Coping after Unexpected News
Did you or someone you care for just receive unexpected ultrasound findings or prenatal genetic test results, or experienced a pregnancy/infant loss? My heart is with you today and in the days to come. I am here to support you and offer my professional experience that has helped thousands of people cope during this time.
You can likely recall exactly where you were the day you received this news, perhaps even the time of day, along with the feelings that washed over you when you received this news. Many people feel shocked, anxious, angry, confused, grief-stricken, among countless other emotions. There is no “right way” to feel when the rug you were standing on is pulled out from underneath you. Everyone enters pregnancy with hopes and dreams for their unborn baby. Learning unexpected news can shake the core of our beliefs. Adding to this emotional rollercoaster, you may be living in uncertainty as you wait to see a specialist or schedule additional medical appointments. Uncertainty is one of the HARDEST aspects of this all. Know that there is a way forward and there are glimmers of light in the darkness you are experiencing.
My name is Kendra, and I am a board-certified genetic counselor. I specialize in helping people understand genetics and ultrasound and cope through their pregnancy journey, wherever their journey takes them.
No matter what unexpected news you’ve received, your mind may be racing ahead to countless possibilities. Quieting your mind can be an enormous challenge. The strategies discussed below can be used immediately to help you gain a sense of control in this time of uncertainty.
- Acknowledge that your worries and fears are normal. Don’t beat yourself up for the thoughts you have.
- Be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid of your thoughts and feelings. When you notice them arising, acknowledge them. Write them down or talk to your partner or another trusted person. Ask yourself –
- What you are most afraid will happen with your pregnancy?
- What you are hoping will happen with your pregnancy?
Consider sharing this information with your OB provider. I have worked with many families who share fears and worries that a healthcare provider can put to rest because not all of our thoughts are based in reality or true.
- Take care of yourself physically and mentally. This looks different for every person, but may include:
- Eating balanced meals and taking a prenatal vitamin
- Keeping physically active; this may simply mean making time for a daily walk. Speak with your OB provider about what other activities are safe in pregnancy.
- Seeking support; this may be from your spirituality/faith, family, friends, or even a counselor. Take time to consider who you can lean on for support in your life. Give yourself permission to ask for what you need from your friends, family, and/or partner. You might need space to share your worries with a good listener. Maybe you need prayers, or simply a hug or shoulder to cry on.
- Journaling to express your feelings/emotions
- Practicing meditation or mindfulness, perhaps with an app on your phone for support
- Setting aside time for important relationships in your life, whether this be with a partner, friends, family or even a pet.
- Bond with your baby – ideas for bonding are discussed below. There are many different ways you can connect with your baby.
- Did you have a favorite book as a child? Consider reading this book to your baby or find a book in your home.
- Sing songs and/or play music you enjoy. Dance alone or with your partner.
- Do you love nature? Go outside and tell your baby what you see and hear.
- Record your baby’s heartbeat. Heartbeat recorders can be purchased through various online websites.
- Do you enjoy crafts? Consider a craft project related to your baby – perhaps a memory book to document your pregnancy.
- Watch a movie you enjoyed as a child with your baby
- Talk and/or write a letter to your baby – this could include your favorite things, the meaning behind your baby’s name (if chosen), dreams for your baby, or anything else you may want to share with them
- Create a memory box to place items of importance – this may be ultrasound pictures, pictures you take while pregnant, letters to your baby, or other items.
- If you have other children, consider involving them in some of these activities.
You might find yourself searching the internet for similar stories. For some people, collecting information can feel empowering and may reduce some of the feelings of loss of control. Reading other people’s stories and experiences can be helpful but they can also cause stress and worry. Remember, each person’s pregnancy is unique. Your story is unique. No two pregnancy experiences are exactly the same. Give yourself permission to stop searching online if you find yourself overwhelmed.
Remember, it takes courage to show up to another ultrasound or medical appointment after receiving unexpected news during pregnancy. It’s normal to feel scared, fearful, and hopeful, all at the same time. You are not alone, even though it may feel like this at times. Lean on your support systems and prioritize caring for yourself. This is the best time to practice compassion along with your courage.
With love and light,