So many people are starting to break the stigma and share about their loss, but I often feel silenced by my blessings. We have experienced loss, but very few people know. It isn’t something we shared with many during our experience because it felt private, personal, it wasn’t something we wanted to talk about or be defined by and yet what we didn’t know is how much this loss would define our family.
It was the summer of 2014 and we were at the lake settling into our summer routine. After a few weeks of adventure with Parker and Weston (ages 4 and 2 at the time) and my mom, my husband and father were one their way to join us for the Fourth of July holiday. I remember vividly feeling a rush of excitement and calling Mo to say grab a pregnancy test before you leave. Parker was planned, Weston was a surprise, and with this pregnancy we were once again purposeful and decided to try, we always said we would like to have three children. It was positive! We were ecstatic and because my other two pregnancies were fairly uneventful, there was nothing to fear. I wasn’t going to be home for awhile so I called and made my appointment for what should have been eleven weeks along.
When we finally made it to the appointment we talked with my doctor for awhile and dreamed about adding this third life to our world. He decided to do a quick ultrasound. I remember his face, his silence. He looked at me and said, well maybe you are off on your weeks, let’s try a different ultrasound. My doctor walked out of the room and I remember looking at Mo saying, “I’m not off on my weeks, something is wrong.” He came back in and did an internal ultrasound and then I knew, he didn’t have to say anything, I saw for myself, no longer a thriving life, no longer a heart beat. I remember feeling empty. We talked about the next steps and my doctor with such a soft and calming presence said, “sometimes there are too many things wrong from the start and just know that you didn’t do anything wrong.” He knew I felt that way, I immediately started to question my every move, what did I do? Why did this happen? He reminded us that sometimes it’s not what we did, but it’s from conception, this life wouldn’t have made it.
I was scheduled to have a DNC four days later and those four days dragged on and on, I was consumed with emotions. For eleven weeks I had thought about this baby, started to make plans and then those were abruptly halted. My summer felt like a lie, a facade. I felt out of my own body on the day of the procedure. Going to the hospital for something like this, sitting on the bed, answering all of the questions you answer before surgery, holding my husband’s hand, trying to be brave, but just hating myself, what did I do wrong? Why us?
When they wheeled me into the operating room I just remember how cold it was. I was shocked and then yet not surprised, this felt awful on so many levels and the cold just exemplified it all. I felt as though someone was stealing my baby, it was being ripped out of my arms, and there was no hope. My doctor entered the room and reassured me and helped me soften, I knew I was in good hands, but I was filled with sadness.
We were heartbroken. There wasn’t time to let the sadness fester, we had two growing boys, we were blessed already. I remember having conversations with my husband about signs and maybe God is saying that this is your family, no more. We decided to take the year, to heal, to refocus, and to think. We really wanted to think about whether a third child is what was in the cards for us, did we really have more love to give, or was this event a way of telling us to count our blessings.
I didn’t feel finished, I didn’t want my final pregnancy to be defined in this way, my heart needed to heal. Do you know what a rainbow is? A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon. If you look it up that is how the definition begins. It is a light after darkness, a symbol of hope, a new beginning. It is the beauty that can come from a storm, the lesson from a hardship. This is why people call those babies born after loss a “rainbow baby.” They are a dream come true, a bright light following a dark time. They are what you prayed for and a new chapter. These babies are a phenomenon - absolutely remarkable.
I often think about how our loss had a defining twist in our story. Without the loss of this baby, we most likely wouldn’t have met Corbin or Caroline or Ryland. These babies are here because we suffered a loss. Corbin, Caroline and Ryland are our rainbows. They are our bright lights. In our eyes we went from two to five. Our loss is the glaring gap in between.
I struggle because I read about people’s suffering and about their trials to have a family and I want to respond and say - you are brave to share, I was afraid to tell. I want to reach out and say I know what it feels like to start making plans for your family and then have those suddenly crushed. I want to say I know the ache in your heart when your doctor says “there isn’t a heartbeat.” But I feel as though I can’t say those things, I can’t connect with others who have lost, because I have been blessed. People look at me with me with my five babies and think that I probably have never experienced this type of pain, but I have - I have been in that operating room, I have suffered days carrying a baby that was no longer thriving, I have hidden a secret from others, I have cried for a baby I never met.
I’m sharing this now because I want to remind everyone that we all have a story. It’s a reminder that we all carry baggage, we all have scars. Our family is truly defined by our loss. I think of this baby often and wonder who he or she would have been. I also think about this moment and how his/her loss resulted in three rainbows and a renewed sense of gratefulness.
One day sweet baby, I will meet you and I hope you know that you will always be what fills the gap between our two big boys and our three littles, you are remarkable, you have defined and shaped this family, you are more important than you might even realize.