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  • Writer's pictureKaycee Lynn Pancake

Parenting a Rainbow Baby

It is Bereaved Mother's Day, and seriously, I don't know what to do with it. And as a bereaved mother who doesn't know what to do with Bereaved Mother's Day, what in the world do I want anyone else to do with it? Wish me a "Happy Bereaved Mother's Day"? I was planning on skipping it.

Then I spent the evening decorating our new apartment... with the help of my fifteen-month Rainbow Baby. No, I did not finish getting all of our pictures hung.

But then there was this moment:

This was a home-warming gift from my mom. "I Can Only Imagine" was the song we played at Ryder's funeral. She slung this sign over her shoulder and carried it all over the apartment.

Earlier this week, she and I went out to the cemetery to see Ryder. We hadn't made it out in entirely too long, and we had Easter things to give him. She "helped" me switch out flowers, checked out his wind chimes, and played with his cars. One could say that she has way too much fun playing in cemeteries. For me though...

When Ryder was born, I promised him that I would continue to live as though I were still teaching him about how good and faithful God is. That was in 2018, and between then and when my Rainbow was born in 2021, there were times when that promise was tough to keep. But now there are moments when I kind of get to see my two children together: when we're visiting Ryder at the cemetery, when she plays with his faded and weathered Tonka truck from his grave that my parents replaced, when we look at the maternity photo of my husband and me and Ryder Bear sitting next to her inside my tummy, when she found the photo album of his pictures while we were unpacking. She doesn't understand of course--she's still calling me Dada, the little turkey butt--but I tell her about Brother, mostly to practice how it feels on my lips for when she does understand. "Brother lives in Heaven, so we don't see him right now. But he is having so much fun! And God loves us so much that we'll get to see Him with Brother someday."

We got to a stopping point with the decorating, had some dinner (the first I think ever that she could have thrown her plate on the floor but didn't, hooray for table manners!), and started towards our bedtime rituals. We always read a book before bed. I usually offer two or three and let her pick from that, but she's been just choosing whichever one is on the left, so tonight I took her to the bookshelf to let her pick from there. She picked "Just in Case You Ever Wonder" by Max Lucado--the only one I never read to her because it makes me cry. The narrator talks about "the day you were born," and even though I've come a long and miraculous way from my PTSD, birth stories are still pretty triggering. Even my Rainbow's, sometimes.

I struggled that day to focus on which child we were there for, to keep the door closed on all of the possible tragedies that knocked incessantly in my chest, to trust this doctor when I'd been so terribly let down by a different one. From the second I walked down the hallway in the Labor and Delivery wing with my Rainbow inside of me, I couldn't stop thinking about taking a similar walk with an empty womb and empty arms.

But then the doctor asked me if I wanted to see her, and she held her up over the sheet, and that sweet little face was all scrunched up against the bright lights and cold air, squirming and breathing and moving and living, and this total and confident calm washed through me faster than the anesthesia: this is my daughter, and I'm going to get to keep her. And suddenly they became two distinct birth stories, two different babies, my son and my daughter, both with their own God-written destinies.

Before I got to hold my Rainbow, I struggled with Bereaved Mother's Day because I couldn't really figure out what I needed out of it. I didn't know what to feel, what to say, how to "celebrate." And while the concept makes sense to me, especially for loss moms who don't get to hold a Rainbow, now that I do, does it apply to me anymore? Do I get one Mother's Day for my son and then another one for my daughter? I'm only one mom. That's why I was going to skip it.

But it seems that my daughter wanted to celebrate her brother this weekend.

And these are unique things that Loss Moms have to learn to navigate: holding space for grief and joy in the same moments, simultaneously parenting a growing child and a still memory, handling a relationship of sorts between living children and angels. These are really hard things to figure out, and I don't have them figured out yet.

But as my Rainbow grows--as I grow--they seem to become a little more beautiful.

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