Before I gave birth to my 5-year-old son, I experienced two losses. Just short of giving up on having another baby, I discovered I was pregnant with him. I held that news close, afraid of going to the doctor only to be told there wasn't a heartbeat, because by this time I'd gotten used to saying goodbye more than hello. Through it all, I struggled with so many emotions I wasn't sure how to celebrate. In fact, I might've benefited from some of the things moms of rainbow babies need to hear in order to embrace the realities of another pregnancy.
Long before having my rainbow baby — a bay born after miscarriage or infant loss — I'd had my firstborn: my daughter. That delivery came with some complications, but it was, for the most part, a smooth process. I always planned on giving her a sibling, it's just that life apparently had a plan of its own that seemed almost hellbent on making me break my promise. Years of infertility, followed by those two pregnancy losses, meant I thought I'd have to accept being the mother of one. For some, it's a deliberate, personal choice to have one child (or none at all) and that's fine. That wasn't the case for me, though. I longed for more, it's just that my body refused to cooperate.
Once I carried my son to term, and after a frightening ordeal during delivery where we almost died together, I was filled with a great deal of conflicting emotions. Was I supposed to be happy? Sad? Grateful? Grieving? It made me realize being in this situation, with a history like mine, has a lot of layers. With that, here are some things moms of rainbow babies need to hear. The things I wish someone would've told me.
Grieve As Long As You Need To
There's no limit on grief. If you've experienced any kind of loss, no one should expect you to be healed by a certain date. I've found that, even all these years later and after having my rainbow baby, there are still days I grieve. It comes and goes at its leisure. Loss is strange that way. You can't control how you'll feel or for how long.
Sep. 29 and Jan. 1 of every year, I grieve and remember those days I lost my babies. It's something my own partner doesn't always understand, and that's fine. Regardless of how little or how much time has passed since your loss, when that rainbow baby comes into the world, the pain isn't magically erased
Your Rainbow Doesn't Replace Any Other Baby
While I waited a long time to meet my son, his life in no way takes away from the losses I have endured. They're all separate to me. My son wasn't meant to replace those lost, he's just the lucky one who made it to term. I loved them all, just as I love both my daughter and my son. The heart is a big place with room enough for all.
There's No Such Thing As "Normal"
What is "normal," anyway? Once you've come home with your rainbow baby and you're settling into a new life together, don't let anyone tell you what should and shouldn't be doing or feeling or thinking.
When I had my son, too many opinions about my attachment to him made me self-conscious. I was almost afraid to love on him too much in front of people because I felt their judgements. Eventually, I stopped focusing my energy on other people's opinions and gave it to my son (and daughter). They're all that really mattered. Whatever you choose to do, and however you choose to feel, are all that matters. Forget what everyone else thinks.
You Might Feel Really Attached
After overcoming severe postpartum depression (PPD) with the birth of my daughter, and after experiencing those subsequent losses, having my healthy son meant a lot of things. He and I had an immediate bond — something I didn't experience after the first pregnancy — and I had a hard time letting anyone care for him except me. I was so attached to him, and all he represented, so I was afraid to let go. Even now, actually. It's not that I love him more than my daughter, it's just that we've been through more to get to where we are.
Don't let anyone tell you whatever it is you're feeling in terms of bonding and attachment aren't OK. Feel however you need to. It's your child, not theirs.
You May Not Know How To Feel
It's all very confusing to go from having a healthy baby girl, to infertility, to multiple losses, to having a healthy baby boy, all in the period of a few short years. There have been many times when I didn't know what I was feeling. As a stay-at-home mother of two, I still wasn't sure if I trusted my body, why some women go through loss like I have, and if I was even worthy of having either of my babies. What I've learned since then is, of course, that it's all normal. The not knowing is just part of being a parent in general.
You're Allowed To Be Happy
You know those fleeting moments of joy after having a rainbow baby, where you stop to wonder if it's OK to feel that way? It is. Even though you've endured loss, you're allowed to enjoy, and love on, subsequent children. Even with such a strong attachment, I felt guilty for being so joyous over my boy, like it somehow diminished the lives lost. It doesn't. The most important thing I've had to remind myself is that in letting myself be happy, my son and daughter reap the benefits.w
It Will Be OK
I know it might not feel like it at first, but everything will be fine. During the first few months of my son's life, I was so scared I'd lose him, too, for no real reason other than I'd lost before. It's hard to let go of the fear and to stop yourself from becoming overly protective so nothing bad happens. To envelope this child in more safety precautions to avoid the "just in case" scenario. Fight that inner voice that tells you you don't deserve this baby, because you do. Take it from someone who's been there and still struggles with all of the above: even if it doesn't always feel like it, everything will be OK. I promise.