(By Melissa, originally written in December of 2014)
I have four children. Three beautiful, healthy children here with me. And one child born still on December 23, 2013. Christmas was so heart wrenching that year. We found out on December 6th that our baby’s heart had stopped beating, and our sweet “Baby G” had silently slipped away just a few days earlier. Our entire Christmas season was spent waiting for my body to release him.
There were many nights I spent sitting by the light of the Christmas tree, crying silently for the little boy I would never nurse to sleep or see his bright eyes, never hear him call me “mama.” The cheerful Christmas music played everywhere I went but I felt drained of life. I went through the motions of Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, attending Christmas services, all while holding my head up and staying strong for my girls and those around me. But inside I felt part of my soul had died. I had lost a part of me. I went to ultrasounds confirming the “fetal demise” as the paperwork put it, and sat in the waiting room beside heavily pregnant women, glowing with the joy of carrying their live baby. I had to continue to attend and photograph births – all while knowing my child was dead inside of me. And my body hadn’t even gotten the memo yet. Like a cruel joke, I had to wait. Walk around all month with him laying lifeless inside of me, like I was his tomb. But I held my head high – smiled brightly at all the new moms I photographed and congratulated them. It’s like the saying, you don’t know how strong you are until strong is all you can be.
The entire experience impacted me so deeply, I don’t think I can actually put it into words correctly. But the trauma of losing a baby is so painful, it’s something that doesn’t fully go away, even with the birth of a perfect, healthy, prayed for rainbow baby.
I didn’t think the next Christmas would be hard. I had birthed a healthy rainbow baby just weeks before and expected to hug him close all season and be profoundly thankful for his presence. And I was! Oh how far I have come in healing from the loss of Baby G. The grief I feel now feels so much safer, so much calmer. Welcomed and healing. The pain isn’t so raw and fresh anymore – but some of the pain and loss still remains, as I suspect it always will. And in a way, I want it to always be a small part of me. Because Baby G was my baby, too. Even though he isn’t here with me, he matters. His life mattered. I am his mama. I carried him his entire life. The pain that is forever etched into my being reminds me that he mattered. But I didn’t expect to grieve for him deeply again the next Christmas as well.
When we brought our tree home and set it up the year after we lost him, I was caught a little off guard. I had a hard time blinking back the tears as I carefully unwrapped his “First Christmas in Heaven 2013” ornament and hung it on our tree. He had no “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament, but he had a special ornament none the less. Because he mattered. And I don’t want him to be forgotten. So I told our oldest daughter we had an ornament just for him, and she thought it was very special. Because she went through it too the year we lost Baby G. She was at the ultrasound when we saw his unmoving, lifeless body. She cried and asked if we could pray for Jesus to send him back. On the way home from that awful ultrasound, she cried into her hands and said over and over “I really wanted the baby to be born.”
When the sun set in the evening, and only the light of the tree shone in our living room, the feelings of Christmas 2013 came rushing back. And I started feeling the deep rooted pain only a mother missing her child can feel. I so clearly remembered the first night I knew of his passing, sitting on the couch by light of the Christmas tree, watching the snow fall, and alternating between tears and prayers until 3am. I remember holding the “Baby’s First Halloween” bib I had bought for him and crying until my face burned with the salt of my tears. Because there are so many specific decorations and music and traditions attached to the Christmas season, they will probably always somewhat remind me of Baby G. I was so exhausted and weary that Christmas season – simply trying to put one foot in front of the other and waiting for my body to release him. I spent that Christmas Eve on the couch, my uterus finally expelling what had been Baby G’s home for 12 weeks. Weak and exhausted, loosing blood, I couldn’t fill my daughter’s stockings. I had to lay there and tell my husband which stocking stuffers went in which stocking. I couldn’t even get off the couch to go read my girls The Night Before Christmas. I started worrying why I was still bleeding so much the night after I had birthed the baby and called my midwife again. We were trying our hardest to not make a Christmas Eve ER trip. Thankfully, after some rigorous fundal massage, I passed my placenta, which I hadn’t realized was stuck, and it never came to making an ER trip. I have a lot of trauma attached to that year’s Christmas season – both physical and emotional.
After letting my mind wander to those memories, I gathered my sweet, amazing, 5 week old son into my arms and nursed him by light of the Christmas tree. I grasped his little hand in mine, and he squeezed my finger as if to say, “I’m here, mom. Your rainbow made it. And Baby G is in Heaven waiting.” After I nursed him to sleep, I slipped into a hot bath and cried until I felt better. Until I felt some darkness lifting. Until I realized – it’s okay to feel grief still. Just because I still miss Baby G, doesn’t mean I’m feeling sorry for myself. Of course I am filled to the brim with love, elation, and gratitude that my healthy rainbow is here. And feeling grief confirms Baby G cannot be replaced, and that is a comforting feeling. Baby G is still a loss that will take up a part of my heart forever.
Despite the emotional and physical trauma of a miscarriage, the emotion that overshadows all the rest is gratitude. In fact, gratitude is not a big enough word to describe what I feel. I could sing my thankfulness from the mountain tops and it would not be enough. I’m thankful for the time we did have with Baby G, for the time he spent growing safely and for the joy he did bring to our family. I’m thankful my husband and I freely feel the grief when we need to, because it reiterates that the son we lost still has a place in our hearts and in our family. I’m thankful for the blessing of having another baby after our loss. I love my rainbow son with every fiber of my being, and his life is so precious. He is God’s amazing gift to us – the healing we needed after losing Baby G. I know many people have to wait much longer for their rainbow baby – sometimes never having a rainbow baby at all. I don’t know why or how it happened so fast for us – but it did. I am feeling every bit of that amazing gratitude. And while feeling the gratitude, I am learning it’s okay for me to still feel grief for the loss of Baby G, for he was my child too, and I love all four of my children.