Losing an older child while pregnant with another baby – the emotional rollercoaster

One of the things that I find hard about having to cope with grieving for Jessica while being pregnant with Peanut is the lack of information and support for women in my situation. I have searched online so many times, trying to find another story like ours. Trying to find someone else who has walked in a similar pair of shoes. Wanting to be reassured that I am not alone in trying to navigate this huge storm of emotions. Every time, the searches come up with the same thing. Coping with pregnancy after miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss. It’s great that there’s so much information out there for women having to cope in that kind of situation. But so little of it resonates with me.

 

Losing an older child during pregnancy is also a different situation to deciding to have another baby following the loss of an older child. I haven’t had time to process my grief and come to that decision – grief is thrown at me while having to deal with being pregnant with another baby.

 

I suspect I am not alone. That although this is, thankfully, a rare situation to be in, there must be other women out there who have experienced something similar. Maybe some of them are also searching online just as I am doing. Wanting to know they are not alone. So, I’m going to share some of my feelings. I’m going to be brutally honest and hope that my readers won’t judge me for some of the more negative emotions that may be uncomfortable to read about.

 

A silhouette of a pregnant woman gazing out of a window - "Losing an older child while pregnant with another baby – the emotional rollercoaster"

 

 

The huge divide between our old family life and the new family life to come

Peanut’s arrival represents a very definite shift in our family life. It would have been a big shift in our lives if Jessica was still with us. But because Jessica has gone, the shift feels greater. It’s a shift that takes us away from our life with Jessica. A life where we were so happy. Being pulled further and further away from that life breaks my heart. I struggle to feel excitement over Peanut’s imminent arrival because it will pull me even further from the child that I desperately long for every single day.

 

It feels as though we are walking on a bridge over a great chasm. On each side is a family life with two children. Jessica and Sophie on one side. Sophie and Peanut on the other. Behind us: that happy family life with two little girls who we adored. Ahead: an unknown family life that is forever incomplete. As we cross the bridge, we feel it disintegrate behind us. Knowing that the bridge is breaking behind us is scary. We cannot return to the life we knew, the life we still desperately long for. All we can do is keep moving forward.

 

 

Feelings over wanting another baby

This baby was a very much wanted one. We were so thrilled when we found out we were expecting Peanut. Telling the girls was such a joyous moment, especially as Jessica was so excited about the prospect of a new baby sibling.

 

Losing Jessica has thrown up all sorts of emotions that I wasn’t quite prepared for. I never expected that it would have such an impact on my feelings over wanting this new baby. There have been many times that I feel I no longer want this baby. All I want is Jessica. Not this unknown child, this new family life. I want our old life back – the life I knew, the life I loved.

 

People don’t like to hear things like this. Admitting that you don’t feel like you want your baby when you are pregnant is definitely considered taboo. Admitting it can provoke some very judgmental responses. I’ve been told I mustn’t feel like that, that of course I don’t mean it, that I’m lucky to be having another baby. That there are so many women out there who long for a baby and therefore I shouldn’t feel like I don’t want mine.

 

To those people I have one thing to say. You cannot even begin to understand how I feel. If you have never experienced this kind of situation, you have no right to judge me. You do not know what my journey is like. I hope you will never know. But don’t you dare judge me for how I feel. This awful swirling storm of emotions is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It is unbelievably hard to have to live with and try to navigate day after day. Pregnancy hormones make you emotional enough without having to deal with all the emotions of grief on top of it all.

 

I often feel guilty for being so detached from this baby. It isn’t Peanut’s fault that he or she is being born into this situation. Although there are times when I do feel like I don’t want this baby, I don’t want anything to happen to him or her either. Having had one tragedy does not make us immune from another one. I want Peanut to be born safely and to be healthy. I don’t want to have to deal with any more heartbreak.

 

Feeling like I don’t want Peanut isn’t really about Peanut at all. What I really don’t want is this life without Jessica. I don’t want a new life that takes me further away from her. I don’t want to have to keep living each day without her. What I want is my happy, complete family life once again – preferably with both Jessica and Peanut in it. Not this broken, incompleteness that will be there for the rest of our lives, that we have to learn to somehow live with.

 

 

Feelings about the imminent birth of this baby

When it comes to the thought of giving birth to this baby, my feelings are very mixed. I know that fear and emotions can have quite an impact on labour. I am not sure how well I will cope with labour and birth this time around and I am scared of how much harder all this emotional turmoil could make it. Sometimes I am torn between wanting a peaceful natural home birth like I had with Sophie and almost wishing for someone to just open me up and remove this baby from me without me having to go through labour, but not wanting the recovery that comes with a Caesarean birth either. Basically I want this baby to be born without me having to deal with birthing it!

