Shedding Light on Rainbow Babies
by michelle clookie
When I first heard the term Rainbow Baby, it made sense, ‘the joy after the storm’. It is the joy of bringing a baby into this world after experiencing the loss of another, or others, before them. It’s a way of celebrating what we have endured, and honoring this little babe we can now hold. As a Mama of three, I can say that bringing any baby into this world can be magical, but there is just something about holding that rainbow baby for the first time. But what about that storm? What about the effects it had on us? What about that sweet baby we loved and never got to hold? What about the worry that haunts us in other pregnancies, the nerves that come before each appointment as you pray for good news?
January 28, 2013, my moms birthday, I took a pregnancy test I found in the downstairs bathroom drawer as we were getting ready to leave for my moms birthday lunch. It was positive!!! We had been trying for a baby for several months, and I expected it to be negative like the other tests I had taken. What a perfect day to tell my mom her first grandchild would be joining us. A perfect day all around. I anxiously waiting 2 weeks for my first doctors appointment, and filled my time daydreaming of the moments you see in movies when everyone cries hearing the heartbeat. I couldn’t wait to experience what I had heard others talk about, I was already so in love. 10 weeks pregnant I went to my first appointment, they started the ultrasound and all I heard was silence. There was no heartbeat. What followed were tests, and blood draws and appointments. On February 14, my husband and I sat in the doctor's office scheduling surgery and tried to soak in the words ‘pregnancy not successful’, as if somehow my body had failed. That is certainly how it felt.
Just a few short months after the loss of our first baby, I was pregnant again, my rainbow baby. Yet this time instead of joy it was nervousness. Instead of rushing to the phone to tell friends, it was waiting and waiting in case bad news came.
My sweet Charlotte Ann arrived healthy on December 13, 2013, and continues to be more vibrant than any rainbow I’ve ever seen. She is good and perfect. We have since brought two more babies into this world, but the effects of the storm can still be as raw as it was on that valentines in the doctor's office. As I’ve walked through this journey, and have had some years to process, I have learned that honoring the storm is just as important as celebrating the rainbow. As you walk this journey, or support someone who is, remember a few things as you navigate this sacred path.
1. Loving your rainbow baby doesn’t mean you are forgetting your lost baby.
I struggled after having my rainbow baby, because as much joy as I felt, there was an underlying sadness at times that there was another baby I loved. A baby I only knew for a short time, but a baby that was mine, I was its mother, and I never got to hold them. Allow yourself to feel sadness and joy, to feel all the things. These feelings do not reflect your love for either of your babies.
2. You get to decide how you grieve.
Experiencing a loss of a baby is personal, no one can tell you how to grieve. You will hear stories of some who have lost more than one baby, others who lost babies at different times during pregnancy or birth, it doesn’t’ matter where you fit in this picture, you get to grieve however big or small you want. You don’t have to ‘get over it’ just because you got pregnant again and someone else didn’t. You don’t have to share your story, or you can shout it from the rooftops. This is your body, your baby, a love lost, and how you grieve is your choice.
3. You can experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMADs) like postpartum depression or anxiety with a miscarriage.
I didn’t know this. I experienced anxiety for months after my loss, through my pregnancy with my rainbow babe, and after birth. The anxiety of my loss carried through, and I had no idea that this was a ‘thing’. I had no idea that there were support and resources. I had no idea this was common, and treatable.
4. You are NOT alone.
Loss is isolating, no matter how many stories you hear about it, those stories were not you and were not your baby. It can be lonely. Reach out, allow others to love you. Seek the resources that are available. Below is a list of National resources, a list of people waiting to lovingly support you.
• Postpartum Support International: Help Line, support and connection to local resources for miscarriage, infant loss, and PMADs support.
• RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association: Groups, resources, and a helpline
• National Share: Miscarriage and loss support, online chats and resources
This week we honor the families that are walking the road of infertility and loss. A road many of us have been on, and one that can seem to define us in so many ways. My hope is that we allow ourselves to walk it together.
Michelle Clookie is a Lactation Consultant, and also works for the Postpartum Health Alliance supporting families in their parenting journey. As a Lactation Consultant, Michelle works to help families reach their unique goals for feeding their babies, and is passionate about normalizing all things motherhood. Michelle also works to provide Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) awareness by providing families, and clinicians with education through the work she does with the San Diego Postpartum Health Alliance.
Before shifting her work focus after her first born, Michelle spent 9 years in non-profit working as a Training and Development Director. Michelle, along with her husband Jeremy, live in San Diego with their daughters Charlotte (4 years), Etta (5 months) and son Beckett (2 years).