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When I first found out I was pregnant with my rainbow baby, anxiety immediately washed over me. I’d lost my daughter just months prior. She came unexpectedly at 22 weeks, lived for a few hours, then passed away. My grief was still fresh, to say the least. Once I saw the positive test, I had so many unanswerable questions looming over me:
Would this baby make it to full term?
Would they be healthy at birth?
Would I finally get to hold a child of my own in my arms?
The anxiety of expecting after loss was greater than anything I’d experienced before.
At the time, I didn’t have as many tools at my disposal to help me ease my fears as I would have liked. Years later, however, I know there are numerous ways in which to reduce anxiety during a rainbow baby pregnancy.
As anyone who’s ever experienced a rainbow baby pregnancy can tell you, the anxiety of dealing with another loss never fully goes away. But while reclaiming hope after loss is hard, it’s not impossible. There were a number of things that helped me reduce my own anxiety in those days. I also chatted with a few fellow loss parents who shared what worked best for them.
Here are 7 tips and mantras to help you or a loved one get through the difficult times during pregnancy and reduce anxiety while expecting a rainbow baby:
It’s a good mantra to have no matter what, but it’s especially helpful when it comes to getting through 40 weeks of pregnancy.
“I found looking ahead at the upcoming weeks and months completely overwhelming and felt impossible,” says Krista Fuerst, who experienced two first-trimester miscarriages and the preterm loss of her twins at 22 weeks. “Taking each day as it came and focusing on the now was helpful.”
Texas-based mom Claire Peterson says she also takes it a day at a time.
“I use my week marker days as milestones. I treat myself to something after good news or a good appointment,” says Peterson, who experienced 2 miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. “I make the most of it.”
There are so many science-backed benefits to meditation during pregnancy (and even as early as when trying to conceive), and if I could recommend any one thing to help reduce anxiety, this would be it. I’ve practiced meditation on and off for decades in times of stress and anxiety, and it was a lifesaver during my rainbow baby pregnancy.
Meditation isn’t about ignoring your feelings or blocking out the bad, but acknowledging your thoughts and emotions, sitting with them, and then letting them go. And so I often found myself sitting in stillness (especially when I was on bed rest), and quietly allowing these often scary thoughts to come in, recognizing them as nothing more than thoughts, and then letting them flow out of me.
When the anxiety was too much, it was often helpful to use a guided meditation. Listening to the narration helped to stay focused and present during the meditation. Expectful’s meditation library is built around guided meditations that dive into topics specific to different stages in the parenting experience, including a collection centered on Rainbow Baby pregnancies including topics like Holding Onto Love and feeling Rainbow Baby Gratitude.
It’s easy to get stuck believing that you’ll experience a loss just like the last one. But in reality, every pregnancy is unique. When Christina Baker of Portland, Oregon lost her preterm twin boys, Owen and Oliver, at 23 weeks, she knew she needed a mantra to get her through her rainbow pregnancy.
“Different pregnancy, different outcome,” says Baker. “I read a lot of research on preterm birth, twins, cervical insufficiency, and subchorionic hemorrhage, all of which were topics related to my loss. This mantra was more meaningful to me, because I knew the stats that most women with a preterm birth, even one so early, go on to have a healthy, if not term, baby.”
Practicing mantra meditation has been proven to be effective in aiding mental health, so it makes sense that it helped Baker. And just as her mantra said, her rainbow pregnancy did end up being quite different: she went on to have her rainbow, Olivia, after being induced at 40 weeks.
Yoga has seriously changed my life for the better over the years. It may not be for everyone, but the science is clear: yoga helps reduce anxiety, depression, even high blood pressure! I would often spend my mornings following an easy pre-natal yoga class on YouTube and following it up with some light meditation. Even when I was on bed rest, I could still do some light seated postures to ease my anxiety and find some peace.
