Before losing my daughter, I’d never heard the term, “rainbow baby.” If I had, I probably would have thought it was some hippie name for a colorful, spirited child. It wasn’t until after my Margaret passed and started seeking out online support systems that I first heard someone use that phrase. Once I realized that a rainbow is what follows the storm of loss, I fell in love with the term. I’m now mom to a rainbow toddler who brings me so much joy. However, there are lots of other things moms of rainbow babies won’t tell you, but I will.
Being mama to a rainbow baby-turned-toddler is complicated. In one phrase, it's best described as emotionally charged. The innocence of simply being a mom, and the ability to simply enjoy just about everything that goes along with motherhood, is lost on you. You’ve been through the hardest pain imaginable. You know what it feels like to lose it all. You know how cruel life can be. You're aware of the "worst case scenario" and, what's worse, your awareness has been earned through excrutiating experience. In the end and against even your best efforts, you end up bringing that into your parenting.
However, you’re also more appreciative and endlessly more patient. Rainbow babies bring loss moms so much brightness, but they can also cause us a bit of indirect grief. I’ve jotted down the essential gleanings of mothering a rainbow baby below.
The Pain Of Your Loss Won’t Go Away Even After You Have Your Rainbow
When you tell someone about your loss and they say, “You can always have another one!” they are speaking from a position of ignorance. As any rainbow mom can tell you, your grief never, ever goes away. You get better at managing it, and more so when you have a rainbow, but you are still a bereaved parent.
You Might Have Slight Gender Disappointment, But It Will Pass
If the baby you lost was a boy and you go on to have a girl, you might have a bit of gender disappointment. You may have imagined your life raising a son only to lose that son, then realize there are some things you’ll probably never get to do because you have a daughter. I felt a tinge of the aforementioned feeling when I found out I was having a boy instead of another girl. I’d imagined having talks about menstruation when she got older, and I know that is something I will never experience in the same way with my son.
Honestly, at the end of the day none of it matters. Besides, gender is a social construct and you never know how your own kids will identify till they tell you.
You’ll Often Find Yourself Wondering How The Relationship Would Have Been Between Your Two (Or More) Children
My son is 3 and if my daughter were still alive, she would be turning 5 this year. I think about this fairly often. What would it be like to have a 5 and a 3 year old right now? How would they react to one another? Would she be protective? Annoyed by her brother? Loving? Would he look up to his big sister? Would they be best friends?
You’ll Look At Them And Wonder What Your Other Child Would Have Looked Like At That Age
People often mistake my son for a girl due to his long hair (which I refuse to cut short). I know he’s my son, but I do sometimes look at him and wonder if his sister would have grown to look like him as well. Would she simply be a more "feminine-looking" version of him? Or would she have wound up taking more after me, as our son looks more like his father?
You’ll Want To Talk To Your Child About Their Sibling
I’ve mentioned Margaret to my son a few times, but he’s still quite young and I know he doesn’t understand any of it. Some loss parents choose not to disclose their loss to anyone or their rainbows. Others are quite vocal, and even celebrate their loss’ birthday or what their due date would have been. I think you’ll find overall that you’ll at least want to talk about it with your rainbow, eventually.
You’ll Have Really Hard Days, Usually On Anniversaries Pertaining To Your Loss
My rainbow might not understand why mommy always seems sad on Sept. 30 (when I lost my daughter), but I know he’ll figure it out eventually. There are some days that are rough, though, and it's not always just on anniversaries, either. Sometimes I just wake up thinking of her, and the rest of the day is rough as a result. However, these are the best days to hold our rainbows just a bit tighter.
You’ll Frequently Worry About Losing Them, Even In Highly Unlikely Ways
It took me a long time to realize this is a symptom of my birth-related PTSD, but there have been times where I frequently imagine horrible things happening to my rainbow boy. It was such an internal fight for me to put him in preschool. I constantly worried he would fall down a flight of stairs, or a crazed gunman would come and shoot everyone at his school, or he would accidentally choke on a random toy and no one would be able to save him. I still think of these things, and many rainbow parents do. It is hard when you’ve lost a baby not to imagine yourself losing the other(s).
You’ll Probably Be Extremely Overprotective
As a result of worrying so much, there’s a great chance we’ll become something akin to helicopter parents. We don’t all do it. However, I’ve seen myself be extra careful with my son, warning him of any potential dangers I see around him. I’ve seen how my husband can be around our son, too, and even more protective than I am at times. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this is the case. We’ve been through a lot. Screw whoever judges our parenting styles.
You’ll Want To Spare Them Any Unnecessary Pain
When you’ve lost a baby, or when your baby has suffered, the last thing you want to do is cause them any more pain. I’d imagine a large percentage of loss parents are against spanking or any other physical punishment for our kids. I can’t imagine striking my child, even if it’s just a swat on the butt as some would say. I also decided not to circumcise my son for the same reason. Why put him through more pain, especially after he’d spent months in the hospital? For us, I saw no real point and opted against it.
You’ll Have A Special Kind Of Love In Your Heart For Them That No One Will Understand Unless They’ve Been There
I can’t say this will 100 percent certainty, because I didn’t have any children that survived prior to my rainbow son. However, I imagine that rainbow parents have a special kind of love for their rainbow babies that may be separate than what they would have for non-rainbows. A rainbow baby isn’t just a baby you had, but a baby you fought tooth and nail for. A baby you may have had to make way more sacrifices for than usual. A baby you prepared and over-prepared for, that you worked hard to keep inside you until they were ready to finally come out. It’s certainly a connection few would understand, but all can appreciate.