Having a baby (or babies in my case) after losing a child comes with a whole new set of feelings, worries, hopes and dreams. I was in no way prepared for how different this pregnancy would be from my other two. Regardless of my high risk status due to a twin pregnancy, it's different this time. It's scarier. I'm more doubtful. For a long time, I was less optimistic. But I also have a greater appreciation for every little wiggle and poke they give me. More thankful for everyday they stay inside, growing stronger and bigger... It's been more intense.
Today, I am 36 weeks and one day.
I can't believe we've made it this far. Every day these babies have stayed in, has given them a better chance at coming home with us- all fat and healthy. But the thought is never far from my mind... a healthy baby at birth does not equal a lifetime of happy moments and memories. There are no guarantees. None. I, like many other heartbroken parents, know the truth. The horrible and brutal truth. We know that you can be going about your life, completely happy and blissfully ignorant, only to be cut down by the reality of tiny caskets, autopsy reports and the realization that you will never hold or see your child again. When you've been through what we have, you know the truth. And you realize that those who haven't, can never truly understand.
I can't tell you how many doctors and "experts" have told us that what happened to Ellie was a fluke, a freak twist of nature, "the worst kind of bad luck." Every time I voice my concerns of history repeating itself, I am given the same response- "that won't happen again."
How can they be sure?
What happened to Ellie was so rare that there is very little research or information on the subject. The infection she died from is very common, but the problem her spleen is more than rare. Our answers from the medical examiner, geneticist, immunologist, intensivist, pediatrician and perinatologist were less than vague. Basically, we were never given an answer to why this happened to her spleen leaving her so incredibly vulnerable. And to me, that's not nearly good enough.
Max had his spleen and antibodies checked shortly after Ellie passed away. The babies will have their spleens checked before we leave the hospital, at three months and at six months. They will also have their pneumococcal antibodies checked after their full course of pneumococcal vaccinations are given. I know what happened to Ellie is not likely to happen again. But it wasn't likely to happen the first time either. The odds weren't in our favor the first time, so why would they be the second time??
What I want is for people to understand that lightning can strike twice. Just because we've suffered one tragedy, doesn't mean we are protected from another. Several of us were harshly reminded of this this past week when a fellow mother shared that her two day old daughter had joined her big brother in Heaven. Reading her heartbreaking words and seeing the pictures of her final moments with the second child she sent to Heaven makes me mad. It's not fair that one person should have to bear so much. It doesn't make sense.
This is what I want people to understand... Once you've lost a child, you are never the same. Yes, being pregnant again is a wonderful gift but its also a burden. We know that at any minute all of the joy, dreams and hope can be taken away. We are teeming with happiness and terrified of losing it.
We want people to understand this when we voice our concerns over every day things like rashes, stuffy noses and a nap that seems a little too sound. Don't blow us off and don't make us feel crazy. Trust me, we already feel crazy. Be understanding of our lows.
And try to understand what's going on behind the smiles of our highs. We will rejoice in the snuggles with our new babies and in the little noises they make. We will love our babies for who they are- totally separate from any other child we have. But behind our laughs and smiles is the ache of knowing that someone in our family is always missing. Our sadness over never seeing their sibling reach the same milestones. The fear that it may all happen again and that we are powerless to prevent it. The guilt of moving forward with our lives.
Having another baby- or babies- after losing a child is messy. My reactions and feelings towards certain aspects of preparing to add to our family surprise me. I was ok going through Ellie's clothes to find things for her sister to wear, but it was nearly impossible to remove her still attached nuk-hook from her car seat and get it ready for our baby girl. Finding one of her tiny hairs still on the straps nearly caused me to buy a whole new car seat instead of reusing hers... The joy of preparing for a new child, while tucking away memories of their big sister... it's messy.
There is a phrase out there- "Rainbow Babies." For a long time, I avoided this term. It seemed a little too cutesy and happy for me. But the more I think about it, the longer I'm pregnant and the closer I get to meeting these two little miracles- the more I can relate to it...
"Rainbow Babies" is the
understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages
of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never
happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath.
What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared
in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover
but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.
We've spent the last 18 months in hell. A non-stop storm of heart break, longing, sadness and grief. We will never get over Ellie. Our beautiful little girl was only in our arms for nine months, but she will forever be with us. And this means we will always long for her. We won't ever "get over her." So while we are so excited to meet these two little ones and so happy to have them join us, we will always be missing Ellie... The rainbow might be breath-taking, but it doesn't fix the damage the storm did. You can't have a rainbow without the rain. They go hand-in-hand... you can't have one without the other...
The last few weeks here in Minnesota have been filled with a lot of rain and storms. Rain and gray skies have made these last few weeks of pregnancy rather difficult. I feel like the dreary weather has been a perfect match for how my body has felt. But tonight I was given a little reminder as to why I feel this way... Being 36 weeks pregnant with two babies is no easy feat. But feeling sore and miserable means that these babies are still in there- growing away. And that is a good thing.
So when Dave spotted the double full rainbow outside our house tonight, I rushed out to snap some pictures. And until the babies get here, they will remind me that all of this pain of pregnancy is a good thing. And after they get here, they will remind me that there are only rainbows after rain.