From Storm Clouds to Sunshine: What Is a Rainbow Baby?

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Woman Holding Rainbow Baby
Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Friday March 1, 2024

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Pregnancy loss is much like a looming storm cloud — dark, dreary and full of despair. Yet, it’s important to remember the sun will eventually shine again — hopefully, providing you with a precious rainbow baby.  

Trying for another baby after losing one during pregnancy is not always the easiest decision to make. While your desire to become a parent will likely remain strong, you’ll be flooded with complex emotions and heartache. Despite this, your rainbow baby will be something to look forward to and celebrate.

Here’s everything you need to know about a rainbow baby, the different emotions you might experience and how to nurture yourself to term. 

Newborn Baby Feet

What Is a Rainbow Baby?

Those who have suffered baby loss have coined the term “rainbow baby” — a symbol of renewed hope and happiness after enduring unexpected trauma, loss and grief. It is similar to the idea of a rainbow appearing after a storm.

According to the World Health Organization, 17.5% of adults have infertility — a condition in which it takes more than 12 months to conceive. Its widespread prevalence underscores the importance of accessible reproductive health care, even in developed countries like the United States.

Receiving reproductive assistance with infertility puts you at a higher risk of having a miscarriage. About 10%-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage before the twentieth week. Likewise, stillbirth — when the baby dies after Week 20 — and sudden infant death syndrome after the child is born are other ways parents wind up with their rainbow baby. 

No matter the circumstances in which you lose your child — or at what stage of pregnancy — the sadness, shock, confusion and concern you’ll feel is universal among all expectant parents. 

Woman Crying

What to Expect During a Rainbow Pregnancy

More often than not, women who’ve suffered a miscarriage will go on to have a successful pregnancy afterward. However, while you can safely try to conceive again after two to three menstrual cycles — or following doctor’s orders for tests and treatments — you’ll want to grieve your loss properly. Some providers even recommend waiting six months to a year to ensure you’ve given yourself enough time to process what’s happened.

Rainbow parents will feel a wide range of emotions after getting pregnant again. Some may feel excited, guilty — as though they’re replacing what they lost — and relieved all at once. Others fear losing their baby a second time. You may also have difficulty connecting with your pregnancy until you receive confirmation from your doctor or are farther along.

Of course, while any feelings are entirely normal and valid, unmanaged grief from reproductive loss could lead to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, relational problems and substance abuse. 

How to Nurture Yourself When Waiting for Your Rainbow 

First and foremost, don’t grieve alone. During a rainbow pregnancy, a health care provider or mental health counselor can help you work through your emotional pains. You can also speak to trusted friends, family, your partner or a religious counselor about what you’re going through. 

Many parents expecting a rainbow parent might feel comfort in speaking to other parents on the “rainbow” journey. It could be challenging for people on the outside to fully understand what you’ve been through unless they’ve actually walked in your shoes. 

Developing a self-care routine should also be your top priority while waiting for your rainbow baby to arrive. Self-care is ultimately a way of showing yourself grace. You can nurture your mind, body and spirit using the following tips:

  • Check in with your health care provider for reassurance your baby is healthy and growing. They can answer any question or concern you may have regarding your pregnancy. 
  • Master a new skill — pregnancy is the best time to perfect your cooking technique or other skills for successful parenting.
  • Decorate the nursery. With your little one on the way, you can build up your excitement by creating a beautiful, serene bedroom for your rainbow baby.
  • Exercise to boost your endorphins for a more positive mindset during pregnancy. Physical activity — especially walking in nature or doing prenatal yoga — is not dangerous during pregnancy. However, you may want to speak with your health care provider before doing rigorous activities.
  • Schedule a prenatal or chiropractic visit to loosen your muscles and joints and induce relaxation. 
  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet for a healthier body and baby. 
  • Ensure you get enough rest and optimal sleep quality during pregnancy. 
  • Create a relaxing spa environment with a warm bath.
Pregnant Woman Standing in a Nursery

Some parents memorialize their lost child in a special way, honoring their memory while also preparing to welcome their rainbow baby. Planting a tree, getting a tattoo, creating a memory box with ultrasound pictures and condolence cards, or having a necklace made are all ideas worth considering.

Most importantly, you should take things one day at a time. Repeat this mantra: Every day is a good day with bad moments sprinkled in. When grief creeps in and you start to feel down, remember the negative emotions are fleeting — positive things are coming your way. 

Supporting Your Partner During a Rainbow Pregnancy

Expectant mothers aren’t the only ones who experience draining anguish, depression and anxiety during reproductive loss and a rainbow pregnancy. Your partner will also have just as many emotions to grapple with, including a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. 

Communication is critical during difficult times. Even after joyously falling pregnant again and giving birth to a healthy baby, your partner may still have to work through their grief and psychological stress.

Talk to your partner about the loss and the feelings you are both experiencing. Acknowledge how you felt during your miscarriage and how you feel about your rainbow baby. Although challenging to have, these discussions will make both of you feel less alone. 

Likewise, demonstrating compassion and asking how you can best support them is helpful. Remember, you are in this together, navigating through the highs and lows as a team. 

Celebrating the Rainbow After the Storm

Few people can anticipate losing a baby during pregnancy. For those who do, it marks one of their life’s most heartbreaking and troubling times. Fortunately, your rainbow baby represents sunnier days ahead. Take care of yourself and strengthen your bond with your partner to get yourself through to the other side. 

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