The month of October is Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will be sharing stories from families about their loss and honoring their pregnancy journey and their angel babies. Today’s story comes from Rachel Martin. Rachel is actually my cousin on my husband’s side. When we were making a list of moms to reach out to for the blog this month, I remembered her briefly sharing about her story on Facebook a couple of years ago. She is now pregnant with her beautiful Rainbow Baby girl, and I’m so excited for her. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your story with us. We are so honored to have you be a part of this.
The sound of my alarm awoke me, and I dragged myself out of bed sleepy because it was still only 3am. I was working as an EMT, and as a college student my schedule included many early mornings and late evenings.
I had a physical fitness test at work that day and was required to provide proof that I was not pregnant in order to participate. I laid the pregnancy test on my dorm counter to process while I finished getting into my uniform. Just before I headed out the door, I remembered the unread pee stick and turned to read it. I blinked several times, thinking surely my sleepy state was making me see things, because in bold letters it said “Pregnant”.
I shook my best friend and roommate awake, saying “I think I’m going to pass out. You need to wake up I’m freaking out!” When she finally opened her eyes, I told her in a very stunned voice that I was pregnant.
She is the exact opposite of a morning person and mumbled something about me going back to bed because it must have been a dream. Not wanting to be late for work, I allowed her to go back to sleep and headed out to work with my mind reeling.
Once I got settled in at work, I texted my boyfriend a picture of the positive test with the headline “guess what…” It was not meant to be romantic at all. I just wanted someone to share in my shock.
He replied almost instantly with so much excitement that it was contagious. For the first time, I felt something other than shock, and realizing he was happy about this eased my fears.
I had experienced a very early miscarriage in high school, so we were instantly worried for our baby. However, I dismissed it as a fluke. It couldn’t possibly happen again.
Throughout my first few weeks, I experienced severe cramps, but since there was no bleeding and my hormone levels were rising perfectly it was dismissed as just growing pains. I left college to move home and be closer to my boyfriend and parents, and began care with a nurse midwife at home.
At 6 weeks, I went in for an ultrasound that showed out little bean growing healthy and right on schedule. We proudly posted the ultrasound picture on Facebook and told the world we were going to be parents. My boyfriend got a better paying job, and we began to make plans, pick out names, and even purchase baby gear. Friends and family laughed at our enthusiasm, but we had very little understanding of how dangerous the first trimester could be.
At 7 1/2 weeks pregnant, the cramps returned, along with bleeding and passing large clots. My mother, boyfriend and myself rushed to the hospital in hopes that something could be done. Once the sonographer began her exam, I saw my baby still clinging to my womb and a tiny flicker within its chest. I burst into tears of relief at seeing that tiny heartbeat and knowing my baby was strong and healthy. The doctor diagnosed me with a small bleed on my placenta that was causing the bleeding and sent me home on bedrest in hopes that the bleed would resolve itself.
Over the next week, I continued to pass clots, however the cramping became less and less. I was still so paranoid that each clot I passed I would run under water just to be sure it dissolved and was not my baby. During this time of rest, I ate as healthy as I could for the baby, sang to my baby and told it how much it was loved and wanted. That week was truly a bonding time as I had nothing else to do but focus on my baby and its needs. Unfortunately, this was not a bonding time for my boyfriend and I. We drew further apart as I felt very annoyed with his poor efforts to help me, and he would pressure me to try and focus on something besides the baby.
On November 24th, I was 8 weeks 5 days along. Throughout the day, I had cramps that I occasionally had to breathe through, but for the most part I felt about the same. Towards evening, my cramps began to intensify and become regular contractions. I knew what labor looked like from my years as a doula, however I refused to recognize the pattern of contractions I was experiencing. Around 5pm, I posted a cheerful message on Facebook showing off my homemade chocolate covered strawberries that my mother had made, because I had been craving them all day. Soon after, my contractions intensified. In an effort to keep my pain a secret, I withdrew to my bedroom, where I listened to music to help me relax while I swayed back and forth, leaning on pillows during each wave. I began to need to moan through contractions about an hour later. However, I still remained in my room, unwilling to accept anyone into my space or the reality of what was happening.
