Last week I was scrolling to social media and I squealed when I saw the headline pop up, “Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner Announce Pregnancy Six Months After Losing Their Son”.
Last year, Jamie and Doug lost their son Johnny when he was born at 17 weeks and 1 day, too soon for this world. They were very open about their loss, even sharing a photo of the two of them with Johnny on the day he was born.
I had tears in my eyes when I read that she found out she was pregnant with this baby on Johnny’s due date. Talk about taking your breath away!
I love that they have been so open about their loss because we are far too silent about an experience that so many couples experience.
One in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, 1 in 100 end due to an ectopic pregnancy, and 1 in 160 end with a stillbirth.
Yet, there is so much taboo to talk about the loss of your child and far too many messages to “get over it” faster than most women and men are ready.
“I'd be lying if I didn't add that we are also a bit fearful of losing our sweet little peanut, but we are choosing happiness and excitement over fear.”
While I completely understand where Jamie is coming from and strongly believe in the power of hope and positivity, there’s something else about loss that we don’t talk about enough that I want to share with you today.
Grief sets off a fight-or-flight response in your body
A particular hormone called CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone) is released which gives you that feeling of anxiety. Other stress hormones such as cortisol are released as well and your nervous system is on high alert.
This is why you might find yourself experiencing stomach aches, not being hungry, waking up with nightmares, having clammy hands or heart palpitation when you're grieving any type of loss.
In other words, grief creates a stress reaction in your body.
This is the same physical reaction you’d have if you were being chased by a bear or preparing for an oral presentation in front of 300 of your colleagues. Research shows that cortisol levels after experiencing a loss, especially an unexpected one, remains elevated for at least 6 months. (Buckley, et al., 2009).
According to a study published in 2012, the death of a loved one is associated with increased cortisol levels, which contributes to being in a constant state of alertness and having trouble sleeping. These sleep disturbances combined with the elevated cortisol levels can exacerbate symptoms associate with immunity and heart health. (Buckley, et al., 2012).
This impacts your fertility as well as a future pregnancy after the loss.
Stress creates hormonal changes which can impact your menstrual cycle and even suppress ovulation. These hormonal changes happen to your partner as well, as stress affects testosterone levels and can impact sperm quality. This stress impacts your pregnancy by putting you at risk for complications such as pre-eclampsia, preterm contractions and preterm birth.
What to do if you're trying to conceive after loss
If there's one thing you take away from this blog post it's this: Time doesn’t heal.
You have to actively work through your grief. As I like to tell my clients, the only way to get to the other side, it to go through the tunnel, even on the days you can't see the light.
Talk about it, write about it and make healthy coping techniques a daily habit.
Pushing it aside, distracting yourself or trying to tell yourself you’ve moved passed it are only short-term strategies that are ineffective for long-term healing.
Don’t rush your grief.
Allow yourself time to work through your grief and mourn the loss of your child. Even if everyone around you tells you that you should be over it or it’s time to move on, until you’ve done the work the stress response will be activated in your body.
I strongly recommend spending time working through your grief first before you try again. There are emotional triggers everywhere, some that you can predict and some that come and hit you completely out of nowhere.
Considering how much impact stress has on your body, it's important to heal physically and emotionally to increase your chances of getting pregnant again quickly and having a healthy pregnancy. This way, too, you can truly enjoy your pregnancy with your rainbow baby instead of always waiting for the other shoe to drop because you're so scared of the past repeating itself.
It’s a bumpy road even when you’re pregnant again.
Healing from a loss is not a linear process and doesn’t progress in stages like you often hear.
There are going to be days when you feel great and other days where you feel like you’ve made no progress in your grief journey at all. Triggers such as your baby’s birthdate, due date or hitting milestones such as being the most pregnant you’ve ever been can all re-trigger grief.
Don’t hide from those feelings or push them aside because they’re painful. Honor those emotions and reach into your grief toolbox to help you cope. The more full your grief toolbox is, the better you will be able to manage with these unavoidable bumps in the road, protecting your fertility and pregnancy health.
Some of my favorite tools to keep in your grief toolbox include:
Writing out your story over and over
Memorializing your loss
Talking about your child with trusted loved ones
Asking for what you need, whether that’s a hug or a referral to a professional
Drawing, painting or sculpting your emotions
Getting fresh air
Writing a letter(s) to your child
You deserve to enjoy your subsequent pregnancies without feeling paralyzed by the fear of going through another loss. Working through your grief can help you do that while also lowering your risk of developing grief and stress-related complications.
Preparing for pregnancy after loss doesn't have to take long
One of the biggest concerns I hear from women who are pregnant after loss is that they don't want to lose time waiting to heal before they start trying again. So many women are afraid of how long that will take, or convinced they'll never really heal, so why wait any longer.
The truth is, with the right tools and strategies, you can experience deep healing without feeling like you're taking a torch to your open wound in just a matter of a few weeks.
In fact, in the short span of just 8 weeks, I have helped clients experience more profound, life-changing healing than they ever thought was possible.
One client, Lydia, shared this after working with me:
Before I met Parijat, my pregnancy ended in miscarriage and I became very depressed. Joining her program allowed me to go at my own pace. I didn't feel forced to talk about anything too soon and was able to go through this healing process gently.
Parijat helped me gain my sanity and sense of safety back. She provided support and guided me through the exercises and healing process.
It was a nurturing program and I never felt uncomfortable or judged. She provided the tools I needed to face my grief head on. I grew so much during such a short amount of time and I will be forever grateful for Parijat and her program.
If you're doubting if it's possible to work through your grief in a deep way in a short time, I hope you can see that with the right and gentle support, you can do this.
If you'd like to know more about the Healing Hearts after Loss program, please email me and we can talk to see if my program will be able to help you in your particular situation.
Healing is possible for you, too
I know first-hand the devastation of loss and I know how on the darkest of days you wonder if you'll ever feel the same again.
Healing doesn't mean forgetting your baby and moving on.
It means embracing the loss, enveloping it with your heart, while also releasing the tension it's created in your body so you can live your life with peace.
I do believe this is possible for you, too.