Thinking Ahead: Labor & Delivery After a Loss

First, a quick update: all is well!  We had our first growth scan Thursday, and in addition to showing a nicely growing little guy who weighs about a pound now (at 21 weeks), we got the last view of the heart that they couldn’t get at the anatomy scan and it was fine.  As the doctor said, “There are never any guarantees of a healthy baby… but everything looks fabulous.”  Our little guy is kicking up a storm, and I’m getting bigger too.

It’s still a long way off, but something that’s been bouncing around in my brain a lot lately is the question of how to approach labor and delivery with this baby.  My first L&D experience was traumatic for various reasons, but mostly (aside from the obvious fact that I was giving birth to our dead daughter) because I felt out of control and in extreme amounts of pain, and as I found out afterward, the inexperienced midwife made some really poor medical decisions.  So as I start to think about what L&D will feel like for me in this pregnancy, I worry that I’ll be panicked and fearful, and that I won’t feel that I can trust our new providers, and I don’t want it to be that way.

Penny Simkin, author of “Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn” and famous childbirth educator, distinguishes between pain and suffering in labor.  She believes that it is possible to experience labor pain without suffering, and that suffering comes from feeling out of control or believing yourself or your baby in danger.  I certainly experienced both pain and suffering with the birth of my daughter, and it has made me feel panic and fear when I think about giving birth to my son.  But I don’t want it to be that way — I want to feel prepared and powerful when my son is born, no matter what the circumstances.  And whether or not I feel pain (my plan is to start off without pain meds and decide as I go — I’m not going to berate myself if I opt for an epidural), I do not want to suffer with this birth the same way I did in my first.

So, I’ve been trying to think about ways to prepare myself for L&D well in advance of going into labor with my son.  I’m starting to compile a list, partly based on things that I came up with on my own, and partly thanks to suggestions from an online group for women who are pregnant after 2nd trimester loss that has been very helpful to me in this pregnancy (I won’t advertise it here because it’s non-anonymous, but if you are interested and can give me a way to contact you privately I’d be happy to share the information!).

  • Birth classes – This falls into the “obvious” category, but I think it’s going to be very important for me as I prepare to give birth to my son.  The first time around, I had signed up for childbirth classes, but they hadn’t taken place yet, so I only knew the bare bones of what to expect (and I wasn’t exactly in a frame of mind to be educated and deal with things calmly, either!).  As I think about going through L&D again, I want to be informed and prepared for the process of normal labor, as well as common complications and interventions.  For me, as always, knowledge is power.  We are signed up to start childbirth classes at our hospital in November.  One woman from the 2nd trimester loss group suggested seeking out a couple of different classes through different organizations, since the information and format is often very different.  This sounds like a great idea, and I’ve seen free birth classes offered by a local community center that I might look into.
  • Hospital tour – I don’t really need the tour to find my way to the L&D ward of our local hospital — after all, I’ve been there before, for some of the saddest and most painful hours of my life.  When I think of going back there, I shudder.  But I’d rather go back when I’m feeling well and in control than show up when I’m already panicky and in labor.  So I’ve signed us up for an early tour next week, and I might drag my husband back there another time or two before we have to do it for real, just to build some memories and experience there that is different from the birth of our daughter.
  • Making staff aware of our loss – Many people have suggested this in one way or another.  Some are planning to call the L&D ward before they go into labor, others are writing it prominently on their birth plan or making a sign for their door.  Obviously our local OB group knows about our previous loss, but since we won’t know until we get there which doctor will be on call or which nurse we’ll get, we’ll have to think of a way to be prepared to communicate our history and our need for extra understanding and reassurance.
  • Hiring a doula – This is something that we’re considering, but haven’t firmly decided on yet.  There’s some evidence that continuous labor support from a doula can reduce rates of interventions and c-sections… but like most of the literature surrounding pregnancy and birth, the strength of the evidence is a bit shaky.  Still, it seems like it might fall into one of those “can’t hurt, might help” categories, which makes it at least worth looking into.  One of the women in the 2nd trimester loss group has been working with her doula to help prepare herself for birth after loss, which I think sounds great if you can find a doula who is sensitive to the needs of someone who’s pregnant after a loss.
  • Reading positive birth stories – This is something that hadn’t even occurred to me, but it’s true that most of the birth stories you read on the internet are negative.  Since my own first experience with birth was also quite negative, it might help to read about what happens when things go right, to prepare myself with some different visions of what my reality might be, or what I might hope for in a birth.  I think I’ll have to be careful not to get my expectations too high, but since I have plenty of negative birth images and experiences to color my thoughts, I might as well add some positive ones to my arsenal too!
  • Hypnobirthing fear release – This method may be a little too crunchy for me, but since it’s helped other women in the 2nd trimester loss group, I thought I’d mention it.  Apparently if you just purchase the fear release track it only costs $4 — link is here if you’re curious.

