Have you ever felt like you were just not meant to have children? Or more children?
There is hope, I promise. Let me foreshadow this by explaining that a "rainbow baby" is meant to signify the rainbow after a storm; the storm being the loss or losses that occur before you're blessed with that beautiful baby. A "sunshine baby" is meant to signify a child that came before your storm. In my case, my sunshine baby is Gabriel whom I had when I was 19. He's now nearly 12 years old. I was diagnosed with PCOS two years later, and that became the biggest reason that my husband and I struggled with fertility and loss in the years to come.
2018 was the year that we were finally blessed with our rainbow baby after years of trying. After losing 4 beautiful babies. 4 angels. Losing their first Christmas', their first steps, their first day of school. After medical abortions and natural ones.
Our first loss ended in a D&C. It was, bar-none, one of the worst things I have ever been through. My husband held my hand the entire time. I felt like I couldn't breathe. Like someone was physically pulling the air from me. I couldn't look. I couldn't speak. The sounds are such a vivid part of what I remember most. The cries that came from me.. they were like nothing I had ever heard before. There was no physical pain, but the emotional toll felt unbearable. I had never cried that much, or that hard, before in my life. And what did I do directly afterwards?
My husband and I sat in the car together. I struggled to move. My vision was blurred. I wasn't sure if anything we had just gone through was real. I sank into denial. It was almost as if I just buried all of my feelings at that hospital and left them there. A piece of me died with our baby. My husband and I both struggled in silence from then on. I went to work that day as if nothing had happened.
Our second loss ended at home, a week after hearing our baby's heartbeat for the first time. It took me a long time to take the medication they gave me to "end the pregnancy". What if they had been wrong? What if I were to end a pregnancy that was still okay? What if I killed my baby because they told me he was already gone?
After our first ultrasound, the sonographer spoke to us about our baby, showed us photos and we were elated to know he was okay. We heard his heartbeat and we left excited and full of hope. We announced to all friends and family at that point.
Then two days later they wanted me back in for a follow up ultrasound. I had no idea why. I had to wait an entire week to find out, drowning in fear that something was wrong. My husband had just been promoted to upper Management and wasn't able to accompany me to the appointment.
They wouldn't tell me anything during the next ultrasound. The sonographer was silent. Almost cold. I asked questions but her demeanour was entirely different from the previous week. I left with a pit in my stomach. I knew something was wrong, and I was terrified. I drove over to my OB's office and I sat out front. I called them on the phone in tears. I told them I couldn't go home until I knew what was wrong. They said they would request the report from the clinic and have my OB speak to me. My baby sister came to hold my hand and be my support. We sat in a waiting room full of pregnant mothers, or new moms, while I knew in my gut that something was wrong with my baby. We sat for at least an hour, but it felt like a day. When they finally called me in, I barely remember all that followed. It's such a blur. My body felt heavy. My heart quite literally felt broken. I now understand where that saying comes from. I don't remember exactly what my doctor said.. only that he said our baby had died. Sometime after we heard his heartbeat. I had been carrying him for nearly a week, thinking he was fine when he was no longer living. I remember being unable to leave the office for a long time. We were still there when they wanted to close up and go home. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't leave the parking lot for a long time after that still. My husband and I found out that same day that our offer on our house was accepted and we were officially homeowners. The home we bought to raise what was meant to be our family of 4. Now 3. I'll never forget that day.. now for all the wrong reasons.
Our third loss ended on our wedding night. I started bleeding the day before our rehearsal dinner, but my family doctor dismissed my concerns. I spent that night convincing myself this was normal, as so many women were saying it was, and that our baby would be okay. I spent the night alone, as my son and hubby-to-be stayed in a hotel.
The next day I continued to convince myself that everything was okay. I didn't drink at all on our wedding night, or on our honeymoon in Vegas. I was convinced that our baby was okay, even though I didn't "feel" pregnant anymore, and I had passed large clots. When we got back we visited the doctor only to find out that we had in fact lost another baby. Another set of happy memories forever tainted by the loss of a piece of ourselves.
Our fourth loss occurred right before a family vacation. It was at that point that we knew we had to fight. We knew that my family doctor wasn't going to fight on our behalves, and that next time we had to do whatever it took to get into a high-risk OBGYN.
2018 was a gift. It felt like I went through hell to get Kai here. From bed rest, struggling with the idea that we could lose Kai - to hyperemesis, struggling to eat or get up - to SPD, struggling to walk and be independent. But they all pale in comparison to the anxiety and fear that I felt every moment of those 38 weeks. The fear that we all felt.
We fought, and we fought hard. I stood in a waiting room full of patients at my doctors office, begging through tears for a referral to the high-risk OB when I knew I was pregnant. His receptionist looked my husband and I straight in the eye and said - "if you lose it, you lose it." I will never forget it. After jumping through hoops and being talked down to by multiple healthcare professionals, we were able to get in to see the OB whom we owe everything to. She is the reason that Kai is here, and no words will ever be enough to thank her and her team for what they did for us.
It's still difficult to think about. To talk about. To write about. That's okay. Please know - there is no time limit on grief. Miscarriage and infant loss.. they are so hard to talk about. The one piece of advice I give the most is that.. you never get over it, you just get through it. And how long that takes looks different for everyone. And grief looks different on everyone. There is no competition as to who lost a baby when, how many babies or whether the baby had been born or not. We all lost pieces of ourselves, and we all need to help one another to pick those pieces up.
My husband gained 100lbs in the years of grief, trying so hard to be strong when men shouldn't need to carry that burden. Men, you have the right to grieve too. You don't need to be the pinnacle of strength. You don't need to carry us. You can break down. You can cry. You can ask why, feel sorry for yourself, and let it out. You can talk about it, write about it, scream about it. Holding it all in.. pretending you're doing so much better than you are.. it's detrimental to your health.
And remember that siblings grieve too.
My then 6-year-old son showed strength and wisdom beyond his years in the midst of it all. Months after our second loss he said to me: "I know it isn't your fault that my baby brother died, mommy. You're a good mom. He just wasn't strong enough." And I still tear up every time I replay that moment in my mind. It came out of nowhere. I was folding his laundry in his room and he was telling me stories. It went quiet for a minute and he said that almost as if he had been silently thinking about it all that time and not known what to say until that moment. It was important for us to acknowledge his grief too.
And yet, our rainbow is here. A beautiful reminder that everything painful is temporary. Loss is a part of life; no matter how unfair. Pain is a part of life. No matter how many years it takes you to get out of that hole, you make your way out. You may have to claw and fight your way out because depression is never easy, and sometimes we're just in too deep. It's important to reach out. Read the stories' of others if you're not ready to tell your own. Talk to those who will listen. Share with those you feel comfortable. Please don't hold it all in. You will never heal.
But you will make your way out of the hole. You will. And there is always a light at the end of it all. Our light just happened to be a rainbow.