This has been a long time coming as I knew that I would want share this news with you, readers. I’ve been blogging for over a year and podcasting for less than, and my, you all have been kind and courageous and awesome. It’s been a hard space for me to learn to be vulnerable, and when the right time is, and how to navigate when to share news and when not to.
But I was washing my hands the other day, praying on the matter and I felt like the Lord asked me a simple question: “Is this your story to tell, or is it mine?” And I was immediately reminded that all of it is His story. We are merely invited into it. So here it goes.
I am pregnant, and we are getting close to the end of this thing. I am 35 weeks along, and apparently when you have a baby after losing one, your pregnancy is a “Rainbow pregnancy” and your new baby is called a “Rainbow baby”. This is, of course, because the idea is that the next baby is the promise after the storm, the baby and the child and the future that you were expecting and like the rainbow that was shown to Noah, it is a sign of hope.
I have struggled about writing about this pregnancy, and have refrained from social media posts or photos. If you have seen me speak live this fall, then you already know, but either way, I decided I want share about this journey and about what it actually feels like to be pregnant with a Rainbow baby.
I’ve never been one to tell others what they want to hear, but have always promised you all that I will do the one task I can: tell the truth. Truth telling is vital to our existence as human beings. We belong to one another, and we owe it to each other to be real and raw and vulnerable, because this is the only way any of us learn to let others in, let God in, and start to see some healing.
Our experiences may be completely different, or they may be almost exactly alike besides a few details, but they also may just have a few similarities. Whatever the circumstance, we get to listen and respond and be there for one another in the best way we know how. We show up.
So thank you, for showing up for me, right here. These emotions are hard to process, and hard to share because in the Christian community, if you aren’t happy, excited, full of faith, and have no fear, then well, you’re doing something wrong. And sweet readers, you know this isn’t the first time I’ve “done something wrong” according to these standards.
We Will Keep Loving One Another
The honest, raw truth is: we. are. terrified. Sometimes we are hopeful, but the first part and most of this journey, has been marked by fear.
All three of us, myself and husband and son, we are scared. We have no idea what is going to happen, and the experience we are relying on as a collective bunch is when we lost baby #2. Chip was acting up the other day, and after a few days of this where I was trying to determine if it was regular 5-6 year old behavior, or something out of the norm, I inquired about it. Both Cy and my mom suggested that it was because he was aware that our family dynamic would change, and a new baby was coming. My conversation with Chip went like this:
“Hey buddy. Are you having a hard time thinking about a new baby coming and it taking time away form me and daddy?”
“No. Well now that you said, that maybe? But no. I’m actually just wondering if she is going to make it.”
Immediately I screeched to a halt in my brain and hit “reverse” mentally and emotionally until I ended up at the fork in the road and took the route that I hadn’t the first time. I thought we were in one lane, but actually, I realized, all of us were in another.
I thought, or I had pretended that we were in the lane of “everything is fine and normal” but actually we were in the lane marked by fear and questions and doubt.
And the only person who is brave enough to address these questions is Chip:
“Mommy, what are we going to do if the cord gets wrapped around her neck and she dies?”
“Why did Jesus kill my first brother?”
“What will happen if she tries to be born and she dies first?”
These are all questions that Chip asks aloud and at first feel jarring like I jumped into a cold pool, but then suddenly my body is used to it and I realize that his thoughts are mine, too.
This has proven to be somewhat therapeutic for us as we are forced to answer these hard questions that we would have otherwise ignored and let build up in anxiety and fear.
“Well buddy, what did we do the first time? We kept on loving one another, and we talked with one another, and we kept living our lives, even though we missed the baby and didn’t understand. We kept on loving one another and we will do that again. We will always have each other.”
“Jesus didn’t kill your first brother. In fact, it made Him so incredibly sad that we all had to say goodbye. We live in a world where bad things happen, and that is why we hope for Jesus to make all things good again someday.”
“We hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, we will miss her and we will keep loving one another.”
That’s the answer I always come back to: we will keep loving one another. Because at some level, although only age 6, he knows that the loss that we experienced and that one does when they loose a baby is the type of loss that can tear a family apart. I read a statistic that over 75% of marriages split after the loss of a child.
But we have committed to loving one another, even when we don’t understand, even when we want to blame, we choose love no matter what. We’ve heard this phrase a lot thrown around in different ways the past year or so, but let me say that it is 100% true: Love always wins. It never fails and it doesn’t let us down.
