A Rainbow After the Storm
We knew it would either make us or break us. When the unthinkable happens, will it bring us closer together or tear us apart? A story about losing what's held most dear and finding out just how strong you really are. A true to life, personal story about the loss and heartache of a stillbirth.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
**Tissue warning** Please read summary. Consider it a standing warning for the entire story.
**Trigger warning** Please read summary. Also, part of this story takes place during a dark time in US history, the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 and will be mentioned. Though it is not a story about the attacks, it is mentioned.
Pre-read by Fyrebyrd, and beta'd by SunflowerFran. A heartfelt thanks to you both. All remaining mistakes are mine. Eight pre-written chapters will post daily until complete.
~ Sixteen years ago today, my daughter came silently into the world. She was surrounded by love all the days I carried her, and for every moment we got to spend with her after she arrived, until they took her away. This is a very personal retelling of events leading up to, through, and after her birth. Since this is such a personal story, and therapeutic in a way, I won't be responding to reviews for this story, though I would love to hear you thoughts. I hope you understand.
On what would have been her sweet sixteen, I reflect on the gifts she left behind.
May you find comfort in knowing that love was all your baby ever knew.
~ taken from the booklet, When Hello Means Goodbye
"And you're sure you don't want to know?" the sonographer asked.
"We're sure. Just jot it down on that note card and seal the envelope, please," I said as I watched the black and white images move on the tiny screen.
"Yeah, this one decided to have the big reveal with the family around, since they won't be in the delivery room." Edward leaned over, kissing the side of my head.
"Judging by the measurements, the original due date of October seventh is right on track with your dates," she says with a smile.
"And everything looks good?" I ask nervously.
"Everything looks perfect."
"Oh, I'm so excited for you guys! I don't think I'd have the restraint not to look. How can you have had it sealed up in an envelope for almost a month?" Alice asks, excitement in her eyes. She and Jasper have decided to wait for kids. They have a five-year plan, and they've yet to celebrate their first anniversary.
"I don't know, Alice. We just wanted to share it with all of you. It was a huge deal when we had Jacob, not knowing if he was a boy or a girl, and I wanted that moment again, but I also wanted to be able to be prepared, too. I guess this was a compromise."
As I stand at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, Edward is outside with our son, two-year old Jacob, and Emmett and Rose's son, Benjamin, filling the kiddie pool with water. The smile on his face is nearly ear-to-ear as he occasionally sprays them with the hose.
"He's a great dad," Alice whispers into my ear.
"He really is." My hands drift down to the nudging in my belly, and I can't wait for this little one to get here, to help our family to grow.
"I still can't believe you're going to be a mom of two kids before your twenty-third birthday, Bella."
I spin around to face my sister. "Hey, I know what I was signing up for when I said I'd marry him. I knew he wanted kids right away. And we're doing okay. We own a house, he has a good job, and I get to stay home with them. It's the life we want."
Her hands rise in her defense. "I'm not saying anything bad about it, Sis. I'm just saying it's a lot for someone your age." Stepping closer, she puts her arms around me. "I know you're happy, and I know it's what you want. It's just a lot for me to wrap my head around, that's all. You weren't exactly mom material when we were teenagers. Remember your black phase? Black clothes, black nails; you even convinced Mom and Dad to let you paint your room black."
"It was only half black," I say with a laugh and a sigh. "And I know, it wasn't where I pictured myself either. But I couldn't be happier."
"Then that's all that matters."
"Bella," my dad calls, walking in through the sliding patio door. "Are those burgers ready to put on the grill?"
"Good, you've got a lot of hungry people out there."
"Open it," my adorable mother-in-law squeals. Esme has been a nervous ball of energy all day, so excited to find out what we're having. She's insisting it's a girl. "Come on! I love all four of my boys, and my grandsons, but I want another granddaughter!" I glance at Chelsea, the lone granddaughter out of the dozen, and smile.
My gaze falls over the crowd of close friends and family, all gathered under the canopy tent we've put up in the backyard, all with happy, expectant faces.
Edward hands me the sealed envelope. "You wanna open it?"
"No, you open, and we'll look together."
"Okay," he says with a nod. Sliding his finger under the flap, he gently rips it, and pulls out the single lined index card.
It's a girl!
"You tell, 'em baby," he whispers in my ear.
With a deep breath, tears in my eyes, and a smile I couldn't wipe off my face if I tried. "It's a girl!"
"Thank you so much, Dad. I still can't believe Great Grandma hung on to this all these years." Running my hands over the ornate carvings of the antique crib, I can feel the grit and grime left behind after so many years of storage.
"Well, yeah, she said she could never bring herself to get rid of it. It was her youngest's crib, and after she lost him, she held onto everything; even though it's been more than fifty years."
