When you see that second pink line on a pregnancy test, your whole life transforms in the blink of an eye. Having a baby is an experience unlike any other in your lifetime, and you are filled with joy, hope, and expectation. Alongside this joy though, comes the fear of miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of the baby you’ve dreamed about so fervently.
You may have seen beautiful pictures of babies draped in rainbow wraps or mothers proudly displaying rainbow T-shirts, clothing, and other memorabilia, but never really understood what they were talking about. What exactly is a ” rainbow baby?”
What is a Rainbow Baby?
A rainbow baby is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby. A pregnancy loss could be a miscarriage or a stillbirth (which is typically defined as a baby that has passed away after 20 weeks). The baby that the parents have after the pregnancy that was a loss is called a rainbow baby. Just like the light of a rainbow only appears after the darkness of a rainy sky, a rainbow baby happens after the pain of a loss.
What to Expect If You Are Expecting a Rainbow Baby
Having a baby soon after losing one brings a slew of emotions, and many rainbow moms will tell you that not all are positive emotions. Many mothers who have weathered the loss and gone on to have another baby feel a tremendous sense of self-doubt and guilt at times. They fear that others will think they have gotten over their previous loss, or that they have moved on or replaced their baby. They fear that having a rainbow baby after stillbirth in some way dishonors their baby who has passed and that the joy of the next baby will prevent the mother from properly grieving.
If you are pregnant with a rainbow baby, you will probably experience a lot of different emotions. Many women will have fear and anxiety during their pregnancies after a loss and worry that they will have another miscarriage or that something may be wrong with the baby.
Talking with a doctor who knows your history and asking for certain accommodations, such as working with an ultrasound tech who will be sensitive to your fears, can be helpful. Some women may choose not to disclose their pregnancies to avoid difficult conversations and other women may want to let her family and friends know early on in her pregnancy for emotional support throughout the journey. Every woman is different and what you tell others about your pregnancy is entirely up to you.
The mom’s grief will not necessarily end with the arrival of a rainbow baby.
The significance of a rainbow baby
Pregnancy losses can be devastating, but most women go on to mother again. In doing so, they face the complicated emotional journey of mothering after a miscarriage or stillbirth.
How to Support Your Partner
It’s important to maintain an open line of communication throughout her pregnancy. You may not have physically experienced pregnancy, but the loss was still yours and it’s healthy to discuss how the loss of the pregnancy may have affected you and how you are feeling now.
- Offer unconditional support – Listen without offering advice or suggesting that she feel any one way about her loss or her rainbow pregnancy.
- Honor her as a mother – Remember that she feels like a mother even though her baby is no longer here. Embracing her motherhood may be important and healing for her. Even for mamas who miscarry early in pregnancy, their identity as a mother cannot be erased after a loss.
- Know that grief is an ongoing, lifelong process – Don’t expect mamas to stop grieving a pregnancy loss once a rainbow baby arrives. Resist saying things like “you’ll get pregnant again” or “you’ll have another baby” to comfort her.
Navigating grief and remembering the loss
As time passes, it’s important for many parents to honor and certain dates associated with pregnancy loss. Due dates, birth dates, and death anniversaries are especially poignant. Grief knows no timeline. Many families will choose to acknowledge these dates and the existence of their angel baby long after a loss occurs.
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