I want Chip to know, and a reminder to Cy and I as well: life may let us down, but love will see us through.
Faith and Fear
However, all this love talk doesn’t make the reality any easier or quite frankly, hopeful. I can be a bit of a pessimist and cynic at times, two things about me that I like to say is just me being “realistic”. But the point here is that while I know and am confident in the fact that we would survive the arduous road of grief and loss, if we were to meet it again, doesn’t make the fear of it any less.
To be frank and honest, I think that most of the time all of us are waiting of the other shoe to drop. We are just kind of waiting, watching the belly grow, and the days go by, but waiting that maybe today, this moment or this timing is when it all comes crashing down.
There are moments that I have experienced joy and fun in this pregnancy, like when she kicks, hearing the heart beat at each appointment, and the 20 week ultrasound that was healing in so many ways. I look at my pregnancy app each week to see how big baby girl is getting, and we have all had fun putting our hands on my belly to feel her kick.
But I can’t say truthfully that I have done this with the image of a little healthy girl in mind at the end of this. Instead, I think we have enjoyed the moment of these things in and of themselves, not that they point to a certain outcome.
A good friend of mine reminded me that a few years ago I would have felt guilt over this. I would have been distraught that I wasn’t enjoying my pregnancy like a doting mom would, that it said something bad about me as a mom, and clearly was a marker for someone who was unfit to mother. And he was right. I would have. I would have beaten myself up over this, and then related it somehow to an old and damaging theological blunder about who God is and what He thinks of me. But this time, by the grace of God, I’m not taking this path. We aren’t taking this path. I guess somewhere along this journey of loss and bravery, I have discovered that guilt does nothing but tell us lies. Guilt tricks us into believing something about ourselves that we are not, and it tries to force emotions into our heads and hearts that we don’t really believe.
Guilt, in this situation, would make me feel awful for not enjoying every minute and it would act like fear was something that was ridiculous, uncalled for and unfounded. But you know what? It’s not. The truth is is that we delivered a baby as a stillborn after 36 hours of labor, held him in our arms, and said goodbye, all when there was no rhyme or reason for any of it. There still isn’t. There are no answers, and there won’t ever be. Fear? It’s a founded emotion. It’s real and it’s here. To act like fear shouldn’t be here is to stop being honest with ourselves, each other, and God.
I have found, however, that fear is not something that we feel alone. It’s not a singular emotion that just sits there by it’s lonely self. It always has a counterpart. My biggest moments of fear have been exactly when I have stepped out in faith. Why? Because I not afraid of anything that I know will work out.
We stepped out in bravery to get pregnant, and we did so in both faith and fear. These two things are coexisting with one another right now, the scales tipping in different directions depending on the day. And we are ok with that. We have decided that after all the confusion and messed up theology we believed for so long, that we no longer have to pretend in front of Jesus. That He would rather us approach His feet as the hot mess we are, with our doubts and questions, our fear and our honesty than anything else.
The Road to Healing
We waited around 2 years after we lost baby #2 to start trying again. Part of this was my back and healing from that injury because I wanted to be sure to be healthy enough to carry a baby again. But the other part was the mental and emotional healing that had to take place.
After the first few years, you kind of get over the shock of it all. It no longer feels like someone slapped you in the face when you see that necklace you were wearing, or you hear the song that you played earlier in the day before you went to the hospital. You still have moments where you stand still and remember things the nurses said, or the purple ribbon on your door that signified to the staff that although we were in the labor and delivery unit, there was no joyous occasion on the other side. These still come, and they come whenever they please. For the rest of my life, I suspect grief and memory will be playing a mean game of cat and mouse in my head.
But, as the years have passed, I have realized that these moments feel differently. I no longer have to stop what I am doing and regroup. I can answer the hard questions that Chip asks me without crying. I can be present in the life I live now, and at the same time view our journey from 30,000 feet almost marveling at where we have travelled and how we have changed.
That road, it is the one we didn’t expect ourselves to go down, yet we find ourselves deep within. And oddly enough, the road of hurt and pain is the same road of healing and restoring. Our journey into grief has most certainly put us out on the other side, and we have many moments of hope, redemption and healing that we can put a sign post in: “God met us here.” But there is one important distinction that we have come to realize: Rainbow babies do not, and will not, heal the hurt and pain of the ones we lost.
