Compiled by The Editors of EWP
These tips are offered by the members of our private support group to help those getting through the early days after ending a wanted pregnancy due to poor prenatal diagnosis or for maternal health issues.
Take good care of yourself mentally and physically
- Eat well, give yourself plenty of time to sleep, and try to exercise regularly.
- Keep all your medical appointments. Always call if you have a concern or something does not seem right. If you are uncomfortable with your doctor, switch right away.
- Create a support system for yourself. That may include your spouse, partner or significant other, family members, friends, an online support group, an in-person support group, a counselor or psychiatrist, or a spiritual leader.
- Don’t feel guilty about needing help or taking medication if that’s what is necessary for your healing.
- Be aware of the “grief hangover.” Grieving keeps us in a “flight or fight” response, and it takes energy to maintain that heightened state. When you find yourself laying in bed for hours after a long day of tears, and you can’t figure out why you aren’t sleeping, remember that. You are decompressing. And in the morning, you may find yourself exhausted and hung-over, like you spent the whole night out on the town.
- Try not to second guess yourself. You made the best decision you could given the diagnosis, your family, your circumstances, and the information available to you. You made that decision out of love. You cannot go back and change things, so try to keep moving forward into the future.
- Anticipate and accept unexpected feelings such as relief that it’s over (feeling relief may bring guilt, but it’s really okay to feel relief). You may even feel a sense of peace when life’s other problems seem minor by comparison to what you’ve just been through. Feelings “just are.” There are no right or wrong ones.
- Don’t panic if your milk comes in.
Don’t rush the grieving process
- Let yourself feel. Allow yourself to be sad, and happy as well. Grief takes us on many journeys. Be open to them. Try not to rush the grieving process. It will take as long as it takes.
- Allow yourself all the time and space you need to grieve. Do what feels right to you.
- Anticipate milestones such as your estimated delivery date, and the anniversary of your loss, and plan something that will make you feel better. That might be a ritual, some time alone or with your family, or an activity such as a trip that will take your mind off things. It’s also fine if you ignore the milestones. Don’t feel bad if you don’t have strong feelings about them, or if you’re more comfortable not marking them.
- Many people find they go back and forth like a pinball between the different stages of grief. It’s not linear, and the time spent in one stage or another is different for everyone. You may not experience all of the stages, and that is fine too. We may expect to conquer one emotion at a time, check it off the list and move to the next, but grief rarely works that way.
- Know that a subsequent pregnancy, no matter how welcome, will not circumvent your grief. Instead may bring with it a whole host of new anxieties and many emotions, not all of them positive. Allow your mind and body to take a break.
- Don’t berate yourself about post-pregnancy weight, the state of your household, finances, or anything else that makes you feel bad. Take care that you are not being harsh on yourself, or impatient with yourself. Strive to treat yourself as kindly as you would your best friend if she’d been through this nightmare. If these kinds of things are weighing on your mind, try to achieve one small, positive thing each day to make things better. When you’re finished, write it down. It could be as basic as “I allowed myself a good cry” or as simple as “I wiped down the kitchen counters” or “I returned my library books and saved the late fee.” Give yourself credit. You deserve it.
- Avoid self-destructive “numbing” behaviors such as drinking to excess, drug abuse or self-mutilation. Try healthy escapes such as turning to caring friends, exercise, nature, music or, if you’re up for it, creative pursuits such as poetry or the arts.
- If you think it will help, try a gratitude journal. As with writing down your small accomplishments, some people find that writing about something or someone they are grateful for can help. However, don’t do this unless you believe it will help. If you try it and it doesn’t help, give yourself permission to drop it.
Prepare yourself for dealing with others
- Your partner will probably grieve differently than you do; give him or her the space to do so.
- It’s not unusual to be a step ahead of everyone else in the grieving process (including your husband/partner). As the one who was pregnant, you are affected first. It can take others a little longer to get there.
- Understand and accept what you’ve been through may change in your priorities with work, relationships, etc.
