For me, it started with a pregnancy test, ice cream, and a magazine seven years ago. I bought those three things, thinking with 99 percent confidence that the test would be negative and I’d just have a night in watching TV. I stood in the bathroom of my apartment I had just moved into four months prior, alone and in a relatively new relationship. I was so new to even taking pregnancy tests that I had to match what I was seeing, a dark line and a faint line, to the instructions from the box. Pregnant.

That moment was the beginning of what would be the most thrilling, devastating, life-changing chapter of my life. The time of four pregnancies, one loss, three living babies, and one sleeping angel.

mom with baby - when your last rainbow baby turns one

Author’s Personal Collection/Tracy McLaughlin Jaskot – Photo Credit: Sublime Photo Art

They will always be “my babies,” but now that I have had my last baby and my oldest rainbow is 5 years old, I know. I know how quickly time seems to pass from ages 1 to 2 to 3 and so on. There truly is nothing like a baby’s first 365 days.

I went through my first pregnancy so hopeful and unafraid. The stillbirth of our son at 24 weeks took me to a place I will never forget, the depths of the darkest moments I have ever seen. It also took that new relationship to a new level, now a strong marriage.

Finding out I was pregnant with my first rainbow four months later led to feelings of relief mixed with so many fears. That pregnancy was my scariest. I went to the hospital frequently, my anxiety felt insurmountable. I was convinced that my body could only carry a baby to 24 weeks, so making it to and past that point was so hard emotionally. I was on edge until she was born safely at 37 weeks.

My second pregnancy after loss went better, smoother. It was still nerve-wracking but I had more confidence in my body and my high-risk medical team. This time it was a boy, which felt so significant, having lost our first son.

I allowed myself to really enjoy this last pregnancy, my third rainbow. Of course, there were still hard moments – daily – but on the whole, I trusted. I knew what things “should” feel like for the most part, how to trust my intuition if anything felt off, how to advocate for myself and my baby.

I relished the excitement, like in those first few weeks when only my husband and I knew. I loved the feelings of pregnancy cravings, little kicks, and baby hiccups. I knew she’d be our last, so I did all the things I had wanted to experience during a pregnancy.

She arrived safely. And this week she turns one year old.

I realized I have gotten so used to having an infant in my life.

The contact naps, the two tiny first teeth. The baby baths and buckling her into her high chair. The infant car seat I can carry in a pinch and attach so easily to the caddy stroller while she naps. All the babywearing walks and teeny soft breaths I can hear and feel as she dreams so snug and safe. I even love carrying around a diaper bag. She is still nursing, and though she isn’t walking yet, she can stand up by herself. Those first steps are right around the corner.

I’ll convince myself for months that she is still a teeny baby, because in our family, she’s “the baby.” But the truth is she sees everything her older siblings are doing. She wants to keep up with them, and she will. And my role will naturally change.

The same week my middle son turned one year old, I found out I was pregnant with my youngest. Now she is turning one year old, and we aren’t following that same pattern this time. No new baby. This is it. For many reasons our family is complete.

As I transition out of this chapter, I am giving myself grace.

For seven years, I knew my role, I knew my goal. After losing our first son, I felt that I *just had to* get my rainbow babies here safely. I *just had to* get them to their first birthday, alive, safe, healthy, loved. We did it and I am endlessly grateful. Now I’m looking ahead to the years we still have together before these sweet birds spread their wings.

It will be a new chapter. One without pregnancies, one without those first 365 days. There will be new adventures and there is so much to look forward to. I love that we’ve made it here, but I truly honor those seven years. They have changed me for the better since that night in with ice cream and a magazine.

Share this story!