The holidays are supposed to be a time for family gatherings, movies & chill, yummy food, bright lights, giving gifts, and all the good things that bring joy and cheer. For the ones who have lost a baby, it may be harder it appears to be for them to get through these few weeks during the holiday season.
For the many in the undesirable club of grief from losing a baby or a child, they are missing those little feet running down the hallway this Christmas. They are missing their big bright smile when they tear open a gift or put on that “My first Christmas” onesie. They are missing cozy cuddles under blankets by the fireplace. They are missing that little person in their Christmas family photos.
I think most people experiencing grief would agree that the days come and go and we still “do life.” But the holidays brings a sense of sadness with it for those of us experiencing a loss.
For many people the holidays just aren’t as festive. Many couples don’t have a rainbow baby yet to bring them extra joy this season. Many are still waiting. Many are still suffering. Many are still trying to get by.
When we lost our baby in January of 2019, almost two years ago, a good friend encouraged me to do something to remember her by or to honor her life to remind myself that she did matter.
If you are grieving this holiday season, do something to remind yourself that your baby still matters. Allow yourself to be sad. To cry. Hang a stocking. Donate to Toys for Tots in her honor. Or wrap a gift for him. Make a new tradition. Make time for yourself and don’t forget it’s ok to say no to invitations.
If you know someone who is experiencing grief this holiday season, don’t be afraid to talk about it because you’re scared they will be sad. The greatest gift you can give to that person would be reminding them that you remember their baby. Sharing memories is so powerful. Allow them to cry or smile or hug you.
There’s no rule book in grief. We have to endure each day, each gathering, each Christmas song… with new perspective. One who is experiencing grief has an immense, overwhelming hole in their heart that has changed who they are and how they see things, especially this season.
Just know there is heartache you can’t see and there are people around you who are feeling it, some more deeply than others. For those with hurting hearts, you aren’t alone and there’s some comfort in know that it is shared.
For all of those sweet babies in Heaven, you are loved and you are missed.
One year old. One whole year. You would’ve been one year old today.
I imagine what you would have looked like. Would you look like the rainbow baby, your brother, that we were just blessed with five months ago? Would you have curly hair or big eyes? Pouty lips or chunky legs? I imagine you as a beautiful little girl, with the perfect skin, daddy’s nose, and mama’s eyes.
I can see you taking your first steps. Red hair bouncing as you stumble towards me. I can see your brother and sisters cheering you on. I can hear you saying “mama” for the first time. I can see you smiling at daddy when he walks through the door. I can hear your sweet giggle.
But I won’t. I won’t ever hear you say mama. We were robbed of that life with you. Your life. You were taken from us at only 9 weeks pregnant. Your tiny hands would never hold mine and your little feet would never learn to walk and I will never know what your sweet giggle sounds like.
Our new baby Beau will never replace you but he sure does make it easier to live without you. I still feel you missing. Missing from our daily lives. Missing from our living room, our home, our hearts.
I felt selfish today. Your due date. I felt selfish as I snuggled your brother Beau so tight. I was giving all of my love to him when I should be sharing my love with both of you. I didn’t mention you like I should have. I should have talked about you today. So you aren’t forgotten. But I still can’t. I can’t bring myself to say it out loud. That you are gone and taken from us. I can’t help but think we’d have a beautiful little girl running around right now. I can’t talk about it yet.
It seems like forever ago. It feels like I’ve been missing you for so long. One year old today. I know you would be beautiful. I believe that is why our baby Beau is the best baby. He is double the sweetness because you were watching over us when he was made, sprinkling some extra special sparkles on his little life.
Heaven has you now. You are an angel baby. Every butterfly that stops to say hi, I will think of you. And I will say hi back to you. Until we meet again sweet girl, I’ll always love you. Happy birthday.
You lose a baby. Then what? Life doesn’t just stop. Your grief doesn’t just go away. Days pass. You somehow keep going. Things get easier. Your grief comes up every day but it doesn’t tear you down the way it used to. You’re stronger. You’re braver. You’ve grown to know your grief. You manage it better than you did at first. But just when you least expect it, every now and then it will still bring you to your knees.
New hope emerges. It seems like it’s been forever. Forever since you felt that feeling. The feeling of hope and excitement and giddiness, and all that comes with the thought of a new baby.
