After a violent storm, a rainbow is a sign of hope, peace even. The storm is over and normal life can resume. But, it may not be like it was before. The storm may have caused damage that cannot be restored to its original state. It may have changed the landscape. The things that were once planted deeply in the ground are no longer there; the sturdy structures that were a part of normal life may have been destroyed.
Similarly, a rainbow baby does not fix the damage done after pregnancy loss.
Like a beautiful rainbow, a new baby may help to restore peace and bring healing, but the damage from the storm has been done. Complex emotion lingers as the grieving process continues. The heart doesn’t fully recover and the landscape of one’s life will look different forever. The devastation to one’s heart and one’s life remains, despite it becoming less visible over time.
When a rainbow baby is born, one is filled with joy while still grieving the baby who is missing.
Our rainbow baby is given a new name while the name of our loss baby still spins through our mind on a continuous loop. My brain is confused as I look at my rainbow baby and know what his name is, yet I still want to call him by the name of our baby who died, the name that has echoed through my brain for nearly three years now. It’s as if my brain hasn’t figured out that a baby died and another was born. It seems unable to differentiate between the old and the new, these two babies who are worlds apart. And each time I want to call my son by his sibling’s name, I cringe, this ever-present reminder that one is missing. This name that will never cease.
I am grateful to be the mom of my two healthy children here on this earth, one who was born before the storm, and one who came after, but I still struggle to see seemingly happy and blissful pregnant women. The ones who have normal pregnancies. The ones who are so confident they will bring a baby home that they see no reason to change their routines. They continue to work out, they drink a glass of wine every now and then, and they travel as they normally would. I still wonder why they get to have it so easy. I still feel pangs of jealousy.
The storm is over, but its effects have damaged me.
My broken heart remains cracked and these ugly feelings of grief appear when I remember what I have lost.
And then there are the holidays.
We give thanks for a healthy rainbow baby but grieve the baby who is missing. A seat remains empty during Thanksgiving dinner, and the person who we want to fill that seat will never be able to. We celebrate a baby’s first Christmas while our hearts ache for the baby whose face is missing from our Christmas photos. The presence of a rainbow baby makes the Christmas lights sparkle a bit more, but the light of our hearts remains dim, the shadows of loss ever-present.
The truth is that a sense of normalcy does return after a healthy baby is born. Life’s landscape starts to look a little more stable, but it will never return to its prior state.
There are scars that remain.
There are reminders of the life that was lost and a feeling of disappointment that our family does not look like it should. There is an innocence that is lost and a pain that lingers forever.
But there is also a more profound realization of the pain endured by others in the baby loss community. There is the opportunity to open our eyes to this pain and use our own experience to provide comfort and support to others who are hurting because of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss.
There is more joy to be found in the small things, the mundane. And there is a deeper understanding of the fragile state of human life.
A rainbow baby is born, and life seems right while still feeling wrong.