Five years ago this month I wrote a guest post for Birth Without Fear on the topic of coping in pregnancy after a loss, premature arrival, or traumatic birth experience. As Kit and I collaborated on it we discussed what got us through our scary pregnancies with the hope we can help other parents. It's been on my mind as we come up on the anniversary of when I went on bedrest with our super preemie, Ben. All these years laters the memories can still catch me off guard, but I promise that over time and with strong support it does get easier and it's possible to heal after a traumatic pregnancy and birth.
So go check out my post on January's blog, whether you are a parent or a birth professional - hopefully it will help you or someone yo know. Here are the suggestions we shared, but check out Birth Without Fear if you want more of the story:
- Talk openly with your partner. Often they’re experiencing similar feelings but may be concerned about adding to your stress by expressing their fears.
- Give yourself permission to grieve. It sounds so simple, but we often skip this crucial step. Take your time.
- Be aware that milestones and anniversaries, such as the date of your loss or premature arrival, can be especially challenging.
- Connect with others who have had experiences similar to yours, either locally or online. Email support groups can be incredibly valuable!
- Request support from Sidelines.org, a program matching expectant mothers with volunteers who have experienced similar pregnancy complications in the past.
- Pray, meditate, or seek spiritual comfort in whatever way best suits your faith.
- Visit with friends and family, either in person or through calls and online contact.
- Try to get exercise, such as yoga, walking outside (sunshine!) or doing gentle stretches. If on any restrictions be sure to speak with your care provider first.
- Eat nutritiously and take any supplements as advised by your care provider.
- Keep a journal where you can write down all of your thoughts and fears, as well as your anticipation and joy!
- Write letters to or journal for your baby, sharing your excitement and anticipation!
- Create family projects focusing on your baby, like decorating onesies with older siblings, making a belly cast, painting your belly, etc.
- Celebrate this pregnancy with photographs — professional or candid.
- Indulge in a massage or pedicure, invest some time in a hobby you love, or watch a favorite movie. Take time to treat yourself well!
- Accept the offer of a baby shower or blessingway in your honor only if you’re comfortable with that. If you’re not, convey to your loved ones your desire to wait or not have a celebration yet.
- If you’re uncomfortable attending pregnancy focused activities such as friend’s baby showers, it’s okay to skip and send a card or gift instead!
- Give yourself permission to hold off on certain things such as buying baby clothes or decorating a nursery if it helps you feel more at peace. Do what feels best to YOU.
- If you feel you may be experiencing PTSD, anxiety, or depression, then explore the option of professional therapy. Research counselors specializing in pregnancy and birth-related issues.
- Work closely with your care provider to ensure your questions and concerns are addressed. Ask how you can reach them after hours if you need them, if you can come in for extra visits for your peace of mind, etc. Our medical team’s support was instrumental in helping ease our anxiety.
- Create a birth plan that informs your care team of any special concerns you may have because of your history and how they can best help you through the pregnancy and birth.
- Consider hiring a doula and speak openly with her about how she can best support you through your birth experience. Our doula was an invaluable asset during our pregnancy, birth, and postpartum time!
- Reach out to others. While we all want pregnancy to be a joyous experience, the reality is that pregnancy after a loss or traumatic arrival can be terrifying. Connecting with others can make such a difference in helping you cope!
While it is specific to preemies, this is an excellent article on coping after a traumatic birth - HELPING PARENTS COPE WITH A HIGH-RISK BIRTH:
TERROR, GRIEF, IMPOTENCE, AND ANGER.
Also, next week I'll be sure a REALLY important resource for overcoming fear related to pregnancy and childbirth. I'm incredibly excited about it and can't wait for you to learn about Alexia and her work.