It’s a roller-coaster of emotions when you conceive a “rainbow baby” – a baby born directly following a miscarriage or stillbirth. At first, you’re incredibly happy and relieved and then the cold, hard fear and dread creeps in. A rainbow baby will never erase the pain or the memory of the lost baby, but it’s a beautiful, new beginning.
For the loss of a baby through miscarriage and/or a stillborn is an incredibly devastating and debilitating life event and can take you much time to grieve. It’s as though your mind/body/spirit has undergone such massive stress and gut-wrenching upset and sadness, you wonder if you’ll ever heal.
Pregnancy loss is then worsened, at times, by society’s ill-treatment of the bereaved; your no doubt well-meaning friends, family and work colleagues will want and expect you to recover very quickly, as well might you may. But, in my experience, after two miscarriages, the grief process can take some time and you can think you’re well recovered until something sets you back: a friend falling pregnant; a violent reaction to seeing a newborn in the street; and/or you’re pregnant again and you’re overcome by fear.
I fell pregnant with our first child just four months after the soul-sapping horror and heartbreak of finding out our much-wanted, 12-week baby had no heartbeat. Of course, my husband and I dearly hoped we’d fall pregnant again quickly and we were very blessed that it did, but I wasn’t quite prepared, either physically or emotionally, to fall pregnant again so soon. I felt incredibly scared and numb.
Would I miscarry again? Could I survive it? What if I just couldn’t carry a baby to term? All these hideous fears and more were clouding my heart and my head to the point it was overshadowing any pregnancy joy I was experiencing with my first child.
So, what did I do? Here are my tips, from my heart, on how to embrace having a rainbow baby. Below, you’ll also find top advice from a clinical psychologist I interviewed, who wishes to remain anonymous.
And did I get my happy ending? Yes – I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who was a whopper, born ten days overdue. And I’d venture dear reader, you’ll get your happy ending – a much-wanted child – just as I did, too.
My coping tips
- Keep busy: Working through my first pregnancy right up until week 32 (when I got too huge and cumbersome to travel) helped me stay sane and focused on something else outside my pregnancy.
- Get help: I got some very helpful short-term grief counselling from a clinical psychologist to help me better resolve my grief over losing the baby.
- Mind over matter: I practised a lot of pregnancy yoga and meditation to resolve my angst. There’s something so healing about both yoga and meditation and it’s good for your health too.
- Talk, talk, talk: Loved ones you can lean on, who offer wise, practical and sane advice, are who you need to surround yourself with right now. Stay away from negative people who regale you with pregnancy horror stories. And talk it out – I talked about my fears and stress a lot and it helped me no end.
Psychologist coping tips
“Miscarriage is a very distressing event,” says the clinical psychologist. “It’s bound to be followed by a period of grieving and sadness, making it hard to enjoy a subsequent pregnancy. But it’s so important to move on and allow yourself to feel the joy and optimism of a new pregnancy,” she says.
It’s not easy, but the psych says to try these suggestions:
- Discuss your fears: Tell your worries to a professional such as a nurse/counsellor, someone who can reassure you on the statistics of having a normal pregnancy this time around.
- Practice some mindfulness: Learn to be in the here and now and enjoy the moment – do something you enjoy and immerse yourself in that.
- Seek strong support: Be with friends and family who are supportive and positive, who will talk if you want to or just be there with you in a kind, caring and understanding way.
- Breathe in and out: If you are experiencing anxiety, try relaxing using slow deep breathing and picture the new baby, healthy and safely arrived. Imagine holding her/him and allow yourself to feel happiness. Hold onto that feeling.
Images via froufroumonkey.com, lendmeyourkite.com, inspirefirst.com, Pinterest
What do you think? Did you have a rainbow baby?
Fourteen top Queensland portrait photographers have joined forces in a unique charity drive to educate expectant parents and support families who’ve suffered the loss of a pregnancy or baby.
Earthside Collective sees in-demand photographers, normally in competition with each other, “give back” to deserving families via charity Gift Sessions – maternity, newborn and lifestyle portrait photography sittings.
