Unborn babies are generally categorized as the most vulnerable of human beings, and for good reason. They are, after all, the smallest humans who are in the very beginning stages of development, therefore making them more susceptible to harm.
But mothers who have experienced loss in any capacity have an increased awareness that children are vulnerable at every stage of life.
In the earliest stages of my (second) rainbow pregnancy, I wondered if the possibility of new life would result in an ectopic pregnancy. I was scared that the stabbing abdominal pain that I had experienced two pregnancies prior would return, scared that my pregnancy would end before even having a chance to see my baby’s heart beat.
After tests and images revealed that the fertilized egg had in fact implanted in my uterus, the fear of having an ectopic pregnancy ended, while the fear or miscarrying my precious baby began. Each day I wondered if a trip to the bathroom would result in bleeding. Although I had never experienced a miscarriage, I knew the frequency in which they occurred.
And once my pregnancy progressed into the second trimester and past the half-way mark, I spent the remainder of it wondering if my baby would be stillborn. I knew all too well that 1 in 160 babies were stillborn, because one of my babies had been that one who was born without breath.
Each day of my rainbow pregnancy was clouded in fear.
I was scared that the hope I had for my rainbow baby would result in heartache, just as my previous two pregnancies had. I waited for the day that I could hold him in my arms, the sight of his chest rising and falling assuring me that there was no longer anything to fear. Or at least that’s what I assumed would happen.
The healthy birth of my son brought relief, to be sure. But the truth is, motherhood continues to be scary at times. The fear doesn’t consume me like it did during pregnancy, but it comes in unexpected waves of panic.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve begun dialing 911, tears filling the corners of my eyes as I thought my rainbow baby, now a toddler, was choking – to death. In reality, a toddler coughing while chewing food isn’t out of the ordinary – and my son was breathing during each instance of what I would deem a “near-choking” incident. But as a loss mom, my sense of reality can be skewed because some of the realities I’ve faced are so far out of the ordinary motherhood experience. No matter how many times my son has coughed while eating, each time sends me into panic mode, scared that I’m going to lose him to a choking incident.
And then there was the time my son passed out after a short, yet hefty crying spell and I was certain he was going to die in my arms as I waited for emergency responders to arrive. I tried desperately to wake him up, to get him to move or at least open his eyes. I was sobbing and hysterical as images of the cemetery that his older sibling is buried in flashed through my mind. I pictured him being buried there too, until the fluttering of his eyelids and groggy gaze caused relief to wash over me.
And of course there are the times that he sleeps a little longer than usual and I get scared that I am going to find a blue baby in the crib. I become paralyzed with anxiety, wondering if he is simply sleeping or if he is dead, unsure if I should risk waking him up if he really is just sleeping late. It’s irrational, I know, but these are the thoughts of someone who has experienced the loss of a baby.
The first nine months of my rainbow baby’s existence consisted of intense fear that he would not survive what had been proven to be a faulty womb. I can say with certainty that there was not one moment during my rainbow pregnancy that I wasn’t scared my son would die.
So when he does laps around the house, when he laughs and cries, when I hold him or watch him sleep, I am relieved – that he safely exited my womb, that he is living and breathing, that I have been able to watch him grow and thrive for more than two years.
But sometimes I still get scared. Because I’m a loss mom and both the experience of losing a child and the possibility of losing another will never be lost on me.