You wake up in the morning and check whether you are pregnant. The extra red line of the positive pregnancy test leaves you speechless. You wished for having a baby, and now when the wish seems to become a reality, you are overjoyed, overwhelmed, and unexplainably drenched in emotions. Moreover, it's not just you basking in the sunshine of elation, you have your partner and loved ones experiencing the joy.
Akin to this joy of expecting a tiny one, their loss is no less overwhelming. The grief is just like a storm that takes away all the happiness in a flash and leaves you in a sea of sadness—all clouds and no sunshine. When a couple who have lost their baby (because of an abortion, stillbirth [delivery of a deceased baby after the 20th week of pregnancy], and death of the newborn or infant) is blessed with a baby again, such a baby is called a rainbow baby. The term “rainbow baby” symbolizes joy and hope brought after a spell of sadness. Just like the rays of sunshine spread colors of happiness and beauty in the sky after a storm or rain, a rainbow baby brings the lost happiness and comfort back in the couple’s life. The “rainbow” symbolizes hope, healing, and happiness after a phase of suffering and sadness.
A mother facing a pregnancy loss goes through various challenges such as:
- Extreme grief of losing her precious baby
- Intense fear and doubt of whether she will be able to have a baby again
- Inability to cope up with the changing hormone levels in her body
- Psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
There may be a feeling of guilt or self-criticism in some women who may hold themselves responsible for losing the baby.
To add to the above points, the grief of the father cannot be overlooked. He has also gone through emotional trauma just like the mother and must be given due support as well. Although it may seem virtually impossible to be able to recover from the grief, the support of the partner, family, and friends can help the woman recover from the loss. Many times, the mother or both the parents want a funeral for their departed baby, no matter how early in the pregnancy the loss was. Their feelings must be respected, and enough regard and honor must be given to the deceased baby just as it would be in the loss of any other loved one. Having a rainbow baby after a loss may not just take away the vulnerability in a snap. Although the term “rainbow baby” is used for a baby born after a previous loss of a baby, some people suggest that it should also be used for a baby born to a couple after a period of infertility. The reason being that infertility is no less than a storm in couples’ lives who wish to have a baby. Their struggles must be respected too. Furthermore, many couples shun the use of this term for their baby. They believe that this might be disrespectful for the deceased child because they are being compared to a storm or suffering. Additionally, the birth of a baby after a pregnancy loss is not all sunshine and happiness. It brings along its struggles and challenges. Calling it a “rainbow” may undermine the tough days to come. The “rainbow baby” may also mean that all the grief of the previous loss has vanished, which is not true. Thus, it is up to you whether you wish to call your baby a rainbow baby.