You see those two pink lines again. God is telling you to hang in there. You are scared to death. With each doctor’s appointment there is so much anxiety. So many nerves. But with each month that has passed, you start to believe this could actually happen.
You really don’t truly believe this baby is real until you hear that first cry… or until you feel that first latch. Everything about this is different. You notice every moment. You feel every touch. You take in every smile, every milestone. This baby is real and here and you just can’t get enough. You notice every little crevice and roll in those chunky baby legs. Every diaper change. Every bath. Every time he wakes you up. Every giggle. Every smile. You don’t have any other care in the world when he’s looking at you with those big round eyes.
There is something truly special about a rainbow baby. This baby isn’t a replacement. The memories of before are still there.. but this baby reminds you that there is hope. There is joy again. And it’s that much sweeter.
I write this as I sit here waiting to go into labor. It could be any minute or it could be days. My impatience and anxiety are growing yet I am trying to treasure every last moment. I have all of the third trimester things right now… my body hurts, I spend most of the time going to the potty, I can hardly breathe anymore, and don’t even think about asking me to bend down! But through all of that I am constantly reminding myself how lucky we are and the road that brought us here.
It was the fall of 2018 when we decided maybe another baby was in the cards for us. We have a big family and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. We are literally made up of his, hers, and ours. Gene (my husband) and I each had two children before we got married and in 2015 I gave birth to our son Brady. That pregnancy was a dream. It went by fast and everything about it was easy until my placenta wouldn’t deliver. My ob had to manually remove it but that was the worst thing that happened during our entire pregnancy and delivery so hey, not bad for our first try at babies!
Fast forward to December 2018. I saw those two pink lines on a pregnancy test that told us we were going to be parents again! I called and made the confirmation appointment a few days later, only to be let down later that same day when I started bleeding. They told me it was a chemical pregnancy and if I hadn’t been tracking my periods I wouldn’t have even known the difference. There was no sac. No baby.
I was heartbroken. I had gotten super excited already in just the few days that I thought I was growing a tiny human again. December came and went and with it we lost our beloved pet shih tzu of 8 years as well. December was a whirlwind of emotions and sadness but wouldn’t compare to what was coming.
We got pregnant again on our next cycle. Wow! We started telling ourselves all the things you say when something positive comes after tragedy. This is meant to be! God works in mysterious ways! There’s always light after darkness! We just needed to be patient! All the things.
Later in January, we went for an ultrasound at 9 weeks. There was our little bean on the screen! My palms were sweating. Gene looked like he was going to pass out. Something wasn’t right. No heartbeat. To say we were devastated is an understatement.
I had birthed 3 babies with no complications. How could this be happening now? Was something wrong with me? Were we only meant to have Brady and that was it? Should we just be grateful for the beautiful family we have? So many unanswered questions. So much doubt. So much guilt. So much heartache.
I chose to get the D&C because honestly I just couldn’t bare to go home and sit and wait for my dead baby to literally leave my body.
Just when I thought my body was starting to recover, two weeks later on Valentine’s Day, I was in my classroom having a Valentine’s party for ten bright eyed third graders when blood started gushing down my legs. This is graphic so if you don’t want to know the details, skip over this next paragraph!
I went to the teacher bathroom and was passing softball size blood clots. I managed to waddle outside of the bathroom to the phone to call my mom who also works at school to come to me. We ended up going straight to the Women’s Center where I was admitted to (of all places) the Labor and Delivery floor for the next three days.
I had to walk the halls so the clot would pass while listening to newborn babies cry and watching pregnant mamas prepare to meet their unborn babes. There are no words. It was a huge setback.
The following months we tried to get back to “normal.” Finally summertime came and we enjoyed life again, spending more time in the sunshine and with family. Time was healing us.
July 2019 was a good month. In August, I saw those two pink lines again! Only this time I didn’t get too excited. I didn’t freak out like I wanted to. I didn’t tell the world that we were expecting again.
We went for an ultrasound at 12 weeks. Scariest. Day. Of. Our. Lives. Everything was fine! Baby bean was growing. From then on I never got comfortable but I was hopeful. We found out at 20 weeks that I had a low lying placenta. They assured us it would correct itself and it did. We decided that we weren’t going to find out the gender. This was our surprise rainbow baby.
