Pregnancy after loss at 36+4 days

After her first daughter, Zadie, was stillborn at 36+4, Jess shares her reflections on the difficult journey that pregnancy after loss can be.

My first daughter, Zadie, was stillborn – I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I wanted to write this to reflect on my experience of pregnancy after such a devastating loss.

In the early stages it’s hard to let yourself believe that this pregnancy will progress, and you will one day have a live baby in your arms. Everything was so smooth in my last pregnancy so why would anything be different this time?

Excitement turning to fear

When I fell pregnant again it was an instant feeling of excitement but very quickly the fear of losing started to take over. The early weeks went by and I was wishing the time away, eager to get to the next rainbow appointment and make sure everything was going the way it should be. “There’s a heartbeat” A cry of relief as the anxiety lifts. Then my eyes were drawn to every detail and I found myself fixated on the blue and red waves that detailed the blood flow. Questions were endless and I asked the consultant to tell me as quickly as possible what she had found and if everything looked ok. The relief was unexplainable, and I often left the appointments with very sweaty palms and a few tears down my face.

I can’t say they ever got easier as my loss was so much later in my pregnancy. 36 weeks is too much of a stretch.

As the community midwife appointments started, I felt like I was reliving familiar days, but I had so many questions this time and a different pathway of care. I remember going for my whooping cough vaccine and asking a few times, ‘How long has it been in place for? Is this definitely safe?' I knew it was but the fear of something going wrong at any stage was overwhelming.

Comments and questions from others

Then the comments start from family and friends, which are always well intended, but you can’t help but feel a sense of frustration. You can’t embrace your glowing skin or the fact that you are about to grow a beautiful human – because you are too scared to accept that ‘things will be ok this time’. After all, there was no reason the last time. No answers. Nothing made sense.

I can’t begin to count how many people asked me “Is this your first” and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. 

Depending on the person or situation, I chose how to answer this. Immense guilt came over me if I didn’t explain that I had a daughter and she was sadly stillborn. But I was always torn with having to over explain to people I didn’t know very well and apologised with Zadie in mind.

All the emotions on top of the hormones were real. Grief, frustration, uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms and the longing to become a mum. 

I was also still parenting my first daughter Zadie, just in a very different way to how I ever imagined. Trips to her graveside, creating things to keep her name alive and forever holding her close in my thoughts.

Giving birth, seeing your baby, but having all your hopes and dreams stripped away from you in an instant is dizzying and messed up.

I always remember my therapist saying that the road I was going down suddenly came to an abrupt end and I was lost, confused and scared. It’s truly the most uncomfortable place to be in life.

Deciding to create memories

As my pregnancy progressed, I remember feeling like I wanted to create memories and push myself to make the most of being pregnant. 

The short life of my firstborn was the 9 months while she was inside me; swimming, walks in the park in summer, exploring new cities and hearing my partners voice, plus the cat purring most evenings.

When your baby is stillborn you instantly think it was something you did. The yoga, the jogging or something you ate. Your mind goes to all these places and it takes a sensible consultant to bring you back to the place of ‘you did nothing wrong’.

So, I got out and exercised and found the love of swimming again. I even decided I wanted to capture the beauty of pregnancy and organised a photo shoot where my partner could also be involved, and we included sunflowers in memory of Zadie. I’m so glad I pushed myself to do this.

The third trimester was the hardest

Moving into the third trimester and the later stages were definitely the hardest as I became very aware of approaching a time of significance and when I lost Zadie. It was hard not to question anything that felt different or stop my anxious brain from working overtime. I think the maternity assessment unit became familiar with me just dropping in. But I didn’t go as often as I thought I would, and some days became far more manageable than I expected. I guess we have the ability to accept and understand our own bodies.

Even though my pregnancy was very smooth (again) I was constantly saying to our consultant- “I’ll be booking in for a c-section” as I believed that this was the quickest and safest way of getting our baby here. After months of back and forth and a lot of deliberation I was convinced that induction would be the best option.

Without going into too much detail my beautiful daughter Nyla was born in September 2023 and I gave birth to her the same way as I gave birth to her sister. Just thankfully a very different outcome and the feeling of relief and joy was unexplainable.

I have added my experience in hope that it will help someone else and to highlight the amazing work that Tommy’s do to enable us to move forward and overcome the fear to bring our rainbow babies into the world. Forever grateful.

Jess and her partner stand on a canal path with baby Nyla in a yellow pram 

Love, Zadie & Nyla’s mummy