My 5-year-old son is considered a "rainbow" baby, meaning he was delivered after previous miscarriages and survived. While he's special enough in his own right, knowing he's a rainbow adds a little something extra to our relationship. Maybe it's because I wished so deeply for him, or maybe it's because of everything I went through to actually have him. Regardless, there are things I thought I had to do because I had a rainbow baby that, once he was here, didn't matter as much as I had assumed.
The day my son was born, my daughter celebrated her 5th birthday. While the following statement is probably a true testament to how my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) rules literally everything in my life, it was an odd day. My pain medication didn't work and labor, which had already been going from induction over a day prior, lasted well into the evening. Long before delivery, my son and I went on quite the journey. From the threatened abortion the doctors labeled him upon the first positive pregnancy test, to the day I was induced due to leaking amniotic fluid, his pregnancy was anything but "easy." With the two miscarriages and fertility issues I faced prior, I thought I'd never get to meet my sweet boy. Needless to say, aside from our near death experience when the umbilical cord snapped, his birth was a very special day.
Even still, I had all these assumptions about what I was supposed to do just because he's a rainbow baby. Now that he's older, I see the only thing I really had to do was love and appreciate the gift he is, and all he's given me by simply being alive.
Forget The Previous Losses
When I held my son in my arms, I felt conflicted. Was I supposed to put aside all the grief I carried due to my previous pregnancy losses, and focus on the life that made it? Or, was it a disservice to those lives that never lived? It was a confusing time, and one where I was haunted by flashes from my life before him — when I endured the miscarriages — and my reality of getting past all of that.
I thought in stuffing my grief down, I'd do my son a favor. It was as if I believed pain and joy couldn't coincide. I realized I'm allowed to grieve those losses as long as I need, and it doesn't take one ounce of gratitude or love away from my rainbow baby.
I feared the moments after delivering my son, because of what I'd gone through with his older sister. She and I had a difficult time bonding for various reasons, and I thought I had to take specific precautions to assure my son and I got off on the right foot.
Turns out, we did just fine and all that worry was wasted energy I should've used on strengthening our new relationship (and the relationship I shared with my daughter).
Celebrate Every Single Second
When you suffer loss, there's an expectation — whether from others or the pressure you put on yourself — to be happy and appreciative every single moment of every single day. Parenting means the days feels long, but the years are short. When caught up in a chaotic day with a fussy baby, it's hard to genuinely celebrate every moment. Still, because I was given the chance to mother this baby, I felt that's what I had to do. In the end, all it did was exhaust me.
Be The Perfect Mom
I honestly thought I couldn't fail, no matter what. I wasn't allowed to make mistakes with this baby, or have regrets, or do anything that was less than perfection. I put so much pressure on myself to be superhuman in the name of having a rainbow baby, it was unrealistic.
No one is perfect and my kids needed a mother who wasn't perfect. In fact, I truly believe my babies benefit from having a mom who makes mistakes, learns from those mistakes, and reminds them that perfection is not a necessary prerequisite for love.
Pretend Everything Was Great
Having a baby is draining. While I wanted to be euphoric from the high of finally meeting my new love, I was tired, in a lot of pain, and still grieving my previous losses. I was even grieving the loss of him leaving my body. It was a strange state-of-mind to be in.
I thought I had to pretend I felt amazing for the sake of everyone else, especially the people reminding me what a "blessing" he was and that I "shouldn't take a moment for granted." If I could do it over, I'd let myself feel, and behave, however I needed to.
Never Let My Son Out Of My Sight
Due to the fear of another loss, I became severely overprotective. I thought, if I were the one watching him, and all the time, nothing bad would happen to him. Part of this was how I dealt with the trauma of the miscarriages, but the other part was my intense love for my son.
Now I know the best way to love him is to let go (just a little bit).
Accept I Will Not Have Other Children
My pregnancies were dangerous, with two ending in loss. I thought, after my son's birth, I had to give up on ever having another baby. While my husband and I aren't actively trying, and I am being proactive with my health for the sake of being here for my kids, it's not in me just yet to nix the idea altogether.
Avoid Postpartum Depression At All Costs
A lot of my post-childbirth issues with my daughter stemmed from my undiagnosed postpartum depression (PPD). Luckily, I didn't have it after the birth of my rainbow baby, but because of how serious it was years prior, I thought I needed to go all out with preventative measures. From therapies to medications, meditations, and yoga, I went a bit overboard hoping not to have the same experience twice. Turns out, I didn't need all that because this pregnancy, labor, and delivery would prove to be different than the rest, and in more ways than one.
Yes, my boy is a rainbow baby, but the only thing I needed to do is love him. The thing is, from the moment I heard his heartbeat, I already did.