When something is lost or broken, we go in search of finding, replacing or fixing what is lost or broken.
When an ornament or a mug breaks we assess based on sentimental & monetary value as to whether we will repair, replace or live without the item. If you total your car, you will likely be on the phone to your insurance company the same day. If you knock the handle off of your K-mart mug, you might not be too fussed, unless it was a gift from your child in which case you’re going to glue that sucker back together!
Every human can relate to grief and loss on some level. We’ve all lost someone. Not every one (thank goodness) has experienced child loss. It’s the most unnatural thing in the world and cannot be comprehended even by the most compassionate and empathetic person. This is where people are divided into four groups.
Group 1 – The avoiders (the majority of people). The concept is so awful and confronting that they will avoid all mention of it, purely to avoid upsetting you.
Group 2 – The fixers (a large group, but far less than group 1). These are the people who are genuinely concerned for you and want to help you but also have no experience of the trauma you are living out. Saying things like “Just have another,” “At least you didn’t have them too long as you would have grown attached” “It wasn’t meant to be” & “You’re young, you can try again.”
Group 3 – (The people who love you the most). These are the ones that will carry you until you can stand on your own feet again. Hold you while you cry, grieve for your child, ask questions in order to educate themselves on how to help you. They’ll sit in silence with you for days on end holding your hand just so you’re not alone.
Group 4 – (the group no one wants to be in). These are the people that get you. The one’s that have survived the unthinkable. The one’s that have walked out the steps you are now taking. They will immediately refer to your child by their name. These people, they are your forever people now.
Being pregnant again
Everyone’s journey through pregnancy is different but for most it’s a time of excitement and anticipation. You read the books, tracking whether your baby is the size of a plum or eggplant. Buy all the clothes and set up the nursery.
Being pregnant with a rainbow baby looks nothing like this. The morning after Jack died I announced I was never having another baby. A passing thought in a moment of intense physical and emotional pain. Looking back I can see that it was a part of me trying to protect myself from any future pain. Having a baby was no longer a magical, exciting thought. It no longer held the meaning of new life because for me it equaled pain, suffering and possibly death. An experience I did not care to go through ever again.
Honestly I couldn’t tell you what changed my mind to even consider trying again, I can tell you though, I became obsessed with the idea. The grief I felt was all consuming but somehow the urge to fill my empty arms became stronger than the fear of losing another baby. Honestly it was a mix of not thinking clearly, determination and motherly instinct that even got me to the point of falling pregnant again.
After Jack my period never returned. Seven to eight months after Jack I saw a gynaecologist who suggested going on the pill for a while with the idea of regulating my cycle. The next day I started losing brown discharge so I assumed it was my period starting on it’s own. As I wasn’t sure what to do and couldn’t get in contact with the gynaecologist I went and saw my GP instead to ask whether or not to start the pill. The first thing he did was a pregnancy test which I went along with as a formality. I did not for one second believe that I could have been pregnant.
The doctor came back in the room and told me not to start on the pill because I was pregnant! And according to my HCG levels I was between two and three months along!
My body went completely numb and floppy and I remember folding in half. My head literally fell on to my own lap and I sobbed uncontrollably. So much so the doctor suspected I didn’t want to be pregnant and went to the waiting room to find Ben to come and comfort me.
Poor Ben fell to his knees on the floor in front of me picking my head up off my lap thinking I’d been given awful news. The doctor had to fill Ben in because I couldn’t speak. Ben congratulated me then we both cried some more.
Over the next few days the news sunk in. EVERYTHING about this pregnancy was different. We didn’t tell a soul! My own mum didn’t find out until I was fifteen weeks along. For me not telling anyone wasn’t about the fear of announcing and then losing the pregnancy. It was that I knew some would see this baby as replacing or rectifying Jacks death. Would it no longer be seen as acceptable to grieve my son? Would Jack and this baby be acknowledged as two seperate lives? Would group 1 and 2 would be thinking (and saying) “about time, I’m glad that’s over!”????
For this reason we kept my pregnancy hidden until nearly 20 weeks when I could no longer hide my bump. It wasn’t out of spite, it was out of self preservation. Fending off my own thoughts and fears was hard enough, the added pressure of MORE outside opinion and advice felt unbearable.
