Wednesday, July 27, 2011

After infant loss, when should we try again?

I saw this article on and thought it was interesting.  I know everyone has their own time table, and this can be a sensitive subject.  I think the important thing is knowing if you want to try again, and if so, waiting until you feel ready.  That can be very different for each person.  However, I thought I'd post this article and see what you thought.  

 After infant loss, when should we try again?

by Carol A. Ranney

Whether you have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or an infant death, often your first impulse is to try again.  The loss of your baby has left a huge vacuum, and there is nothing that will fill it and relieve the terrible aching emptiness.  The only possibly comforting thought is to be pregnant again, to feel once again the anticipation of another precious baby in your arms.
Grieving is not only very hard work, it is terribly painful.  To face again each day the absence of someone you loved with your whole being, to try and work through the questions, the anger, confusion, sadness and weariness of grief, to endure the gnawing vacuum inside you that constantly cries out for relief, is agonizing work.  As easily as water runs downhill, your thoughts go to another baby, another pregnancy, and some relief from constant sorrow. A friend who became pregnant not long after her toddler died said to me, “It feels so good to be happy again.”
However, grief will not be dismissed.  It has integrated itself into your life, and will not be satisfied until you have completely worked through it and emerged from the other side, a changed person.  There are no shortcuts through grief, as tempting as the illusion might seem.  The choice to have a child too soon after the death of another one may also be motivated not so much by the desire for another child as the longing to fill that empty hole in your hearts.
You are grieving a unique, never-to-be replicated child.  Even though you may never have had the chance to look into his or her face, your dreams were whole and complete, for this child and all he or she would become.  When you have had an early miscarriage, you mourn the loss of your “dream child,” the one you envisioned, dreamed about, imagined a relationship with, and gave your whole heart to.  Perhaps others did not yet know you were pregnant, and there will be a deep loneliness in mourning your loss.
If you have had a stillborn child or have lost an infant, you mourn the loss of the brief time you had, the moments of memory as well as all the future dreams, hopes and plans.  Because this child was not known by many others, those around you will likely expect you to recover as rapidly emotionally as you do physically.  A friend said to me once of a young woman who had had a stillborn child a week before, “She’s doing much better now, I think she’s come to terms with it.”
A week, however, is not even long enough to get past the shock and begin to comprehend what has happened.  Many weeks will pass before the full impact of the loss will be felt, and by that time, most people will have forgotten or assume that you have "moved past it."  Grieving a pre-born infant is a lonely experience, and it is important to get all the support you can, to affirm your right to grieve as well as to walk through it with you.
While a pregnancy, or thoughts of a pregnancy, seem so comforting and hopeful during this time, the reality is that you will never again experience the innocent excitement and anticipation of your earlier pregnancy.  You now know the truth:  not all pregnancies go to term, and there is no guarantee with any pregnancy.  To deal with this reality is hard enough without struggling with mourning your loss at the same time.
You also may be stricken with guilt if you become pregnant again too soon.  Many people experience the regret of not having given their deceased child his or her own time to be remembered, mourned, and memorialized, and feel that a subsequent pregnancy is a betrayal of their child who died.  Another problem that arises with a pregnancy too soon after loss is the constant fear of losing the new pregnancy, and along with that, a fear of bonding fully with the expected baby, knowing the pain ahead if this pregnancy, too, is lost.  These feelings may persist even after the new baby arrives safely.
Counseling can be very helpful after loss, as you begin to think about trying again.  Having someone to talk through the experience with, whether a grief counselor, your obstetrician or midwife, or a trusted friend, can help to clarify your thoughts and feelings and help you understand where you are in the grief process and whether or not you are ready.  Some people decide to designate the first year as a year of mourning their deceased child.  This may be too long for you, or not long enough.  
A medical opinion is also important.  Trying again too soon, before the woman's body has had time to adjust and heal, can jeopardize a future pregnancy.  You circumstances and cause of loss need to be thoroughly understood before making this life-changing decision.
There is no one answer to when it is time to try again.  Your situation is as unique as you and the child you lost.  Everyone grieves differently, and at a different pace.  Give yourself adequate time to fully experience your grief and comprehend your loss, and to come to a degree of peace with it.  Wait until you can anticipate a new baby with minimal fear, and even though you are now aware of the risks of loving and the pain of losing, with real joy at the thought of a new baby.


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