I had heard stories about Great Uncle David, Grandma Swan's brother, who had died as an infant; mostly murmurings over the years. My great grandma never spoke of it herself, but the family brought it up from time to time.
"I guess I just assumed that after you and Mom used it for Alice and me, it was given away or sold. Who knew it was in storage all this time." Wiping my hands on my shorts, I turn and head for the door. "Well, come on Gramps, unload it from the truck so I can clean it, and I'll tell you where to put it."
"Oh, Edward, look!" I said excitedly, holding the beautiful handmade quilt out for everyone to see. Rich tones of red, rose, and pink hearts stitched together in a beautiful pattern adorned the crib-sized blanket. "It's beautiful, Grandma!" I said as I struggled to my feet to give her a hug.
The entire family on both sides, many children included, were there to share this with us. When I had initially mentioned having a couples baby shower, Edward jumped at the idea; excited for the chance to be a part of this one. When I was pregnant with Jacob, Alice kind of hijacked the planning, and it was a traditional, ladies-only event. He sulked so much that day that I promised myself he'd be included in the celebrations of any future children we had.
When asked about his sullen mood that day, his response was, "It's my baby too."
I'd never loved him more.
"All right, hop up here, and you can help me measure your baby," my midwife, Kate says to Jacob.
"My baby," Jacob squeals excitedly as he climbs onto the stool she set up for him. He helps her pull the tape measure out and run it over my belly, giggling as he does.
"Well, it looks like your baby is measuring right on schedule. I'd say you're on track to deliver on time. Just about another month or so." Kate's warm, reassuring smile is a comfort. And Jacob, leaning over to kiss my belly, brings one of my own to my face.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
"As Matt just mentioned, we have a breaking news story to tell you about. Apparently, a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center here in New York City. It happened just a few moments ago, apparently. We have very little information available at this point in time."
"Jacob, honey, please. Shh." Walking over I hand him a quieter toy, taking away the musical one he's been playing with all morning. "Mommy wants to hear this."
"It's okay baby." I walk back to the sofa, curling into the corner, watching the chaos unfold on the screen. The images are startling, black smoke pouring out of the sides of the building; unbelievable destruction.
The newscasters do their best to tell us what limited information they have, relying on eyewitness reports for the moment. Their startled gasps, along with the caller on air, accompany the image of another fireball erupting in the other building.
"Oh, my God," I whisper, my hand covering my mouth.
Watching the ensuing confusion and reports pouring in, I'm stunned, glued to my seat. Only the sound of knocking on my front door moves me from my spot. I get up, absentmindedly opening the door, my eyes never leaving the screen, knowing who's here for her weekly visit.
"Well, good morning. How's my girl and my favorite great-grandson?"
"Grandma, did you see this?" I ask, pointing to the television.
"I did. Oh," she says, startled. "The other tower was hit?"
"Yeah, just a little bit ago. Who would do this?" I ask with tears in my eyes.
"I don't know, sweetie. There are a lot of horrible people out there."
We both watch, Grandma less so as she plays with her 'Jakey.' For almost the next hour, we witness the scene play out on our screen. When the south tower falls, so does my heart; my thoughts with all those that just lost their lives before my eyes. Tears stream down my cheeks, and I want nothing more than to hold my son.
"Jacob? Come here, baby. Momma needs to hold you." Climbing into my lap, he snuggles close.
Later that night, after Jacob has been tucked in, and Edward is snoring softly, I can't rest; the anxiety of the day catching up with me. Quietly walking into the new baby's room, I sit in the chair and slowly rock back and forth.
Hearing about the third plane crashing somewhere in Pennsylvania caused a whole new level of anxiety, as that's where my mom and Phil are living right now. I had no idea where the crash was for a long time, and the phone lines were jammed; her cell unreachable. It was hours before I heard her voice, and by then, my stress had reached its limit.
Learning that the events of the day were deliberate acts brings me up short, staring down at the large lump beneath my shirt.
"I'm so sorry, baby girl. I'm so sorry for bringing you into this messed up world. If I had it to do over again..." The thoughts cross my mind, but I don't allow the words to pass my lips. If I had the chance to go back in time, maybe we wouldn't be having this baby. Maybe we would count our blessings and be happy with one. The future just feels so uncertain tonight, and I don't know if we're doing the right thing.
Monday, September 17, 2001
The footage seems to be on a loop everywhere you turn, including the screens here in the waiting room of Kate's office. Even late night television comedians have decided to take a break from the usual to allow the healing of our nation to begin. It's all everyone can talk about. My only concern is the pain I've been having the last twenty-four hours.
"You okay?" Edward asks, holding my hand.
"Yeah, I'm just uncomfortable. Something isn't right," I say, squirming in my seat.
