The Rainbow and The Swan
Many know the term Rainbow Baby. It is a baby born after a loss. It is beauty after a turbulent storm and is a symbol of hope and healing. Many may not know that the Origami Swan symbolizes that you will or have received the desires of your heart.
Through my loses and photography, I have met many brave and strong mothers and fathers, which has inspired me to do a personal project in hopes to empower women to speak up and know they are not alone. Thank you Karen for sharing on the Blog today!
Hope and Breaking Down Walls: Karen's Story
All of my miscarriages have a name, the same name - I call them all Sarah, although I’m not sure why. It is also probably irrelevant to the story but I’ve only recently begun to admit this tid-bit because depending on who I’m talking to it sometimes seems important.
I never wanted children, or even appreciated them for that matter. In May 2007 I was blessed with my very first niece and after that I began to understand why people might like kids. In October 2008 I was in the room when my second niece was born. Being there when she entered the world and watching my brother and sister-in-law welcome her for her first breaths made something flicker inside me. For the first time I started to wonder about mother-love… what is it like, is it worth the pain of raising a child, etc? Of course, the risk of having a child and having to keep it forever and raise it in this world seemed far to high a price for simple curiosity so I tried to sweep it under the rug.
In the years following I struggled with the fact that I knew my choice not to have children was something I was holding from God, if he had a will for me and that included kids then he was going to need to come up with something else. While I don’t remember when it happened (what year, that is) I do remember the specific moment when I let it go. I was visiting my brother again and we were at their church, I was in a bathroom stall and I realized I couldn’t keep telling God no. I hadn’t been on any medical birth control in years so it was going to have to be up to him if something was going to happen. I didn’t talk to my husband about it because I knew what he would say (we had agreed when we were married that neither of us wanted kids) and I certainly wasn’t ready to “try” for anything, I simply stopped saying “No”.
In April/May of 2011 I became pregnant. I don’t remember much leading up to it, I don’t remember ever dismissing our birth control methods, but there it was – a missed period and a few positive pregnancy tests. I think I only knew for a few days before I started spotting, then that was it – it was over almost before it even started. I remember closing myself in an office at work, hiding behind a desk, and sobbing. I thought to myself “this was my only chance, and it’s gone - surely my husband is going to be more cautious moving forward”. I had a few people to talk to about it, my sister-in-law who had been through this many times, and a friend who had miscarried just a month or two before. But nothing prepares you for the rollercoaster of emotions, and no amount of support made me feel any less alone. I knew I wasn’t alone, but that was the strongest feeling I can recall. This was the hardest miscarriage for me, the one where I had a new hope that had been so quickly snuffed out.
A couple of months later, at the end of June, I became pregnant with our son, Brendan. I spotted a bit with him and I never really trusted the pregnancy to work out. Having the miscarriage made me so pessimistic and distant from him during the first half of my pregnancy, I didn’t want to risk getting attached. It wasn’t until his first ultrasound at 20 weeks that I was able to truly let down my guard. It was certainly an unanticipated side effect of the miscarriage before him.
When Brendan was a year and a half old, we decided to start trying for a second child. Even when we didn’t want any children, we agreed that if it did happen then we would have two. On November 11, 2013 I had a positive pregnancy test after only a month or two of trying. It didn’t take long to know that something wasn’t right, I was spotting and the pregnancy levels in my blood tests were going up, but not correctly. I pretty quickly built an emotional wall to protect myself, it was my husband that remained positive, and the most impacted in the end. It’s all a little blurry now, but over the next few weeks I had a lot of blood tests saying I was pregnant but never showing the proper increases, I had ultrasounds where they couldn’t find anything. I spent thanksgiving in the hospital because they were concerned that it was ectopic, even though I didn’t have any pain. Then, in early December it was diagnosed as a blighted ovum. I went in for a scheduled checkup and the Dr. wanted to do a D&C since my body was not miscarrying the empty gestational sac on it’s own. I left the Doctor’s office, called my husband to let him know I had been scheduled for surgery that evening and started working out the logistics of who would pick me up, and what about my car, and getting Brendan from daycare – all of the logical places my head goes avoiding all emotion. I had the procedure; they scoped my fallopian tubes as well because they hadn’t found the sac the first time they looked, and I went home with a variety of medications. Medications that meant I couldn’t nurse Brendan – that was the hardest part for me, I lost a potential baby (although I had already given up hope for her) but I also lost that connection with my son, the one that only I could give him. He was well old enough and needed to be weaned anyway but I hadn’t been prepared for that sudden loss. It would be interesting to hear Tim recount this story, he doesn’t talk about it much but I know it was difficult for him – I don’t know if it was the miscarriage itself or my going into surgery and everything happening so quickly after a month of dragging along.
I can’t say we were actively trying, but we must not have been preventing and in Aug of 2014 I was visiting my brother’s when I realized I might be pregnant. I went out, purchased a pregnancy test, and there were two lines. I was pretty excited because it was now a year after we had decided to start trying for a second child. Then after a week or two I started to spot, I remained a little hopeful at the beginning because I had spotted with Brendan too, but over the next few days it became evident that this was another miscarriage. I remember trying to remain cheerful at a girl’s movie night and pedi party – surrounded by people, yet that same familiar feeling of being alone. It always felt selfish to feel alone when I knew my husband was suffering too, especially with the blighted ovum because I was more emotionally prepared than him, but the feeling was there all the same.
After this, the Dr ran a series of tests to look for any potential issues that could be causing the miscarriages. They found nothing and I was left feeling a little hopeful but still discouraged. The age gap between Brendan and, well, no one at that point was growing larger and it was difficult to try to grasp God’s plan… if I wasn’t going to have another child then fine, but why throw in hope just to dash it away?
We continued with a non-plan plan and in December 2014 I became pregnant with our son Jonas. Even after both miscarriages in between, I had hope for him. I knew there was something different, something was right instead of wrong, maybe because I wasn’t spotting with this one or maybe because he was making me extra miserable! Whatever it was, I was happy to be able to accept and connect with him earlier than I had been able to do with Brendan.
After it all, especially the wondering “Why? What’s the point?” I now have three very different experiences to share with people. And share them I do. I’m not sure how each one may impact another grieving mother, what minor detail she can relate to, or what might give her hope. I know my stories can’t make someone feel less alone, but simply sharing and opening the doors for her to share too… that can make a difference.
Next Week: Joy