As a mother of two, and a passionate enthusiast of all things birthing, baby, and motherhood, I was struck to the core when my best friend called me with tears in her eyes and grief in heart to tell me that she lost the baby boy in her belly that she had prayed for for years. For months now, we have grieved the loss of this beautiful life, and I have remained hopeful that I will be greeted with the news of a rainbow baby soon.
What is a rainbow baby?
This might prompt you to wonder what a rainbow baby is and the significance rainbow babies hold for parents who have suffered loss. The term rainbow baby is used to describe a healthy baby born after the loss of a baby by miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth or neonatal death, including ectopic pregnancy.
The rainbow symbol has become well know in motherhood support groups, on social media, and among the pregnancy loss community to bring awareness about mother’s who experience the extremely emotional loss of their first baby, usually by miscarriage, and are then greeted by the arrival of a healthy pregnancy. For parents to be, this beautiful rainbow baby has brought a tremendous sense of hope and immense joy after what can be compared to a long and dismal storm.
As a part of the baby products community, I have had the opportunity to meet many parents who have become pregnant with a rainbow baby, and the birth of each new baby has touched me, brought hope, and given new life to parents after devastating loss.
What types of infant loss can lead to a rainbow pregnancy
Infant loss is a sad reality for many families who have waited and tried for a baby, then become pregnant only to lose their pregnancy for various reasons. A miscarriage and a stillbirth are both types of pregnancy loss, but are termed differently depending on how many weeks gestation the pregnancy is.
Stillbirth, or neonatal death, occurs when a babies death is before or at birth, but after 20 weeks gestation, and a miscarriage occurs during early pregnancy, and before the 20th week of gestation. Although babies death occurs at different stages of gestation, any loss of a child causes a great deal of pain and sorrow within a family.
When my best friend lost her baby, there weren’t words to describe the tremendous sense of loss. Baby Noah was suffering a rare chromosomal disorder that prevented his organs from developing, and he was not able to get proper nutrients or blood flow. As a result, baby was stillborn. Those tiny finger and toe prints taken at birth will remain in my memory forever. He was a precious baby born, but did not survive.
Rainbow babies can help us honor our angel baby
Many parents have to work through the emotional time of losing their angel baby, but a rainbow baby can bring great hope, and helps parents to honor their loss by remembering the death of their child while still celebrating their rainbow baby.
Rainbow babies born after miscarriage or stillbirth often hold a special place in their parents hearts because they now know the loss of a child and have felt the void, but their new baby has showed them that hope is alive. And that after the storm clouds dissipate, a beautiful rainbow emerges.
Expecting a rainbow baby after pregnancy loss can have mixed emotions
Although parents and family members expecting a rainbow baby experience great joy as they patiently wait for baby’s arrival, this can also be an emotional time as parents may still be mourning their previous pregnancy. Oftentimes rainbow babies bring conflicting emotions as pregnant parents work through how deeply their previous loss affected them. Parents can feel especially emotional during the third trimester of pregnancy, as delivery day approaches.
If you are a parent or family member of someone expecting a rainbow baby, it is important to give grace and room for parents to explore strong feelings and mixed emotions with a new pregnancy after such a loss. Rainbow baby pregnancy is “often emotionally complex and involves feelings of grief and guilt along with relief, excitement, and elation.”
Monitoring for mental health is very important during this time, to ensure mom-to-be stays safe, and to ensure a healthy baby is born. If you are expecting a rainbow baby, and you are struggling with strong feelings, it is important to contact a support group, mental health professional, or to seek help from a family member or friend who can support you during pregnancy.
There are also great resources available online for parents who have suffered miscarriage or infant loss, are pregnant with a rainbow baby and would like to reach out to others, or to share their rainbow baby story, talk about their own miscarriage, current pregnancy, previous baby, and infant loss. As parents of rainbow babies, it is important to work through any tough emotions. Here is a great resource, among many:
Caring for your rainbow baby during pregnancy
There are several ways to ensure that you have a rainbow baby that is born happy, healthy, and full term. Pregnancy after miscarriage can be scary and filled with anxiety, but you can have a successful rainbow baby pregnancy by staying up to date with your healthcare provider and connecting with other parents to support one another. Here are some ways that you can stay on top of your pregnancy to ensure a child born healthy:
- Ask your healthcare provider for options for genetic testing/monitoring.
- Begin fetal kick counts at 28 weeks to ensure babies movement is on schedule throughout the third trimester.
- Follow your doctor appointment schedule and ask questions you might have about your babies development or gestational milestones.
- Seek help from a mental health professional if needed.
Why are rainbow babies so special
Just like all rainbows emerge after a storm, so does the rainbow baby. A great joy and reminder that little miracles happen every day. The rainbow is a natural phenomenon, brought on by Mother Nature after the darkness of a storm, and it is a symbol of peace, rebirth, and hope. These are the comforts a new mother needs after a devastating experience, and a loss of life that holds immeasurable value to her.
How to be an emotional support for friends and family members of rainbow pregnancies
As mentioned, rainbow pregnancy comes with a lot of mixed emotions. It is important to validate those feelings, and to remember the life lost while still celebrating those who are pregnant with their rainbow baby. Ways we can help family/friends on the journey:
- Listen to their story.
- Celebrate their pregnancy.
- Remind them that every pregnancy is different.
- Encourage them to stay positive and anxiety free.
Although my friend is still waiting for her rainbow baby, there are so many ways to support her on the journey. Sometimes this includes not saying anything at all. Becoming pregnant with a rainbow baby can be very difficult for some who have experienced loss of pregnancy, infertility, or who have undergone procedures due to the previous pregnancy. Supporting, loving, encouraging our friends and family is the best way to honor their journey.
If you have suffered loss, or are pregnant with your rainbow baby and wish to share the story of your journey, we’d love to hear from you. We know that each story is unique, and every baby born should be celebrated.