Pregnancy can be a scary experience for those going through it, with constant physical and mental challenges all set against a backdrop of uncertainty. For those who have lost a child, however, pregnancy can be even more daunting. Rainbow baby is the informal term used for a baby born subsequent to a miscarriage, stillbirth or death of an infant. Mum Jessie talks here through her current pregnancy after having a stillbirth previously.
‘Rainbow baby’ isn’t a term favoured by everyone, and we understand that. The mother here embraces it and uses it to describe her own child, so the reference will be used throughout this blog. This story is that of the author’s experience and may or may not reflect anyone else’s. Please note this guest blogger is based in the US. If you’d prefer not to keep reading or feel the content of this writing may be a trigger for you, click here to leave.
For information, advice and tailored support services in the UK, check out The Miscarriage Association, Tommy’s, Sands, Cruse Bereavement Care or get in touch with your GP. Most mental health teams have specialist perinatal practitioners and will prioritise those who have been pregnant in the last year.
TW: Baby loss, child loss, miscarriage, medical themes, termination.
I’m Jessie Marie, age 35, from Oswego NY. I’m an influencer, content creator, blogger, all around entrepreneur, and I consider most importantly, a full time mommy. I have 3 kids, aged 16, 13 and 9; and I gave birth to a stillborn daughter in 2011. Having a stillbirth left me with severe PTSD, anxiety, night terrors and heartache. It’s now 2023 and I can honestly say that I still have yet to fully heal from my loss.
Aside from my 4 children, I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant. This said, I had no plans or intentions of getting pregnant again or having another baby at all: when I found out I was expecting, I was on (and still am on some) multiple mental health and substance abuse medications, so pregnancy was not an expectation. And with this being a pregnancy after loss, things are definitely different this time around. So this is The Shit No One Tells You About Being Pregnant With A Rainbow Baby.
Pregnancy isn’t necessarily exciting when you’ve experienced loss
When you tell people you’re pregnant, most immediately think and comment on it being exciting, lucky and of course, #blessed. Sure, in my situation pregnancy was definitely a blessing, but these were NOT my first thoughts when I found out. In fact, it was the opposite for me: I was a complete emotional wreck.
The thought of delivering a new baby and becoming a new mommy again is absolutely overwhelming… and it often could not feel further from excitement.
Things don’t always get easier when you’ve had successful pregnancies after loss
This pregnancy isn’t my first after having my stillborn daughter. After having her, I became pregnant with my youngest son and I was beyond grateful to be able to get pregnant again. But my son didn’t replace my daughter, nor did his birth make the pain of my loss go away. I definitely considered myself extremely fortunate to have been able to have another baby. While his delivery wasn’t perfect (I suffered an abruption, which was what had led to my previous stillbirth), he was born healthily and we got to bring home a strong little baby boy.
But just because since my stillbirth I’ve been able to bring a baby home doesn’t mean that I’m not worried this time. I ask my doctors over and over if the baby is okay, despite reassurance. I constantly worry if it’s all really happening to me again. It’s not right now but the thought that it could will probably never leave me.
And on that note: pregnancy anxiety is amplified with rainbow babies
Being pregnant is overwhelming, terrifying, and a rollercoaster of mixed emotions. The constant anxiety and concern with every little thing that happens is enough to make anyone feel a bit overpowered. I constantly worry about every little ache and pain, cramps, overdoing myself physically and sexual activity and if it is going to hurt her or send me into premature labour. I know the facts around sexual intercourse and pregnancy as well as physical pregnancy symptoms, but you’re in the position I am and high risk you can’t help but worry about every single move you make.
I’m still on some medication, and though properly managed (the dosages have been lowered myself enough for her to not go into withdrawals when she’s born or have to be tapered off of medications herself), I still worry about the results once my daughter is born. I worry about if I’m eating enough, and what I’m eating is good enough for her. I worry if the lack of sleep from my anxiety is putting her into distress. Doctors have reassured me over and over that I am doing exactly what I should be doing for her but it’s a mother’s natural instinct to worry regardless, and it’s not something I can help. Nothing reassures me or makes me feel quite “okay” . I will not feel okay until I deliver my daughter to full term, have her alive in my arms and bring her through the front door for the very first time.
Termination may still be a valid option
While people may assume that anyone who has suffered baby loss will do anything to have another, their situation may have changed or may not be conducive to a healthy pregnancy.
When I first found out I was pregnant again I initially thought abortion may be my only option. The thought of going through another high risk pregnancy scared me beyond words, and at the time I was on extremely high doses of mental health medications (some of which I am fairly dependent on). I had to think about what was best for me both physically and mentally. While I decided to continue with my pregnancy, termination was a consideration and one which would have been totally valid had I decided to progress with it. (Side note: I have had an abortion before. At the time I was a recreational drug user and had suffered a miscarriage just a month before. I did what I knew was the best choice for me.)
The grieving doesn’t end; and sometimes it’s refreshed
I’m still grieving my previous loss, and I probably always will. It’s raw and real. My pregnancy is a constant battle with myself and a struggle to find peace and sanity, sometimes to just go one day or even one moment without worry. It’s exhausting. It’s dealing with others assuming that you’re just okay, that you’re ‘over it’, or worse sometimes, that you’re not and you need help with absolutely every little thing.
I hold back tears in the middle of my local Walmart because your back is throbbing and you have the worst cramps but you don’t want the people around you to see that you[‘re scared. You don’t want to put your negative thoughts and energy into the universe and blink your eyes and find yourself in the same nightmare you once had to live in; but you don’t want to forget it, either because you never want to forget that child.
My being pregnant again is a blessing but it often feels like a test too. The reality is I struggle, but I look forward to meeting my daughter and I feel confident I will. Roll on full term and I’ll soon be able to introduce you all to my new addition!
The featured image on this blog was taken by Stephanie Martin, for Unsplash.