- If someone you thought could support you cannot for whatever reason (that person’s own grief, religious beliefs, her own pregnancy), don’t blame yourself. Put distance between yourself and anyone who makes you feel remorse, guilt or shame, whether that is his/her intent or not. There is no point in causing yourself more pain by being around unsupportive people, or people whose life situation underscores your loss.
- Don’t let anyone rush you to make important decisions (such as “Should we try again?”) This does not have to be decided right away. In fact, table any large decisions such as whether to move, change jobs or change relationship status. You’ve just made what may be the biggest decision of your life, and you (and your partner) may still subconsciously be in “big decision making mode.” Consciously take a break from big decisions for now.
- Anticipate insensitive comments/questions from family, friends and strangers in situations you can’t avoid, like work or the supermarket. Try to prepare for this eventuality. Even innocent questions like “So, how is your pregnancy going?” or “When are you due?” or “Do you have kids?” can be surprisingly hurtful right now. Depending on who is asking, you may want to answer with “I’ve lost the baby and I don’t want to talk about,” or “I’ve lost the baby, can we please talk about it?”
- Keep in mind that you don’t owe a thing to nosy or rude people. Your prepared response to a nosy question could be as blunt as “None of your business” or as indirect as “I hear there’s a big sale on cake mixes.” You are the one who is grieving; you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
- Compose a letter to give to your medical care providers to shield yourself from insensitive comments or prying question. The link provides a template to make this easier.
Avoid situations that may upset you
- First and foremost, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not attending social events you wish to avoid. Don’t do anything unless you are ready and really want to do it. That includes going back to work, seeing pregnant women, attending baby showers, visiting friends or family who have infants, going to church, and taking part in family gatherings, weddings or school events.
- If you do end up in an upsetting situation, give yourself permission to flee, or at least to find a private place to cry. You don’t owe it to anyone to “hold it together” when you’re falling apart.
Avoid media that upsets you
- This may include web sites, films, stories about “miracle babies,” “family” magazines, and especially anti-choice propaganda and internet abortion debates.
If you’re on Facebook, it might help to change your settings specifically for friends who post frequently about their pregnancies or constantly post baby photos. You can simply “unfollow” someone’s updates without actually unfriending them.
- If you belong to an online pregnancy community, take a step back from it. Don’t torture yourself by constantly checking where you “should” have been in your pregnancy.
- Expect the unexpected as a trigger for grief, such as seeing the name of your baby in a newspaper/magazine, seeing a child that could look like yours, going to children’s event and realizing your child will not participate, being asked questions about your children. Learn what your triggers are so you can confront them or avoid them as appropriate.
Get aggressive marketers under control
- Expect mail that contains free sample such as free diapers, formula, baby magazines and coupons. Have another household member bring in the mail and get rid of the “baby marketing” stuff before you have to see it. If you have a mail slot that drops mail inside your house, set a basket on the porch with a note instructing your mail carrier to place any baby-related material inside it. Have a household member dispose of it.
- Try DMA choice to control all junkmail, and also check out this list of ways to escape junk mail, spam and telemarketers.
- For the most aggressive baby marketing companies, have a friend or family member call directly and insist your name be removed from their mailing lists. Here are some handy phone numbers:
- Similac, Pedialyte, Welcome Additions Club (Abbott Nutrition) 1-800-227-5767
- Enfamil (Mead Johnson) 1-800-222-9123
- Huggies (Kimberly Clark Co.) 1-888-525-8388
- Pampers (Proctor & Gamble) 1-800-726-7377
- Babycenter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-344-7569
- Motherhood.com 1-800-466-6223
Until your removal notices kick in, don’t feel the least bit guilty about throwing out sample products. You don’t owe it to anyone to hang onto a diaper, a package of wipes, a can of formula or coupons if it brings you even a shred of grief. It’s not worth adding to your grief to save someone else a few pennies, and they’re probably getting inundated with these marketing freebies anyway.
Believe that you will start feeling better
Trust us: you will get to a better place eventually. This can be very hard to believe early on, but we have been in the dark place you are now, and we assure you that it is true.