Meeting your baby for the first time is an emotional experience, but it can be even more intense after you've lost a baby. You might feel intense joy, experience flashbacks, feel at a loss, feel sad or even angry, or you might just feel a variety of different emotions that take much longer than a few hours to process. All of these emotions are valid, and it’s important to share these experiences so other rainbow moms don't feel alone. That’s why I spoke to a number of moms on what it was like to meet their rainbows for the first time.
I lost my first baby just shortly after she was born. When I found out I was pregnant again the following year, I was both excited and terrified. I could not imagine enduring another loss. All that kept me going was the image I had in my mind of meeting my little one for the first time and holding him in my arms. When my son was finally born, it was nothing like I'd imagined, either. It was a traumatic home-to-hospital birth and the first thing I thought when I saw my son was how enormous he was. At nearly 9.5 lbs, you can just imagine. While I was full of joy in my heart, I was also scared because he needed to be sent to the NICU right away. I immediately thought of my daughter, and the moment was full of conflicting feelings.
I'm not the only one who's ever had such a complicated meeting with her rainbow baby. Read the experiences of these other rainbow moms below, and know that no matter what you felt or will end up feeling when your rainbow baby is in your arms, you're not alone.
“When my rainbow was born via repeat c-section, the first thing I heard as they pulled her out was, "The cord is around her neck!" I panicked because the cord is what killed her sister. The few seconds it took for my doctor to free her from her cord seemed like an eternity. When I finally heard her cries, my whole body flooded with relief — and the flood came with a deluge of my own tears. I cried with relief, with happiness, and yes, with a bit of sorrow for those cries I would never hear — of the daughter who came before. It's been three years and I think it will always be this way: joy mixed with sadness.”
“Bittersweet. There is this overwhelming confusion between the love you feel for your rainbow and the sadness of missing out on this with your lost baby. My rainbow came early and weighed under two pounds, but I was just so happy that she was alive in the first place. She looked just like her stillborn sister, but she was kicking and yawning. The best feeling was seeing her wiggle around!”
“I was incredibly happy. Looking at that sweet baby's face was pure bliss. I didn't want to let go of her for anything. In that moment, I also felt a little closer to her big brother as well. It was like he sent her to us to make us happy again. And she has!”
“I felt utterly overwhelmed. It was a terrifying pregnancy and incredibly hard. Once he was out (emergency c-section) and popped on my chest, my first thought was honestly, “What have I done!?” It was hard to bond to my bump. I was convinced I'd go through another miscarriage”
“Relief. Disbelief. Gratitude. It was like, ‘Hello, there, love. I've been waiting for you.’"
“Amazing. Like a sigh of relief. I cried tears of joy and looked at my boyfriend and said, "Holy sh*t! We just had a baby," and they laid her on my chest and I was in pure bliss. My anesthesiologist asked if I still felt nervous and wanted medicine (I had asked for anxiety meds prior to delivery) and I said, "Nope. I'm perfectly fine now!" The most beautiful birth experience. And an added bonus was having our same doctor who delivered our stillborn son the year prior. He was excellent!”
“Meeting my second son was amazing. I was so aware of how different the experience was from my first delivery. My first baby was whisked off to NICU and I was left completely alone. My second baby was laid on my chest, opened his eyes to see me as the very first thing, breastfed in the first hour, and so much skin-to-skin.
My first baby, I was wheeled into the Mother/Baby unit with no baby. The discharge board had a big line through it. My second baby was in my arms as I was wheeled over, and the discharge board had check marks. It was so very different, and I was so aware of how much better this was. Aware for the first time of how it ‘should’ be. The sadness of knowing what I should have had with [my first son] was mixed with the joy of holding [my second].”
“There are no words to describe how full my heart felt in that moment. When they laid her on my chest, it felt so good and so right and all my worry melted away. There have been tough and bittersweet moments in the weeks since, but our first meeting was pure joy.”
“I had a c-section and he was 6 weeks early, so I didn't get to hold him right away, but the moment I heard that first cry I just melted and felt a wave of relief wash over me, knowing he was here and real and alive.”
“My son was born nine days before the first anniversary of my daughter’s death. In order to get through the pregnancy, I had to separate myself from my emotions and essentially pretend that nothing was happening. The moment I held him for the first time, I was overwhelmed with joy and finally let myself believe that we were really going to bring him home.
It’s funny, even now, five years later, I find myself doing the same thing with my second rainbow pregnancy. I have to distance myself in order to get through it.”
"I had mixed emotions. I was overwhelmed with joy and sadness at the exact same time. My second son looked almost exactly like my first, except for the hair. With my first son he was moved to the NICU almost immediately because he was five weeks early. With my second son he was with me the entire time. Each day up until the 25th day with my second son I felt this weight on my chest. (My first son passed from whooping cough on the 25th day of his life.) Now that my second son has passed that mark a huge weight has been lifted, but I still find myself staring at him as he sleeps, watching every breath he takes as if the next will be his last. I'm sure it will get better, but for now I can't help myself."