Not Everyone Gets a Rainbow Baby

January 10, 2014

{Photo and quote by Kendra, of Southern Disposition. Used with permission}

As someone who’s active in the online babyloss community, I know there is a lot of talk about Rainbow Babies. Who’s having one, when to try, how to support someone who’s carrying one, how to parent one, and so on. But what’s overlooked in those conversations is the loss of Rainbow Babies. Or the fact that not everyone gets one.

Unfortunately, there is no “free pass” for babyloss parents to get a perfectly healthy little bundle of hope and healing after their heartbreaking loss. There is no line you jump back into after you’ve been mercilessly tossed out. Sometimes, the only child you have is the one who died. Sometimes, although I know it’s unpopular to talk about it, Rainbow Babies die too. Just as much as any other pregnancy, the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, and fatal conditions are still present. And secondary infertility (infertility after a previous pregnancy) is a very real condition, more common that you might think, that a lot of babyloss families are facing every day, many in silence.

We are a community breaking the silence of babyloss. We are making changes to the way people think and speak about grief. We are making a difference. Let’s take that momentum and direct it towards this other area of loss. Let’s explore these questions together: How do you cope with the knowledge that your baby who died was your last? What happens when there is no Rainbow Baby to bring hope and healing to your broken heart and empty life? How do you cope when your Rainbow Baby is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition? What do you do when your precious Rainbow Baby dies? How do you handle life when even the babyloss community that’s supposed to be a safe place – free from hurtful pregnancy/birth announcements – has now become yet another place to hear the news that cuts like a knife? How do you continue on when you feel like you’re the only one without a Rainbow?

It’s time to talk about this.

If you are a loss parent facing secondary infertility, or secondary loss, or simply can not bring yourself to try again, you are not alone. Countless families in our community are deeply grieving both the loss of their precious baby and the loss of their dreams of ever holding a healthy alive baby in their arms.

I am one of them.

Since Samuel died, I have watched a lot of families in this community go on to have a healthy baby. I rejoiced with them – no one deserves a healthy baby more than someone who knows the hurt of babyloss! – but I also cried and hurt for myself. With each passing month of no new baby in our arms, my hurt has grown, while jealously and confusion bubble up inside me. My soul screams out “When is it my turn? Where is my hope and healing? Why don’t I deserve that same new happiness?” But just as with every other question I scream out into the universe, there is no answer. Only silence.

In a little over three months, it will be two years since Samuel died. As of this moment, I’m no closer to having a living child in my arms than I was three years ago when we decided to start our family. It’s maddening and despair-inducing. I’m on the verge of saying “enough is enough” and facing the monumental task of making peace with the fact that I’ll never be able to raise a baby of my own in this life. To give myself a break from the tiring monthly cycle of putting all my hope and love out there only to be denied once again. To never have a pregnancy end in heartbreak again. But with each thought to give up, there is a spark of relentless optimism that says, “One more time, a baby to keep is worth it.” To be completely frank, I’m exhausted from it all. I’m so mentally, emotionally and physically tired of this thing that’s so easy for most, being so inexplicable hard for us. I’m worn down and empty and tired of hearing about all the Rainbows.

For a while, earlier in my grief, the news of a Rainbow Baby was something that gave me hope. I naively assumed that once I was ready to try again, I would get to say “Samuel’s going to be a big brother!” I knew it would be scary, I knew pregnancy was never going to be the same, but I also believed there would be a renewed sense of hope and joy to bring some life back into our broken hearts. And I knew I wanted to keep one of my babies with me, more than anything in the world.

Now, after over a year of monthly disappointments on top of my existing grief, those Rainbow announcements I hear are no longer good news. Now, they’re just another pregnancy announcement to pretend I didn’t hear. Now, it’s just another person to hide on my newsfeed. Especially when that announcement comes from a “newbie” in the loss world, the news now cuts deep into my already broken heart. I’m finding it hard to follow many of the babyloss blogs and pages I used to go to for comfort and support because so many of them are filled with Rainbow pregnancy and birth announcements. I feel the relentless pain of being a mother with completely empty arms, and I simply cannot continue to celebrate for these new babies in the way I wish I could. I know the anguish of watching person after person walk away with a patch over the hole in their heart and a tiny little bundle of joy in their arms. I know the eternal emptiness of never being able to say “I have a special little someone to give me purpose and hope for the future again.”

My future is still empty, just like my arms. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Let’s stop remaining silent about this. Let’s stand together and say loudly “Not everyone gets a Rainbow”. Let’s talk openly about the torture of each new month when we get negatives instead of positives, the misery of seeing blood and knowing it’s the end of another life that’s only just begun, or soul destroying act of picking out another tiny casket. Let’s rally around the mothers who may never know the feeling of carrying a healthy baby in their wombs or of bringing a child home to keep. Let’s stop pretending the best way to heal is to feel the redemption of birthing a healthy baby and recognize that sometimes healing has to come solely from within.

