A rainbow baby is a baby born following the loss of another. The idea is that the rainbow baby is the beauty at the end of the storm. It doesn’t deny the storm happened but brings light and hope.
After I lost my son Toby halfway through my pregnancy I was desperate to conceive again and four months later I found I was expecting my rainbow, my son Joshua.
But a rainbow pregnancy is a unique experience. Something I’d never really considered before. As well as all the usual worries, it comes with a whole new world of emotion and fears. And for me it wasn’t just my pregnancy I viewed differently, but everybody else’s. Sitting in the waiting room for scans and seeing the excited, expectant faces. I would get so frustrated at their naivety. Did they not know what could happen? Did they not realise they may never take that baby home? It was a horrible dark world to be in. I so wanted to be back in their world, back in the innocence, but I knew I would never be able to go back.
Guilt Guilt Guilt!!
The overriding emotion when I found out I was pregnant was definitely guilt. Guilt that I may one day smile again. Guilt that Toby may feel replaced. Guilt that this baby would be second best to Toby.
The guilt is something that’s never really left me, but not in the way I first felt. It’s the same guilt I have going about day to day life. The guilt of letting one child have the ‘good’ TV seat. The guilt of giving one child the bigger piece of cake. The guilt of telling them Tesco’s had forgotten to deliver their favourite chocolate bar when really I’d just demolished it within 2 minutes of it arriving! I live with it because I know it will balance out in the end. As soon as I realised this, long after my rainbow was born, it all became more manageable. I don’t feel guilty if I cut short our trip to the park to go and visit Toby, because I know one day I won’t go and visit Toby because we’ve stayed too long at the park.
Guilt is part of parenthood, rainbow or not.
“I might lose this one, I don’t want to bond with it”
This took me a long time to get over. As soon as I found out I was pregnant everything was different to before. There was no fun announcement (or any announcement for that matter), no planning, no shopping. Just sitting and waiting. Waiting for the kicks to stop. Waiting for the bleeding. Waiting for the pain. At around 30 weeks I had a panic that he had stopped moving, and then it started to slip into place. I went into intense panic, shock, crying, but how could I possibly feel that about a baby I hadn’t bonded with?! I then realised I had bonded with him. I just wasn’t allowing myself to accept it. If I had been given bad news that day, I wouldn’t have shrugged it off and walked out unperturbed. I would have been devastated. I would have gone back in to my pit of depression. I realised “not bonding” would in no way make losing him any easier. So I threw myself into my pregnancy for the last seven weeks (My rainbow kindly arrived three weeks early!) . I posted some of my 3D scan pictures on Facebook. I allowed people to know I was pregnant. I was happy to talk about him, make plans. I knew nothing could ever make the experience of losing him any better so I may as well make any time I did have with him the best it could be. I even had a baby shower!
Those horrible horrible words… ‘Everything will be fine’
This is the worst thing to say to a mother pregnant with her rainbow (or any pregnancy for that matter!) You do not know this unless you have actually mastered time travel and come back from the future with this message (in which case please tell me the upcoming lottery numbers while you’re at it)
The truth is it may well be fine, but it also may not. It has become my most hated phrase in life as it is completely meaningless. Hearing them during my rainbow pregnancy just made me want to scream! Someone had said it to me as I was leaving for the hospital to find out Toby had passed away…if anyone said it to me during my rainbow pregnancy I snapped.
Car seat, pushchair, baby bits
As pregnant friends around me were looking at which brand of car seat to buy, I was wondering whether to invest in one at all. We had the one we used for my daughter, we knew it hadn’t been in an accident and I knew you couldn’t return car seats so if anything happened and we didn’t need it, what a waste of money. Money we may need for headstones, flowers, funeral costs. I didn’t want to buy lots of clothes, just a couple of nice outfits, something timeless that he could sleep in forever if he died. As I look at him now playing with his train set this all seems ludicrous but at the time it made perfect sense.
“A replacement for Toby”
This was the most common misconception about my rainbow baby. That I had lost one baby and now I was replacing it with another. Like I would with a lost set of car keys or a misplaced DVD. It wasn’t possible to replace one with the other. Toby was Toby. Joshua is Joshua. They are not interchangeable. If you had two living children which one would you go without? If you lose a parent do you just go to a friend and use theirs? No, your parents are irreplaceable and so are your children. Toby is and will always be part of my family. On my stairs I have a picture of Emily, Joshua and Toby’s name written in the sand. There are three children in my life and none of them will ever be replaced
Other people would forget Toby.
Toby was and will always be my first son. Nothing will ever ever change that. But I couldn’t be sure anyone else would be the same. Now that I had my boy all was fixed surely? I would be better. That was so far from the truth.
When my rainbow was six weeks old a friend made the best faux pas she could’ve made. She was introducing Joshua to her husband and said, “this is little Toby.” She very quickly corrected herself and was mortified, She could probably see the tears welling in my eyes but she had no idea they were happy, grateful tears. You mentioned my son. We all get names wrong from time to time. But this one meant Toby was in her mind. She hadn’t forgotten him. There would be a million opportunities to call Joshua, Joshua but on this occasion having him called Toby was the best feeling in the world. She remembered.
As time has gone on people do talk less about Toby, but I’ve learnt to live with that. People may not think about Toby very often but then they probably don’t think about Emily and Joshua that often either. Emily and Joshua take up nearly all my time, I’m on duty 24 hours a day and Toby fills as much of that day as he would if he was here. I doubt my friends are sitting at home wondering what Emily and Joshua are doing so I don’t mind that they aren’t always thinking about Toby. The truth is I am and that’s OK. My friends all send their best wishes on Toby’s birthday so I know he is remembered. I still love to hear my son’s name, and when I do it really lights up my day.
I will never forget my angel baby Toby but my rainbow baby really is the beauty at the end of the storm.
You can find out more about our ‘Finding a rainbow’ project at Kickscount.org.uk/rainbow