Dear Brand New Mom,
Sometimes the road to having a newborn is paved and one directional – you begin with intent and arrive at the end with a baby. However, more often than not, the road is gravel, has pot holes, road blocks and U-turns, and multiple routes. I wanted to address this less perfect path today because for many of us, it’s the one we had to take. If the topic of mothering after a loss does not apply to you, perhaps you can use it to help a friend at a later time or gain some perspective. For moms of newborns who have experienced past losses, it can be difficult to deal with having a successful pregnancy.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Learn more at First Candle. If you or someone you know experiences an infant or pregnancy loss, or are struggling to manage the emotions that come with parenting after a loss, you can find resources at Postpartum Support International.
It’s not easy to talk about infant and pregnancy loss, even though it may affect 1 out of 4 mothers. Some women are more in touch with their loss, have found coping mechanisms, and have support. But I think that even if you are “at peace” with your loss(es), when you get the pleasure of meeting your new baby in the flesh it comes with mixed emotions that not everyone can understand. People may congratulate you on “becoming a mom” – not understanding that you have considered yourself a mom ever since your loss.
For some moms, having a successful pregnancy and birth brings relief and joy. For others it brings worry, resentment, guilt, feelings of emptiness, floods of memories (along with PTSD), or pressure; the pressure to make sure you appreciate this baby who made it into the world and the pressure not mess it up by making parenting mistakes. For me personally, hearing “you must be so happy to have a baby now to hold in your arms” was difficult. How do I tell them I still missed my OTHER baby? How can I explain to them that he is not a replacement of the child I lost; it’s a new and entirely different child. I had to learn that I could hold and love this baby and it didn’t mean I loved my first son any less, or that I had to forget him.
There are a lot of big emotions that come with parenting a newborn, and those can be magnified when you have been through so much beforehand. You should know that these feelings are typical, and that you aren’t alone. Seek help. Know that the people closest to you might not know how to help. Cherish your newborn, and keep the memory of your angel baby alive at the same time. You’ve been brave this far, don’t stop now.
A Mom Who’s Been There
About the Author
Jen Winckler is a Newborn PEPS leader in Snohomish County. She is a stay at home mom (aka. Volunteeraholic) to two boys, ages 10 and 8, and is still trying to navigate the constant curve balls that parenting dishes out. She used to dread the minivan driving soccer mom title, but has come to love watching her boys play their hearts out (and did sell the minivan as soon as they could open their own doors without banging the car in the next stall).
Thank you Jen! This makes me teary but happy to get to read your words on the subject. Grief, loss and death seem to be the farthest from conversations surrounding babies. I appreciate your reassuring words and the deep place of understanding they come from.