What is a Rainbow Baby?
Fact-checked by HeHe Stewart, Doula and birthing expert. HeHe is the founder of a Maternity Concierge, Doula and Birthing Service in the Boston area.
Chances are, if you don’t know what a rainbow baby is, you haven’t experienced loss during your time of having children. A "rainbow baby" is defined as a baby born after the miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of an infant from natural causes. The name rainbow baby comes from the feeling of seeing a rainbow after a storm. Rainbow babies are extra special and so deeply loved even before they are born. However, a rainbow pregnancy is usually accompanied by very strong feelings of anxiety and sometimes doubt. Parents who have experienced the grief of a miscarriage or have struggled with infertility want nothing more than to have a happy and healthy baby. Here is everything you should know about a rainbow pregnancy and how to support friends and family during this time.
More: Miscarriage Happens, Here’s Why We Need to Talk About It
One in four women will experience some sort of fertility challenge during their journey trying to conceive. One study looked at over 53,000 women and 43% had experienced a miscarriage. Pregnancies that start with challenging beginnings always have an added layer. This is something we are well-accustomed to seeing in The Birth Lounge, a group and plan for women who have a desire to make educated decisions along the journey of pregnancy and birth. The term rainbow baby has been a symbol of faith in God for ages and was adopted to be a reminder of hope for anyone who is trying to conceive.
No matter how isolating being a rainbow mom feels, the simple truth is you are surrounded by folks who have experienced a very similar situation. No one talks about this because of the taboos around infertility (and there’s quite the list). As a doula and maternity concierge, the most common thing I see people struggling to conceive forget is that miscarriage is not necessarily an indicator that something is wrong with your body or that your body failed you.
It’s important to remember that losses happen when the embryo isn’t growing correctly, too. There are so many factors to consider when looking at conceiving a child, and it’s really limiting your exploration if you automatically assume that the problems lie within your reproductive organs. It might be your thyroid is impacting things or your partner’s body needs to be checked out. You owe it to yourself, your partner, and your future baby to not allow limiting beliefs to sneak in. Your perfect baby will not miss you, I promise.
How to Celebrate Your Rainbow Baby
Celebrate Your Angel Baby
One of the most special things you can do to celebrate your baby’s life is to acknowledge the journey it took to have them. This is something you can keep private or you can share it with others. It’s okay for this celebration to change, too.
Find Your Community
Remember when I said you weren’t alone? Find the folks who make that statement true. Find the people who have also experienced loss. It’s good for the soul to share in this journey. Look to social media, seek out support groups, and make yourself available even if it feels hard at times.
Share Your Story
Speaking of sharing…instead of holding your story in, share it with the world (if you’re comfortable!). The best way to help end the taboo around fertility is to talk about it - and that begins with sharing our story with others.
How to Support a Rainbow Baby Family
Don’t Avoid Talking About Their Angel Baby
Parents often report that one of the hardest things about losing a child is the social pressure to not talk about their angel baby. Can you imagine never being able to speak about someone you were so deeply connected to ? You can ask if they want to talk about it and if they do, all you have to do is listen.
Share In Their Space
Isolation is so, so real when fertility challenges are in play. Having a miscarriage can cause even the closest friendships to falter. Friends may avoid the situation, people stop texting...no one knows what to say. Here’s a tip: Most of the time, you don’t have to say anything. Just being there is enough. They will share when they are ready, and again, all you have to do is listen.
Once their rainbow baby is born, these parents are going to have so much to learn since they spent so much time prenatally learning fertility solutions and then navigating a rainbow birth. The best thing you can do is to help them with in-home support. This can mean hiring a service or helping yourself.
Honor Their Angel Baby
Since celebrating angel babies is one way that humans cope with the loss of a baby, consider giving a gift to remind them of their baby, like a nice sketch of the family or a personalized keepsake. You can also think about gifting them something that will be used or seen every day like a rainbow blanket or a rainbow painting. A wonderful gift is a surprise rainbow-themed photoshoot once the rainbow baby is born. These keepsakes and photos will be treasured forever.
How to Support Your Partner
You must remain open with your partner. It’s important to remember they are experiencing things through a different lens than you are. It’s your job to communicate what you need from them, what you feel, and what thoughts are in your head. Shutting your partner down is not helpful to anyone. You want to use this experience to build a bridge, not push them away.
Shift Your Perspective
Communicating your needs is vital, but it’s also your job to prioritize your partner during this time, too. It’s important for you to understand what this experience is like from their perspective. They are often watching you go through something that they have no control over and cannot stop from happening. If you’re expecting a rainbow baby, they will have their own emotions to navigate (and communicate!), too. Things to think about:What your partner needs from you, what they feel, and what thoughts are in their head. Remember the bridge. You want to be receptive and supportive when they share.
Put the Pride Aside
This is one of the hardest places that any couple will find themselves in. Not only that, but it is a situation that no couple prepares for when thinking about having children.
Rainbow babies are precious and their parents deserve so much support. Every parent in the US could use more community, more support, and more resources. Let’s start talking about fertility more to make this possible. You are not alone.
A Real Rainbow Baby Story
One mom in our community, Mary Margaret Robbins, shares her story:
“We found out that we were expecting another baby, a rainbow baby. This time it felt so different. Instead of fear, I felt peace. It was a daily battle to not worry about the life growing inside of me, one that I had to take to the Lord daily. I had to consciously make the decision with God’s help to not look for blood when I used the bathroom, to not become fearful whenever I had cramps, to relax with peace when the doctor was doing an ultrasound."
We had our gender reveal party. We had decided on the name Emma for a girl and Jace for a boy. We found out that we were having a baby boy and were so excited. After everyone left, my partner T.J. and I were outside sitting on the porch step, and he looked up the meaning of “Jace” on his phone. We couldn’t help but cry tears of joy and praise God when we saw that his name meant “a healing.” Our sweet rainbow baby, Jace Douglas, was delivered through natural childbirth, while I wore a bracelet from T.J. with the word “fearless” engraved on it. I remember holding Jace Douglas for the first time on my chest. It was the most beautiful moment of my life."
You can read Mary Margaret’s full story here. A special thanks to her for sharing her journey with us. You can also see a complete list of 75 Rainbow Baby Names of Sentimental Meanings here.
Looking for a gift to give someone pregnant with a rainbow baby? Here are 12 meaningful rainbow baby gift ideas.
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HeHe is an experienced Doula, Childbirth consultant and Infant Feeding Specialist. She is the founder of a Maternity Concierge, Doula and Birthing Service in Boston, MA.