What They Don’t Tell You About Rainbow Babies

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

She walked into my office and started crying. We had never met or spoken in person, but my first act was to grab a tissue and give her a hug. I didn’t know why she was crying — she was 25 weeks pregnant so I thought, “Pregnancy hormones?”

As I backed out of the hug, I saw her gaze fixed on something behind me: a rainbow scarf I had draped on the couch in my office.

“I’m pregnant with my rainbow baby,” she whispered. “And I feel so guilty.”

I’ll call her Allison; she was my new HypnoBirthing client. 

She had lost her last baby at 39 weeks gestation. The heartbeat had just stopped, and she wasn’t given a concrete reason as for why.

“It broke me,” she cried. I gave her another long hug, and we talked for two hours, skipping what I had previously had planned for our first meeting.

Over the next three months I worked with Allison as a HypnoBirthing Practitioner (childbirth preparation method), Hypnotherapist, and friend. I traveled with her back to the moment of pure terror and devastation she experienced when she was told her baby’s heartbeat was gone. She slowly breathed out the retelling of the six months she spent in bed, wishing her own heartbeat would stop … she spoke so softly, as if to avoid reawakening the debilitating grief.

She let me peer into her heart as she shared her journey of trying to get pregnant again, certain it was the only way she would survive living with a shattered heart. She went to her doctor weekly, bought a surplus of ovulation tests, took her temperature every morning, delayed her family’s Thanksgiving dinner because of an “appointment” with her husband to have sex at an exact time, and, of course, filled a whole drawer in her bathroom with pregnancy tests.

Allison said the word “desperate” didn’t do justice to her state of being during this time — she described her desire for a new pregnancy as “a need so primal and all-consuming [that she] had difficulty forming sentences when talking with others, because [her] mind was soaked with pregnancy.”

Thirteen months after she lost her daughter, eight at-home pregnancy tests showed double lines: she was finally pregnant … and then she was terrified.

Her journey to a new pregnancy slammed her into a wall of fear and guilt. She felt that she had betrayed her daughter by so adamantly seeking a new life, by taking energy away from grieving to focus on creating another baby; and then she felt guilt towards her growing baby because she didn’t feel she was nurturing him in the way that he deserved. She was so afraid he would die. This is when I stepped into her journey, and I’ll never be the same for it.

It was as though her darkness was enclosed in a bubble only she could enter. I could see it, but it was blurry and impossible for me to truly understand. How could anyone understand the crippling sorrow of losing a child unless they’d been there themselves? And even then, we all travel different paths through darkness.

She described her rainbow baby (a child born after a stillbirth or miscarriage), as a perfect ray of beauty surviving in a torrential storm still raging. It was incomprehensible to her how so much joy could co-exist with so much dread.

Allison showed up to her seven months of intense healing, diving deep into her authentic emotions, messy fears, secret jealousies, and heart-stopping guilt. We utilized journaling, talking, dancing, hypnosis, crying, yelling, stomping, and laughing to free her to open her heart to new light — rainbow light.

A fully-mended heart is not what she found. She expressed that there will always be a hole inside of her aching for the life of her first child. But she found that the hole can work two ways: it can let out light, but it can also pull it in. The emptiness left by the departure of her daughter created space for her whole being to love her son with a sacred appreciation she didn’t think she would fully know if she had not experienced ultimate loss.

She delivered a healthy son 22 months after her daughter left this world. He is cherished by a family who loves him with open hearts and minds that are humming with the miracle of life.

Allison asked me to share her story. Her wish is that the pain, beauty, and love living in her journey connects with others, creating enough hope for the mothers and fathers of babies that have passed on to take a breath, and then another.

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