When you’re pregnant with a rainbow baby — a baby conceived after a miscarriage — you go through so much more than the normal anxiety that comes with pregnancy. You still have sad, maybe traumatic memories of that loss, and in many ways you’re not “finished” grieving yet. How do you cope with all that fear and worry during those 9+ months that, people keep telling you, are supposed to be a time of joyful anticipation?
It’s hard, but you’re not alone. I spoke to moms of rainbow babies about their experience, and in the wisdom they shared, so many common themes kept reappearing. They survived this experience, and you will too. Keep in mind the following 10 things:
- Anxiety is normal. You probably won’t ever feel totally at peace during your pregnancy, but that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. If it helps, think of the anxiety as a manifestation of your love for your baby.
- Focus on the present moment. What you have right now, this living child inside of you, is a gift. Nothing can change that. You might find that your sense of gratitude is as strong as your fear, so pour your energy into being grateful for this reality, rather than pouring it into a future that will always be uncertain.
- Find people who you can talk to. Maybe it’s other mothers (there are some wonderful Facebook groups) or maybe it’s your spouse or a therapist. Don’t carry this fear all by yourself. It’s okay not to be “fine.” This experience is incredibly difficult.
- Feel whatever you feel. With our most intense emotions, we wish we could turn them off, or change them. Instead of telling yourself that you “shouldn’t” be afraid, or that if you only trusted God more, you’d feel at peace, try to accept whatever you feel without judging yourself harshly for feeling it.
- Ask people to pray. Some people tell their immediate family, or a handful of people they trust, so that the baby will have people praying for him before you’re ready to announce the pregnancy. It can be comforting to know you’re not alone in praying for the child. Ask your priest for a special blessing, or bless yourself with holy water, if you find that it brings you peace.
- Don’t try not to get excited. It’s not really possible to protect yourself from grief and disappointment; if something happens, there’s really no way to emotionally prepare for tragedy. Depriving yourself of your joy in anticipating your baby, out of a desire to shield yourself from possible heartbreak, won’t really help.
- Ask your miscarried child to pray for you, and to pray for the new baby. That child, lost to miscarriage, isn’t gone. He or she is home. Everyone has a job in Heaven, and the baby that was lost is still a part of your family.
- Offer up all of your fear to Jesus. We can offer up more than our physical suffering, and the mental anguish that comes with knowing that another miscarriage is possible is a profound source of pain. It’s comforting, in a way, to give that pain a kind of purpose, to be able to say say “Jesus, use this for something,” so that you know it’s not senseless suffering.
- The mantra “This is a different pregnancy, and a different baby” can help you remember not to lose hope, and that what happened last time isn’t necessarily going to repeat itself.
- In the end, worrying about your children is just part of motherhood. It doesn’t stop when the baby’s born. The worry we feel now is a version of the fear we’ll carry with us through the child’s life — it’s not easy, but it’s the work of motherhood, and it’s worth it.
One mother I spoke to got to the heart of the struggle, and her words remind of us what we all know, deep down:
“Even though I didn’t get to carry those babies to birth and life here on earth, it wasn’t that they disappeared or evaporated into nothing … they still exist but in the most perfect place and perfect way. I think every mom has to at some moment, give their children to God’s care and surrender the control or else go crazy. Miscarriage just makes the surrendering happen a lot sooner.”
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