For those in the fetal loss community, we know this term well. Quite simply, a rainbow baby is a live birth after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. A rainbow baby represents hope after the pain of loss. A rainbow baby is the panacea in this loss community.
But what if your rainbow baby never comes?
I, just like so many others on this painful journey, had high hopes for a rainbow baby. After Robert was born still, I hoped and prayed that I would become pregnant and hold my rainbow baby. My doctor confidently assured me that it would happen. So when we got the green light to try again, we did so in hopeful anticipation that our rainbow would come. When pregnancy didn't come so easily this time, we chalked it up to scar tissue and trauma - but we kept trying.
When I got the initial diagnosis of unexplained secondary infertility, I never even knew such a thing existed. What do you mean you can suddenly be infertile after two spontaneous pregnancies and births? The very idea seemed so incredulous. And unexplained? In other words, I could no longer become pregnant on my own and the best medical professionals in the field of infertility could not tell me why - talk about frustrating. But in spite of it all, this obstacle would not prevent me from getting my rainbow baby, so we embarked into the new infertility unknown.
I was poked, prodded, and tested for all kinds of acronyms. Bob wasn't left out of the fun, and subjected to some rather humiliating testing and sample gathering. As far as fertility testing goes, we both came back "perfect." My Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) coined us a "sure thing," all but guaranteeing us pregnancy. I could just feel that I was getting closer to my rainbow baby.
But then the first IUI failed. And then the second. And then the third. We felt the sting of disappointment, but weren't ready to give up. After all, there were other procedures we could try. Sure, they weren't covered by our insurance and would mean dipping into our savings and retirement, but it would all be worth it in the end when we were holding our rainbow baby.
So we moved forward with our first round of IVF. And it failed.
So we picked ourselves up and went for a second time. And that one failed, too.
So we took our last three, beautiful little frozen embryos and went for a third and last time. And when that one failed too, we knew we were done.
After almost 4 years of loss and heartache, I once again sat with empty arms and an aching heart - my rainbow baby would never come.
It's been almost 7 years since Robert's death, and about 3 years since we moved on from trying for another child. As I look back now on that time and my struggle, I've begun to look at the idea of a rainbow differently than I did before. I think that deep down inside, I will always have that ache of loss - the loss of a child and the loss of a dream of having another - but it doesn't mean that I don't get my rainbow.
Perhaps I do get my rainbow, but it just looks different than how I thought it would. I could never have foreseen how this would turn out, nor, given the choice, would I have necessarily chosen it. But nevertheless, here I am.
I am absolutely convinced that had my plans succeeded, that I would not be back in school pursuing my calling. - a calling that will give me the awesome privilege of walking with others down this road of loss and infertility. Had I not known what this felt like, I do not believe that I would have possessed the empathy necessary to enter into the pain of other women and families who face a similar loss. THIS is my rainbow. Could I have learned this and had another baby? Sure! But that's not what God had for me.
I think we all have a "rainbow." Something in our lives that we hold onto and hope for. Perhaps it's a rainbow marriage. Or a rainbow career. Or a rainbow prodigal child. Or a rainbow life! What if the preconceived notion of what our rainbow should be or look like doesn't come? What then? Are we able to let go of what we think it should be and surrender to what it is?
As a follower of Jesus, this journey has been all about surrender. I've had to surrender my body and accept that I would not bear another child. I've had to surrender my dreams to holding and bringing home another baby. I've had to surrender my hopes of siblings for Mason. I've had to surrender my dreams for His, but isn't that the essence of the Christian life? The daily surrender of my desires for His?
My rainbow may not have come in the form of a 7lb. infant, but my rainbow came, and it's just as precious and valuable.
Today, I can finally enjoy my rainbow. And I think it's beautiful.