Of angels, rainbows, and resentment

It was a week — an entire week — ago that we sat in the office of our midwife and heard words of concern. Our appointment was at 10, and we were a little early. Clock currently reads 9:59. I was likely answering questions about how I’d been feeling and what I weighed. Maybe being told that we could try the Doppler today, as long as I promised not to freak out if we were not able to hear a heartbeat, as I was just at the beginning of the time when you can start hearing from the outside.

My how a week changes things. In a matter of seconds we were inducted into a secret club. You may think you know those who have experienced pregnancy loss and miscarriage, but once you announce that you have, you begin hearing stories. People contact you who have never told anyone about their loss . . . or those who may have told at the time, but haven’t really talked about it since — at least not in your hearing.

And if you are like me, you begin searching for resources online. But it seems all those groups have one huge thing in common — references to AngelBabies and talk of their later rainbow babies. And I feel like I have entered not only a secret society, but another world that is lined with Lisa Frank images. A world where our wombs housed not human children, but cartoon cherubs that floated away with their harps. Where we instead hope to give birth to carebears who will have the gift of shooting rainbows out of their tummies for colorful unicorns and puppies to play on.

I get why this language is helpful for some — I do. I just don’t happen to be one of them.  My theology states that humans and angels are not the same thing. While I do believe in an afterlife, I don’t believe I will be an angel (with or without wings) in it. I will be human. To picture Avelyn as something other than human with flesh and blood distances her even more from me. I need an image that suggests that if she is here, I could hold her in my arms and feel her skin on mine — especially during this time when her skin is literally inside of mine.

For the uninitiated (may you remain so), a rainbow is a child born after someone experiences miscarriage. In the words of J.K. Rowling, it is “the boy (girl) who lived.” You will also hear reference to “sticky babies,” which means essentially the same thing — a baby that stays thriving and in utero for the entire duration of a pregnancy.

I get that these terms are supposed to point out that birthing a child is miraculous, and perhaps the “rainbow” language is meant to tie into some sort of sense of promise (as rainbow baby users tend also to refer to AngelBabies and usually seem to claim some brand of faith (most that I’ve run into are some brand of Christian, but assuming that perhaps there are those of other traditions, as well?). But God has not promised that I will birth a live child. And I refuse to use language that makes only children born alive a miracle. Avelyn is a miracle to me. She is my baby — will be my firstborn. She just happens to have died.

Our culture has tended to make death the thing to be avoided. We push it off as long as we can, create technologies that can hold onto technical life long after the mind stops living. We consider death the enemy. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to live a long time. I happen to like life. But I also recognize that death is going to happen to all of us. It happened early — much too early — for Avelyn. But her life, as brief as it was, changed me. And it changed Allyn.

So I don’t long for Angels or Rainbows. I don’t anticipate that having a child later will “make up” for this one. I don’t ever want to replace Avelyn, I want her.

And sometimes, feeling that way, I feel I don’t fit in with my new secret club — which can be even more isolating.

But perhaps the real elephant in the room of this loss is the resentment that creeped in almost immediately. Some who have miscarried talk about resenting all pregnant women or new parents. That has not been my experience. As I told a friend in email, I still rejoice in most of the pregnancies of friends (and I have a lot of pregnant friends at the moment). I still want to see them and want to be excited for them and want to hold their babies when they are born and cry over them (because who doesn’t want a crazy woman crying over their newborn?).

But there are a few . . . and I hate it. I hate mentioning it here, because I don’t want friends to fear that I’m talking about them (chances are, I’m not) . . . but I feel it is important to be open — particularly since I’m hoping that maybe these posts can be helpful to others going through pregnancy loss and miscarriage — and perhaps because I know that unless I write it down, that I will be able to hide from it, rather than figure out how to move forward. The truth is that there are individuals that I resent right now. Ones my mind targets when I think “why us?” which is often followed by “why not them?” And I feel enormously guilty for thinking it. I don’t want anyone else to experience this, but the dark places inside me are perfectly willing to sacrifice someone else’s child if it brings back my own. And yes, I realize how awful that sounds, how awful that is.

To my pregnant friends: please, please, please do not assume I’m talking about you. And please don’t hide from me out of fear that you will make me sad or angry. I’ll be honest — you might because anything might. I cried today hugging a gay man. I cried last night reflecting on the evening with a flaming pizza and a step into cat vomit. Anything at any point is likely to convert me into my grieving self. But it is just as true that I need you all.

Author’s note: This is the fifth in a series on pregnancy loss/miscarriage. Read the first post, “First ultrasound,” here.



Filed under miscarriage

12 responses to “Of angels, rainbows, and resentment

  1. Amy Landis

    you are putting into words so beautifully what I wish I could have done 23 years ago. Continuing to pray for you.

