Behind every family is an individual story

No journey to parenthood is ever the same. Navigating pregnancy after the loss of another baby is filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Through our Rainbow Project, we tell families we understand. 22-weeks pregnant with her precious rainbow baby, Hannah tells us her story - and why extra support during a pregnancy after loss is so vital for parents.


Writing about pregnancy after loss is hard to do when you’re right in the thick of it. I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant with our ‘rainbow baby’ and trying to navigate the petrifying and lonely experience of this pregnancy whilst also grieving our daughter who died unexpectedly only 11 months ago. 

We went into hospital on the 18th July 2020, 10 days overdue and in labour with our 1st baby, excited to finally meet them and find out if they were a girl and boy. We were so eager and ready to start our lives together and had had a healthy and low risk pregnancy. Only 48 hours later, we left the hospital with empty arms, broken hearts and no idea why our perfect, 8lbs 8oz baby girl, Cora, had just died.

beautiful newborn baby Cora being held and kissed and held by her mother

Six weeks after Cora’s death, we headed back to the hospital to receive the post mortem results. It confirmed what we already thought – that Cora was absolutely perfect – something that makes her death even harder to accept. I’ve written in more detail about our experience of losing Cora over on my blog

I remember lying in my hospital bed after being told that Cora was going to die, feeling like my world had been turned upside down and thinking; ‘Life will never be the same again. I’ll never know what it’s like to bring a baby home and watch them grow up.’ In that moment, I was so sure we would never have any more children, simply because I would never again risk experiencing the heartbreak I was feeling.

That thought didn’t last long, however. Only a week or so after Cora died, the overwhelming need to have another baby crept in. I was initially ashamed of thinking this so soon but after doing some research and chatting to other mums in my situation, I began to understand that this was totally normal. My mind, body and soul were expecting a baby.

There wouldn't be a rainbow without the rain

Six months after Cora died, we were so grateful to be pregnant again. However, there were no tears of excitement this time, no jumping up and down squealing or planning for the future. We hugged silently, thought of Cora and spoke very little of it over the next few weeks; too scared to get our hopes up.

Our care this pregnancy has of course, been very different. We’ve moved hospitals and have had a clear care plan put in place so we know what to expect and have the reassurance of regular monitoring and appointments with familiar faces who know our story. Depending on people’s experiences, some find scans reassuring, others find them anxiety inducing. The reassurance that scans bring us does help to get through each week but it never seems to last long. After each scan, the sense of relief seems to be shattered quickly as we leave the hospital and are met with numerous new parents putting their beautiful babies into the car to take home for the first time. It seems to happen at every appointment we go to and it brings us crashing back down to earth; a reminder of what we didn’t experience and what we could lose again.

Baby loss and pregnancy after loss can be so misunderstood that it makes the experience that much harder and lonelier. You can sense the excitement and relief from loved ones when you finally feel brave enough to share your news. After all, they just want you to be happy. And while I don’t doubt another baby will bring so much happiness, I think people struggle to understand that the void left behind by your child that’s died can never be filled. The experience of living that loss and trauma changes you forever. Pregnancy becomes triggering and it no longer guarantees a baby to bring home. I worry that people think I’m not grateful to be pregnant or that I don’t love this baby because I can’t enjoy this pregnancy. I’m told “It won’t happen again” and “You have to try and enjoy it for your baby” and it’s so unhelpful. 

The every day reality of pregnancy after Cora

The reality is that the fears most mothers have in the middle of the night about difficulties with breastfeeding and making new mum friends are replaced with how I’ll muster the strength to choose another song to play at my baby’s funeral. Instead of baby announcement messages, I have messages drafted in my mind on how to break the news to our loved ones that the worst has happened again. It all sounds so morbid, I know. But when the only experience of having a baby involves you scattering their ashes a few weeks later, it’s hard to imagine anything different. 

Additional support during this pregnancy has come in different forms for me. The main two ways are counselling and extra monitoring/scans. The counselling I’m doing is through a baby loss charity called Petals which I (along with my husband) started 6 months after Cora’s death and who have continued to support us through this pregnancy. Being able to voice my fears and experiences helps to unjumble some of the thoughts that circulate perpetually in my mind and reassures me that even though at times I feel it; I’m not alone.

 

I also have scans every three weeks to check that our baby is growing as expected and that the blood flow through the placenta is normal. I’ve been reassured that, as Cora grew so perfectly, they don’t have concerns that her little brother won’t also do so. But knowing that they’re keeping a close eye on us helps my anxieties. I have a midwife who is extremely understanding and supportive and always lets me know that I can pop in whenever I need to, even if I can feel lots of movements and just need a little reassurance. This helps me to know the care is there when needed and having that ‘go-to’ person during a difficult time makes such a difference. 

Support from loved ones is also essential. My husband has been, and continues to be, my absolute rock. Listening to me, reminding me my feelings are valid and allowing me to share my thoughts and worries. For our wider family and friends, I find that being open and honest about how I’m feeling and the language I find helpful/unhelpful is an important part of my support. While it’s easy for them to get carried away with the excitement and anticipation of a new arrival, they sometimes need to be reminded that our experience feels different. It’s okay not to be excited. But it’s also okay if you are excited! Everyone is different and it’s important for others to know what works and doesn’t work for you in order to support effectively. 

In this pregnancy, I’ve found my Kicks Count wristband a helpful and easy way to monitor baby’s movements each day. While writing this post on holiday in Scotland, we had a visit to the local hospital with concerns about baby’s movements. Thankfully, everything was fine when we got there but using my bracelet and the reassurance the monitoring gave us is what we needed at that time to get through an anxiety induced day. I always think back to my last few weeks with Cora and wonder if I felt her move enough. Would it have made a difference if I’d gone in for more monitoring? They’re questions I have to live with forever and will never have answers to - and I’ve promised to never wait this time. If in doubt; get checked out.

Why extra support is so important

There's nothing that can be done to completely diminish the anxieties that come with pregnancy after loss. There are no words of comfort, stories with happier chapters or appointments with professionals that can quieten that voice in my mind, reminding me of the heartache we’ve been through and how our family will never be complete. But additional support during pregnancy after loss can act as a hand to hold through a difficult time. 

LEARN ABOUT THE RAINBOW PROJECT

I hope, when we’re cradling her little brother in our arms, we’ll look into his eyes feeling blessed beyond belief, knowing that he wouldn’t exist if Cora hadn’t died. He’ll forever be the greatest gift she’ll ever give us. 

Cora's Mum x

Instagram: @han_sinnott

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