The bittersweetness of a rainbow

So many times Henry I searched in the sky for a sign, every time I saw a rainbow I wondered is that you, is that you telling me your sending a sibling our way? That’s what they call a baby who is conceived and born after losing a child, a rainbow baby.. The idea behind it Henry is that you’ve lived through the storm and here is the beautiful rainbow. It’s a term Henry I have struggled with at times, you certainly weren’t a storm but the grief and aftermath afterwards is, and I wouldn’t argue for a second your sibling will add colour and beauty in our lives… the storm of grief doesn’t end though because they are here and you my boy are a beautiful light, our sun, our moon and all our stars that brings so much brightness to our life too amongst the darkness of you dying and the terrible cloud, our love for you is always there and bright.

 

Here we are I’m pregnant your little brother or sister is growing away in there, in the same womb which you grew, and we are so incredibly grateful for this little life the one that’s growing inside me, but Henry pregnancy after you dying, it’s hard, losing you brought me down to the ground feeling like I’d never be able to move, stand or live again… this journey now comes with so many mixed emotions I can’t even begin to explain the mess within my mind.

Hopeful yet so scared, grateful yet anxious, happy yet sad, joyful yet angry and that’s only some of what we feel… we are hopeful of bringing this baby home safely yet scared as we thought we were bringing you home too, grateful to be pregnant yet anxious that might end at anytime, happy this new little life is on the way yet sad we don’t get to have you here, joyful this is happening yet so angry about what happened with you.

It hasn’t been an easy ride Henry as you know, we’ve overcome a range of hurdles already, we had bleeding which was unexplained from about weeks 6-8, scaring us wondering were we miscarrying another of your siblings, I remember with you the terrible sickness I get HG (hyperemisis gravidarum) it started at 6 weeks, with your first sibling I miscarried I didn’t get it at all, so your dad and I counted the weeks wondering would I? Would I be sick if I was we would see it as a good sign, sure enough the sickness kicked in, the first time I vomited, after flushing the toilet washing my hands and emerging from the bathroom your Dad high fives me, he was so excited.. I must admit I was put a little at ease by this too “yay you vomited” seriously how many people are happy about that… that happiness soon turned to tears and lots of other emotions though when the sickness became worse than what it was with you, I didn’t think that possible Henry but early days not even the medication worked to help it… at least that helped with you… so I spent many miserable days unable to move much from the lounge except to be sick, keeping absolutely nothing down not even water, in fact water made it worse and after days and days like this it was off to hospital to be admitted and placed on IV fluids.. as my body was so dehydrated it was becoming a risk for me and this little bubs.

We’ve lived with the fears between every appointment, every scan ‘will there be a heartbeat’. At every appointment we have heard it there giving our minds a rest for maybe that hour or maybe that day, but back to the next day the many mixed emotions, thoughts and anxieties that can enter my mind daily.

Then at 26 weeks while away in Sydney for work for a couple of days experienced a fall, As I fell hard back on to the concrete my tail bone hitting hard first, I felt a gush of fluid and the back of my dress was soaked, it took me back to that feeling of my waters breaking with you, I thought that was what had happened, In so much panic trying to phone Tim my colleagues who I was travelling with rushed to help me “I think my waters have broken” I managed to get out, I then couldn’t fight the fears that came with the thought os that “I can’t loose this baby too” I kept saying to my colleague as she tried to calm me down and others called an ambulance. The paramedics were great and tried their best to put me at ease but as we travelled to the hospital they asked have you felt the baby move and I hadn’t panic set in more.

We arrived at the hospital and eventually I was taken to maternity greeted by the lady in charge “Whats happened?” she asked as I explained how I had fallen, where I landed the fluid, “So why are you sad?” she asked and I started again to cry “Because we lost our little boy at 39 weeks during labour and I can’t loose this baby too” I said, she was on to it straight away they whelped me to a room, monitor on, and there was the heartbeat. Monitored for four hours, examined to see about the fluid, our poor dad driving over two hours and getting lost. We finally got the all clear that all was ok and we could go home.

Recently Henry we found out my iron was way to low, something that happened with you too, so it was off for an iron infusion. It hasn’t been an easy road at all. I took this picture the day I had the infusion, the two bandaids on my hand are because the canal went in initially and then I could feel the very long needle going in every bit of my vein and it didn’t work, so had to be pulled out and we had to try the next vein that afternoon I thought I better capture how my belly was growing.

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Then there’s other fears Henry, the ones my anxiety likes to conjure up out of no where and hold on too, my anxiety likes to tell me stories, it likes to in detail come up all the what if’s, could be, may happen. It starts off the stories small and quietly almost like a whisper but at times by the end it’s almost like a loud thundering voice.

Worry joins in eagerly, it’s just captivated and waiting there… as soon as it hears what if, it’s attached itself so tightly and makes itself really comfy right in the spot you don’t want it to be and stays.

