This week has been tough for my husband and me. Three years ago exactly we were told something truly horrible. It’s the stuff of any parents nightmares. We were excitedly expecting our second child. Our daughter was ecstatic to be a big sister. But tragically our dreams were crushed at my six-month OB appointment. Our little boy who was just three months away from being born had unexpectedly passed away. We were devastated. But that’s not how the story ends. Luckily we were blessed with our rainbow baby. I am sharing my pregnancy after loss story to bring hope to others in the same, or similar, situation.
If you are not familiar with the term, a rainbow baby is a child that is born to parents who have suffered a prior loss. Many times people feel that having another child will completely wipe away the sadness and grief that they have for their lost child. It won’t. But a rainbow baby can bring new joy back into your life. My rainbow baby has helped me slowly climb out of a deep depression.
“After every storm there is a rainbow of hope”
When I was expecting the child I lost, I was still an undergraduate. I was working in a lab on campus for experience and to make my resume more competitive for grad school. Long story short, my pregnancy had fewer complications than my first, but I still had to withdraw and give up my lab position. I didn’t mind doing that since it meant that I was giving the baby every opportunity to grow healthy.
I didn’t stop working at my job because we couldn’t afford to lose my extra income, especially with a baby on the way. It wasn’t that physically demanding so I wasn’t worried and my doctor said it was fine. For some reason I still always blame myself. I know I shouldn’t but I constantly have that little voice in the back of my mind saying “If only you stopped working”.
Without going into all the terribly sad details, I had to vaginally deliver my deceased baby the day after I found out he had passed. It went by so fast, I remember holding him and kissing this tiny perfect little human. I felt like the most horrible person in the world when I had to set him down and let the nurses take him away. We felt like we had failed him. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t stop thinking about his little body being set in some refrigerator in the morgue.
The worst part was when the autopsy came back about a week later. “Spontaneous fetal demise”. It gave me absolutely no closure. What did I do wrong? What could I have done to prevent his death? I read over every part. He had all his body parts, and they were in all the right places. So what happened?
I quickly returned to work, I tried to keep my mind off of what happened. At first, I really wanted to try to get pregnant quickly but it didn’t happen. Then I became angry and I felt like I never wanted to try again. I felt guilty about yearning to have another child when I was already blessed with one healthy and happy daughter. Time passed, and the grief was still there. It was just becoming easier to handle.
Fast forward a couple years, I was working two jobs trying to make ends meet. I couldn’t afford to pay the penalties on the classes I had to withdraw from. I felt like I was at rock bottom. A college drop out. Working 7p-7a and then dropping my daughter off at school and working 7:30a-2:30p picking her up again, and maybe getting in a couple hours of sleep before starting all over again.
When I think back to that time I really don’t know how I managed that. Then one day, I felt funny. I had a panic attack thinking of the possibility and ended up not going to my day job. The next day I decided to take a test and it was positive. I felt like I was throat punched by every emotion.
I was excited but at the same time very, very scared. The first hurdle was giving up the day job I loved. I was very sad and I feared that I had sacrificed again and that I would end up losing the baby, again. This time I didn’t go back to my old OB. I couldn’t deliver in the same hospital I had my daughter and then my stillborn child. I was afraid that the bad memories would overshadow the moment and wouldn’t let me enjoy my rainbow baby.
Then I decided that I would enjoy my pregnancy. I tried my hardest to put all bad thoughts and fears to the back of my mind. One of my regrets from my second pregnancy was that I didn’t have any pictures of it. I was too busy working and raising my child to enjoy it and when it abruptly ended I was only stuck with the memory of it. I told myself not again.
So I spoke to an amazing friend of mine. She is a nurse but also runs her own photography business. I had her take my maternity and gender announcement pictures. We did a milk bath session. She also came to my baby shower and took the most amazing pictures. Then she also spent her WHOLE day with me while I was in labor and she took the most amazing pictures. She took pictures of things I would never have thought to photograph. I am forever thankful for all the memories she has made for me and my family.
The labor and delivery went by so smoothly. I was very nervous but I tried to stay calm. I told the nurses my story and they were very caring and attentive. My doctor was great and I was lucky enough to have someone with so much experience and knowledge in charge of my care.
When I finally was able to hold him the whole thing felt surreal. He was this perfect little human just like his older brother. But I realized that even though I loved this little person so much, it didn’t take away the pain of the loss.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you think a new baby will take away your grief it won’t. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep trying. I’m just saying you should try for the right reasons. Or just let it happen on its own. At least that is my own opinion based on what I went through.
My rainbow is 10 months old, my daughter loves playing with her little brother. My husband and I are enjoying every moment and milestone. But we still cried a little on the 3 year anniversary of our second child passing. We light a candle for him every year. But we don’t let our grief overshadow our joy.
Pregnancy after loss is a difficult journey. It may be a long journey or a short one. But a rainbow baby is a blessing and brings light back into everyone’s life. If you have a story of pregnancy after a loss or are trying to cope with a loss, I recommend joining the PALS group on Facebook. It really helped me on this journey. Also don’t be afraid to leave your story in the comments below. Sometimes just writing about it can help you cope.
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