Rethinking Using the Term “Rainbow Baby”

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July 17th marks the day my family and I lost our little Hope to miscarriage. It has been an unbelievable several years since then. Although the following years have brought us two healthy boys and a kind of healing that only time can offer, we are hesitant to call our middle child a “rainbow baby.”

“Rainbow baby” is a term that has gained present popularity and refers to a child that is born following a baby lost in miscarriage or stillbirth. According to this, our son Everett, born after we lost Hope, would be called a rainbow baby. I sometimes find myself describing him as such to easily tell our family story; however, I am in not in love with the idea of always referring to him as a rainbow baby.

Why?

I believe my reticence with this description is that our baby Hope becomes the storm.

It alludes to her brief existence as a kind of tumultuous event that we had to overcome. In retrospect, my family and I remember Hope with gratitude. We are thankful she gave my husband and I the hope that pregnancies bring. Having to say goodbye to Hope all too soon was so very hard and brought grief. But we want to remember her, herself, as the rainbow.

Calling my son a rainbow baby can also give the idea that he was not entirely planned.

I believe that Everett would have always come into our lives, no matter the events before his conception. He was wanted and planned-for—not as a result of a miscarriage, but because we wanted another child. He is simply the product of my husband and I wanting to grow our family. As he grows, I would like him to know that his life was part of a bigger, intentional plan for our faith-filled family.

Perhaps the biggest reason I do not usually refer to Everett as our rainbow baby is that it suggests the storm, the emotional pain of miscarriage, is over.

As if the storm has passed, and the rainbow comes out to shine. I believe the grief and pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss never completely passes. When I look at my family today, I still see the chronological gap between my oldest daughter and my son, and picture Hope in that spot. I do not believe that ache that absence brings will ever really cease, but I have learned to live with it.

It has become a part of my mother’s heart.

Whether you choose to refer to any one of your children as a rainbow baby or not is entirely up to you. My reasons are my own, and they fit well within our family’s values. Rainbow babies are meant to be a way to, perhaps more easily, describe a hard chapter in a life story. This can be a tough topic to touch on when talking with someone getting to know your family and using this term can help to have a shared understanding to your history.

Remembering Hope brings memories of expectancy, love, and hope. We would like to remember her role in our family as giving a great gift of learning to love and to let go. After Hope, we had our son who was born a year and a day after Hope’s original due date. We do not consider this coincidence. He was always meant to be with us, as was she, and for that we consider them both the sunshine in a cloudless sky.

1 COMMENT

  1. Our son was born full term in July 2016 and lived for just over 3 hours, before going to Jesus. He was given a fatal diagnosis at 17 weeks gestation, and I often tell people it was the hardest and most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. We have recently found out that we are already expecting and we are thrilled. Naturally, people begin to use the term rainbow baby, and I know they use it lovingly, but it doesn’t sit well with me. You articulated, so well my feelings on the term. My son’s life was not a storm, it was pure joy. Even in the midst of loss, the joy and gratitude of getting to be his family are so much greater. I said to a friend, exactly what you said, he was my rainbow. His life was the greatest demonstration of God’s promises of love, hope and peace, which are exactly what the rainbow was created to remind us of.

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