If you are a loss parent and you are unable to have a Rainbow, have chosen not to try, or have experienced the death of your Rainbow, please share your story. Together, we can walk this uncharted path and find some hope and healing, even if our arms are unbearably empty. No one should ever have to face this life of loss alone.


    • Horace

      November 22, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you thank you thank you!!! I have no rainbow baby despite trying for one for 9 months now. When with my daughter was an oopsie (thank gid i have her at least), With my son we got pregnant after 2 months. He died at 34 weeks. From an unexplained abruption. My ob has been dragging his feet a little and won’t do any further testing until its been a few more months. Why do I have to wait to see if there’s anything wrong. There has already been enough drama. I felt completely alone losing a child and then not. Being able to get pregnant again like everyone around me was. Even worse. I don’t know why it isn’t happening. The only lone test my ob ever did was an internal ultrasound. Nothing abnormal was found. Just a stupid ovarian cyst. And i even had to beg for the results of that because he never called bac . My ob was so gun ho on thinking I can get pregnant again with no problems but oh boy, was he wrong.

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    • Anne B

      August 2, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Thank you for this. There is so much emphasis on a rainbow baby that I was sure that was what I wanted but in truth I just want my boys. We are blessed that we have a beautiful 3 year old daughter and after two years of trying to give her a sibling we finally conceived by IVF. We were the shocked and a little terrified to find our we were having twin boys. But we got our head around it and became excited. Sadly our beautiful boys Toby and Luke were delivered stillborn because of twin twin transfer syndrome. We tried another round of IVF but to no avail. We have now decided to move on but it breaks my heart when our daughter cries out for Toby and Luke or any brother and sister. But the truth is I don’t want a fourth child – I just want my boys. One year on and I realise that want will never leave me. We just have to endure. My hearts to all families who have to endure this pain.

    • Puck

      April 13, 2017 at 7:49 am

      You are not alone. We lost our first through a natural mc and were delighted to conceive our second within six months. We had an early scan and saw his heartbeat – still one of the most special moments of my life. Just weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer and it wasn’t possible to keep the pregnancy going and have the aggressive life-saving treatment I needed. That treatment has now made me infertile. Despite having conceived naturally twice, we have nothing to show for it. In the short window between my last pregnancy and the worst of the chemo I had eggs harvested so there is a tiny chance for a rainbow baby, but I have to accept this is a small chance and we may be facing more loss and heartbreak. Thank you for speaking out and my heart goes out to you, I know the pain of seeing others be successful in their journey. I am starting to research adoption. There are still ways to use that love you have to make a child happy. There may be a child out there who is meant to come into your life and your heart, even though you didn’t give birth to him or her.

    • Leona Watt

      April 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      Reading this meant so much, as I felt I was being mean by simply saying ‘ congratulations’ on pregnancy/ birth posts – if I can muster enough to comment at all. Some of these are rainbows, and I do feel genuine happiness for their realised dream, but still try to distance myself from everything. I thought I was alone in feeling the things you wrote, and it’s comforting to know I’m not, while at the same time not wanting anyone else to have to feel like this. It’s odd. It sometimes feels like you’re being followed around by pregnant women and people with new borns, especially while out shopping. My nephew has had 2 children since, and I couldn’t even bear to go and see them in the hospital. The same one I had to have D&C’s in, where my joy was confirmed, and where I saw it snatched away in scans which left 6 words forever burned into my memory. It is also up the road, and I therefore see plenty of couples walking by with their folders.
      We lost 2 in a year in 2012, but have seen sooo many births since, I feel like I haven’t had the…mental/emotional space? to move on. Not that anyone ever gets over it, or has a day that they don’t think about thier lost ones and feel that pain in their heart, that emptyness. I still often feel on the verge of tears, and like anothet commenter said, I want my babies, not replacements. I feel like my body misses them, craves them, and it crushes me.
      We won’t get a rainbow, and it’s hard to accept that and not feel anger and resentment, primarily against my body, which worked against me, failed me and left me broken-hearted. But you have to just get on with it.
      Thanks again xx

    • Annabrads

      November 8, 2017 at 9:30 am

      I am so glad you wrote this article & cant believe I didn’t come across it until today. I am blessed to have 2 healthy kids, but when ttc #3 we suffered 4 consecutive miscarriages and I can honestly say I’m hollow with grief. It’s been almost 2 years since my last mc & I am almost 43 so time has run out. I really wish there was somewhere for support for those of us who unfortunately aren’t blessed with a rainbow. Good wishes to you all. X

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