What is a Rainbow Baby?
When people use the term “rainbow baby” they are referring to a baby conceived after pregnancy or infant loss. For those parents who have experienced such heartbreak, conceiving again seems nothing short of a miracle. Used as a metaphor, when we consider the beauty and calm seen in a rainbow after the tumultuousness of a violent storm, “rainbow baby” seems to fit perfectly for the situation. It honors the fact that a traumatic event has occurred and that the baby lost will never be replaced, but that joy will prevail with new life.
I am a mom of three healthy children now ages 3, 5 and 7. Not so different than many moms, my motherhood journey began with a loss. At that time I convinced myself I would probably never be a mom. I am here to tell you that rainbow babies will happen for you and they will bring back joy into your life in a way you thought you might never experience. From reading this, I hope my experience will help you understand what to expect when you’re pregnant with a rainbow baby.
Grief While Conceiving Your Rainbow Baby
I wish I could tell you that when you become pregnant with a rainbow baby, feelings of happiness will bury your sadness. Unfortunately, the grief you will inevitably feel with the loss does not just disappear when you conceive again. The typical stages of grief will be felt with the loss of a baby. It should not be minimized. Every mom-(or dad)-to-be will experience unique feelings, but grief will often present itself through these five stages:
- Denial of the feelings about your loss. You are numb to the pain it is causing you.
- Anger about the fact that this happened. This is the point where you may question, “Why me?”
- Bargaining or placing blame on yourself and thinking, “If only…” as if you could have done something differently to change the outcome.
- Depression begins to overwhelm you and replaces sadness. You may withdraw from loved ones when you realize that the loss is real, and your baby isn’t coming back.
- Acceptance of the loss. You are not OK with it, but you are in a better place accepting the loss as your new reality. You are able to cope and move on.
After a loss, doctors may encourage you to wait a few cycles or even six months to try to conceive again. However, each couple will be different in how they approach the journey of pregnancy after loss. Because of this, you could be in any of the stages of grief when you conceive your rainbow baby. Recognizing where you are in your healing will better prepare you for handling your emotions as a new life begins to grow inside you.
Negative Emotions with a Rainbow Pregnancy
After my loss, I was in a dark space for a long time. I actually think getting to a stage of acceptance in my grief is what allowed my body to get pregnant again. In what seemed like an eternity, my husband and I finally conceived our second baby. But that didn’t mean the traumatic feelings were suppressed once my new baby was on the way. I had to work to balance those conflicting emotions.
Finding out I was pregnant with a rainbow baby gave way to very different emotions than what I had with my first. Joy and elation were replaced with apprehension and trepidation. I let myself be a little happy, but I convinced myself that if I planned for the worst, then I would protect my heart and not let it break again. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Remember that everyone’s situation is unique and whatever feelings you have are valid. There is no right or wrong way to feel through the loss and then the conception of a new life. It can often
help to talk through your feelings with someone empathetic to your situation.
Seeking Support Through Your Rainbow Pregnancy
Close to one-quarter of all conceptions end in pregnancy loss. This fact is not going to make your loss any less painful. What it does do is help you realize the support you have around you. No matter how much it feels like it, you are not alone in whatever you may be feeling. Getting help, however, requires you to tell someone about your pregnancy.
The phenomenon of keeping your pregnancy a secret until the second trimester may not have been something you experienced in your previous pregnancy.
- You may feel lonely with little support.
- The irrational thought might occur that telling people about the new baby will “jinx” your pregnancy and cause a loss.
- Another loss might feel inevitable to you. The thought of having to tell people if it happens again is overwhelming.
It’s important to remember that if you’re feeling this way, there are many online forums or counselors who you can talk to. If you are needing support outside what your significant other can give you, then please find it. Bottling up your mixed emotions at a time when you need to be in optimum health to grow your new baby is not ideal. Working through your feelings during your
rainbow pregnancy with someone sensitive to your situation is essential.
Joy in Your Rainbow Pregnancy
The first 13 weeks of your rainbow pregnancy will likely be some of the hardest days of your pregnancy journey. At this time, the trauma from your loss is still fresh. Conversely, you are willing yourself to believe that you will have a healthy baby to love. There does come a day, for many moms it will be in the second trimester, where your anxiety starts to lift and gives way to hope and faith. Hope for a baby to love and faith that your body can carry a healthy baby to term.
There are certain milestones during your pregnancy where you are able to let go of more and more fear. As you near the 40-week mark, the joyous anticipation of a rainbow baby finally negates many of the conflicting emotions you likely felt along the way. The anxiety will probably not completely disappear until your beautiful baby is in your arms.
Loving your Rainbow Baby
A baby lost is not forgotten when a new life is conceived. The pain felt through that traumatic experience will often give way to even more powerful emotions when you deliver your rainbow baby. You will feel the most intense love you’ve ever felt in your life. You have weathered a storm beyond the comprehension of anyone who hasn’t experienced it, and the beauty that comes after will be the greatest you’ll ever know.