*This content was written this past September 18, 2019.*
Nothing brings a person to a place of reflection on their life like expecting the arrival of a new baby in your family. Tomorrow we have our scheduled C-section and I am feeling ALL the emotions today. The good, the bad, happy, sad, ups and downs, anxious, excited, worried, stressed, joy, gratitude …you get the idea.
I thought I’d reflect on the 1st year of the Rainbow Baby Project because it has greatly impacted the way I have viewed and experienced my 4th pregnancy.
One year ago, I was gearing up to launch the Rainbow Baby Project. Truthfully, not quite sure how it would unfold, work or if anyone would even consider doing it. Overwhelmingly, I was able to use my gift of photography for at least one family every month for the past year. Some of them were complete strangers and others were friends and even family. I learned about so many families’ pain through infertility, miscarriages and stillbirths. Not one of their stories were the same. Not one of them had a journey into parenthood that was identical to another. They each had their own story to tell, heartbreak to live through and live with. Each had the pull of feeling joy for their new baby while also feeling grief for the one(s) they lost. I learned that saying something to one grieving parent might bring them comfort while saying the exact same thing to another parent might trigger a totally different emotion and reaction. I will never pretend to know the right thing to say to a grieving parent, in fact, I don’t know what to say at all. And I learned that’s OK too. Just show them love, they don’t expect you to know what to say because often they don’t have words to express it themselves.
I have often been asked what made me start the Rainbow Baby Project and truthfully, it wasn’t one single event or moment, but rather a culmination of multiple moments and experiences. A few years back I saw a posting on Facebook with a group of mom’s all holding signs that said “I am 1 in 4.” This posting was done in October, which is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month. One in four women will experience the loss of their pregnancy or infant. That post got me thinking about the people in my own life that are 1 in 4. I mentally started making a list of all the friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances that I know who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. The list quickly grew to over 20 women and it was eye opening. And these were just the ones who were brave enough to share their heartbreak with me over the years. I’m sure there were more that never spoke of it. Over the past few years, even more family and friends have experienced heartbreaking loss. I knew it was time to start something that signifies hope. I am a planner and usually like to have all the details worked out ahead of time, but one night while getting ready for bed the Lord whispered to me “It’s time.” And the next day I started the Rainbow Baby Project. I didn’t have the details all worked out, but I knew it was nearly October and I knew it was the perfect timing to start the project. So I jumped in and trusted God to guide me and make this project something beautiful.
Also, over this past year we found out we were expecting. It was a surprise to us both and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of guilt after working with women during the Rainbow Baby Project who struggled a great deal with infertility. My husband and I feel overly blessed to have 4 pregnancies that haven’t had any complications. Four babies born alive and healthy. We don’t take one second of that for granted. It’s our prayer that more mom’s and dad’s have pregnancies with no complications.
Many may not know this, but my husband is himself a Rainbow Baby. His older brother, Russell, was a full-term stillbirth. When we were dating, I remember the first time he told me about Russell. We were visiting the cemetery at his grandparents’ graves and then he took me to Russell’s place of rest and shared what he knew about his brother’s story. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, that my husband actually had the courage to ask his mom to tell him more about what happened. As sad as it was for him to hear the details about his brother’s stillbirth, I know he has a much deeper understanding of his own parents and just how meaningful his own birth story is to them. (update: We welcomed Bennett Russell on Sept. 19th)
Finding out we were pregnant while doing the Rainbow Baby Project definitely caused me more anxiety this pregnancy. Just knowing that at any second our world could be flipped upside down made it really hard to initially accept that we were pregnant. In fact, it might be fair to say that I have let myself live in a state of denial for awhile, because if I didn’t bond with baby then it wouldn’t hurt so bad if something went wrong. Plus I already have 3 busy boys to chase around so it was very easy to keep myself distracted. Eventually the belly grew and the reality started to sink in, but the anxiety didn’t dissipate. In fact, our C-section is scheduled for 24 hours from this moment and I’m terrified something could still go wrong. I haven’t slept much lately as my mind has been racing with how our family is about to change with a 4th kid in our house. We feel like we barely have a grasp on parenting the three we have right now, so trying to envision a fourth in the mix feels overwhelming.
But God is good, and knows exactly what my heart is feeling. Just today, he has sent me so many messages of hope and love. Friends messaging out of the blue telling me that the Lord is asking them to pray for me today. That they are thinking of me. Praying for me!! For myself, there is no greater gift someone can give me than the gift of prayer. I started my day in a puddle of tears and have been feeling uplifted with each passing hour. My dear friend explained that surrender is when you let go of all expectations and detach yourself from the results. So much easier said than done, but I today I am trying so very hard to lay my worries at God’s feet and trust in his plan for us. Also, today at mass, our priest talked about love. That love is not a feeling it is a choice. You have to choose to love and put love first. And loving someone comes with sacrifices. Which was a very fitting message, because as I dream and plan to grow my photography business into something that is full-time and makes us a livable wage, right now loving this new baby of ours is going to mean sacrificing the speed at which some of my dreams happen.
So the Rainbow Baby Project will continue long into the foreseeable future. I cannot wait to celebrate the lives of these little babies due in 2020 and honor their siblings in heaven.