Nikki is the seventh and final mommy 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.
Our Rainbow Baby is due June 24th. We are having a little girl, whom we have named Evelyn Maeve, “Evelyn” after her paternal great-great-grandmother and “Maeve” after the legendary Irish queen. We feel these names together embody strength and grace, two characteristics we wish for our little one.
My husband and I had been married for three and a half years, and had been trying for a baby for just as long, when we found out we were pregnant for the first time in December 2015. We had recently moved into our first home together, sans housemates, and were overjoyed to finally have the opportunity to establish our family and home. After so many disappointments, we were floored by the positive pregnancy result and immediately ran to the drug store for another test, just to be sure! As an archaeologist with a physically demanding job and as someone who deals with epilepsy, I was extra cautious and made sure to follow all of the pregnancy rules to a T. But, as we know, sometimes loss occurs despite our best efforts to mitigate it.
I had a minor epileptic seizure in mid February 2016, almost 12 weeks into our pregnancy. When we went to the doctor’s the next day to check up on Baby, she was unable to find a heart beat. An ultrasound revealed that our Baby had not grown since week 6 and was unresponsive. I had what is called a missed, or silent, miscarriage. I have never known such grief as I experienced in the next two weeks, dealing with the emotional, physical, and spiritual loss of our child. I know that we will see this Little One again one day and my only solace at this time was “Christ in [me], the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) and my faith that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). I did not know why this calamity happened, but I trusted that I would survive it and I did not lose hope for the future.
Fast forward one year, and I am now 26 weeks pregnant with our Rainbow Baby, Evelyn Maeve Falvey! She has passed every medical test with flying colors and I am completely enamored with her every kick and wiggle! The year between losing our first Little One and conceiving Evie brought about some hard conversations and some radical moves to better prepare ourselves for parenthood. One month before we found out we were pregnant, we decided to move from our home in San Diego, California to Gallatin, Tennessee for a better quality of life and to allow me the privilege of being able to stay home and raise children when they came along. Though we didn’t yet know we were pregnant, we stepped out in faith trusting that if we re-prioritized our lives to raise children the way we feel called to, we would be blessed for our sacrifice. We have now been in Tennessee for about a month and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our baby girl in late June!
I had been open about my first pregnancy with family and friends–and Facebook–from almost the day we found out. I was too excited to keep quiet! Of course, that meant when we experienced the miscarriage, I had to be equally open with our loss. After sharing in a Facebook post, I was amazed and humbled by the outpouring of sympathy, love, and similar stories that flooded in from all different people in my life. So many women had had the same experience, but were not comfortable sharing about it with others, so were forced to suffer silently, adding a feeling of alienation to their grief. Since this experience, I have felt that it is important for women to know that there is no shame in a miscarriage. The feelings of guilt can be overwhelming, which is why it is so important to have a support system to lean on. The Rainbow Babies Maternity Event attracted me because it is a celebration of honesty and new hope, proof that the loss of a child, while always with us, can find redemption in the creation of a new life.
I think most people do not know how to react or what to say when confronted with miscarriage. It is so little talked about that few people know how common it actually is. It is difficult for many to fathom that the loss is as tangible for the parents as the loss of a birthed child.
The loss of our first child to miscarriage is the most grievous experience I have gone through. It matured me and deepened my faith more quickly than any other experience. I knew that I had a choice to be angry with God and slip into depression, or to trust His plans and try to learn from the pain. I lean on Him daily by reading the Bible, prayer, and journaling. It has made me more sympathetic to others who have dealt with miscarriage or with fertility problems. It also, in moments of weakness, made me more fearful in my current pregnancy; I spent the first trimester with pent breath, feeling at times that a second loss was inevitable. The pain never goes away, but it has gotten easier to manage with time and I am comforted to know that our Rainbow daughter has a big brother or sister with whom she will spend eternity.
Most people are sympathetically at a loss of words when they learn of my miscarriage. Some don’t seem to understand why it is such a big deal, and try to comfort me with the idea of future children. While well-intentioned, this misses the point of my grief: I am not grieving children in the general but MY specific lost child. Others take empathy a bit too far and treat me like a China doll, constantly asking how I am doing and telling me they know I will have children in the future. Again, they mean well, but the constant reminder of my greatest loss is not always welcome.
Some women share similar stories, which can be comforting, but can also be disheartening. A number of women told me about having 5 or so miscarriages and these stories always rekindle fear that I will never have a successful pregnancy. Stories of Rainbow Parents help curb that fear with hope.
In the future, I would like for people to respond with the understanding that this loss was the loss of a beloved child, not some sort of sickness effecting my body only. People react to the loss of a loved one differently, and sometimes I don’t want to talk about it as the pain is still to raw, but personally, I appreciate the chance to share my story with sympathetic listeners. Sharing allows me to memorialize our Little One and allows his/her short life to impact the lives of others.
If I could give any advice to a momma that is going through what I’ve went through, I’d have to say first of all, I am so so sorry for your loss. The pain you are going through is legitimate and it will take time to become fully functional in your daily life again. Know that what you are going through is not your fault. Don’t torture yourself trying to find where you went wrong or wondering if you are unfit to parent. There is a lesson to be learned through this grief, but it is not in beating yourself or your partner up. Be honest about your feelings with those around you and take the time you need to grieve. Reach out to friends and family when you need to; a solid support group is so important right now. Though it doesn’t go away completely, the pain will lessen with time. Try to focus on activities that minister to you and get you outside of yourself for a little while. For me, these are hiking and being in nature, for others it might be exercise or art or any number of things. These are healthy ways of coping with loss so that your Little One is not forgotten, but you are also not consumed by grief. Remember that your identity is still intact; you still have friends, family members, a job, hobbies, likes, and dislikes that define you. You are still a mother, but you are not only a mother. Finally, if you know Christ, run to Him for comfort right now; ask and it will be given to you (Matt. 7:7-11). If you do not, I encourage you to open a Bible (the book of Psalms or the Gospel of John are good starting points) and read with an open heart; the emptiness you are feeling can only be filled by your and your lost Little One’s Heavenly Father.
I personally want to thank Nikki 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 Crestwood 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 is an award winning photographer based out of Mount Washington Kentucky. She has been photographing clients throughout the greater Louisville area since 2010 and recently acquired a brick and mortar studio space in the heart of downtown Mount Washington. Jennifer is passionate about her work and strives to achieve the highest level of excellence in her work, which has earned her a Click PRO status with Clickin Moms Magazine and elite membership with NAPCP. She is also a published artist in Beauty & Lifestyle Mommy Magazine and Newborn Photographer Magazine, as well as named 2016 Parent’s Choice Award winner for her fine art 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 new studio is only 6 minutes from the Gene Snyder Freeway off the Bardstown exit, and only 3 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!