“I’ve had to think a lot about pregnancy because of this body I happen to occupy. Even before I found out I had endometriosis, I had this back-of-my-mind fear about not being able to get pregnant. I have no idea why. And since I’ve been sure I wanted to be a mom since I was six (no exaggeration) the idea I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term was terrifying.
I went undiagnosed with endometriosis for 14 years and I also had plenty of misdiagnoses from doctors. It was a frustrating time. I actually ended up diagnosing myself. When I finally got the diagnosis of endometriosis, my gynecologist was very honest about the possibility of infertility. She said, ‘About half of women with endometriosis struggle to get pregnant and up to 30% end up infertile.’ I remember the cold feeling which seeped through my chest and throat when I heard those numbers. Dread filled my brain when confronted with the fact I might never get pregnant. It was paralyzing.
I was nowhere near ready to have kids at the time of my diagnosis, so I had lots of time to process how I felt about the possibility of infertility. I knew there are plenty of other ways to be a mother without carrying my own child – adoption, fostering, surrogacy – but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was attached to the idea of actually being pregnant with my own child. I really wanted the experience of carrying my child, of feeling my baby move inside me, of people touching my belly, and of bringing my child into the world. I also knew I would need to accept the possibility I would never have that experience.
My husband and I talked about our future child with alarming regularity considering we had no intention of having one for many years. Together we processed what it would mean if we couldn’t get pregnant. ‘Will we adopt or get a surrogate? Will we consider being foster parents?’ Though we had these conversations over and over, we never quite got anywhere. The idea of not having our own child was too raw for us to touch. I said, ‘I want to be a mom no matter what so I want to adopt if we have to.’ My husband never quite knew how he felt about adopting. He definitely wanted a kid of our own.
What these conversations DID do was clarify my feelings. I made it clear to my husband, ‘I want to adopt,’ and though he never said it out loud, I knew from the way he looked at me, the way he brushed his fingers over my back and through my hair when we had these discussions, he would support whatever I wanted.
We didn’t really make the decision to start trying for kids when we did. It was kind of a side effect of my endometriosis surgery. During the consult with the surgeon, he oh so casually said, ‘While I have you under anesthesia to remove the diseased tissue, I can take out my IUD as well if you’d like.’ I told him I’d get back to him.
My husband and I discussed it, and our conclusion was basically, ‘why not?’ We knew we wanted to have a child together. We’d been saying ‘someday’ for a while by then. We figured it was as good a time as any to actually start trying. And we knew even if the surgery was successful at removing the endometriosis, it would probably still take us a while to get pregnant. We assumed we’d have plenty of time to adjust to trying to get pregnant before we actually did.
But it wasn’t what happened at all. Less than two months after my surgery was complete, I was pregnant. I took a pregnancy test while I was home alone. I called my husband, who was at work and screamed, ‘I AM PREGNANT!’ I was so loud he couldn’t understand me. I had to repeat it three times before he finally understood. He stopped in the middle of a grocery store (he’s delivers chips) and celebrated. Of course, we were ecstatic, but we were also shocked. We’d spent so much time talking about how hard it might be to get pregnant we’d never considered it might be incredibly easy.
Unfortunately, I only got five days to experience the first pregnancy. But those five days were heaven. I finally felt at home in my body. Being pregnant felt right. I loved every minute of it. Until it was over. The OB was concerned because I got pregnant so quickly after endo surgery. They sent me in for tests and while I was waiting for the results, I took another pregnancy test just to see what it would say. It was negative. Obviously, we were both devastated. I cried on the bathroom floor for almost an hour.
I never fully understood how much I wanted to experience pregnancy until my first ended. In our couples therapist’s office, tears and snot pouring down my face, I tried to explain to my husband how much I wanted to be pregnant. Not just how much I wanted to have a child, but how much I wanted to be pregnant myself.
At a core level, I knew adopting a child wouldn’t be enough for me. I would still adopt if I absolutely couldn’t get pregnant, but in the emptiness of the loss, I finally understood how much I wanted to carry my own child. I wanted to feel my belly grow and expand. I longed for people to marvel at my belly, rub it and tell me all their old wives tales about whether I was carrying a boy or a girl. I even wanted the morning sickness, breast pain and the mood swings. I didn’t just want a child, I wanted the experience of bearing a child with all its implications.
