Bump Squad mama Emily on welcoming a new pregnancy after devastating loss.
This is my fifth pregnancy; but, when people ask me out in public how many children this one makes, I answer with a cheerful, “Four!” as my heart breaks a little inside. You see, just like 1 in 4 moms in the world, I suffered a miscarriage prior to this pregnancy, making this baby my very hopeful “Rainbow Baby” – a term coined by the birth community and heartbroken parents across the globe.
I never thought I’d be on this side of the story. As a perinatal counselor (that is, a Marriage & Family Therapist that specializes in prenatal and postpartum counseling, including infertility and infant loss) I’ve sat across from a lifetime’s worth of broken dreams. I’ve witnessed couples in the worst days of their lives, seen grief beyond understanding, and listened to loss so devastating it made me go home and hug my babies as tight as I could.
But, after three beautiful and healthy daughters, I kept my heart immune to the possibility that it could ever happen to me. I’d already experienced a long wait in conception, a difficult delivery, and postpartum depression. Surely, by devoting my life’s work to helping parents through this life phase I somehow built a protective guard that would limit myself from experiencing the worst? But, life just doesn’t work that way, and all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t save me from experiencing firsthand the stories I’d heard over and over.
“There doesn’t seem to be a heartbeat. I’m so sorry.” Nothing prepares you for those words. In the days that followed, I was blown away by the support of family and friends that not only helped us with tangible things like food and childcare; but the amount of “I had a miscarriage” stories that came flooding in were shocking. I was far from alone.
Two months later, I saw a faint pink line on a pregnancy test. It felt surreal and perfect and extremely terrifying. It felt right and wrong all at the same time. I had to remind myself this was a different baby. This was a new pregnancy. This was not deemed or doomed due to my thoughts about it. I couldn’t worry it into miscarriage and I couldn’t pray it into completion. This pregnancy, like most of life, was going to be completely out of my control. There was a mix of fear and freedom in that realization, and I’ve tried my best to choose hope every single day.
With 1 in 4 women experiencing miscarriage, there are a LOT of “Rainbow Babies” in the world. You know one. You might have one! And, being pregnant after a miscarriage is like walking a fine line of balance between gratitude and fear. I’m learning how to hold multiple emotions at once, something I talk a lot about to several of my clients as we have to learn in motherhood how to make room for emotions like frustration, love, thankfulness, and disappointment while juggling a toddler, nursing a baby, and reheating our coffee for the hundredth time! It’s not easy, and these growing pains hurt!
Carrying a Rainbow Baby has changed my perspective on how I approach other pregnant women, and how I talk about the “joys” of my pregnancy. You just never know who is holding in tears, who is fighting back anxieties, who isn’t looking forward to their next ultrasound. We live in world full of healing hearts. So, just because a glowing face and a giant belly is the first thing you see when you might run into a pregnant lady, there may be a hidden and fragile heart that needs for it to be okay to not be okay all the time. Instead, try asking, “How are you and how can I help?” or just tell her she looks fabulous and be on your merry way.
I don’t feel guilty anymore when I answer strangers about having my fourth child. There are plenty of moments in my life I’ll get to tell the story about the baby we named Brave who we’ll get to meet in Heaven.Until then, I consider it a compassionate response that saves time and discomfort from the unassuming, well-intentioned person who is interested in my current state. Right now, this Rainbow Baby is filling me with every color of hope as I look forward to the next several months of growing faith, growing courage, and growing 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.