QUESTION: My husband and
I had a child 10 years ago. She died shortly after birth. We were not
married at the time and this was a source of great embarrassment to
my parents. I am now pregnant and we are still grieving over the loss
of our first child. It is disturbing when people assume this is our
first baby. Generally I don't comment, because it gets too complicated
to explain. This makes me feel guilty, as if I am denying our daughters
brief existence and dishonoring her. We don't want to be morbid about
the whole situation, but this is NOT our first child.
ANSWER: It is natural
for you to want to keep a place in your hearts for your first child,
despite the difficulties surrounding the birth. Anytime a child is lost
there is sorrow over the promise of what might have been. It is important
that you take some time to mourn your child again, even though you may
have done so at the time she died. By making space for this process,
you will create opportunity for working through some of the grief and
pain that inevitably comes up the next time you are pregnant. Burning
a candle, writing your lost child a letter or visiting her grave may
all be ways to say "good-bye" again. It is necessary to say "good-bye"
before saying "hello" to your new child who also deserves your love
and bonding. It is fortunate that the two of you have one another to
share the past grief, even as you make way for your present child under
new and happier circumstances.
Many pregnant mothers feel disloyal to a baby that
has died when they are on the threshold of bonding to a new child.
This is natural. Let your feelings come up, including any old resentments
towards other people that may surface. For example, talking with your
family about any unresolved feelings from the past may be useful now.
Otherwise, it is possible that buried resentments may flare postpartum
when you are bonding to your new baby and grandma or grandpa wants
to see him or her! This could disrupt your family relationships at
a crucial and sensitive period of time. If it is difficult to talk
about this period of your life, you may want to write letters about
your past experience and the shame you felt was hoisted upon you at
a time that was already fraught with difficulty for you. This will
help you separate from past shame or guilt projected from others which
could be reawakened by the present pregnancy.
In your case what did survive was your couples' relationship
which deepened and flowered in the midst of pain. This tremendous
depth of life experience forged your connection rather than disconnection
as is so often the case for teenage mothers and fathers in similar
circumstances. Your first baby made headway for this present child,
as she perhaps catalyzed your relationship to a more enduring level.
This experience, no doubt, readies you for parenthood now. Your readiness
to have a baby 10 years later is a tribute to your love and ability
to create family. And your experience with your first baby is a part
Perhaps when people ask about the pregnancy you could
say that you had lost a child much earlier and that you are looking
forward to the birth of this child very soon. Following your ritual
in honoring your first baby you may find that it is easier to state
the fact, placing the emphasis on your joyful anticipation of this
baby now, and its rightful place in your family life cycle. If not,
perhaps saying as you have that this is your first baby will be less
difficult if you have honored the fact of your first child privately.
See what works best for you. But make a place for your grief, and
a place for your joy and welcome of your second child. You might discover
that what is most difficult for you is the shame that surrounded the
first pregnancy and not the fact of the pregnancy itself. Perhaps
you are presented with the opportunity to separate your shame from
your grief, and proceed to happiness based upon the fact that you
gave birth to a deep and committed relationship that can now sustain
the life you are prepared to nurture.
Your first child's brief time on this earth did help
facilitate the birth of your relationship. And now you are giving
birth to this child who can enjoy the connection and love the two
of you have forged together through your life experiences. Perhaps
your baby could be smiling and happy for the contribution she has
made to your family in the short life she lived. And perhaps the timing
is right, now, to proceed to imagining what your new baby looks like
on the inside, getting ready to be in Mommy's arms, in Daddy's arms
... and benefiting from all that went before ... including the richness
this present baby enjoys because of what has come before ... to create
the deep and committed bond you have forged as parents.
Brief Visualization Exercise for Bonding to Your
Take time to relax and bond to this child, too. Breathing
deeply into the womb, imagining what your baby looks like inside ...
little handprints and footprints all its own, like no other that has
ever come before or will touch the earth again ... totally unique
and individual...take your time to get to know this little one inside.
And Dad can push on the baby, who will respond by pushing back. The
baby already knows your voices, will respond to them at birth ...
and taking yourself into the future, one year from the due date..baby
will be one year old! ... teaching him or her to blow the first candle
out..learning how to do that ... and future Mom and Dad already learned
how to parent a one year old ... reaching back to lend you the strength
you need for labor, for birth..to help you adjust and adapt to this
pregnancy now...sensing your baby inside, getting ready for that journey,
knowing full well the way how to be born, to be in your arms...
If you like you can read the above brief visualization
into a tape recorder and use it to help you relax and take time to
bond to this baby, now. You can also refer to my book, "An
Easier Childbirth" and the information
on ParentsPlace for further information on my model of
body-centered hypnosis, prenatal counseling and preparation for childbirth.
Further visualizations and workbook exercises are available in the
book for working through feelings that come up around the birth of
Talk together about how you want to prepare for this
childbirth. Identify what is important to you as this is a very significant
time for bonding and making family together. Accept any feelings that
come up about the past childbirth. Meet these feelings, accept the
past and make way for meeting and greeting this new child on your
continuing family life cycle!
to Article Archive