At 7pm I had a horrible contraction that my relaxation methods were unable to help me through. After it was over, I made my way to the bathroom and began running a warm bath in hopes it would ease my pain. I sat on the toilet, waiting for the water to fill, and experience another contraction which brought with it a need to bear down. Within a few seconds, I felt my baby leave my body and heard a loud plop in the toilet. I sat in total shock, sure of what had just happened, but unwilling to believe it. I finally reached in and pulled out a perfect little bubble filled with fluid that was attached to a mass of tissue. I laid it on the tub and walked out to the living room to calmly announce that I needed to be taken to the hospital because I had just had the baby. My mother was shocked because I had said nothing all evening. She rushed to the bathroom to find a bloody mess and my baby laying on the bathtub. I grabbed a container to put the baby in and we rushed to the ER, unsure of when or if my bleeding would stop and if I would need medical attention.
By the time we reached the hospital my shock had turned to denial, and I was on my phone researching any other possibility of what the bubble could be. I refused to open it to see my baby and to this day that is my biggest regret.
The most memorable part of the experience for me was when a lab tech walked into my triage room and actually took the time to sit down beside me and say, “May I take your baby with me to the lab now?” Despite my denial, the fact that he asked my permission and called the small box of “tissue” my baby was an act of compassion that I will never forget. It was also huge for me in accepting what had just happened. I finally broke down and accepted that sonogram screen and saw my empty womb. Although the sonographer couldn’t tell me anything, I knew and she quickly turned the screen away so I couldn’t see anymore.
I began crying when I left the hospital, and I continued to cry for two days. I had no idea that I had that many tears in me. Even while watching TV, I would stare blankly at the screen with tears running down my face slowly. I refused to eat because for the last 9 weeks every bite I ate had been for my child’s nutrition and now the thought of eating just for myself repulsed me. My boyfriend tried to help by saying things like, “We will have another baby.” My answer was to just cry harder and tell him that all I wanted was MY baby.
I had a strong maternal instinct that my baby was a boy, and I needed a name to call my child. We had decided if the baby was a boy we would name him Jacob Finley. All I wanted was to have people share my grief with me, call my baby by his name, and acknowledge that he was real and alive and loved, and that he didn’t just fall out of my body – I had labored him and given birth to him.
My mother bought me a beautiful necklace with a mother and child on it. I wear it almost constantly and treasure it as a beautiful memory of my child and how real he was in my life.
Miscarriage is hard enough on a seasoned couple but it proved the beginning of the end for my relationship. My boyfriend became controlling and obsessed with taking me away from my family, who I needed more than ever during that time. He still contacts me on Mother’s Day to thank me for being his son’s mother and although things ended badly, this is something that is so important for me to hear from my son’s father.
Due to concerns that my endometriosis was becoming worse, I was advised to have a child as soon as possible. I had no interest in another relationship at this time, so I decided to use a donor and become a single mother by choice.
After 18 months of trying for my rainbow baby and facing the fear that I may not be able to conceive, those magical two lines finally showed up for me. I was seen by a high risk provider who put me on medications for the first 12 weeks that I truly believe saved this pregnancy.
A rainbow baby is the understanding that the rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm, but is something beautiful that is born after all the pain and provides hope, healing, and light. Rainbow pregnancy is not easy. Through my joy, I often have those horrible fears creep in and I have spent many nights in tears claiming promises and begging God to watch over my Rainbow baby girl.
One of my favorite songs is “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. In this song, he talks about how he could have missed all the pain but to do so he would have had to miss the experiences that make up a life well lived. I love this song because even if I could have looked ahead, I would still have wanted Jacob in my life for those 8 weeks. He made me a mother and the pain I experienced is making the love I have for my daughter that much sweeter and deeper. Jacob changed my life, and I can’t wait to thank him for coming into my life when I hold him someday in heaven.
To us, these babies are not a lost pregnancy. They are real. They are beautiful. And they are loved human beings.
Rachel is a single mother, eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby Ariadne Eliana (“the most high has answered”) in February. She is currently serving as an EMT at her local trauma center in Wyoming. Rachel hopes to resume her doula practice someday and, in the mean time, serves as a backup for other area doulas. She is also enhancing her doula training by taking a course to be a bereavement doula through StillBirthday, a wonderful organization that continues to provide her with support and love since her loss and help her through the fears that accompany a rainbow pregnancy. She wants to be there for others who go through this and provide them with love and support, while helping to raise awareness and destroy the stigma of miscarriage and loss.