When the rainbow came out after Noah and his whole ark and flood ordeal, I can put money on the fact that Noah’s confusion, pain, hurt, bewilderment and sense of abandonment were not all healed and stitched up and put away in that moment. How could they be? His road to healing was marked by the tiresome journey that was ahed of him. He had the task of putting the land back together, of bringing hope to the people, building everything from scratch and starting again. It was the hard work of rebuilding that gave way to slow and gentle path of healing.
He found healing in moving forward, into something new and different with a new perspective, not trying to re-create what once was. The same is true for us: we find healing in allowing the new adventure/baby/job/relationship to be new, to be it’s own person and take on it’s own life. We must resist shoving it into expectations that it will redeem all the things and pains and hurts that we’ve had and erase what we’ve been through. The road to healing is marked by re-building, not replacing.
She is Ours
As we approach these final weeks, as a family, we are gaining more and more confidence that our baby will arrive safely, and soon. I feel her kick all the time, my belly is giant, and we are way past the point we were last time. There are days where I let myself be excited. There are days that I don’t. I still hold my breath each time our doctor listens of the heartbeat. But of course I do.
We have named her already, and we talk about her a lot. She kicks first thing in the morning when Chip jumps into our bed and she hears his voice. She has her own little personality already; kicking the moment something is rested on her belly. I keep saying she is a “free spirit” which both excites me and terrifies me. I can run with free sprits, they keep me company. But to parent one? That’s a whole other story. God bless you, mom.
Cy and I have had conversations in the privacy of our own hearts and home, and others too. We have found freedom to be afraid, to wrestle, and to even be hopeful. We have played with the notion of excitement and even expectation; a feeling that reminds me of being young, in love, and no one knows your secret. We talk about her arriving and how excited we are, yet in the next breath we are honest that we are so very afraid. I have asked hard questions of him, and he of me, and we are walking up to the due date with fear, caution, and excitement. Like two people in a cave who don’t know what’s around the corner, we have our flashlights pointed ahead, and occasionally, we turn them on one another. We always have the same face when we look at each other. It’s the one that says: we take this next step together. I’m not leaving you behind, and you don’t leave me.
I would love to sit here and tell you that I have one month left and all is well in my head and heart. Baby showers. Flowers. Maternity pictures. The whole bit. But then, dear readers, I would be going against my truth telling rule to you.
Instead I will land here: I have a long way to go in truth telling to God. In the next month, I have dedicated my thoughts and prayers at being even more honest and raw with Him, taking space and time to name emotions and fears that I have so far put to sleep. I have committed to searching my soul and bringing it all out on the table.
But so far, I have learned to embrace today. This moment. These kicks. This belly. I am reminded that I do not know if all will end well in this story, but I am grateful for the new knowledge I have this time around that this isn’t my story to tell. I have been able to release guilt, fear, shame, and exchanged them for freedom. I have decided that while we may not be the poster children for faith and triumph with all fear left behind, we are honest. I have seen that while we are here in the waiting, she has already become a part of us, our family, our conversations, and our life. I am comforted to know that no matter what happens, she is already ours.
We don’t have to wait to see her breathe or hear her cry for this to be true. It is true already. Just as all children do, our second son has changed us. He left his mark on our hearts and brought life to many who were hurting and suffering. And she is doing the same.
This little Rainbow baby is bringing the reminder of what it means to be hopeful: you get to pause and be still and watch the colors glisten in the sun. You get to remember that moments before you were in the midst of the storm, but the clouds parted and this rainbow appeared. You pay attention long enough to notice that the grass is still wet, and there are clouds in the distance that still linger. And that’s ok. For now, for this moment, the rain has stopped and you know that whatever happens next will be rebuilding into something new. The rain will soak into the ground and do it’s job. Things are not left dried up, but tended to.
She has already given us the freedom to be human, the come before God truthfully, and for hope to exist simultaneously with fear. She has given us all the courage to keep on keepin’ on, even when we don’t know the outcome, and to be the most raw, and honest versions of ourselves with one another. She has reminded us that love will always get us through, and has brought us closer as a family. She has reminded me to be adventurous because if nothing else, we get to enjoy the journey.
If this is any indication to what she will be like when she is born; then adventure awaits.