded. I hear him saying, “I’m so sorry, we will be sending you well wishes and praying for you…” as I hang up beginning to sob again.

We have a girl, but she is in a little urn on our shelf, not in little pink tutus spreading her girly things around the house. Does it matter what gender our next is? No. What matters is that they are alive and healthy.

Will I have a C-section? Birthing at home is no longer an option. I may very well end up having a C-section, but that choice is out of my hands for the next go around. I will go where the doctors say, and do what the doctors say is best to get my baby earthside.

My thoughts leading up to trying again are convoluted, conflicting, and probably scary to those who have not faced loss.

I go from thinking about knitting my baby a rainbow hat to proudly show off in their first picture, to pondering how small I should make a solid colored hat if my baby doesn’t live….and how awful I am for thinking that my baby should get one type of hat if they are alive, but another if they are born still.

I think, If my baby lives, I would like the nursery theme to be mountains and sunflowers. When I consider names, I don’t think first about how it would look on a business card, or if kids would tease mine for their name. I think about how it would look on a tiny urn, next to Ava Lea’s tiny urn, and if it would be easy for me to say while I’m choking back tears. Ava, it turns out, was a good choice for a name, because I can manage that quick one syllable name while sobbing or while trying my best to not let my voice crack while trying to “be strong” when strangers ask.

If my baby lives. Every thought I have about a future pregnancy, includes a phrase that starts with “if my baby lives…” All I know is parenting a dead baby. How would I parent a live one? How would I parent two dead babies? Would I hang up pictures with Ava’s pictures, or would they be in a different area of our home? Would we change how many items around the home are dedicated to each? Because…well, would it be overwhelming to visitors to have more than one picture of each dead baby? More than one item with each name? I can’t think of reducing Ava’s mementos or putting them in a closet. How do I parent both without having a morbid hallway of dead baby pictures that creep people out? If my baby lives, how do I keep Ava a part of the family, without causing them to feel like they are in Ava’s shadow? How do I make sure that they shine and know they are important, loved, and cherished all on their own? That Ava is important to us, but is not why we had them? Ava’s death doesn’t define their life. I firmly believe that. But how do I show all of these complicated emotions and thoughts?

I think about how I will handle maternity leave. I have to have three plans in place. One best case scenario where I deliver at 36-37 weeks with a planned induction and bring home a living baby. One decent scenario that is a bit more chaotic, but still a good outcome where I have an emergency C-section any time between 24 weeks (or 500 grams) and 36 weeks because I will be high risk with close monitoring of growth to see when the baby is safer outside than inside. And one scenario like last time, where I have to prepare for the worst at any point.

I think about taking newborn pictures if my baby lives this time. I think about how Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep will take pictures again if my baby doesn’t live. I think about how I want my hospital stay to go if my baby lives: who I would invite to visit, how I would pack my bag this time. I think about how I would do things this time if my baby doesn’t live. With Ava, I felt like no one wanted to be a part of the heartbreak, so we invited no one to meet Ava. I didn’t want to see anyone. This time, I know it doesn’t matter if we invite others or not, those close to us still feel the heartbreak. But, this time, I think I would be able to invite others to meet the baby if they want. I would sing my baby songs, read a book, buy a tiny outfit to dress them in. I didn’t prepare for any of it with Ava, and I wish I had.

I try my best to keep my thoughts on the if my baby lives side, but I can’t help preparing for the worst because now, I know the worst can happen. And when it does, a lifetime has to be crammed into a few hours. And whether I get a full lifetime, or a few hours, I want to be prepared to make it count.

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