The symbolism of a rainbow
A rainbow baby is a name coined for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death.
The name “rainbow baby” comes from the idea of a rainbow appearing in the sky after a storm, or after a dark and turbulent time. The term has gained popularity on blogs and social media in recent years, and has come to symbolize hope and healing.
For those who have experienced the loss of a baby, the birth of a rainbow baby is a time of immense joy, reflection, healing, and mixed emotions.
Rainbow babies are often described as ‘miracle’ babies due to the powerful impact they can have on helping parents heal after a loss. However, rainbow pregnancies can bring strong feelings of anxiety, guilt, and even fear.
Conflicting emotions of honoring a baby who has died while celebrating one that’s healthy — and grieving a loss while celebrating new life — often accompany a rainbow birth.
The exact number of rainbow babies born every year isn’t known, largely because miscarriages are often under or unreported
If you’re expecting a rainbow baby, here are some of the things you may experience.
Allowing space for mixed emotions with a rainbow baby
Rainbow pregnancies are often emotionally complex and involve feelings of grief and guilt along with relief, excitement, and elation.
It’s important to process emotions by enlisting your partner’s support, consulting medical professionals, and connecting with others who have experienced loss.
Women who have experienced infant loss are at an increased risk for postpartum depression and anxiety. You can work with a counselor or mental health professional to get the help and care you need if this time is difficult.
While it might feel impossible to ever fully recover emotionally from the pain and grief of losing your baby, there are resources available to help.
If you’ve experienced infant loss, check out the following resources:
- March of Dimes: Share Your Story
- The Compassionate Friends
- Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support
- International Stillborn Alliance
Expecting… and anxious
Anxiety is a common emotion for anyone who’s pregnant with a rainbow baby. This is normal and understandable.
You may want to reach out to friends, family members, or a support group. You can also work with a counselor or mental health professional on ways to manage your anxiety.
For example, journaling may be helpful to jot down your feelings and emotions. Self-care is also important when you’re pregnant with a rainbow baby.
Remember: Grief can be exhausting, and even more so when you’re expecting. Ask for the help you need during this time. It’s OK to take things one day — or just one hour — at a time.
Monitoring your rainbow baby
Your doctor will let you know which tests and monitoring they can offer during your pregnancy. Careful monitoring will help bring your rainbow baby to full-term. Some women take comfort in knowing their baby is developing safely.
Counting your baby’s kicks is one way to monitor their health at home. Counting kicks is important because a change in the third trimester is often the first sign of distress.
Starting around 28 weeks, you can count your baby’s kicks at the same time each day. Knowing what’s normal for your baby can be comforting.
Let your doctor know if you notice any changes or are concerned about your baby’s movements.
Why rainbow babies are special
A rainbow baby brings great joy after a very difficult time, and symbolizes hope and healing.
But for parents who have experienced loss, rainbow babies are also treasured reminders.
Feeling overcome with sadness over your previous pregnancy is normal. You may or may not always carry that grief with you — don’t let others determine how you should grieve. Take time to grieve.
Even after safely delivering your rainbow baby, you can find ways to remember the child you lost. Eventually, sharing your story with your rainbow baby as they get older can be comforting.
Family activities like planting a tree together, or creating a rock garden, can give you a space to continue healing together.
As your rainbow baby grows, be sure to share your story with them. Let them know how special they are to you.