I’m a rainbow mama. This is a title I never asked to have, no one does, but it’s one that I have developed a deep love for.
My husband and I started trying to conceive on our wedding night. I had never missed a period before, but after our wedding, I missed three. I wasn’t pregnant, yet I wasn’t getting my period. I went to see my family doctor who really didn’t seem to care and wanted me to wait another six months. I quickly self-referred to an OB who does fertility treatments and he had me started on treatments within two weeks!
We did four cycles of letrozole and the trigger shot. Each month that passed, I swore I would never be able to get pregnant. My negative self-talk and head-space consumed every inch of my body. Four months later, on July 17, 2017, there were two pink lines on the 5th stick I had peed on that month.
We had a six-week ultrasound and saw the baby’s heartbeat. Everything looked great. Two and a half weeks later, we found out that heartbeat had stopped a mere few days after we had seen it. I watched the ultrasound screen, trying to see a flicker—or even a distinguishable shape. I knew what 8-week, 6-day ultrasounds looked like—the screen I was seeing did not look like that. I turned away and stared at the ceiling, crying. After what felt like half an hour (likely one minute), my doctor said, “Nicole, I’m so sorry”.
We proceeded to do another four medicated cycles as soon as my pregnancy hormone levels dropped to zero. I wasn’t emotionally ready to be pregnant again, but I was so desperate to be at the same time. My sister-in-law was also pregnant. Our babies were only supposed to be a few weeks apart. I wanted to be a mom. We were the ones that had been trying. We were the ones who wanted this. I was so envious and angry. The four months we tried again also fell on every single family gathering, but I got myself through hunting season, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, and a baby shower with a fabricated smile—or resting bitch face, my memory of that time is vague.
On December 3, 2017 we found out we were pregnant again. The anxiety set in quickly and I questioned everything. I counted down the days until each ultrasound, not sleeping the night before. I cried…and then I cried some more. I couldn’t bear the thought of having another miscarriage. I didn’t want the pain of taking misoprostol again. After about 17 weeks, I finally started believing we would be bringing our rainbow baby into this world. We picked a name and settled on a nursery theme.
I happily joined the rainbow mama community on July 30, 2018 at 9:04 p.m. We had a c-section, because our baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck very tightly and his heart rate was through the roof. It was such a surreal experience. Anderson Ralph Lemke was lifted out of my stomach with the relieving sound of that first cry starting immediately. I was finally a rainbow mama.
There is so much appreciation and emotion in those first few days as a rainbow mama. Pulling those memories from my foggy-at-best brain, I can still feel the immense love and comfort I felt holding my rainbow baby. I remember not wanting our nurse to help me out during that first night—I just wanted to hang onto Anderson. But alas, she caught me dozing off with him in bed a few times and convinced me to get some rest. Not to be cliché, but that first night felt like the weight of the world had finally been lifted from my shoulders.
Let’s be honest, being a rainbow mama is hard. The mom guilt is extreme as a result of those mad bargaining skills we develop during infertility. All those promises I made myself and/or a God I don’t believe in, yet still prayed to for good measure, that I wouldn’t complain about losing sleep or changing middle-of-the-night diapers were empty. I feel so guilty that I’m bothered by my almost one year old still waking up at least 4 times a night, but it turns out sleep deprivation affects everyone the same.
Life as a rainbow mama has been bittersweet. His firsts might be my firsts and lasts. I love watching Anderson’s personality develop and seeing him learn new skills. The laugh he has when he sees our dog is absolutely hilarious. When he’s proud of himself he scrunches his nose and snorts in the cutest way. He bum shuffles like a little gremlin crawling across our living room. He loves snuggles with his rainbow mama. The thing with infertility, though, is that I don’t know if I will ever be able to see another baby grow up.
I love talking openly about being a rainbow mama. It’s something that so many mamas out there are ashamed of. If my story can help one mama speak out about her experience with miscarriage, then I’ve done my job. I think rainbow mamas feel such immense respect toward being parents. Miscarriage isn’t something we should ever feel embarrassed about. Instead, let’s reach out and help another mama embrace her journey. This community is my home now, this is where I belong.
The beauty of being a rainbow mama is that the storm and the rainbow never cancel each other out. I still remember the love I felt during my first pregnancy. I remember the pain I felt as my spotting turned to clots. My rainbow came out and brought me joy, but it didn’t take away my memory of the storm, nor do I want it to.
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I would feel gratitude toward our journey one day. Our journey led me down this windy and stormy road that ended, and began, with a new road called mom life—and there was a beautiful colorful rainbow waiting for me where the roads intersected.
Nicole Lemke is a blogger from Peterborough, Ontario. She writes about her personal experiences with infertility and miscarriage. She has a husband named Jeremy, a rainbow baby boy named Anderson, and an aussiedoodle named Gibbs. You can catch her working on her side hustles, indulging in self-care, and meditating. Visit her podcast and follow along with her journey on Instagram @_nicolelemke.