No one in this world can prepare you for the feelings you have when you first see those two little pink lines. All of the hopes and dreams you had of motherhood come slamming into you. It brings on a flood of emotion that is rarely experienced in life. I can remember with my first child, I took 15 pregnancy tests (not an exaggeration) because I really could not believe I was pregnant. I had been married for two years and my husband and I were so ready to have a baby, or so we thought. The minute I saw that second line develop, I was scared out of my mind. A million things went through my head all at once, but out of them all was the fact that I was going to be a mom and I already loved my little secret. A life that had yet to be lived, flashed before my eyes. So many plans and dreams for a life that hadn't even been born yet. When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and daughter were standing outside the bathroom door knocking and begging me for the results. When I walked out and told them that we were, in fact adding to our family, my husband was a little dazed and my daughter (who was 14 months at the time) was not really aware of how the news would change her life. I worried so much about how I could love my second child as much as I love my first. But I soon realized, love is not something to be split down the middle. Love grows. Then came my third pregnancy, which was unexpected, and did not come at the most ideal time. (I wrote a previous blog explaining that time a little more) I sat in my children's bathroom while they were taking a nap and my husband was taking a nap, with a white knuckled grip on that pregnancy test. I knew what it was going to say even before I took it. When the plus sign showed up I just stared at it...for 45 minutes. I didn't wake anyone, I just sat there in that bathroom with my little secret. I was already in love with my baby, even though I was worried about our circumstances. My heart had already grown to accommodate this precious little surprise. I knew that God had a plan. Mothers love their children from the moment that they know they exist. And to a mother, a child exists the moment they see that positive test. But this story isn't about me as a mother. No, this story is about another mother's love for her children and how I got to be apart of her story.
I live in a big town, but a small community. Almost everyone knows everyone else. I had heard about Tori many times in the past. I knew that she had lost a child three years ago, but that was really all I knew about her until this year. You see, this year, I was scrolling on facebook and saw a friend's post about what they were doing to honor Ivalee's memory. Apparently every year Ivalee's parents ask that people pay it forward or perform a random act of kindness in Ivalee's name. This touched me, deeply. I clicked on the tag, which led me to Tori. I scrolled on her facebook and saw all of the different people who had written messages about what they had done in honor of Ivalee. So this was the mom I had heard about three years ago. My heart broke for her, but it also swelled with joy that she was honoring her daughter with such a request and our community was listening. Tori took a personal heartache and turned it into something beautiful. Ivalee has touched so many lives and infused so much good in the world. I knew that if I could help in any way, that I would.
I thought on it for a while but life got busy, like it tends to do. So one day, my friend Ashley messages me and asks me if I could come up with any designs for a rainbow baby maternity gown. She is a photographer and she had a mom who was having a rainbow baby. My heart was filled with joy because a rainbow baby is something to be celebrated. A rainbow baby is a baby that is born after a loss. Just like a rainbow is the beauty after the rain, a rainbow baby is the beauty after a loss. What a blessing. My mind started racing and I came up with a concept for a dress. Ashley said that the mom wanted to play off of the rainbow theme so I thought that a rainbow dress would be perfect. But it wasn't just the rainbow. I wanted the colors to reflect the true beauty of the moment. I couldn't use pastels because they seemed too light and airy and innocent. Any mother knows that although there is extreme joy with this new pregnancy, there is also grief for the child that didn't make it into their arms. I couldn't use smoky tones because this is a baby we are celebrating, it is a step forward while honoring the past. I finally decided on jewel tones because this rainbow baby is something to be cherished like the precious jewel that it is. This baby does not erase or replace, but with this baby comes joy and hope. Hope is one of the most precious things in this world.
I message Ashley with the design and she forwards it on to the mother. I hear back a little while later that Tori loved it. I was like, Tori? like Tori, Tori? Ashley had no idea that I knew the mother, or more accurately knew of her. She said yes, that Tori was the mother and she was going to document her pregnancy with a rainbow maternity session. That was my God wink. I decided that making the dress was just not enough. I wanted to celebrate her rainbow baby, but also honor her angel baby. I had three years of paying it forward to make up for. So I decided I would pledge to make three bereavement gowns for my local hospital in Ivalee's honor. I was going to go through a well known group that takes donated wedding dresses and turns them into gowns for these precious babies born sleeping, but I found out that they did not cover either of my local hospitals. But I was not going to give up.
I called the main hospital to find out what group supplied them, they transferred me to the NICU where I learned that no one supplied them, and they had a need. They said that they didn't know how many I would be donating, but if it was possible, could they split them between the two hospitals. I was shocked. I decided then that three was just not enough. So with the permission of the parents, I have started working on a group to supply our local hospitals with bereavement gowns. The group is small and there is a lot of work to be done. I hope to have the first gowns donated by the end of the summer. The first three will be donated in Ivalee's name. Ivalee has blessed so many lives. Her memory has brought good into the world. I am so glad I got to connect with Tori and got to play a small part in the journey of her rainbow baby and honoring her angel baby.
Motherhood is not easy. It is a beautiful, joyful, silly, loud, messy, crazy, hopeful, tearful, life changing experience. It is allowing a part of your soul to walk around outside of yourself. You try to guide it and protect it, but ultimately it is beyond your control. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But no one is ever prepared for the worst. No one wants to think about what happens when pregnancy does not end with a healthy baby going home from the hospital with mom and dad, but for some it is a harsh reality. Often times these families mourn in silence, continuing on with their lives but not really finding hope. That is why a rainbow baby is such a cause for celebration. It is hope, it is promise. It is knowing that those arms that so deeply crave the weight of a precious newborn, will be filled again. I am so happy for Tori and her family to have their rainbow baby to hold. I know my facebook will be covered up in celebration when this baby makes her arrival. I am so looking forward to that day. Thank you sweet momma, for allowing me into your life to help celebrate this coming blessing.