So, that’s where I am at the moment.  If you have other ideas for dealing with fear left over from a previous traumatic pregnancy experience, I’m all ears!  I know it probably seems early to be thinking about all of this, but as I found out last time, you just never know when you’re going to wind up in the hospital — so the sooner I deal with my issues the better.

I do feel like I’ve entered a point of relative calm in this pregnancy.  I still feel good physically, I’m enjoying the “new” pregnancy experiences as I get bigger and the baby gets stronger, and I’m starting to plan ahead, just a little bit.  Our nursery is still an empty room… but now it has curtains!  My husband had ordered some curtains for the main upstairs bathroom, which will be the “kid” bathroom eventually, and while they were totally adorable, they clashed with the shower curtain.  So I found us some solid-color curtains for the bathroom to go with the patterned shower curtain, and tentatively suggested that maybe these curtains would look nice in the nursery?  My husband agreed, and installed them immediately.  I think they look great.  Maybe I’ll post a picture once we start to accumulate actual furniture!  After many months of feeling like time was slipping away from us while everyone else’s family was growing and changing, it’s nice to feel like things are moving forward again, to start to make plans, and to keep hoping as hard as we can that things will work out this time, and that our son will fill our house with baby cries and gurgles soon.


14 thoughts on “Thinking Ahead: Labor & Delivery After a Loss

  1. My Perfect Breakdown

    I have no advice or thouhtful on delivery afer loss, but it does sound like you have some good ideas to consider! But, what I do want to comment on is you note about feeling relatively calm. I am so happy to hear that you are in a good place right now and I hope the sense of calm continues. ☺

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you! I hope so too. 🙂 This really does feel like it’s the best part of this pregnancy so far — I felt like I was holding my breath for the first half of the pregnancy, but now that I can feel our little guy moving many times in a day and we’ve had two normal major ultrasounds in the second trimester, I’m reassured that he’s OK for now. So I’m breathing a little easier, and starting to settle into this pregnancy and enjoy it just a bit. Still nothing like the bliss of my first pregnancy, but hey, I’ll take what I can get! Lack of panic is feeling pretty great right now!

  2. Wifey

    I’m so glad that things are going well and you are beginning to really enjoy this pregnancy. I think this is a great list of suggestions for L&D. Although my losses were no where near as tragic as yours, I’ll tuck away this advice for when it’s my turn.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you! I’m sure you’ll have a whole set of other issues with twins — heck, your twins will probably be here before my son! But one of my friends just last year gave birth to twins in a totally unmedicated birth (the first unmedicated twin birth her OB had ever seen) and they were all healthy and happy afterward, so all types of birth experiences are possible even with twins!

      I hope you’re doing well and also enjoying your pregnancy with the squirrtles! It’s always an adventure, isn’t it? 🙂

      1. Wifey

        My goal is to make it to 38 weeks and have a completely natural, unmedicated birth so that’s very encouraging to hear. And my OB didn’t flinch or roll her eyes when I told her that, which I appreciated. Honestly, I am more scared of an epidural and the recovery from a c-section than anything. But, I’m trying to be realistic and understand the possibilities and my options. Because the number 1 priority is getting babies here safely. I am waiting to feel these little squirrtles move right now. Hoping they give me a good kick soon!