 

I cannot separate my emotions about the new baby from my emotions about losing Jessica. People assume that the arrival of a new baby is a time of joy. No doubt there will be joy but it won’t be unmixed joy. I find it hard to be excited about having another baby because that excitement is too clouded by grief.

 

 

Feelings about the gender of this baby

For four and a half years, I was the mother of two girls. I loved having two girls. I would have been thrilled to have three girls. When people assumed that I wanted Peanut to be a boy, I resented it. Especially when they started listing all the reasons why I should want Peanut to be a boy. It was like they were trying to tell me why having a boy was better than having another girl. I resented the implication that my girls were lesser in any way. If anything, being told why I should want a boy made me want a boy even less.

 

I am sure that I will love this baby just as much whether it is a boy or a girl. However, I am scared that if this baby is a boy, that people will make a big deal out it. That they’ll assume I’m over the moon to have a boy instead of a girl. That they won’t realise that whatever the gender, this baby’s arrival will come with a huge mix of emotions – and not all of them will be positive ones.

 

This is going to be a hugely emotional time for us. I want people to know that they need to tread gently here. Don’t assume you know what we are feeling. By all means congratulate us when our little one arrives, but please understand that joy and pain will be all jumbled up together and just allow us that space to express those feelings without making any assumptions.

 

 

Dealing with the physical uncomfortableness on top of the emotional turmoil

Pregnancy can be quite a physically uncomfortable time, especially towards the end. I find it hard to deal with the physical struggles on top of the emotional ones. The current heatwave is getting to me a lot at the moment. My feet are swollen and uncomfortable; I can’t get up or move around as quickly as before. I found the little discomforts annoying when I was pregnant before; when pregnancy was an exciting time. Now, when my emotions can make me feel like I’m already wading through treacle, the extra discomforts of pregnancy often feel like that one thing that makes it too much to bear.

 

There are moments here and there when I do enjoy being pregnant. Little moments when I don’t feel so detached, when those kicks and wriggles make me smile. Moments when I do feel able to bond a little with Peanut. There are also a lot of moments when I find myself almost resisting the reality of it all. I have struggled to prepare for Peanut’s arrival. Finding the motivation to do so when grief can be so all-consuming and exhausting is not easy. I know I need to do it though. This baby will make an appearance at some point whether I am ready for it or not.
 

 

Anticipating life with a new baby

I am also concerned about how the broken nights that are an inevitable part of life with a new baby will affect me emotionally. Lack of sleep can make little struggles seem unbearably hard – and grief can hardly be described as a “little struggle”.  I have struggled with postnatal depression in the past. It took me a long time to seek help – partly because I was afraid to admit that I couldn’t cope. Grief removes any stigma that comes with postnatal depression though. No-one will be expecting me to be strong this time. There will be no perceived shame (on my part) in admitting to needing help.

 

 

In the meantime, I am trying to make sure I have the support I need. Writing about how I feel helps a lot at times. I have a very supportive health visitor and my midwife has referred me to the perinatal mental health team. There might be a lack of specific support, but hopefully the support that is available will be useful.

 

Mum Muddling Through
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28 Comments

  1. July 5, 2018 / 6:49 am

    Don’t know what to say, just wish I could give you a big hug and tell you it will be ok, but I don’t know that, I’ve never been where you are now.
    All I can say is that Jessica was a special little girl, the pain you feel is a reflection of the love you had for her. Love is unlimited, it expands as far as it is needed. This baby, boy or girl, will be born into a loving family. Sophie will be a big sister, you will cope. All your thoughts seem perfectly normal to me and thank you for sharing with us xx Big hugs.
    Sally

    • Louise
      Author
      July 5, 2018 / 7:12 am

      Thank you Sally. I remember reading somewhere that grief is love that has nowhere else to go. I remember that feeling of love expanding with Sophie’s arrival and I’m sure it will expand once more to include Peanut. It is quite scary to be on the cusp of a new and different life though – I am sure we will cope and Sophie will be an amazing big sister. Jessica will always be a part of our family life too but adjusting to change is never easy and especially so in this kind of situation x

  2. July 5, 2018 / 7:11 am

    My goodness Louise
    Once again I am awed by your articulate unravelling of your pain and emotions. I am so disappointed and angry for you that you feel judged for feeling mixed or negative about this new time in your family with Peanut. I’m baffled that it’s in any way surprising to anyone I hope your sensitive and insightful self awareness will help you to be kind to yourself. I am absolutely sure that your writing will help others in your situation. And I’m also sure that Peanut is a very lucky baby to be born into your family. Like you say this isn’t about Peanut. I hope the support you get now from the midwifery teams is useful. Sending so much love xxx

