My first thoughts of pregnancy when I hear that word, are a mixture of heartbreak and harmony, having gone through three miscarriages before I held my rainbow baby in my arms. My partner and I suffered in all the ways you have, and the heart will never forget raw grief like that. Our daughter, River, is now almost three months old. I’m not quite as sleep deprived as I was at the beginning when we first brought her home, and feel ready to reflect on all that pregnancy, delivery, and now life with a little one are like.

Pregnant woman standing by a river - Pregnancy After Recurrent Loss: The Heart Flows Like a River

Author’s Personal Collection/Rachel Helden; Photo Credit: Charles Adams

I learned pretty early on in my fourth pregnancy that it was going to be a time of deep surrender.

This was not something I could control. Along with my daily prenatal, I had the aid of anti-anxiety and depression meds that I was against taking at first, trying to soldier on and do it all myself. With the thoughtful support of a specialized therapist in loss of this type and my OBGYN, I somehow made it through the PTSD from previous losses and antepartum depression (depression while pregnant, which I had never heard of before).

After we finally made it past the ten-week mark, which was the longest I had ever held a pregnancy, I thought I’d get a big sigh of relief and be able to enjoy the rest of the nine months. This, however, wasn’t the case for me. I was so scared something would go wrong… again. I didn’t know if I could survive another loss. I truly thought it might break me.

We didn’t announce our pregnancy until well after thirty weeks.

I was hesitant to get excited, like I might jinx the whole thing. Since we had never had a shower or put together a nursery yet, we finally decided to let loved ones in to celebrate us, our baby, and the moment. A friend who has also gone through their own infertility journey told me, “If ever there was a time to be excited, it’d be now,” and I figured he was right.

Over the years, we definitely had to create healthy boundaries to feel safe during pregnancy. I wasn’t ready to be concrete in the way I spoke about the baby, “hopefully, we’ll be able to if she comes.” Distance occurred with anyone who couldn’t understand that. We couldn’t be “more joyful,” our emotions were what they were, and that was okay. Thank goodness gestation is so long; we needed every second of it to mourn our previous babies and prepare for this new one at the same time.

Delivery was a bit of a reminder of loss, our most traumatic one in particular, but I kicked into another gear altogether.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was good and natural pain, right on time for when labor was meant to start. I printed a sign from Pregnancy After Loss Support’s app to let everyone entering our room know this was not our first baby, and that we needed extra sensitivity and care since we were still so tender.

Giving birth and getting to hold our daughter for the first time was an out-of-body experience for both my partner and me. Even after the day of labor we had, it didn’t feel like it was really me when it was all happening. I needed to see pictures afterward for proof. Yes, that really was me, and I really had this baby that I’m now nursing! Like a dream come true.

The jump into parenthood was a startlingly fast one.

After two days in the hospital, suddenly, all of life changed, which is alright and we knew in part what was coming, but one never really knows what an experience is like until it’s their own firsthand. I guess I was so prepared for the worst to happen, as not to let my hopes run away with themselves, that I hadn’t thought much about the alternative. A healthy baby, me? It had seemed impossible.

That’s why I’m sharing and what I want to say to you. The desires of your heart may seem impossible right now, but please, keep a small area open for hope and for joy. You may not build your family exactly in the timeframe or way you had imagined or planned, but I have to believe that God, Spirit, the Universe, a Higher Power… whatever you want to call it, has greater plans than we can imagine. Sitting here in our living room exchanging smiles with our baby on the other end of the couch, I have to believe that. With each little noise she makes and the movements of her arms and legs that I feel, I can only see this whole experience, and her now, as a miracle.

My story is not one I had hoped for, but I wouldn’t change it.

I’ll always love my three angel babies, Adolyn, Harmony, and Roland. Having River doesn’t change that or make that all better or even give me closure, because what is that anyway? I’ll forever carry all of them with me, just as you will carry yours. We have enough love for them all.

Although we’ll never fully know or understand why these things have happened to us, I’m grateful for this community it has created. Infertility, pregnancy loss, and infant loss can be a very isolated and lonely journey in our daily lives. It’s been such a blessing to meet people like you through platforms like Pregnancy After Loss Support who have been down some of the same roads. I’m thankful for you and will be hoping your dreams come true, whatever they may be.

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