Like so many parents, Brittin Schumaker and her husband have experienced great joy and great sadness. We asked Brittin to share some of the lessons from her “rainbow pregnancy” — a pregnancy after a loss. Several of our doulas have special training in grief and loss (and many of us have experienced loss ourselves), so these stories are especially close to our heart. There are lots of triggers and a few graphic details of loss here, so take a deep breath and decide if this is the right time for you to read about her journey. If it is that right time, I think you’ll learn a lot from her experience. We can’t wait to celebrate her little one’s arrival in just a few short weeks! Thank you to Birch Arrow Photography for these beautiful photos.
by Brittin Schumaker
The last place you want to spend Mother’s Day, as a mother, is in the ER .
Mother’s Day 2017 brought us the biggest loss we had ever experienced as a married couple. We miscarried at almost twelve weeks along, at home, which then took us to spending Mother’s Day in the ER. Instead of spending Mother’s Day planting flowers and enjoying the day with my husband and our two children, I was getting pelvic exams and taking the “products of conception” in a paper bag to the ER. It was a nightmare.
My name is Brittin. I am a Blessed Momma of a 5 year old little girl who came about 18 months after our first very early miscarriage. That miscarriage happened on Easter Sunday. Our daughter was our first rainbow baby, though we never knew the term then. A few years later, we were blessed with our second little girl. Both of these pregnancies were uneventful and I was fortunately able to have the birth I wanted — vaginal, unmedicated, and uncomplicated. These pregnancies and births showed me that there wasn’t something wrong with me, and that I could indeed carry a healthy baby to full term. What a relief and a huge blessing.
We decided when our youngest was 2 years old, we wanted to try for another baby. We got pregnant shortly after that time and were so excited. I was almost 35, so we figured this would be our last baby. One day before we were going to announce our pregnancy (one day short of 12 weeks along), we lost our baby on Mother’s Day. This loss nearly destroyed us. It was so unexpected, especially after carrying two healthy babies in a row, to full term. I did everything right. How could this happen? We were confused, angry, hurt, and discouraged for a very long time. Some days it was difficult to keep it together for each other and for our children. But we experienced the grief and carried on, because we had to.
Today I am 35 weeks along with our “Rainbow Baby.” This is my fifth pregnancy. I’ve experienced so many emotions this pregnancy, and every day is hopefully one step closer to the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow.
Here are five lessons I've learned during my rainbow pregnancy.
1. The positive pregnancy test gets a new meaning.
When I first saw the test, I got that pit-of-the-stomach feeling that made me nauseous. Anxious. Scared. No, not scared. Terrified. All I could think about was the last time I saw that positive sign, and that time, it ended with my husband and I picking up our lifeless baby from our toilet. How could I possibly be excited? I couldn’t. But I felt like I should be. Yes, I should be! I’m pregnant. It was quite a few weeks of convincing myself I was excited. I’m not sure it ever truly worked. That pregnancy test just brought back the devastation and it was really difficult to get beyond that sadness. But that was my grief, still in process — a process that was uniquely mine, and dissimilar from anyone else’s. It had only been eight months since our Mother’s Day miscarriage. The wound was raw. So I gave myself permission to grieve, again, at the sight of a positive pregnancy test. And that was what I had to do.
2. Every time I saw someone else who recently suffered infant or pregnancy loss, I felt guilty.
How could I be excited about being pregnant again, when some of my closest friends were still journeying through their grief? How could I tell them? Would I tell them? Would they be happy for me, despite their hearts still aching? There are people in my life who have also experienced loss, who have yet to recognize that I am pregnant at 35 weeks along. They haven’t congratulated me, and they haven’t spoken with me about the pregnancy. It’s difficult to accept that, but it’s their way of grieving. They aren’t ready to acknowledge my pregnancy. During this Rainbow Pregnancy, I realized that pregnancy isn’t good news to everyone, sometimes not even to your closest friends. When you announce a pregnancy, there are many people who are reminded again of their own tragic loss. They unfollow you on FB, or they act as if you aren’t pregnant. It hurts. A lot. But I have had to learn that it isn’t about me. It is about them. Their wounds are still too raw. Grief takes time, and everyone’s journey is immensely different.
3. OB appointments are nerve-racking.
All the way through the second trimester, my heart would race prior to and during my midwife appointments. The anxiety was real and ever present. I would hear the heartbeat, but it didn’t bring me the peace that it had during my previous pregnancies. After all, I saw the strong heartbeat during our last pregnancy. I was told it was a “strong heartbeat” and “a strong baby in there.” Those words will haunt me forever. If they were true, why did we lose our baby? During the third trimester, my appointment anxiety has lessened. Maybe it is because I can feel this baby kick me all day and all night, putting my mind more at peace in general. One thing I have learned during this pregnancy is that I don’t have to feel excited during my appointments. It’s ok if I’m not. It’s just my reality. Now I listen to that little heartbeat and just take it in, one tiny beat at a time. And if a smile comes across my lips, that’s enough for me.
4. I have learned to never measure the level of someone else’s grief.
No matter what someone is going through, if they are upset and grieving, they need me to keep the space open and listen to them. They need no judgment, no comparison, no sentences from me that start with “at least,” because those set up a conversation of comparison. When I speak to someone who is grieving a loss of any kind, the best thing I can say to them is “I am so sorry you’re hurting. I want you to know I’m here to listen if you need that, or I can give you a couple of hours away if you need time and space.” When we lost our baby, we heard a lot of “at least you have your girls,” or “at least you can try again.” While potentially well intended, these comments are not helpful and are in fact very hurtful. Nothing should negate our loss. I carried a baby inside of me. I felt that excitement, that rush, those tears of joy. I experienced it all, and it was taken from me for a reason I cannot ever comprehend. That’s tough stuff to take in. Please don’t judge someone’s situation when it involves loss. Just be present and available to them, if they want you to be.
5. One day at a time.
This is my biggest takeaway from this pregnancy so far. Just one day at a time. We never know what tomorrow will bring, but we can celebrate the small victories. From seeing that first ultrasound, to hearing that precious heartbeat, to feeling those powerful kicks at 3am, every part of pregnancy is an adventure. The process is miraculous. Pregnancy can be devastating. It can be easy, it can be terribly difficult. It can be emotional and taxing, it can be uplifting and empowering. There is no “right way” to experience pregnancy, because it is YOUR pregnancy and your pregnancy alone. After experiencing loss, I have found it easier to just do this one day at a time. I’m 35 weeks, but I’m still not home free. I am still afraid. I am still devastated by our losses, and pregnancy doesn’t magically make that disappear. I can’t say how it’ll feel to hold this baby, but I am hoping and praying every day that I will get to experience it — to experience the joy I felt when our precious girls were born. There are no guarantees with this whole pregnancy thing.
I just take it as it comes. That’s all I can do. One day at a time.
Have you experienced a loss or a rainbow pregnancy and birth? Were your feeling similar to Brittin’s, or do you have other lessons to add? Comment below with your thoughts, or a good wish for Brittin’s upcoming birth. We promise to update you when her little one arrives!
Brittin Schumaker is a mom, a blogger, and a small business owner. During the day she picks up toys and is a made-to-order chef for two amazing girls. At night she sells LuLaRoe at www.brittinsboutique.com, and she occasionally blogs at www.crunchofthemom.com. When she sees her husband, they either fall asleep or fall madly in love again.