I work hard on these, I work hard to quieten them down, try and put them back in their place, but they are regular visitors, you know the type come unannounced all the time, unwelcome, at times they don’t even knock just let themselves in. It’s like they waltz through the door helping themselves to all that’s available, raiding the fridge, taking the remote and settling in on the couch, then when it’s time for bed…. instead of going home they make their own decision to stay the night…

3am this morning and I’m wide awake Henry, nothing new, the very thought that enters my mind this morning after I’m up and sick is… “how are you and Tim going to do this?” “You don’t even know how to parent a living baby” that thought stings but it’s true Henry, we don’t and I start to wonder, to worry ‘how will we do it?’ In amongst all the feelings and intensity of navigating a baby in our arms at home, knowing we never got that with you, ‘who will you call Kristy?’ My mind asks, ‘seriously who will you call for advice, how will you know what to do?, what if you have problems feeding?, you’ve never done that part, and how will you do it all amongst those absolutely intense feelings of grief and loss, especially the ones that are going to hit harder than before’…

It overwhelmed me Henry, all things that I’ll have no control over, that shouldn’t worry me and yet they do, here we are your Dad and I ‘Parents’ yet we have no idea how to ‘parent’ and look after a baby that gets to come home.

At least your entertaining the idea this baby will come home, I say to myself… true.. but as you know Henry that’s something I sometimes won’t even entertain that thought at all as I try and protect myself, my heart. I love your sibling so much, yet they miss so much of the wonderful things I did in my pregnancy for you.

I can’t read to them most nights like I did to you in there, or play them music like I did for you, I’ve tried, I’ve actually tried really hard Henry, but it triggers a lot for me and so I try and protect my heart instead.

I think of how unfair this seems, I want this little one to know how loved they are Henry, I do. I want them to know how wanted they are just like you, but I wonder if I express that enough and how.. one minute I want to buy things for them the next I can’t, I want to hide away as the thought of buying them something then possibly not getting to use it, is so incredibly hard to bear. Talks like your Dad and I talked about with you don’t occur. Your dad and I used to chat for ages when you were growing in my belly, so often about who you’d be, what we’d do, we had planned picnics, travel, coffee dates, summers swimming, days by the ocean and LEGO nights at home. We had shared our dreams of cooking with you, teaching you to build new things, days spent in the garden, nights spent snuggling on the lounge with books. All that was then lost, I can’t talk like that this time. It’s so different this time Henry, but the love is the same.

Now here we are another week closer, another week of this little one growing, moving, now kicking under my ribs and well, it doesn’t end. With you I used to worry, I worried about how I would make it through the days being so sick all the time, about how I might look after pregnancy with the way my body was changing, I worried about stretch marks and how I didn’t sleep well and how would I cope once you arrived if I wasn’t getting enough sleep before hand, I worried about having your room set up, having all that we needed for you, making sure your room looked peaceful and I worried about whether you would like to feed from both the breast and bottle, because well what if I needed a break?.

How I wish those were my worries now Henry, but now the worries are more complex, and the worries stem from your death during labour and all I now know about the death of babies, about how common it is about all the things that can go wrong. People could tell me not to worry, but that worry and anxiety is based on our actual experience with you, not something made up, it happened. People could say it can’t happen twice, but there’s no magical rule in the universe that says once it’s happened once it won’t happen again, nothing excludes anyone from having gone through one trauma to not experiencing another. Theres no guarantee, no magic thinking, nothing.

So now I worry about what labour will look like for us this time and how that can be different, I worry about whether each day I will wake up and will this baby still be alive, I worry about whether I feel enough movement or sometimes is it too much, I worry about how my worrying affects this baby, I get anxious about whether I will be able to birth this baby with all the emotions and flashbacks from your birth.

I tell myself different baby, different experience and the medical team we have around us this time I do have a lot of trust in, but ‘what if’. Then Henry there is the days the guilt takes over for thinking things like, ‘If you were here I wouldn’t be pregnant with this baby’ and the complexities of that thought itself, the guilt that I am pregnant with this baby and feeling how I feel and that you aren’t here vs feeling bad that I think that they wouldn’t exist if you were… how does anyone even wrap their head around those very thoughts.

This means taking some big steps, there’s a never ending staircase we are climbing at the moment and the steps are huge, sometimes we need those climbing that staircase with us to reach out a hand and help pull us on to the next one. It’s having to have and develop trust in those we’ve surrounded us with to support us through this journey of wanting to bring your little sibling safe in to the world.

Today Henry while washing the dishes I began to think about the fact I probably should pack my hospital bag in a few weeks time, I started to think about what I might need to pack, our stay in the private hospital will be up to five days so I need to have enough for that time. As my thoughts went over things like toiletries and then what clothes I will need. I then thought to myself ‘how do I pack clothes when I am limited in what clothes I have to wear at the moment’ You see Henry being pregnant through winter this time has meant different clothing and so I have been trying to limit how much I buy and just have enough to get me through, but with the one pair of tights and maternity jeans I seem to be re-wearing and washing every second day, how do I pack them in a bag when I will be wearing them right up until the day.