It took us a while to be ready to try again. The sorrow was too overwhelming and the fear of losing another pregnancy was too big for me to consider getting pregnant for almost half a year. Which was good in a way, because my husband and I needed time to put our marriage back together after grief exposed and widened the cracks which already existed. I had amazing friends who carried me through the experience.
When we finally decided we were ready to try again, we prepared ourselves for a long road of negative pregnancy tests. We were sure we wouldn’t be lucky enough to conceive quickly twice in a row. Again, we were wrong.
During our second month of trying I was late. My husband and I woke up super early on his day off, and I rushed into the bathroom. I made him come in and wait for the required three minutes with me. When the timer went off, I couldn’t look at the test, I didn’t want to see the negative. So, I made him look first. He tried to hide his joy as he passed me the test, but he didn’t do a very good job. He was beaming. Two pink lines. We laughed and cried and laughed some more and joked, ‘I can’t believe how easy it is for you to get knocked up!’ We were so happy and shocked I got pregnant again so quickly.
For most of the day I walked around in a haze of happiness, but there were moments when the doubts and fears crept in. Moments when my brain told me, ‘Don’t get too attached. You’ll probably lose this one too.’
While I was running errands later that day I saw a rainbow. As someone who’d lost a pregnancy, I knew the significance of rainbows; babies conceived after a loss are referred to as ‘rainbow babies.’ Tears slid down my face as I stared at the rainbow and called one of my closest friends. I told her about the pregnancy and the rainbow and I will never forget her immediate response,’It’s a sign. God doesn’t f*ck around when it comes to signs. This baby will be just fine.’
Sometimes I believed it and other times I didn’t. The first trimester is plagued by fear for every person who gets pregnant, but for those of us who have experienced a loss, the fear is tangible, palpable, vivid. No matter how happy I was about the pregnancy, no matter how much I believed this time would be different, there was always a part of me which cautioned against getting too attached to the baby in my belly.
I’m blessed I was surrounded by so many amazing women who had also experienced loss during those first months of pregnancy. They told me over and over that it was normal and okay to be scared, but more importantly, they reminded me it was important to honor this pregnancy, and to be as excited as I could be. One of them suggested every time I was scared I should look at baby products and start a wish list. Needless to say, I had a massive Amazon wish list within days.
Another suggested that I start knitting a baby blanket. I’m not a knitting kind of lady. I know how to knit thanks to the ‘stitch and b*tch’ sessions I’d attended in my twenties, which were mostly an excuse to drink, but I certainly wasn’t interested in committing to an actual knitting project. I think I still have a scarf on knitting needles buried in a closet somewhere because I never bothered to figure out how to finish it. She insisted that creating this item for my baby would give me a tangible way to attach to my pregnancy and to feel some joy. So, I started to knit.
Since I’d had a previous loss, my OB scheduled what they call a viability scan or a super early ultrasound to confirm whether the embryo is developing properly to confirm whether it is ‘compatible with life.’ My scan was at six weeks and I was petrified. Every day leading up to the ultrasound I prayed I would see a viable embryo. Every day I prayed, ‘Please let them detect a heartbeat.’ I knew six weeks was likely too early to hear one, but I prayed I would be one of the lucky ones, and I would get some assurance this pregnancy would last.
At the ultrasound, I was freaking out so much my blood pressure was high for the first time in my life. I laid back on the table, hyperventilating, and prayed as they inserted the wand for the transvaginal ultrasound. I didn’t even know my eyes were closed until I heard the midwife say, ‘There’s a strong heartbeat.’ I burst into tears. She took the crown to rump measurement, which indicates if the embryo is growing at the right rate, and confirmed, ‘Your little one is exactly the right size based on your estimated due date.’ I continued to sob throughout the rest of the appointment. I don’t remember anything else she said. I called my closest friends on the way home from the appointment and told them about my healthy, growing bean. I texted them the ultrasound photos. When my husband and I stared at the pictures, our joy filled the house.
