I'm Pregnant But...Navigating Pregnancy After Loss
Nov 04, 2019
by Dr. Christine Sterling, M.D., FACOG and Dr. Cassidy Freitas PhD, LMFT
It is remarkable how two little lines, side-by-side, can completely change everything.
For some a positive pregnancy is a moment of excitement and joy. For others, it was the absolute last thing they ever wanted to see.
And then there is a group that have an experience like no other…
When you’ve experienced pregnancy loss, while you may be happy to be pregnant, there is also fear, there is also grief.
There is no one better to hold space for that mixture of emotions than my dear friend, Dr. Cassidy Freitas, PhD, LMFT. Dr. Cassidy not only has her doctorate in marriage and family therapy, she has navigated the waters of loss, and pregnancy after loss, herself. So it is my great honor to share her wisdom with all of you.
Dr. Cassidy, do you have any tips for people who are experiencing pregnancy after loss?
Pregnancy after loss for some can feel like the rainbow after a storm or the right next step. For others, like myself, it can feel like a mixed bag of fear and guilt. It can feel like the innocent joy of pregnancy before loss has been taken from you.
If you feel ready and excited to be pregnant again, you deserve that joy!
If you feel crippled by anxiety, mad at your body, and guilty for getting pregnant again…you’re not alone.
If you are struggling, an important first step is to talk to someone who can hold space for your feelings. Someone who won’t minimize your pain or try to make you see the positive.
If you’re anxious, understand that Fear’s job is to protect you and does so by trying to keep you in control by worrying and/or keeping you from connecting to your current pregnancy. This can lead to feelings of guilt or shame. Sometimes we even stress about how much we are worrying! If you can relate, you know what a vicious cycle this can be.
Give yourself some space to notice your feelings, and identify what values or information they are offering. We are wired to feel, and our feelings can offer us really important data, but it’s not so helpful when they jump in the driver’s seat. If you like to journal, write down what you’re feeling. After you’ve gotten your thoughts and feelings out, you can decide what you want to do with it. Maybe you want to share it with someone, let it go, or turn it into a letter to the baby you lost and/or the baby you are growing.
Lastly, give your body some love and gratitude. I really love Dr. Sterling’s body love meditation, and I believe it’s a useful tool for practicing gratitude when shame, fear, confusion, and anger show up in pregnancy loss.
To summarize, if you’re struggling in pregnancy after loss:
Identify someone you can talk to about all your feelings, and reach out to them.
Practice acceptance of your feelings. Remember: these feelings are telling you what is important to you.
Journal your experience or write a letter for yourself, your baby, or to share with someone.
If someone is interested in therapy to help them process their loss, what should they look for in a provider?
There are amazing providers out there who specialize in this unique type of loss.
They might help you process the trauma around the loss, identify the support you need, or explore all the feelings coming up.
Support groups are another great option, and can give you a chance to connect with other parents who can relate to your experience.
Ready to take the step? Postpartum Support International is a great resource with a directory where you can find providers and support groups in your area (although it is called “Postpartum Support,” the providers in their database specialize across the reproductive journey).
Did your loss get easier with time? What brought you comfort as you navigated your pregnancy after loss?
It did, but it would have been much harder if I had not reached out for support.
My partner and I went to couple’s therapy to process the loss because we were grieving in different ways. Getting that support was a huge part of our healing process and brought comfort and connection in our pregnancy after loss.
It has also been important for me that due dates and other memories from our pregnancy loss are remembered. Not everyone will know what you want, so communicating your needs or wishes can help.
If you know someone who has experienced a pregnancy loss, and you’re wondering how you can help, you can listen to my podcast episode with fellow therapist Rachel Rabinor where we explore ways loved ones can offer support.
Such incredible wisdom, as always from Dr. Cassidy. Be sure to check her out on Instagram (and make sure to say Hi if you do!) where she often shares her remarkably simple, yet elegant, insight into #momlife. And if you are looking for a way to de-stress and let go of that early pregnancy anxiety, be sure to check out my Self Care Workbook for Pregnancy that includes my Prayers for Pregnancy, 3Cs of Cultivating Calm, Sacred Hour Sleep Ritual and more!
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