What I learned through miscarriage and infertility.
Two thousand and fourteen was unequivocally one of the most painful years of my life. Nearing the end of what was otherwise an easy and joy-filled first trimester carrying my second child, that dear child of mine let go. For reasons unknown, that child nestled softly inside my body had no more strength to carry on a single day further. So where one day I had marveled over the miracle of that little heart fluttering steadily on the screen, there landed another in my lap where I saw no movement whatsoever; my baby lay, lifeless and effectively gone. It was, for me, the death of part of my body and part of my soul.
The reality of miscarriage is a painful one, wrought with confusing and torturous emotion. It’s one, though, that I’m not convinced is fully understandable to anyone who’s not experienced it themselves. Before my own, I wasn’t ever quite able to feel, process or empathize with the losses that happened to the women in my life. I’d offer my love, my platitudes and a listening ear, but at the end of the day, such a thing floated out of my mind easily I leaned on the knowledge that miscarriage is common, oftentimes unavoidable, and understood it more as a medical or biological anomaly than as anything with any particular emotional ties.
So when my own miscarriage happened, I was knocked to the floor. I had no anticipation of how overrun with emotion I’d be; how wrought with grief and despair I’d ultimately spend the following years. We’re offered so many condolences during and after a pregnancy loss. We’re told that it came as no fault of our own, that this pain shall pass, and that by the grace of God, we’ll be blessed with another pregnancy in good time.
My husband and I had conceived successfully a couple of years prior to all this, and I was at that very time an overwhelmed and love-struck mother to our 18-month-old daughter. But as the months passed after my miscarriage, my hope for conceiving again began to dwindle. My periods would roll in like clockwork, and I’d be forced to erase each pregnancy I’d figuratively penciled in to my calendar each month. We were failing time and again.
Something I hadn’t heard much about was the “rainbow baby” concept. I appreciated the reparative and restorative nature of a blessed birth following a loss, but never had I stumbled upon such a poignant notion of a rainbow baby serving as a ray of light following such a harrowed storm. So it became an idea that I glommed onto. I ached for another pregnancy—for a third child, for a second birth, and a second little life to grace our lives. But the months passed with no rainbow in sight, and the unthinkable soon fell upon my shoulders: a diagnosis of secondary infertility. I found myself being told that never again would I conceive a child. Unbeknownst to me, my ovaries had called it quits. My body had failed me at the very time when I needed its loyalty most.
I cursed my storm. I screamed a thousand times into the wind over the injustice of it all; I shed a sea of tears over what will never be. I saw a thousand rainbows and rainbow babies alike strewn across my social media feeds, and I wept over the injustice. I wanted my rainbow more than anything in this world, and was met instead with nothing but radio silence.
There by my side, though, all along, was my daughter. There for every instance of agony, with a tissue for every tear that’s tumbled down my cheeks, is the girl who made me a mama to begin with. There, as I’d been searching wistfully for a glimmer of hope that a rainbow would one day appear, was this walking miracle of mine—my heart on two feet. It hadn’t occurred to me that the rainbow I so wished for had come first and was now cradled in my arms — my reverse-rainbow baby.
While it guts me daily to watch her growing up alone, I take selfish solace in her very existence. I treasure each day of her life on this earth for the companion she is to me; for the light she shines onto my otherwise dark path. While rainbow baby proper I never will know, my reverse-rainbow is exactly the person my soul needs in order to keep my heart beating with fervor.
This piece was written by Sandy Jorgenson in support of Jessica Zucker’s #IHadAMiscarriage campaign, which launched in 2014. In 2015, Zucker created a line of pregnancy loss cards.This year, she’s added t-shirts and totes for rainbow mamas and rainbow babies. All in an effort to destigmatize, de-silence, and de-shame miscarriage; promote support, connection, and community; foster conversations about this taboo topic; own our stories; and ultimately change the culture surrounding pregnancy loss. Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. is a psychologist and writer based in Los Angeles. She is the creator of the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign. She curates a series about loss on Instagram: Stories from around the world. If you want to share your story, you can submit it at @IHadAMiscarriage.