A fog lifts when my rainbows turn one year old. The first time it happened, I thought it might be a coincidence of timing. But the second time, it happened again.
My first rainbow was conceived four months after my first son was stillborn. My pregnancy with her felt mostly dark and overwhelmed in anxiety with rare, brief glimpses of excitement and hope.
I remember thinking, if she can just get here safely, alive, then this cloud that consumes me may dissipate.
And when she was born, that was mostly true. All of the mothering energy I had built up in myself from both the pregnancy I lost and my pregnancy with her did pour out of me. It was a steady flow of love, caring, tiredness, yes, but also of somehow knowing what this baby girl needed.
But I wasn’t out of the woods quite yet.
Her first year saw us through intense attachment on both sides, a struggle in my going back to work when she was twelve weeks old, so many pushes and pulls, making our way through what would become a 19 month nursing journey. There were many happy moments, quiet baby-wearing walks, parent-and-baby swim classes, and short family getaways. But I had a hard time letting others hold her, except for my husband, our closest family and my sister-like friends. I was willingly lost in her and I didn’t want anything different.
And then she turned one year old.
My teaching school year ended. I felt compelled to take better care of myself. I trusted others with my daughter more. I began to run and exercise again. I set aside most of my postpartum wardrobe. My ability to feel like myself while also being a caring mother only grew from there.
Soon after my daughter turned two years old, we were fortunate to conceive our second rainbow baby. This pregnancy was different than my first rainbow pregnancy. It was still nerve-wracking but overall much more positive. I had now experienced a pregnancy ending in a live birth, which made a big difference in my ability to cope with the pregnancy and its natural ups and downs.
My rainbow son was born and I threw myself into mothering a newborn again. This time I also had a toddler in the mix to keep every day comical at the very least. I was learning how to mother two young children and felt very connected to my son. If you asked me at any time during his first year how I was feeling, I would have likely said (and meant), “Great, grateful.” And I was.
But he just turned one year old, and I’m noticing it again – this slight lift.
I can only spot the difference when I’m out of it. It feels like many things: a stronger faith that he will survive, a confidence in myself and a reconnection to who I was before even becoming a mom, an openness to trying new things, feeling more comfortable spending time away from home.
Both of my living children are rainbows so I don’t have a non-loss-mom experience to compare mine to. I’m unsure if my experiences were just typical of being a new mom, all-consumed by the responsibility of keeping your tiniest precious loved ones safe, or if there was something more than that going on. I never felt detached from my babies in their first years. But it does seem, in hindsight, that I lost a part of myself.
There also seems to be something to the fact that I didn’t get the chance to protect my first son.
It seemed to spark an unspoken challenge to prove to myself that I would do everything I could to protect my babies if blessed with more. I put a lot of pressure on myself in that way, though, because the reality is that we can really only do the best we can. I learned as a loss mom that if just wanting to protect our children was enough, then none of our babies would have died.
Now I am officially a mom to a pre-schooler and a toddler, and I’m no longer an infant mom. Of course there is a great deal of sadness that comes with that because a baby’s newborn and infant months are such an incredible, life-changing and special time. But now I am on the other side of what feels like a big milestone, not just for my son but for me. Finding a new place in my life, a new pace, and also a new inner peace that I didn’t know I was missing.