Take your time -- but know when it's time to get pregnant again
Jill Shipp, LCSW, adult program director at KinderMourn, and a mom whose first child was born at 33 weeks and lived for only 3 days says, "My early desires were to be pregnant again -- like yesterday! My body and my heart were so empty and I desperately needed to fill that gap. My husband's initial feelings were very different. His fear of losing another child outweighed his desire to try again. What I learned was that every couple (and sometimes spouses) don't agree, [and] have a different time table for when the time is right to have another child. And those differences have to be respected. It is important that you know in your heart where the child you lost fits in your life and where another child could join in. It shouldn't be about replacing your child that died -- nothing can do that."
If you're not attached to the new pregnancy, you're not alone
Mom Joan West's first child died in utero just before her due date. West says, "I wanted to get pregnant right away. This was a very easy decision for me, I wanted a big family. The difference with my first pregnancy and my second was that I didn't get attached to the babies until they were out screaming. I tried not to let myself love them -- a coping mechanism."
Shipp says, "Women who are having a subsequent pregnancy after a loss need to know one thing -- you are not crazy and your feelings are normal, whatever they may be. Know that this pregnancy will be different -- you will probably be hyper-aware of anything that doesn't seem normal."
Find a supportive maternity care team
Mom Melissa T's second baby died in utero just over 35 weeks. "The easiest decision for us was the decision to have more children," she says. "We knew we would try again and were only waiting for me to be physically healed. Pregnancy after a loss is very scary. I could not have done it without an incredible support system, which included my OB. My OB was very involved in all my pregnancies and was available to me anytime I needed her. I think it's very important to have a close relationship with your OB/midwife/doula and the staff in the office. Don't ever be afraid to call and ask any question, even if it means calling daily. Trust your gut. Try to enjoy being pregnant."
If you have other children, be honest with them about your loss
West had two sets of twins and another baby after her loss. "When the kids ask how she died we tell them the detailed truth, her death was because her cord turned into its own tourniquet," she explains. "When they ask it could have happened with them, we say yes. When we had a miscarriage, we told the boys that the baby hadn't developed properly. They took us at our word because it was the truth."
Shipp says, "Parents should answer honestly -- if they have specific answers, share what's comfortable and appropriate. If they themselves don't know what happened before and are nervous about a new pregnancy, be honest about that too. Kids are smart -- they will know if they are not being given straight information."
Melissa T's toddler daughter gave her the strength she needed after losing her baby. She says, "I was so amazed at how well she handled the news and how she really supported us in our grief. She held our hands and told us she loved us and that she was sorry we were so sad. Sara gave me a reason to get out of bed every day and to continue on in life."
Take care of yourself
Shipp, "Above all, take care of yourself. Keep a journal. Get a massage. Have a pedicure. Enjoy a good meal. Whatever it is that nurtures you, do it. You are a great woman and a great mom."