Lorena Patterson, like many women trying to conceive, was hopeful and imagined the day she would give birth to a sweet little babe. After a full year of trying, emotions were running high. Lorena and her husband Nathan longed to get pregnant and begin their journey as parents.
Finally, the wait was over. December 2017 is a time Lorena will never forget. Unable to wait until she made it back to the comfort of her own home, right there in the supermarket bathroom, Lorena took a pregnancy test. When you’ve been waiting so long to get pregnant, waiting another five minutes to drive home and take the test was nearly impossible. To her surprise the pregnancy test was positive. All alone in the bathroom stall, Lorena cried tears of joy and relief. It was really happening. She was pregnant! Once she composed herself Lorena headed back to the store and bought a onesie to surprise her husband and mother. Just as she was, they were equally as surprised by the wonderful news.
Pregnancy was fairly easy with bouts of cramping and one little bit of very light spotting. At their 11 week OB appointment Lorena and Nathan found out they were having a girl. They immediately knew her name was meant to be, Harper Olivia. So loved and yearned for. Harper always measured perfectly, every checkup was perfect. To put it quite simply, she was the perfect baby. Life couldn’t get any better.
Fast forward to Lorena at 30 weeks pregnant. Lorena was feeling great, the third trimester was underway, and only she only had 10 weeks left to go. At 30 weeks Lorena and Nathan attended a wedding about an hour and a half away. They left the house a tad later than they intended. Less than 10 minutes away from their house something unimaginable happened. Lorena and Nathan were in a car accident. They were hit by another car turning left from the opposite lane of traffic. Time froze as Lorena could only think about Harper. Was her baby girl going to be ok?
Lorena suffered a couple of injuries, but their precious Harper suffered the worst of it all. It took 4 days for Harper to be born. Harper was born sleeping on her father Nathan’s birthday.
“She was absolutely perfect but sadly we didn’t get to keep her.”
Life after Harper
After losing Harper Lorena’s desire to have a living child grew even stronger than before. Five months and three rounds of Femara later, Lorena and Nathan were pregnant with their rainbow baby.
“A rainbow baby is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death in infancy. This term is given to these special babies because a rainbow typically follows a storm, giving us hope of what’s to come.” Lorena Patterson also considers a baby born after a hard season for a family or even after years of trying to conceive a rainbow baby.
Their rainbow baby’s expected due date was on the same day as her big sister’s, just one year apart. There was already a connection made between Harper and her little sister. Simply amazing. The rainbow after the storm was already proving to be miraculous.
At their 11 week appointment, Lorena and Nathan found out they were expecting another girl. And just like they knew her big sister’s name right away, they knew her name: Ella Grace.
Lorena was fortunate enough to have another easy pregnancy, physically. Yet emotionally, it was the hardest 39 weeks of her life. There were days Lorena’s anxiety convinced her that Ella wasn’t going to make it. There were days Lorena checked Ella’s heartbeat with the doppler 3 times just to put her at ease.
Her anxiety subsided when she was finally able to feel Ella consistently move. While it did calm down, her anxiety was still there, all the time, weighing on her. There was not a moment that Lorena did not worry and think about “what if”, “will everything be ok”, and “why me”.
She couldn’t stand when people told her everything was going to be alright, “How can they know and would they have told me otherwise when I was pregnant with Harper?” Those simple words only made her worse, not better. In a time when Lorena needed to be lifted up it was frustrating to feel down and low.
As Lorena reached the 37-week mark her anxiety soared. She was convinced Ella was safer on the outside and cried every single day in fear that she wouldn’t make it. Lorena rehearsed ways to ask her doctor to give a membrane strip or just induce her. At 39 weeks and 1 day, her doctor scheduled her for an induction.
A rainbow baby was born
The time had finally come. After a long and anxiety-ridden pregnancy, Lorena would bring her sweet Ella into the world. Following suit and giving Lorena more challenges, induction was not easy considering it took 15 hours. Thankfully, Lorena pushed for about 10 minutes and Ella Grace was born. Even still, Lorena didn’t believe that she’d get to keep her until Ella was on her chest crying.
