Trigger warning: child loss
Not long after my daughter died from SIDS, I was dreaming of a day when it would be my family’s turn to rejoice over the news of a rainbow baby. It wasn’t that I wanted to replace her; I couldn’t even if I tried. But I was used to having three kids, and during that time, I only had two. Though they were little and kept me on my toes, still, my arms and heart felt empty at bedtime each and every single night.
Roughly two months after her passing, my husband and I started trying for another baby. When the time of my expected period rolled around, I obsessively bought test after test, waking up every morning to take them, only to devastate myself at the sight of each negative. I knew there were so many other families out there who had been through more losses than my family. I understood that we had only been trying to conceive for a short while, and that there were others who had been through this cycle every month for years on end. Even still, that didn’t stop my heart from breaking or feeling like we were not meant to have another baby.
After two more months of trying, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, took a test, left it on the counter and prepared myself: It’s not going to be positive, Caila. Don’t get your hopes up. Go pour the kids some cereal and come back to look at it. Quit obsessing over something that is not meant to be.
Three minutes passed by, and when I returned, there it was… a beautiful positive! The line was faint, not bold, pink, not red, I had to put it up to the light to see it at first, and it didn’t appear immediately; nevertheless, I was pregnant, and my family was given a promise of new hope. Little did we know then, we weren’t just getting one baby, but we were lucky enough to be pregnant with two.
All of the sudden, it felt as if things might be turning around. I wouldn’t just have one newborn to snuggle and love, I would have two. In truth, we felt so dang lucky. At the same time, the panic over what might come crept in to steal the show.
What if this pregnancy still isn’t meant to be? What if I miscarry tomorrow? What if I lose one of them and the other one lives? How will I cope?
We all talk about how wonderful it is to have a rainbow baby (or in my case, babies), and it truly is, but why aren’t we discussing how challenging it can be to bring them earthside and watch them grow up?
You see, when you’ve lived through pregnancy or infant loss, or the death of a child, you don’t have the luxury of letting things be what they will be as you might have in the past. You’ve already been through one loss, and the thought of going through another feels like the very thing that would push you over the edge. So in an attempt to control these things that you already know are beyond your control, you obsess, worry, and obsess while you worry, and make no mistake, it is debilitating.
Maybe it’s because you struggle with self-blame for what happened before. Perhaps it’s because you feel guilty about being pregnant with a baby you weren’t ready for. You might feel anxious over those 40 weeks until it further cripples your mental health. Meanwhile, there might be others who are thrilled for the day they get to hold their baby, only to wrestle with finding a connection thereafter.
All of it, even in the darkest of times, is so incredibly normal. If you hear nothing else, let it be this — you are not alone. There is an army of bereaved mothers joined heart-to-heart, each one of us feeling our deep grief and immense joy all at once.
It’s okay if you feel torn between new life and the one that was lost. It’s okay if you ask for additional ultrasounds of your rainbow baby in an attempt to soothe your aching heart. It’s okay that you can’t stop thinking about the possibility of losing another child. It’s okay to hold your newborn and weep over what you missed out on before. It. Is. Okay.
It doesn’t matter how many children you’ve brought into this world, they are not the one who is gone. There is not a human alive, or yet to be born, that could fill that void, and adjusting to that reality is going to take you and your family some time.
You’re going to feel guilt, sorrow, sadness and happiness. It’s going to be a season of mixed emotions, and that is not your fault.
You’ve been through a trauma, and it’s not just your right to work through that trauma, it is your responsibility… especially during the moments where you are growing and nurturing a baby.
Through it all, remember, this is a new child, one who carries a vastly different story than the one before. You are deserving of happiness, pregnancy, and the sweet cuddles of a newborn baby.
Though your heart and thoughts are conflicted, you, my dear, were meant to mother this rainbow baby.