“Rainbow Babies” is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm.
When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath.
What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds.
Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.
The devastating storm hit my life in early 2011. I was halfway through my seventh pregnancy with my twins, Tierney and Eden, on the night I was admitted for dilation without symptoms. I didn’t know it at the time but I had three live children (three miscarried pregnancies). I never thought of my kids as live until early 2011. The severity of my situation was not apparent to me. Not yet. I made it past the twelve week mark. I felt great but I had a sign that something might not be right with them and I went, on Martin Luther King, weekend to ease my mind. In less than 20 minutes my life went dark. I fought as hard as I possibly could yet sadly one week later I delivered Tierney at 21 weeks. I went back into the storm and held on, barely, for two more weeks then I delivered Eden. One still and one, at 23 weeks, not medically “viable”. Both died. I almost died. A part of me died on those days. I endured a lot of trauma to my body and mind and I was now 39 and told it was highly unlikely I would 1) conceive again 2) have the ability to carry a pregnancy to term. The aftermath was the most painful, difficult and traumatic experience and the holiday season was approaching and I found out I was expecting again. In December, of the very same year, pregnant.
To say I was fearful was an understatement. There isn’t even an adjective to describe my fear, yet hope, that I was about to beat the odds. I just might have a miracle child. Or a rainbow baby as it is known in the baby loss community.
My pregnancy was classified as high-risk for various reasons (age, high blood pressure, the post-loss diagnosis of cervical insufficiency, prior miscarriages, prior premature labors and multiple pregnancies) only know I had the knowledge. I spent the better part of the last year researching, studying statistics and trying to understand what happened. Why did I have two little urns in my dining room and two shadowboxes indead of five live children playing?
I was determined to sustain the pregnancy. I went into a place that I didn’t even know existed and focused wholeheartedly on keeping my baby boy safe. I was relieved when I asked the very obvious sex at my 15 week sonogram, to find out I was carrying a boy. My oldest is a boy and then I have girls. Two live and two deceased. Bookend boys. I could do this. It was an interesting pregnancy, I never felt more alone but I knew I wasn’t. I made the decision to shut everyone off until I hit the 24 week mark. It wasn’t to hurt anyone but I could only think about my child and bringing him here safely.
I had lots of complications including low amniotic fluid, dehydration, was on pelvic rest, and I also self prescribed a few additional precautions. I was hospitalized at 30 weeks for low fluid and dehydration, given a shot to mature his lungs and wasn’t even sure if I was going back home without him in my arms. Well I made it home, on “house arrest”, not quite bed rest but no leaving unless it was for a medical appointment. I had antepartum testing twice a week and had to drink 12 glasses of water a day (try it – it is not easy).
I made it to the 35th week sonogram, he was perfect but breech. Which was a great relief because I mentally couldn’t handle labor again and wanted a cesarean section. Wyatt was born safe in San Francisco in August of 2012. The emotions are near impossible to describe. Total elation yet sadness that he will grow up with two guardian angels.
He is now a talkative 2-year old with three older siblings. I endured so much loss that his next sibling here is 16 years older than him yet they oddly have a tight bond and sibling rivalry! He very much loves his older siblings and I swear near the twins birthdays he has talked to them. They let him know they’re with him and let us know that as well.
To come out of the darkest place only to find myself again, the person I thought abandoned me, was possible because of the rainbow in my life.
Jake McKenna Ibarra studied Early Childhood Education at San Francisco City College, is a certified birth and bereavement doula through SBD University, certified in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders from Postpartum Support International and is also a PSI member.