‘During snuggles, Ellis kept reaching for Noah’s feet on my husband’s tattoo. He has the best big brother watching over him.’: Woman delivers rainbow baby after stillborn, miscarriage

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Disclaimer: This story includes details of pregnancy loss which may be triggering for some.

“Like most women, when I found out I was pregnant I felt a flood of emotions. I was shocked but also happy and excited to grow my family with my husband. I first learned I was pregnant in January 2020. My husband was working overnight at the firehouse at the time I took the test and I wanted to wait until the morning when he got home to tell him. I couldn’t sleep all night. The anticipation to tell him the good news and seeing his reaction was running on a loop through my mind. He was, not shockingly, also very happy about the news.

And so, it began. The planning. The waiting. The hoping. The picking out of names, clothes, and nursery furniture. The pure bliss of being a first-time parent. A couple of months later, the pandemic hit, and everything shut down. I had only had one regular doctor’s appointment before my husband was no longer allowed to go in with me. He would drive me there and wait in the car while I went up—alone.

Everything was normal and progressed as it should for over 5 months, so we had no reason to be concerned about anything. At my 20 weeks scan, we received confirmation I was carrying a boy. We decided to name him Noah. About a month later, at around 25 weeks, I began to mention to my husband that I was feeling fewer and fewer kicks. At 26 weeks pregnant, I realized I hadn’t felt him kick for roughly 4 days, so my husband urged me to call the doctor so they could check. I kept putting off calling because I didn’t want to hear them tell me what I already knew deep down inside.

I was already prepared for the worst, but laying there while they struggled to find a heartbeat was a feeling unlike any other. The silence was deafening and the stillness of my sweet baby boy on the screen was unbearable, and then the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat.’ I was in such a vulnerable position. I was alone without my husband’s hand to hold. He was waiting in the car for me to call him with an update. I instantly felt like I was free-falling off the edge of a cliff.

She then tried to explain that we had to go to the hospital to be induced and deliver our son. After roughly 16 hours of labor, Noah was stillborn after 2 quick pushes. He was only 1 lb. 6 oz. I immediately felt so empty inside, like I was a failure. A failure to myself, my husband, and my son. My only job was to protect him, and I couldn’t keep him safe. We snuggled him, I held his tiny little feet in my hands, and we kissed him goodbye.

close up of the feet of a stillborn baby being held by his mother
Courtesy of Sarah Mengler

In Genesis chapter 9, God said to Noah after the flood, ‘I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth… Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.’ After the greatest storm of my life, I was able to look out of the hospital room window and see a beautiful rainbow. At this moment, I immediately felt comfort knowing Noah was in the loving care of God. The rainbow was also able to be seen by many family members and friends all over town that day.

Leaving the hospital was a very surreal experience. There was no fanfare, no happy faces, or tears of joy. Just me and my husband—flat-stomached and empty-handed. We did receive a keepsake box to house some of Noah’s things, such as his hat and swaddle blanket and his hand and footprints. The next days and weeks were a blur. Not only was I healing from just giving birth, but we also had to make funeral and burial arrangements. I had to order an urn small enough for a baby’s ashes. We had to design a headstone. These are all things a parent should never have to do for their child.

We decided to have Noah cremated and to bury his ashes so we always have a place to visit and sit with him. After we buried Noah, I still felt like I needed to do something to honor him. My husband and I decided to get matching tattoos—mine, on my ankle, and my husband’s, on his chest. I knew I wanted to have his footprints on me forever, and I also wanted to incorporate a rainbow. Now, I have this constant and beautiful reminder on my ankle that Noah walks with me every single day, and that God will always provide me with a rainbow after a storm.

a mom's ankle tattoo of the footprints of her stillborn baby with a rainbow
Courtesy of Sarah Mengler

I was feeling very hopeful we would get our rainbow soon. But then it happened again. We lost our second baby very early on in my pregnancy, at 6 weeks. I barely even knew I was pregnant before I was in the hospital having surgery to remove the baby. I was flooded with negative thoughts and denial about having a family with my husband at all. It felt like it was just never going to happen for us. But even though we were mentally broken, we never gave up on our dream to have a family. We fell pregnant again shortly after and just kept holding on to hope week after week.

Pregnant woman wearing a long blue dress walking on a park holding her husband's hand
Courtesy of Sarah Mengler

My pregnancy was deemed high risk which means I got a lot of extra attention from the doctors. I had weekly appointments at first, and then by the third trimester, I was having twice-weekly appointments. To say it was the most stressful nine months of my life would be a gross understatement. Now, nearly 2 years after Noah’s death, we have our rainbow baby boy. Ellis was born at full term, perfect and healthy. When my husband was enjoying some skin-to-skin snuggles in the hospital, we noticed that Ellis kept reaching for Noah’s feet on his tattoo. This was truly such a bittersweet moment for us.

Dad holding newborn baby son on his bare chest with a tattoo of the footprints of his stillborn baby son
Courtesy of Sarah Mengler

Yes, we have our rainbow here with us, but there will also always be a missing part of our family. I am genuinely happy again. I never thought I could get to a point where I could say that after spending so much time feeling so lost. But with that happiness, I am also still so sad. I will never get my son back. I will have to navigate the rest of my life without him, feeling like a huge piece of me is lost.

Newborn baby son laying on a bed with rainbow sheets
Courtesy of Sarah Mengler

Navigating life and parenting after loss with my husband has been eye-opening. We are at a point with our grief where we agree maybe Noah’s sole purpose in our lives was to bring us closer together in our marriage. It’s been hard realizing what could have been with Noah, and how quickly it was taken from us. But now I must believe Ellis has the best big brother watching over him every single day, and I find comfort in it.

I have decided to use my grief and trauma to help other women in my community who are experiencing pregnancy loss at any stage. Since sharing my story, countless women have come to me with their own personal experiences, seeking advice and a hand to hold. I wish I had someone to relate to when I was deep in the trenches of my grief. I find that it is helpful to feel less alone.”

Outdoor family portrait of mom, dad, and baby son sitting on the grass with a bridge in the background
Courtesy of Sarah Mengler

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Mengler  from Cincinnati, OH. You can follow her journey on her personal Instagram and her business Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories about miscarriage here:

51-Year-Old Was Asked To Adopt Cousin’s Daughter After 2 Miscarriages, Doctor’s Warn They’d ‘Never Have A Child’

‘I’ve been seeing phrases like, ‘At least it happened early’ or ‘One miscarriage doesn’t compare to multiple’ a lot lately.’: Woman battling infertility urges ‘a loss is a loss and they all matter’

No One Talks About The Messy Parts Of Miscarriage, So I’m Standing Up

‘I was heartbroken. I’d cry in my sleep only to be shaken awake. It was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through.’: Mom shares what she wishes she knew before pregnancy with rainbow baby

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