A Rainbow Maternity Project
A Labor of Love
I can hardly believe this project is ready to be shared. This has been a labor of love for the past four months now. I cannot thank the mamas who participated enough for being vulnerable and sharing their stories. What a blessing this project has been on my heart and I pray it is a blessing to all of you reading this as well.
National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness
In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan Proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirth, birth defects, SIDS and other causes."
This cause is so heavy on my heart because I personally have suffered two miscarriages through my journey of motherhood. I know too well the deep pain that comes along with that and the anxiety that accompanies a following pregnancy. It is a gut wrenching, nerve wrecking kind of anxiety. The kind that prevents you from truly being able to enjoy your pregnancy. It is unexplainable to someone who has not experienced it. The uncertainty of whether or not this pregnancy will last. The constant worry that runs through your mind of what that little twinge was or why you haven't felt a kick yet today. It is debilitating at times.
So where do we go from here? How does one who has suffered a pregnancy loss or infant death find healing? I feel it is with each other. Unfortunately, though it's so far from deserved, there is such shame that accompanies pregnancy and infant loss. "What did I do wrong?" We, as women, all women should share our experiences together and encourage one another through the process. Sometimes all it takes is someone just to be there. You don't need to say anything. You don't need to do anything. Just be present. Wrap your arms around your friend, daughter, sister, whoever is going through this pain and let them know you are there. There simply are no words that will make it "okay", but I do feel there is such healing in sharing.
A Rainbow Baby
A "rainbow baby" is a baby that is born following a pregnancy or infant loss. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison. The storm (pregnancy loss) has already happened and nothing can change that experience. Storm-clouds might still be overhead as the family continue to cope with the loss, but something colorful and bright has emerged from the darkness and misery.
A Very Special Project
This project has been in the works for many months now. Seven beautiful and brave women participated to show off their beautiful rainbow baby bumps. Each of these women have experienced their own struggles with loss and every single one of them is expecting a precious little rainbow baby. We even had one of the babies arrive already (I will definitely be sneaking in an image of here later on so keep reading)! This group of women, who didn't know each other before the project, have a special bond because of what they've all experienced. Some of them have shared their stories below. I encourage you to take the time to read through them!
Our journey to parenthood started in March of 2015. We had been struggling to conceive for a little over 6 years at that point. We had an appointed with my OB and she referred us to Lancaster Fertility. That day was extremely hard and emotional. What woman ever wants to hear that something is wrong and they can't have a child. After extensive testing we found out that we both had an issue and that we definitely came to the right place. Once all of our testing was complete we were finally ready to start having a baby! I started on clomid and we started our first round of IUI. IUI is the medical term for artificial insemination. We were told that the more you do IUI the higher your chances are. So after our first failed IUI we decided to have another go at it. Much to our surprise it was successful!!! My heart was just bursting with excitement and tears that we were finally having a baby! Almost 2 weeks after our positive blood test I started to fall very ill. I was having severe cramping and was barely able to walk. Since it was August we went to the beach for a long weekend. Well much to my surprise I started to miscarry in the early hours of the morning. My husband rushed me to the ER and unfortunately we weren't close to home and with being a Fertility patient the doctor and nurses at the hospital didn't quite know what to do. We fast forward 4 days later and we have a check up with our Fertility doctor after our horrible news. Here I was not having a normal miscarriage, I actually had an ectopic pregnancy. Because of how much pain I was in I was told that I would need to have emergency surgery to have the embryo removed. So off I went and just like that my baby was taken away from me. That very day was the worst day of my life. After a couple months of healing and dealing with the struggle of losing our child we decided to continue treatments. We were told that we could continue with IUI but instead of clomid I would have to be on injectable medication because they had to remove one of my tubes. We proceeded to do IUI 3 morning times with no success. At that point our only option was to try IVF. We had our IVF consult on January 2017 and started the process in February. What a long and extensive process that was!! Early March we had our egg retrieval and 3 days later we had our transfer. We had 2 successful embryos and the decision was made to transfer them both. As an IVF patient you still have to wait the dreadful 2 week wait. Fast forward to March 20th. First day of spring. The day we were going to find out if we were having a baby!! I went in for bloodwork in the morning and wouldn't know the results until the afternoon. I remember getting that phone call like it was yesterday. Yay we are pregnant!!! And then came the dreadful "but". We got a positive test but my levels were very low. There was concerns that the embryo or embryos wouldn't make it. The decision was made to increase my meds and have bloodwork done every other day. The next 48 hours were the longest hours of my life. Thankfully the next test showed that my levels doubled which was they needed to see. I continued to go back in every other day to make sure my levels were rising. After a couple weeks we finally graduated from our Fertility doctor!! After almost exactly 2 years we were graduating and on our journey to having a baby. Today we are 7 weeks away and he will be arriving November 20, 2017.
