Courtesy of Candace Ganger
11 Things I Learned About Myself During My Rainbow Baby's First Year

When I delivered my son five years after my daughter, I experienced a wide range of emotions. Having suffered miscarriages before him, I wasn't sure if I should celebrate or let guilt consume me because he'd made it and they hadn't. This made him my "rainbow baby." It's still rather complicated to explain why he's here and two babies I lost aren't, but I've come to realize I'm not meant to know those answers. Instead, I'm supposed to know the things my rainbow baby taught me about myself in his first year of life that I'd forgotten. Things that maybe I didn't even know where bubbling beneath the surface, but he did.

Being a rainbow baby means that my son was delivered after a pregnancy or infant loss and, let me tell you, he lives up to the title. His very essence resembles all the colors of the rainbow, bright and hopeful. He doesn't realize all the ways he's breathed new life into me, or why I'm so attached, but someday he will. After my first miscarriage, I was broken. That loss, which was so unexpected and so disappointing, forced me to come to terms with my own mortality. I started to questioned why some mothers endure losses while others don't. After almost two years (and another miscarriage as my partner and I continued to try to conceive), I was officially defeated. I believed having another baby wasn't meant to be and learned to appear grateful and fulfilled by the child I did have. Internally, though, I wasn't ready to accept that new "normal."

Then, a magical (and extremely difficult) pregnancy happened out of nowhere. It wasn't expected or planned, or any part of my mindset after I endured the previous losses, but there it was. My dream had come true. That baby survived and became my rainbow baby and all-around amazing boy. I'd lost so much before, but as I held him for the first time I was reminded of all the things I'd forgotten about myself. Through the first year of his life, and beyond, he's continued to show me who I really am, filling all the spaces that had been emptied for so long. Here's who I am, and what I represent, through my son's eyes.

I'm Brave

After losing two pregnancies, I think most would have understood if I had decided to just stop trying. While I didn't feel brave at the time, my son showed me all the ways I am by simply existing. I could've stayed defeated and accepted the life I had, but in my heart I knew I couldn't. Through a taxing pregnancy and a dangerous delivery, my son's first year of life tested us both (and my partner and daughter) in many ways. However, and in the end, we got through it.

I'm Strong

Once my boy was in the world, I was continually tested by breastfeeding woes, juggling two children while my partner worked long shifts, and my son's digestive and sleep issues. It was a lot, but even though I lived in a constant state of stress he reminded me, every night during sleepy time cuddles, how strong I really am. Stronger than I often give myself credit for, in fact. I did it then, I do it now, and I'll do it as long as I'm on this earth.

I Can Do Anything I Set My Mind To

While becoming pregnant with my rainbow baby wasn't all my decision (fate intervened), I didn't stop working through the pregnancy or birth. After going through postpartum depression (PPD) with my firstborn, I was grateful not to have it with my son, so I pushed myself. I was exhausted, and the anxiety was sometimes more than I could bear, but my son was patient and kind at the end of every long day. He reminded just how unstoppable I am when I've set my mind to it.

I'm Comforting

For the first eight or so months of my son's life, I was the only one who bathed, rocked, and laid him down to sleep. It wasn't always because I had to, but because I wanted to. He and I had an unexplainable connection. I could tell I gave him comfort others didn't or couldn't and, honestly, he did the same for me.

I'm Hilarious

I've never been funnier than I was during my son's first year of life. OK, maybe it's just that no one has found me as funny as my son did during his first year of life. Either way, he was always a happy baby, both easy going and super sweet. Aside from his horrendous sleeping patterns, he was a dream baby. I was so funny, I could just look at him and he'd laugh or giggle or calm dow when he was upset.

Even now, I can make him laugh. I'm a damn comedian with this kid and I love it. He's great for my ego.

I Have A Lot To Offer

After my firstborn, I always felt like I had to sacrifice absolutely everything in my life in order to be a good mother. It was unhealthy and contributed to my postpartum depression, therefore affecting how I bonded and connected with my daughter.

I never felt this way with my rainbow baby, though. From the very beginning I knew I could be his mother and be other things, too. When I took on work, he was an easy baby to return to. When I made self-care a priority (so not to make the same mistakes I had when his sister was a baby), it was almost like he understood. Maybe he did. I was a better mother when I took care of myself first.

I'm Beautiful

No one in the history of the world has ever looked at me the way my rainbow baby has. I'll mourn this feeling when he falls in love with someone else, but for now, I've never felt more beautiful.

I'm Attentive

I often feel a great amount of guilt about the way postpartum life turned out when I had my daughter. Though I tried my best, I was a young, new mom, and going through a deep depression. It was difficult to get out of bed some days. Of course it got better once I got the help I needed, but having my son reminded me of how attentive I'm able to be. I made a promise to do things better with him and to be there for him whenever and where ever. While it's true for my daughter now, too, there's an obvious difference between the first year of each of their lives.

I'm Devoted

When I reminisce about my son's first year, I think of how I still felt like I was failing at parenthood, but was obviously devoted. It's obvious my son has a mother who's going to do anything in her power to give him (and his sister) the best life possible.

Loss Doesn't Define Me

When my son was born, I had mixed emotions. Guilt overcame me for delivering a healthy baby, while I was simultaneously filled with joy and gratitude. My son reminded me, time after time, that it's OK to grieve but it doesn't define who I am. I'm not a mother who lost, I'm just a mother who loved.

I'm Loved

The moment my son was born he reminded me that I am so very loved. In fact, he let me know how I should be loved, and how much love I am capable of giving someone else. He's 5 years old now, and not a day has passed that he hasn't continued to show me how loved I truly am. Thank you, rainbow baby, for giving me back the pieces of myself I thought I lost.