Pregnancy and Loss
Being Happily Pregnant During the Saddest Time in My Life
Being happily pregnant during the saddest time in my life sounds contradictory, but it’s true. In less than three years, I lost the three most important people in my life and was five months pregnant during one of those losses. In 2003 my live-in grandmother who was more like my second mom, died of bone cancer at the age of 80. In May of 2004, my mother who was only 60 years old at the time, died unexpectedly of a stroke in her sleep. Less than a year later in April of 2005, my dad passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly.
When my dad died, I was about five months pregnant. It was a shock and it was even more traumatic because it brought up all my unresolved issues with my mother’s death just 11 months prior. It was hard not to let myself sink into a deep depression because I knew it would not be good for the health of my unborn baby. Going through the motions of yet another coffin selection and funeral arrangements for a typical Portuguese family (consisting of two lo-o-o-o-ong days of viewing at the funeral home, followed by a church service and burial on the funeral day, followed by a reception for 60 people at my house) was excruciatingly painful, but I must say, being pregnant during all this actually helped me.
People would give me their condolences but also focus on the fact that I was pregnant and “is it a boy or girl?”, “how far along are you?”, and all sorts of other questions were all welcomed distractions. In a way, I believe being pregnant at this time was truly a blessing from God, Allah, the Universe or whatever Super-Power you believe in. I don’t know if it was the hormones or what, but despite feeling like an orphan with no parents and no grandparents to speak of, I also couldn’t help but feel really, really great!
Being pregnant gave me something positive to focus on. I didn’t have time to sit and wallow and allow depression to creep in because I had a tiny living person inside of me and I had to provide the best environment possible for him or her. This is not to say I didn’t mourn or ignored feelings of sadness, I didn’t. I just couldn’t let it rule my life.
I would cry and feel sad and then force myself to wipe the tears, focus on the happy memories, and go for a walk or shopping for baby clothes. I still saw my doctor (who is also a Psychotherapist) on a regular basis to talk about what I was feeling and going through. I cannot stress the importance of talking to someone. It kept me sane and it was good to have an outsider monitor my state of well-being to ensure I didn’t get depression during pregnancy or post-partum depression.
My husband and I also decided to hire a doula. Since I couldn’t have my mom in the labour room and since I didn’t feel comfortable with anyone other than my husband in the room, I thought the doula could be a stand-in for my mom. Our doula was Isabel, a small, Latin, soft-spoken, nurturing woman. Her presence in the labour room was very helpful and encouraging and I’m glad we decided to use a doula.
We chose not to find out the sex of the baby, but I had a strong feeling it would be a girl. I knew from the time the pregnancy test was positive (after I got over the shock of the unplanned surprise) that if it was a girl, I would name her Natalia, after my mom.
I ate the healthiest I’d ever eaten because now I was eating for the baby too and I knew the too-often pizza and burgers just weren’t nutritious. Being pregnant gave new meaning to my world. I had a lot of positive things to be thankful for. Not a single hair on my head fell out in the shower – yay! All my clothes looked great – no rolls or bulges – just one cute, round baby bump. My too-large breasts didn’t feel so big next to the big bump. My usual break-out prone skin was clear with the pregnancy glow everyone talks about. It was fabulous, yet in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for being happy when my parents and grandma were all gone, plucked away too early from my life.
After four months of mourning for my loss and celebrating my pregnancy, the baby was finally born. A two-day-long labour, with nearly three hours of pushing and a posterior-facing baby who had to be turned by the doctor (a pleasant experience any woman who’s experienced it can attest to). Eight-lb., 4-oz. Natalia was born. We gave her my mom’s last name as her middle name. It is neat for friends and family to be reminded of my mother every time they see or say her name.
I am in a much better place now and being a mom is finally getting easier now that Tali is six-months old and is sleeping through the night (another blessing from God!). Though I sometimes feel like an orphan at the age of 31, it is nice to know that even though Tali will only have one grandmother (my mother-in-law) and no grandfathers or great-grand-parents, she will certainly know all about them and see family photos and hear all the funny stories. So while it was the worst time in my life, it also turned out to be one of the best times of my life as well and I’m sure there will be more good times to come!
Tips for Coping with Loss During Pregnancy:
- Meditation Take the time to reflect and concentrate on your well being.
- Regular Therapy Even just talking with a trusted friend or family member helps.
- Healthy Eating Habits Drinking eight glasses of water a day makes a big difference in your mood and energy levels.
- Regular exercise A 30-minute walk daily can do wonders.
- Keep a Thought Journal You can express feelings you’re not yet ready to share with others.
- Ask for Help at Work As you get closer to your due date, your work load should be getting lighter. This is important because it will be hard to concentrate after a major loss as well as dealing with the issues of fatigue, nausea, lack of sleep and many others that often accompany pregnancy.
- Schedule Time to Mourn Book at least 10 minutes a day to be alone, cry, think. Do whatever you need to do to mourn. After the 10 minutes are up, wipe your tears and continue with your day until your next “mourning” appointment.
- Focus on the Happy Memories Let go of any guilt or feelings of regret that people who are mourning often experience. It is wasted negative energy.