• Hailey Ricks

The Reality Behind Rainbow Babies


We just passed National Rainbow Baby Day and while many celebrated their rainbow babies, there are many who didn't or will never be able too. This is a touchy subject within the loss community because there are just so many beliefs, perceptions and circumstances that congregate among this one single issue. I am all about awareness. I am all about being raw and honest. So that is what I am going to do. I use the term "rainbow baby". I had never heard the phrase before so when I did, I was just like, "ah! It's so beautiful!". And it is. It can be. But just like most things in life, it's not so black and white. There is a grey area that hovers like a fog over a large majority in the loss community and we need to acknowledge that. Not doing so is creating further disconnection and loneliness in an already disconnected and lonely grief. There are a couple of factors here that are really just undeniable. The rainbow baby term was created as a form of comfort. It was created to be a symbol of hope. Something to strive for. Rainbow babies are babies that have been born after a pregnancy loss. It's a sign that the storm is over. Now, most of the people in the loss community know that is not an accurate expectation. Our loss is more than a storm. It's a life changing, mind altering tragedy that shatters our entire identity. We don't have rainbow babies and suddenly become magically healed from the baby we lost before them. And I can't help but wonder if the rainbow baby term was something that was created because of societies pressure to move on. Some of the things we hear as loss parents are, "At least you know you can get pregnant.", or "You can always try again!" Those phrases piss off ultimately every single person in the loss community. Why? Because it minimizes the severity of our loss. Having the rainbow baby term, even if it does have a beautiful meaning behind it, may actually be feeding the stigma that's attached to Pregnancy and Infant Loss. It validates what non-loss people say to us. That having another baby will heal us...and that is just not true. I will say that having my daughter Aurora added so much love to my life, but it did not diminish the grief that I have from losing Laurelai. In fact, it has complicated my grief even more. I find myself constantly looking for Laurelai in Aurora and I do find her and it's beautiful. But it is also incredibly bittersweet and to not acknowledge that is not being fair to my grief. Pregnancy after loss is incredibly hard and just like a every other pregnancy, a rainbow pregnancy is not a certain one. Rainbow babies die too. There is no magic behind the term that makes birthing a healthy baby certain. The risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, sids, and fatal conditions is still there. They don't magically disappear. We also need to acknowledge that not everyone gets their rainbow. In nature, rainbows are elusive and hard to find. They are rare which is why we love seeing them so much. These loss parents in the community struggling with infertility, having different circumstances, choosing not to have try again, etc... feel like they don't fit. They feel like there is no place for them to sit. Their grief is even more complex because their "storm" is never ending. This is a completely different grief than the grief from losing their babies which I imagine is why people dealing with this feel even more disconnected and alone. The feelings of inadequacy or shame seem to be more intense. Subconsciously, having a rainbow baby may be a way to redeem themselves from the feeling of failure. The feeling that their bodies are failing them. So, what happens when they can't have that rainbow baby? Can you imagine the feeling of utter despair that person may be feeling? National Rainbow Baby Day is a day of celebration for many but it's also a day of dread for many and a painful reminder of what may never be. We need to share stories that are diverse. We need more people speaking their truths about every aspect of their grief. I am not here to tell you that the rainbow baby term is wrong. I am not telling you to avoid using it. I am simply asking you to take into consideration all of the factors and to show up for the ones that have their rainbow babies but also for the ones who don't or never will. We need to ask the hard questions like, what do you do when your rainbow baby dies? How do we improve the baby loss community so that the community is not a trigger for people with different circumstances? How can we show up for the ones that don't have the rainbow baby hope? How can we educate people about the rainbow baby term without letting it feed the stigma attached to Pregnancy and Infant Loss? Does a rainbow have to be a baby? Can a rainbow simply be color coming back into our life? Or perhaps finding the light in the darkness? My light that I found is the daughter I lost, my precious Laurelai. These are things that need to be spoken about in the loss community and it starts with you. Remember, you are not alone. We are in this together and together we will find ways to spread awareness, honor our babies and honor our grief. Sending love and positive energy, Hailey Ricks Founder of Stillborn Still Loved Foundation

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