“A child after a loss is called a Rainbow Baby. My beautiful Hannah, is my Double Rainbow Baby.
I said good bye to my first child, Marianna Augusta, on March 31, 1990. I was young and sexually assaulted at 13, resulting in a pregnancy. Extremely sick, having fever seizures and hemorrhaging for several days, Marianna never even took a breath and was born at home. I was 14 years old and passed out as Marianna’s lifeless body dropped in the toilet. While I have no pictures, I don’t think I will ever forget how tiny she was. I was rushed to the hospital where they performed emergency surgery. My Mom was told that if she had waited any longer to bring me in, I would have died from the loss of blood. This didn’t change my dream for a child; it only made it stronger.
I got married at 21 and we both knew we wanted children. I got pregnant right away but lost the baby within the first trimester. I lived several hours from my doctor and by the time I arrived at the office, my blood count was 5.5 so I was admitted to the hospital for a blood transfusion. My body rejected the blood, but they pushed it anyway because it was so low. Once stable, I was released and sent for IV Iron Therapy. I had been married less than 9 months but knew my marriage was in trouble. Infertility and child loss are hard on a marriage. Most don’t survive and mine fell right into that category. We divorced and I moved home.
A little while later I met a man with two young children at church and thought it was the perfect ‘instant family.’ I loved being a weekend step-mom to his 1-year old daughter and 3-year old son. They were great kids! We married in early August and tried for over a year to get pregnant. I had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, (PCOS), as a teenager, it affected my menstrual cycles. We ended up going to see a reproductive endocrinologist. After lots of tests, I was put on birth control to regulate my cycles. We had to keep a chart with my temperature to know when I was ovulating. I was put on Clomid, a mild reproductive medication in pill form. After a few cycles, I got pregnant. I had all the cravings. I remember being so excited when the smell of tuna fish made me sick! Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage a few months later. I remember laying in the middle of the bed crying. We continued to try for a couple years to get pregnant, but it didn’t work. I got depressed and he got stressed and strayed. We went our separate ways.
At this point I was 25 years old and I made the decision that if I were not married or if there were no ‘Daddy’ prospects in my future, then I would be artificially inseminated with donor sperm when I turned 27. I still laugh every time I think back on this.
I met Husband #3 and we hit it off great. We decided not to rush into marriage or kids, but then I started having some medical issues. We went straight to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. After more tests and exploratory surgeries to remove scar tissue, we were put on Gonal-F, an injection that is given several times daily to help with infertility. The downside of this medication is it causes multiple births, so you must go into the doctor daily for ultrasounds to make sure you are not hyperstimulated. Of course, I would be one of those rare cases that was! At one visit, I remember having the ultrasound and being amazed at all the follicles on the screen. A follicle is the sac that releases the egg for fertilization. The month I was hyperstimulated, I had 23 follicles!
I called my mother-in-law and told her. I will never forget her response. She said, ‘I told you I want 3 babies, not 23!’ To know I was carrying around the possibility of that many babies was a lot of responsibility! I was on bed rest to protect me and the follicles, having high fevers, nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. I had to be monitored and not left alone, so when my husband and his family went to a Braves game, I stayed with my Mom. This very painful cycle did not result in a pregnancy! I was devastated but not ready to give up.
During all of this, his grandmother found out we were doing fertility treatments and said, ‘You need to be married if you are trying to get pregnant,’ so we started planning a wedding amidst all chaos of trying to get pregnant. I still remember pulling out that dreaded needle every time my alarm went off to do that injection. We were married in February 2002.
Robert Felder (‘Robby’) was born sleeping on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2002. It had not been an easy pregnancy and we had not told many people we were pregnant. I was flying in from visiting family when I lost him. I never got to hold either of my angels. I knew at this point I was done trying. I couldn’t go through the agony of losing another child. I was officially diagnosed as a Habitual Aborter. I had no problem getting pregnant; I just couldn’t keep it because my body rejects pregnancy. To please my mother-in-law, we got a second opinion and he agreed with my original doctor. There was nothing they could do since I couldn’t carry a baby to term. With PCOS, eggs are not allowed to be released from the follicles. Because of my PCOS, I was scheduled to have a complete hysterectomy on October 17, 2002; I was only 27 years old. This is when it was discovered that I had Endometriosis as well.
Later that year, I was visiting family when my godfather suddenly died. I immediately knew I had to get home, so I got on a Greyhound bus and started the long journey. Little did I know that my Godfather Maurice had a special surprise on that bus for me!
I stayed to the front of the bus and kept to myself. At one of our stops I noticed a woman struggling with eight large trash bags of clothes and two toddlers, so I offered to help. We began talking and ended up talking for the rest of the trip about how she had rented a van to help someone but got into an accident and totaled the van.
She was 4 months pregnant and giving the baby up for adoption because she didn’t want any more kids and didn’t know who the father was at the time. She had already found a nice family online but after talking with me about my situation for over 20 hours, she was open to me adopting her child. I was over the moon! I was finally getting my baby I always wanted, and I couldn’t wait! I helped her get the kids and all her bags off the bus at their stop and we promised to keep in touch. I told my husband about our encounter, he was very leery, but knew it made me happy. I started preparing for my baby! When I found out it was a girl, I started buying clothes, diapers and all the essentials needed for a newborn. I always knew I wanted a round canopy crib, so I found one and put it on layaway.
Then it happened! I got a phone call from the biological mother telling me she couldn’t give me this baby, that her own mother said no grandchild of hers would ever be adopted. She said I could be the godmother and even asked me to be in the room and cut the cord during her birth. Of course, I agreed, didn’t even think twice about it. Yes, I was devastated, but at least I was still allowed to be in this child’s life. I laid there and cried until there were no tears left to cry. I felt so empty, like I had nothing left. The one thing I wanted most in life is the one thing I could not have.
