You plan for it. You dream about it, more than most. You ignore it. You don’t believe it will come. It didn’t happen last time, so you don't believe it will this time. The nursery is ready. It hasn’t been touched from the time before when you planned for a baby to come home. Only sadly she didn’t.
Again, all facts point to this baby’s arrival. Your belly is bulging, your ankles are swollen, and you are scheduled to deliver your first baby’s little sister tomorrow at 8 a.m. The only thing that will make this last nine months of growing this baby real is when you hear her cry and hold her breathing body in your arms, and most importantly, bring her home. Leaving the hospital with a full car seat this time instead of an empty one. This is the moment you have been waiting for, and time seems to stand still.
Until it moves again.
The hours, days, and weeks after a rainbow baby’s birth are disorientating, to say the least. You have birthed a different baby before, and she didn’t come home. This time, birth results in life, a strange concept for a loss mom. But now you are here, at home, with your breathing baby in a nursery with only one set of diapers. You were afraid to buy more out of fear you would jinx your rainbow’s homecoming.
Tears fall in those first days and weeks. Tears will still come again years later too. Tears of relief, “Thank God she lived.” Tears of joy, “Oh, how I love this little girl!” Tears of “what if’s” and “if only her sister were here too” roll down your cheeks in the nights where you cup your baby’s bottom against your bosom. A new layer of grief emerges as you nuzzle your nose to your sweet sleeping but breathing beauty’s face. Loving one baby while missing the other. It’s a strange place to be during a postpartum period you believed should be full of happiness.
You have come to accept that your motherhood is a grief-filled one and will soon learn that all motherhood is filled with a sense of quiet sadness not always mentioned. Yours just happens to overflow with the grief of losing a child on top of the mourning that comes with change.
In the hours, days, and weeks that we adjusted to finally having new life in the home, I wasn’t prepared to ask for what I needed. Looking back, maybe I wasn’t sure what that was. Now, a few years later and with another rainbow baby born, I realize what I needed in this place of grief was space. Among the reminders of the living - dirty diapers, breast pads, bottles, ugly hospital undies, and swollen stitches, there needed to be room for remnants of the dead too - her urn, tears that carry the memories of her, framed ultrasound pictures, and space to speak her name.
Those first days are a blur now. Grief and joy living side by side during the transition into motherhood again, but with a child who lives - that is exhausting. Over time things get easier. We get better at learning how to diaper as much as we get better at learning how to live a life parenting two living children and one dead child. After a while, death and life intertwine to create one existence, no longer two separate ones. Motherhood has evolved, and another baby becomes a sibling, not a replacement.