Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Robert Allen's Story Part V: The Rainbow after the Storm

While I was no longer having panic attacks regularly, I would still get them on very rare occasions but they weren't nearly as intense and I was able to talk myself out of them. The worst of it seemed to be over and I was left with wondering if we'd ever have another baby. Three losses within less than a year and a half was overwhelming but I felt this intense need to have another baby. I felt that we weren't done yet and there was another baby waiting to come to our family.

Yet, the losses had taken an emotional toll on me that I didn't know I could survive again and Rob didn't want to watch me suffer like I had. We talked extensively about what to do, with me wanting more kids and Rob wanting to be done. We had reached an impasse but for Mother's Day of 2008 Rob's present to me was that we could try one more time. If it worked, great! But if it didn't we would be done. Either way, this would be our last try at getting pregnant.

On Father's Day the next month, I surprised him with a positive pregnancy test! We were so excited but also scared and cautious. We knew all too well that pregnancy did not equate to a living baby at the end. I wanted so much to know that this pregnancy would be different though and sought out a blessing hoping that Heavenly Father would tell me that everything would be ok. Instead I was told that everything would happen according to God's plan and that if I would pray about it, I would receive answers to my questions.

So I prayed. I begged to have the revelation that this pregnancy would go well, that we would hold a living, healthy child at the end. The answer I got was not what I wanted or expected. I was told that I did not get to know the outcome until the end. That I needed to trust my Heavenly Father that whatever happened I would be ok. I was taught that part of faith is not having the answers but going forward anyway; that true faith is trusting even if the answer is no. It was so hard to hear that. It would have been so easy for me to have faith if the answer had been that everything would be fine, but trusting that even if the worst happened again I would be ok was another trial of my faith in my Father in Heaven.

It was in the early part of this pregnancy that God sent me perhaps the greatest tender mercy thus far. I took my kiddos to the park one summer morning when I was about 9 weeks along and was determined to read a book while they played. I didn't want to interact with anyone, but there was a mom there with her two kids and inevitably her kids and mine started to play together. We avoided having to talk to eachother until her oldest and one of my kiddos got into an argument and I had to make my child go apologize to hers. Because of that we started to talk and I mentioned that I was 9 weeks pregnant but had lost 3 babies recently. It turned out that she also had multiple losses between her first and her then 9 month old baby girl. We bonded over the shared losses and when one of my kids needed to use the bathroom she invited us to head to her house to use hers since it was closer than our house and I accepted even though it was out of character for me to do that. While waiting for my kiddo to come back out of the house, we agreed to meet at the park the next day and from that moment on, we became fast friends.

Looking back, we would learn that neither one of us had wanted to talk to the other but God knew we would need each other and made sure we did. So many things happened that day that didn't make sense. We didn't normally go to that park, she wouldn't normally offer to let a stranger use her bathroom, I wouldn't normally accept, neither one of us expected the other to show up the next day and almost didn't go, but we both went anyway. It was a friendship that seemed preordained in the premortal life and it would sustain me over the coming months and years as I faced other trials in my life and she faced her own. She would become my best friend and a second mother to my children and I would do the same for hers.

During this pregnancy, things progressed smoothly but I was always on edge. One time around 20 weeks, close to when I'd lost Robert Allen, I hadn't felt the baby move for several hours and I was freaking out. I showed up at the kids' school to pick them up and my best friend Danna was there. When I saw her I burst into tears and she asked what was wrong. I told her that I hadn't felt the baby move and was scared. She encouraged me to call the doctor and go in to be checked. I did that and everything was fine, but that scare epitomized my emotional state for my entire pregnancy. I was always waiting for something to go wrong, hypersensitive to anything that might be indicative of a miscarriage or stillbirth and overall just scared.

Finally, on February 18, 2009 Kailyn, our Rainbow Baby, was born. She was healthy and perfect. I called her my Rainbow Baby because of this quote:
"Rainbow Babies" is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope."
While having Kailyn didn't change the trials we had passed through, nor did it lessen my grief at the loss of my other babies, she was, "...something beautiful and full of light..." She brightened my life and our home, but I still felt the loss of Robert Allen. In fact, in many ways it was even more intense because as I experienced all the joys of a new baby I felt all the more acutely everything I had missed with him. Each moment of joy was a reminder of a lost moment with Robert Allen. Still, I reveled in the joy of my little girl.

To our surprise, in November of 2009 we discovered that I was pregnant again. This was a total surprise to us as we had planned on being done having kids. This pregnancy would be as high stress and nerve racking as Kailyn's had been. I was still constantly waiting for something to go wrong. Luckily, on June 25, 2010 Edison arrived safely and healthy. Because of all that we'd been through, and after much prayer, Rob and I decided that I would have my tubes tied because I couldn't go through another pregnancy and deal with the fear and stress that would invariably accompany it. Even with this second Rainbow Baby, I still was dealing with the grief of my other losses and felt them as intensely as before, but I also became an expert at pretending that I was fine.