  3. hopingforatakehome

    I’m so excited that you feel like things are moving forward. And it sounds like you have some good ideas for how to take emotional care when you’re looking to labor and delivery after a loss. Good idea too to take a couple of different childbirth classes from different sources. I’ve never thought of doing that but it makes sense because each will have its own perspective. I’m curious to hear your thoughts when you’ve tried listening to the Hypnobirthing track. I bought the book/CD a month ago and am browsing through the book but haven’t listened to any of the tracks yet. I know people who love this method but some of the beliefs just don’t mesh with me and I bump up against that as I’m reading. I’ve been putting off listening to the tracks for that reason, but I will get to it! We’ve also been looking into a doula so curious to hear more about that from your end. Glad to hear you’re feeling good 🙂

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Sounds like you’re thinking about a lot of the same stuff we’re thinking about right now! I hope you’ll also let me know what you think if you get around to listening to the hypnobirthing tracks or starting to interview some doulas. Glad that things are continuing to go well for you too, and looking forward to hearing more!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Hooray! I hope things are going well for you too! Honestly, it’s hard for me not to think about labor at this point — because I know that at any moment I could wind up back there, ready or not. I’m holding my breath for “viability” next week, even though that doesn’t actually mean much (if I have another abruption, viability is a purely hypothetical concept anyway, and I’d really rather not have a baby this early and have it spend 3 months in the NICU, thanks!). But yes, I’m hoping to be more prepared this time — it’s the only thing that makes me think I might be able to get through it with my sanity intact!

      1. jwhitworth7

        I can understand that! I just surpassed the 24w6d mark when I went into labor with my 1st son. It truly feels like a small victory but I in no way think I’m “out of the woods.” I hate the term “viability” with the 24th week….like what does that even mean?!?!! Best case scenario the baby lives but spends months in the NICU and has so many uncertainties about the future. I feel you on that!! Are you having your placenta looked at? I’m going in for weekly ultrasounds for a cervix check and she’s been looking at my placenta since I had a partial abruption (which they contributed to my water breaking) and it’s been reassuring to know its “intact” here’s to hoping the rest of our 2nd trimesters are smooth sailing!!!

      2. lyra211 Post author

        Yes!!! That’s exactly how I feel about this whole “viability” thing! Everyone’s like “Oooh, viability next week!” and I’m like, “Yeah, please don’t freak me out by making me think about the possibility of extremely preterm labor when my baby would only have a 50/50 chance of survival and a high probability of long-term health problems.” Plus, like I said, after an abruption you realize that even if you make it past “viability” there’s no guarantee they won’t die before you can deliver anyway. Cheery thoughts, eh? 🙂 But, hey, I guess it’s a milestone of sorts!

        Yeah, they’re checking my placenta at our growth scans every four weeks. So far it looks good, and no bleeding. I’m glad you’re getting weekly reassurance about both your cervix and your placenta — that must be helpful. And congratulations on making it past the point where you went into labor with your son. I know it’s not some magical “everything is great now!” moment, but for me at least, getting past that point was actually more helpful than I anticipated, and I hope it’s felt good for you too. Here’s hoping everything stays boring and normal for both of us!

  4. dandisnow

    I realized as I was reading this that I haven’t given any thought to a birth plan or how we’d like to go about things when I’m induced. I’ve been sort of in denial that all of this is even happening, I suppose. But you’ve inspired me to start thinking about it. 🙂

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Aw, that’s really nice to hear. I totally know what you mean about being in denial that it’s happening, and not wanting to think ahead too far. You’ve still got time, at least, but I know that given how things went in your last pregnancy you’ll have an even harder time of thinking about this delivery than I’ve had — at least I know that a full-term birth will be a very different experience than our daughter’s birth in a lot of ways. I hope you come up with a plan that makes you feel calm and prepared going into the birth of your son!

      1. dandisnow

        Thank you! You know, I had a beautiful birth experience with my daughter despite the circumstances, so I hope that it is the same with our son. The anxiety is sure to be high though!

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