Courtesy of Candace Ganger

9 Things I Wasn't Prepared For When I Had My Rainbow Baby

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Having a baby changes everything. It doesn't matter how "ready" you think you are, change will come. Still, after suffering multiple losses, my miscarriages prepared me for a lot of things, including how to process pain, grief, resilience, and hope. Regardless of that preparation, though, there were more than a few things I wasn't prepared for when I finally had my rainbow baby in my arms. Those things just happened to be experiences I never realized I could feel, let alone embrace. It's a strange feeling, to desire something so badly only to, one day, finally have it. It's honestly surreal and life-changing in the best ways possible.

Rainbow babies are babies born after a loss or miscarriage and my son (he's now 5 years old) is without a doubt the physical embodiment of a rainbow. He's bright, spirited, hopeful and, in my eyes, absolutely every color of the rainbow. Still, his magnificence didn't suddenly make me feel like I knew all there is to know about motherhood. Prior to my son's arrival, I thought I had this parenting thing figured out with my firstborn, but I quickly realized I didn't. Like, at all. Entering motherhood with one child, followed by two losses, is hard enough, but to finally have the chance to birth again after all that was more than I could've anticipated.

By the time I (finally) met my son — this baby I'd dreamed about for years — I experienced many unexpected feelings and experiences I wasn't prepared for. Looking back, I see I wasn't meant to be ready, because my rainbow baby (and his older, sunshine sister) would teach me along the way. So, with that in mind, here are some of those things I'm grateful for, however unexpected, because at the end of the day I have my babies and that's really all that matters.

How Scared I Was To Mother Him

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When you've endured loss of any kind, there's an innate fear instantly ingrained in you. It doesn't matter if it's a conscious decision or not — fear overrides all rationality.

For me, and even though I wanted another baby so badly, once my son was in the world I was almost too scared to care for him. I was so afraid of making one bad decision, I'd sometimes avoid the responsibility altogether. In my mind, my body already messed up when I endured two miscarriages, so I was so afraid I'd mess up, too. Every choice was another chance to choose wrong. While I thought I was ready to parent this boy, I was internally riddled with fear because my heart had not fully healed.

The Immense Amount of Love I'd Have For Him

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I've never loved any other human more than my babies — particularly my rainbow baby. I knew there'd be love, obviously, but it was so intense it clouded my judgment. It was almost as if there was a fog surrounding the two of us and all I could see was him. Like the opposite of postpartum depression, my rainbow baby made me euphoric. To be honest, he still does.

The Continuous Triggers

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From the moments after discovering the first loss, until the day I die, there will always be things that'll trigger feelings of remorse, guilt, and grief. Sometimes it's just looking at my son, while other times it could be a glimpse of an item given to me after those losses. There are even times when nothing at all has happened, except a passing wonderment of what those children would be like had they survived.

As any parent who's experienced loss (of any kind), that pain will always be in the pocket of my heart. It doesn't mean I love my two live children less, it just means I'll never forget what I went through to have them.

The Guilt Of Previous Losses

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I can't control everything, which is a reality I've had to work really hard to (sort of) accept. Even though it's hard, and I wasn't prepared for these feelings at all, I'll probably always feel guilty about my previous losses. It has no bearing on my relationship with my rainbow baby or how much I adore him, but it's difficult to accept that what happened wasn't my fault. The doctors remind me it wasn't, but as a mother (and the owner of the body that carried those lives) I can't help but feel responsible.

The Balancing Act Of Parenting Two Children

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There are parents with multiple children who do a fantastic job at balancing all the things, but I wasn't that parent (at least initially). No matter how much planning took place throughout this pregnancy, once my rainbow baby arrivedall those blueprints were gone.

My daughter had just turned 5, and even though I should've known what I was doing and had the confidence to be the matriarch, my rainbow baby taught me how to start over. There's no one way that works for all children, which means starting over.

The Fear Of Letting My Rainbow Baby Go

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It's a fine line between euphoria and obsession. After all I'd gone through to have this baby, there was no way I was going to just hand him over to just anyone. I did all the feedings, bath, and bedtime routines for the entire first year.  I was scared to let go of him for even a second — which turned out to be  a form of post-natal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — because I didn't want anything bad to happen to him. I believed as long as he was in my care, he'd be OK.

Even now, I have to continually remind myself not to hover, coddle, or smother him with too much affection. I wasn't in any way prepared to handle this much adoration for my child, or how it would affect everything around us in the process.

The Guilt Over The Instant Bond With My Rainbow Baby

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After I had my daughter, I suffered with postpartum depression (PPD) to the point of it intervening in the bonding process. It took months of recovery and treatment  before I was finally able to enjoy the bond I had assumed would've been instant. Once I had my son, I actually did have the instantaneous bond and immediately felt guilty, even though I had no control over it.  

How Hard It Would Be To Make Self-Care Priority

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Because I feared leaving my son, for even a second, it took awhile for me to make self-care a priority. I managed to shower and whatnot, but anything else fell to the bottom of my priority list, and not because I was an exhausted tired mom, but because I'd rather have spent time with my baby.

How Fulfilling That Time Would Feel

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I waited a long time for my rainbow baby and thought that, once I held him, everything would fall into place. This just isn't true. While elated and fulfilled in many ways, I also remember that time as a confusing one. My feelings were hard to nail down to one basic term and, with my daughter alongside this journey, I was always aware of how my actions and inactions affected her, too.

Of all the things I wasn't prepared for when I had my rainbow baby, the greatest of them all is that, five years later, nothing has really changed. I'm still in love with my boy, still find myself overprotecting, and still feel guilty for the bond he and I have compared to the bond I share with his sister. Parenting is one giant juggling act where you literally win some, and lose some. However, when I look at his face I realize that, despite the losses, pain, and fear, I won when I finally held him in my arms. That will always be good enough for me.