What is a Rainbow Baby?

If you’re one of the 10 to 15 percent of all women who experience a miscarriage, you know that it’s an extremely emotional and devastating experience. Seeing the second pink line on a new pregnancy test can cause your world to transform in the blink of an eye. But alongside that comes the fear of another miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of the baby you so desperately want to be yours forever. If you have lived through the experience, how do you cope? How do you live through unimaginable pain and suffering? And despite the crippling loss, how do you even think about eventually going on to have another baby? This is what it means to have a rainbow baby.

What is a rainbow baby?

A rainbow baby is the term for when a mother delivers a healthy baby after losing one due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth or neonatal death. For parents who have gone through it all, the birth of a rainbow baby feels miraculous and is a time of happiness, joy, relief and tons of other overwhelming emotions.

The rainbow symbolism

Why do we call it a rainbow baby? The term “rainbow baby” symbolizes a rainbow appearing in the sky after a storm or a dark and turbulent time period. Jennifer Kulp-Makarov, M.D., FACOG told Parents.com, “it’s called a rainbow baby because it is like a rainbow after a storm: something beautiful after something scary and dark.” She adds, “It’s an extremely devastating experience to lose a pregnancy or baby. To create a life or bring a baby into the world after such a loss is amazing, like a miracle for these parents.” Rainbow babies are often referred to as “miracles” because they have tremendous healing power for helping parents deal with a loss.

Expecting a new baby? It’s ok to have mixed emotions

Rainbow pregnancies can also result in mixed emotions, not all of them positive and that’s ok. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and expected. You’re celebrating a new baby who was born into the world healthy and happy. And yet you’re grieving the loss of another baby who never got to.  You may feel a tremendous amount of self-doubt and even guilt. Will other people think you’re over the previous loss or that you’re replacing that baby with a new one? Does having a new baby somehow dishonor the one who’s passed? And have you properly grieved the first loss? All of these thoughts are expected through the process. For parents who have suffered a loss, the birth and newborn stages automatically may look and feel different. In one moment, you feel a sense of overwhelming joy over the new baby and then fear that you could lose this one too.

Healing doesn’t mean forgetting

Don’t confuse healing with forgetting. Just because a new baby has entered into your life does not mean that the previous loss is diminished in any way. You learn to honor the lost baby through the new baby. It’s about acknowledging the babies you’ve lost and also celebrating the joy of the babies who survive. And the beauty of it is that you’ll parent each experience differently. The rainbow baby represents the light at the end of the tunnel. Gratitude exists where it may not have before. Parents who have experienced a loss first typically have an acute sense of feeling blessed when they are expecting and give birth to a healthy baby. It’s all part of the process.

Rainbow babies

The term is becoming more mainstream, and there’s a normalized dialogue emerging surrounding loss and healing. The important thing to note is that if you’re trying to conceive after loss, you aren’t alone. Expecting a rainbow baby means you’re one of the many parents who triumph over healing and loss and fully understand the term like no one else. The good news is that bittersweet happiness and hope await you after the storm.    

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What is a sunshine baby?

A sunshine baby is a baby whose birth occurs prior to a miscarriage, stillbirth or other natural-cause loss of an infant or child early in his/her life.

What is a double rainbow baby?

A double rainbow baby is a baby whose birth occurs after two natural-cause losses of infants or children early in their life. The loss of two infants from miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or other related cause happens prior to the birth of a double rainbow baby.

Why do they call it a rainbow baby?

The term “rainbow baby” refers to the occurrence of a rainbow following a storm. The symbolism of a rainbow signifies a positive or hopeful life event following the loss of an infant.

How long after a miscarriage is a rainbow baby?

There is no exact length of time following a miscarriage that indicates a baby is or is not a rainbow baby. The experience of giving birth to a rainbow baby following a previous loss is a subjective and personal experience, including the emotions and timeline associated with both the loss of an infant and the arrival of a rainbow baby.