"I'm sure it's nothing. Kate will take a listen and maybe get a look, and she'll tell us everything is okay. You'll see." With a reassuring kiss to my temple, he squeezes my hand.
"You hear that? Her heartbeat sounds perfect. I'd say it's a combination of Braxton Hicks and nerves. You delivered Jacob at thirty-seven weeks, which you'll reach in two days, so you're a little keyed up over getting to that point. Go home, relax, and let things happen naturally. If you're in labor, your body will let you know." She tries to reassure me, but I still feel in my gut things aren't right.
Friday, September 21, 2001
"Bella, honey, you need to relax. All this stress isn't good for the baby." Kate's words are calm, but I can tell she's trying to be patient with me.
"I just know there's something wrong, Kate. Something isn't right," I say, almost sounding panicked.
"Well, the Doppler isn't picking up anything out of the ordinary, she's moving frequently, and the non-stress test was normal. It's Friday, so go home, put your feet up, and relax. She'll be here soon, and then you'll have two of them to chase around, so your days to kick back are numbered," she says with a smile.
"Okay, I guess you're right."
"I am. Now go. And have that sexy husband of yours cook you dinner, rub your feet, and pamper you all weekend."
Monday, September 24, 2001
"Hey, what's wrong, Bella?" Edward asks over the phone.
"I'm gonna go back in and see Kate. The baby isn't moving like she should," I say just a little panicked. "I'm going to drop Jake off with Rose and head over to her office. Hopefully, I'll be back by lunchtime, and I can call you again. John was okay with you taking a break to call me back?"
"Yeah, honey, don't worry about that. Just call me when you find out what's going on. I wish I could go with you."
"No, it's okay. I just can't wait until you get home. Something isn't right, and I need to go now. I'll be okay," I say, trying to reassure myself more than him.
"Please, just... Just call the minute you know something, all right?"
"Yeah, all right."
"Love you, baby."
"I love you too, Edward."
Driving to drop Jake off at Rose's I feel like I'm on autopilot. Leaving him, I almost feel guilty, barely giving him a kiss before I run back out the door. On the drive to Kate's office, I start to question myself. I just know the moment I sit in the waiting room, I'll feel a nudge or a kick. Then I'll feel like an absolute fool for driving all this way. I've already bothered them so much lately with my unfounded worries. Passing a Taco Bell, I think of grabbing some food, or even the caffeinated soda I've denied myself my entire pregnancy, just to elicit a kick or two from my baby.
Signing in, I don't even have time to find a seat before Kate's nurse calls me back.
"So, when you called, you said that you had decreased movement?" she asks as she leads me into the exam room. I notice we've bypassed the usual scales, and went right to the room.
"Um, yeah." My hands start to sweat, and my heart starts to beat a little faster when I see the concerned look on her face.
"Well, I'm gonna have Kate come on in here, and we'll see what's going on, okay?"
Less than a minute passes when Kate comes in, a worried smile on her face. "So, you haven't felt any movement this morning?"
She busies herself with getting the Doppler ready. "So, when did you last feel anything?" She squirts the gel onto my belly and flicks on the machine.
"Um, last night," I say with a quiver in my voice.
"Okay," she whispers. I can see the furrow of her brow as she listens to the swooshes and beat of my heart, but not finding my daughter's. "All right, I'm going to drag the ultrasound machine in here, because this isn't finding anything. I'll be right back." She hurries out of the room, leaving me to my rising anxiety.
After the door closes, but doesn't latch, I hear her talking with her nurse. "I need Dr. Baker in here."
"What's wrong? Is the Doppler not working? Do you want me to-?"
"No, I can't find the heartbeat!" she says in a loud whisper. "Just get me Dr. Baker!"
My heart is pounding now, and I can feel my anxiety increase. Maybe I just need some soda or something. Yeah, that's it, I need to eat. I didn't have enough for breakfast.
Before I've had time to actually process my thoughts, Kate returns, Dr. Baker following right behind her. I've only met with him once before, several weeks ago in an 'in case you need medical intervention' meeting.
"Hello, Mrs. Cullen. So, Kate tells me you've felt reduced movement?"
"Yes," I choke out. My words are caught in my throat, my tongue feeling thick.
"Well, let's take a look, shall we?" Flicking the machine to life, he fumbles with the controls, appearing as if it's been a while since he's operated an ultrasound machine. When seconds turn into moments, and moments turn into minutes, the sigh that accompanies his sagging shoulders breaks my heart.
"I'm very sorry, but there's no heartbeat."
"Oh, Bella," Kate gasps as she wraps her arms around me.
I'm stunned silent, my world feeling as if it's crashing down around me. In those moments, hearing the doctor excuse himself, Kate still holding on to me as her nurse comes in to ask questions, surrounded by all these people, I've never felt so alone.