The term "rainbow baby" isn't something I was aware of until recently. If you weren't aware, like me, a "rainbow baby" is a baby born after miscarriage, neonatal, stillbirth, or any infant loss. Achingly beautiful and bittersweet, the feelings I had while delivering a healthy baby after two losses were nothing short of complicated, especially in comparison to mothering my (then) 5-year-old daughter. There's a lot I wanted to say and things I promised my rainbow baby the moment he was born, because the chance to have him was more than I ever could've anticipated. Even with the mix of grief and fear beforehand, having him was nothing short of perfect.
Before this baby (who's now 5 years old), my husband and I tried for years to become pregnant with a sibling to our daughter only to experience miscarriage and infertility. Looking back on those times, they're mostly filled with pain, emptiness, and confusion as to why some women (me) have to endure so much, while others don't. Life and death are integral, so when two of my babies passed I didn't know if, or when, I'd get to experience bringing another new life into the world. I often blamed myself and my body for this perceived "betrayal," and though I had an amazing daughter full of life right in front of me, I couldn't let go of the desire for another baby. Maybe it was to fill the void from those that left me or maybe it was to know my body was more than capable, regardless of what it'd done in the past.
Eventually, I did become pregnant with my son. The day I took that pregnancy test, I had no real reason to. Menstruating and in no way hopeful, I'd made taking those tests part of my being. They overcame me at times because I knew, without a doubt, they'd be negative. Still, something forced me into the bathroom that day, and it was positive. Confused, joyous, and feeling everying in between, I couldn't reconcile the two facts: I'd lost before, but I was pregnant again. I cried all day in a crumbled-up ball on the couch. By this point, I feared moving at all would kill this baby, too, and I refused to take any chances.
The doctors labeled this pregnancy a "threatened abortion" during that first appointment. No one thought my body could nourish another baby through an entire pregnancy and, honestly, they were right. It was a difficult nine months, riddled with bed rest and pains I'd not experienced with my daughter, but none of the physical was worse than the overwhelming fear I'd lose this baby. It's a hard feeling to break away from when you've been through it before. I often found myself afraid to hope and afraid to dream for his future, because there'd just been too much loss beforehand. I was scared to love him or to become attached to the feeling of him inside of me. He became my reason for everything, from that first appointment on.
By the time I hit the end of my eighth month, an induction was necessary due to massive fluid loss, before my baby, and myself, were at risk for something going terribly wrong. Turns out, he needed that fluid for cushioning and once I delivered, it was discovered the umbilical cord was one movement from snapping in utero, something that happened upon his entrance into the world. But you know what? When it came down to it, the moment I saw him alive, none of it mattered. I loved him instantly. I attached instantly. I promised him a slew of things, instantly, because he was truly a miracle. He was my rainbow baby who'd made it. A survivor. Kind of like me.
Here are just a few of the many promises I made to my sweet boy the moment I saw him take that first breath Oct 11, 2011. On that day not only was my rainbow baby born, but my ability to hope for the future was restored.
I'll Love You Forever
It's hard to convey just how much love I had for my son when I delivered. The feeling, while similar with how I felt about my daughter generally, was so complex and deep, it was clear our bond was instantaneous and infinite. When I saw him take that much anticipated breath, I held mine until he exhaled. Everything was such a blur because I'd lost oxygen when the umbilical cord snapped and the doctors worked quickly so I didn't bleed out, but through the chaos of the room, my eyes stayed hard-pressed on my boy.
I knew I could never love another as intensely as I did in that moment.
I'll Protect You
After all I'd gone through with loss and negative pregnancy tests after negative pregnancy tests, the one thing I knew when I saw my son for the first time was that I'd do anything within my power to keep him safe, to protect him from pain or loss or anything that might prevent the best life possible.
Of course I feel this way for my daughter, but she and I didn't have the same experience and it took us longer to bond. I wanted to protect her (still do), but in a different context. It's not to say his life is more valuable — because it isn't — but my initial feelings were that I'd have happily died to give him life. That part is true for both of my kids.
I'll Try Not To Fail (Too Much)
Motherhood is a continuous learning curve and I'm always failing or messing up at something no matter how much I try not to. Before my son, I'd had a lot of practice in getting things wrong and right with my daughter, so going into it this time around I knew I was experienced enough to tap into what I'd learned and hope for the best.
I'll Always Be Here For You
Contradictory to saying I'd have died for my kids to have life (I'm complicated), when I first laid eyes on my son, after having been in labor for over two days, I promised to always be there for him. Relationships with my parents had always been hard, so I knew I had to make it better for my kids. There's nothing they can't come to me about. Nothing. I promised to be steadfast and unwavering in my support, love, and belief in whatever they choose to be. Always.
I'll Make Sure You Have A Good Relationship With Your Sister
Growing up with my little brother was rough. We were often left alone together, and yet, hated each other well into adulthood. While we're on good terms now, I wish we'd been closer my whole life.
So, I do my best to educate my daughter (who's in the same position I was as an older sibling) on how to be a great leader and friend. I promised my son things might not always be the best with his sister, but that I'd do whatever I could to help their relationship flourish. I need to know, long after I'm gone, they're going to be there for one another.
I Might Tell You "No" Sometimes, But It's OK
One of the hardest things parents have to do (sometimes) is tell their children no. I've had difficulty with my daughter through the years, but it's nothing compared to that of my son. Detaching myself from all I've been through to have him challenges me. I don't want to deny him anything because his life (and his sister's) is so meaningful to me.
However, in order to raise a thoughtful, compassionate human, I can't always give him, or his sister, whatever they want. This is more a practice of self-restraint as I remind myself he is here, he is safe, and to tell him no sometimes is a good thing (but still hard, because look at him).
I'll Try To Set The Best Example
After my daughter, I suffered severe postpartum depression so I definitely wasn't at my best. It took awhile to get through that haze but once I became pregnant and delivered my son, I promised I wouldn't go through that again. I took every necessary precaution (meds, therapy, etc.) to try to prevent any of it. In turn, I started eating more healthy, took up running, and became healthier than I ever have been.
I Won't Risk My Life To Have Another Baby
When I saw my rainbow baby's sweet face, I knew then and there I couldn't dream of having another baby. My body had, for a long time, refused to house another living being, and doing so meant possible loss of that baby's life, or mine. It would be selfish to try again purposefully, as it might leave my kids without a mother. Sometimes, even now, I get a little tinge of desire, wondering if we should try again. Then I see my babies and remind myself they need me. I am theirs. That's more than good enough.
If You Speak, I Will Listen
My whole life has been one test after another, proving I am, in fact, in existence. I've never felt seen by those I love, and never felt like my voice is heard. This, I think, is why I'm ultra-sensitive about my kids feeling like they are seen and heard. I don't just listen to them, I hear them. Big difference.
You Can Always Count On Me
Life is exciting and hard and all these things that are rewarding and disappointing all in the same breath, just like struggling to get pregnant. Seeing my son that October day, I promised no matter what life threw at us, he'd always be able to come to me and I would be there. From that moment on to the present, I'd like to think I haven't let him (or my daughter) down.
I'm an imperfect mother, striving to be the best I can for both of my kids. My strong, independent daughter, who'd sooner take my side than hear the facts, who isn't much like me, but in a more than a few ways, is exactly like me. And my darling boy who's so very much like me: the rainbow baby I thought I'd never get to meet, let alone guide through this thing called life. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you.