The gift sessions will be donated to 26 families per year who have overcome the loss of a pregnancy or baby or experienced premature birth, who are now celebrating the safe arrival of a “rainbow baby”. The term “rainbow baby” refers to a baby born to parents who previously suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Brisbane’s Tanya Love of Tanya Love Portrait (pictured below, at work) – one of the founding members of Earthside Collective – said the community had embraced the charity concept following the recent launch of www.earthsidecollective.com.au.
“We had a simple idea and we never dreamed that it could be so great!” Ms Love says. “It has taken many months to get off the ground, but we certainly launched with a bang. The reactions and support from people have been amazing.
“Many of us have worked with families through the organisation, Heartfelt, seeing their sorrow and grief as they struggle through the loss of a baby. Some of us have lost babies of our own. We wanted to offer a service to those families who find themselves welcoming a child after a previous loss.
“We know that while exciting, subsequent pregnancies and births can be fraught with anxiety and fear and we decided that offering gift sessions is a way that we can not only celebrate with the family, but also support them in such an emotional journey.”
The Earthside Collective website also provides resources for expectant parents when planning how to document the impending birth of their child through photography. Each of the 14 participating photographers’ profiles is showcased, as are the services, products and support offered by the group. Guest blog posts from birth-related industry professionals such as doulas, midwives, infant chiropractors and more will also play a pivotal role in building the resource.
Having met through their joint love of volunteer charity work, the photographers are continuing their ethos of “giving back” via Earthside Collective. Brisbane newborn photographer Luisa Dunn says she relishes being a part of the charity campaign. “For me, giving back is about the heart and soul of the person who is only complete when they are paying it forward,” Ms Dunn says. “Given our skills as family photographers, we felt that offering gifted sessions was the perfect way to help families and fulfill a need in the community.”
For more information, contact Tanya Love on 0458 006 740, visit www.earthsidecollective.com.au, or email email@example.com.
Miscarriage is a lot like a death without mourning. No one wants to talk about it – it’s like society’s last taboo. And I thought I knew a bit about dealing with grief, having lost my father to cancer in my late 20s, but nothing prepared me for the gut-wrenching shock and devastation of my first miscarriage.
When – close to the magical, all-important 12-week “safe” mark – I started to bleed and then doctors couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat, I felt absolutely gutted. Sure, I knew miscarriage was common – it affects up to one in four women – but at 36, I was still utterly unprepared for it to happen to me.
“It’s probably your ageing eggs,” explained the ER doctor, unhelpfully, but not unkindly. “But it happens to women of all ages, all the time. Next time, we’ll see you in the labour ward with a healthy baby.”
As we left the hospital, me clutching the pink teddy bear they give to the bereaved, I didn’t believe that doctor for a second. I felt nothing but deep sadness and hopeless, dark despair. I did not see this coming – my husband and I had already prepared the nursery for our much-wanted child. Our hopes and dreams… Cruelly gone.
And I was traumatised, as was my husband, by seeing the images of our dead foetus on the ultrasound scan. These images would continue to haunt me, for months to come, both during the daylight and in my nightmares about the miscarriage.
And then there was the unfortunate timing – the miscarriage occurred the day before my husband’s 40th birthday. We’d actually been out at a top restaurant celebrating this milestone over a long, lavish lunch just prior to the ordeal. I first noticed I was bleeding in the restaurant toilets.
I felt like I’d failed my husband and myself. I was angry at my body – and the world. It took me months to fully physically recover from the miscarriage, as is typical, after I needed an emergency D&C when my body couldn’t expel our baby naturally, as it was too far along.
But the emotional and mental scars were far worse. Aside from the horrors of having to wait almost 24 hours for an emergency D&C at our local hospital; a cold, insensitive and unthinking young obstetrician calling the procedure a “sucky-out machine” (I kid you not!); I was my own worst nightmare.
I constantly headf***ed myself with endless “what-ifs”, which was both pointless and endlessly exhausting. What if that was our only baby? What if I’m too old to have another? What if I did something wrong?
