For all my fellow moms and dads who are members of the Rainbow Baby Club: This post is for you.
If you’ve never experienced a pregnancy loss, chances are the term “rainbow baby” might not be familiar to you. If you know all too well what a rainbow baby is, know that you’re not alone.
Rainbow baby is the term used to describe a baby who is born after a miscarriage, pregnancy loss, or stillbirth. It signifies beauty and happiness (a rainbow) after something so dark and terrible. I have an 8-month-old rainbow baby and let me tell you, she is my brightest sunshine and the light I needed after going through the darkest, stormiest time in my life.
I knew it was possible (even common) for women to miscarry, and I’d been familiar with the term rainbow baby for quite some time, but it wasn’t until after I experienced my own miscarriage that I realized just how common both were (miscarriages and rainbow babies), and how many people I know that have had one. I’ve said it before when I shared about our experience with infertility, high-risk pregnancies, and loss, but growing up, you [I] pretty much think it’s easy to get pregnant, be pregnant, and then you have a happy and healthy baby. Unfortunately, the reality is that one in four women have a miscarriage. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10 to 25 percent of pregnancies result in a spontaneous loss. I fall in that percentage.
Here’s what I can tell you.
I can tell you that losing a baby is one of the most heartbreaking experiences one can ever endure and something that I would never wish on my worst enemy. Miscarriage, pregnancy, and infancy loss look different for everyone and I can only speak to my own story, but I can guarantee you that none of them are easy — mentally, physically, or emotionally. I lost my baby at 16 weeks due to my water breaking as a result of an incompetent cervix, gave birth to him 24 hours later, and held him in my arms. It. Was. Devastating. I thought I could never heal from that pain. The thought of trying again seemed impossible because the thought of going through that ever again was paralyzing. But I also knew that we wanted a second child.
I can tell you that pregnancy following a miscarriage is nerve-wracking, full of emotions, and anxiety-ridden. Added to a high-risk pregnancy, it was the longest eight months of my life. Every twinge, every unfamiliar feeling or symptom made me crazy. Even when I tried not to think about it or turn to Dr. Google, I’d find myself thinking of all of the possible terrible outcomes. I couldn’t help it.
I can tell you that as terrifying as that next pregnancy is, it’s also insanely special. I found myself embracing the morning sickness and my growing waistline. Feeling each kick sent an instant smile across my face. Even having to get weekly injections to help prevent preterm labor and everything else that came along with my difficult pregnancy was celebrated since it meant making it another week further in the pregnancy.
I can tell you that making it to that milestone week, the one that you weren’t fortunate enough to make it to last time, is such a relieving feeling. A little more glimmer of hope coming with each one.
I can tell you that it is absolutely possible to feel guilt for being pregnant again, yet somehow, you find yourself mourning the loss of a baby while feeling hope and excitement about the baby on the way at the same time. It’s a very strange mix of emotions, and at times I wasn’t sure which emotion was causing my tears.
I can tell you that telling my 4-year-old daughter we lost the baby was awful. Terrible. She was heartbroken, too, and tried so hard to understand. I can also tell you that sharing the news of the following pregnancy with her was almost just as hard. She was so nervous and skeptical my entire pregnancy, while still very excited to be a big sister. (But that moment she finally met her baby sister was incredible.)
I can tell you that when I was lying in the hospital bed being induced to have my rainbow baby, I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to being in the hospital giving birth to my lifeless baby, praying for a healthy birth while also feeling guilty about it all.
I can tell you the feeling of joy, relief, and pure and utter happiness when I heard her first cry is something I will never forget. I just let out the loudest ugly cry and breathed the biggest breath I think I ever have. That feeling of holding her in my arms and seeing her eyes look up at mine will live rent-free in my head for as long as I live. It was the most calm and peace I have ever known.
I can tell you that having a baby after a loss doesn’t make that pain go away, it just makes it easier to live with. Eventually, that angel baby just becomes a part of you, and at times can even bring a smile to your face in remembrance and knowing you have a guardian angel.
I can tell you that the feeling of guilt is normal, but it will subside. At first, I felt guilty for being pregnant, then for having a successful pregnancy, then for a successful delivery and baby, and then for loving my baby so much. I didn’t want my baby boy (or anyone else, honestly) to think I’d forgotten about him or that he was replaced.
I can tell you that I cherish every moment so differently. I embrace the middle-of-the-night wakings, the times when she’s clinging only to mom, the sleepless nights and never-ending days, the leaking breasts, and the body that is so unfamiliar… because I know what all I went through to get to this place and it is all so, so worth it.
I can tell you that there’s something about a rainbow baby that is just so freaking special. It’s like they knew you’d experienced something dark and awful, and were put there in your life to bring the light back. Their smiles warm your heart just a tiny bit differently. The way their little hand touches your cheek just lets you know that all is okay. It really is a love like no other.
I can tell you that rainbow babies were sent here from up above, and truly are miracles.
If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant with your rainbow baby and having a tough time mentally, know that it does get easier. I know people say that, but it really does. If you need help coping, I recommend doing something to honor the baby you lost so you can still have them with you every day. Plant a tree or flowers that you can watch grow, or find something that you can see every day as a gentle reminder. For me, it’s a wind chime and a peace lily plant, both of which were gifted to us after we lost our baby, and both still bring me smiles daily. I love hearing the wind chime when I step out my front door or through the window on a breezy day. I’ve also never kept a plant alive longer than a few months, yet somehow my lily is growing beautifully still 1.5 years later. Taking care of it gives me peace and allows me to smile and think of my angel baby Beck every day.
If you are a part of the Rainbow Baby Club, just know that there are a lot of us who understand what you went through or are going through. All of our stories are different, but we all endured a lot of pain and heartache followed by unconditional happiness and love. And if you are a rainbow baby yourself, know how special you are. Know that you helped repair a heart and heal a wound. Know that you made all of the pain worth it and are so loved. I can’t wait for my rainbow baby girl to know the impact she had on our lives and our families’, and the sunshine she brought after our storm.