When we were able to form rational thoughts again, we talked about when we would tell our parents and our siblings. We didn’t get the chance to tell them about the last pregnancy. I told my closest friends, but we wanted to hold off on telling our parents, all of whom were desperate for grandchildren, until after our first ultrasound. An ultrasound which never happened. They didn’t know I’d been pregnant until a couple of months after the loss.
Even though this time we’d seen our healthy little bean and seen its heart pulsing on the screen, we were still nervous about telling our families. We didn’t know if it would be better for them to know even if we had another loss or if it would be easier to let them know when we were a little further along when the chances of miscarriage dropped.
We took a few days to think about it and talk about it some more. Eventually, we both decided we wanted to share our joy with our families, even if it meant sharing our sorrow with them later. We hadn’t been able to share the small amount of joy we’d had with our first pregnancy with them, and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity this time around. Since my parents and my sister all live in different states, we FaceTimed them and showed them the ultrasound pictures. Their immediate joy was enough to confirm telling them was the right choice. We told my husband’s parents by getting them a ‘Thankful for Grandparents’ card, which we presented to them with an ultrasound picture at Thanksgiving dinner.
Seeing the ultrasound pictures, which we displayed in our living room, and sharing the delight with our families and friends allowed me to settle into the idea of being pregnant, but I still wasn’t convinced it would last. I was still cautious about being excited for this rainbow baby to come.
The weekend before our next ultrasound, which was scheduled for 9 weeks, I was overwhelmed with panic. It was still so early. My chances of another miscarriage were still high, especially since I’d already had one. I knew the chances of miscarriage dropped after detecting a heartbeat on ultrasound, but I also knew seeing a heartbeat wasn’t a guarantee nothing was wrong.
I made the poor choice so many of us do when we want information…I turned to the Internet. I spent hours on pregnancy forums reading the heartbreaking stories of women who’d had miscarriages after seeing a heartbeat on an early ultrasound. I pored over statistics on miscarriage in the first trimester and compared the numbers outlining how the chances of miscarriage drop from week to week. I did all of this while curled up in a hysterical ball on my couch, shaking and sweating, holding my abdomen.
Eventually, I crawled out of my Internet isolation and talked to some real people like my husband and a few close friends. This led me to invite myself to a friend’s house for the weekend. His children are my favorite children on the planet, and if there was one thing which could stave off the panic consuming me, it was devoting all my attention to those glorious little humans. I spent the rest of the weekend playing hide-and-seek in the Vermont countryside, playing card games, knitting, and most importantly, not worrying.
I don’t know what I would have done without my friends, my found family in the aftermath of my miscarriage and in the first weeks of my second pregnancy. I was never alone during the toughest and scariest months and weeks of my life. Whenever I called, someone came over and just sat with me while watching endless hours of mindless TV. They let me sleep on their couches when the grief almost tore my marriage apart, lent me their children when I just needed to play and hear the magical peals of child laughter. So many people go through the heartbreak of pregnancy loss and the apprehension and terror of waiting for a rainbow baby alone. I’m so grateful I didn’t have to.
By the time I made it to the doctor’s office on Monday, I knew everything was okay. I sat on the table in the exam room and joked with my husband. I smiled wide while the doctor went through the preliminary questions with me. When they took my blood pressure and it was normal I quipped it’s because I wasn’t scared this time.
When the image came up on the screen and I saw my little bean had grown into a gummy bear I laughed instead of cried. Our midwife was gracious enough to take six photos, so we got to see our gummy bear from every angle. And the heartbeat was still as strong as before.
As we walked out of the office, I could feel in every inch of my body I was going to stay pregnant this time, I could finally fully embrace the experience of being pregnant. The clouds had parted and my rainbow had come.
Today, my little rainbow baby is 5 months old. He’s a perfectly healthy little miracle taught me after the storm, when the sun shines through, there’s always a rainbow waiting.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Robin Zabiegalski of Burlington, VT. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more beautiful stories about having a rainbow baby here:
‘In a Waffle House bathroom, I wiped. Bright red blood. Stunned, ‘Oh my God, this can’t be happening again.’: Couple suffers 5 miscarriages to finally welcome surprise rainbow baby, ‘All 9 of my children are and were a gift from God’
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