Just a couple days ago, my sweet little Halley turned 8 months old. Sheesh! She’s doing so many things -crawling, pulling herself up on some things, trying more solid foods, being curious about SO many things…it’s amazing watching her grow and change. I know this is incredibly cliche, but it really does fly by. I mean, 8 months is such a short amount of time in life in general!
In what feels like such a short amount of time being a rainbow mom, I’ve learned a lot about not only parenting a living baby, but also being a mom of both a rainbow and an angel baby.
My Own Loss & Stories of Loss Hurt More
Jonah was my first baby, so I didn’t have anything to compare him to. Not really knowing what it was like to have a living baby, I only had an idea in my mind about what I was missing. Of course, that didn’t make it hurt any less at the time.
Now that I parent a living baby, my own story and the stories of others are harder to process and deal with emotionally. I’ve come across new Instagram accounts of moms (and dads) who’ve lost babies, and their stories are so incredibly hard to read. Before having Halley, I felt sadness but also a lot of camaraderie and kinship. My loss sucks, their loss sucks – we’re connected on some crazy cosmic level. Now that there’s a baby in my arms and I feel that intense connection with her and love for this living, breathing thing every moment, the loss of that is even more jarring.
When I look back on my own loss, I have so many new thoughts, like “THIS is what I missed out on.” I have a whole new level of respect for both myself and other loss parents for having made it through (and still making it through every day) something like that. It still just blows my mind that babies die, and yet life goes on.
“Is this your first?” Is a Stupid Question That Should Go Away
I heard horror stories from other pregnant after loss (PAL) moms about getting asked this one question that makes every loss parent retreat to an internal hiding place, and they were right – I did get asked that question when I was pregnant. However, it was only a couple times, and although it surprised me, I got through it *fairly* unscathed.
Now that Halley is here, though, I get it CONSTANTLY! People in checkout lines, people in coffee shops, people at the grocery store…they all just have to ask if she’s my first. I get it – it’s a seemingly innocuous way of exchanging polite words with a woman with a baby. The people who ask the question, though, most likely haven’t experienced loss and have no idea that it IS NOT actually innocuous.
My standard answer is just “yep”. Most people aren’t prepared to hear about Jonah in such a brief exchange, and he’s too special to give to those people, anyway. It hurt at first, like I was dismissing my precious firstborn. However, I now think of it as holding him close and protecting him and his memory. Sure, I still feel a stab of pain every time I have to answer the question, but it doesn’t freeze me up anymore.
The moral of this story, though, is to just quit asking the question altogether! So many have experienced loss in some way, making the question really uncomfortable.
The Anxiety Doesn’t Stop at Birth
Being an anxiety-prone person in the first place, I’m still anxious about some things with Halley here. I know too intimately that babies can and do die, so Halley isn’t immune. I worry that she’ll get sick, get cancer, that I’ll fall down the stairs with her, that we’ll get in an accident…all that stuff.
Anxiety is no joke, people! It’s not an easy thing to deal with. I use a medication to help me control it, along with a good deal of closing my eyes, banishing the bad thoughts, deep breathing, and self-care.
All the TV shows and movies you watch depicts pregnancy as this thing that happens (too) easily and turns lives upside down, but then there’s this beautiful baby that comes and everyone is happy. The end. Ha! Now that I possess a unique understanding of how, for a lot of couples, that’s just not so, I feel so ridiculously grateful. My daughter is here, she’s healthy, and she’s beautiful. I catch myself a lot thinking “I’m so lucky”. Then I realize just how unlucky I was with Jonah, and I wonder how my brain could ever decide I’m lucky!
I just can’t get over how grateful and lucky I am to have this gorgeous girl, though. I see all these families struggling with infertility or loss (or both) and I just…I get it. I feel so, so grateful for my Halley.
Of course I’ve learned more than just these 4 things, but they’re what come to mind right away. If you’re a rainbow parent, what would you add to my list?