Struggling with Sunshine, Angels, and Rainbows

November 15, 2017

In the “baby loss community” there are terms and definitions for our children. Some of them I have heard before and some I never knew existed until I too became a member of this community. Terms such as Sunshine Children, Angel Baby, and Rainbow Baby. They are labels and terms that mothers use to show others their journeys, stories of loss, hopes for the future, and to have their experience known to others both inside and outside of our loss community.

These labels weren’t used, to my knowledge, until quite recently. In the last 5-10 years, they have become more apparent and used heavily in the baby loss and pregnancy loss communities.

I’m sure many people have seen the maternity or newborn pictures with beautiful rainbow colors surrounding a pregnant mom or a squishy, beautiful newborn. Many people have seen them, but have no idea why the rainbow-colored themes are present. They aren’t aware of the symbolism of the rainbow.  This is probably especially true if you are no longer in your childbearing days or older than 40. I’ve even met many mothers my age, 36, or younger who have also never heard of the terms Sunshine Children, Angel Baby and Rainbow Baby.

Related: When Science Links my Pregnancy Losses to my Rainbow Baby

I’ll briefly explain what each of these definitions means.  They are as follows:

Sunshine Children are children who were born before a mother lost a baby during pregnancy at any gestation or during infancy. An Angel Baby is a baby who has passed away at any point in pregnancy or after birth during infancy.  Finallly, a Rainbow Baby is the baby who is born after a loss of any gestation or any age during infancy.

The rainbow is present in these pictures because this mom is pregnant with another baby after her loss. That cute little newborn surrounded by rainbow colors IS the baby that was born after that mother’s previous loss. This is the “Rainbow Baby”.

I know some people won’t agree with my point of view. However, not all loss mothers feel the same on this topic. Some women find comfort in these terms and label, but I have met so many mothers who share the same views I do with the baby loss terms used for our children.  I fully understand and agree that if these terms help you, then by all means use them.  We each have to find our way through our grief after the loss of our child.  We each have to find what comforts us.

However, I think it is important to recognize that not all mothers who have lost a baby find solace with these terms.

First, I must admit that I find myself struggling to understand the need or purpose for these terms and labels in the baby loss community. I understand the need to try and make sense out of the senseless, to find ways to connect with other people, especially when we feel so alone.  To find others who can share our experience and understand our grief and heartache. To find hope when all hope feels and seems gone forever. I understand the shared pain my fellow bereaved mothers have missing their child every day of their life.

I think one of the things I struggle with the most is that I don’t want my older children to be labeled as “Sunshine Children” simply because of their birth order. I don’t think any child needs to be labeled or have a term affixed to them because they are here in my arms or not.  Do my living children provide me joy and happiness? Of course, but so does my son, Turner, who passed away. Turner provides me much sunshine in my life from the lessons I have learned and the beautiful gifts he has given me because of his existence. Each of my 5 children has taught me different things about myself and life, and Turner is no different.

I am also painfully aware that many of the moms in our community had their first child pass away and therefore will never have “Sunshine Children” and that alienates these moms even more than they already are. Childless mothers the world can not see. A pain and heartache I will never fully understand because I do have living children in my arms.

I don’t want to call my son, Turner, our “Angel Baby” simply because he isn’t in my arms. He is our 5th child and will always be my son. I am a very Christian woman and this term has an unsettling feeling to me. I believe my son is in heaven with God. However, I don’t believe my son grew wings on his back, is flying around, playing harp, with a halo on his head, and sitting in clouds. When talking to others about Turner I never use the term angel baby.  I always say my son who passed away.

There are many other mothers both Christian and non-Christian who feel the same way I do in regard to the term “Angel Baby”. They too express a discomfort with all or a few of these terms and labels on their children. o I know I am not alone in my thinking.

I think the term “Angel Baby” tends to soften the actual death of a baby for others who haven’t experienced the death of a child. Since they are an “angel” it somehow makes the loss easier to bear and less painful to people who haven’t lost a child.  My son is my son. He isn’t my angel. He is my child who died from an umbilical cord accident 2 weeks before his due date.

Related: The Mother Cord; Parenting Without Fear

Finally, my struggle with the term rainbow baby.  I once heard another loss mom say, when trying to explain what a rainbow baby is to another loss mom who hadn’t heard of that term, describe it like this, “A rainbow baby is like the holy grail in the baby loss community.”  I can completely understand why she explained a rainbow baby this way.

I see many mothers, for lack of better words, chasing the rainbow. Encouraging other mothers that they too will get their rainbow. However, the fact of the matter is there are mothers who have had another baby after their loss, only to have that “rainbow baby” die as well. Mothers who either chose not to have another child after the loss of their baby, or they simply can’t have any more children for various reasons. Mothers who have desperately tried and tried to have another baby only to still have their arms empty. These women don’t have the “rainbow baby” that many women talk about in our community. The baby that is supposed to provide some type of healing and hope in their life. Sometimes the rainbow baby doesn’t come and never will.

The symbolism of a rainbow is the promise of hope, beauty and calm after a storm. The rainbow is only seen when the storm has passed, the winds and carnage have calmed, the rain has stopped pouring and the sun is fully shining again. Hope at the end of the storm.  This implies there is an end to the storm as well.

My son isn’t my storm. My son’s death is the storm that I battle everyday.  Dealing with his death and him not being in my arms is the storm that is raging deep in my soul each day. While in time the storm will calm a bit here and there, this storm will never fully go away. It will always be a part of me. And even if I am blessed with another child, a rainbow appearing in my life if you will, the storm will still rage. There is no end to this storm. The storm of losing a child.  No subsequent child will ever stop the waves from crashing, the winds still howling, and the rain from pouring down each day.