Grief is a funny thing. You can think you’re over it and have properly mourned the loss and dealt with it, only to have something trigger fresh, new pain. It’s kind of like a scab that keeps getting picked at, drawing fresh blood. I took up boxing, kickboxing and yoga with gusto with which to busy myself and help me heal.
And prepare yourself sisters, for if you’re ever unlucky enough to suffer a miscarriage, people will want and need you to be OK again quickly. There is no time for mourning. Society doesn’t seem equipped to deal with parents’ grief, so we rush people’s healing along, thinking it helps them. It doesn’t. There’s no funeral, no acceptable grieving period when you miscarry.
Your much-wanted, precious baby has died, but countless well-meaning people will say to you: “Oh well, it was for the best,” or this other clanger, “At least the baby died early.” Or, “I know how you must be feeling: my grandma died…” or my other favourite: “It just wasn’t meant to be. Will you start trying again soon?”
None of this helps you, in the midst of your pain. And, wanting to please my loved ones, I hurried my pain along, willing it to end, so desperately wanting to be OK.
I returned to a very busy job a week after my D&C, when my head and heart were still breaking, with colleagues nervously eyeing me with a mixture of sympathy and awkwardness. I had a job to do; there was no time or space to not perform at my best.
Happily, with good love and support from each other, our family and friends, my husband and I recovered well and conceived a healthy baby girl just four months later. Our second gorgeous, healthy baby girl was born just 18 months after the first, following a very early miscarriage at six weeks. This was much, much less of a shock and far easier to cope with given it was so early and we already had one beautiful child.
Naturally, I was anxious every second, minute, hour of every day of both pregnancies until we got the all-clear at both the six-week and 12-week scans, but life had ultimately been very kind to us. For in the end, we got not one, but two much-wanted, precious healthy babies.
- October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
- One in four parents experience the loss of a baby in Australia
- October 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s a day where families across the globe are asked to light a candle in remembrance of their baby whose life was too short due to miscarriage, stillbirth or postnatal causes. For more information, visit http://15october.com.au or http://www.pregnancylossaustralia.org.au.
If you need help dealing with your loss, phone Lifeline Australia’s 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue’s 24/7 service on 1300 22 4636.
For many women, the idea of getting pregnant after experiencing a miscarriage is a confusing and emotional process. In order to have a better chance of conceiving again and having a successful pregnancy, it is often helpful to find out what caused the miscarriage and work with your doctor to incorporate new ways to promote a healthy pregnancy. Keep reading to find out more about conceiving after a miscarriage.
Why do miscarriages occur?
A miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy is spontaneously ended prior to the 20th week of gestation. Most miscarriages occur due to abnormal fetal development, but many other things such as physical trauma, maternal health conditions and problems with the reproductive organs can also lead to a miscarriage. In some cases, miscarriages occur for no apparent reason.
According to statistics, approximately 15 percent of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage. The exact percentage could even be a little higher because many women have early miscarriages that occur before she knows she is pregnant.
Some people have the misconception that a woman who has a miscarriage is at a higher risk of having another miscarriage. However, most miscarriages are isolated incidents and the majority of women are able to have a successful pregnancy afterward. Fewer than five percent of women experience two miscarriages back-to-back.
How long should you wait before getting pregnant after a miscarriage?
It is a good idea to allow your body to heal before trying to conceive after a miscarriage. For many women, most physical damage caused by the miscarriage heals within one week. However, it may take up to six weeks for your period to return. Some women are able to get pregnant again before their next period occurs.
In addition to the physical damage that a miscarriage can cause, many women also experience emotional trauma and a sense of loss. This may require you to take more time before trying to get pregnant again. You might also need counseling to help sort out your feelings.
Women who have already suffered from one or more miscarriages are encouraged to speak to their doctor or gynecologist before deciding when to start trying to conceive again. Some experts say that women should wait six months before trying to get pregnant again. However, there is little to no real evidence that waiting this long is actually necessary. Your doctor will be able to conduct tests and examinations to determine how long you should wait.
Ways to promote a successful pregnancy after a miscarriage
In order to have a better chance for a successful pregnancy, there are a few things you can do if you are not doing them already. The most important step is to start taking a prenatal vitamin every day that has a high amount of folic acid. It is best to start taking folic acid about three months before conceiving. You should also work on getting physically fit and losing weight if you are currently overweight.
