A pregnancy after a loss is often called a rainbow baby. A rainbow baby signifies something beautiful that comes after a storm, and the term acknowledges that the storm, or loss, did indeed happen. Rachael is pregnant with her third baby, who will follow his two big sisters — the younger of which passed away when she was 5 months old. Here is her story.
Rachael’s first baby is named Lenore. Rachael was a young mom, and naturally had a lot of uncertainty before her girl was born. She and Lenore’s father weren’t together during her pregnancy, and she had to face the reality that she was going to become a parent without him by her side.
Lenore’s birth was overwhelming for her in many ways. “Her birth was rough,” she told us. “I was induced past my due date, had Pitocin for hours, no epidural, and I wasn't respected by staff at all, and I suppose that was because I was only 17.” She explained that having a baby was wonderful and scary at the same time, which is true for most moms, but her age made it even more unique. “Motherhood was nothing like I expected,” she said. “I had never held a newborn before, and there I was, just handed this little baby to take care of.”
Her biggest support came from her mother as well as a large online group of like-minded moms, which she is still a part of. She shared that she dealt with a lot of age-related issues as a young mom but that she was able to push through, grow up and learn a lot from her situation. “I grew up quickly, learned quickly, and Lenore is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she shared.
Rachael met her husband, Troy, when she was still in high school, and reconnected with him when she moved back to the area through mutual friends. They became a couple and soon discussed having a baby together. “Since Lenore was already in the picture, we discussed children much sooner than I imagine most couples do,” she explained. “He was a natural with her, and after seeing that, I knew I wanted a family with him.”
They found out they were expecting a few months into dating. They had already made plans to move in together and Troy had taken on a parenting role with Lenore, so it all fell into place naturally for the young family. They found out she was pregnant together — during a phone conversation, she mentioned what she was eating, and he exclaimed that she must be pregnant. “We bought a test, took it together, and his face lit up!” she happily told us. “He was scared of course, this being his first baby, but he was so happy and excited for the future!”
Pregnancy was rough for Rachael this time around. She had severe morning sickness and a bad case of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) which made it difficult to be comfortable and stay comfortable, and walking became a very difficult task the further into pregnancy she got. “Taking care of a toddler while pregnant was much more difficult than I had anticipated, too,” she remembered.
Scarlette’s birth was wonderful, despite the difficult pregnancy. “Her birth was everything I wanted!” she said. “I had a water birth at the hospital’s birthing center, and she was born quietly, and peacefully and completely amazing. My water broke and I had her less than 45 minutes later, which really helped I think.”
During pregnancy, Rachael felt a connection with her baby that she hadn’t felt the first time, and speculated it was because Dad was in the picture and everything was really stable. Once she was born, “... she just made everything right,” Rachael said. “She completed the little family we had come to be, and it was like she was always there.”
Scarlette was very much enjoyed by her family, especially her big sister. “She wasn't very verbal, but the photos show the happiness and excitement in her,” shared Rachael. “Lenore wasn't a big fan of the crying, but in a few months she was the only one who could make Scarlette belly laugh and she loved — loves — her so much.”
On June 6, 2011, Troy had a day off. Rachael put Scarlette down for a nap in her crib (which was out of the ordinary for the family — they usually co-slept) and the rest of the family followed suit on their respective beds. “When Lenore woke us up, we found Scarlette had passed away in her sleep, never making a noise,” she explained.
The days that followed were from the pages of a nightmare, as any parent can imagine. “I screamed, and screamed and screamed some more,” she said. “I tore apart everything I ever did in my head trying to figure out where I went wrong, what I had done. Every day I spent wishing I would wake up and everything would be OK.”
Lenore kept them going, and they had amazing support from their family and friends. “Eventually we learned to take comfort in the 'diagnosis' of SIDS, which helped ease the guilt parents who have lost babies feel,” she shared.
Rachael and Troy decided to try for another baby after some time had passed, after they had worked through their own personal recoveries. “I knew I needed to have another baby right away,” she remembered. “I knew timing was never going to be good, and it was going to be hard, but I just knew it's what I needed to really heal. Troy agreed, but he needed more time.”
Rachael expected a quick conception, but when that didn’t happen, she spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office before she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). She spent months working on regulating her thyroid levels and taking hormones, and 16 months later, she got her positive pregnancy test.
Her levels weren’t rising to the doctor’s satisfaction and she had to face an ultrasound before scheduling a D&C because they were sure the pregnancy wasn’t successful, but they got good news instead. “I would have been seven weeks along, and expecting to find nothing, there was a little heartbeat,” she fondly explained. “He was alive when they told me he wouldn't be, and I just knew he was in it for the long run.”
Rachael believes that the rest of her pregnancy, and the first months of her baby boy’s life, will be a little more stressful than most new parents experience. “I expect they will be some of the most nerve-wracking months of our lives,” she confided. “I’m sure I'll be more anxious when he is here, but for now I'm at peace with how much harder it's going to be, and I'm planning on one day at a time.”
In the meantime, Lenore is wildly excited about her baby brother and has grand plans for all the stories she will be telling him when he gets bigger — “ … including about her baby sister Scarlette,” said Rachael. “Lenore really is the best big sister.”
If you’re facing a pregnancy after a loss, Rachael has these wise words of advice: “You are not alone. You will learn to live with this pain, and you will feel happiness again, and you are so much stronger than you think you are.”
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