When I was pregnant with my rainbow baby after losing my son, Zachary, I felt like it was nearly impossible to expect sunshine. I was living under a cloud of anxiety. The first few weeks in the pregnancy were a brief calm before the storm. It wasn’t until that initial excitement had passed that I became full-on terrified.
Even though I had a living child before losing Zach, I still could not picture giving birth to a healthy baby. Losing a child became my frame of reference as I progressed through my subsequent pregnancy. It was almost as if a brick wall separated my mind from visualizing a successful birth. I couldn’t conjure in my head the sound of a baby’s first cry. Zachary moved only briefly in my arms before he died. He never opened his eyes or cried. The silence of his delivery room haunted my next pregnancy.
The fear was papabile, visceral and physical. At the same time, I decided – against all odds – to pursue my healing with relentless determination. I didn’t want to welcome another child into the world while still being stuck in grief. I was intentional. Motivated. I fought hard against the anxiety every day, every gestational week, until my rainbow baby’s birth. It was a hard journey. A worthwhile journey!
Writing through the pain
As I write these words – on April 18, 2017 – my book baby is officially released into the world. The memoir is called Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss. Zachary would have been six-and-a-half-years-old. I hope my memoir will make him proud.
I am nostalgic about my whole experience in these moments – today – as I prepare to begin my book tour. What I do know for certain is that I would never erase Zachary’s life to save me the pain of losing him. If I could have saved him I would have. If I could go back in time and change everything so that he lived, I would do that in a heartbeat. Since I can’t, all I can do is be thankful for the brief moments I had with my baby. The pain is worth it. That is the message I am hoping people will get out of my story.
Writing Expecting Sunshine was therapeutic, true. Many people have asked me that question – and I always answer yes. At the same time, it was also heartbreaking, uncomfortable, exhausting, and emotional to write and edit those words. It is hard to “write your heart out,” as I like to phrase it, when the subject is so deeply personal. It is therapeutic to get the feelings out, no matter what form that may take. Now, at this stage of my journey, it is also helpful to read and reread the book in an effort to better understand myself and my experience. It is a release. The healing came through the creative expression AND through sharing my story. It was definitely twofold.
Writing for healing
For all these reasons, I love to encourage other bereaved parents to write about their losses. The writing needn’t be for a book – unless that’s your goal – and no one needs to read it but you. I have taught writing-for-healing for years and have seen the difference it can make in people’s lives. It is a beautiful way to “get free.”
Writing-for-healing can be as simple as venting in a journal. Or, you could write a series of meaningful words to express your journey in what may become a poem if you let it. If you are a visual person, try collaging words that resonate with you, and including imagery that relates to the feelings you are expressing.
There are many creative projects to try that involve writing. The goal should be to express yourself in a judgement-free way, to connect with your inner wisdom, and to unlock your own personal healing, whatever that may look like. Writing can be a powerful tool to help you expect sunshine in your pregnancy after loss.