To the world a rainbow baby is such cause for celebration, any baby is. What’s not obvious to the outside is the immense fear that this baby may die too. The guilt of not getting attached but also loving that baby with every fibre of your being. Not wanting to feel too prepared at home because the thought of having to come home to an empty nursery is too much to bare but then beating yourself up for not having enough faith and trusting God. Being so pregnant and uncomfortable that you want the baby to come but also wanting to stay pregnant forever, just incase……….
The fear is relentless, but fear cannot outweigh a Mother’s love or determination.
I was lucky enough to have the same specialist as I had with Jack see my through my pregnancy with Isla. Not out of necessity, out of sheer generosity. At every appointment he gave me a quick scan just so I could see the babies heartbeat. With each appointment it was as though I was able to draw the smallest bit of air, enough to keep me alive until my next appointment. Life was divided into appointments.
The hospital counsellor who came to see me the morning after Jack died saw me throughout my entire pregnancy with Isla. She was so lovely and organised for me to join in the hydrotherapy class each week. It was the only time I would allow my mind to really bond with my baby. I would float around in the float ring with all the other pregnant mums. With dim lights and music I would put my hands on my stomach and talk to Isla in my mind. For some reason I felt safe to allow myself to do that for that 30 minute time slot each week. Maybe it’s because it was in the hospital, I’m not sure.
After months of discussion I was booked in to be induced at 39 and a half weeks. Due to how I was feeling, we all agreed being in the hospital when going in to labour was best for my mental health.
My beautiful midwife Jenny, who delivered Jack made herself available at my request to deliver my next baby. The staff suffer too when a baby is lost. They are people who devote themselves to delivering babies and saving lives and a lot of them parents themselves. In the moment they have a job to do but I can tell you from experience that they are heartbroken. Some hold it in until they leave the room, others can’t hold back. Both doctors and midwives sat on the edge of my bed and cried with me the night Jack died.
Jenny returned the next day after I had Jack to bring him some flowers.
After dad’s birthday dinner I announced that I was off to have a baby! If I’d chosen to I could have had the baby on my dad’s birthday but the thought of something happening and my dad having to spend the rest of his birthday’s with it that memory was too awful. For this reason they’ll forever be 51 years and 1 day apart. Still birthday besties though.
Considering the circumstances my labour was as good as it could be. I felt so supported by staff and my birthing support team, which was a big one! My husband, mum, auntie and friend. My dad was also floating around in the hallway outside. I opted for an epidural as soon as my contractions became strong. This was something I’d pre-planned with my doctor and counsellor. Jack’s labour had been very painful because he was posterior and I was trying to avoid all possible triggers to trauma. There was a lot of love in that room that day.
At approximately 5:55pm I felt the urge to push but my support team were so engrossed in a game show that was on the TV they asked if I could hold it until it finished. These people were actually serious! Something we still joke about to this day. At 6pm the game show ended and Jenny turned to me and said “let’s have this baby!”
Twenty minutes later my beautiful wide eyed girl, Isla Macy entered the world and as she took her first breath it felt like I also took mine. We didn’t know her gender but I knew she was a girl because I’d seen her in one of my dreams.
My doctor had been in and out of the room checking up on me all day. He wasn’t there to deliver the baby, he was just overseeing things to give me as much support as possible. The doctor had stood outside the door with my dad while they both waited to hear a baby cry. Dad said as soon Isla cried the doctor shook his hand and congratulated him.
Before Jenny left she announced that she was retiring and that Isla was the last baby she would ever deliver. We felt so lucky to have all had this positive experience together, it was healing for everyone.
After the birth
For months all I’d focussed on was delivering a healthy baby and hearing them cry. The relief of Isla’s cry is still something that sends tingles through my whole body, but then what? I hadn’t thought this far in, hadn’t made a plan for the afterwards. For days I did not sleep! Not because Isla didn’t sleep, it was because I was so frightened she would stop breathing. While she slept I held my finger under her nose so I could feel her breathing.
For 3 or 4 days I was completely delirious and fell asleep while burping Isla on my chest. When I woke I freaked out at the thought of what if I’d dropped or rolled on to her. I soon realised that while I slept, she kept breathing and maybe, just maybe I could begin to trust in life again.
Today on the 14th December 2022 my rainbow baby turns eighteen years old.