Even when I was only a few months out from losing Robert Allen, I felt that I didn't have the right to grieve him. I felt that no one would understand how much I missed him or loved him since he'd never lived outside my body and so I forced myself as much as possible to not focus on his loss. I forced myself to move on and to put on a brave face, as it were. I did allow myself to grieve in private, but wouldn't give myself permission to let others see me or know just how devastated I really was. And I continued that pattern for years following his stillbirth and the subsequent miscarriages. Hiding my feelings, pretending that I was over it became second nature to me.

While this worked for a period of years, it took its toll on me. I found myself getting angrier and more withdrawn from my Heavenly Father. I didn't want to pray to Him or read my scriptures. I struggled wanting to continue to attend church and do my callings. I couldn't understand why Robert Allen had died, why things had happened how they did, what I was supposed to learn from the experience and when I would ever "get over" this loss. I missed him with all my heart and would often find myself sitting up late into the night listening to sad songs and crying, wanting to hold my son, wanting just to know that he was there and ok.

In all the questions that I'd had the one that always nagged at me was whether Robert Allen would be my son in the next life. In our religion we believe that families are eternal and that children and parents are sealed together. While a child born into a sealed family is considered theirs forever, there is no doctrine on what happens with stillborns or miscarriages. So, while I wanted desperately to believe that he was our forever, there was nothing that I could point to in our beliefs that supported that desire. In many ways, those who lose children after birth are lucky because they have the definite assurance while those of us who lose them prior to birth only have the hope of that.

I would often beg that I would get to feel Robert Allen near me, but it didn't seem to happen. I missed him. I missed that I'd never get to hear his cry or feel his hand wrap around my finger. I missed that I couldn't get hugs or kisses from him or hear him call me mommy. I was angry that the only memories I had with my son were of holding his corpse. I'd never hear his heartbeat outside my body, feel his breath on my cheek or watch him sleep. I had no memories to hold onto, no doctrine to guarantee he was mine forever and no answers from God. I felt alone and abandoned in ways that I had never felt before.

For nearly 7 years following my loss, I stopped seeking out my Heavenly Father. I was angry at him, not for the loss of my babies, but for the lack of answers and the prolonged grief. I wanted the trial to be over, I wanted answers and I was tired of missing my son.

One day as I was watching some videos on Youtube, I came across this one about a man who lost most of his family in a tragic car accident. While the video was about forgiveness there was a part in it that touched me deeply. Chris Williams talks about when he felt angry about the loss of his family, he directed it at the Savior instead of the young man responsible for the accident. In that moment, hearing that I understood something that I never had before; the Savior could handle my anger at Him. Not only that, but he understood it and was waiting patiently for me to return to Him. He wasn't frustrated with me and my anger, He wasn't tired of me or of listening to me vent my frustrations at Him, because He knew, in a way that no one else could what I was going through. That was part of the atonement; to feel and experience everything I ever would so that He could understand me perfectly and have perfect mercy, compassion and love for me. In that moment, I knew I needed to return to Him and seek Him out again. I realized that I not only needed to, but that I wanted to; I missed my Savior and wanted Him in my life again.

I started talking to Him and my Father in Heaven again. Yet, it still did not lessen my grief and I began to struggle even more with my depression. About 4 years after Edison's birth and my tubal, and 7 years after my last miscarriage, I would learn that I was pregnant again. I would miscarry that baby and wrote of my experiences here and here. The following June we would again learn that I was pregnant and it would turn out to be an ectopic pregnancy which required emergency surgery on Edison's 5th birthday. I also wrote of that experience here, here, here and here.

Those were not easy times for me and today as I write this, I am only just beginning to allow myself to grieve completely my son and my other 4 miscarriages. It took years of anger and trying to hide my emotions, therapy and lots of encouragement from my currrent therapist to begin to allow myself to grieve however I needed to. I thought that by ignoring the grief, by trying to get through it, I was grieving and getting past it, but in reality I was only delaying the inevitable. I needed to allow myself to feel whatever I felt, no matter what anyone else might or might not think. I needed to give myself permission to treat my losses as real and valid losses no matter how early or late they occurred. Had I worried less about what others might think or whether I should still be sad or not, I may not be where I am now, nearly 12 years after Robert Allen's stillbirth and grieving him all over again. Yet, the experience has taught me so much about myself, about grief, compassion, and empathy. It has also set me on a path that I never would have imagined for myself.

So, here I am today, 12 years after my first loss, reliving it like it was just yesterday. . . and that's ok. It's ok that I'm not over this and that it still breaks my heart to think of my son. It's ok that I love him as much as any of my other children and grieve him the same as if I had lived a lifetime with him before he was taken. It's ok that I'm not always ok. And it's ok that Robert Allen's story will never really have an ending as long as I'm here to remember him and grieve him. In this storm, I have felt the horrors and terrors that have shaken me to the core, but I also have seen rainbows, like my two Rainbow Babies or meeting my best friend. And the rainbows have made the storm bearable and endurable.

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