Friday, August 24, 2018

National Rainbow Baby Day

Two days ago was National Rainbow Baby Day. 🌈 ❤️ 💛 💚 💙 💜 💕 

A "rainbow baby" is a term commonly used in the pregnancy/infant loss community, referring to a baby born after the loss of a baby.

People like to imagine that everyone gets their rainbow baby. It's assumed that if you know the heartache of pregnancy or infant loss that you automatically get a license to bring home a healthy little one, almost like it's a guarantee to know that joy after being acquainted with such pain.

The reality is that not everyone does get a rainbow baby, some never and some not for a very long time. I'm not trying to be a Debbie-downer here, but please hear me out.

It has been 8 1/2 years since my daughter Lily passed away unexpectedly and for no known reason at full-term. I've seen my fair share of rainbow babies.... in fact, some of those who lost their baby around the same time as me have gone on to have 4 children since that time! It's like a fresh wave of loss parents comes along every year or so and then inevitably they have a healthy child soon after. I've seen this time and time again and it doesn't get any less painful with each pregnancy announcement and birth.

It's not that I am not overjoyed for them. It's that I'm sad for those of us who feel left behind. And I'm sad because I wonder if this is what I'm destined for, especially with the way so many parents of rainbow babies talk about them.

There is a community within the babyloss community of women who don't have a rainbow baby (for many different reasons). We're known as "still mothers," because we are still mothers even when our motherhood is invisible to the world. We have a website and a support group with other others who "get it." We are mothers who understand that not everyone is guaranteed a rainbow after the storm, but that doesn't mean we lack hope. Many of us prefer not to use the term "rainbow baby" because the babies that we lost were not a storm. Our babies brought light and love and COLOR to our worlds and their death doesn't negate that.

Parents of rainbow babies talk about their child bringing them out of the pit of the sorrow that comes when one loses their child.

A particular friend I know lost her son early one year, got pregnant with her daughter later in that same year, then welcomed her into the world at the end of the year. She wrote on her blog about how the day of her daughter's birth overwhelmed her with gladness. She said, "To this day I know she is the only reason I ever recovered. She's the only reason I am not still deep in sadness."

A few years ago, I met a mother online whose daughter was due just days before Lily in March 2010. This little girl shares both Lily Katherine's first and middle names, just with a different spelling for both names. She was stillborn in late February of that year. We connected over our daughter's similar dates and names. Then she told me she had a healthy daughter a year later. She told me if she lets go of her focus on her living daughter, her heart becomes much heavier about her daughter who is no longer living.

Seeing and hearing these things is difficult for the invisible mother club. When I read these things, it stings because I wonder, will I recover? In many ways, I think that having a baby in my arms would help heal me in deep and immeasurable ways while on Earth, ways that only ever having another child can heal. Does God not want me to be healed in the way He has allowed others to be? Am I just resigned to the fact that I may always be haunted by silence, never to hear my own baby's sweet cry? Is this what my motherhood is going to look like for the rest of my life?

We should be careful not to pain the picture that life gets better if and when you have a rainbow, so if you can't or don't, you're destined for a life of misery and isolation.

Maybe us invisible mothers should redefine how we view rainbows. Maybe our rainbow is how we mother our baby's legacy. Maybe the rainbow that's been born after our loss is how we honor them, how we write about them, how we go to remembrance walks and candlelight ceremonies, release butterflies, continue with traditions on their birthdays, plant gardens, make hospital comfort boxes, etc. Maybe the light and color that comes is how we bring light and color to other families whose worlds have been darkened by loss.

Not everyone gets their rainbow baby, but maybe we can still have our rainbows. Even if we don't get what most people think will heal us and make us whole, Jesus is still enough. He is my rainbow, my hope in life and for eternal life. Maybe that's what my rainbow story is supposed to be.

I'm not trying to make anyone with a rainbow baby feel bad or feel like they shouldn't share. I personally *do* like the term and you better believe if my time ever comes, especially after waiting so many years, that I will be thrilled and all about some rainbows!

I just hope in my sharing others will realize rainbow babies aren't always expected or guaranteed and how it can be painful, confusing, and isolating for the invisible mother wrestling with these things. Let's weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice and not forget to have empathy with where others are.

If you are also a bereaved mother without a living child, check out the website Still Mothers (there is also a Facebook page and an online support group).

I appreciate this article about The Unique Grief of Mothers without Living Children. It is so comforting and validating. I thought I'd share it here for anyone else in similar shoes and also to give a glimpse into what it's like.


On another note regarding rainbow babies, I saw this touching video on Facebook (click link to view) that made me tear up. It's of a mother taking her rainbow baby home from the hospital. I've been praying and hoping for even the opportunity to have a rainbow for 8 1/2 years and don't know if the day will ever come, which hurts more than I could ever express. But I imagine I'll feel a lot like this beautiful mother if my day does comes. Somehow experiencing great loss makes love that much deeper. And I can only imagine how the longer the wait, the sweeter it'll be.


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