I first heard of the term “Rainbow Baby” in an online loss mom group. I was only a few months out from Lincoln’s death, and I liked the term at first. It was a glimmer of hope: a look at what could be. A rainbow baby is born after loss. It is the bright, beautiful light after the storm. As time has passed, the closer and closer we got to conceiving this baby, the less we liked the term. I had an internal battle. It is a widely used term in the loss community. Other loss parents understand the many layers of this term, but not everyone else does. We support that others use this term, but somehow it doesn’t feel right for us. And just imagine the cute outfits and nursery decor. And the photoshoots we could do! But still, the term was not sitting well with me. Just a couple of weeks before finding out we were pregnant, we made the decision. Lincoln’s sibling will not be called a Rainbow. And here are our reasons why:
- Lincoln is not a storm. I understand that when this term is used, it is referring to the Loss as the storm; but it is too easy for this to be taken the wrong way. Before Lincoln came into my life, I was a mess. I was going through a really difficult time. I called it my “quarter-life crisis”. Nothing was good enough. Where was my life going? Was everything I had done a big mistake? But then came those little pink lines. From the moment that Lincoln came along, everything in my life seemed to align again. I understood my purpose. Lincoln is a bright, shining rainbow, all on his own. He made me a mother. He has given me such greater depth and has given my life meaning. I cannot allow others to think of his existence as a negative part of my life.
- Our storm is not over. Look up the meaning of a rainbow baby, and you will see the explanation: The rainbow does not mean that the storm never happened, and it does not erase the aftermath. If we use the term Rainbow Baby, I feel like I will be constantly explaining to people that we are not healed. Our new baby will not replace Lincoln, nor will he or she fill in the hole in our hearts. As our other babies grow up, they will see their mommy cry. They will know that their brother is missing. The grief of losing a child is a lifelong journey. Our pain will not be magically erased by this tremendous blessing of another baby.
- Our Baby’s Self-Identity. This one is a little more complicated. Here I am, pregnant with a baby who I would not have if Lincoln were still here. If he had lived, I would have a 15-month old toddler, and would be avoiding another pregnancy. In so many ways, we will have this baby because of Lincoln. I will want this child to know their big brother. But I will also want our child to have their own sense of self. Raising this baby, there will be a delicate balance. Lincoln is part of this family, and always will be. But I do not want Baby #2 living in his shadow. Just like with living siblings, our children will be individuals. To call our child a Rainbow, makes me feel like I’m taking away a little bit of that individuality.
- A Rainbow is a Promise. In the Bible, when the water started to clear from the flood, God sent a rainbow as a promise to never flood the earth again. A rainbow is a promise. As much as I would like to think we are promised this baby growing within me, I know that is not the case. I feel that God has been trying to give me little signs. I think He wants me to have peace with this pregnancy. I want to trust. I want to believe. But I also have to be realistic. I know loss moms who will never get to have a rainbow baby. Moms who suffer from secondary infertility, or are beyond the age to have more children. I know moms who have chosen not to have another child, for various reasons. I also know moms who have suffered multiple losses. The reality is: Losing a baby, does not promise us another. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? Something terrible happened, so we are guaranteed that it will never happen again… but that is not how life works. This baby is not a promise.
These may seem like very negative ways of thinking, but it is necessary to share. We will love this baby. We will pray for healthy growth and for peace of mind and heart. And, if everything goes as we hope, we will raise this baby as another unique part of our family. Maybe one day, I’ll change my mind. Maybe one day, it will resonate with me. I know everyone else is excited too. I know the idea of a rainbow is a lovely one. But before you run out and buy us rainbow-colored onesies and headbands, know that, for now, we are not calling our baby a Rainbow.