I first got pregnant in December 2014, but miscarried after 9 weeks. It was a devastating loss, but luckily I got pregnant again in April 2015 and had our daughter Celia Lucy (CeCe) in January 2016! I then got pregnant again in February 2017, and our second girl, Sienna Aurora is due this month, October 2017. We are over-the-moon happy to welcome her into our family very soon. My husband and I are very thankful to have CeCe with us and Sienna on the way.
My husband and I first got pregnant in the fall of 2014. We were overjoyed and excited - considering that it only took a few months of trying! We made it all the way to our first ultrasound appointment when I was 6 weeks along. During the ultrasound I knew something was wrong when the technician left suddenly. She came back and confirmed I had a blighted-ovum. A what?! Basically that means that a sperm and egg met up but no baby formed. Everything else formed and looked perfect but no baby. They told me to wait a week to come back and confirm. I then endured the longest week of my life. I never prayed so hard or cried so much. God, please let there be a baby in there next week. Next week came and no baby. I was told I would have to wait for my body to miscarry. So for the next three weeks I waited. The miscarriage was traumatic and I had to go to the ER due to massive blood loss. After that happened I got really sick and had a blood infection which lead to infected kidney stones and an infected bladder. I was hospitalized for five days. Because I had to have procedures to remove the kidney stones I was not allowed to get pregnant. Torture. We could not even TRY. When I was finally cleared to try again it took an entire year to get pregnant again. I do not know why I did not seek additional medical help at the time but I remember being so certain we could do this ourselves. In April 2016 I was pregnant again. This time we kept it to ourselves and told no one. Everything was fine until week 5. I started bleeding. I told my husband "I know what is happening, I am having a miscarriage." He did not believe me but when the bleeding got so bad we went to a local triage. After being poked and prodded nurses confirmed I had miscarried. We cried. Hard. We did not understand why God took this baby too. What were we doing wrong? Was it my fault? It had to be. So, we kept on trying for about 6 months with no luck. I finally decided to take the next step and go to seek a fertility specialist. Again, we were poked and prodded. I was monitored so closely and some weeks I was in multiple days. We found out that our two pregnancies were actually miracles because they technically should not have happened considering the issues we had facing us. I found out that I could carry a pregnancy but we definitely needed help. We sought treatment for almost 6 months when I got the phone call I was pregnant. I dropped to my knees and sobbed because I knew that with all the interventions we were getting this pregnancy was going to last. I cried again but this time the happiest tears. We were going to finally start our family. So far my pregnancy has been completely healthy and even on the bad days I love it more than words. We are so blessed to be pregnant and I hope that my pregnancy goes quickly so I can meet my little rainbow.
When I found out I was pregnant with our little man due this October, it was an answered prayer. Last fall we lost our baby only weeks after knowing he or she existed. It was the longest and most painful few weeks I've ever been through. Excitement from seeing a heartbeat led to weeks of bleeding followed with questions of whether or not my baby was still in my womb. My heart broke when I went in for a check up after hoping and praying my little one was still there only to find my babe finished passing while I was in office. We chose to participate in a communal burial- an opportunity I was very thankful for. We were blessed to get pregnant again within a few months with our rainbow baby on the way. It was a time of growth and testing. My faith was stretched as I had to choose faith daily over the fear of loss again and the fear of not being able to conceive. I look forward to seeing Baby T, our little one in heaven, and anticipate with a happy heart the arrival of baby Cole this October.
