The title of this post insinuates it's going to be a "how to". Not really. The decision of how to approach a pregnancy after loss - whether you celebrate wildly or hold back - is a very personal one. There is not one answer that is perfect for everyone, so I'm not going to tell you there is. But I'm going to share with you how I'm approaching this pregnancy (and my past pregnancies after loss). And I also want you to know that there is no one right way to do it.
Motherhood is full of guilt and doubt and feelings of failure. Pregnancy after loss can be fraught with these feelings as well, in addition to fear and anger and (fill in the blank). It's important that you listen to your feelings, take care of yourself, and make the decisions that are best for your family and yourself.
That may come in the form of embracing all things pregnancy and baby from the time you see those two pink lines - taking bump pictures, buying baby items, sharing a carefully crafted pregnancy announcement early and everywhere.
Or it may mean keeping the pregnancy quiet, avoiding talk of the future and avoiding baby and pregnancy goods like the plague.
Neither one of these options means you are more pro-life, a better mother, or that love your baby any more or less.
Sometimes, self-preservation is the most important thing. Certain pregnancies I purposely distanced myself from the baby. I avoided making plans for "when the baby's here". I didn't buy maternity clothes and steered clear of the baby clearance section. When those pregnancies ended, I was better able to cope with the loss. I was better able to be a wife to my husband and mother to my living child. I don't believe that my reluctance to celebrate my pregnancies in any way dishonored or disrespected the children I lost. I have always acknowledged that they existed, that they are unique human beings with eternal souls. And I have loved them since the moment I knew they existed. I don't think that, wherever they are, it matters one iota to them that I did not outwardly rejoice at their conception.
I've heard and read from moms who firmly believe that they must make the most of every moment of their pregnancy. They must rejoice openly at the gift of life they've been given. They share the news of their conception right away so that if their child does pass, they know that his short life was celebrated to the fullest. They buy gifts for the baby that will serve as mementos to remember their little one by if the worst happens. This is certainly one very valid way to approach pregnancy after loss. If this is what you need to help you through a pregnancy after loss (and certainly, the great hope and joy that comes with the approach can be such a light in the darkness), I think it's wonderful.
Just make sure that you're taking that approach because you want to, not because you feel you must. A baby who enters and exists this world quietly, only known in the mind and heart of his mother, is no less valued than a child whose existence was widely known. Do not feel you have to force yourself to act a certain way during pregnancy. The love for your baby is enough, even if it's not spoken of, even if it's as hidden as the tiny child tucked in your womb.
The longer I'm pregnant, the more I begin to reach out from the cocoon I've wrapped myself in. I originally thought I would wait until 20 weeks or more to find myself in the baby department or come home with maternity clothes but at 11 weeks, I've done those things already. I took my first "bump picture" last week. But I'm not yet ready to think about when the baby is here. That's still so far off and there is so much pregnancy to go before then. I'm not planning a nursery (we don't know where we'll be living anyway, so...) or thinking about any of the logistics of taking care of baby. I haven't really looked into our birthing options yet (though again, even if I wanted to, we don't know where we'll be). But the pregnancy isn't a secret and Lucia especially talks about it quite a bit. I'm finding that for me, this time, there is a delicate balance - celebrating a little, planning a little, but honoring my desire to hold back a bit, allowing myself to remember that pregnancy doesn't always end with a baby and that there is no guarantee we'll be a living family of four. Plan for best, prepare for the worst?