  2. I like your comparison to Care Bears. That’s the vision I have of “angel babies” too. For me, it’s somehow too cutesy to use in reference to lost babies. And “sticky baby” always sounds so cold to me, like you’re talking about a wet piece of spaghetti thrown against a wall.
    I took something from “rainbow baby” when naming my blog. Not because of any heavenly vision of my future baby (I’m not religious). I just liked the hope it conveyed. That I could have a happy ending after all of this rain. I realize there are no guarantees of anything, but I’d fall apart if I didn’t tell myself this is just a struggle I will someday only know as a memory.
    I’m so sorry about your loss.

    • I’m sorry about yours, as well. And I totally get the needing hope — so do I . . . but I do have the fears. And I really like the name of your blog. At one point I hosted a webzine named Silver-lined Magazine. While that was long before I faced this, it was the same reminder that the storm isn’t the end — that there is light and life on the other side of the rain. That might seem contradictory to what I wrote above, I think it is the statements like “I’m expecting my rainbow baby, and I’m crossing my fingers for yours” that get me. I think, “my what?” Love the spaghetti imagery, too =0)

  3. Sarah Mann

    You’ve done well being so brave and I’m proud of you for that; but I’m sorry you’re where you have to be brave like this. You may be a very small club, but perhaps you can have functions with members of other clubs who can love on you as best they know how.

  4. Thanks for sharing what you and Allyn are experiencing, Jennifer, and I have no doubt you’re helping many mothers who have gone or will go through what you are experiencing.

    For some reason, your words about the care bare and rainbow babies brought me back to a day many years ago when I was 12 and we were at the cemetery burying my father. The minister put his hand on my shoulder and told me that I should be happy because my daddy was with God now. I was really angry with him for those words because it seemed like only a selfish god would take a child’s father away from her and that somehow god couldn’t love me if he took my dad away. All this from words that were supposed to comfort me.

    Mourning is such a different process for each individual as you and Allyn know…and for those of us who don’t like to sugar coat the pain, it’s sometimes a lonely road because a lot of people find it comforting to dress it up with rainbows and carebears and platitudes. For those people who are helped by this, I’m truly and legitimately happy it helps. But for those who prefer to look death in the eye and accept the pain that comes along with that staring contest, it can be a little infuriating.

    You’re not alone — and while I’ve never lost a baby, I understand what you’re saying. After my father died of cancer, I took to saying that life is a terminal disease (which, ps, when you say such things as a 12 year old really freaks the grownups out!). It was not meant as a cynical statement but rather as an observation that every moment is precious and that tomorrows are not guaranteed. Little Avelyn didn’t get nearly as much time as I know she and her parents would have liked her to have in this realm…but every moment she had was real and it was meaningful. She is flesh and blood and a real part of the continuum of life.

    I continue to hold a special place in my heart for both of you. Take care.

    • Thank you. It makes me angry that a minister would say such a thing to a young girl. The last thing anyone needs on top of real, legitimate, NEEDED grief is guilt. I don’t believe that God wills death and pain. I believe that God hurts with us in the midst of it.

  5. Jen Morris

    Tragedy has a funny way of putting us in dark, dank, bizarre little clubs. It’s both sickening and comforting that others have a shared experience. I have a different club, but I understand this new existence where you don’t fit in yet your club membership has clearly been stamped with “approved” after a hazing period that no person should ever experience. Surely this is a mistake.

    What I found is that my club led me to a broken place where I could feel anger without judgment and an odd sense of community. I still don’t have the same reactions (I find listening to Tori Amos endlessly quite depressing), but as women who have suffered there is an indescribable bond.

    I had more to say, but I think writing about brokenness and hope at this point is moot. Why would you want to hear contrite words that so loudly clamber against what your heart is aching to will into being? No, that’s not fair. There is more to this story just as there is more to yours. Know I love you dear one. Peace to you.

    • Guess we’re just a couple of rebels. I have been thankful for the underground club — those who have messaged and responded and sent their stories.

      By the way, I’m not sure that those in and rebelling from either of our clubs are capable of fully contrite words. Know I love you, too.

  6. Pingback: Miscarriage and Silent Suffering | Intellectual Hospitality

  7. Pingback: Taboo Topics: Losing a baby – meet Jennifer and Allyn Harris Dault | Irresistibly Fish

  8. I can completely understand your desire to rejoice over other pregnant woman and share in their joy. Although I have never miscarried I can understand your feelings, your pain and resentment over other women’s pregnancies and babies. I’m walking through the journey of infertility myself (which is what my blog is about, but that’s not the point here). I can completely relate to how for some of my friends I find it’s pure joy to share their excitement about their pregnancy. And other times I just want to cry and shout about the injustice of it all and then other times I just want to run and hide. Please know that you are not alone in how you feel and what you think. I’ll be praying for you.

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