Personal » Dealing With Grief During Pregnancy And Post-Partum: My Story

Dealing With Grief During Pregnancy And Post-Partum: My Story

After losing my father weeks after giving birth, I’m finally ready to share a little of my story – emotions and all.

I have quite fond memories of the early days of pregnancy. Once I’d got over the initial shock that we were actually going to have a tiny human in a matter of months, I started to feel excited and energised. It was probably the shift in hormones whizzing around my body, but I had a few months of feeling invincible. I worked on big travel campaigns in Greece and Australia, concealing my baby bump for a few months until we were ready to spill the beans.

Pregnancy announcement in Athens - 12 week scan athens
Celebrating our 12-week scan in Greece

But there was another side to my pregnancy. A side that was harder to acknowledge.

My father had been unwell for several years. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which then sadly spread to other organs.

While I was spending my time visiting clinics for midwife appointments and scans, I was also accompanying him to appointments with oncologists. I went from a lovely scan appointment where we discovered we were having a little boy, hearing the boom-boom of his heartbeat loud and clear. To a few days later, hearing a terminal prognosis with my father.

We had a 4D scan at 16 weeks pregnant
We had a 4D scan when I was 16 weeks pregnant
pregnant final trimester
I flip-flopped from feelings of joy to sorrow

This flip-flop of joy and sorrow was hard to bear.

I don’t know if I’m writing this post as a cathartic experience, almost like a mini counselling session, or because I think this is a topic that might be helpful for someone going through the same. Who knows? But if it makes just one of you feel less alone, I’ll be happy that I put pen to paper.

A prestigious composer of music for TV, film and concert orchestras, my father was hugely passionate and creative about his art. He was witty, a great storyteller, and someone I respected. My parents split up just as I hit double figures. This changed my relationship with him, and cemented the unbreakable bond I have with my mum. Yet, he was still a constant in my world, even if we didn’t spend all our days together.

With Dad
With Dad at my legal wedding

He passed away on 25th March 2023. Days later, I shared these words:

The final months of pregnancy

When I think back to his last few months, from January to March 2023, I realise how hard it was. There I was, heavily pregnant, starting to wind down my work as a busy travel blogger. Rather than getting giddy with excitement over our upcoming arrival, I felt a lot of dread. I spent days driving to and from hospital, and then later, to his house, to spend precious moments together.

I say precious, but in reality, much of that last few months was painful. He was deteriorating rapidly, losing basic functions, and speech was becoming more and more challenging. Yet, I’d walk into his room and his face would light up. A grin would show off his teeth, with dimples either side. I’d talk to him about my week, while stroking his head or holding his hand.

While there were some smiles, sometimes he had a look of fear in his eyes. It was as if he was scared of what was happening to him. It was utterly heart-breaking to see a parent so helpless. It’s a look that’s now engrained in my brain… but oh, how I wish it wasn’t.

One of my favourite things was to show him my ever-growing tummy. We’d joke about how it was getting bigger than his! I’d talk about pregnancy, and how excited we were for our new arrival. He looked amazed by the baby bump and would smile when I mentioned he’d have a new grandson soon.

I have a lovely memory of a visit when I showed my Dad some of the baby clothes I’d bought for Cooper. He adored the bright colours and the seaside themes (he was a keen sailor earlier in life). I have photos of him grinning as we held up each item – one of the happier memories from what was a pretty bleak time.

35 weeks pregnancy update
I loved showing these clothes to my Dad

By February 2023, I had reached the final month of pregnancy. It felt unlikely Dad would get to meet our little one. In fact, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it wouldn’t happen. He was less communicative and spent a lot of the day asleep.

Macca was my rock throughout all of this. He often drove me to visit, as I’d find the emotion of it all made me too stressed to drive, especially by the time I was 7 or 8 months pregnant. He helped carry the burden and support me in every way possible. But, ultimately, grief is tough to share.

37 weeks pregnant
The last months of pregnancy

I feel guilty saying it, but at times I felt robbed. I’d heard women talk about loving pregnancy. It’s a magical time where you see your body do all sorts of amazing things! I did appreciate this at times, but my pregnancy was mixed up with a lot of negative thoughts too.

37 weeks pregnant
37 weeks pregnant

Cooper’s arrival

I was due on the 14th March, but our active little bubba had other ideas and decided to turn up a week early. I was over the moon, not just because he arrived safely and was the most perfect bundle of joy, but because Dad might actually get to meet him!

The first week or so was mad. In a sleep-deprived haze, and trying to recover from an emergency C-section, I knew it was too ambitious to go anywhere. But, as soon as I felt up to it, we clambered into the car with our new baby, and made a very special visit.

Travelling to meet his grandad
Travelling to meet his grandad

The passing of the baton

Walking into Dad’s bedroom carrying Cooper is a moment I’ll never forget. He had been told about his arrival, but by this point, his brain function was minimal. He gazed lovingly at his 10-day old grandson, a little smile on his face and a sparkly glint in his eyes. We took a few photos and videos of their introduction. It means a lot to me that I have those to look back at.

the day dad met cooper
The day dad met cooper

One week later, Dad passed away. They only met once, but for me, it was such a meaningful moment. A transition of one life to another… a symbolic passing of the baton. Or perhaps it was fluke that they got to meet, but I like to think that Dad hung around for it. It meant a lot to me and I think it’s also helped with the grieving process since.

