Bringing Light After Loss: What is a Rainbow Baby?Jan 16, 2023
by Stephanie Larson
While pregnancy can be one of the happiest times of life, filled with anticipation and excitement, losing a pregnancy or a baby can be one of the most difficult and heartbreaking experiences a parent can go through. The grief, trauma, and sense of loss can be overwhelming and long-lasting.
A rainbow baby is a term used to describe a baby born or adopted after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The term "rainbow baby" comes from the idea that a rainbow follows a storm, meaning that hope and joy is possible, even after a tragic time. Just as a rainbow is a symbol of hope and promise, a rainbow baby brings light and love after the darkness of grief and loss.
For parents who have experienced loss, the idea of trying again can be both terrifying and hopeful. The fear of losing another child exists alongside the hope of having a healthy baby. Pregnancy may be accompanied by feelings of gratitude for the marvel of being pregnant again. It could also bring on fresh waves of sadness. Parents may be afraid to bond with their baby in the womb, and not want to get their hopes up or to bond until after the birth has taken place. All feelings are valid.
For parents who are planning for or are pregnant with a rainbow baby, there can be a lot of anxiety and fear surrounding the pregnancy. It’s important for them to have a good support system in place, and to work with a healthcare provider who understands the unique emotional and physical needs of parents who have experienced loss. Birth professionals need to be sensitive to the complexity of pregnancy after loss. They need to have patience, compassion, understanding, and plenty of time. Doulas and midwives normally spend a lot of time prenatally with each of the pregnant individuals and families they serve. For someone who is pregnant with a rainbow baby, a close relationship with a doula and a midwife can be especially helpful.
Being in a supportive community is also vital. Dancing For Birth class is for preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum. It’s held weekly throughout the childbearing year and beyond, so it provides a continuum of support and strength through all facets of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, including loss, and also including celebration. Pregnant and postpartum parents form deep friendships with each other and with their instructor, who is a mentor. Dancing is a well-established way to process and heal grief and loss, and it's a natural way to express joy. Often, emotions can be expressed better through movement than they can be through words. Dancing can help release painful emotions instead of burying them or ignoring them. Part of healing is to reconnect with one’s body, and through dance, parents can reestablish trust in their bodies and in birth. Many parents find comfort in connecting with other families who have had similar experiences. Loss support groups, online communities, and counseling can provide a safe space for parents to share their stories, find support, and connect with others who understand the unique challenges they are going through.
The experience of having a rainbow baby can be different for every parent, and the emotions surrounding the birth or adoption can be complex. When their baby arrives, some parents may feel a sense of guilt for being happy. It’s important for parents to understand that these emotions are normal and to give themselves the time and space to grieve and heal. It’s also important for friends and family to understand that a rainbow baby doesn’t erase the pain of a previous loss. Parents will need extra support and understanding during this time. Know that every parent's journey is unique, and there is no "right" way to feel.
Many parents find that, like a rainbow after a storm, the birth of their rainbow baby brings them a lot of much-needed light after loss, and helps them to move forward and create new happy memories. The baby (or babies) they lost have their own special place in their hearts and will be honored and remembered always.
Pregnancy After Loss Support https://pregnancyafterlosssupport.org/get-support/
The Loss Heart Initiative https://joyfuljourneys.ca/the-loss-heart-initiative/
Dancing For Birth https://www.dancingforbirth.com
Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support https://nationalshare.org