Heather is the first in our series of Rainbow Baby Maternity Sessions. We’ll be sharing her heartbreaking history with infant loss and how she became a rainbow mommy. If you missed the first post with all of the Rainbow Mommies, you can catch it here.
I’m due April 1 (so soon!!) with a little boy named Owen Alexander =) Owen is for my Pappaw who raised me (and is the greatest man alive!) and Alexander for my cousin who passed away almost 2 years ago.
My husband and I have been together for almost 10 years now and have a 7 year old daughter named Mollie. Getting pregnant with Mollie was a complete and total surprise (although the greatest one we could have ever asked for!), especially considering we were 19 when we got pregnant and 20 when she was born. I ended up in nursing school as my husband built his business and when the time was right, we figured having another baby would be no problem. We started trying for baby number 2 in January of 2014 and were SO excited in September 2014, to find out we were expecting. We had no reason to believe this pregnancy would be anything less than perfect, so we immediately announced our sweet baby to the world. It was beyond devastating when less than a week later we lost this baby that meant so much to us. Although it doesn’t seem that long to be pregnant and the loss have a huge effect on your life, you so quickly get used to the idea that your family is growing and this person becomes so real to you. Less than 2 months later I found out I was pregnant again, but was very gun-shy and weary and told NO ONE (not even my husband). I just had a feeling something wasn’t right and my suspicions were confirmed when just a couple days later that pregnancy ended, too.
We spent all of 2015 and much of 2016 struggling with infertility and trying to figure out WHY it wasn’t happening. I was diagnosed with PCOS, thought to be triggered by hormonal changes by losing two pregnancies so close together. I then underwent frequent bloodwork, diagnostic testing called HSG (hysterosalpingogram), which costs $1500-$2000 each time and insurance will not cover, even though it’s considered a diagnostic test) and 3 rounds of fertility treatments. The treatments made me MISERABLE, and working full time as a night shift nurse in the ICU at children’s hospital certainly didn’t help. In the spring/summer of 2016 my husband and I made the decision to stop doing anything fertility or pregnant related until after I had been on day shift for at least six months, and then we would consider IVF. I got word in late June 2016 I would be going to dayshift on July 25 and immediately felt such a weight off my shoulders. Night shift is ROUGH, especially with a kiddo at home and frequently being required to stay over in the morning, sometimes until 11-12 and then having to be back that night!
A couple of weeks later we spent a fun, kid free weekend at the lake with some friends (the first time we had done anything without our daughter in forever). On July 23 we were at our own lake house with some family when I had a sudden NEED for brownies and told everyone I was running to the store for some mix. While I was there something inside of me was telling me to get a pregnancy test, just in case, which I fully expected to be negative (like always). I was BEYOND shocked when those double lines showed up and I will NEVER forget yelling for my husband (who didn’t know I was even taking a pregnancy test) and the look on his face when I showed him the test. The line was so faint I was having a hard time believing it was real so I ran upstairs to show my mother in law and ask her what she thought, and she had such a hard time seeing the line she insisted we go back to the store and buy more tests. We went back and bought multiple tests in every brand and sure enough, every single one was positive! To say that night was incredible would be a huge understatement! I was still really apprehensive though, especially during the first trimester when I struggled with bleeding issues, but I am now 38.5 weeks and have finally allowed myself to accept the fact that we really are welcoming our sweet little boy into the world soon.
What made you want to be a part of this event? And, what do you feel is the current stereotype or stigma towards infant loss or Rainbow Babies / Parents?
One of the greatest things to help me get through my first miscarriage was the sheer amount of women that reached out to me letting me know I wasn’t alone. Friends, family, coworkers, women from church, literally dozens of people that I never even knew had experienced this loss reached out and shared their stories with me. It was so comforting and empowering to know that I WAS NOT ALONE! I want to let other women know the same and to let them know that it’s okay to talk about it and it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of (as I know of women who have felt that way), and to let them know that while no one may be able to understand their exact feelings and struggle, there are people out there that can empathize and share their hurt.
