Two terms that shouldn’t have to exist. Two terms that can, simultaneously, bring hope and anxiety to anyone encountering them. Two terms that – although I experienced them 8 years ago – I didn’t know even existed until this past August.
I have, over the last several years, been very open about my struggles with trying to conceive and then maintaining a pregnancy when I did manage to conceive. That wasn’t always the case. My husband and I suffered through too many times where we thought we were pregnant, only to find out that we weren’t. And then there were the times that we were pregnant…and then we weren’t. We told very few people that we were even trying and we told no one about the miscarriages until I had to have a D&C done with my last one. Honestly, the only reason we told our family was because I was going under general anesthesia for the procedure.
We were fighting to build our family in a time where “Social Media” consisted of AIM, My Space, Live Journal and email. There was no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Finding others who were dealing with what I was dealing with took way longer than a quick Google search and probably would have involved me dialing my (flip) phone and talking to an actual person. Not exactly what I wanted to do. So I quietly navigated my way through the losses, somehow finding the strength to go through my life as though nothing was different.
Pregnancy After Loss (PAL) is one of the most terrifying things a woman and her partner can go through. Every doctor’s appointment brings the fear of bad news. Every time you think you haven’t felt your baby move for too long, you start – almost frantically – pushing on your belly to make him move. You never let yourself slide into that blissful state of “everything will be perfect” because you know that there is always another shoe, waiting to drop at any time.
Rainbows are the beautiful arches of color you see after a storm. Rainbow babies are the beautiful arches of hope who arrive after the storm brought to your life by a pregnancy or infant loss. It’s something that many who suffer the loss of a pregnancy or infant long for. Let me be perfectly clear – a rainbow baby is NOT a replacement for the baby who passed away. Not.Even.A.Little.
As I mentioned, I first learned about these terms when my sister became pregnant with her rainbow baby, Emerson – due to arrive in April. Carole has been extremely open about her navigation through the waters of grief following the still birth of her daughter, Fiona, back in May and the anxiety that comes with her pregnancy with Emerson. Once I learned about Rainbow Babies and PAL, I embraced them – for my sister more than myself. For me, it was a way to support Carole through the months of her pregnancy. Somehow, learning this new terminology would help me to be more understanding of what she’s going through – like learning the language of a foreign country.
Although I had suffered my own pregnancy losses, I didn’t initially allow myself to connect to rainbows and PAL. My miscarriages had all happened in the first trimester (prior to 13 week gestation). I never knew my babies’ genders. I never saw them. I never knew their names. I never got to the point where I had told anyone other than my husband that I was pregnant. I never started putting a nursery together. I never got far enough to have a baby shower. I never even looked pregnant. Let’s be honest, the odds miscarrying in the first trimester are significantly higher than the odds of a still birth in the third trimester. How could I POSSIBLY say that my losses were even comparable to someone who had time to see, feel, hear and bond with their child?
The truth is, I still can’t. No one can. One person’s loss is not the same as another’s. We can’t sit here and say that hers is worse than mine, but mine was worse than that person’s over there. A loss is a loss. They all suck and I wish we could live in a world where no one has to bury a child.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. And, chances are, you or someone you know has endured the loss of a pregnancy or an infant. One in Four women (and her partner) will suffer through a pregnancy or infant loss. We need to work together to support one another through our times of grief and celebrate our times of joy.
If you have suffered a loss, and want to talk to someone about it, feel free to reach out to me. I share my story in the hopes that at least one other woman will stop feeling the shame and guilt that comes with the loss of a child. I want to be there for you if you need someone.
If you know someone who has suffered a loss and don’t know how to help, I encourage you to visit the Star Legacy Foundation. They are an organization dedicated to researching the causes of still births and helping those who have suffered through the loss of a child or know someone who has.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a pregnancy after a loss, check out the Pregnancy After Loss Support page. They support women as they work through the gamut of emotions that come with a PAL.
Finally, I encourage EVERYONE to support the March of Dimes. They not only provide support to babies born prematurely, they also conduct research to see why miscarriages, still births, and premature deliveries happen – and how to prevent them. I’ll be participating in the March for Babies this year, and I’d love for you to donate to support this organization. If you want to donate, you can click here to go to my fundraising page.
This week is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness week. A time to remember that pregnancy is not happiness and glitter for everyone. A time to remember that, for too many, it is the scariest 9 months of someone’s life. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have walked, currently are walking, or someday will walk this path. I hope and pray that you all are able to bring home your rainbow.