A rainbow baby is one who is born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss—named for the hope of a rainbow after a storm. The subject of infant mortality and loss is certainly not new, but more and more women are choosing to share their stories, for various reasons including just processing their own grief. The result, intentional or not, is a lessening of the stigma around discussing such things openly which can be helpful for many others who now realize they are not alone in their feelings.
For Jessica Kreigh, the journey to her first daughter and her rainbow baby was long, and one that she only made it through with support of her girlfriends, online support, and fellow “rainbow mamas.”
Jessica and her husband, Dustin, of Fishers, were married in September of 2014, and they initially weren’t too concerned about their future attempts to conceive. Jessica had just started her job as a Certified Surgical Technologist with IU Health cardiovascular, and without having family medical leave right away they decided to wait to try.
“We weren’t necessarily preventing pregnancy but we were really trying to be responsible and make sure that we would have coverage,” said Jessica. “We kind of weren’t too worried about it that first year.” But after being unable to get pregnant with multiple rounds of Clomid and four IUI’s they decided to pursue IVF. Their first round of IVF in 2017 resulted in no viable embryos. In their second round of IVF, they transferred three embryos and had one remaining at their 10-week ultrasound.
Jessica’s first pregnancy was relatively uncomplicated — until it wasn’t. The morning of September 15, 2017 she went for a regular doctor’s appointment at 23 weeks pregnant and then met a friend downtown for lunch. “And that was kind of when my nightmare started.” Jessica began losing blood and though doctors tried to stop it, she went into labor.
Emilia Paige Kreigh was born on September 17, 2017 at just 23 weeks and two days gestation. Emmy lived for 10 days in the NICU. “That experience is hard to explain. You’re in a fog; just a constant rollercoaster.” According to research in a 2015 OBG Management study, the survival rate of a micro-preemie born at 23 weeks is just 33%.
Through this incredibly difficult time, Jessica found one coping mechanism in art. During her six-week bereavement leave, she came to a point where she wanted a distraction. “I started making little drawings and paintings for some of my close friends,” she said. “And I realized it was bringing color back to my life.” Jessica shared her artwork on Instagram, started taking custom orders and was even given the opportunity to display her artwork at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company downtown.
In the spring of 2018, the Kreighs started trying for another baby with their third round of IVF, which also resulted in poor egg quality. “I don’t think I was in the right mind frame yet anyway,” said Jessica. “I believe stress can have an effect on your ability to conceive.” In 2019, Jessica and Dustin went through their fourth round of IVF, which resulted in their daughter Paige, born on September 16, 2019.
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Jessica’s pregnancy with Paige was definitely colored with sadness after the loss of Emmy. She and her doctor agreed that she should remain on Zoloft, which she had been prescribed after losing Emmy. “It helped me tremendously with pregnancy after loss. I know it’s not for everyone, but I don’t think I would’ve been able to cope.”
Jessica explained that in a pregnancy after infant loss, there are many milestones that were probably taken for granted before, but each one is nerve wracking to get through. “I entered every doctor’s appointment with fear,” she said. But still, there were great moments of joy, especially thanks to the incredible support system she found in the days and weeks after losing Emmy.
“My support came from so many different sources,” said Jessica. She was open to almost anything that people suggested for support both in the days after Emmy and during her pregnancy with Paige. She tried acupuncture, saw a grief counselor, and received wonderful support from close girlfriends as well as from women online.
“I can’t explain the presence of social media,” Jessica said. “I don’t know that I would have been able to survive without them.” She even had several women come to Emmy’s celebration of life who were only internet friends previously. Her journey has brought her into many different circles online, including infertility/trying to conceive, a rainbow pregnancy, and now as a mother to an infant, and they all have supported her in different ways.
Jessica hopes that the transparency and humor in her own social media feeds have helped other women in need of encouragement. “I hope that I can provide a beacon of hope to others, especially those who are trying or in their rainbow pregnancy.”
On facing her grief and moving forward, Jessica said, “I hate the term, ‘get over it.’ You don’t ever ‘get over it’ but you can push through. Your grief is going to stick with you for the rest of your life. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Emmy, and some days are harder than others.”
As for the future, Jessica looks forward to telling Paige about her big sister, Emmy. “She’ll always be a presence in our lives,” she said. “I will tell her that she was incredibly special and she made a huge impact on so many people’s lives.”
Marissa Johnson is a Pendleton-based freelance writer who loves reading, social media trends and spending time with her one-year-old rainbow baby boy, Parker.