Imagine being in the middle of the worst storm possible.
This is what it feels like to a parent who has lost a baby. You lose a child that has brought so much joy into your life and you do not know how you will pick up the pieces. It is a feeling that no one else understands unless they have been through it before as well.
You may have lost your baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Either way, you still feel this dark emptiness. You may feel as though you will not be able to move on. You may wonder if you will be happy again. You may feel guilty for thinking these thoughts, but there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty, these thoughts are completely normal for what you are going through.
After going through the worst imaginable pain that a parent can experience and picking up the broken pieces, you look up in the sky and there, shining brightly is the most beautiful rainbow you have ever seen. That is the miracle of getting pregnant after a loss.
In this article, I will be covering the following topics about rainbow babies:
- What is a rainbow baby?
- Emotions when welcoming a rainbow baby.
- Why rainbow babies are special.
- Parenting a rainbow baby.
- Helping families with a rainbow baby
- Online resources.
What is a Rainbow Baby?
You may have only heard the term “rainbow baby” more recently, as it has started gaining recognition. The phrase “rainbow baby” refers to a healthy birth after having lost an infant due to a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or death of an infant.
You might wonder why the term “rainbow baby” was chosen. When you lose an infant, in any circumstance, it is the worst feeling a parent can have. You feel as though you are in a dark storm all alone, even though you are not alone. When you find out you are pregnant after having lost a baby, it is a piece of hope, which is represented by a rainbow after a dark and stormy time.
In the past, infant loss was a taboo topic of conversation. Women were made to feel as though they had to hold their feelings inside and not discuss what they were going through. More recently, society has begun to make infant loss a more acceptable topic to discuss. Infant loss is a very real issue and needs to be discussed.
Mothers that have lost a child whether it was through a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or infant death, need a support system of other women who have gone through the same situation.
Due to society making a push for the normalization of talking about and supporting mothers who have lost a baby, the phrase “rainbow baby” has gained popularity as rainbows are now viewed as a representation of hope and healing.
We, as a community, need to continue to push for more normalization of discussing infant loss. We need to continue to push for more support for mothers who have lost an infant. We need to continue to create resources for mothers who have lost babies. This is just the beginning of normalizing infant loss and rainbow babies.
Emotions When Welcoming a Rainbow Baby
While being pregnant after the loss of a baby may seem like a happy time, there is a multitude of mixed emotions that can come instead.
You may feel excited that you are pregnant. You may feel worried about the health of this baby, the pregnancy, and the birth itself. You may feel guilty for being excited about getting a new baby. You may feel sorrow thinking about the infant you lost. You may go through the feelings of loss again as you think about and remember the baby that was lost.
Regardless, the first thing you need to know is that you have every right to feel any and all of these feelings (and possibly more). It is best to not keep these feelings bottled up. You need to find a way to communicate these feelings.
This could be by finding a support group to join. It could be talking with your significant other. Chances are they are feeling the same way, or they are feeling something completely different and need someone to talk with as well. It could be seeking out professional help from a counselor.
Whatever way works for you, talking about how you are feeling and what you are feeling is not only healthy for you but for your babies, both unborn and your angel baby watching over you.
Secondly, you are not alone in this. Although you may feel alone in what you are going through, infant loss is more common than what society reveals. It is becoming more and more common to talk out about infant loss and rainbow babies now.
Women who have or are going through this, are realizing that it is no longer a taboo subject and that talking about how they are feeling or what they have gone through not only helps them but also helps others going through the same loss.
Lastly, women who have exposure to infant loss in some capacity are at a greater probability of encountering postpartum depression. Along with postpartum depression, women who have experienced infant loss are also at a larger risk for encountering postpartum anxiety as well.
This is all understandable with everything they have gone through. This is why it is imperative that you find an outlet for your feelings.
Why Rainbow babies are special
Rainbow babies are special because they are valuable reminders. They remind their parents to enjoy every moment. They remind their parents of their sibling who was lost. They remind their parents that they are the rainbow after the storm.
When your rainbow baby is older, tell them your story of loss and how important they are as your rainbow baby. Clearly, every child is special. When they are old enough, let your rainbow baby know why they are extra special.
One great idea that you could do is to let your rainbow child help you come up with a way to honor their sibling that has passed. You could plant a tree together for their sibling. You could name a star after their sibling. You could create a rock garden or fairy garden together in memory of their sibling. You could get a stepping stone kit and decorate one in their siblings’ memory. Do something to help you both heal.
Parenting a Rainbow Baby
Parenting a rainbow baby is different from parenting other children. As mentioned earlier, you will experience many emotions. You may love this little bundle of joy differently, not more, but differently. They are your light at the end of a very long dark tunnel. They are your rainbow after a very dark storm. They are your hope after a loss.
