What’s A Rainbow Baby? The Origin and Meaning to New Parents
Losing a baby or pregnancy at any stage is a loss that is incomparable to anything else that can be experienced. Families who have experienced this loss, whether through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss are often left longing for comfort that can only seem to come from expecting a new baby.
When parents finally get the exciting news that they’ve been longing for after such a loss (another positive pregnancy test), there are a range of emotions that will be experienced. While many will still be grieving the loss of their previous baby, the idea of bringing new life after a dark time can lead to both positive and anxious feelings.
What is a Rainbow baby?
The meaning of a rainbow baby, simply put, is a “… baby conceived after a previous loss – whether that loss was a miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death,” as Jennifer Kulp-Makarov, M.D., FACOG explained to Parents.com.
Rainbows are used to represent a sign of hope and new beginnings. They are typically used for those who need some encouragement during a time of hopelessness or despair.
The term ‘rainbow baby’ is the understanding that beauty can still be possible after a storm. While the rainbow baby brings joy, there is no negating the storm that the parents have already experienced.
Rainbow babies offer hope and comfort to parents after having weathered the incomprehensible anguish of pregnancy loss. These rainbow newborns are often described as miracles sent down from above to help grieving parents heal.
Feelings to expect during pregnancy with a rainbow baby
There are always conflicting emotions when honoring and celebrating your rainbow baby. Every parent has their own way of managing the grief brought on by the loss and the anxiety when pregnant with a rainbow baby. Some of the feelings that you may experience include:
When you get the news that you have been longing for after a traumatic loss, you may feel so many different emotions. Of course there is excitement, but that often comes with a little hesitation.
You may not experience that same excitement which you felt after getting the positive pregnancy test for the first time, only to have that happiness ripped away from you. This is totally normal.
The feeling of joy that you felt before was taken away from you after your loss, and it’s hard to replicate that excitement again. However, once you get over that fear and hesitation, you will experience even more love and joy than you could have imagined before.
Having previously lost a baby, you will most likely have the feeling of constant worry. It may even last up until you give birth. You may be thinking, “Will the same thing happen again? Am I just setting myself up for heartbreak one more time?”
You may be more hesitant to tell family and friends about the pregnancy early on, or to let yourself become attached, for fear that you may lose the baby again.
Another feeling that women often experience when pregnant with their rainbow baby is guilt. There is often guilt that you want to feel excitement for this new baby and not feeling like you are honoring your previous loss enough.
Once you get past the negative feelings and emotions that come with having a rainbow baby, you can hopefully begin to experience positivity and optimism. You have every right to feel grateful and blessed to be carrying another child. You should still experience the excitement that comes with this pregnancy although you’ll never forget the one you lost.
It is normal to be confused about how and why such a tragic loss could happen to you. You may never discover or accept a valid reason for why you lost your previous baby. You may be left feeling a little bitter that you were robbed of your previous pregnancy and just left to put the pieces together.
Pregnancy is a scary time for many new moms because there is so much that is out of your control. Of course you can eat healthy, attend all your scheduled prenatal appointments and follow doctor’s orders, but inevitably you may feel that you have no say in what is going on inside your body.
How to cope with the feelings that come with a rainbow baby
Just know that you have every right to feel any emotion that comes upon you. Here are some ways to cope with those emotions to make every pregnancy as positive as possible.
Share your feelings
Find an outlet where you can express your grief and worry, such as talking to a therapist spouse, best friend, relative, or writing in a journal. Or join a group online or in-person.
You may feel that there is no one who truly understands what you are going through because no pregnancy or loss is alike. However, feel free to open up to someone who you know will be supportive and understanding of your feelings.
Talking to and being open with your partner is very important at this time. The only way that they will know what you’re going through is if you tell them. This will give you both the opportunity to support each other and validate each other’s feelings.
Remember that everyone has different ways of coping, so try not to judge your partner if they seem to be experiencing the loss differently from you. Be sensitive to their wishes and how they are feeling and explain that they need to be sensitive to your emotions as well.
Let your healthcare provider also know about your feelings during your rainbow pregnancy. They should be more than accommodating to give you any peace of mind that you need, whether it be to provide you with more bloodwork, ultrasounds or clarifications.
Honor your previous loss
Do what you need to do in order to keep the memory of your lost baby alive. You may feel some guilt over moving on to the excitement of your next pregnancy, but you don’t have to simply forget that the other pregnancy ever happened.
You can do this by creating a memory for your sweet baby that didn’t make it Earth-side. For example, create a memory box or journal, display a plaque, have a personalized bear or blanket made, or get a tattoo with his or her name. You may also want to have an intimate memorial ceremony for your baby.
Welcome your rainbow baby with excitement
No matter how hard this next pregnancy feels, always remember to express gratitude for your new blessing, as this new baby will bring you that rainbow you have been longing for. Try not to let the stress and anxiety that this pregnancy brings take away from these special moments.
Purchase some items that display your little miracle. This can be rainbow decor for his or her nursery, naming the new baby after your previous loss, or taking rainbow-themed maternity photos.
Although pregnancy loss is much more common than we think, the good news is that it is not likely to happen more than once. Statistically, if you have one miscarriage, you are less likely to have another one following that loss.
These suggestions may help you be more optimistic that you will experience a healthy pregnancy and meet your sweet little rainbow newborn soon.
Pregnancy or infant loss is one of the hardest things that any parent can go through. There is nothing that can fully take away the pain, but your rainbow baby will make those emotions feel a bit easier to cope with. Seek positivity for your rainbow baby through opening up to loved ones, reading inspirational quotes, and honoring and accepting your feelings.