Angel Babies: Pregnancy and infant loss

In the world according to social media, every baby is born into a hashtag family.

Our babies certainly have their share: #twins #multiples #babyboys #blackboyjoy #pandemicbabies #quarantinebabies #preemies, etc. Individually, Caron is a #nicubaby and a #nicugraduate.

There is one other hashtag that our boys can claim, one which we haven’t made public until now: #rainbowbabies.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “rainbow baby” is what they call a baby who is born after the parents had a previous miscarriage, suffered pregnancy loss or lost an infant. The child who was lost is often called an “angel baby.” If another child comes after that, they’re called a “rainbow baby.”

When Caron and Austin were born in June 2020, they were our two rainbow babies for our two angel babies.

Early last year, Taylisha and I found out we were pregnant with twins. About a month later, we had to accept the news that the two fetuses were not developing and the pregnancy was not viable.

It’s something that, to this point, only our closest family and a few friends knew about.

October is Pregnancy And Infant Loss Awareness Month. It’s a meaningful time for Taylisha and I because we’ve experienced it.

It was Valentine’s Day 2019 when Tay, on a whim, took a home pregnancy test that came up positive. She kept a poker face long enough to present the news to me in the form of a Valentine’s Day card.

The moment could not have been more romantic and, frankly, unbelievable given the timing. As far as Valentine’s Day events go, that has to be in the top three: (1) Wedding, (2) proposal, (2) finding out you’re having a baby. Straight out of a Hallmark movie.

A few days after the pregnancy test, Tay had a previously-scheduled doctor’s appointment, so we were able to get confirmation on the pregnancy from the hospital.

From there, we met with an OBGYN. We learned that we were very early into the pregnancy, about three or four weeks. And we found out from our first ultrasound that we were pregnant with twins. At that point, just two little beans on a screen.

Ultrasound from 2019, the first pregnancy.

While it was a first for both of us — I’d never gotten anyone pregnant and she’d never been pregnant — we knew it was best to temper our excitement. We were still in the danger zone of those first 12 weeks where you’re not supposed to tell anyone you’re pregnant in case something goes wrong. Early miscarriages are common.

So as thrilled as we were, and as happy as we knew those people in our lives would be for us, we kept it quiet.

And then something went wrong.

Because it was considered a high-risk pregnancy, we were being monitored more than normal. That meant more ultrasounds than normal and more doctor’s appointments. As we reached weeks four, then five, then six, there was very little to no development of the twin fetuses.

Eventually, unfortunately, our doctor had to tell us that this pregnancy just wasn’t going to happen.

We were learning in the hardest way possible exactly how many delicate factors have to go just right for babies to develop to full-term. Looking at our twin boys today, at four months old, it’s amazing to think about where they started and how lucky we all are that they made it through.

But our first set of twins, or angel babies, didn’t make it.

We didn’t get far enough into the pregnancy to find out the genders, to think of names, to deliver the news to our parents, to make a registry, to plan a baby shower, to furnish a nursery … none of that.

We were just wrapping our minds around our first pregnancy when we had to wrap our minds around our first pregnancy loss.

Personally, I believe I was able to cope because the loss happened so early. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t like we had twin babies and we lost them; we had two fetal sacs that didn’t develop into babies. I tried to tell myself that it’s not like they died; rather, they never got an opportunity to live.

Maybe that just helps me accept it. Having gone through the entire pregnancy that brought us Caron and Austin, I cannot fathom the pain of reaching some of those aforementioned milestones — the announcement, the baby shower, the names, the nursery — only to have it ripped away.

When we got pregnant the second time, it was shortly after our first pregnancy would’ve been full-term. Our rainbow babies were not conceived until after our angel babies would’ve arrived.

When we found out the second pregnancy was twins — again — it was exhilarating and scary and joyful. And it was not lost on us that we were again pregnant with twins after losing twins the first time.

I’ve written before about the fear that came at every stage of the pregnancy with Caron and Austin. That fear was intensified because of the pregnancy loss we’d already suffered.

When Caron and Austin made it out, then made it home, we were finally able to exhale a kind of exhale known only to parents who have rainbow babies.

We are so grateful, especially knowing that there are so many parents of angel babies, chasing rainbows, who don’t get to experience that exhale.

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