The term “rainbow baby” is used by parents who are expecting another child after losing a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. It is used frequently on blogs and message boards by mothers who have gone through pregnancy loss.
The term refers to the fact that a rainbow appears only after the rain. In this case, the “rain” or “storm” is the grief of losing a child. Many mothers who use the term point out that the rainbow doesn’t negate the effects of the storm, but does bring light to the dark and is a symbol of hope.
I had never heard this term before. It is a term that is passed around the babyloss world like an antidote. A cure.
“It will happen”
“Don’t give up hope”
“My rainbow healed me”
Time and time again. The same words. Words that should be comforting.
Well, we did keep trying. We didn’t give up, and it did happen. Only, it wasn’t to last. Our rainbow disappeared.
Since our last loss I have wanted nothing more than to try again. Giving up is not something I am prepared to do, at least not emotionally. However, it takes two people to make a baby, two people to mourn the death of baby, two people to make that decision to go again.
Miscarriage and babyloss support groups are wonderful. They have been my fuel, my guidance, my rocks. However, since we are not trying again, I have found these groups painful. You see, the majority of loss parents do try again and keep trying. It seems to be an unwritten rule. Loss parents talk about their ovulation patterns and possible pregnancy symptoms, counting the days until they can test and tell us all about it. Rainbows are something to be celebrated, to be expected, to be encouraged and to be discussed as a method of distraction and a happy ending.
Getting advice from other loss parents who tell you that their rainbow baby healed them. That they couldn’t have carried on without trying again, without holding their rainbow. That they view the loss of their child as bittersweet, as their rainbow would not be here otherwise. That I should “keep trying”. Forgetting that it takes two to do this. That, actually, sadly, trying again isn’t written in stone.
Charities that I relied upon, sharing pages and pages of positive rainbow stories and efforts to help loss parents have a living child. Like it is an absolute given.
What about those who will not have their rainbow? Where is the support? What is the answer?
There is a small minority of couples out there. Swept to one side. Couples who cannot try again because of medical reasons, couples who do not try again out of choice, and couples like us; one feels like they will die without a rainbow, the other simply does not want to go there again, for perfectly valid reasons. This is where the best of relationships can crumble. And we have almost crumbled several times. You forget how to support eachother and end up hurting one another instead, beating eachother up emotionally and spiralling deeper and deeper. You begin to wonder how deep this hole is, you think you can’t possibly hurt any more, but you do. Both of you.
I thought I’d found rock bottom that fateful day when I was told over the phone that “we need to talk”. The day I came home from my fertility specialist at the Portland Hospital, clutching prescriptions for Progesterone and baby aspirin and, above all, hope.
All that hope in my hands. So exciting, so much enthusiasm. So much positivity. Suddenly gone. Like someone had crept up behind me and ripped that hope right out of my hands. Taking my soul with them.
Since that day I have tried to crawl out and slipped back down so many times I have lost count. I’ve felt despair and desperation. Confusion and further grief. Grief for that hope and grief for the child that I will never hold and never kiss.
I had to begin looking for other ways to heal.
Trying to find support from people who have not had their Rainbow is, surprisingly difficult. Where are all these people? How do we heal? Where is our antidote? Our hope? Does the storm last forever? Our arms stay empty yet heavy?
We need to find another way.
Another way to breath again, to find a way out of the hole. Other ways to fill our empty aching and lifeless arms. For me, it was that or lose the man I love. Someone who has done everything for me and my children. Given up his life for us. Someone who loves us unconditionally. Someone who respects me and treats me like an equal human being. Something that seems so very rare.
But I kept bumping into the same brick wall ‘Rainbow babies are the ultimate healer’. I found stories online of women who had been through the same as us. Stories I felt I could have written myself and felt like I had some kind of connection with finally but, as I read on, time and time again their stories ended with a baby in their arms and my heart sank again. I was left feeling cast aside, yet again, in my grief.
I put a question out on a popular parenting forum, desperate to find a cure for my pain. A lot of responses I had were that Stuart and I were incompatible, that I would never make peace with his choice and that I will have regrets that will forever play on my mind. But this wasn’t an option for me. I don’t want to have a child with just anyone. Leaving Stuart would not make things any better and certainly wouldn’t make either of us any happier. Leaving the man I had fallen in love with would mean losing yet another loved one. How would that help? How could I possibly deal with any more grief?
I did eventually find one loss mother who said she is now too old for a Rainbow after secondary infertility. Her advice?
Acceptance, and being grateful for what I have.
Acceptance. It’s a scary word isn’t it. Am I ready to accept? Do I want to accept? Will accepting mean letting go of my dream? Will it be another grieving process? I had so many questions so I started counselling to find out the answers. I was already grateful for what I had, of course I was, but acceptance is very hard to achieve when your whole soul relies so heavily on that rainbow, on filling those empty arms. When it seems everyone around you is experiencing your dream, while you have no choice but to sit back and watch them breathe it in so easily and embrace it, like watching someone else breathe in all of your oxygen while you gasp for air. When the absolute primal urge is fighting you. Day in, and day out. When you can’t face another pregnant women or newborn without breaking down. Without your throat tightening up and tears fighting their way out.
But it has to be the only way. Acceptance.
I know, I know. I am not ‘woo’. I’m not! I promise! I didn’t think it was for me. Thought my mind was too full of pain and anxiety. I am far too impatient to just sit there, not thinking. However, after a couple of recommendations from medical professionals, I decided I had nothing to lose in giving it a try. I soon discovered that mindfulness isn’t the airy fairy nonsense I imagined it would be. It is just about being present in the moment. Just putting the brakes on a bit and, rather than being caught up in everything, allows you to be an observer. Just for a few blissful minutes each day.
I downloaded an app to my phone and gave it a whirl, and best of all, it was free. My favourite price! This particular course involved ten minutes per day of just being. Just allowing thoughts to pass me by. One by one, like traffic. You can use those ten minutes pretty much anywhere that allows you to close your eyes:
- A quiet space at work
- On the train
- In the bath – though be careful not to fall asleep and drown – my top tip 😉
- Set your alarm ten minutes early (they say it is more beneficial in the mornings)
I’ve only managed five sessions so far, but I feel that they are beneficial and just help me to stop for a bit. Concentrate on the moment, and allow painful thoughts to just be thoughts and pass me by, rather than trying to suppress them which is what I had originally thought I should do.
And running. Running is my thing. My therapy. My escape. Pounding the pavements to relieve the anxiety that has built up inside me, like opening a can of fizzy drink really slowly.
I still have the bag of maternity clothes in the corner of our bedroom. Clinging onto that last thread of hope. The half full box of conception tablets and Pregnacare resting on top, hoping to be opened again. I still have all the boxes full of ‘Baby’s room’ stuff, from the house move. Things that should have been passed onto our rainbow. My last remaining hopes are in those boxes. How do I find the strength to say goodbye to these things? Will I hold onto them forever?
It is going to take a long time and a lot of steps backwards and forwards to try to come to terms with this. I may never make peace with it, but I am hopeful that it will eventually get easier, that I will become stronger and stronger and closer and closer to the opening of the hole high up there. Just through time and patience, being kind to myself, not pushing anything, allowing myself to feel what I need to feel, and understand that feelings are just feelings which come and go.
And do you know what? Those other loss parents were right all along.
Rainbows do heal.
Some rainbows are just not as clear as others, but my rainbow is out there. In slightly different, but equally beautiful, colours.
I just need to look harder.