Rainbow Pregnancies: Hopeful Promises of Life After Loss
Words and Images by Sharon McKeeman
I know of no other time when grief and hope dance so intimately together—when they are so closely intertwined—than pregnancy after loss.
My body was full of promise again, but this time I knew how that promise could turn to pain. I could never un-know the silence of a quiet delivery room and the shock of holding your child’s body, cold and still. After two healthy pregnancies, I had been innocent and expectant, and then our son was born on his due date without a breath. Two weeks later we sprinkled his ashes in the sea and two months later I found myself pregnant again. Before I had been naïve, but then I became part of the story of loss so many women live. I was pregnant after loss and I was terrified. Fearful and yet hopeful, desperate really, to hold a new child. I knew no other way to heal than to feel sweet breath upon my chest and hold a tiny body close. So as my body began to swell again with a new pregnancy, my fear and hope also grew—weaving a tapestry of anxiety and longing that I couldn’t seem to untangle.
I whispered prayers for the babe I carried inside, “Please, God, give breath, give another heartbeat, protect this child that I love so much already.” And I offered up my heart for the son I had lost, “Hold him Jesus until I can. Help me fix my thoughts on things of heaven because I know that in eternity all is healed and my child is more alive than I am now.” I longed for earthly healing as I waited for heaven’s promise to redeem our every pain and loss. Still grief and fear washed over me til I couldn’t catch my breath. So I would brew a cup of tea, open my Bible, pick up a pen, and clumsily scratch out words that gave voice to a bit of my broken, uncertain, longing heart. Those words helped me lift my head above the surface; they helped me stand amidst the pounding waves of grief and fix my eyes on my Maker who knit together each of my children in the secret place, knowing full well what his plan for each of them would be.
As my stomach swelled ripe, women in the grocery store would ask why I was having another—weren’t my hands full enough? I would plaster on a smile and slip away because I didn’t have the words to tell them my hands were empty. The more I tried to play the joyful expectant mother, the more I choked on my fear, the more the nightmare of that quiet delivery room replayed in my mind. But every time I was brave enough to give space to grief, when I brought my tears before my Father—then he enveloped me in his comfort. Our Lord is close, so very close to the broken hearted, and not a tear is wasted. As I met Christ in my grief he allowed me to take one more step in hope, and then another.
Step by step, month by month, I approached another due date. Ultrasounds echoed with a healthy heartbeat. Hope grew. Until our fourth son was born via an emergency C-section. When they pulled him out the room was silent, and my heart screamed—not again. Those seconds felt like hours until his cry broke the silence, and I greeted his sweet eyes blinking next to mine. Two hours after the surgery I held him, nursing. Myself still unable to stand, but sinking in the grace that had carried me through the grief and the fear, towards hope—towards this moment holding pure miracle wrapped in the sweetness of a healthy newborn.
After tragedy those next anxious nine months brought forth a healthy child, and with him came healing as my empty arms were filled. Since then I have lost two more babies, an early miscarriage and a second trimester loss. I am ever-learning of what a miracle life is. And now I am journeying anxiously through another hope-filled pregnancy. God has placed life inside again, and I am hoping to hold this child whole and healthy here on earth. I do not know the days he has ordained for this child, but I know they are written and I can rest in that. My heart longs to hold, but my soul can trust in our Creator. And so to calm my anxious heart and take hold of the joy that is this pregnancy, I do what I have learned through the journey:
Focus on that which is unseen, not on that which is seen. I know that all will not be understood until eternity, and his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts—but he is good. (Colossians 3:2–3, Isaiah 55:8–9)
- Spend time in the Word and just being still with God. I don’t tackle any difficult theology or in-depth studies. I just read my favorite Scriptures and soak up the peace of his presence. (Psalm 46:10)
- Journal and pray. To me, writing is prayer. I spill my heart out before my Lord when I put pen to paper or tap the keyboard. I am most honest and open when I am writing my heart and receiving his words. He uses this time together to encourage and heal. (Romans 12:12)
- Remain in community. After our first loss I retreated from fellowship because I was exhausted emotionally and physically, and another’s careless words could cut too deep. But I found myself alone, away from the body of Christ that he uses to sustain us. So now I am committed to times of fellowship and prayer with other believers. It can be hard to show up in community and openly share my story, but it brings the strength of knowing I am surrounded by faith, prayer, and love. (I Thessalonians 5:11)
- Count blessings and give thanks. When going through loss it can look like nothing good is left in life, but there is always beauty to be found in the midst. When I recognize each breath as a miracle, each sunrise and sunset as a gift, then I dwell in thankfulness, and this allows “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. As I focus on the good and lovely, as I commit to gratitude, my fear subsides. (Philippians 4:6–8)
- Make time for rest and fun. Grief is exhausting, and pregnancy is exhausting. When you’re experiencing those two together you need some extra rest. I have put certain things on pause and stepped away from some commitments in order to have margin in my life during this pregnancy, so that I can rest and enjoy my family. I’m spending time doing things that fuel my soul and refresh my body like having a cup of tea while reading a good book or going for a walk with my children. (Isaiah 40:31)
- Allow time and space to grieve. Often after a pregnancy loss, especially if it is early on, women can feel alone and invalidated in their grief, but the loss of a precious child is heartbreaking no matter when it happens. When I try to hold it all “together” the grief becomes unbearable, but when I allow myself to grieve I find comfort and healing. It’s ok to cry and acknowledge sorrow even in the midst of a new pregnancy. (Psalm 34:18)
- Remember who our hope is in. He reminds us “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 10:25 NIV)
“He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)