Wednesday, June 10, 2009


While living children are mentioned in this post, it addresses a topic that many bereaved parents think, wonder and worry about…having subsequent children after their loss.

This past weekend, my sister came to visit. We haven’t spent an entire weekend together in a long time, and it was really nice. Her youngest child is only 15 months old, and he is simply a ray of sunshine. And he is my sister’s rainbow baby. For those who aren’t familiar with that term, a rainbow baby is a baby who was born after a loss…a promise of hope after a terrible storm.

Two and a half years ago, my sister gave birth to a very tiny little boy who was born still. This precious little boy was conceived just before the baby who died was due, so it’s impossible to spend time with him without thinking how if not for the baby who didn’t make it, he wouldn’t be here.

Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to dealing with those feelings. My second son who will soon be 15 would not be here either if not for the last two miscarriages I had. While I was going through a very difficult pregnancy with him, the thought never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t be here if not for what I had been through. During that time, I was so focused on getting him here safe and sound that I thought of little else. But minutes after he was born, while I was holding him and gazing into his beautiful face for the very first time….it hit me. I would not have him if not for our losses because it wouldn’t have physically been possible. The last baby I had miscarried was due on Halloween, and he had been conceived nearly a month before that.

As I held him that first time, so much in love, I felt guilty. I wondered if the spirits of the babies I had miscarried thought that I no longer cared about them now that I had a new baby. I felt guilty that I had ever been so distraught over the babies I had miscarried, knowing that if not for them, THIS baby who I had come to love so fiercely wouldn’t be here. It was a vicious circle, one I traveled around and around many times in the coming months and years.

And now I travel that circle again…and so does my sister. I know she does because she has told me before that she was so sad about her baby boy who died, yet she can’t imagine not having this delightful little boy either.

I thought of something else this weekend, too. He is such a happy baby, always with a smile on his face. Happy…smiley…a true joy. He always has been. It’s almost like he knew from the beginning his mommy’s heart needed healing, and he is doing that. I look back on my own son’s babyhood, and I remember thinking the very same thing. My son who was born after my miscarriages was always happy with a huge grin on his face. I didn’t know about Share back then and had never heard of the term rainbow baby, yet I did often marvel at the ray of sunshine and hope that I was blessed with after all of the heartache and tears.

My son often asks me about the “babies that died” and if I would have had him if those babies wouldn’t have died. I used to be uncomfortable answering his questions because I never wanted him to think he wasn’t wanted or planned. I have always been open with my kids about my miscarriages, and even when he was pretty little, he asked questions. I started telling him that for some reason we don’t yet know, HE was the one who we were meant to have with us here on Earth. So far, that answer has satisfied him. I don’t know what my sister will tell her son, but she and her kids also talk openly about their baby who died, so I’m sure that someday, she will also be faced with having to explain that which is so hard to explain.

Whatever she tells him, he will know without a doubt that he is so loved. And he will know the joy and healing he brought to our whole family.

I often read on Share that so many others have these same feelings of worrying about how you can love and welcome a new baby into your heart and family when that baby would not be here if not for the death of another. And so many moms feel guilty over the feelings they have. These are not easy emotions to deal with and accept, but they are “normal.” As we all know, one baby can never replace another. But, it IS possible to love a new child without diminishing the love you have for your baby who died.


Gina said...

This is so true. I don't have a child yet, but I have thought about it. The reason is that I have a very close friend who is a rainbow baby. When I lost my daughter, he was so supportive. She told me about her mom having a miscarriage and that she wouldn't be here if she didn't. I know that we will never forget our baby girl, but we so much want to welcome a new baby into this world.

HanamiMama said...

I lost my first child, Nicolas, during early labor at 41 weeks of pregnancy. I became pregnant with my rainbow baby (love that term), Christopher Nicolas, three months later. For me, it is certainly physically possible to have become pregnant with Christopher even if Nicolas had lived. I don't like to think that Christopher is here only because Nicolas died -- it would be too difficult. I believe I was meant to have both Nicolas and Christopher, and they both should be alive. My children are not mutually exclusive and do not cancel each other out. Of course, if Nicolas had died early in pregnancy, things would be different. I'm not sure how I would feel in that situation.

Thanks for your blog. I will add it to my blogroll.

Virginia said...

My rainbow baby, James, is a bright and sunny boy, full of love and laughter. He has brought us joy after the hell of losing his big brother Ben. Now, I can no more imagine my life without James in it than I an imagine my life with Ben alive. I would give anything to have them both, and I could have--they were 20 months apart. A mother's love is big enough for all of her babies, and I think that's something our children will understand one day when they have babies of their own.

Nan said...

Beautifully put! I sometimes can see the "rainbow" through the dark clouds. One day I will be an earthly mommy. Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I have thought about this so many times over the years, but never really put it into words. Virginia, I love how you said "A Mother's love is big enough for all of her babies..." That is so true...whether they are living or not, our hearts can hold them all.

Maggie said...

The term rainbow is awesome. The song I find most comfortable is "Somewhere over the Rainbow"
We did not try to have another child until after our son's due date. We lost our son at 22 weeks to Potter's Syndrome. I just couldn't give "his time" away. We have just found out we are pregnant with our rainbow baby. I am so hopeful and nervous for this pregnancy but I have put the word "Believe" above the doorway to the soon-to-be nursery. Thank you for your honesty!

Angela Donaldson Photography said...

I lost my son Ethan on 2/13/08 and concieved on 6/30/09 so my rainbow baby was born on 2/11/09. It was the most bittersweet moment in my entire life.

And at the same time my world came crashing down with so many emotions, I was not prepared to feel. I felt so guilty for loving the next baby so much and yet guilty for him as well. I dont want him to ever feel like a replacement.

Salma said...

I am so sad right now...I am not at the point where I can speak of having another baby since I just lost my son on June 13th. Maggie's comment makes me think a little about how fast I want to try again.

My son was 38 weeks. I almost lost him at 28 weeks and I feel so much anger that I went through a whole pregnancy and ended with nothing but heart-ache. Hubby says my pain would have been the same. I don't know and I guess I never will.

All the comments here have touched me deeply.

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