I had no idea what a Rainbow Baby was, had never heard of the phrase. Not until I was pregnant with a Rainbow Baby of my own. I remember the moment quite vividly. It was very early in my pregnancy, I was sitting in my living room scrolling through Facebook when an article shared by The Bump popped up on my feed. Every single word struck me, it was as if someone took everything I was feeling at that moment and put it into words. The tears welled in my eyes and the emotions flooded through me.
It had only been three months since we found out that my dreams of finally becoming a mom were not actually going to be fulfilled. What was at that time one of the most exciting days of my life (my first prenatal appointment), quickly turned into the darkest. Those four words will haunt me forever, “There is no heartbeat.”
It was a very long, lonely three months. Not that there is ever a good time to have a miscarriage, but mine happened in late October. So the upcoming months meant a lot of get-togethers and celebrations with family and friends, events I wanted absolutely no part of. My elaborate vision of a Pinterest-inspired Christmas pregnancy announcement wasn’t going to happen. The holidays used to be my absolute favorite time of year, but that year I couldn’t wait for them to be over.
Then in January I found out that I was once again expecting. It was such a different experience this time around. I didn’t do anything special to surprise my husband with the news. My heart wasn’t instantly filled with love like it had been before. I felt confused, guilty, sad. Didn’t this baby deserve all of that, too? But then I read that article (and eventually several more on People, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and Pop Sugar) and I realized that I was not alone.
So my dear daughter, this is my letter to you.
You were not the first baby I loved. But that’s the beautiful thing about love. It doesn’t have limits. It knows no boundaries. Just when you think can’t possibly love anymore, something or someone comes along and you find that you have a little more to give.
I was afraid to love you. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, because I don’t want you to ever think that there was a time when I didn’t love you, because I did, even before you were born I loved you. But I was afraid. See, before you came along there was another baby that I loved very much, a baby that I never got to meet because God called them home before I had the chance. My heart was hurting. An assumption that some people make, people who have never felt the pain due to the loss of a child, is that a new baby will erase the pain of that loss. Somehow fill the void that is left. This could not be further from the truth. Because my daughter, you are not simply a replacement. You are so much more than that. You are an addition. A miracle all on your own.
I slowly but surely learned how to grieve and love at the same time. It was not easy, and still isn’t. Because the pain of losing a child isn’t something that ever goes away. It’s not something you ‘get over’, but rather something that changes you forever. Grieving a loss and loving a new life still leaves me feeling confused at times, so I am sorry baby girl if sometimes I cry. It has nothing to do with you. I know that if I hadn’t suffered that loss, you wouldn’t be here today and my heart sometimes feels like it can’t possibly contain the love I have for you. So how there is still room for pain, amidst all of that love, is something I don’t think I’ll ever understand. But that’s okay, I don’t have to understand it to live with it.
It took me a long time to accept that grieving that loss, even though it meant you would not be here, was not something I needed to feel guilty about. My sweet girl, you’ll never know a love greater than mine. That I can promise you.
Every night, when I rock you to sleep, I sing to you. It wasn’t until you were about 6 months old that I could finish a song without being brought to tears. They aren’t tears of sadness or grief, but tears of joy and love, a love that is so deep and so great that it can’t possibly be contained. Even now, when we read On The Night You Were Born, the very last page causes a lump in my throat and my voice to waiver just a little bit.
The night you were born was without a doubt the most wonderful day of my life…and always will be. Even if there is a brother or sister (or both) in your future, you are the one who made me a mom and because of that, your birth day will always be the most special. (That will be our little secret.) Your first breath truly did take mine away, and I will never be the same.
When you entered our world, you filled a void we didn’t know existed. Not the void from the loss we had experienced, but a space that existed in our hearts even before then, one that could only be filled by you. Your daddy and I are able to love each other more deeply thanks to you. You have taught us a kind of love that we didn’t know before, one we weren’t capable of until you were born. Watching him love you helps me to love him more. It’s one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed.
So even though I didn’t talk to you often while you were growing in my belly, even though I felt disconnected at first, even though sometimes I still cry over the loss that happened before you, please know my precious baby girl that you are my greatest accomplishment. You are the very best thing I will ever do with my life. You are my reason for wanting to be a better person everyday.
If you know someone who has had a loss, whether it be a week ago, a month ago or twenty years ago, and they’re speaking openly about it, I urge you to refrain from being anything other than supportive. I can’t tell you how many blank stares, sideways glances or eye rolls I’ve been on the receiving end of when I’ve talked about my own experience. Just because it’s been more than two years for me doesn’t mean that the pain is any less. I may not feel it as often. I may not cry everyday anymore. But it’s not an easy thing to talk about. Don’t assign a period of time for which a person’s grief is acceptable. The truth is it lasts forever. It is something that you think you’ve at least learned to manage, and then it blindsides you. Because of the closed-minded, ignorant, judgmental people in the world, so many women remain silent. And that’s not fair. We can’t receive help or support if no one knows we need it. So even if you don’t know what to say (and truthfully there really isn’t anything you can say), just be there, without judgment, and offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Be the light for someone in a too often dim world.
Read one mother’s story after facing an impossible decision at Bottomless Momosa.