by Siné Stabosz

It is no secret that miscarriage and stillbirth are incredibly difficult experiences to endure. Something that surprises many women who have experienced loss is just how challenging subsequent pregnancies can be. Having walked through multiple miscarriages and also experienced 2 successful pregnancies after loss, I have come up with a short guide for navigating a rainbow pregnancy.

1. Share Your Pregnancy on Your Own Timeline

Many of us who have experienced loss have experienced some sort of drama around having to tell people about the loss, in some cases at the same time as you are telling the person you were pregnant. After a loss, you may feel like telling only nearest and dearest family and friends. You may want to tell everyone you know in case you find yourself facing another loss. You may decide that you don’t want to post anything on social media until your rainbow baby is safely in your arms. None of these options are wrong. Tell people on your own timeline.

2. A Little Extra Worry Is Normal

During my rainbow pregnancies, I found myself a lot more nervous about every little quirk that comes along with being pregnant. It turns out elevated anxiety is not out of the norm during pregnancy after a loss. That being said, if you feel like your anxiety is more than you can handle, please talk to your care provider.  

3. Seek Extra Support

Pregnancy after a loss can be intense and you may find yourself needing extra support. This support can come in many forms. Some options include talking to a counselor, hiring a doula (particularly who specializes in loss), or joining an in-person or online support group.  

4. Communicate Your Needs

You may find yourself needing your care during your post-loss pregnancy to be different than the typical pregnancy care. It is essential that you communicate these needs with the midwives (or other care provider). For me, it came in the form of not listening to the baby with the Doppler until 14 weeks when I was past the latest point in pregnancy I had lost a baby. It may seem like a simple change, but it made me a lot more comfortable. It might come in the form of an early ultrasound other than the 18-week anatomy scan. During my most recent pregnancy, I had bleeding during the first trimester, and the first thing Kathleen said to me when I called The Birth Center was, “I know you have been through losses. Tell me what you need to make you feel comfortable.” Take those words and apply them to your own care experience.

5. Prepare for Labor

You may be thinking, “Well, duh!  I am pregnant; of course I am going to prepare for labor!”  I am not really talking about the breathing, positioning, or childbirth class kind of preparation here. I am talking about being prepared for the potential for emotions from your loss to come up during labor. I had no clue how much my losses would affect my labor with my first rainbow baby, and I was completely unprepared to deal with it. During my pregnancy with my 2nd rainbow baby, I took steps to prepare for the emotional aspects of labor. My doula helped me form a birth plan that took into account that residual emotions from my losses may come up during labor. Talk to the midwives about labor; talk to your birth partner; talk to your doula. It is well worth it to take the time to process your loss and what it might mean for your labor.