We weren't planning another pregnancy when we got pregnant with the child we miscarried, and we weren't planning our rainbow baby either. We actually got pregnant right after our miscarriage, and after a few weeks my hormone levels were still present, so I called my OBGYN. The doctor thought I hadn't miscarried completely (I opted for a natural miscarriage) and told me I should probably plan for a D&E. However, we tested my hormone levels 48 hours later and found that they had doubled (which indicates a new pregnancy!), so instead we scheduled an ultrasound and there was a sweet little heartbeat and a bean measuring around 5.5 weeks! Not going to lie, we weren't mentally prepared to welcome a new child into our family at the time and there was a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding the beginning of our rainbow pregnancy (what if we lose this one too? I'm still grieving my other baby, how can I celebrate this new one and continue my grieving process simultaneously? I'm still breastfeeding, how will this affect my older child?), but Holy Spirit gave us two verses during this time - the first was actually given to us by a friend when we found out about our miscarriage: Isaiah 66:9 - "'I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born', says the Lord". This verse really touched our hearts, even though we didn't think our "something new" would come so quickly! We actually have a swaddle for our sweet little lady with this verse written on it. The second was Isaiah 43:19 - "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness and rivers in the dry wasteland." This verse is especially close to us now that we can look back at the dark time of discovering our child didn't have a heartbeat and the consecutive pregnancy that quickly followed. Because a pregnancy is measured from the first day of a woman's last period (and I didn't have a period in between pregnancies) the "first day" of this new pregnancy was actually the last day of my miscarried pregnancy and is such a testament that even in the middle of our hardest, darkest times God is already creating something new and beautiful out of our pain and brokenness. The names we chose for our tiny babe (though they will remain a secret until she arrives!) actually mean beauty through pain and darkness. We absolutely can't wait to welcome our sweet rainbow baby and all the beauty she will bring to our family!
We knew that conceiving would probably be difficult for my husband and I because I have many autoimmune issues. When we found out with our first baby, we were so ecstatic! The two pink lines were there, and from that moment, we were in love. Shortly after we found out we were pregnant, we were told that it probably wouldn't be a successful pregnancy. We lost our first baby at Thanksgiving. Our holidays were so hard. We had hope that 2017 would be our year. At the end of January, we found out that we were pregnancy again. This time, we were cautious. Especially since our first ultrasound showed an empty sac. The doctors prepared us for another loss. One week later, we saw a strong, beating heart on the ultrasound. My husband and I, along with our ultrasound tech, let out a sigh of relief. It was finally real. We have been so in love with our little girl! We have decorated her nursery using elephants and gotten tons of clothes with them which helps us to remember our baby in Heaven.
What does this project mean to you?
Jessica - "To me this series shows the babies we never got to hold. It shows the strength that myself and these women have to overcome one of the hardest things in life. Our rainbow babies will never replace what we have lost but will bring us joy of what we have fought so hard for. The struggle with infertility and miscarriage are way to common and just not talked about enough. I'm living proof that if you really want something bad enough God will provide in one way or another."
Megan - "I am thankful to be apart of this project because I believe it celebrates the lives of the babies that are not with us while celebrating the fulfillment of a promise found in the life of a rainbow baby. We will always cherish our little one that we will never get to hold and share our love with earth side, while we embrace the opportunity to love more fiercely then ever as we fully recognizing the true miracle of life. I am thankful this project sheds the shame that can be associated with miscarriages and celebrates the beauty of life after loss."
Emily - "It's a celebration. I am getting emotional just knowing that all the other women are rainbow mommy's too. It shows empowerment. It shows that there is healing and hope even in a storm. It shows that we are strong women who can overcome the most devastating loss. I hope it touches other women and we can continue to create conversations about loss and miscarriages because it does happen and women should not feel alone. I am honored to be a part of this and I pray it touches others."
Melanie - "It feels like a really nice way to honor the babies that we conceived but couldn't bring into this world, as well as to celebrate how lucky we are to be the parents of rainbow babies!"
Danielle - "I never wanted maternity pictures. I have always thought that I had the body type that would make it hard to tell that I was pregnant, so the thought of displaying those insecurities seemed awful. Multiple coworkers urged me to participate in this project. When I read more about Angie's vision and goal, I felt like I could find healing with this project. I never felt as beautiful as I did the day I had my pictures taken. And I finally could think about our baby and smile. My husband was so grateful that Angie's project could make me feel this way."
Our first Rainbow Baby born out of the project
"The day that Isla arrived was the most wonderful day of our lives. We had to be induced at 36 weeks, which can make baby's adjustment to the outside world more challenging. Our little miracle baby has been happy and healthy since her very first breath, thriving on the outside. We couldn't be happier for each snuggle, each dirty diaper, every tear, every gassy smile. To us she is perfect." -Danielle
This project was also featured on the local news! Check out that clip here.