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What it feels like to conceive a rainbow baby

What it feels like to conceive a rainbow baby


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For us, the greatest challenge of conceiving and carrying a rainbow baby was that, on a certain level, the entire thing felt post-traumatic.

For those not familiar with the term, a "rainbow baby" is a baby conceived after a pregnancy is lost. Our rainbow baby came following the stillbirth, at 33 weeks, of my second child. I'm not going to lie; everything about dealing emotionally with pregnancy and birth after the loss was hard. But a great deal was also beautiful. I would not, and cannot, change a thing.

I first became aware of the possibility of my stillbirth when I noticed diminished movement. No heartbeat Of course I wondered about the thing I'd heard of, called "fetal demise," and was terrified. Later, as I indeed labored with a baby who would not be born alive, and I was dangling on the fault line where death precedes birth, I understood on some cellular level that the only way I could survive this would be to attain some kind of reclamation.

When I was finally given the green light by my doctors to conceive again, my husband and I were basically shocked, feeling a mixture of past grief and of continued faith in miracles, all radiating out. I began to see everyone around me as a baby who had lived.

Nevertheless, we began to try for another pregnancy. We didn't tell many people, because it can bring so much extra anxiety or annoyance when the well-meaning of the world advise you, including telling you to enjoy the efforts – and what that often seems to mean is the sex. To these people, I say yes, sex is enjoyable. But after a loss, it's also confusing. The thing you want the most is that which you fear the most. Also, you aren't always in the mood when your chances of conception are highest. So there's that.

One late summer afternoon, I was at an Irish festival near the Hudson River. It was a humid day, and everything smelled like a valley in the summer – all fertile soil and rich and lush. I remember girls in step dance costumes, and that I was ravenous. I think I ate something like four hot dogs (and I hate hot dogs!).

I took a pregnancy test later that evening. It was positive. I sank to the edge of the toilet, both happy and scared. It occurred to me that nine months is almost a year. I put my head between my knees to steady my breathing.

Nine months is a long time to live in a state of alarmist Zen. By this I mean that pregnancy requires a certain care – and a kind of trust. The care part is something that can be controlled, but it doesn't guarantee a good outcome.

In a post-loss-pregnancy, the trust part is the lasting casualty. In truth, I've never really learned to trust my body again. I've made a peace with this fact. At the time, I disassociated a bit. I kind of split – the way balls of mercury split. I humbled me before myself. When I first began to feel the baby move, I started talking to myself and thanking whatever part of my body was working, even as I allowed my brain to guard me from the fear. There was an unconscious switch I learned to throw when it was all too much.

Of course there were times I was scared when I couldn't feel movement. I remember one morning pouring a glass of juice to make the baby move. As I sat there, the switch in my head was thrown. I thought "I'm drinking juice just as I did before." I put the glass to my mouth. I waited. This time he moved.

I learned to cling to these things, both for reassurance and because they enabled me to remember this baby's brother. I use the word "brother" intentionally, by the way. Part of the complexity of the next pregnancy is that I was glad to remember my other baby. The traumatic memories aren't ones I would choose to forget even if I could. I never want to let him go.

Eventually, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The experience ripped me all the way open, but at the same time it restored me. It also plunged me into a sneaky form of post-partum depression, which was hard, but also made sense to me, because I have learned that the work of growing a family is not linear. The aches and the beauty, they all stay.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.


Watch the video: Recognizing implantation symptoms (July 2022).


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