by Luisa Bearden --
Pregnancy is supposed to be such an exciting time. For many, those two lines on the pregnancy test represent the multitude of hopes and dreams they have for their new little one.
When I saw those two lines for myself in 2017, I felt all of that. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband, David, that he was a father. I imagined the kind of dad he would be. I couldn’t wait to tell my parents. I knew they’d make the greatest grandparents — they were already the greatest parents. For thirty-seven weeks, we experienced a joy and excitement like no other. With a near-flawless pregnancy (no morning sickness, no complications), we could see the finish line, and we were anxiously awaiting the chance to hold our precious baby girl, Iyla.
But on March 27th, our hopes and dreams were shattered. We’d had a busy weekend, full of family, friends, and a baby shower; in the excitement we hadn’t noticed how little she’d moved. It hit us that our previously very active girl had slowed down. During our lunch breaks that Tuesday, my husband and I decided to go to the hospital.
“Everything is fine,” we thought. I was just overreacting. I racked my brain for the last time I had really felt her move. Saturday. We knew for a fact she was moving then. We’d had her birthing class. But what about Sunday? Monday? Surely she had moved; I just didn’t pay attention.
We checked into the hospital. I saw a fellow sorority sister who worked there; she said she was excited that the baby was coming. They got us checked in and sent us on our way, to labor and delivery. I explained to a nurse that I didn’t feel like our daughter had moved much in the last day or so. To be honest, I first felt like she thought I was being silly, too. Surely Iyla had moved. I was just overreacting.
The nurse went and got the doppler, and she listened. Silence. Perplexed, she tried again. Nothing. The nurse tried for almost fifteen minutes, until finally she said she’d be right back. We sat in silence, in fear, for thirty more minutes. Something was wrong. Eventually my doctor came in, with two other nurses and an ultrasound machine. They didn’t say much, but worked quickly to get everything hooked up. After about two minutes, the doctor asked David to come stand next to me, and he said what no parent wants to ever hear:
“Look at the monitor. See that? That’s Iyla’s heart...and as we all know, it should be beating. I’m so sorry.”
You know in the movies, when a mom is crying in pain that their child has died? That heart-shattering scream? I personally think anyone who can accurately replicate that on screen should win an award. Because that noise came from me. I never thought I could cry like that, until I did. David and I sobbed.
They gave us as much time as we needed. From there, we called family, and planned to be induced right then and there.
My parents headed out immediately, racing the five-hour drive from Alabama to Georgia, and David made the trip back to our house to pick up my Abuelita. She was probably the hardest person to tell.
When she arrived, she was so determined Iyla would be a miracle baby. That everything would be okay. Then she realized they were only monitoring me, not Iyla. A nurse came in and asked what we wanted to do with Iyla once she was born; what funeral home they should call.
From there, a lot of the process is a blur. I do remember at one point, when my contractions were getting strong, asking a nurse if she was sure there was nothing we could do. I swore I could feel Iyla moving. To my dismay, I was assured that any movement I felt was just movement caused by my contractions.
After twenty-two hours, Iyla Evelynn Faye Bearden made her appearance on March 28, 2018, at 2:51 pm. She was 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and 18.5 inches long. She was the spitting image of her daddy.
The weeks to follow were rough; the “storm” had begun.
Many people get confused by the phrase “Rainbow baby.” It doesn’t mean that Iyla was a storm. She was perfect in every way. The storm was the time after Iyla. The depression, the anxiety, the worry that consumes you.
I took only a week and a half off work. I couldn’t sit at home with an empty crib. David and I made the decision to move back to Alabama, closer to family, sooner rather than later.
Honestly, I think it was God’s plan that it worked the way it did. The week of Iyla’s funeral, a friend from high school I hadn’t spoken to in years brought us a cake. That act of kindness reconnected us, and it eventually brought me to my current job (as she works here, too). I moved back to Alabama in June, and when he finally landed a job here, too, David joined me in September.
On October 15th 2018, barely a year from the first time, I took a pregnancy test.
This time, some of the emotions I had felt the first time were there, but they were soon consumed by fear and worry. On top of it all, I felt blessed. Blessed that God would be so willing to give us a second child, after everything we’d gone through. A little over half a year after Iyla’s birth, we’d received our “rainbow of hope.”
During all of this, I’ve relied heavily on God. Only through Him was I able to get up every morning and keep moving forward. Only through Him were David and I able to make the decision to try again.
Only through Him have I been able to stay sane these last twenty-eight weeks.
Pregnancy after loss is a totally different ballgame. The smallest things can cause you worry, fear, and anxiety.
Counting down to doctor’s appointments.
Finding out the sex. For me, finding out that we were having a boy this time really made it sink in that Iyla was gone. I’m glad he’s a boy, though, because I think I would have struggled even more with comparison had he been a she.
Holidays and “firsts” are just rough all around.
Figuring out how to be the best mom to your angel while being a mom to your rainbow.
Waiting until you can finally start feeling him move. Then, once he starts moving, monitoring every little movement he makes.
Arguing with yourself when buying items (asking “Will he even get to wear these?”).
Going through your angel’s items, deciding what he could use and what you’ll have to keep packed until maybe (one day) you have another little girl. Getting asked if this is your first. Do you deny your first born, in an effort to not reopen that wound again, or do you awkwardly explain your story to a stranger?
...just to name a few.
For whatever reason, people don’t feel comfortable talking about miscarriages, stillbirths, and pregnancy after loss. Miscarriage affects 1 in 4 women, and stillbirth affects 1 in 160. Women experience these losses daily, and yet they’re expected to act like it’s not a big deal. They’re left to walk through pregnancy after loss alone, with no one to guide them through these complicated emotions.
Miscarriage and stillbirth are common, but no loss is exactly the same. If we are going to fight the stigma of talking about these losses, we have to talk openly about our experiences.
My advice, if you are pregnant:
PLEASE, count your kicks. Your child’s movements are so important.
Don’t listen when people tell you baby will slow down because he/she is getting “bigger.” You know your baby. You know what’s normal for him/her.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with your doctor. This second time around, I definitely see my relationship with my doctor’s office as more of a contract. Yes, they are professionals, and I trust their opinions, but I also trust my instincts.
If you need more appointments, ask for them. If you need to come in weekly to hear baby’s heartbeat, do it. I have been blessed with an amazing doctor’s office during this pregnancy after loss, and they have gone above and beyond to make sure my baby and I are safe.
If you know someone traveling down this road of pregnancy after loss:
Support her decisions. She is scared. She’s experienced the worst thing a mother could experience. Nothing she does is without reason.
If you pray, pray for her, and her family. Pray for her safety, her child’s safety, and for her future labor and delivery.
Getting to the rainbow is a long journey. My journey isn’t done yet. Until I hear my baby Brody cry for the first time and I hold him in my arms, I don’t think I’ll feel safe. Even then, once I get to that point, I’m sure I’ll still worry — but in the end, my faith is bigger than my fear. If it wasn’t, I wouldn't be here, pregnant again, within a year of losing our daughter. All I can do is remind myself of the things I can control (like taking my prenatals daily, counting his kicks, and how often I pray), and try my best to not obsess over the things I can’t.