Additional precautions may need to be taken by women who have had previous miscarriage. Your doctor will be able to determine the best course of action for you. This may mean that you will need bed rest, further check-ups or medication in order to increase your chance of a successful pregnancy.
Experiencing a miscarriage is a traumatic and stressful event for any woman to go through. Working closely with your gynecologist or physician is important, especially if you have had a miscarriage in the past.
What is your best advice for getting pregnant after miscarriage?
A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, and the pregnancy timeline is divided into three trimesters, each of which has its own joys and challenges, from the moment you find out you’re expecting to the moment you give birth. Here’s a look at what you can expect from each part of the three trimesters of pregnancy.
The most exciting time in the first trimester is when you find out for sure that you’re pregnant! This period, which lasts through the 13th week of your pregnancy, is the most crucial time for the development of your baby, and also, sadly, the time when things are most likely to go wrong. The baby’s body and organs are growing and developing, and most miscarriages happen during the first trimester.
Your body is telling you that you’re pregnant in many ways, including breast tenderness, nausea, frequent urination and fatigue. Toward the end of the first trimester, you may see the beginnings of a baby bump.
This is the period when you get your first ultrasound and see your baby for the first time. Also, you should be having tests for possible genetic issues.
During the second trimester, you may find some of the maladies of the first three months disappearing, only to be replaced by a new set. Between weeks 14 and 26, you may experience abdominal pain, leg cramps, back pain, heartburn and constipation. The most exciting moment of this period is likely to be when you feel your baby move for the first time.
At this point, you’re definitely going to need maternity clothes!
The third trimester
By now, you’re getting excited about finally giving birth and can’t wait to meet your new baby! The last of the pregnancy stages lasts from 27 weeks to birth, and your uterus has now expanded from 60g before conception to just over 1kg. You have a whole new set of symptoms to deal with, like varicose veins, hemorrhoids, shortness of breath and difficulties sleeping.
Make sure you take the time to plan for your trip to the hospital and have everything ready for the day you bring baby home. By now you should have a due date and may already know your baby’s sex.
Meanwhile, your baby is very busy getting ready to be born. He or she is adding layers of fat to stay warm after birth and is finishing development of the lungs. Preterm labour is still a risk, but the baby’s chances of a healthy birth increase with every week in the womb.
Now is the time to get plenty of relaxation!
BENEFIT 6: You’ll have a chance to increase your fitness. When you smoke there’s a reduced amount of oxygen in the blood so it is harder for smokers to exercise. So, if you give up the fags this could be the summer you really get into shape – look great and feel fabulous!BENEFIT 7: If you want to have kids one day you can save yourself and your unborn child from complications during pregnancy, you can decrease your chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, your child developing asthma and many other complications. Smoking also reduces fertility in men and women.
BENEFIT 8: You’ll decrease your risk of developing cancer or other smoking related diseases. Did you know that if you’re on the contraceptive pill and you smoke then you’re increasing your risk of heart attack by a factor of ten? (Source: Heart Foundation) Scary stuff, huh?!
BENEFIT 9: You can use quitting smoking to kick-start your new life – revamping you body and your whole life. Get your teeth professionally cleaned, donate old clothes you haven’t worn in years to charity and get a fab new hair-do for summer.
BENEFIT 10: You’ll get a feeling of ultimate control – if you can quit this habit for good, you’ll feel like you can do anything.
Remember you control your destiny and you do have the power to change your life. Good luck!
Quit For Chicks
With a foreword by supermodel Sarah O’ Hare (who gave up for good in August 2001) and advice from Dr Cindy Pan, Quit for Chicks is hot pink, easily fits into your hand-bag, cost less than a packet of cigarettes and answers the questions you’ll face when you do give up, like: Will I put on weight? What will happen to my social life? Will it be worth it? And, most importantly: how do I stop? Quit for Chicks by former health editor Kathy Buchanan, Penguin, RRP $9.95 is available in all good book stores.