After one of my earliest blog posts, The Storm Before the Rainbow Baby – the most special to me by a country mile- I realised that there were a lot of people who have suffered the same devastating loss. Many more than you’d think. So many, in fact, that lots of women I know sent me messages with their own Rainbow Baby story. I had no idea that any of them had ever been pregnant before. Baby Loss Awareness Week has created ripples of discussion on the topic and it is now more understood that this can have a life-changing impact on couples. Although it is less hush-hush than it used to be, it’s still difficult for people to find the words to comfort someone at this time. It’s not just ‘one of those things’ anymore, a doctor telling you that ‘these things happen’. It is recognised that a baby, at any stage, steals a piece of your heart that you’ll never get back. If you’re lucky, they’ll grow to the size where your bladder can only hold a teaspoon of water before you have to go for a wee. Once your healthy, screaming baby enters the world, full of plans to scribble on your walls in crayon and deprive you of lie-ins forever, you know that your heart will never fully be your own again. So, what becomes of the eternally silent babies, the ones who didn’t get to fulfil their crayon-scribbling potential? The same-sized piece of your heart goes with them too.
What is it like to love someone you’ve never met?
The question is strange, and it’s not one I ever thought about until almost three years ago. Everybody’s pregnancy journey is different. Some are unplanned (like my first pregnancy), some are battles through IVF or years of trying, and for some lucky folks, they can happen as soon as you download that ovulation app (see the resulting blonde-haired beauty below). However that particular embryo got there, as surprising as it might have been, once you’re in love, you are in love. With my 21-month-old Picasso, who loves a gruelling Peppa Pig marathon more than life itself, I could reel off a list of things I love about her. The way she has mysteriously developed a French accent, despite barely ever crossing the Lancashire border. Her oddly familiar, strong-willed nature, mischievous laugh, burning desire to point out everybody’s ‘boobies’ at inappropriate moments, and most of all, the way she’ll snuggle into me on the couch when she’s tired and gives me a voluntary kiss. Easy peasy, but then…we know each other. She’s my firstborn, but not my first baby. When you’re pregnant and you fall in love with the tiny mass of rapidly growing cells, you are full of hopes and dreams. Will this baby be athletically gifted like their dad? A grammar Nazi like their mum? The next Prime Minister? A stand-up comedian? You just don’t know. The only thing you know with absolute certainty is that they are already special.
When your dreams are shattered, it’s a long way to fall. Nothing has actually changed in one respect. You don’t notice an absence around the house. There was never a mischievous character to miss. On the surface, everything is exactly as it has always been. You may not have even changed at all physically depending on how far along you were. Your body goes back to the same state it was in just a few weeks earlier, and you know you can’t get away with eating Fudge for your breakfast anymore, because now, weight gain is not inevitable. Life goes on around you whilst you feel as though you’re treading water, not knowing what to do with yourself. Well-meaning people tell you you’ll ‘have another one.’ You don’t want another one. ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ You don’t care. There is no reason on Earth that will make you feel as though this was for the best. These phrases are kindly meant to offer a quick-fix solution to your hurt, but in my experience, it’s best to say ‘I’m sorry’ and show up with a hug. There isn’t a single person that I know of that wouldn’t have clicked their fingers and gone straight back into the morning sickness/thick waist/wincing in agony at the sight of a bra stage if it could’ve meant they had the opportunity to look into the tiny, unfocused eyes of their baby in the delivery room a few months down the line.
You promise yourself you won’t be as excited next time. You will. How could you not be? You’ll be full of worry and fear and you won’t be buying newborn hats as soon as Clearblue flashes up ‘Pregnant’ on the screen, but you’ll feel it; the butterflies in your stomach as you wonder if they’ll inherit your extrovert personality or their dad’s enviable metabolism. You’ll start to plan the magnificent journey of this baby in the same way you did before because now they’ve taken up residence in your womb, they’ve also taken another piece of your heart. It can only mean that even though you aren’t officially a parent, you are already winning at motherhood because you love your babies equally. When the time comes for you to meet the child that will eventually eat your candles, force your dog to wear a headband, and redecorate your house for you, you’ll be able to see a glimpse of the character you never knew. There’s a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes, but there is also a unique joy that comes from a Rainbow Baby.