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.
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.