Throughout my pregnancy I pinned a lot of hope on the idea that Dad would get to meet his grandson. While there’s been huge pain associated with losing him, I’ve felt lucky that moment happened at all. It could have been so different.

a few days old
When Cooper was a few days old

Post-Partum grieving

All of a sudden, here I was as a first-time mum holding a newborn baby. I had this tiny to human to keep alive, all while dealing with crazy post-partum hormones, topped with a dark and heavy layer of grief. It was quite the load. I don’t quite know how I coped at the start, other than that I think having Cooper around forced me to focus on him, and him alone.

playing with cooper
All-consuming mum time

In those early weeks and months, being a mum is all-consuming. You want to have a shower? You’ll be lucky! Nip to the shops? Nope. What about having a full night of rest to recuperate from everything that’s happened? No way! So, there was all of this going on, but I was grieving too.

I allowed myself to stay in a bubble for a while. Family visited and cooed over the bubba. We shared so many joyful moments. Those first cuddles with family members. The first meal out as a family. The feeling of tiny fingers gripping your finger or this minute being snoozing on your chest.

grief and pregnancy
In the bubble in the early days of being a mum

Eventually friends entered the mix and I gradually shared more of the emotional load. But ultimately, having a baby to look after 24/7 was a huge distraction from the pain of what had happened.

As time has passed, I’ve found my grief has caught up with me, but gradually. Certain moments make it sting or give me a gut-wrenching feeling. I occasionally talk to my Dad, as though he’s in the room listening. I tell him about how life is going, how I miss seeing him, where I’ve been lately, how Cooper is doing etc. Sometimes this really helps.

The funeral

I absolutely dreaded the funeral. I spent the entire week running up to it with a slight feeling of nausea in my tummy. I guess being in my newborn bubble had meant I hadn’t confronted the reality as much as if I’d had more time on my own.

I wish I hadn’t worried so much. The day wasn’t as hard as I’d predicted. There were so many lovely friends at the church, each with heart-warming and personal stories. That, and the wonderful music of that was played in his memory, it really lifted the mood of the day. Plus, we had 7-week-old Cooper with us to brighten everyone’s day.

visiting dads grave together
Visiting Dad’s grave together

The aftermath

As the months have passed, I’ve had time and space to process my feelings. Grief is a strange emotion. It can come out of nowhere and whack you over the head. Sometimes it makes you cry your eyes out. But it can also make you feel longing. A longing to relive moments from the past, and for moments that you’ll never share again.

One of the greatest sadnesses is that he won’t get to see Cooper grow up. But, I feel more ok with that as they did share that one special meeting. It’ll be lovely to show Cooper photos of when he met his grandad, and tell him more about his life.

happy families
I’m happy to have a supportive family

As for me? I’m still grieving. It’s taken me a while to really get to grips with how I feel. I think loss is something that ties so many of us together. We might not always want to talk about it, but there’s a sharing of the weight that bonds us tighter.

I remember reading this quote last year: “Grief is love in a different shape.” I think this is how I feel, like it’s a transition of love and memory, to a different form.

Things that have helped me cope

If you’re going through a similar experience, firstly, I’m so sorry. It’s desperately hard and sad. While there’s no quick fix, I wanted to share a few things that have helped me over the past year.

Live in a bubble if it helps you in the early days

As a new mum, I had to focus all my energy on Cooper. I felt guilty at times that I wasn’t grieving in a conventional way, but you don’t have to do everything at once. I was in a bit of a bubble for those first months, but I think keeping other stresses out really helped.

Stick together with kindred spirits

A few friends of mine had also lost parents. Talking to them about how I was feeling was really helpful. Until you’ve gone through the pain, you really don’t know what it feels like.

Get counselling

I haven’t had any grief counselling yet, but other family members have found it invaluable. I think because I was so busy with Cooper, I never got around to it, but if I’d had a bit more time and space, I would have prioritised it more.

Allow yourself time

It’s almost a year since Dad passed away from cancer. Sometimes it feels like longer, but sometimes I have flashbacks and it feels like it’s only just happened. The smallest thing can set me off. Father’s Day cards in the shops, cancer storylines on TV, seeing a grandad playing with his grandson… The grief isn’t going anywhere, but I know it’ll be less painful as time passes.

Treasure the memories

I’ve loved looking back through old photo albums, taking a few items of clothing and reminiscing with family about Dad’s life. I’ve heard more stories about him over the past year than I had in the years before. It’s also wonderful to be able to listen to his music as a way to connect with him.

Dad conducting an orchestra
Dad conducting an orchestra

If you’re dealing with grief during or after pregnancy, I hope you have someone to support you. It’s tough to go through a major loss while dealing with a new life, but you will get through it. Just allow yourself time and cherish your new bundle of joy. They give the best cuddles!

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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