Spring is here! With spring comes white butterflies. I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for them to come this year. If you haven't heard, there are some who believe that a white butterfly is a visitation from a soul who has passed. There is a story called The Brave Little Soul that you can read on many websites. I have linked it to the one on Hiring for Hope's website. It is a beautiful story and makes me love white butterflies. Anyway, as I said, I have been patiently waiting for their arrival and they have finally come. I saw one the other day on the back porch. Sandi, one of my office partners, saw one on a bicycle ride the other day, and another friend of mine who lost her son 3 years ago swears one followed her around her yard last week. I don't know...they just make me happy. I like to think that my Elizabeth sends me special messages sometimes. Maybe she knows that I have been on the lookout for my butterfly. The one I saw on the porch a few days ago landed right on the flowers that my son just planted. Just sat there, long enough for me to get my camera and take its picture. It never flew away. I tried to post the picture, but I am having a computer moment and am afraid that I will get really frustrated if I keep trying to get it to post. I will post it soon, though.
I have debated over and over again in my mind whether or not to post the rest of what has been going on and I have decided to post about it. Because this blog is a perinatal loss blog, it is really important that it is sensitive to families who have begun their grief journey. It is, as you know, a journey. A long journey, full of ups and downs. If you have been on your journey for a while, you know that there are many components to grief and the path it takes you down is a long one, full of sad times, angry times, lonely times, and (yes, hard to believe) happy times.
I have met many of you through support group or through follow up or maybe we have met in the office. So, this will not come as a surprise to those who know me and know that I have been gone for a little while. My intention in sharing this is not to cause sadness, but to share a part of my journey. After a lot of thought, I believe my story would be missing some parts if I didn't share. Our Rainbow Baby was born in late March. The term "rainbow baby" refers to a baby born after the storm of a loss. I know there are people reading this blog who might be considering another pregnancy or may be pregnant already, and it is for you that I wanted to include this. Pregnancy after Loss is a challenge that many babyloss families experience. To not address it would be to ignore a very important facet of the grief journey.
I want to share with you some things that I learned over the last months. It is my hope that if you find yourself considering another pregnancy, that you find this helpful. Or, at least know that you are not alone in your fear and anxiety. So, here goes my list:
- You will more than likely be terrified. For me, a day did not pass that I was not scared out of my mind of going through another loss. I thought this fear would get better after the point of my previous loss, but it did not. In fact, it got worse. My advice for you is to make sure you have a doctor or midwife who supports you in your anxiety. I am forever grateful to my OB for never making me feel crazy and for allowing me my fear.
- You will never, ever, ever stop thinking of the baby who died. There is a misconception by people who have never lost a baby that a new pregnancy will "cure" you. That is ludicrous. I thought and still think of Elizabeth every day. In fact, I thought about her so much during the pregnancy that I was afraid that the consuming grief would start all over. Every sensation of pregnancy reminded me of my pregnancy with her. Once I passed 22 weeks, I had moments where I thought "she never lived this long" and I would be so, so sad. These feelings are ok, they are normal. I like to think that maybe she met my new baby before he came to me. That gives me a smile.
- Join a support group or an online forum of other moms who are pregnant after loss. We have a monthly group that meets that gave me a lot of comfort. If you go to www.northsidepnl.com, you can see the schedule. I also joined an online forum and got to occasionally vent my fears and read other people's worries, as well. It made me feel normal.
- Treat yourself like the special, beautiful mom that you are! This is important. I made sure every day to meditate and get really calm for at least 15 minutes. I also had pictures made of my growing belly. This is not something I have ever thought to do before, but I cherish these pictures and had a special time having them made. My photographer asked me what I was looking for and when I told her that I was afraid my baby would be stillborn like my last one and that I just needed to have a picture of my pregnancy, she cried with me and said that she was glad that I shared that with her.
- Don't be alarmed if you don't want to prepare. I did not buy anything or acknowledge that I might have a new baby until right before he came. This is normal and does not mean that you don't care or that you won't bond. You have experienced the worst grief and it is normal to not open yourself up easily again.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. If those around you don't understand your anxiety or your hesitation, limit your time with them. You must take care of yourself first and foremost.
- Try not to panic. I had bleeding in the first trimester and was devastated. It was a placenta previa hemorrhage that took Elizabeth's life and blood makes me crazy. Of course I panicked when I had bleeding, but I did try to remember that this was a different situation.
- Lastly, know that you are not alone. There are many, many moms just like you who are scared and anxious. I will tell you that when that sweet baby finally gets here, the very minute he/she is born, all of that anxiety will slip right out of you and you will smile and you will be filled with joy. I never thought I could be joyful ever again. I thought it was gone forever. But, I was wrong. The joy came and that does not mean that my grief over my daughter is gone. Somehow, the emotions are all there, living in me. Who knew there was so much room in me for so many conflicting feelings?