Let me start by saying that I love babies, I love women who’ve lost babies (and those who haven’t, of course), and I’m a strong proponent of grieving and moving forward in whatever constructive way that works for you. That being said, I think there are some flaws with the rainbow baby idea. Before you rain fire down on me, let me explain its pitfalls and why it makes me feel a little weird all over.
For those of you who aren’t aware, a rainbow baby is a baby born after loss, whether that loss is a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or infant loss. The idea follows the analogy of your healthy baby being a rainbow after your storm of loss. Now, I understand that every analogy falls apart at some point because it’s just that: an analogy. Something to help us understand a complex concept. And this one really is a beautiful nod to the joy a healthy baby brings after the suffering that is losing a baby.
But the ways in which the idea falls short have been pricking at my heart.
What’s a Storm?
The babies we lost, the babies people lose every day, are more than a storm. They’re more than a rough patch of life. A financial difficulty, a health scare, a season of child-rearing difficulty: those things are storms. Those are hard things and their significance shouldn’t be downplayed, but they eventually resolve (or at the very least, don’t involve loss of life). Then we can celebrate the rainbow of financial security, good health, or a renewed relationship that follows.
Losing a child has no resolution. There’s no event, not even the birth of another child wished for, that can absolve the lingering effects of surrendering a baby to death. It simply cannot be.
Our Rainbow Baby
We have our “rainbow baby”. She’s peacefully sleeping right now and she has brought an undefinable amount of joy to our family. But she’s not Theo. She’s not the baby we lost to miscarriage. And it’s not fair of me to place the burden of my healing on her. Maybe I’m alone in this, but part of my heart was doing that. I was expecting her arrival to fill a spot in my soul that isn’t her responsibility to fill, and she’s not big enough for that (and she’s huge, you guys; like a three-month-old in a one-year-old’s body huge).
I wasn’t prepared for that. Logically I know that Ona can’t replace anyone. I get that she can’t heal the parts of my heart that are still raw. But somehow, I let this idea, this dream of “another baby” stand at the threshold of the empty place left by our losses and then expected the fulfilling of that dream to break in and flood the empty.
Ona’s birth did break in and fill, but not to heal. Children after loss are a balm and a hope and joy, but they aren’t healers. That’s why my Jesus is here. That’s what He does. He does flood in and fills me. I can expect that of Him because it’s what He promises.
The truth is, the process of healing responsibility falls largely on the wounded. To be passive is not to find healing. Passivity after injury only serves to let the wound fester and disable the entire body. Healing is an active process, one where we need to assess, reassess, retrain, and keep moving. Covering the wound and expecting something or someone else to take up the banner of healing is foolish. We need to be mindful of where our injuries are at in the healing process because otherwise, they incapacitate us when we least expect it.
My husband has a natural affinity for this: he’s great at pulling back the bandage and looking thoughtfully at the wound that losing our babies left. Me on the other hand, I tend to curl up and hide the damage under the pretense of not wanting to bother other people with my pain. I let it smolder until I can’t do anything but sit in a puddle of tears in the bathroom, wondering what’s the matter with me.
That’s what happened two days before our scheduled induction with Ona. This child of promise, this “rainbow baby” wasn’t healing me, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around why I wasn’t ecstatic about the impending arrival of this baby we’d waited so long for. I felt awful that my heart was still in so much pain when I thought I should be giddy with excitement.
My passivity in my own healing had finally imploded and I came face to face with the reality that I wasn’t surrendering my healing to the only one who could really handle that kind of burden.
Ever since that particular episode of waterworks, I’ve doubted the veracity of the rainbow baby. And I’ve come to this conclusion: it’s a lovely idea, but it misses the mark. Our sweet Ona can’t be contained in hyperbole and neither can the children we lost. And the storm of loss? It never leaves. To expect it to is to set yourself up for great heartache. The only answer I’ve found is to live in a continuous cycle of surrender and with a mindset of rehabilitation. I’m rehabbing my heart. This will never end; there will never be a rainbow until I’m swept into eternity.
The Real Rainbow
Do you see the beautiful elixir that is this life and all of the beauty God affords us while we fill our roles here in the vaporous existence? I think if we look down at our feet, we’ll see that we’re walking on an undulating rainbow of God’s grace and love, His strength and power, His sustenance. That’s the rainbow, baby. That’s how we move out from under the stormcloud and walk in the light of His glory.
Hope in Him, not in things that can fade. Set your mind on things above, not here where things break and people are temporary. While resting our hopes and dreams on the shoulders of our children may seem harmless and good and even noble, it will only distract us from the best things and will never fill the emptiness in our hearts. I can promise you that.