An original member of Mama's Bump Squad 2.0, Sarah shares her personal story of loss and welcoming rainbow babies.
In June of 2011 my husband and I learned we were expecting our first child.
We were astonished that it happened so fast. I was a school teacher and we decided we would start trying so that I could be pregnant over the summer. It also would make for a nice maternity leave during the next school year. If I played my cards right, it was going to allow me to teach up until the end then take the rest of the school year and the following summer off.
The minute I took the test, we wanted to tell everyone, so we did. Without fear, we let the world know we were going to be parents. At eight weeks we were posting bump pictures on social media. At 12 weeks we took a “baby-moon” to Mexico and picked out a name. At 18 weeks we learned the baby was a boy. Then began our shopping, nursery decorating and planning. We were fearless but maybe a better word was clueless. I heard of the stories of loss, but I didn’t want to admit that they would be part of my own story.
The reality is that wasn’t part of my story then.
I went on to have the “perfect” pregnancy. No sickness, no issues, a two hour birth, no postpartum struggles and breastfeeding was a breeze. I made it look easy and had no idea what would be next when we finally were ready for more.
Two years later we decided to begin trying for another. Little did we know we would walk the dark road of infertility for two years before ever even getting one positive pregnancy test. Month after month we would scratch our heads wondering what on Earth was wrong. We did it all. The fertility testing, changing diet, taking crazy supplements, acupuncture, yoga. You name it, it failed for us.
Then came a positive in February of 2016. We were over the moon and hopeful that everything would turn out great. We had a perfect pregnancy before so there was not reason that this one wouldn’t be the same. Until it wasn’t. A few visits and ultrasounds had the doctors worried. A slow heartbeat meant that we knew what the outcome would be, but we didn’t know when it would happen. In April of 2016 after weeks and weeks of the baby not growing we finally were delivered the news that it had no heartbeat.
We spent the next several months preparing our hearts that maybe we would only ever be parents to one. I spent that summer angry, scared and bitter that we lost something that we hoped for for so long.
Then we got our rainbow. That August we learned that we were expecting again. We went into that pregnancy with guarded hearts. Afraid of every appointment. Afraid of each ultrasound. Afraid of what was around the next corner. We tried really hard to seek joy, but it wasn’t until around 20 weeks that we finally felt like we could breath and get excited. Our sweet girl taught us so many lessons about patience and plans and life during that time. I cannot begin to describe to you what it feels like to be handed a baby that your heart had to break for in order to get. The moment we heard her cry was the most emotional moment of our entire marriage. Hours after she was born we just sat and admired her. We took in every inch of perfection that we had been praying so hard for. She was proof that storms really do make rainbows. Bright beautiful ones at that.
That past year was different though. We were delivered a miracle we hadn’t planned for. Just nine months after having my daughter we learned that another was on the way. Shocked and unsure we decided to have faith that this pregnancy would be nothing like the loss we had experienced before. Our daughter was perfect and so was the pregnancy so we needed to believe the same thing would happen again.
Everything seemed fine in the beginning. Then the bleeding started at week 12. Admittedly, I freaked that Monday morning when I had some spotting, but I told myself to take a deep breath nothing was wrong. In fact I ignored it. I ignored it on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. Then Friday I started to panic. That night after lots of walking that day I started to pass clots. Again, I still never called the doctor. I think it was me wanting to run from the fact that I might actually be losing another baby again. That Saturday afternoon my gut told me I was experiencing another miscarriage. We were home with family visiting and I was in the bathroom every twenty minutes passing more and more blood. I finally told my husband that we needed to go home. We left my son with my in-laws and went home to head in to the hospital. The trouble was I insisted on going alone. For some reason I wanted to protect my husband from the news I knew they were going to deliver to us that night we I got there. I made him stay home with our daughter while I went to bear the loss alone.
As suspected they delivered the news that they baby has stopped growing and had no heartbeat anymore. I begged them to do the D&C that weekend. I knew I could handle a lot, but I could not handle passing the baby on my own. Emotionally I just wasn’t up for it. Of course they couldn’t get me in until Monday. I spent the rest of the weekend passing way too much blood praying my heart out that I didn’t have to pass it at home. That Monday morning when we headed into the hospital I said to my husband in the car how I was in so much pain. It almost felt like I was in labor. Little did I know, my cervix was dilating and I actually was getting ready to deliver the baby. 20 minutes before I was scheduled for the procedure I passed the baby in the bathroom of the hospital.
The moments after that were some of the ugliest moments I have experienced in my life. Seeing that fetus was not something I was ready for. It’s the kind of heartbreak that is almost enough to break you.
It was actually also a blessing in disguise though. It was the tipping point for me. I had been struggling behind the scenes silently with postpartum anxiety and depression from having my daughter. Yet I chose to do nothing about it. I refused to admit out loud that I was struggling. I knew I couldn’t keep my head above water after this trauma though. A few days after the procedure someone from our insurance company called to check on me. I decided it was time to own the problem I was facing so that it didn’t become a bigger one.
I asked for help. Immediately they put me in contact with a counselor who specializes in loss, trauma and grief as well as postpartum anxiety and depression. For the last six months she has helped me navigate thru the storm. She didn’t medicate me or make me feel ashamed that I felt the way that I did. Instead she walked with me thru the grief and what it’s like to keep going after you have experienced some of life’s hardest days. Piece by piece she helped put me back together again. Which is a blessing because we now have ANOTHER rainbow baby on the way. One that came again unexpectedly.
The weeks after that positive pregnancy test have not been joyful like the other times had been following the news of new life. Instead they have been filled with fear, worry, and still some sadness for what we lost in the past. I was ashamed of how unattached I was feeling to this baby until I shared it with her. I told her how I don’t want to talk about it or be attached to it. I shared with her how I cried my eyes out in the parking lot after the ultrasounds. I shared how much I didn’t want to announce the pregnancy and how unattached I wanted to stay to this baby.I shared my anger towards others who will never have to know what this kind of loss feels like. I shared how much I wanted that innocence that I had with my first pregnancy. I shared how hurt I really was.
The first time mom or the mom who has never walked this road who is reading this, may think that my story may sound heartless, but this is the reality of what it’s like to carry a child after loss.
You guard your heart. You want to be hopeful, but life has shown you otherwise. It’s not to say that I won’t celebrate this little life or love it just as much as I do my other children. It’s just to say that this takes time. Healing takes time. Falling in love again takes time.
If you are a rainbow baby mama and you are feeling this way too. Speak up. Share your truth. Most other moms who have endured this kind of loss feel exactly the same. Have courage to be the voice for other women who feel this way, but are too scared to speak the words out loud.
Be okay with not being okay, but also be willing to allow yourself to experience joy when you feel ready. The worry may never go away, but some of the grief will and it will replace itself with something beautiful and new in your life.
Healing Hearts Baby Loss Comfort is a site for mamas who have suffered the greatest loss. There you will find grief resources, support suggestions, and a safe space to honor grief and express loss. Healing Hearts Baby Loss Comfort also includes a companion Facebook community where women can hold each other’s grief, and offer comfort and guidance.