Guest Post: Pregnancy and Birth Without Fear after Loss, Preemie Baby or Birth Trauma

by Birth Without Fear on September 29, 2011

I think this is our first true guest post! Heidi Thaden-Pierce has taken the time to share what her and her husband went through after a loss and a preemie baby. She shares what helped them cope and get through a subsequent pregnancy and birth. This is valuable information from a mother (and father) who have been there like so many others in our BWF Community. She hopes by sharing this it will help other parents. I know it will! Thank you Heidi. You are a special mama. You can read Heidi’s birth stories here.~Mrs. BWF

Our Story

After our second miscarriage and almost a year of trying to conceive, we were overjoyed to be expecting our third baby.  Unfortunately complications developed early on and after 12 weeks of bed rest our son arrived by stat c-section at 23 weeks gestation weighing 22 ounces.  He spent 109 days in the NICU and 13 days in the PICU, remaining on oxygen at home until he was 10 months old.  His first year was a blur of doctor visits, therapy, medication, specialists, sleep deprivation, and fear as we cared for our medically fragile baby and our two older children.

When we were expecting our next little one we were a mix of emotions – excitement, anticipation, panic, joy!  We were closely watched by our midwife and perinatologist; physically, all was well.  Emotionally, I was a mess.

It was only later that we realized I was experiencing symptoms of PTSD as a result of the months of bed rest and our traumatic birth experience.  While I wanted to be excited about our new pregnancy, I was living in fear and hounded by anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, and nightmares.

With many prayers and a great deal of support from our midwife, family, and friends we made it through and delivered a full term, healthy baby girl.  Our daughter’s birth was beautiful, peaceful, and healing.  The joy we felt when we first heard her cry was beyond compare!

Birth after loss and preemie

We’ve since delivered two more healthy & gorgeous babies, and I wish I could say the pregnancies were smooth and easy.  Once you’ve experienced a loss, premature arrival, or traumatic birth, every subsequent pregnancy feels more fragile.  Having already experienced the reality that things may not turn out as expected, our challenge was to not let the fear overshadow the miracle of pregnancy.

With the hope of assisting other parents, here are some ideas that helped us:

- 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!

If you have any other suggestions, please share!

~Heidi

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