today is national rainbow baby day
I had not heard about the term “rainbow baby” until after my daughter was stillborn. A rainbow baby is a baby born after a loss. Therefore my son, who was born 1 year and 8 days later, is considered a rainbow baby. The pregnancy for my son was extremely difficult emotionally. During much of it, I worried constantly about every little thing and took all of them as signs my son wouldn't be coming home. I became so detached from my son that a counselor asked me if I was willing to give him up for adoption because he deserved to be loved. Wow, that shocked me. I couldn’t help the way I was feeling, I knew deep down it was my way of protecting myself from the devastation of another loss (or at least I thought it was!. But I also knew that I loved him and even though I felt this way now, I knew as soon as he was here and I heard him cry that the bond would be formed and, thankfully, I was right. My life changed in a very beautiful and positive way when my son was born on Christmas Eve in 2020. His smiles, laughs, and even his cries bring joy to my life every day. He truly is my rainbow after a storm.
I have to admit, though, there are times when I feel overwhelmed taking care of him. These feelings quickly turn into guilt because I feel like I should love every single moment with him, even the difficult ones. I always tell myself that I would rather be going through these moments with him than not having him. I prayed and prayed for him to be healthy and for us to take him home so I shouldn’t complain about things such as being sleep deprived. Honestly, I have struggled with this a lot.
I am extremely overprotective of my son, even with my husband. I am very cautious with him and spent the first few months of his life constantly making sure he was breathing and checking his temperature. Although I don’t do it as often now, I still catch myself staring at his chest while he sleeps, making sure I see it rise and fall. I am also scared to leave him alone with anyone. What if they feed him and he chokes to death? What if they drop him? What if they give him a bath and he drowns? I am always terrified every moment will be my last moment with him. These fears may seem irrational to a lot of people, but to me, someone who has experienced a baby’s death, it is the first place my mind goes. I really wish it didn’t.
On top of worrying about my son, I am still grieving my daughter’s death, which is extremely difficult. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if he would be here if Zalayah were still alive. I would have been on maternity leave with her, and I would not have been planning a second baby so soon. Although my son is alive and well, I still cry for my daughter. I still go through her clothes and hold them close to me while sobbing. I still talk to her. I still buy her things. I still wish she was here. I still picture how she would be at 20 months old. I still miss her deeply. Just because my son is here, does not mean that my pain is gone, or that I am no longer grieving my daughter.
For me, I am thankful that having my son after my daughter’s death has helped me in my healing, but it doesn’t take away the pain and sadness of losing her. Although my son has given me purpose and has reignited my will to live, parenting a rainbow baby is not easy. I know that I wouldn’t be as worried, anxious, or stressed with my son if my daughter was here with us. My mind wouldn’t immediately go to dark places. I’d still have my innocence and would be more trusting. I often envy those who haven’t experienced a loss. Their lack of experience and their blissful ignorance is something I wish I still had.
Here are some other things that parents wish people knew about rainbow babies (please see IG @pregnancyafterlosssupport for more comments).
'They are not replacement babies.'
'It doesn’t mean you forgot about the ones you lost'.
'Sometimes they never come. Not everyone gets their rainbow'.
'Sometimes, being pregnant with a rainbow brings more worry than joy, and those feelings are valid.'
'It’s okay if you don’t immediately connect with your rainbow baby. I spent 9 months holding my breath.' 'When she was finally in my arms, I didn’t feel an immediate rush of love. All I felt was relief. That deep unconditional love came later and that’s okay.'
'They aren’t a “cure all” for the grief of the previous baby/babies lost and they are not a replacement, they come with a lot of anxiety and worry.'
'It is hard to relax when you are pregnant [with a rainbow baby]. Every little thing freaks you out and there is legitimately no relief until you heard that first little cry.'
'Sometimes rainbow babies die too.'
'You’ll never stop wondering how similar your angel baby would have been.'
'The innocence of celebrating pregnancy disappears.'
'It hurts to be asked if this is your first when you know they have an older sibling that was born sleeping.'
'I wish people knew that a mother’s anxiety of losing her rainbow baby is very real. It lasts a lifetime. I’m forever worried and overprotective of my rainbow baby.'