My rainbow baby recently turned one and I find myself reflecting on those dark days of pregnancy.
Referring to pregnancy as “dark” probably isn’t socially acceptable. After all, shouldn’t I have been grateful just to be pregnant? Especially after burying a baby less than a year earlier? I was given another chance! Society reminded me time and time again that I was supposed to be excited about this pregnancy. People, advertisements, pregnancy announcements, maternity photos on Facebook-all of these things a reminder that pregnancy should be joyful! However, spending the better part of a year wondering if the baby I was carrying would die, and maybe even expecting it, wasn’t exactly bliss.
Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of joy. A time for celebration. A pregnant woman is expected to be glowing and giddy, proudly sharing the excitement of new life, and patiently awaiting the birth of her beautiful baby. She isn’t supposed to be depressed, scared, and isolated. But for the loss mom, these feelings are real, and they are valid. I knew all too well that there was no guarantee of bringing a baby home. My mind was too clouded to extract moments of joy from the darkness of this rainbow pregnancy. The joy would come when I could see the rainbow for myself.
I sometimes wish I would have handled my rainbow pregnancy differently. With courage and strength. With grace and optimism. Why wasn’t I more like those other pregnant women? You know, the happy ones? The ones who spend their pregnancies planning for and decorating beautiful nurseries, the ones who show off their baby bumps in trendy maternity clothes, the ones who have a year’s worth of baby clothes laundered and hanging in the closet. I was living day to day in sweatpants, planning nothing.
Could I have risen above the depths of my anguish and at least pretended to be happy? The answer to that question is a simple no. I was weak. I was exhausted. I was empty. After grieving the loss of our second baby for nearly a year, I was emotionally broken. The grief process was debilitating. And the fear that this pregnancy might result in that process starting over was paralyzing. I simply did not have the energy to pretend. I spent many of my days watching TV by myself and Googling various statistics about pregnancy and loss. I napped as often as I could, wishing that I could just sleep for the duration of pregnancy and wake up with a sweet, living baby in my arms. I was completely overwhelmed by the range of emotions involved. Grief. Fear. Panic. Worry. Anxiety. Depression. I detached from life simply because I did not have the capacity to interact with the world around me.
I was repeatedly asked questions about preparation for my son’s birth. “Is the nursery ready?” No. “Do you have his hospital outfit picked out?” No. “Is the crib set up?” No. I did very little to prepare for his birth as I refused to risk the possibility of having a nursery full of baby things, but no baby. I wasn’t able to celebrate my rainbow pregnancy because I didn’t feel there was anything to celebrate. After all, my baby had yet to be born alive. I was unable to process that this baby might actually come home with us. Indeed, there would be no nursery until I had a baby to put in it.
When I finally did see my son, there was relief before joy. He was alive and well! I could breathe. Brilliant light broke through the cloud of darkness as he let out his first cry. Life had taken a turn for the better. After nine months of pregnancy, I was surprised to be taking my baby home.
While I don’t necessarily regret my lack of enthusiasm during my rainbow pregnancy, I do wish it could have been different. But for it to have been different, my life would have needed to be free from loss. I lost a baby halfway through pregnancy and went on to endure another long, difficult pregnancy. I dared to try again and that is enough.