To be honest, until it happened to me I just didn’t understand why it was such a big deal, especially loss in early pregnancy. I genuinely believe that’s how many people out there feel; it’s one thing if it’s a baby you can hold and have already brought into this world, but in utero the loss was something to just “get over”. I don’t think anyone intentionally thinks these things, it’s simply something you can’t understand until you’ve been there.
Daily life for Heather:
I frequently think about my two babies I lost, especially around the times I found out I was pregnant and the times they would have been due. As time has passed it has certainly gotten a lot easier and the pain is a lot more dull where it once was sharp, but it’s something you will NEVER forget. My losses have also had a huge impact on my current pregnancy; I’ve spent the last 8-9 months having a hard time allowing myself to believe that this was truly going to happen. After experiencing loss you just expect it to happen again, and not constantly feeling as though this baby is just another dream that’ll slip away. My losses have also helped me cherish every moment of this pregnant and every moment I get with my 7 year old daughter. These children are such precious gifts to me.
“Oh gosh I’m so sorry” (is the most frequent response she hears). And when we were struggling with infertility after our losses SO many people would tell us “well at least you already have Mollie!” Well yes, that’s true, and while we are incredibly blessed and lucky to have her that doesn’t mean our family didn’t still feel incomplete. There was a definite hole there that gave us an acute sense that something was missing. I believe most people’s hearts are in the right place, it’s just hard to know the “right” thing to say until you’ve been there.
How would you like to see people responding in the future? What can they say or do to be more sensitive to your loss(es)?
More than anything I would like to see more acknowledgment. Please acknowledge the fact that these babies did exist (and still do in our hearts) and don’t just pretend like it never happened. I understand how uncomfortable it can be, but these babies were (and are) real to us. Also, I never came closer to hitting someone than when they would say “well at least it happened early and not too far in to the pregnancy” as if the attachment were any less real. Please don’t try to write off a loss as if it were no big deal; although everyone handles it differently it is devastating nonetheless.
If I could give any advice to a rainbow momma, it would be “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!” Reach out, seek help, speak to those that have been through. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor how you are feeling, not just physically but emotionally, so they can do their best to help meet your needs. I also want to make it clear that your journey does NOT end here; in the moment it feels as though nothing will ever feel normal again and you can’t move on, but I promise your story still has many more chapters!
I personally want to thank Heather and her willingness to open her heart and share it so freely with me, and now every single one of you. Our hope in sharing her story is to raise awareness about infant loss, miscarriage and still birth. Throughout this series you will read other heartbreaking stories as this, but the focus is on the strength these women have, their beauty and hopefulness for a bright future with their rainbow babies. I pray that each of these pregnancies results in happy and healthy babies!
If you’re looking for a Rainbow Baby Maternity Photographer, I’d love for you to get in touch with me through the contact page or drop an email to Hello@jlritt.com. If you’re ready to book now, please click here and it will take you to my booking page.
More about the photographer:
Jennifer Rittenberry Photography has been photographing clients throughout the greater Louisville area since 2010. She is a published artist in Beauty & Lifestyle Mommy Magazine and Newborn Photographer Magazine as well as named 2016 Parent’s Choice Award winner for her portraiture. In 2013, she focused her client base to Newborn and Maternity as she created a niche for herself after mentoring with three of the nation’s leading photographers in these industries. She has spent countless hours on continuing her education and sharpening her skills each year with the sole purpose of creating beautiful artwork for her clients to share with their families and preserve as precious heirlooms for generations to come. Located in Central Kentucky, her residential studio is in the heart of Mount Washington; only minutes outside of Louisville. Jennifer Rittenberry Photography session fees can be found on the website but detailed pricing and availability may be requested by email using the contact form.
You are welcome to connect with Jennifer Rittenberry Photography by following my work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER so you can be the first to know about any upcoming portrait specials, mini session events, and other news!
Located at 268 Deer Park Way, Mount Washington, KY 40047. Get in touch at (502) 523-2180!