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:10 am

      Thank you so much Lucy. It has helped me to write it all down and hopefully sharing it will help others too x

  3. July 5, 2018 / 7:37 am

    Ive just discovered your story and I am so so so so sorry you are having to go through this. I really dont know what to say other than to send all the love I can your way. There is absolutely no right or wrong way to how you should be feeling, whatever you feel is right, you are on a journey and I hope you find some form of peace at the end of it. So Much love xxxxxxxxxx #coolmumclub

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:30 am

      Thank you so much Emma. It is a tough journey but we are getting through as best we can x

  4. July 5, 2018 / 8:35 am

    This was so hard, but just amazing to read. I can’t ever imagine what you’re feeling both personally and as a family, but it’s horrible to think of you being judged for it in any way. Not only can you not control how you feel, you certainly shouldn’t have to justify to explain it. Being pregnant is weird and brilliant and scary at the best of times, and I can entirely understand the idea of thinking that perhaps you’d rather have the daughter you knew and loved back, rather than this new baby – who you love, but who at this point is still a stranger. You’re doing brilliantly, and don’t let anyone tell you how to feel about this incredibly hard situation you’re in. xx

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:29 am

      Thank you so much. It has been such an emotional rollercoaster and being judged doesn’t help at all. Writing about it has helped a lot though x

  5. Pippa
    July 5, 2018 / 9:53 am

    Dear Louise, you have had so much to cope with in the last 7 years, I know you don’t always feel it but you are strong and your strength and faith will support you through this time. This little bubba will find its place in your heart, it may take time but don’t beat yourself up about it, try not to look too far into the future, cope with each day, I understand your fear of walking away from life with Jessica to a new life where her physical presence is not but she is in your heart with Sophie and peanut and given time peanut will be there without fear. You write so beautifully and eloquently and if anyone going through the same struggles finds your words, they will take comfort from them. Think of you often, wish I lived closer xxxxxxx

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:12 am

      Thank you so much Pippa. Taking each day as it comes is good advice and it’s what I’m mostly trying to do. I am sure that Peanut will have his/her own place in my heart that will be very separate to Jessica’s place in my heart. Change is always scary though and especially so at the moment. We will get there through it though x

  6. July 5, 2018 / 10:01 am

    Louise, you are so brave to open up like this and I’m sure your words will help other’s that are unfortunate to find themselves in your position. I really believe that everything you are feeling is quite natural and it’s such a shame that your heart is breaking at a time when you should be feeling so happy and excited. What roller coaster you must be on. Writing it down, reaching out, letting people know how you really feel can only help you. I’m sure you’ll look back on this one day and half of you will be wondering how on earth you coped, and the other half will be thinking, was it really so bad. When peanut arrives, he or she won’t be replacing Jessica, because there is no-one that could do that. Your heart will fill with a new love for your new baby. It’s not going to be easy looking after a baby while grieving but I do hope that you will find comfort and love in caring for your new child. Don’t be hard on yourself, this is an unusual situation and I can see that you are looking for help but finding it difficult to see anyone that truly understands. I can’t even begin to imagine that I can understand what you are going through, or predict what you will feel once peanut arrives, but I truly hope that your faith will guide you and your huge heart will find a new and different place for peanut. Thinking of you as always xxxx

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:14 am

      Thank you so much Anne. It certainly is a rollercoaster at the moment. It does help to write it all down though and hopefully sharing it will help others too x

  7. July 5, 2018 / 6:24 pm

    I do hope that this can help someone in your terrible situation….
    You have the right to feel however you want to feel and it is wrong that people have judged you. They have never been in your situation, none of us have. You are right we can’t imagine or understand how you are feeling….
    Sending you a massive hug.

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:14 am

      Thank you Kim. Virtual hugs are always much appreciated! x

  8. July 5, 2018 / 6:56 pm

    Louise, As always you have been in my thoughts this week as the flowers on my ‘jessica’ plants continue to bloom. You are in such an incredibly intense stage right now – both the worst and best situations you can face as a parent, and there is no doubt the two of them colliding in such close timing must be unbearable for you. I am so proud of you for being open about your emotions and thoughts as I’m sure this is a really positive step to process how you are feeling and manage your mental health over the next few months.
    Take one day at a time Louise, breathe in and out, keep going and if you need that help, don’t hesitate in taking it. You have such a huge community behind you and although some may not ‘get it’, be assured that many, many people do, and would never judge you x x
    Thank you for sharing with #CoolMumClub, it’s so good to see you here x x x

