Sometimes I still can’t believe that I get to parent my rainbow baby.
Two years ago today, at just under 39 weeks pregnant, I checked into the hospital for a scheduled induction of labor. My midwife had offered me this option a week or two early as she knew my extreme anxiety was threatening my well-being, and possibly the well-being of my baby.
After my previous pregnancy ended in loss, I had a hard time believing that it could be possible for me to hold a living newborn again.
Anxiety was threatening to crush me. In my mind, once I was well into the third trimester, I believed that the longer my rainbow baby stayed in my womb, the more likely it was that he would die. I considered it nothing short of a miracle that he had survived 38 long weeks within the confines of my body, but I was certain his time was running out.
Having been through the induction process with my daughter, I thought I knew what to expect. A slow labor, that would progress over a day or two, and then the birth of my son.
I went through the standard procedures. I took the Cytotec to get labor started. I was administered Pitocin to help things move more quickly. And then I waited.
And I waited, and waited, and waited. Things were progressing slowly. Very, very slowly. As in, there was no progression at all.
Absolutely nothing was happening. No additional thinning of the cervix. No dilation. No contractions. No signs of labor. There was nothing to report and the nurses and midwives seemed surprised.
I was administered more drugs and monitored for nearly two days in that hospital bed.
I waited. I prayed. I begged God to bring my baby into my arms, stat. Because the fear that my son might die consumed me.
But there was no progression. My baby stayed tucked inside, without a sign that he would be entering the world any time soon.
And finally, after two uneventful days, I was sent home. While the medical staff assured me that my baby was healthy and safe and that another week or two “cooking” on the inside would be good for him, I left the hospital feeling as if his life were in danger.
I felt duped. No one had warned me that an induction of labor could fail. Just like in my previous pregnancy no one had warned me that my baby might die. Because babies can and do die, even if no one ever talks about it.
I had hoped to come home from the hospital with my son sleeping snuggly in his carseat, but the carseat remained empty. And while I was grateful that he was still living and breathing within my increasingly cramped womb, I couldn’t help but cry as I shuffled to the exit of the Labor and Delivery Unit. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever hear his heartbeat again.
“We were so close,” I thought. So close to victory. So close to experiencing life again after feeling nothing but death for so long. So close to leaving the hospital with a living baby.
I had felt safe at the hospital. Safe because of the constant monitoring. Safe in hearing proof that my son was alive as the sound of his heartbeat filled the room, the steady thump drowning out my fears that it might stop. Safe in thinking I was just hours away from my baby being born.
And being sent home to wonder if he would make it out alive was far more than just disappointing. It felt devastating. Defeating. Dangerous.
And while my son would be placed safely in my arms just over two weeks later, waiting for his birth felt like waiting for death. I was both relieved and surprised when my fears did not come to fruition.
And now, two years later, I look at him and still can’t help but think how lucky I am that he is alive. Because while my rainbow pregnancy ended with life, I know all too well that it could have ended in death. And this gift of life will never go unrecognized.