When I first got married I wanted a gaggle of children. I wanted as many as I could have to fill my home with laughter and joy. Even though my husband was still in college, we decided to start trying for a family right away. It took over a year to get pregnant with my firstborn.
If you’ve never experienced infertility, it’s hard to really comprehend the emotions that go into it. The hope, the disappointment, the grief. The not-knowing was the worst. Never knowing if you should plan for a life with or without children. I used to think that that was the hardest thing that I’d ever go through.
In my despair I found a wonderful community of women online who were in similar situations. These women bolstered me up and encouraged me when I was down. We rejoiced when someone got pregnant, and felt guilty for wishing it was us instead of them. When I finally got pregnant I was met with a whole new range of emotions. Fear. Joy. Guilt. Sorrow for my friends who were still unsuccessfully trying to have a child. The range of emotions I’ve experienced from infertility is astounding, really.
After all of that, it turned out that pregnancy was not easy for me. It was very difficult on my body and high blood pressure eventually led to the very difficult, induced birth of my son. After he was born I thought that I could be okay with not having more children. It was, after all, a pretty rough experience. That feeling didn’t last long. With everyone getting pregnant around me, the desire to have more children was stronger than ever. I wanted my little boy to have a sibling. And so I had to go back to that place of despair and disappointment that comes along with trying to get pregnant when you’re infertile.
I finally got pregnant when my son was two and a half years old. I was so happy! My two best friends were pregnant and we were all due within a month of each other. It felt like fate. I told my family at our annual Christmas party. It was exciting and joyous.
And then, early in my first trimester, I contracted bronchitis. I was extremely sick and had a gut-feeling that something wasn’t right, despite my bouts of morning sickness and near-constant nausea. One night, I was talking to my sister on the phone and I vividly recall telling her that I didn’t think that my baby was going to make it because I felt like I, myself, was on death’s doorstep. At my 11 week appointment, that fear was confirmed. I had lost the baby. At first my doctor suggested that perhaps I wasn’t as far along as I thought, or maybe the baby was in a weird location. He had me grab my husband (and our two year old) from the waiting room and go to the ultrasound room where he awkwardly tried to see what was going on with “the wand” while my husband tried to keep our two year-old out of drawers filled with birth control devices and breast exam pamphlets. He told me that the baby was measuring small, and that no heart beat was visible. It had likely stopped growing weeks ago.
“I’m sorry, but your baby has died.” Words you never want to hear, no matter how far along you are.
He had me set up an appointment for a D and C procedure at the local hospital two days later. I cried. I cried a lot. But mostly, I sat in my bed, staring into space and letting my mind go to dark places of despair. I anguished like this for months. Watching my friend’s bellies grow and their babies born was a special kind of torture. I couldn’t even be around pregnant women without feeling a gut-wrenching sort of sickness in the pit of my stomach.
I was told that after a miscarriage you have a higher chance of conceiving, and so we decided that even though I was suffering from depression and grief, we would keep on trying. After all, I had gotten pregnant twice now. We knew I could get pregnant, even if it was more difficult and took more time.
After another year of trying- of crying myself to sleep every night, of loneliness and depression that I cannot begin to fully explain- I was broken. My soul, my faith, my hope. It was all gone. I had intense feelings of guilt regarding my depression and the effect it had on my parenting. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. And in a way, it was a very necessary part of my healing. I finally reached the final phase of grief: acceptance. I was able to let go. I sat down and I wrote a letter to my hypothetical future children. I said goodbye. It wasn’t an easy place to get to. However, once I got there, the weight was lifted off of my chest and I was ready for a life with one really great kid who had been waiting for his mom to snap out of it for most of his life. I was ready to stop being a depressed mom and start living a happy life.
Two weeks later I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test in utter disbelief.
A Rainbow Baby is special. It is the child that comes after loss. The rainbow after the storm. My daughter is my rainbow baby. Her birth filled a gaping hole in my heart that infertility and loss callously created. Every day since she was born I have only felt gratitude for her existence. You never forget the storm, but the rainbow makes it a little more bearable and reminds you of the beauty that is life.
photo credit: canva