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:16 am

      Thank you. How lovely that your ‘Jessica’ plants are blooming at the moment – the Pretty Jessica roses in my garden have more blooms than I have seen before which makes me smile. It is an intense time right now with all the emotions and it does help a lot to write them down and process them that way. Taking it one day at a time is good advice and knowing that I do have that support behind me helps a lot too xx

  9. July 5, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    Hello Louise.
    I totally got what you were saying here and I would be very surprised if you didn’t feel any of the things you’ve just described so well. In fact I think it would be normal to feel even much more negatively towards the timing of the new baby’s arrival.
    I’m not a health expert so feel free to ignore (I’m sure there have been and will be lots of people offering advice) but I wondered whether some mindfulness techniques might help, if only to get you from moment to moment? Perhaps if you could get to a place where you can accept and acknowledge every feeling you’ve got, whether negative or positive, and accept that it’s ok to feel that way. Hopefully that would go some way to reminding yourself that all these feelings are allowed, that they’re all normal. It could be helpful re pregnancy.
    I had a fairly miserable pregnancy (not related to bereavement) looking back, and only learned about mindfulness techniques afterwards. I think it might have helped me, maybe I could have acknowledged my feelings and not had the added pressure of ‘I’m not meant to feel like this’ or ‘everyone expects me to feel XYZ’.
    As for the grief, well, I wouldn’t dare try to suggest you should ‘do’ anything at all with your thoughts and feelings. Nobody can replace Jessica, and I imagine it must be difficult to even devote time and feelings to anyone or anything else. I can only send you my wishes that you find those extra drops of strength to get you through each day, one at a time.

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:23 am

      Thank you Bella. I’m so sorry to hear that you had a miserable pregnancy – it is hard when your feelings aren’t what you expect them to be. Mindfulness techniques would probably be quite useful. I have done some mindfulness in the past and found it helpful. At the moment, I tend to just go with the flow when it comes to my feelings rather than trying to fight them which helps and writing about it also helps x

  10. July 6, 2018 / 8:12 am

    What brave and beautiful words and you are absolutely right to have written them. I have no idea what you are going through, but I have enough empathy to understand that if I was in your position I would swap the unborn baby for the child I had known and loved in a heartbeat. I can’t believe that people would judge you and say your feelings are wrong. It’s good to hear you are getting good support from your midwife. I hope the last few weeks go as well as can be expected for you. X

    • Louise
      Author
      July 6, 2018 / 8:34 am

      Thank you Sarah. Hopefully getting the support in place will help x

  11. July 8, 2018 / 10:31 pm

    I’m so sorry for all you are going through Louise. These are such brave words for you to write and I am sure they will be a comfort to someone who is in your situation, searching to find out how to cope with these days and unlike you they will know that they’re not the only one to go through it because your honest words explain that it’s natural to feel the way you do.
    Nat.x

    • Louise
      Author
      July 10, 2018 / 8:11 pm

      Thank you Nat. It helped me a lot to write them down and hopefully if someone else in my situation reads them, it will help them to feel less alone x

  12. July 11, 2018 / 7:40 am

    I’m pleased to read that you are finding writing therapeutic and hope that if there are any other people out there experiencing the same situation that they find your posts and know they aren’t alone. #coolmumclub

    • Louise
      Author
      July 16, 2018 / 1:20 pm

      Thank you Helena x

  13. Suzie
    July 13, 2018 / 9:09 am

    Sending a hug to you and the family Louise. You are right to say that no one can truly know your thoughts at any one time. My only words of support are to say that our hearts grow when our family grows. We have the capacity to love our children in different ways. No child can ever replace one that has been lost, Jessica will always have her place in your heart and your home and your family. Peanut will be special as the next member of the family and will bring joy in many ways. Take Care sent with love.

    • Louise
      Author
      July 16, 2018 / 1:33 pm

      Thank you so much Suzie. I am sure that the love will expand in the same way as it did when Sophie arrived and that Peanut will also have his/her special place in the family that won’t take anything from Jessica. I think it’s just also that change is scary at the best of times and more so with everything that we have been through in recent months x

  14. July 17, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    It still haunts me that when you announced you were expecting I replied with a comment about how great being a mum of three is – I wish I’d kept my mouth shut…all these thoughts & feelings are totally understandable & will hopefully help others searching for information like you were x #coolmumclub

    • Louise
      Author
      July 17, 2018 / 5:32 pm

      Oh Natalie, please don’t feel bad about that. You weren’t to know what was going to happen any more than we did. I will still be a mum of three even if one of them isn’t here with me x

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