I have read about people looking back on their lives, noticing in the bigger scheme that their life is composed of many chapters. Some chapters are clearly defined, some overlap, some are longer, some are shorter. In looking back or even focusing on the present, you can see the effect they had or are having on your life.

There are many ways to define a chapter in this context.

I can pretty neatly define mine until I lost my son. A happy childhood, awkward middle school years in the time before quality flat irons, a sweet teen experience. I would probably divide college into two chapters, a great beginning and a harder ending in terms of personal relationships and my sense of self.

My after-college chapter included its fair amount of drama while learning how to adult but was a good period for my career: graduate school and my first teaching position. And then my first marriage and its ending, each their own chapters.

Age 30 is where things get harder to define.

Childless and divorced, feeling old although now I would disagree, I moved back to my home state to start what might have been the chapter I needed all along. Within weeks I found a teaching job and two months after my move, I met someone. Four months later we found out I was pregnant, a first for each of us.

My previously set out timeline had shifted but I was ready for this, we both were. But even the new plan changed suddenly, when six months into my pregnancy, that precious little baby was stillborn.

Maybe one chapter was meeting Matt, dating him, finding out we were pregnant and the excitement contained so carefully inside those six months prior to our loss. A new chapter started abruptly when a doctor I had never met said, while looking at an ultrasound screen turned away from me, “This is what we call fetal demise.”

My motherhood was called into question before I really got a chance to start it, even though it was something I had wanted for as long as I can remember and even before my memories start, captured in old photos of me at a playground pushing my doll on a swing.

The loss chapter was foggy.

It was painful. This chapter included an almost desperate desire to be pregnant again. Although my son’s death was determined to be a cause of undiagnosed severe pre-eclampsia and a placental abruption, I faulted myself as his mom. The should-haves and could-haves, so hard to wrestle with when every move you make you thought was for the best. Still, I wanted another chance.

Four months later at 31 I was pregnant again and yet terrified. So started another chapter: being a near constant fixture at the hospital for my entire rainbow pregnancy. I had an amazing high-risk doctor but I still couldn’t picture myself taking part in a live birth. I was afraid of setting up my daughter’s nursery but the planner in me forced myself to do so the week before she was born, all while saying to myself, “Wow, this is REALLY going to hurt if she doesn’t come home with us either.”

And then she did. I would be lying if I said I didn’t metaphorically hold my breath for her entire first year. And then she was one, and the wall that shot up when I lost my first child softened a bit. And then she was two years old and Matt and I, now married, conceived our second rainbow.

My second pregnancy after loss was different.

I was still anxious and it was still hard to believe, especially when we found out his gender. But I allowed more joy and hope amidst the fear. And now he’s here.

I may look back on this entire period of pregnancy, baby loss, both of my rainbow pregnancies, nursing and raising these rainbows into childhood as one giant chapter. I won’t really know until I have lived a bit more and I’m not in a hurry.

Experiencing three pregnancies in the past four years has helped shape the way I view my life in a way my previous chapters didn’t.

I am now in a time of raising a three-year-old and a four-month-old while still often thinking of my first child. Wherever I go with my kids, strangers tell me that this is the best time of my life. I believe it! But I’m also the one who is living it. The best I can do is to give myself compassion for where I have been, to believe in the present without added pressure, and to continue to have hope for what’s to come.

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