In 2014, after being married for only 11 months, we found out we were expecting twins. Very early on, we were told that this pregnancy was going to be a fight. My pre-existing conditions coupled with monoamniotic twins – identical twins sharing the same amniotic sac, made this a very risky pregnancy. I remember trying to remain calm, and not get too excited but it was all too much; matching outfits, baby names, twin strollers quickly became my new normal. Around 4 months we visited our doctor to find out the sex of our babies. I jokingly recalled that Friends episode where Rachel and Ross wonder if they would be having a boy or a girl, a Pheobe or Pheobo. I already had name pairs picked out and couldn’t wait to start using them. We didn’t find out the sex of our babies that day or ever really. Instead, we found out that our babies were gone, having died sometime between our last visit 2 weeks earlier and this one. I will spare you the details of my grief.
Six weeks later, I was pregnant again. I remember looking at the positive pregnancy test and briefly feeling sad because I knew there was no way we were pregnant with twins again. I had gone from having a special, awe-inducing pregnancy to being just a regular pregnant woman. But I shook it off and made an appointment to see the OB-GYN. This time I would miscarry even before that first appointment. Turns out I wasn’t even capable of regular pregnant.
In less than 3 months, I had a 2nd miscarriage and I was sure that my heart would never beat correctly again. Well-intentioned friends and family members begged me not to try again, to save myself and my body the trauma. And the truth was, we weren’t trying, so when I became pregnant 3 months later, I took a deep breath and held it for nine months straight. I would spare you the details of how terrifying pregnancy after loss was for me.
My daughter was born at 1.06 am on a Thursday. I had been in labour for almost 3 days but the minute the midwife laid her on my chest, everything fell away. I am not sure how to describe it, but the Hollywood cliché of white lights and angelic choirs singing seems fair. I was completely exhausted but I thanked God for the gift of my rainbow baby and I made a promise that she would know all about her siblings in heaven and our journey to each other.
Motherhood was hard but I loved every minute of it. I was always aware that I could be living a very different reality so poopy diapers, staying up late and a screaming baby didn’t bother my husband and me that much. We were all in and loving every moment. So, when we found out I was pregnant again only seven months after my daughter was born, we were happy and excited. Not even the jabs about birth control or more accurately our lack of birth control could get to us. That 2nd pregnancy flew by and before I knew it, we were introducing my daughter to her baby brother. I am sure that I have ever seen a greater display of love.
Seeing my living children grow together always made me think of the three babies we lost to miscarriage. Not always in a sad way. Most times, it made me think of things like; would we immediately know each other when we met in heaven? Would my living children understand that even when I did get sad, that I was still so grateful to be their mother? How young was too young to talk to them about their siblings? Our story began to take shape in my heart. I would see my son reach for his big sister and long to tell it to them.
But for a whole year, I kept our story inside. For a whole year, I would silently recite parts of our story to them
“Mommy had other babies in her tummy…’
“We prayed for you both and God answered our prayers…”
“My rainbow babies…”
For a whole year, it never occurred to me that our story mattered.
I remember the day I wrote Happy Tears and Rainbow Babies – a children’s book about rainbow babies or babies born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or child loss. I had just dropped my toddler and baby off at daycare and made my way to work. It was only about 9 am but it was already a long day and I longed to be with my children. As my mind drifted back and forth to them, I said a little prayer that they would be safe at daycare. In between clients, I began, mostly out boredom, to write a bedtime story for my children. 45 minutes later, what would become of the first draft my book stared back at me. It lacked polish but was raw, honest, and instinctual. I felt happy and accomplished that I had written a story that I was proud to share with my children. I closed my computer and didn’t think of it again for a long time. My children were still very young, and I had a lot of time to get it perfect.
Sometime later, I showed the story to my husband who challenged me to share my story. He thought it was a beautiful story that could help so many families do exactly what I was hoping to do with my own children. Right around that time, I began following Alexa Bigwarfe online. I had heard her speak on her own loss journey and how important it was for her to create opportunities for other women to share their stories. I decided then, that if anyone would understand my story, it would be Alexa. I did quite a bit of cyberstalking and followed her on every platform. I signed up for every Facebook event and webinar and learned all that I could about publishing.
The day I submitted my book to KatBiggie Press, I congratulated myself on trying. I had done more than most people have ever done by actually submitting it. I reminded myself that I was just one woman from a tiny country in the Caribbean and this was an impossible game. I went about my day, feeling really good about the fact that I would probably never hear from Alexa. So, when I got an email some hours later about publishing my book, I was surprised and honestly, a bit inconvenienced.
I quickly learned that there was a huge difference between wanting to be published and actually being published. I learned that sharing my story required a lot from me and I went back and forth about whether I wanted to do it. I remember wondering why anyone would want to read my book and whether my story was as important as we thought. I experienced every emotion imaginable, including guilt and shame. Would I be judged for sharing too much? Would anyone understand? Would they think I was doing any of this for the money?
I once heard Will Smith say “If you can’t beat the fear, then do it scared”. I don’t think anything has been more true of my time as an author. I am not naturally social or outgoing and social media remains my white whale, but being an author has challenged me to grow in really important ways. I have learned to speak up on the things that matter to me and how to be gracious to those whose opinions differ from mine. And most importantly, I am learning to not take things too personally.
Thankfully in the year or so that I have been a published author, I have seen why my story matters. It isn’t because people seem to like it and sales have been good. It isn’t because my children are special. All children are. And it isn’t because I am special. I am not. My story matters for the same reasons we celebrate National Rainbow Baby Day. It is so that we can bring awareness to the journey of hope that loss parents undertake. So that we can remember those babies who came before and stand in solidarity with those who are still waiting on their rainbow babies. It is because we need to hear from others who share our experiences. That is why I continue to share our story today. And if in doing so, I can help one family feel less alone, I would have done exactly what I set out to do.
Join us on Saturday, August 22nd, 2020 for International Rainbow Baby Day. Use the hashtag #internationalrainbowbabyday to show your support.