Sheena is the fifth in our series of Rainbow Baby Maternity Photography 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. This story really ripped me apart, wrenched my guts and makes me cry every time I read it. I don’t know if I’m so affected because I’ve been following Sheena’s facebook page and read how she openly shares her heart about her loss, or the way she writes that brings you into her pain. I feel like I’m down in the trenches with her. But you’re getting fair warning. Proceed with caution AND Kleenex…
I’m currently pregnant with a little boy, whom we’ve named Jaxon. Which means God has been gracious and shown favor. We are expecting to bring him home mid August.
I found out I was pregnant in December of 2015. Had a wonderful, trouble free pregnancy. I was one of those crazy ones who truly enjoyed pregnancy… blissfully unaware that things could go terribly wrong. We’ve been almost conditioned to believe that once you get through the 1st trimester you’re in the safe zone. She was due September 8th. On September 20th we had a non stress test to make sure everything was ok and that it was safe to still wait for her to come on her own. She passed with flying colors so we went home to wait. The very next day I went into labor and all was well until her heart rate plummeted, and then stopped. After delivering her they ran all kinds of tests… healthy babies don’t just die right? Evidently wrong. They tested me for everything, checked her and the cord and the placenta. All were healthy, no clots, no infections. No answers. Coming home from the hospital empty-handed was so difficult. Our house had never seemed more silent. We had expected our whole life to change, but things stayed eerily the same. We knew immediately that we wanted to have another child, prayerfully one that we could bring home. As scary as it seemed to possibly go through loss again, the desire to grow our family outweighed the fear. We found out I was pregnant again on December 5th. I sat on the bathroom floor and cried. Almost paralyzed by fear. You’re never really ready, but we just trusted that God’s timing would be better than us trying to figure out emotionally when we could handle it. His due date is August 15th. Making them Irish twins.
I saw Jennifer’s heart through her words. I want to support anyone who loves God and who wants to bring awareness to pregnancy loss. It’s been such a roller coaster of emotions and death is such a taboo subject, especially when it involves unborn babies. It’s uncomfortable and people don’t know what to say. But as mamas we want to talk about our children. We want them to be known and loved and remembered. If I can, in some small way, pave the road for kinder more thoughtful interactions for future mom’s… then it’s worth it to be a little uncomfortable sharing my raw pain.
I think that most people believe that a subsequent pregnancy ‘fixes you’ or is in some way a replacement. Shortly after Gracelyn died a man made a careless, casual, ‘helpful’ comment to, in his mind, encourage me, “Don’t worry, you are young. You can have another.” You can have another… as if she were a sweet treat to be indulged. A spilled bowl of ice cream. Don’t worry. You can have another. Just like the first. We can even make it better with sprinkles. Another. I hate that word. In the minds of most anything that’s broken can be fixed… anything that is lost can be replaced. You can always get another. I should have said while I will have more children (that is now evident by the wiggly little boy currently growing inside of me) there will never be another Gracelyn. Never. I will never have another her. I guess that’s what is so difficult to grasp. Most problems can be fixed. This, however, just has to be lived. People want you to be ‘better’ and assume a new pregnancy, a new baby is just the solution.
On the other hand I think many people…I’m ashamed to admit myself included, think that pregnancy and infant loss is a far away disaster that happens to others. A result of negligence. That you had to have done something wrong in your pregnancy for it to have ended in death instead of life. And maybe this time you’ll be more cautious. You’ll do better. The vast majority of the time it is through no fault of the mothers. None. She more than anyone has her baby’s best interest in mind. I never knew how (it makes me cringe to say) common still birth is. I don’t think me being aware would have changed my outcome, but it may have helped alleviate some of the terribly misplaced, overwhelming guilt. And if others knew, maybe they could have comforted me better.