Ella Grace entered the world and the world for Lorena and Nathan Patterson never felt the same again.
“I feel like I was holding my breath and that I could finally exhale after 39 weeks! It was one of the best moments in my life, and she has definitely healed so many of my fears.”
Rainbow baby announcement
Lorena and Nathan introduced their rainbow baby, Ella Grace, to the world wrapped in her beautiful Jayla’s watercolor rainbow swaddle from Audrey & Bear and Bella’s painted peonies, too! Ella also snuggled up and posed with a special teddy bear that wore her big sister Harpers t-shirt that read, “Big Sister.”
“Our beautiful, wonderful, perfect, half-american girl.”
Lorena found Audrey & Bear when she was pregnant with Harper. Like many mamas, she just knew she wanted something with her name on it. She ordered the vintage floral swaddle with a navy-blue background for Harper. Harper’s Audrey & Bear swaddle was the only swaddle that ever hugged her body, and Lorena was so happy to have something that was made specially for her so they could take pictures during the 5 hours they got to hold their daughter.
The Pattersons also loved that the swaddle they purchased meant a swaddle was donated to the NICU, especially since Nathan was a NICU baby. Giving back was very important to them, after everything they’ve endured.
When the time came that Lorena and Nathan found out they were pregnant again, they knew they would be ordering one for their rainbow baby. Once they found out it was a girl, Lorena already knew what she wanted. Bella’s painted peonies customized with rainbow colors and Jayla’s watercolor rainbow, of course with the mommy robe to match. It was perfect for Ella Grace and matched her nursery, too!
Pregnancy after loss
When Lorena and Nathan found out they were pregnant again, they were already in counseling. It was a tremendous help; however, Lorena really wanted to have private therapy sessions on her own. She found a wonderful trauma therapist that still helps her to this very day.
“Grief doesn’t end, the longing for my daughter will never end, so coping with it and being ok with the pain is just a part of who I am now.”
Without a support system, experiences like Lorena’s and Nathan’s are simply not manageable. Nathan has been a tremendous support for Lorena. After the accident and throughout Ella Grace’s entire pregnancy, Nathan has been incredibly protective of Lorena.
The Pattersons received an outpouring of support from members of their church community, friends, and family. They felt so comforted and loved during the hardest of times. They love being able to share Ella with many of them through Facebook and Instagram.
On the contrary, there were many people that the Pattersons knew meant well, but said things that were hurtful and didn’t help at all. They heard a lot of people say “this was god’s plan” and “He knows what He does.” Hearing those words were incredibly hurtful. Lorena and Nathan believe that God knows what is going to happen, but not that He planned that their daughter was going to die.
“I believe that He grieved with me, and supported me, and gave me peace when I needed it. He surrounded me with people that could help me. God never promised us a life without suffering, so I don’t think He could have saved her.”
Lorena believes there are so many circumstances that make us lose hope or doubt that God has good things in store for us, but these rainbow babies help remind us that there is so much good in our lives. Watch another Rainbow Baby Story.
Advice for women pregnant with a rainbow baby
Through all of their hardships and the best of times, Lorena and Nathan have learned more than they ever imagined in their lifetime. Now it’s their time and calling to support and care for others, and they offer this advice:
- Find a doctor that listens to your concerns and understands the anxiety of pregnancy after loss.
- Look for people that have gone through what you’ve gone through and can help you navigate through the tough parts.
- Understand that it's ok, and healthy to grieve incredible losses. If you're struggling with this, please read this article: Stages of Grieving
- It is unfortunate, but if you have been through it, you know that not every positive pregnancy test ends with a baby in your arms.
- Speak up for yourself, especially with loved ones, and don’t be afraid to ask them to refrain from doing or saying things that make you uncomfortable. “I had to ask dear friends of mine to stop telling me that everything was going to be ok, because it made me feel like they were oversimplifying pregnancy.”
Love to all
Sending love to all the rainbow babies near and far, to their families and loved ones. You are all longed for and loved more than you can ever possibly know. Thank you is simply not enough for letting Audrey & Bear play a small part in celebrating the lives of your rainbow babies.
Forever and always, the rainbow after the storm. Bringing hope, light and peace into our worlds.