When you are pregnant after experiencing a miscarriage, anyone who has been through this will tell you that there’s always a trickle of doubt in the back of your mind. Even at 38 weeks pregnant, the moment you notice you aren’t feeling baby move will send you into a frenzy. You will be nervous for every single prenatal appointment. You will continue to think “Is this real?” You will pinch yourself just to make sure.
Time is a funny thing. When I look back on this journey in particular, I think about how I felt then. How I couldn’t see past my grief. I couldn’t believe that I could get past that empty feeling. I didn’t think I would ever feel like myself again. Grief never really goes away but it changes.
I think about the baby we lost every day. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what life would look like today if that baby was here. Was she a girl or a boy… would she have had red hair and big brown eyes? She or he would be 8 months this week.
So we made it this far. We are at the end of this pregnancy. Just when we think, “We did it!,” a national pandemic hits the US. Coronavirus. One baby shower cancelled and a change in birth plans… leaves us with no birth photographer and our other children won’t be able to visit us in the hospital. This has tried to bring us down. The anxiety and fear that has set in surrounding this virus has been overwhelming. We are nervous about being in the hospital where there are known cases. We are worried the baby, or any of our kids, will get it and have to go receive treatment without us by their side. It is terrifying. But we will not let this ruin what we have waited so long for. This happiness. This joy.
We are only days (maybe hours!) from meeting our rainbow baby. We are overcome with excitement and gratefulness. Our entire story has led up to this. And I know this isn’t where our story ends and I am nervous about how our delivery will go! We are praying for a healthy baby.
Maybe it’s a “thirties” thing.. but you begin to see your life as a novel God has written for you. There’s a setting and a plot… even characters. There are chapters. There is heartache and tragedy. Love and happiness. We are starting our next chapter and it just feels right.
March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month! March is the perfect month for this because it represents fresh beginnings and brighter days. This month, we acknowledge and support women who have experienced pregnancy loss but are now trying to conceive or are pregnant with their rainbow baby.
Pregnancy after miscarriage is harder than I imagined it would be. The last 7 months have been full of fear and hope simultaneously in the strangest way. I have prayed more than I ever have in my entire life. I have worried and prayed and worried some more. I told myself that with each “milestone” of this pregnancy that I would feel better and it would be easier. But, even after passing the first ultrasound, after making it to the 24 week mark where baby is considered “viable,” and even after overcoming a low lying placenta and hearing that baby is healthy and head down and ready to go… there’s still a sliver of fear that trickles in every now and then that makes you doubt that these dreams will come to fruition.
At the same time, I’m excited and anxious and happy. There are so many “what if’s” and I have to constantly remind myself that everything is okay. But the joy is one that makes your heart so full it could literally explode.
Pregnancy after loss is so different from the other three “normal” pregnancies I’ve had. This time you notice every kick. This time you are scared to death when you arrive for a check up at the ob and you’re on top of the world when you leave the office with a good report. This pregnancy is buying all the baby things with all the hope but you say a prayer beside your new bassinet that you’ll actually get to meet this baby. This entire experience has been a balance between joy and grief.
Pregnancy after loss is still grieving the baby you lost while learning to fall in love with a little rainbow. There’s a feeling of guilt that will overcome you every time you begin to complain about your back hurting at 34 weeks or when you’re throwing up for the 21st day in a row, you tell yourself you’re being ungrateful because deep down you know that things could be so much worse. When none of your clothes fit and you can’t sleep at night because you’re so uncomfortable, you remind yourself that this could all be over in an instant.
There’s also an awareness you have when you’re talking about being pregnant or planning for the new baby. While I want to be excited and share everything, I am cautious because I know there could be someone present or listening who is struggling with infertility or who just lost their own baby. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. It has happened to women all around you. Miscarriage has taught me to be sensitive to those statistics.
If you just found out you’re expecting a rainbow, or you’re trying to conceive, or you are grieving a loss, there is hope. This month we remember the storms we’ve been through. We accept the difficulties we are experiencing and we talk about it. We spread awareness about this almost taboo topic and we continue to support each other in an effort to understand that not one of us is alone in this journey.
“In the world of pregnancy after loss there is a story of hope about a precious new life, and it’s the story of the rainbow baby. It is based on the understanding that the beauty of the rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. The clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides hope and promise of new life ahead.”