Thanks to What the Fertility, August 22nd of every year since 2018 is National Rainbow Baby Day. A rainbow baby is a baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Rainbow babies represent a rare and coveted beauty that only comes after a storm without insinuating that the storm never even happened. For Chrisitan parents, rainbows (and rainbow babies) represent the promises of God such as His presence, peace, comfort, and redemption, partly inspired by Noah and the Ark and the rainbow God sent as a reminder of God’s promise, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” Genesis 9:11.
On this second annual National Rainbow Baby Day, I have two rainbow baby boys and am expecting a third rainbow baby in March 2020. When sharing a snippet of my story with a fellow loss mom online, her response was,
So sorry to hear you’re in this “club” too but the special babes that come after the storm are so worth it.
Anyone who watches Dr. Phil knows that the word “but” negates all the words in front of it. Sooo you’re not sorry? Just focus on the positives, right? Yes, rainbow babies sure are special. Not only does that not negate my five miscarriages, but it does not make them “worth it.”
Like I paid a price to have my living children? Like I traded my five dead babies for my two living ones, and I don’t regret it? Like one replaces the other? Moms in the loss community KNOW one life does not replace another. Why do we keep saying this? “They’re worth it.”
If there’s anything infertility and miscarriage teaches their sufferers, it’s to think about what you say, even if everybody else says it. Think before you tell a couple it’s time for them to start having babies. And maybe don’t say it. Think before you ask a woman how many kids she wants. And maybe don’t ask it. Think before you imply a woman is pregnant because she skips a drink or isn’t feeling well. And maybe don’t imply it.
“Worth it” is one of those things that sounds nice and that people say without thinking. Worth what?
Maybe that bunch of bananas you bought is worth $0.69. You were willing to part with $0.69 in exchange for a tasty food that nourishes the body.
Maybe your house is worth $150,000. You were willing to part with $150,000 in exchange for a safe and functional home for your family.
Maybe that Snickers bar was worth trading for your friend’s Butterfinger bar. You were willing to part with that Butterfinger bar in exchange for your preferred candy.
Maybe your child was worth 9 months of pregnancy. You were willing to part with 9 months of sushi and alcohol in exchange for a precious human to love and raise.
My boys are worth a lot of things. The long wait. The countless hours of research. The diet and lifestyle changes. The 18 months of pregnancy. The 27 months of breastfeeding. The sleepless nights. The endless requirement of patience and forgiveness. The tears. The overwhelm. The physical and financial sacrifices. All these things, I willingly give in exchange for their well-being, character-building, and the sweet gift of being their mother.
My rainbow babies were not worth my miscarriages. I was not willing to part with any of my babies in exchange for another.
Here’s the thing: I could have had living children WITHOUT infertility or miscarriage. But I didn’t, and that’s just sad. Yes, I love my boys in a different and special way because I did lose five babies, but their worth is not in the death of my five babies in heaven. Their worth is in who they are and who God says they are: fully known and fully loved.
Yes, my boys are a perfect fit for our family. I’m in love with them and so glad they made their way to us earthside. I wouldn’t want to do life without them. But the same may have been true for the babies I lost. I’ll never know, and I wish I never had to wonder.
On the term “rainbow baby”
Along the lines of thinking about what you say before you say it, I want to bring attention to the fact that some mamas in the loss community do not use the terms “angel baby” and/or “rainbow baby.” In fact, for some, the terms are triggering for them. Some mamas are reminded of the well-meaning but thoughtless response, “God needed another angel.” Others feel that referring to one child as a rainbow baby consequently labels a previous child as “the storm.” These terms are so common within the loss community, I never thought to think about them, but it’s just another example of how each baby, mom, and greif journey is different, and once we accept and embrace that fact, it can be a beautiful and liberating thing.
I had never thought much of the term “angel baby” until a speaker at the Moms in the Making conference last year said, “Your babies are not angels. They are humans who have died.” At first, it hit me hard and confused me, but I do realize now angels are separate beings. I like to use the term “heaven baby” now. Same amount of syllables but more accurate, although I do use “angel baby” occasionally when speaking within the loss community just for ease of communication. Rainbow babies… I have two and do love using the term. I understand why some people don’t, but for me, the “storm” is the grief and the breakdown of my marriage, not my babies themselves. I also feel “rainbow baby” acknowledges my heaven babies and keeps their memories alive rather than defining my living children by that term. Also, rainbows do not come after every storm, which to me, accurately reflects that a rainbow baby doesn’t come after every miscarriage.
I also don’t believe rainbow babies represent a fulfillment of God’s promise for a baby but a fulfillment of his promise to give his presence, guidance, love, joy, comfort, and inexplicable peace. When I refer to my boys as “rainbow babies,” it is in honor of all God’s goodness through the storm of infertility and recurrent miscarriage.
Now that we’re thinking about what we’re saying… what are your thoughts on angel babies, rainbow babies, or their worth?