The need to have a baby in my arms after my daughter died was very strong. I feared having empty arms on her first birthday. I honestly do not know what I feared but I just thought it would be extremely difficult. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could have a healthy baby. That I was not broken and a failure. I wanted to know that my body was capable birthing life and not just death. Being pregnant with my rainbow baby while grieving my angel baby was extremely difficult. The pregnancy that resulted in a live birth was my third. The first ended in a stillbirth and the second in a very early miscarriage. I felt like the universe was trying to tell me there is no safe zone and that I could lose Ezrah at any moment in time. The entire pregnancy, I was living in my head. My thoughts consumed my life for those 36 weeks and I barely remember what was going on around me.
Finding Out – First Trimester
When I found out I was pregnant again, it was on Mother’s Day in 2020. In that moment I was excited. It was my third chance. I kept saying to myself that it would not happen again. Life cannot possibly be that cruel. I immediately ordered a doppler online and we decided we would only tell our parents and siblings after the first few ultrasounds. I experienced spotting a few times in the first trimester and cried uncontrollably every single time. I thought for sure I had lost my son too and at 7 weeks into the pregnancy, I was already emotionally and physically exhausted. I found his heartbeat using the doppler at 9 weeks after hours of trying. Using the doppler then became an obsession. Due to the pandemic, I was working from home. Anytime I felt anxiety I would use the doppler to find his heartbeat to reassure myself. I continued to take pregnancy tests and was taking my temperature daily since it is higher than usual during pregnancy and a sudden dip could indicate a miscarriage. I decided early on that I would be induced as early as possible (37 weeks) as I was scared to get to the same point in my pregnancy that I did with Zalayah. Those first three months I just remember being stressed about the unknown and was in complete survival mode. I had a hard time connecting with this new baby. I had convinced myself that if I did not connect with the baby and he did not make it then it would somehow hurt much less.
The second trimester, all I remember is being told this baby was my first baby by an ultrasound technician at a private clinic (basically implying my stillborn daughter did not “count”) and finding out this baby was a boy and not another girl. Being told this baby was my first, after telling her our first was stillborn, was like being punched in the face. My biggest fear is that people will forget about Zalayah or they would dismiss her existence because we were having another baby. It made me angry that a stranger could be so cruel. Moments after that comment, she revealed we were having a boy. I thought because of how unprofessional she was that she just did not know what she was doing and waited for my anatomy scan for confirmation. In the first trimester I was nauseous, tired, emotional and I FELT like I was having a girl, which to me was like a second chance in some way. At first, I just wanted a healthy baby but then started to feel so guilty and upset that the sex of the baby mattered to me. I convinced myself that she had to be wrong. But she was not. They confirmed that the baby was a boy at the anatomy scan. I felt like I lost my daughter all over again to a certain extent. My counselor told me I was experiencing “gender disappointment”. It made it more difficult to connect with my son. I did not want to clean out her room, I did not want to pack away all her little dresses and frilly outfits. I felt like a failure, like I would never give birth to a healthy baby girl. I lost my chance. This made the second trimester very difficult for me and it's when I decided to seek out professional help to get through the remainder of my pregnancy.
As I approached my due date, I knew I had to get ready for Ezrah’s arrival. It took a lot for me to start buying boy clothes and other things for him. I did not want to return to a house full of baby girl AND baby boy stuff and no babies. I was still disappointed about the gender and had a hard time connecting; but when we finally chose a name for him, I felt the bond growing stronger. My husband made a long list of names and when he said the name Ezrah, I knew that would be his name. Little did I know it means “helper” which was very fitting. As I approached 37 weeks, I became more anxious. I made sure my doctor was aware that I wanted to be induced at exactly 37 weeks, not a day later. The countdown was brutal and even more stressful than the other trimesters. I had bi-weekly appointments with an MFM OB which helped a lot. My induction date was moved up to December 26th from December 28th and I was so happy my waiting time was cut short! Ezrah had other plans though and was born on December 24th. Although he was early, he was perfectly healthy. The pregnancy seemed to go by so slowly and so quickly at the same time.
After Zalayah’s death, being pregnant again was one of the most difficult things I have been through but when I look at my son, I know it was worth every difficult day. All the fear and anxiety about the pregnancy, about wanting a girl, everything melted away when I heard him cry for the first time. I am so grateful for my son. Yes, I am still grieving, and I still miss my daughter. No, my son is not a replacement for her.
Be kind to yourself if you are on this journey and try to remember…
If you are in need of support, please check out the Pregnancy After Loss Support Group at Roger Neilson House.