“Maybe bag over your head?” your Dad suggests to me when he texts from work and I tell him my thoughts, I know he has said this to make me laugh and for the moment it worked, then my next thought went to the fact with our experience with you I didn’t get to know what I would need or use or whether my bags were packed right, so how was I supposed to know now, tears started streaming down my face. Your dad messages again, ‘comfy clothes, your pj’s, toiletries and maybe sneak in a chocolate’. I smile at the chocolate reference but tell him ‘but I am still wearing all my comfy clothes I cant pack them in a bag I will have nothing to wear’, ‘There’s yellow pages in the cupboard?’ he suggests Oh how grateful I am for your Dad and making me laugh.

These things can seem small to someone else Henry but to us, these are the types of smaller hurdles and thoughts we have on top of everything else, when in Hospital with your baby who died you aren’t worrying about what you’ve packed and have to wear, what you’ll need, so when it then comes to the thought of having a baby who is living you even though you have given birth before, you still have no real ideas of what you’ll need. apart from a whole lot of tissues Henry, I think I may email Kleenex for a supply as it’s going to be one emotional rollercoaster.

Sometimes when tears hit Henry it can be hard to distinguish whether they are coming from my ever changing hormones or the sadness I still feel you are not here, I cried over dinner I had cooked last night that didn’t turn out, ‘hormones’ most might say but then I feel like there may have been more brewing behind it and that was just what set it off, allowed me some permission to cry.

I’m having so many dreams Henry some take me back to what happened with you, I found myself this morning waking up in a sweat after dreaming about that, in others I have given birth to your sibling, I think my mind is spending the nights trying to make sense of and sort all my thoughts which then play out in dreams.. Good luck mind, I am surprised it hasn’t upped stumps and tried to run away leaving a monkey playing the symbols in there because its all too much, The thought of the monkey with symbols is appealing as a break.

Your Dad is exhausted too, I know he worries daily as well, each day he puts his hand on my belly and asks “how is the hatchling today?” as his hand lingers there, I have come to realise this is his subtle way of asking ‘have you felt movements today’ and hoping in that moment he might feel one to reassure himself. Each appointment we attend I see the anxiousness in his eyes until we hear the heartbeat and I see his shoulders drop in relief. I see him quickly ask “Are you ok where is the pain?” If I hold myself differently or show any signs of discomfort, which is happening more and more the bigger my belly grows as my belly is growing much larger than it did with you, so the aches, pains and pressures have begun. So Henry your Dad his mind never stops too, I don’t think either of us have ever wished time away so much. So much we are grateful for, yet so much we are fearful of, this Henry is the bittersweetness of a rainbow.

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I had a moment the other night Henry, sitting on the lounge with your Dad as I sat there, quite unexpectedly I passed wind, as I did so though and it kept going…. I could feel this little baby pushing on something inside, I could literally feel the pressure they were placing and that was what was making me fart. Your Dad started at me and then we both laughed, what else could I do “Sorry” I said and then was explaining to him what I felt. it took me back to a moment with you, I remember I was heavily pregnant and we had decided to go on a walk after dinner, as your Dad and I walked down the street I farted then too, they kept going as I walked each step. Your Dad had joked with me about how I could power myself along my walk, he had me laughing so much I had to stop in the middle of the road and cross my legs as the laughing and you put more pressure on my bladder and I then felt like I was going to pee my pants which made us both laugh more. Such funny memories only your Dad and I share with you, yet so bittersweet.

Between working full time Henry and feeling exhausted I can not say we have been doing a lot. I had a beautiful friend visit me the other Saturday, she drove a long way to have breakfast with me which was so incredibly lovely, and left me with a gift of some outfits and books for your sibling, what was eve more special is she had remembered the books I had already bought for you, so made sure not to by the same. It was so good to see her and so lovely the thought that had gone in to it. We also that same weekend received two funny books we didn’t have yet either for your sibling from the beautiful hair dresser who does your Dad’s hair. She is someone who came in to our lives because of you Henry, initially because after we came home without you and your dad needed his first haircut and he wasn’t up to going out he messaged a friend to ask if they could recommend someone who may come to the house, she organised for this beautiful lady to come and its remained that way, she has even become a lovely friend.

As I want to type more I better go Henry, your oldest fur sister is whining, barking and carrying on as she is set on having her dinner at the same time each night. This has set your other fur sister off to come to the keyboard and nudge my arm expectedly and then bark at your other fur sister. Which the noise is now causing me to be kicked hard under the ribs and to feel lots of rolling behind my belly button, and I feel like my chest and throat are now on fire with heartburn too. Life doesn’t stop.

Life may not stop, we may be finding it hard and exhausting, but one thing always remains. We have so much love for you Henry and that love is forever and always.

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20 weeks pregnant with you Henry.

 

 

Author: Letters to Henry

My husband and I live on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia. We are currently learning to rebuild and navigate through life after the loss of our son Henry to stillbirth due to medical negligence in April of this year.

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