We welcome back Elaina as a guest writer today. She wrote for us last November in a piece titled "Salvaging Remnants of Faith." Elaina's daughter was discovered to have a fatal defect halfway through her pregnancy. She lived for a few hours after her birth.
Just the storm.
I attempt to soothe the aching wound of no rainbow baby by coming up with a list of reasons I may not be alone. Surely, I can’t be alone.
Secondary infertility, lack of money, multiple miscarriages, complications during delivery, crippling fear, PTSD, marital trouble, chance of recurrence/genetic risk, maternal age, maternal health, a conscious choice, or worst of all, a rainbow that died, too.
I had fully belonged to this club (the one where babies died and we were consumed by their absence). And then one by one, I belonged less. I identified less. Their stories were changing into narratives of hope and excitement and due dates and actual living babies, and mine was staying the same.
I completely relate to the natural desire for a rainbow baby. I am tired of directing my feelings into a great void with nothing in return. I am drained of the pressure to change and grow with nothing tangible in my arms. I am sick of processing the story a million different ways with the same conclusion in the end, just another day older. When we received the fatal diagnosis for Agnes, I had irrational visions of taking her out and starting over with a healthy baby right away. I didn’t. I chose to continue my pregnancy. But through it all, I kept thinking and dreaming about another baby, panicking about the time in between the loss and the happy ending, and how I would survive it.
But after Agnes died—I waited. I waited out of fear, out of concerns for my emotional health, out of exhaustion, out of depression, out of anxiety. I waited because I had to. I simply could not force myself to get pregnant again when I wanted to run as far from it as possible. This halted the momentum I had when I expected the baby I carried to be the baby I cared for. Weight gain, pregnancy cravings, c-section scars and dripping milk attributed to Agnes were not going to attach themselves to another pregnancy story in some continuous sequence of events. Agnes dying was simply going to be the end of the story, and I became determined to sit in it because it was all I could do.
By now, I’ve entered into a period of calm. I’ve adjusted to life outside of OB appointments, worry, and dread. My scar is healed. I no longer feel post-partum. The further out from my loss I become, the more I notice an indifference to babies. Do I really want another? Perhaps I’ve closed the door out of sheer pain, perhaps I’ve simply lost faith in my own body, perhaps I’m just exhausted, perhaps I am not brave enough. Regardless, everything is becoming less of what it should have been, and more of what it is.
Still, my mind drifts back to the child we should have toddling around our house, and I wonder about the future. I don’t want to attach too deeply to any dreams. Perhaps this loss was just a prelude to more future pain. We spend our younger, naive lives building and creating and hoping, and then slowly it all changes. So much goes away, or morphs into something else. At least for us. Still, maybe we will have another baby. Maybe we will adopt.
I suspect regardless of a living baby to hold, we all live the rest of our days out in some kind of pain. But I have to believe I will be okay if I choose to live in the storm, without a rainbow at all. I have to believe there are women like me who could not or would not erase the old memories of purple fingers and silent mouths with newer ones of pink cheeks and messy diapers. These women face a new day in what is; only what is—and what was. And the knowledge that they aren’t alone, even in the small subgroup of this subgroup called infant loss, perhaps carries them through. I have to believe life is going to be okay as a storm—without a rainbow.
Are you trying for another baby or have you decided not to? Where are you on this journey?