Again, we all have to find what brings us peace and comfort in our grieving and if using these terms helps, I am glad you have found them. If the term used in the baby loss community help you find comfort then, by all means, go ahead and use them.  At the same time please understand there are many mothers who do not understand these terms and find little to no comfort in using them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on if you find comfort in these terms or if you too struggle with the sunshine, angels, and rainbows.

  • Desiree' Crocker

    Desiree Crocker is the mother to 5 children, with her youngest child, a son named Turner, unexpectedly born still on March 25, 2017 at 38 weeks gestation from a cord accident. She has been married for 13 years to Dave, who is the love of her life. She is also the founder of the Facebook group “Turning Hearts” and the blog “Turning Hearts”,, which is a blog and website designed to share her everyday life, thoughts and feelings after the loss of her son, help support parents who've had to endure the pain of child loss and to help those who are left to support these grieving families understand how best to love and support their loved ones. Her goal with openly sharing her son and grief is to bring more awareness to stillbirth and the devastating effects it has on families, while also hoping to reduce stillbirth rates.


    • Karina Meneghetti

      November 15, 2017 at 8:44 am

      Dear Desiree’
      I need to thank you from the bottom of my heart! I have the same opinion and the majority of other mothers can’t understand that! They wanna use the “Rainbow baby” as a salvation, and this is not fair with moms struggling, neither with the babes will born after a brother or sister death!
      I can understand how we need to feel another baby in our arms, the desire to be a mother with a living child and all the rest… It’s more than understandable! But we need to be careful to live our pain, to grieve, to renovate our hope and joy even if with empty arms… because it’s dangerous to put all of our faith in a new baby! We need to meet joy again in ourselves, in life. Because we do matter! And then we will be prepared to be a good mom again, to another child that will have your own space in our hearts. Not the salvation, not the solution of our problems, just another blessed son or daughter!
      Thanks again for your words!

      1. Desiree' Crocker

        Desiree Crocker

        November 15, 2017 at 11:51 pm

        Thank you for your comment. I understand and agree with your statement completely. I’m so glad that this article resonated with you. Much love.

        -Desiree Crocker

    • MikaylasMom

      November 15, 2017 at 9:13 am

      While I agree about “angel baby,” I have a different understanding of sunshine and rainbow. I think sunshine children can only be properly understood in the context of the storm that is losing a baby. It is not at all to imply they are the only children who bring light and joy to your life, rather they brought light and joy before you experienced the darkness and chaos that comes when a baby dies.

      Also, I have never heard anyone within the babyloss community (though perhaps from those outside?) imply that having a rainbow is the end of the storm. Yes, it chronologically happens after the storm takes place, but the storm rages on. It may have lessened in intensity (as grief should over time), but it is still very much there. If everything was blue skies and fluffy clouds, there would be no rainbow. The rainbow is not hope that the storm is gone forever, but rather that even in the midst of the storm there can still be beauty and light.

      I have no problem with any mother choosing to use whatever terms she resonates with for her children, but I did want to share my understanding of these terms to give another perspective ❤.

    • Dara

      November 24, 2017 at 8:49 am

      I completely agree, glad I’m not the only one x

    • Marissa

      December 11, 2017 at 11:33 am

      I use the terms “Sunshines, Angel Baby, and Rainbows”. I never knew these terms until I had a horrific miscarriage at 10 weeks gestation in 2014.

      For me, I have 3 Sunshines, 2 Angels, and 2 Rainbows. My Sunshines are the light that pull me out of the darkness of my grief. They are my world, my love, my everything. Without them, I’m not sure how I would have managed through my grief. They too grieved the loss of a baby brother or sister. But they are my happiness before I ever knew loss. I do not call them this directly. All my children are still my children and I love them all equally, but it just helps me through my grief.

      I do not see my babies in heaven with God as I am not religious – spiritual, yes. But I needed something to give reason for my losses. The “there was nothing you could have done” speech or “this is just life” or “nature took its course” was not good enough for me. My baby’s heart beat inside my body then it stopped. I had no control over it. I did not want my baby to die, I did not create that life for it to just…go away. It gives me comfort to think that perhaps my baby’s soul had to be somewhere else or was needed somewhere else. I may not be religious or have a faith in “God” – But I also have to believe that we are important, life is important, and it means something.

      My Rainbows – I had a Rainbow, lost another pregnancy, and just had another Rainbow. For me, the Rainbow doesn’t symbolise the storm has passed – but more that even through the storm, there is beauty, peace, and happiness to be found. I don’t see my losses as the storm itself. My grief is the storm. I am far from healed – having more babies hasn’t healed my pain or grief. I still feel that pain as fresh today as I did 3 years ago or last year when I had my second loss. But having my rainbows has opened my eyes to the true and raw beauty of life. I know that even though I loved the babies that I lost, I am not lost in my grief.

      I hear what you are saying about women who never get their “Rainbow”, and I can’t speak for them or why they hate the term. I have never come across anyone who has not liked this term, but I also have also never been in a community that wasn’t supportive of all women in their various stages.

      I think we all cling to whatever helps us through the grief, whatever that may be. The huge problem with grief is the various emotions from sadness to anger to jealousy to joy to devastation and back again. Each journey is personal, and we always love to connect with those who understand our own journeys, but I also feel it’s important to support everyone through that grief. If you don’t like these terms – OK. What will help you through? What can I do to help you get through your darkest hours or your brightest of days?

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