PARENTING AFTER LOSS
The anxiety has always been there, humming at low level- sometimes peaking, but what sent it sky rocketing was very unexpected.
Pregnant with our first, much wanted and very loved daughter, Luna, we found out late into my pregnancy that she was unlikely to survive to term and if she did, would undoubtedly have a short and painful life. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for this. The notion of ‘get pregnant and bring a baby home’ was all I was aware of at this point. Something like this wouldn’t happen to our baby, surely? After much deliberation and heartache, we made the traumatic decision to end my pregnancy. A decision I will live with for the rest of my life. Soon after, our beautiful girl was born sleeping.
Fast forward six months and still with heavy hearts, we found out we were expecting another baby. The raw need for another baby hit me like a train the minute I left the hospital without Luna. Even though I knew that mentally I couldn’t handle it- the feeling was consuming. I wanted this baby so much, but the constant fear of having to say goodbye to another child made me feel helpless and debilitated. It made work a struggle, relationships tense and took me to some very dark places in my mind. I never imagined it ending any other way than my first pregnancy did. I made a contingency plan for when this baby would die. I apprehensively waited for more bad news. Why would I be so lucky as to take a healthy baby home this time? I felt like a ticking time bomb.
Subsequently, the anxiety that had surrounded pregnancy followed me into parenting after loss also. It is so incredibly present in everything I do, that it feels as though I will never be without it. When Olivia finally got here, after a traumatic birth, I was obsessed and manic at times- checking her breathing, reliving flashbacks of having a lifeless baby in my arms, not wanting others to hold her through fear of her getting sick and imagining every scenario in which she could get hurt or die. But because I knew how lucky I was, there was a narrative that swirled around my head, begging me to push these feelings aside, telling me I had to be happy. I was desperate to be normal but inside I was a wreck. I’ve never known if this is a normal part of parenting, PND or just parenting after loss.
Now, anxiety has manifested itself in new and exhausting ways. The fear of leaving her with others in case something bad happens, the fear of her growing up to hate me, the fear of doing it all wrong, the fear of being a disappointment, the fear of her suddenly becoming ill, the fear of once again letting one of my children down. It swirls around on a loop in my head until I’m so exhausted I just need to sleep. I and others who have lost a child, understand all too well that life can dramatically turn in an instant and it’s this fear that fuels the anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m trying to be kind to myself and hopefully in time I can quiet the anxiety. One thing I am sure of is that I can honestly say that Olivia has saved me in many ways - her feisty, sweet, cheeky personality is a light through much darkness and I am so very lucky to be her mother.
Written by Kristina Collins
SANDS Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity
TOMMYS Funding research to save babies lives
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