All About Rainbow Babies
What is a Rainbow Baby?
A rainbow baby is an extra special blessing. This baby comes to you after the devastating heartbreak of a miscarriage, stillbirth, infant or neonatal loss. Just like a real rainbow, it’s a bright spot during an otherwise dark and gloomy time. Becoming pregnant after loss is a whirlwind of emotions--from gratitude to fear, joy to grief, and more.
Losing a baby at any stage is an indescribable loss. Emotions run the grief gammit as they do with any loss, and Kubler-Ross’ Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) still apply, but with a few caveats. When a mother loses a baby she was carrying, there can sometimes be the added component of guilt or blame. She feels responsible. When I lost my first baby, I blamed myself. What was wrong with my body? Did I eat the wrong things? Did I worry too much? That additional emotional obstacle to overcome made it difficult for me to want to get pregnant again. I was, of course, worried that the same thing would happen with that pregnancy.
Other moms are eager to try again and get pregnant right away. They want to overshadow their heartbreak with hope and love. They will never forget their lost baby, of course, but having a “rainbow” to focus on after their loss feels like the right thing to do for them. Whatever you are feeling is okay. Each person works through his/her loss in their own way.
Pregnancy with a Rainbow Baby
Being pregnant with a rainbow baby feels like an enormous gift. After experiencing such a tremendous loss, it encompasses many joy-filled emotions. However, it can still be a stressful time for mama. She is likely cautiously optimistic, but her previous loss(es) may put a damper on the pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my rainbow baby, I was a nervous wreck. At first, I was reluctant to get my hopes up or get too attached to her, having experienced 2 miscarriages prior. The thing is though, as mamas, we can’t control our love for our babies. It’s natural and part of our maternal instinct to love them from the moment they are conceived. I could have tried to protect my heart with all my might, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Rather than remember that pregnancy as one full of anxiety, I did something about it.
As soon as I was able to hear her heartbeat with an external monitoring device (similar to this one from Neeva Baby), I rented one. For me, it was so comforting to be able to check for her heartbeat anytime I was nervous about the pregnancy. Then I had immediate reassurance and could go about my day. Eventually, I got past the extreme nervousness and was able to enjoy the second half of my pregnancy. The point is, do whatever YOU need to do to be able to embrace your rainbow baby. There is no right or wrong way to cope.
If you are pregnant with a rainbow baby and are nervous to get too attached or become too hopeful, I think you may be fighting a losing battle. Your love for that baby is uncontrollable. So power through the scary parts with hope, take care of yourself, and do whatever you need to do to feel happy--and even excited--about your pregnancy.
Parenting a Rainbow Baby
Parents of a rainbow baby may approach parenting differently than they do their other children. Eva from Happily Eva After (a rainbow mama) says, “The truth is, after suffering our loss, a child’s life feels more fragile to me than it did when I was parenting my firstborn...”. I think many rainbow mamas would agree (I do!). We realize that the longevity of our children’s lives is not guaranteed, which affects how we discipline, and how much time we spend worrying (hello, postpartum anxiety). Other parents describe wavering between extreme gratitude for a healthy baby, and guilt for feeling happiness. Again, everyone is different and any emotions you may experience are okay.
Celebrating a Rainbow Baby
Regardless of your journey, a rainbow baby is worth celebrating in whatever way makes you most comfortable.
Send a rainbow pregnancy announcement to your friends and family letting them know when you are expecting the arrival of your baby.
Send out invitations to a birthday party … for your baby! It will be so far in advance that your friends and family will quickly get the message.
- Take a picture of your current youngest child in his or her crib with a sign announcing their upcoming eviction.
- Have your current baby pose with a sign announcing their promotion to big sister or brother.
- Grab a rainbow baby onesie for the baby to wear home from the hospital or for a special rainbow baby announcement. If you know someone who is pregnant with their rainbow child, this is the perfect heartfelt gift.
- You can have a rainbow baby shower or special celebratory meal with family to welcome and honor your rainbow baby.
- Keep a Rainbow Baby Pregnancy Journal to remember every moment.
- If I was pregnant with my rainbow baby today, I would want to have a Mother’s Blessing or Mother’s Circle, where all of the amazing women in my life would come together to share their love, wisdom and support.
- Plan a special rainbow baby pregnancy photo shoot.
As many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage (some of which mothers don’t even know about). To be able to become pregnant again feels like the greatest of all gifts. Enduring a rainbow pregnancy and delivering a healthy rainbow baby are special experiences, ones that I am personally grateful for. If you are in the thick of loss, and hoping for your rainbow baby, you are not alone. I’m sending you so much love, from one mama to another.
This post was written in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and all of the angel babies and their families.