You know how people use a word or term in casual conversation, and, even though you're not familiar with its meaning, you don't stop to ask for clarification? Then it goes on for so long that it seems too awkward to go back and ask for a definition? This is how I recently found myself Googling "what is a rainbow baby." And I'm so happy I found out, because the meaning is truly beautiful.
A rainbow baby is born shortly after the loss of another baby, either through miscarriage, stillbirth, or death in infancy. The term "rainbow baby" alludes to the particular happiness and relief (among other emotions) that you feel giving birth to a baby after you've come through the emotional storm of losing one. Any baby is a gift, but as Lindsey Henke wrote in an essay on Scary Mommy, a rainbow baby, the baby you have after enduring the pain of miscarriage or stillbirth, can bring with it a level of joy (and also anxiety and a lot of other things) that you never imagined possible for yourself.
The phrase started to gain traction when Missouri-based photographer, Alex Bolen, captured a stunning image of mothers and their rainbow babies, as Cosmopolitan magazine explained. Not only was the photo visually moving, the story of each mother's loss was documented as well. Although each story is unique, the common thread between them is the joy and hope experienced after the hardship of loss.
Although rainbow babies bring much happiness to a family, the swirl of emotions can be overwhelming for some moms. As Babble explained, the guilt and fear of learning you're pregnant after the loss of another child can be all consuming. Only mothers who have experienced this know what it's like to wander this minefield of feelings. When someone you know tells you they're pregnant with a rainbow baby, being aware and sensitive will show them how much you love and support them.
As rainbow mom Jennifer Canvasser explained in her article on The Huffington Post, to encourage a rainbow pregnancy, you should use the name of the lost baby warmly and without hesitation, don't change the birth order to exclude the lost child, and send a rainbow to the family to honor the loss while celebrating the pregnancy. This is a sensitive time for the family, and being as supportive as possible is necessary. Rainbow babies are a gift to be celebrated, but being mindful of the feelings and emotional state of the parents is key when rejoicing in this news.