As I sit here, I am 16 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Even with these last few months of all the pregnancy feels- all day sickness, food aversions and bathroom runs every 20 minutes, my emotions or reaction to being pregnant still fluctuates. I am overjoyed, anxious, ebullient and terrified that it’s fleeting. I am in a bit of disbelief, even with a growing belly, and the disbelief borders on disconnection from what is happening inside my own body.
Will the connection bloom and grow as ultrasounds deliver good news time after time? Am I protecting myself from feeling connected? The answer to both of these questions is probably. This is pregnant life after loss, after all. I can recognize now that my pattern with struggle, with pain or with disappointment, is to put up a tough emotionally resistant wall. It has not mattered if this is at the hands of another or my own body, my reaction is the same. In studying my first marriage and its aftermath, the miscarriages and losses, even my lack of relationship with my father… I have erected hardened, emotional walls for protection. Shut it off so you feel less or hurt less, has been my unhealthy mantra and modus operandi in my life. Breaking or shifting that pattern feels hard and it is my new hurdle to surmount.
Then there is this term rainbow baby being thrown around. The term itself frankly does not sit well with me. It’s a nice concept, I guess, something bright and colorful that follows a storm. Shining light following something dark and scary. In fact, there are currently 700 drawings of rainbows in my house as Landon is deeply obsessed with them. But with fertility, it also implies that once you get pregnant with this rainbow child, that it’s all sunny and literal rainbows… and it means you’ve left your storm completely. As we all know, life is not that simple. As many women who have experienced loss or multiple losses will tell you… fear and grief for our losses, escape from a newly constructed protection wall… these things do not vacate your body just because a baby has moved in.
The rainbow concept, as nice as it is, implies that this pregnancy papers over the past with some rainbow bright sparkling light… and I don’t want it to. I want to remember those losses because they taught me what self care really means. I want to remember them because they each had their own name lists and entries in pregnancy apps and due dates. Our losses made me slow down, adjust my life and welcome balance. They allowed me to set priorities that include school pickups mid-afternoon and cherished playground time before dinner. Never before have I advocated for myself… not really, and I finally feel in the driver’s seat.
I do feel I am on the brink of excitement. We have heard her heartbeat three times, seen her little image, we have also dreamed up the perfect name… yet the unbridled elation, the deep love without fear, and all-consuming baby-baby-baby mentality I had when pregnant with Landon and with our first pregnancy, it has not come yet. I am very happy, but I do recall an otherworldly obsession in the past. That kind of unbridled joy that can exist when you fully release fear of being hurt. It is something I have felt before, but not yet and maybe never with this one. And that is OKAY. When discussing our expecting with people, I find myself faking it a little with my answer to “what a blessing, you must be beyond thrilled!” The only answer is “YES!” To give the answer “well, with my past, I’m working on bringing down this emotional wall I’ve put up”… talk about a Debbie Downer.
This child… she will be loved, doted on and cherished. I do not worry or doubt that. But I recognize that my journey into motherhood again is paved with well-worn experiences. My eyes are wide open, recognizing all of the miracles that have led us here. I can see the emotional wall being built, and I have never acknowledged it before. I see it as one of the monuments being built that I used to visit as a child growing up outside of D.C. Shining stones being place carefully atop one another, inscribed with what I have seen and felt before. As I work to remove one at a time, I do so without judgement… without the guilt. I have never before felt more like a mother warrior- aware of where I have been yet looking into the future with hope that I can change my patterns. And I will eventually move passed this phase and into accepting joy without fear. It just takes time. And again, that is OKAY.
We can do such hard things, us mothers… us women… and pregnancy after loss is only one of them. I am here to say to you today… let us not go into this complex time pretending we are fine. What if we didn’t settle for fine but strive for great? All of our experiences with loss are rainbows that have dimmed, and a new child does not heal us. Those memories and experiences are important for us to remember and carry with us. Everything we endure in life teaches us something if we let it, and they map where we are going next. I think there is immense power in accepting that and studying how that makes us feel.
With incredible love-