Hannah was born on October 17, 2002, the same day of my complete Hysterectomy, so I couldn’t be there to see her make her entrance into the world or to cut the cord. Complications from surgery kept me in recovery for a few weeks. Her biological mother did eventually call and show me pictures of this beautiful bald baby! Upon release, I went straight to her, and when I held Hannah in my arms for the first time, I knew she was meant to be mine. Looking at her beautiful little face, tears rolling down my cheeks, I whispered, ‘I loved you before you were ever born, and I will love you until the day I die,’ as I kissed her perfect little face. Those big eyes stared back at me as if she understood exactly what I was saying.
Within a month, I was called and told to come and get the baby, so I did. This happened several times over the years. I was told, ‘Come get her. I don’t want her. I can’t afford her,’ but she always ended up taking her back because I never had legal paperwork. Years went by that I didn’t see or hear from them. I knew Hannah’s grandmother had died and I heard they were living in hotels and I was concerned, but there was nothing I could do. I had to pray she was ok.
In 2005, still broken hearted and devastated, I knew I had to find an outlet for all the pain. I started sewing tiny burial gowns for stillborn babies. The first ones I made were smaller than an ink pen. I did this for about 5 years as a way of healing my own heart and it was very therapeutic.
When she was 13, Hannah and her sisters came to town and I took them to a painting class and dinner for her birthday. I am not sure if I contained my excitement or not? I really tried to be fair, but my heart kept pulling me to Hannah all night. It was a pull I could not ignore. I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and never let go. The hardest thing I have ever done was waving goodbye as I got back in my car. As they drove away, I dropped my head on the steering wheel and bawled like a baby because I didn’t know when I would see her again.
I remarried in 2017 and as I was sewing over 3,000 pearls on my gown, I decided I wanted to sew burial gowns again. The next day, my husband-to-be came home with a sewing machine and Southern Grace Angelic Gowns, (SGAG), was born! Now, we are a 501c3 nonprofit, sending burial gowns all over the country and overseas. We transform donated wedding dresses into burial garments, known as Angelic Gowns, for babies that are stillborn or die shortly after birth. All gowns are donated to grieving families at no charge. I have my wedding dress in the closet and once I take pictures of Hannah wearing it, we will cut it up for Angelic Gowns as well.
When we got married, my husband said to me, ‘I know you have always wanted a baby, but all my kids are grown and gone. I am retired and drive a 2-seater sports car, and I am done raising kids.’ He just didn’t know he would eat those words less than a year later!
When Hannah was 15, they moved close to us. She stayed with us every weekend and every time school was out for a holiday. She had her own room at our house and let everyone know it! She got involved with SGAG, learned to iron and sew on her first Angelic Gown, which she designed herself. She never missed a workshop and still doesn’t. She even helps teach at the monthly workshops.
One day I got a call from her biological mother, asking me to call and calm Hannah down. She said Hannah and her two older sisters were fighting and it was about to turn physical. Since the sisters were physically twice Hannah’s size, this concerned me. I asked what we could do to help and what was said next floored me. I nearly dropped the phone when she said, ‘I should’ve just let you raise her. You would’ve done a much better job.’ I told her we all make mistakes and I offered for Hannah to stay here until things calmed down. She told me it was up to Hannah.
I had all three girls over the next weekend. I asked Hannah to go upstairs while we sat and talked with the older two girls. We asked them if they thought it would help if Hannah stayed with us for a little while and that some space and time might help. They said no because she was already spoiled and staying with us would just make it worse. That is when we were told several disturbing things by her oldest sister, like Hannah was almost aborted, (this was told to oldest sister when she was only 8 years old), mom’s financial and mental struggles as well. Hannah moved in almost immediately! It was definitely not without drama though.
We put Hannah in therapy where she was diagnosed with severe PTSD in relation to her biological mother. She confided in her therapist completely after several visits and then the reason for her PTSD came out. We hired an attorney and filed for full guardianship and were awarded it in September 2018.
When she first came to us, Hannah didn’t trust men easily because of her past. Now, she will curl up in my husband’s lap when he is in his recliner and they will watch TV together. I look over and I stop breathing because they have both been so hurt in the past and to have each other and the bond they share is so healing. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world to witness.
We had a leather journal custom made for Hannah with a butterfly and quote on the front. We have always told her that watching her come out of her shell has been like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon since she moved in. She has blossomed. We write notes to her in it and we will give it to her on the day she becomes a mother.
In 2018, we had family pictures made for Christmas cards. When Hannah saw them, she stared for a long time and finally said, ‘Wow! We really do look alike! If you would have gotten me as a baby, I would have never known you were not my biological Mom.’ Even her biological father’s family says, ‘If I didn’t know better, I would swear you were Hannah’s biological Mother.’ I smile anytime someone says that! I am proud to be told she looks like me.
My sweet girl has come so far in the last couple of years. I may not have been there to witness her first steps or her first words, but I was the Mom she came to when a boy broke her heart. I was the Mom who took her on her first official drive behind the wheel. I will be the Mom who takes her shopping for a prom dress and a wedding dress (when it’s time…when she is 30).
Ironically, last week while scrolling Facebook marketplace for sewing stuff, I came across a round canopy crib identical to the one I had put on layaway for her 16 years ago. I showed it to her, and she fell in love, so I bought it. She wanted it to pass down to her future generations with our story, but for the next 10-15 years, it will hold her beloved stuffed animals!
I call Hannah my Double Rainbow Baby because not only is she the child after a loss, she is the child I lost as well. I finally got my baby – 15 years later. She was born the day of my hysterectomy. She has mended my devastated, broken heart, and now fills it with a love that only a Mother can know!”
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