National Rainbow Baby Day : August 22, 2022
I was asked to write a guest blog to share my story for Postpartum Support Charleston last week, and thought it might help another mama here to know that you are not alone if you are going through or have gone through something similar. I know it would have helped me. If you would like to connect - please reach out! You don't have to walk through this alone.
Trigger warning: pregnancy loss
Just in case you are unfamiliar with National Rainbow Baby Day, it’s the one day reserved for celebration of the special babies born to moms after previous miscarriage, stillbirth, and/or infant loss. It is a day we also remember those babies who are no longer with us. 1 in 4 moms have experienced pregnancy or infant loss of some kind, so this hits a lot more of us than we might even realize if we are in the midst of it for the first time. The storm of emotions that comes with one or more of these diagnoses is one we are all too familiar with. The rainbow is intended to symbolize the calm after the storm; the bright spot after all the clouds.
For many who have been on this journey, this is the case. But for some, the relief and joy of bringing home a healthy baby doesn’t eliminate the pain of the loss. It’s always with you; your body actually “holds” the trauma of the event and it can sneak up on you every now and then. Maybe it’s just me, but every year around this time, I start to feel weird. Just kind of off. Honestly, up until now, I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just assumed it was me wearing down on summer energy with 3 boys, anxiety gearing up for a routine shift with school starting, or 2 end of summer birthdays. I mean, the list goes on.
And then I connected the dots and learned about the “Anniversary Effect” thanks to my therapist.
8 years ago (almost to the day), we received devastating news about my pregnancy that we thought would end with our “rainbow baby” after a previous miscarriage that January. We discovered at our anatomy scan, that our baby girl had an undeveloped heart, also known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Talk about a crushing blow. I actually don’t remember much of what happened the next few weeks, which I now know to be a survival tactic by your brain. We said goodbye to her at the end of August 2014.
The years and weeks that followed were a blur of emotions and my sole focus was on getting pregnant again and delivering a healthy baby. PS. I’m really good at tidying up my emotions and burying them waaaay down deep. I was healthy and had already delivered our oldest son without any issues. A diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” rocked my world. I was unprepared and wholly unsupported mentally (this is wish I could go back and change!) for the rollercoaster of depression and anxiety that ensued. We experienced 3 more losses after hers for a total of 5 before finally getting one to stick! Each day of that 7th pregnancy felt monumental, almost impossible. I detached myself from the entire 9 months.
I was prepared for everything to go wrong, even when it didn’t.
I held my breath at every scan all the way up until the birth. And when another son was born on 8/18/2016 (yes, I am writing this on his birthday, which just feels very full circle), he reminded us that there was joy to be had. And if you know him, his personality rings totally true to this! His due date was actually my birthday (9/1) and we had said goodbye to his sister on 8/29, 2 years prior. The universe has impeccable timing and showed up for us when he made his dramatic entrance into the world 2 weeks early. 2 weeks before all of those traumatic dates to remind us of all the good that still exists despite the hard. There is light among the dark. I would not have the family or the career I do today, had it not been for that hard season or my first rainbow baby and I am eternally grateful.
So today, on National Rainbow Baby Day, we remember the painful losses we have endured, those babies who are no longer in our arms, and also celebrate the light that our rainbows bring into our lives. They wouldn’t be with us had it not been for the terribly hard season that came before them.
And to the mamas, waiting on their rainbow - they are out there. Hang on tight. The wait is so worth it.
“Only rainbows after rain
The sun will always come again.
And it’s a circle, circling,
Around again, it comes around,”
– Andy Grammer (Keep Your Head Up)