This picture isn't just any ol’ picture of a proud parent marking that they made the 1-year, the 12-month, the transition-from-infant-to-toddler-milestone. This is our celebration of our rainbow baby. Rainbow babies are knick-named such because they are the rainbow after pregnancy or infant loss - the rainbow after the storm that rages through your heart.
We had the heartbreak of losing three consecutive pregnancies. The 1st loss came with a lot of drama and fanfare: two emergency room visits (first emergency room suggested I lay on the floor because they didn’t have any more beds in Triage so we went to another one down the street), hours of excruciating abdominal pain, an emergency surgery that removed a fallopian tube, and two days later, my doctor called me to tell me there was no indication of the fetus in what was removed in the pathology report and perhaps… I didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy after all. Insert my shocked face and the sound of my jaw banging against the floor here.
A quick blood test indicated that I was still, in fact, pregnant. At least my body thought so. I was elated. I went through significant surgery, but I was still pregnant! To spare you the prolonged details, ultimately, the drama ended with a common surgical procedure that scraped my uterus clean and confirmation that we were no longer pregnant. We had lost the baby days if not weeks before. Many professional medical opinions were sought about next steps and long hours were spent agonizing if I could've prevented it (“Was the it long run I did before I knew we were pregnant but felt queasy?” And that sort of nonsense). Our 2nd and 3rd loss were trisomys established as “not viable for life”. Three miscarriages in 18 months and the leading fertility experts diagnosed us as having "bad luck".
My heart was frayed and worn and I wasn’t sure if I could take yet another loss. But we wanted so badly that our first son to have a sibling to love and grow up with. And so, we tried again with the help of acupuncture.
My brain was leery about acupuncture but my heart jumped in whole-heartedly. I grew up with Chinese medicine, but living here in the States, I wasn’t as comfortable with it as some of my cousins who were overseas. I was warned by my acupuncturist that it would take at least 3 months before any shift in my body would occur and that anxiety to rush the process would not be helpful. I saw her consistently once a week, drank and ate herbal concoctions that tasted and smelled like special dirt and much to my surprise and delight, almost exactly 3 months from the day she explained I would need to be patient, we had a positive pregnancy test.
Being pregnant again, my new OB comfortingly saw me once a week starting at 5 weeks. And even so, I was constantly looking over my proverbial shoulder wondering if my baby was gone. During my last miscarriage, I still carried the symptoms of pregnancy 3 weeks after we lost the baby and found nothing left but a perfectly round yolk sack. I had lost confidence that my body would inform me if the baby was still all right.
I was shopping for a home ultrasound machine (yes, thank you, I understand how crazy that sounds) and floating to my brother, who is a physician, which one I wanted to purchase, when he gently suggested that I get a Doppler instead. He gave a whole slew of reasons, but ultimately, convinced me that I had a high chance of mis-operating the equipment. It was true - ultrasound techs are highly trained people and I could never tell what I was seeing at the doc's office anyway. And if the point was to make sure the baby was still around, hearing a heartbeat should be sufficient until my next weekly ultrasound.
At 6 weeks, you may faintly see the flutter of a heartbeat on an ultrasound. By 7 weeks, I was able to find the heartbeat with my Doppler consistently. During weeks 6-12 of this pregnancy, I checked for a heartbeat every night. Sometimes several times even. After I started to feel kicking and movement, I didn’t need my Doppler as frequently. I was told by my OB that we were out of the "danger zone" and the chance of a miscarriage was extremely low after 8 weeks. But if it was a quiet day I would still break out the Doppler and reassuringly hear the whirring of 155 beats per minute.
Our little bright and shiny rainbow after storm after storm after storm has made it to his first birthday. He is healthy, curious, so close to “sleeping through the night”, and just the best.thing.ever. He adores his big brother and already has a spunky personality that radiates joy.
Cheers to the sweet rainbow babies, the missed angel babies, and the parents who don’t mean to but still track the ages of how old their lost babies would be. I can’t guarantee that a viable pregnancy will mend the holes in your heart left by inexplicable loss; but for me, it has allowed me the space and time to start to heal.
I'm grateful that this affordable piece of technology had allowed me to enjoy my last and final planned pregnancy. And if you, too, have considered getting a home ultrasound machine, this is me gently suggesting a Doppler instead.