As the host of the hit podcast The Birth Hour, Bryn Huntpalmer, 31, a mom of two from Austin, Texas has heard her fair share of hard stories. She knows that when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.
After witnessing her best friend endure the loss of her son at 34 weeks through stillbirth in 2014, Huntpalmer says that she really became entrenched in the pregnancy and baby loss community. In the weeks and months of grief following her friend’s loss, Huntpalmer’s eyes were opened to the incredible support found in the pregnancy loss community. “It’s one of those groups you never want to find yourself in, but once you do, you’re grateful to have it,” she notes.
Little did she know that she would become part of the loss community two years later when her third pregnancy resulted in miscarriage. Despite all she knew about pregnancy loss, Huntpalmer found herself struggling with knowing “how” to grieve an early loss, because she felt like so many others had it “so much worse” than she did. But in her journey through grief, she leaned into the support she found — particularly by a friend who pointed out that there was no place for comparison in the world of loss.
Huntpalmer relates that her friend texted her words that helped her feel free to share her loss, and ultimately, heal:
“A loss is a loss. We can always find someone who has it harder or easier. But what matters is that you are mourning a loss. You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed for being sad. The moment you think you’re bringing a baby into the world is the moment that it becomes more than okay to grieve a loss.”
While moving through her own grief process and diving deep into the pregnancy and infant loss community, Huntpalmer noticed that while there were a lot of memorial products on the market designed for mothers and babies, there wasn’t a lot available for fathers. As a mother moving through loss, she had access to online forums and communities where she could talk about her experience. But for her husband, Richard, 34, there wasn’t a lot of space for him to share his experience of loss.
“After Bryn had a miscarriage, I struggled to understand my feelings,” Richard explains. “I wasn’t sure how I felt about a loss so soon in pregnancy; I was sad, but my perspective on loss is framed by our close friends who lost their child at 34 weeks. So I grappled with whether or not my feelings were appropriate instead of just letting myself feel them.”
To help change the conversation about men and miscarriage, Huntpalmer decided to design something just for dads, coming up with the concept of a rainbow dad T-shirt. A “rainbow baby,” she explains, is the term for a baby who is born after the loss of a baby — as in the “rainbow” after the storm. The terms “rainbow mom” and “rainbow dad” are ways for mothers and fathers to celebrate their new baby while also honoring the baby they lost.
She initially struggled with designing the rainbow shirt in a way that would show it was directed towards rainbow dads, but after receiving input from fathers, she eventually nailed down a concept that has seemed to resonate with loss families. “The response has been great from both dads and rainbow moms excited to have something to buy their husband for Father’s Day,” Huntpalmer explains.
“There are too few resources for men who experience child-loss, perhaps because they don’t physically experience it the way women do or because our society is generally dismissive of men’s emotional needs. Maybe both, ” he notes. “So, to me, the rainbow-dad tee is small but powerful acknowledgment of a father’s role in child-loss and in the redemptive birth that follows.”
Rainbow dad T-shirts come in a variety of colors and are available through size 3XL. You can even order rainbow sibling T-shirts for big brothers and sisters who are part of the rainbow family, too. Huntpalmer is looking forward to seeing pictures of dads wearing their shirts and further bringing men into the conversation about pregnancy and infant loss.
You can order your own rainbow dad T-Shirt and share your own images and rainbow dad stories on social media with the hashtag #rainbowdad.