19 Oct Living with my Rainbow
Each year, I am mindful of the fact that October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. However, 4 years ago this month took on new meaning when I suffered the loss of a pregnancy. I’ve cared for these families, held their hand as the worst news was given to them. I’ve stood there, assisting them as they delivered their children who would never take a breath. My story may not differ greatly from others who have suffered this kind of loss. Nevertheless, I write this honoring the child I never met, because he left a lasting impression on my life. This is my story, which conveys how my loss is never personally forgotten. Others may believe my loss was filled by the birth of another child, my Rainbow Baby. I, too, naively believed the birth of a new baby could fill this void, but I soon realized that is not the case.
In June 2012, I lay next to the ultrasound machine, realizing we had just entered a club in which we never wanted entry. There I was, sitting and crying with my husband by my side, with the realization that we’d be suffering in a way we truly did not comprehend. I heard the medical staff with their sympathetic tone, trying to give meaning to something that has no true explanation. I always wondered why I would see women apologizing to their spouse for their loss, and there I was, apologizing to my husband for this unexpected and uncontrollable loss in our lives.
Each day that followed hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt lost, alone, at fault, and defective, although everyone around me gave me the best support they knew how. We made those dreaded calls, explaining we no longer carried the baby we had anticipated so dearly. The worst responses were from those who simply said, “Well it wasn’t meant to be.” Privately I thought, ‘So my suffering is meant to be?’ I knew people meant well by their perceived comfort, but all I thought of were the lessons in nursing school about what you’re not to say during the time of bereavement for your patients. As a mother, my role is to protect my children and yet I was mourning the loss of one before he ever got a chance to experience life. I felt as if I failed as a mother in the most important way.
As much as I felt confused by the reasons for the loss, this experience did bring clarity in my life. It took time and counseling, but with the proper guidance, I tried to find my own meaning behind this dark time. I worked with my therapist, each month crying in her office when I would find out a pregnancy still had not occurred. I will say, I felt shattered when I first started these sessions; unable to understand what was wrong with my body. And as I sat there expressing my feelings, I was able to dig deeper, giving my body the proper credit for all it had surpassed. I could feel a weight lifting as I expressed my feelings and I learned more about the adult I had become. My therapist counseled me to realize the positive that was my life as a family of 3. I remember telling my therapist, “If I am not pregnant this month, I can finally say I’m ok with that.” Little did I know, I would get a positive pregnancy test that afternoon. In a way, I felt as if my body had finally physically come to peace, in some way, with the tragedy it had overcome, therefore allowing my body to welcome a new pregnancy.
Once I found out we were expecting again, I felt overwhelmed by emotion. I must admit, pregnancy after loss affected me differently. I imagined pure elation, even relief. Once it occurred, fear was the primary feeling that overwhelmed me. There are no guarantees in life, and after experiencing a loss, I had a better understanding of that fragility. Because my third pregnancy occurred quickly after the loss, I couldn’t help but compare the two, and even think about where I would have been in my pregnancy had I remained pregnant months prior. In addition, this new baby was due one year to the day I learned of my miscarriage, which made this experience truly feel like it had come full circle.
Each day of morning sickness, as brutal as it was, I welcomed, because it was a sign that the pregnancy was progressing as it should. I refrained from buying one baby item until we knew the gender of the baby at 16 weeks. I felt disconnected with this child because I feared loss would occur again. I remember sitting with a friend as I expressed a desire to simply have the baby already. Her response was completely accurate, “But you’ll miss being pregnant so enjoy it”. I wish I could say I relished in the pregnancy more after being reminded how quickly this time passes, but I still longed to see my child delivered safely. My demeanor during that third time really changed. I shielded myself, believing if a loss occurred, I would be less devastated because I kept my connection at a distance. I’ve spoken to others who have carried a pregnancy after a loss and they’ve expressed the same emotions. Its human nature to protect ourselves from stressful situations, but it’s clear to me now that it doesn’t matter how much I would have shielded myself; had I lost a child again, the devastation would have left a significant impression on me once again.
I’ve come across some people who express their beliefs that a pregnancy following a miscarriage automatically omits that dark time in your life and you can move forward with ease. Some individuals have stated, after learning I’ve experienced a loss prior to my daughter, “Well, you’ve got this beautiful girl, so it all worked out.” I, on the other hand, believe you are forever changed from that experience. My first pregnancy was comfortable, to the point that I told people I could have remained pregnant for another month. When I miscarried during my second pregnancy, my life reached a forced roadblock and I had no choice but to take a different path. As I began my third pregnancy, I started a countdown. I needed to hear her cry; I needed confirmation that she was here, healthy and strong. But even on the day I delivered my daughter, my Rainbow Baby as they’re called after miscarriage, I still thought of that child I lost the year prior. Her delivery was a relief, yet a reminder of how different things had turned out.
Every year January 15th marks the date when my miscarried child’s full-term birthdate should have been. That’s when I was supposed to deliver a full-term, healthy infant. I think of how I was robbed of hearing him cry in my arms. I was robbed of comforting my child from harm, from singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his sweet face. I say robbed because I had made plans for that child from the moment I discovered I was carrying him in my womb. So when I get to do those things for my daughter, I do them with him in mind because, in many ways, she is a piece of that baby who I never met. She encompasses my dreams in a different way and I do feel lucky I have this story to tell, while many others do not get such a tale.
I felt defeated when I miscarried 4 years ago, however, as I’ve gotten to look back and reflect on that time in my life, I look in the mirror and see the strength I’ve gained from this experience. I had to try and find meaning of my own. I feel I’ve found my voice, an ability to stand for what I need to make life better for me and my family. I never got to meet this miscarried child, but I probably gained the most from him. This loss was a raw sadness, one I had never quite understood until I went through it myself, but there isn’t one day since then that I don’t think about how that child altered my life. I cannot say I wish for the child I miscarried to be here, because I’m reminded on a daily basis that this baby girl that I hold in my arms would not exist if things had gone different. My Rainbow Baby is one with energy, a zest for life and I can’t help but think that a little of that child I lost lives in her. That loss taught me to look at life through the eyes of my children and I walk this Earth for them. Now when I hear of someone who has miscarried or suffered the loss of an infant, my heart hurts on a deeper level for them. I think of all the pain and suffering I went through, and the fact I can never shake what is now permanently a part of my life. I have grieved and I have gained strength from my experience. I find it important to emphasize that I may have lost a baby, however, he is not lost in the person I am today. I consider myself a mother of 3 babies, 1 of which I never got to meet but one who made a permanent impression on the mother I am today.
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