Rainbow Pregnancies are hard. They take a lot out of you, both physically and mentally. Physically, they are tough because most rainbow pregnancies occur soon after the loss. Whether you experienced a miscarriage or a full-term loss, because of the proximities of the pregnancies, your body is physically going through extra stress. The same goes for the emotional side - you have all of the typical worries of a pregnant woman but they are magnified because you are living proof that bad things can happen. Multiply the physical and emotional stress with your pregnancy hormones and you find yourself in an insanely difficult situation.
Lately, I've been running into a lot of women who are very early on in their rainbow pregnancies and are looking for advice on how to cope. I, obviously, don't have an answer that will work for everyone but I wanted to share what worked for me and helped me get through the longest nine months of my life.
1. Give up control
Throughout my first trimester, I was a nervous wreck. Every time I went to the bathroom, I was sure I was going to find that I was miscarrying. I realized around the beginning of the second trimester that beyond getting proper medical care and keeping myself healthy, I couldn't control what was happening with my baby. This realization made me relax (a bit) and I knew all I could do was take the pregnancy day by day and be thankful for each one I had. Sometimes it's liberating to give up control.
2. Enlist your physician
I've said it before and I will say it again, I could have never gotten through this pregnancy without my doctor. She viewed the pregnancy as a team effort and did everything she could to take some of the stress off me, including extra visits, extra ultrasounds and maximum support at every visit. I just went back to see her for my 6 week check-up and she sat there and cried tears of happiness with me while saying "We did it!" Having a compassionate and understanding doctor who sees that you are not the average pregnant mother and offers you the support that you need is key.
3. Find peer support
I was lucky enough to have a very close friend pregnant with her rainbow the same time I was. We were able to talk about everything from the physical aspects of our pregnancies to the more complex emotional issues of the pregnancy and grief combination. I realize how rare this is and that I was lucky to have it. If you can, reach out to support groups, in real life and/or online, and seek out others who are also going through rainbow pregnancies. Sometimes it's nice to hear that others are having similar feelings and emotions so you realize that you are not going insane.
4. Expect feelings of deja vous.
This is especially important if your pregnancies are close together. I had Naya and Rhone within 14 months of each other and spent the majority of the last two years pregnant. There were many, many times where I thought "didn't I just do this?" and confused the two pregnancies. These moments can be especially hard and emotional when you are going in for ultrasounds, buying baby items or fixing up a nursery. The deja vous can cause a variety of feelings from bittersweet joy to unbelievable pain. These feelings are normal and don't feel bad about having them.
5. Expect some guilt - I feel as if this is somewhat inevitable when you are having a rainbow. You feel guilty for enjoying anything to do with the new baby because you don't want to feel like you are abandoning the one who died. I even put off buying anything or fixing up the room until the last month of pregnancy because I felt that by doing these things, I was erasing Naya. I felt so guilty because I didn't want to seem like I was letting her go. These feelings are so normal. I just kept (and keep) telling myself that Rhone is Naya's brother - he is the closest thing to her and she would have wanted me to love and care for and enjoy him.
6. Be easy on yourself.
As I've said, rainbow pregnancies are HARD. It's okay to feel overwhelmed and scared. You are doing something that is hard for normal women all while grieving the baby you lost. You are going to have days that you are excited. You are going to have days that you feel like you can't do it anymore. Again, all of this is normal and you shouldn't feel bad about any of it. Be easy on and even spoil yourself during this time. You are going through something incredibly difficult and you deserve a break, especially from yourself.
7. Do what works best for you.
I think, most importantly, is to do what is best for you to get through the pregnancy. For me, it was kind of ignoring the fact that I was pregnant. I needed to mentally block it out in order to get through the day to day. Sometimes, I felt bad about it - like I wasn't connecting with my baby - but I realized that what my baby needed most was my sanity intact and my body healthy to take care of him. If you need to put up the block, do it. If you need to bond with your baby and celebrate every moment, do it. Do whatever it is that YOU need to do to get through this nine months (within reason - stay away from the obvious like drinking, drugs, etc.) and do NOT feel guilty about it.