Infertility Story: The Emotional Challenges of a Rainbow Baby Pregnancy After Infertility
A rainbow baby is a baby born after the loss of a previous pregnancy or baby. That baby comes with all the usual joys of parenthood, with the added happiness and relief of success after a struggle. That much loved baby, however, is forever linked with the sadness and grief of the losses that preceded it, just like a rainbow after a storm.
Jalina King is a mother to not one rainbow baby, but two. After struggling through miscarriage and infertility to conceive her first son, she realised she wanted to share her experiences and the unique lessons she learned with others who are challenged by infertility, and started This Side of If, an online resource for inspiration, education, and encouragement through infertility and loss.
In this post, she shares with us, the emotional impact of a rainbow baby pregnancy after infertility. To read more about her story, check out her About page.
Who would have thought infertility would have robbed me of the joy of pregnancy?
My husband and I struggled for nearly 3 years to conceive our first son. We didn’t even get pregnant for 2.5 years, only to miscarry at 7 weeks. No combination of words can describe the grief or isolation of losing someone you never had a chance to meet, but who already had a name, a bedroom in your home, and a place in your heart.
When I received a positive pregnancy test result only 5 months later, it was with mixed emotions. Instead of using one of the clever pregnancy reveals I had planned for my husband over the years, I stared at him in disbelief, speechless, mouth agape.
It couldn’t be real. It was too soon. A rainbow pregnancy wasn’t really going to happen for us. Should I even bother making a prenatal appointment or wait to miscarry again? I couldn’t bear the thought of showing up to another prenatal exam not pregnant, another trip to the ER, or another comment of, “You’re not pregnant anymore.”
I did make that prenatal appointment. I did make it past that seemingly magical 7-week milestone, then to the age of viability, then to my due date, then another 8 days. It was an incredible relief after many months of infertility and an early loss that I could carry my rainbow baby to full term!
At almost 10 months old, my son started sleeping through the night, causing my menstrual cycles to regulate since I was breastfeeding. My husband and I decided we might as well start trying for another baby since it could take a few years. Imagine our surprise when we got pregnant on the second try. Imagine our surprise when we miscarried a second time.
I felt terrified we would have to endure more years of infertility.
After the birth of our son, I thought infertility was in our past.
I thought surely I wouldn’t miscarry again.
I was young, healthy, and had given birth to a healthy baby. Now, instead of the naive, hopeful attitude I had when we first started trying for our son, my mind flooded with the pain and worry of infertility. How would I cope with more waiting and miscarriages? How was this going to affect our son? What had I done?
I felt obsessed with getting pregnant immediately.
We had made the decision to try for another baby, and I couldn’t give up on it now. The desire consumed every waking thought and every sleepy dream.
I spent all my free time recording, analyzing, and reanalyzing every cramp, twinge, or headache. I endlessly researched how to get pregnant the cycle after a miscarriage and scoured the internet for stories of women who had done it.
I felt embarrassed to talk about another miscarriage.
It was awkward. No one knew what to say to me after my first miscarriage. Or they thought they knew, but their reactions and comments actually made me feel worse.
After my second miscarriage, I wanted to avoid the topic altogether. I thought if I could get pregnant again immediately, I wouldn’t have to tell anyone about my second loss and could pretend I had been pregnant all along.
I felt guilty when I did become pregnant again 23 days later.
- Guilty that the desperation to be pregnant again felt like I was simultaneously replacing the baby I had lost and neglecting the baby I already had.
- Guilty that I was expecting a second baby while other women were still struggling to conceive their first.
- Guilty for being too tired to be the mom I wanted to be to my son.
- Guilty that my drastically changing hormones were affecting my milk supply.
- Guilty that my firstborn, the baby I wanted so long, had to go through all this.
- Guilty for leaving my job and passing all financial responsibility to my husband so I could be home with the children I wanted so badly.
- Guilty for letting guilt reside where joy should have been.
- Guilty for feeling guilty.
Oh, yes. It goes on. I’ve heard of mom guilt, but infertility adds a special flavor to it.
Having one child was not the end of the infertility journey.
Becoming a mother wasn’t the end result. When we’re waiting, all we want are those two pink lines followed by the beautiful birth of our own, healthy baby. We’re sure that when we have that, our suffering will end. Instead, life keeps going, and infertility keeps coming along with it.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine on this side of infertility. The rainbows we do get are the babies born after indescribable, unimaginable, devastating loss. The sunshine here is seen in that baby’s smile. That baby we wanted so badly for so long. That baby we feel a special gratitude for after the trials and losses.
The losses. They don’t dampen the beauty of that rainbow baby’s smile, but somehow the two become forever intertwined.
Right now it’s 2:23am. My toddler is crying, and the baby inside me just woke up. But later this morning after a few hours of sleep, you bet I won’t be complaining.
This is pregnancy and parenting after infertility and loss. This is what I wanted.