A rainbow baby is a child that is born to parents who have previously lost a baby. After experiencing this very painful loss, having a rainbow baby is an extremely joyful and poignant experience for a family. Being pregnant with a rainbow baby can also bring anxiety and uncertainty, and there are ways that you can help yourself or a loved one through the process.
Symbolism of a Rainbow Baby
The term rainbow baby is symbolic of the beauty and peace of a rainbow that emerges after a storm. After the agony of losing a baby, parents are able to welcome another child into their family, so a rainbow baby represents hope and vibrancy.
August 22nd is national Rainbow Baby Day, an opportunity to celebrate the hope that a rainbow baby brings. This day also honors the baby who passed away, and who will always remain in their parents' hearts.
Parents often share the sentiment that having a rainbow baby is a reminder not to take any moment with their child for granted. The painful struggle and grief they endured also strengthened them, and helped them become more mindful.
Addressing Uncertainty During Pregnancy
Being pregnant with a rainbow baby and giving birth to a rainbow baby are often coupled with parents having more anxiety than normal due to their past experiences. Parents have to deal with uncertainty at various stages of the process: from attempting to conceive to conception, from conception to confirmation that the pregnancy is viable, and from a viable pregnancy to the delivery of a healthy baby. Experiencing joy, anxiety and grief at once can be difficult to navigate.
There are healthy steps you can take to navigate this uncertain period. Some examples are:
- Acknowledge your emotions and allow yourself to feel them rather than denying them. Avoiding your emotions or judging yourself for having them can exacerbate the stress.
- Do what is in your control. Seek the advice of doctors and nurses about things you can do to increase your chances of a viable pregnancy.
- Avoid reading about negative experiences others have faced after a miscarriage. Your situation is unique, and there is no need to increase your worries about things that are out of your hands.
- Decide for yourself when you want to announce your pregnancy and to whom. There is no rule or formula you are required to follow.
- Know that it is your choice whether to have a baby shower. The decision should be one that feels right to you. Maybe you want to have it toward the very end of your pregnancy, maybe you don't want one at all, or you want to wait until after your baby is born.
- Seek therapy; it can be helpful in dealing with your emotions and finding meaning in your experience.
Supporting Someone Having a Rainbow Baby
You are excited for your loved ones who are expecting a rainbow baby, and you want to celebrate with them, perhaps by having a formal shower or buying gifts for the baby.
At the same time, it is important to remember that this can be an emotionally confusing and anxiety-provoking time for parents who have lost a pregnancy or baby.
Some examples of things you can do to support parents having a rainbow baby include:
- Ask them if they want a baby shower and if so, when they'd like to have one. Do not assume that they will want a baby shower.
- Provide logistical support such as picking up their dry cleaning or providing homemade meals. This can be especially helpful in the latter part of the pregnancy when a mom-to-be is tired and she and her partner are dealing with a wide range of emotions.
- Give a thoughtful gift to the parents after their healthy baby is born.
Celebrating Your Rainbow Baby
Rainbow babies are a magnificent addition to life after suffering pain and loss. They are a reminder that you can simultaneously honor the child you lost, forever keeping them in your heart, while also celebrating and moving forward with renewed hope.