Becoming pregnant again after losing Willow
I feel like in the past, I considered the possibility of not having children and thought that would be something I would be okay with if that was the case. After losing Willow, my hormones were raging, and I felt like I needed to be pregnant again right then and there. Before that experience, I really didn’t understand the power of hormones and how much they could affect the choices we make. My wife Becca is currently going through transition and, now Riley is born, has started transitionally medically. Looking back, I think we probably started trying again before either of us had the mental capacity to process what had happened to Willow. Although I am so grateful for our next pregnancy, I believe that waiting a little bit longer after trying again would have given both Becca and I some time to mentally recover from our loss. There was a lot of pressure on us to have a baby before Becca transitioned and started hormones – that was a really hard decision to make.
After we lost Willow, the hardest part for Becca was seeing me breaking down. She didn’t feel as ready as I did to try again. Our lives were changed after going through the loss of our baby. It felt like my whole world shattered around me, I couldn’t put the pieces back together so I just kind of cradled them and didn’t know how manage it. Different people have different reactions after loss, some can’t face the idea of becoming pregnant again and for others like me, I guess my body just felt like it needed be pregnant still. Becca talks about how hard it was to see me struggling after we lost Willow, but she will also talk about how she doesn’t feel she experienced the same desperation that I did. We were both devastated by what happened, but I think I was more ready to become a parent and so the impact hit me harder. I think it’s important to normalise parents having different reactions to the grief, ultimately the fact that Becca was calmer meant she could support me through such a difficult time.
Through friends of ours, I have seen how struggles with fertility are so awful for parents to deal with, so I’m aware of how lucky we were to fall pregnant again quickly, our second time trying. We told everyone as early as possible because we both knew that I would need the extra support. Through the pregnancy, I was just panicking. I rang my midwives way more often, especially for things like movements - I knew I had support there if I needed it. I also tended not to google anything. The first trimester wasn’t so bad, but we lost Willow in the very late stages of the second trimester (22 and a half weeks) so that was much harder. When we got to that stage in the pregnancy with Riley, it felt like such a huge hurdle to get past 22 and a half weeks. When that happened, my mental health changed, I stopped panicking and got a bit apathetic almost, thinking difficult thoughts like “he still might die anyway”. It was really hard, I had mixed feelings of why should I be excited, it feels unfair to Willow to be excited about Riley? I just didn’t feel like I could enjoy any of it, but Becca and I got through it by talking and leaning on the support of friends and family.
Meeting our baby Riley
Riley came early – 34 weeks and scared me so much. In neither of my pregnancies have I had the things I had planned, a nice water birth with x, y and z. Riley’s birth took 4 hours and it all happened so quickly. He was born in the same room Willow was born in, it felt strange and emotional, but it was so special, being in a space that had had so much sadness and but then brought so much joy. Riley was in NICU for 9 nights and it was obviously really stressful. The nurses were amazing though, I got to stay with him a lot of the time and he got all the support and care he needed. I’ve always felt very comfortable looking after babies and bringing Riley home felt natural for me, but there were a lot of mixed feelings. I kept looking at my baby thinking about Willow, who wasn’t there. There was a lot of those horrible feelings where I felt Riley deserves me to be excited and happy without almost comparing this time to how I felt after my first baby. I got to a stage where I realised, it’s okay to be happy. You’re not failing your other child by not being sad all the time. I’ve got to be able to be good to myself to be a good parent to Riley.
Adjusting to parenthood
Both Becca and I talked a lot, to each other and our family. At first there was a lot of checking up on Riley and worrying about him while he was asleep. Coming home from the hospital was the hard part to adjust to. Becca had to go back to work after two weeks – with the lack of sleep, we just did our best!
Becoming who you are and becoming a mum at the same time can be jarring for people in the trans community and for Becca, it’s been a process that she’s adjusted to gradually. She’s doing amazing managing adjusting to parenthood through transitioning, but it can be tough.
When it comes to seeking help dealing with the trauma of losing a baby and then parenting after loss, I don’t think there is any set time when you should seek support. In the wake of it happening, it’s so hard to know whether you need help or counselling. I had amazing support from my family but 6 months down the line I think it would have been the right time for me to have spoken to someone about my mental health. I am just about to start counselling now over a year after having Riley. There’s so much that I think I haven’t dealt with, and I feel I need support managing.
We talk about grief after people die, but when you lose a baby, it’s so important to talk about that loss too, especially as you continue into another pregnancy. When anyone said to me, is this your first, I would say no it’s not and explain the situation. We need to be careful about the questions we ask people. I wish the world was just a bit more vocal about these things, so nobody feels they need to go through their grief alone.
Support with parenting after loss
We have information to support you through parenting after loss on our website and we also have a closed Facebook group where you can find other parents going through a similar experience.