Exercising in other ways can also be beneficial for those experiencing anxiety during a rainbow baby pregnancy. Michigan-based mom of 5 Chaunie Brusie says hitting the gym several times a week helped curb her anxious thoughts.
“I had started working out there after my first miscarriage when I needed a change in my life and really enjoyed it. I stuck with it through my second loss, so worked out pretty regularly for four years until my rainbow baby,” says Brusie. She was able to work out until she reached her 7th month of pregnancy.
“I loved it…it got me out of my head for an hour,” says Brusie, who continues to work out for this reason.
Looking for accessible prenatal yoga or fitness classes? Expectful’s community events program offers live Mindful Movement classes including prenatal fitness, stretch and restore, and guided meditation sessions. Movement and community connection may be key to helping you reduce anxiety while expecting a rainbow baby.
Whether you repeat affirmations to yourself, or read affirmation cards, there is proof that self-affirmations can be beneficial. I found at least one mom, Amie Lands, who found they lowered her anxiety after losing her daughter, Ruthie Lue, to a chromosomal abnormality 33 days after she was born.
“Pregnancy after loss can be so hard and it can feel so scary. It takes courage, strength, hope, and patience,” says Lands, who says she found creating and reading her own affirmation cards to be very helpful. Lands has written several books on pregnancy and infant loss.
“I wrote mantras on index cards such as, ‘breathe,’ ‘I trust my body,’ ‘I can do this,’ ‘I am safe,’ and ‘this is Adam’s story.’” Lands said she kept her cards in her purse so they were always on hand if she needed a reminder.
While many individuals in the loss community hesitate to announce their pregnancies early, others find that celebrating every moment of their pregnancy helps them reduce their anxiety anxiety while expecting a rainbow baby.
“When I was pregnant with my rainbow baby (who just turned one!), my anxiety was at an all-time high. It was really intense and overwhelming,” says Irina Gonzalez, a journalist and podcaster in the Denver-area who experienced a miscarriage prior to her rainbow pregnancy. “But I quickly found that getting excited about this pregnancy, sharing details early (I announced at 5 weeks), and nesting all helped to calm my anxiety.”
Whenever she had bouts of insomnia due to her rainbow pregnancy anxiety, she would lean into assembling baby furniture and decorating her baby’s future room.
“All of the organizing and preparing gave me something to do that made me feel ready for this baby, and kept those anxious thoughts at bay,” says Gonzalez.
Elizabeth Thoma of San Jose, California, acted in a similar way, making sure to take maternity photos, belly progression pictures, and even going on a babymoon.
“When it felt like tempting fate, I would remind myself that I would treasure these things whether baby lived or not,” says Thoma. “I would be sad to not have them whatever the outcome and that helped me enjoy the moments.”
Having a good support network is essential to mental health when dealing with the unknowns of a rainbow baby pregnancy. I found a lot of support online in pregnancy and infant loss groups, as well as among other loss friends. Loss in general is isolating, but I promise you that there are countless others who have been through the same situation and understand your pain and anxiety. Don’t force yourself to go through it alone. And if your anxiety is heavily tied to birth trauma, it can also be a great idea to seek out a doula to help advocate for you on the big day.
If finding a support group is hard, seeking support in the way of a therapist is also helpful. And of course, for those whose anxiety is reaching unmanageable levels, seeking medication via a psychiatrist is always an option. The most important thing is to do whatever it takes to help yourself (and your rainbow) get through those difficult days.
Make sure to check out Expectful’s Pregnancy Loss Support Guide for more resources and meditations to help you reduce anxiety while expecting a rainbow baby, and download the app to find even more guided meditations for your rainbow baby pregnancy.
We understand that growing your family while having a healthy and happy pregnancy and baby is probably a top priority for you right now.
We created Expectful to help you harness the power of your mind to have a healthy, happy pregnancy and baby.
All of our meditation content is based on interviews with many soon-to-be and new parents just like you, and is created with the help of licensed psychologists, hypnotherapists, and meditation experts. You can practice in just 5 minutes a day.