Hope After the Storm - A Rainbow Baby Story
by Katie Nichol
Rainbows danced across our Northwest skies throughout my long labor and peaceful delivery of our second baby, Beau. It was nothing short of otherworldly, a double rainbow arching across the freeway as we sped to the hospital, photo after photo of rainbows captured a few miles and even states away, from friends unaware I was sucking in my breathe, closing my eyes, preparing for the next wave of contractions to fill my lower belly.
“Kate, you’re not going to believe this.”
I break away from my labor trance and turn towards my husband.
“There’s a rainbow right outside our window, like I can see it from here.”
Sure enough, from our little square of hospital window overlooking an interior courtyard and patch of clearing sky, there it was: another rainbow. It almost didn’t seem real. A faint sweep of color, like God decided to play around with pastels that morning, smudging the powdered pigment into a discernable glowing arc.
No doubt it was a sign of God’s presence, of His unstoppable love chasing me down, the fact that our story is written in the stars—an undoubtably good story—a new beginning painted in the sky. The rainbows that I witnessed all throughout my son’s birth were nothing short of miraculous.
Yet fear still gripped my heart.
“What if this birth doesn’t go as planned?”
What if this child who I’ve felt kick wildly for 41 long weeks is born lifeless? It happens all the time.
You see, despite the rainbows, I lost my 19-month-old daughter, Cami (our firstborn), just three months prior to a rare and sudden bacterial infection and ensuing sepsis. Trauma was still living only slightly veiled under the surface. I was grieving healthfully, my husband and I were suffering well, growing together instead of apart—but my grief and deep sorrow were still fresh, pulsing right alongside the anticipatory joy of welcoming another precious life into the world. It was a strange, but holy balance. Watching beautiful things pass away, and watching them be birthed.
Gratefully, our chunky little cherub was born without complications, and I found myself holding a generously-sized, squirming squish of baby boy, full of LIFE. Tears burst forth, celebration and sorrow dripping down my face—missing my sweet girl so fiercely, but overwhelmed with hope and gratitude for her little brother, “Beau.”
This is what it means to carry and birth a rainbow baby. It’s life after loss, it’s your heart swelling with grief over the baby or child whom you’ve released to Heaven, and running over with devotion for the bundle in your arms. It’s what hope feels like after the storms of life have tossed you against the rocks, after you have “learned to kiss the wave,” according to the famous English preacher, Charles Spurgeon.
As I sit here and type this, a familiar feeling rises in my belly and settles in my throat. I’m 35 weeks pregnant with our third babe, so it could actually be heartburn—but I can’t help but think that it’s hope. The kind that comes with a double rainbow.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all.
– Emily Dickinson
How to support a mama of a rainbow baby:
- If she has been open about sharing the name of the child whom she lost, have a necklace made with the names of both her children. If that seems too intrusive, give her a necklace that says “mama” or one with a rainbow.
- Acknowledge the confusing mix of emotions she might be feeling—ask about her loss, as well as the new baby; send a card that expresses continued sorrow and celebration. Be okay sitting in sadness with her. Don’t try to fix it.
- Send her colorful flowers! Drop by unannounced with a pot of soup, a smoothie, or cut fruit she can nibble on.
- Have your kids draw or paint a picture of a rainbow to give to the new baby (or do it yourself!).
- Like any new mama, a rainbow mama should be acknowledged, supported, and nourished—use whatever gifts you have and shower her with them! Whether that be folding laundry, running errands, coordinating a meal train, or writing her a poem or a thoughtful note.
After losing their 19-month-old daughter, Katie and Christian Nichol decided to cling to hope instead of despair, welcoming their rainbow baby just three months later. Katie offers tips on how to support other mamas of rainbow babies who hold equal parts grief and joy in their hearts as they welcome new life after experiencing loss.
Katie Nichol lives with her husband Christian in Spokane, WA and is mama to Cami (19 months, in Heaven), Beau (2 years), and baby #3 due in May. In her spare time (ha!), she enjoys freelance writing, cooking, hiking, and reading (preferably something other than parenting books).
Connect with Katie on Instagram @katiecnichol and learn more about the nonprofit, Cami's Jammies, that she co-founded with her husband in honor of her daughter, which gifts soft pajamas and blankets to critically-ill children while raising sepsis awareness @camisjammies, www.camisjammies.org.