You may feel more excited and joyful at everything your rainbow baby does or experiences. You may feel extreme sadness and grief that the infant that you lost will never be able to have these same experiences. You may feel very nervous and anxious over your new rainbow baby due to fear of what could happen. You may feel guilty for feeling happy or excited with your rainbow baby. There are so many other emotions you may feel…be prepared that they could hit at any time.
Do not hide any feelings you experience while parenting your rainbow baby by yourself inside. Share your feelings with whoever you feel comfortable with. Share with a close friend. Share with your significant other. Share with a support group. Share with a professional. Everything you are feeling is normal for the situation you are in and have been in.
Most support available out there are for mothers of rainbow babies. Let’s not forget the fathers as well. Grieving fathers may not have carried the baby for the duration of the pregnancy, but they were there every step of the way. They felt the same emotions as mothers.
I believe most of the support available is directed towards mothers because they are the ones that carried the baby during pregnancy. Mothers had the special bond of feeling the baby move and being with their baby 24/7.
An infant loss is not only huge for mothers, but for fathers as well. Dads are usually expected to be the strong ones and to be there to care for the mothers. But we have to remember that dad’s grieve as well. Dads need support just like grieving mothers.
Grieving fathers should not be expected to be part of a support system for mothers without a support system for themselves. Many grieving fathers feel guilty for feeling just as upset as grieving mothers because they did not actually carry the baby or create a special bond with the baby.
Nevertheless, grieving fathers have every right to feel every emotion that grieving mothers experience. They need to make sure they are reaching out for support as well. They should not be expected to keep their feelings inside. Below I have shared a resource specifically for grieving fathers, make sure to check it out.
Helping Families with Rainbow Babies
Not only are mothers and fathers experiencing the loss of an infant and welcoming a new infant, but their whole family is also too. You may be a friend or family member looking for ideas on how to help the family. The ideas are endless.
When the family has lost an infant, it is hard for everyone to grasp. You could buy books to help them through this hard time. Some great books include I Love You Still: A Memorial Baby Book; Empty Cradle, Broken Heart; Angel Book: A Baby Loss Journal; My Sibling Still; Where Are You? A child’s book about loss. These are just a few of many books you can find for mothers, fathers, families, and children going through a loss.
You could set up a meal train for the family. Helping to provide meals for the family would be a huge help, it is one less thing the family has to worry about. There are websites such as: Give InKind and Meal Train that help you set up a meal train for the family. You can create a signup sheet for certain days and times. You can even make notes of allergies or favorite meals.
You could offer to help around their house. Who wouldn’t love to have someone clean or do laundry for them, especially during such a hard time? If they have other children, offer to take their child(ren) out to do something fun such as going to the park, getting ice cream, going to the movies, out to the zoo, or a craft class. I am sure children going through this need something to take their mind off of it and I am sure mom and dad would appreciate the help as well.
When all else fails? Just ask what you can do to help.
With everything you have gone through, you will need resources to help steer you in the right direction. The following resources are to help you through your loss as well as welcoming your amazing rainbow baby.
Below are resources for mothers to share their stories, resources for grieving fathers (who tend to get put on the back burner), resources for families, and much more. Please keep in mind that there are plenty of other resources out there, these are just to get you started.
- You can share your story of loss on the March of Dimes website. They have many other resources to help as well. They have ideas of how to remember the infant you lost, support groups, and blogs.
- The Compassionate Friends has plenty of resources as well. There is a conference you can attend. They have support groups and online communities that you can join. There are many blogs. They have a crisis hotline as well.
- Grieving fathers can try this Facebook support group. This is a group for grieving fathers that was started by a grieving father himself.
- PALS is a great resource for women trying to conceive or are pregnant after losing a baby.
- The Heart does a lot of volunteering. They have many resources such as articles, groups, art activities, and they offer comfort kits as well.
- Grieve Out Loud has a pen pal program, so you can get paired up with someone who has gone or is going through what you have. It is a great support system, so you do not feel alone.
- In case you need something to do to help you through everything, I am Fruitful is an online coloring book to help those going through infant loss.
- NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep) is full of resources of volunteer photographers who will come to the hospital/hospice to take photos of you and your family at no cost.
- Molly Bears are teddy bears made to weigh what your infant weighed. These teddy bears are created by a fellow mother who dealt with the loss of a baby.
Do not forget that although you may feel alone in this situation, you are not alone. 1 in 4 women experiences some form of infant loss. There are other women going through or have gone through the same circumstances you are.
It may take a while for you to feel comfortable talking to someone about your feelings, which is completely normal and totally understandable with what you have gone through. Just know that there is always someone to talk to about your feelings.