Courtesy of Candace Ganger

8 Things I Learned About Myself When I Realized My Baby Was A Sunshine Baby

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I wasn't aware of the whole "rainbow" and "sunshine" baby labels until recently but, these days, they're pretty well known. Still, because the discovery is fairly new to me, there are some things I learned about myself when I realized my baby was a sunshine baby, meaning a baby born before a fetal loss or miscarriage.

My daughter, also known as my "sunshine" child, has always been pretty special, but I didn't realize how important her role in my life truly was until I went through two pregnancy losses and, eventually, gave birth to her little brother (my miracle rainbow baby). While I first saw my spirited, independent child merely as the oldest (as far as birth order goes), there's so much to her than that and it's reflected in her personality and her outlook in life.

She's a primary reason I healed from my miscarriages, because she was a constant reminder of what I have, not what I had lost. Amidst her 10 years on this planet, my sunshine baby taught me an awful a lot about the kind of person I am, and the kind of person I want to be. It's because of her I strive to improve upon myself on a regular, relentless basis. If not to teach her a lesson, than to teach myself. Here are some things I've learned about myself because of this special girl.

I've Taken My Daughter For Granted...

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After two devastating miscarriages, I realized how much I'd taken my firstborn for granted. I'd become so focused on conceiving again, I often looked past the child I had right next to me. She was patient with me and forgave me for often looking past her, which are things I'm not sure I deserved. I never meant to be this way, or to treat her as though she didn't matter as much as she used to, but I'm thankful she let me be better for her since.

Some days I still make mistakes with my sunshine baby, but hopefully I've lived and learned enough to make every day better than the last.

...And Focus Too Much On My Rainbow Baby

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Even when I gave birth to my youngest, and my world shifted into another orbit that revolved mostly around my new rainbow baby, my daughter remained constant and unwavering in her love and support of me. I know I pay him a great deal of attention, and I know I can still stand to improve on how I manage my time between each of them. My daughter continues to teach me how to do just that, by reminding me I have two children who need me (something I take for granted, because she's getting older and more independent).

We're a work-in-progress, but someday I hope both kids know how much they mean to me in different ways. My son for being that rainbow after the storm, and my daughter for burning bright long before it all.

I Have A Lot Of Regrets...

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I've always had a hard time letting go of the past. It's difficult for me to process pain; to deal with it, forgive, and move forward. I often say I'm not programmed like most, as I still hold onto a lot of baggage from my earliest days. When I realized my daughter was a sunshine baby, I thought back to everything that happened with my losses. How I grieved, how I comforted my daughter, and how I managed to find new ways of healing when typical avenues weren't working. It's only then, as I looked to my daughter for the hope I'd lost, did I realize all the things I wish I'd done differently. If I'd focused only on her, maybe I'd have been content with our family of three, or if I'd been a better mother, I'd not have lost at all. Maybe.

The biggest regret I have (that I've realized I can't seem to let go of), is how much time I spent grieving babies that never made it, when I had my beautiful girl right next to me. Because she never, ever blamed me for any of it, she taught me about forgiveness long before I ever learned the lesson on my own.

...But I Want To Be A Better Mother

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Being a sunshine baby means my daughter was present when I suffered two losses. She's been through just as much as I have, but I often forget that. I used to think these things only affected me (and my partner, of course), until much later when she told me her feelings on what happened. I hadn't realized her take on such personal, grown-up issues, until I saw it from her perspective.

She was scared and confused, but I didn't know it at the time. I thought she was too young to understand. I was wrong. This forced me to confront my selfishness and how, despite what I was going through, how much work I had to do in order to be what my daughter needed.

My "Sunshine" & "Rainbow" Don't Define Me...

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I was raised around the belief that getting married and having children were just what women did and, really, there was no other choice. That is, until my parents' divorce, when my mom was shoved into the workforce as a single parent. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a mom, and I take great pride in everything my kids accomplish, but it's not all that I am. I never realized that I could be more than just "mom," until I experienced pregnancy loss and was reminded that I still had so much to offer the world, outside of my ability to procreate.

When referring to my daughter as a sunshine baby, it's a beautiful term that represents the joy she's brought to my life. A joy that prefaced the pain of miscarriage. However,, before I had her, I experienced joy. As the mother of two now, I still experience joy. As wonderful as it is being her mother, I'm a lot of other things, too.

...But I'm Grateful For Every Pregnancy

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I also realized how unbelievably grateful I am for every pregnancy, whether it ended in loss or ended in one of my beautiful children. Once I realized my daughter was, in fact, a "sunshine" baby, it only solidified that gratitude. The experience of loss isn't something I want to endure again.

However, having gone through it, I've come out stronger than before. It reminds me that not only do I have a great daughter (and a great son), but I deserve to be the mother of such greatness, too. After all, she was the first to say "I love you, mommy."

I Never Really Knew Unconditional Love Before My Daughter...

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I've never known an unconditional love (aside from my feminist grandmother) until I had my sunshine baby. I remember not understanding the feeling and, instead, being constantly afraid I'd do something to make my daughter love me less. The day I discovered I'd lost my baby, she was there with me. As I sat on the edge of the exam table when the doctor gave the news, she held my hand. She was the first set of eyes I'd look into and the first set of eyes that would remind me of that kind of love. There's nothing else like it.

...And I'm Scared Of How It Makes Me Feel

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To this day, my sunshine baby loves me with every inch of her being and honestly, it scares the hell out of me. I've learned how to stuff emotions as far down as they'll go — especially when it involves attachment, or detachment. There's always a lingering fear of abandonment or rejection (learned behaviors that are deeply ingrained). However, every single day, my kids are right there — my daughter with her wild hair and million watt smile — to remind me it's OK to let people in and when I do, they'll be first in line.