My son was born almost 4 years ago, before “rainbow baby” was a commonly used term. I certainly hadn’t heard of it until he was 1.
Even though he is a rainbow baby, I have a hard time thinking of him in that way. He isn’t my rainbow. He is something else altogether.
I remember our excitement when we finally determined it was time to start trying for our first baby. I was lucky; it happened on the first try. But the test line was so faint…but the box said a line was a line. I was pregnant.
Almost immediately I started feeling the effects. Going to the bathroom twice as much, nausea, dizziness. Then, when I was 5.5 weeks along, it happened. I saw some spotting and called my mom right away. She calmed me down and reminded me that some spotting can happen. It never happened to her, but she knew someone who’d had periods for most of her pregnancy.
I went to bed thinking I would be fine in the morning. But Doubt had crept in. For good reason. In the morning, I was bleeding. It was heavy and dark and I had to wake my husband to take me to the ER.
They called it a chemical pregnancy, which was devastating to hear.
For a week after, my husband and I read and researched. Through it all, I didn’t smile. My eyes were hard. My heart felt frozen. I didn’t care about anything.
The doctor said to wait 3 months. I was devastated. I had wanted a summer baby. But my husband is a scientist and found out we didn’t have to wait. As a matter of fact, after miscarrying, my body was primed.
So we tried again. And waited. Thanksgiving came and we celebrated with his mom. I should have known then, just 3 weeks after miscarrying, that something was different. I was constantly starving. I hate green beans, but couldn’t get enough of them. I was afraid to believe what I felt was real.
I had an exact 28 day cycle. My husband kept pressing me to take a test. I was queasy and getting headaches. But Doubt still sat on my shoulder. Finally, about a month after the miscarriage and 2 days past the 28th day counting from it, I gave in.
The test line was stark. Dark and demanding, it came up within 30 seconds. We were thrilled, but I was cautious.
The winter holidays came up. We spent it with my parents in Southern California, enjoying being away from snowy Philadelphia. My blood test confirmed my HcG levels were exactly where they should be.
But Doubt whispered in my ear. Phantom pregnancies were real. I might have all the signs and symptoms, but there might not be a baby.
At 8 weeks we had our first ultrasound. I went in with Doubt snickering in my ear. I studied the tech’s face, heart pounding. Her smile and confirmation of a beating heart shooed Doubt away. Momentarily.
I knew the miscarriage stats by heart, knew it could still happen. Doubt wasn’t done with me. It danced and twirled, taunting me. I was terrified.
20 weeks came. Heartbeat was strong, anatomy was normal, and it was clearly a boy, no doubt about that!
Finally, it was time to tell my classmates (I was in graduate school at the time). It was getting harder to hide my still tiny bump. Doubt still whispered in my ear, but I had to say sonething. I just kept it low key, fearful that a celebration would be my undoing.
The end of the semester came, and with it began endless rounds of studying for our comprehensive exams. It was exhausting, but it silenced Doubt for at least a little while.
Other than some concerns about his small size, the whole pregnancy was uneventful and easy, even. I continually pushed Doubt aside, ate well, exercised when I could, rested, but put off getting his bed (thanks, Doubt).
At 34 weeks, my mother-in-law finally convinced me it was time to get his bassinet. Good thing we did and I didn’t let Doubt step in again.
Saturday night I had painless contractions every 2 hours, but figured they were Braxton-Hicks. By Sunday night I was crying with pain. Could this be preterm labor? Please, no. We went to the hospital, found out it was indeed early labor, but I was far enough along that they wouldn’t stop labor. I was terrified, in pain, and couldn’t stop worrying about my little boy.
He finally came Tuesday afternoon at 34 weeks and 6 days. I held him for a minute before he was whisked away to spend the next 6 hours in the NICU.
Doubt taunted me again. Was he okay? Had his lungs had enough time to develop? Why were the nurses not telling me other than that he was still being observed?
It was night before he was given back to me, pronounced to be healthy with good lungs. I got to hold him and really look at him, study his tiny face.
That’s when it happened. That’s when I knew.
For the first time since the miscarriage, I truly smiled. This little boy was my smile. A rainbow after the storm? Sure.
But I call him my smile. He brought it back to me. Still brings joy to my heart. Even now, 3.5 years later, everything he is makes me smile.