Grief at Loss Mingles with Joy and Fear
You may not have heard of the term “rainbow baby,” which has come into use in the last few years. A rainbow baby is one born after the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The situation is more common than you might think. Most women who miscarry go on to have healthy pregnancies after a miscarriage. Only about one percent of women are unfortunate enough to have recurrent miscarriages. But due to the silence and stigma around miscarriage, few people have revealed they are having a rainbow baby until recently. This increasing openness helps parents find the emotional support they need.
Rainbow babies have come to symbolize hope and healing as the term is used on blogs and in social media. The rainbow baby emerges from a time of extreme sadness and loss, as the beautiful colors of a rainbow emerge from the darkness and violence of a storm. The emotions around a having a rainbow baby are many and mixed with both joy and grief at the earlier loss. Such a baby truly feels like a miracle, yet the pain of loss can’t be forgotten. Here’s what to expect if you find yourself pregnant or adopting a baby after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death.
It’s Okay to Feel Grief
Many people feel that the fact of a new pregnancy or childbirth should cancel out the grief they feel about the earlier loss, and they feel guilty that the rainbow baby’s birth doesn’t bring unallowed happiness. On the other hand, parents may feel guilty about the joy they feel in the new baby, and feel they are being disloyal to the one they lost. It’s important to know that your emotions don’t work like a bank balance. One entry doesn’t cancel out another. You can love a new baby and still remember and mourn the one that was lost. Continue to honor the loss you feel, but create new traditions with your rainbow baby, and allow yourself to feel joy.
Fear of Losing the Rainbow Baby
People who have lost a baby through miscarriage often are fearful during the next pregnancy and childbirth that they will lose the rainbow baby, too. Anxiety and depression are common after the loss of a child. You may want to reach out to a counselor, support group, or your family and friends for support. The March of Dimes has resources for people who have suffered infant loss.
Your doctor will let you know which tests and monitoring are needed during your pregnancy and can reassure you about what’s normal. Careful monitoring will help your rainbow baby come to full term.
Find Your Own Way Forward
Be sure to ask for emotional support when you need it. Grief doesn’t have a timetable. It can steal up on you even in a time of happiness—sometimes, especially when you’re happy. You and your partner may grieve differently and on a different timeline. Be kind to each other. And allow yourselves to be grateful for the new life you’ve created, after a time of deep sadness and loss.