I was so naive through my first pregnancy. I just knew that if I did everything right that she would be in my arms..happy and healthy. Now, I know that I’m not in control. It’s terrifying. His movements shouldn’t be regular yet, but every time I don’t feel him I’m gripped by fear. My doppler is my lifeline. I just need the reassurance that his heart is beating. On the other side, I have a great desire to not live in a constant state of fear. My husband constantly reminds me to give this pregnancy to God. People say ‘oh you’re so strong.’ I’m not. I’ve learned that His strength manifests in my weakest places. I’ve studied the Bible so much more and Heaven is now tangible to me. I know she is there and so it makes me Heaven-focused. I’m 6 months out and I wouldn’t say it gets easier, just more bearable. I love being her mom and if I focus on the fact that I had her, that I saw her face, that I love her, that she is mine and that God entrusted her to me for 42 weeks… that makes it sweet. I didn’t lose her, I know where she is. I wish I had a lifetime of knowing her here, but I will have eternity with her. I’m grateful for that. I would go through all of this heartache again, knowing the outcome, just to kiss her face and love her. I wouldn’t erase this.
Her life gave me so much perspective I never would have had. I know what matters. I know what doesn’t. I’ve learned who my true friends were, the people who ran towards the fire when my life went up in flames. I really feel like I should have worn a sign afterwards just to tell people my story so I didn’t have to. As much of an extrovert as I used to be, I avoid public. I’m changed and I haven’t quite learned who the new me is.
Most people, when learning of my loss, say I’m sorry and quickly change the subject. I love when people don’t brush it away. Or give me a pitiful, head cocked to one side, sympathetic sorry and then follow up with ‘I’m sure you don’t want to talk about it.’ Because they don’t want to talk about it…because they’re uncomfortable. But I DO! I do want to talk about her. Not the how or the why, because I really don’t have those answers. But I want to tell you about her head full of hair, chubby cheeks, and long toes. I want to tell you that she weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces and that she was 20.5 inches long and when I held her up, I believed in the God of miracles because of how that baby could have grown inside of me!
Some have shown great understanding and told me about a loss they have experienced. The sweetest, best, most healing response I’ve ever gotten was ‘tell me all about her.’ I still cry remembering that moment. The first time I didn’t feel like she was a secret to hide or an awkward moment to avoid. My favorite people are the ones who don’t shy away from it all. Who allow me the freedom and grace to be and feel whatever I need. If that means crying and reliving every hard second or if that means laughing and feeling ‘normal.’
It’s so helpful when people ask specifically how I’m feeling, how’s my heart, how am I healing. Instead of just how are you. And its absolutely best when people don’t avoid it. For some reason, people don’t want to remind me of her or of my sadness and loss but since we are being honest… its never not at the forefront of my mind. I constantly think of her and it’s so sweet when I hear someone else say her name and know that they are thinking of her, too. I just love to know that she is not being forgotten.
As much as I wanted to crawl in a hole and die, I found that there was so much healing in reaching out. Set expectations for what you need and allow people to help. I’ve always been independent and taken care of things, but I truly would have forgotten to eat had food not just arrived at our home every day. It’s ok not to be ok. Some days your greatest accomplishment will be getting out of bed, and that’s ok. But feel it all. Press into it and leave no stone unturned in the journey. If it hurts ~ feel it, if it makes you smile ~ embrace it, if you need to scream scream until your voice is gone ~ scream. If you tuck it away it’ll explode later. I went to a retreat hosted by Hope Mommies, which is a ministry that supports bereaved mothers, and it was so healing to be validated as a mother and to be around other women who just get it. I recommend finding someone who has survived to remind yourself that this can be lived with. We found so many scriptures to imprint on our hearts… that gave us peace, even if it’s just momentary. Just take it one day at a time, sometimes just an hour or a minute or a second at a time. That’s the crazy thing, time will keep passing and while it doesn’t get easier, you get more capable.
I personally want to thank Sheena 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!
I would love nothing more than for this concept to catch on in other cities and states with photographers to bless rainbow mommas! Not only does it create a sense of community, but it gives back with you sharing your talents with your fellow community members. So, if you take me up on my challenge, please hashtag #RainbowBabyMaternityEvent so I can follow your adventures, too!
If you’re looking for a Taylorsville KY Rainbow Baby Maternity Photographer, please get in touch via the contact form or send an email to Hello@jlritt.com. You can also book online here.
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!
We have MOVED! New studio opens on May 1, 2017 and will be located at 1200 North Bardstown Road – Suite E, Mount Washington, KY 40047. Get in touch at (502) 523-2180!