What is a rainbow baby? Behind a quiet tragedy parents don’t talk about enough
If you know the term ‘rainbow baby’, then it’s likely you, or someone you know, has experienced a neonatal death.
• A rainbow baby is a child born after stillbirth, miscarriage, or other neonatal death
• Whilst some parents naturally feel guilt and grief, rainbow babies ultimately bring joy and healing
• With guidance and support, you can embrace this miraculous experience
Pregnancy is the start of an incredible adventure, and as with any adventure, there are highs and lows, and twists and turns. Sadly, this means that not all pregnancies end with a healthy child. Trauma, illness, or other circumstances can cause a deadly storm for the baby – which lead to the term “rainbow baby” being coined for a healthy child that’s born after such grief.
The emotional devastation of loss during or after pregnancy, followed by the trepidation and hope of a new pregnancy, can bring about a mixture of different feelings. But channeling these feelings in the right way can build emotional resilience and strengthen your relationship with your partner, and the rest of your family.
How could I possibly move on from such loss?
Becoming pregnant after the death of a baby triggers a cacophony of emotions, from guilt, fear and sadness, to elation, hope and of course, joy. Naturally, you will be thinking the “what ifs,” and about the unfairness of your lost child, but it is vital not to let these sad emotions detract from the wondrous experience of the new pregnancy.
Reach out to online and real-life support groups so that you can build relationships and converse with other people who have experienced similar grief. This will help clear some of the negative clouds away so that you can appreciate your rainbow baby and the rich colors this new chapter will bring to your life.
“Appreciate your rainbow baby and the rich colors this new chapter brings.”
Of course, if you have experienced neonatal death on more than one occasion, the bittersweet experience of being pregnant again can be even harder. In these situations, it is worth reaching out to your physician for a referral to a specialist bereavement therapist to help you cope. It is important to minimize stress, particularly as this can be a factor in miscarriages.
The therapist will help you move through the darkness of your loss, and find the energy to overcome obstacles that you still face, such as physical stress or illness, or relationship problems. And although you may not feel like trying for a new baby – and may, in fact, feel scared or not want to try – if or when the time comes, your therapist will teach you coping mechanisms to keep guilt and fear at bay.
Welcoming your rainbow baby
Whether planned or not, a new pregnancy after a loss will be understandably frightening, but knowing your medical history, you can rely on your physician and obstetrician to keep a close eye on you. Once you know that everything is going okay with your pregnancy, and you welcome your new addition into the family, then the healing really begins.
This doesn’t mean forgetting your lost baby or babies. It is normal and healthy to have memos and keepsakes of your lost child, and there is even a celebrated Rainbow Baby day every August 22nd. If you feel strong enough, you may even want to reach out to other parents who are going through the experience, to share your story, and reassure them they’re not alone.
Whilst it will never be possible to fully recover from losing a baby, your rainbow child will open whole new perspectives for you. Any fresh difficulties such as illness, challenges in your relationship or environment and suchlike, will be easier to handle and overcome. Through weathering the storm, and experiencing the brightness of the rainbow, you will have a new resilience and emerge stronger and enriched with power.
A deeper dive – related reading on the 101
All the essentials to welcome your baby into the family home
Lesser known facts about becoming a new parent, and how to stay well during pregnancy