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What to Expect When You're Pregnant with a Rainbow Baby

Finding out you’re expecting a baby is a season filled with many emotions. If you’re expecting again after experiencing a pregnancy loss, these emotions can range from excitement all the way down to grief and guilt. Just know that you are not alone regarding these mixed emotions about welcoming a rainbow baby into the world. You're so amazingly strong.

What is a rainbow baby?

Rainbow baby is a term used to describe the birth of a healthy baby after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of an infant. Just as rainbows only appear after a storm - rainbow babies are a symbol of hope after a loss. They are a beautiful reminder of the difficult journey you’ve been on.

It’s not uncommon to experience a mix of positive and negative emotions when you become pregnant again after a loss. 

What emotions can you have when pregnant with a rainbow baby?

Finding out you’re pregnant after a loss is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Becoming pregnant again doesn’t erase or ease the loss you’ve had. In fact, it’s likely to amplify the fears and anxiety you are already experiencing.  There is no “right way” to feel when you are pregnant with a rainbow baby.  You will feel a mix of emotions, all of which are valid and allowed during your pregnancy. 

Excitement – Finding out you’re pregnant is exciting, and its ok to feel happy when it happens. You can simultaneously be joyous about this pregnancy and sad for the one you lost. Those feelings are not mutually exclusive.

Anxiety and worry – When you experience a loss, it’s natural to fear it will happen again. Be prepared to carry anxiety and worry with you throughout your pregnancy, even as you pass certain milestones. Talk to your healthcare provider if you find that worry is preventing you from performing everyday tasks or if you feel it is negatively affecting your pregnancy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and find support. 

Grief – Everyone experiences grief differently. Feelings of grief after a pregnancy loss are unpredictable, messy, and may never truly go away. You can feel happy and content one moment and then overwhelmed with grief the next. Certain moments or comments from others may unexpectedly trigger you. Give yourself permission to feel that range of emotions and work through them. Grief can also make you feel lonely. If you lost a baby before they were born, you (the mother) were the only one connecting with that child deeply. It may be hard for others to understand your sadness. 

Guilt – Guilt is a normal reaction when you have these conflicting emotions of happiness and sadness simultaneously. Some people struggle with the idea of feeling joy about a new pregnancy because they see it as disloyal to the memory of the lost child. 

How to find support during pregnancy?

It’s important to feel supported both physically and mentally during pregnancy. This is especially true if you’ve had a previous pregnancy loss. Find a healthcare provider who is familiar with your history and is sensitive to your emotional needs during appointments and scans. Therapy and online pregnancy loss support groups are also great at helping you work through your anxiety and fears. 

Seek out the people in your life who are supportive and understanding of your emotional needs during this pregnancy – and then lean on them when you need to. 

Read More: Working While Pregnant: Knowing Your Rights

What can I expect postpartum?

Your rainbow baby has finally arrived, and you may wonder what to expect next. The feelings of worry and anxiety won’t necessarily disappear immediately after you give birth. If you’ve experienced a previous pregnancy loss, you’re at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Seek help if anxiety and depression interfere with your ability to care for yourself or your baby. 

How to support someone expecting a rainbow baby?

  • Check in on how they are feeling. Try using this sentence – “How are you feeling right now/today?” The emotions involved in pregnancy after a loss are complicated and ever-changing. Using the words “right now/today” opens the door for them to talk about the feelings they are having at that moment.

  • Allow them to be as open or closed about their feelings as they want. Everyone handles their emotions differently. Some people need to talk about their feelings, while others may feel overwhelmed by the thought. Take your cues from them, and don’t force a conversation if they aren’t ready. Respect and validate their boundaries but let them know you are there to listen and support them. Don’t ignore the loss, either. Pretending like it never happened can bring up feelings of isolation and loneliness.

  • Honor the milestones or loss with them by taking action. A common way of extending our hand to someone is to say, “let me know if you need anything” or “How can I help?” While these are wonderful sentiments, saying them puts the burden of reaching out to the grieving person. People who are grieving or having all these mixed emotions might not know what they need right now. Instead, take action. If you know they are having a hard day or the anniversary of the loss is approaching, show them you are there for them. It could be something as simple as making a freezer dinner and delivering it with a hug or sending a little note with words of encouragement after an important scan. You could also buy a little keepsake or suggest a specific idea to honor their loss. Whatever it is, offer something tangible. Let them focus on their mental well-being and the baby they’re carrying. 

How to support a partner expecting a rainbow baby?

  • Talk about your feelings – Be open about how both of you feel. Remember that everyone grieves differently. Each of you will react differently to this pregnancy, and you may feel different emotions than your partner. Make a no-judgment pact and communicate with each other to support one another through this pregnancy.

  • Talk about your rainbow baby – Start working through the big decisions of having a baby. Plan what the nursery will look like or think about baby names. Doing these things can help you both get excited about your baby's arrival and strengthen your bond.

From the mama of one rainbow baby to another

You are brave. Navigating the waters of pregnancy after a loss can be hard, but it’s also a testament to your strength. The emotions this pregnancy may be stirring up are raw, real, and often unexpected. It’s ok to feel happy and sad at the same time. I know that kind and encouraging words may not feel like much when you’re in the trenches, but you’ll get through this. 

Anxiety and fear are thieves who will try their best to steal your joy. Focus on your rainbow baby in times of sadness to help you work through your grief. Lean on those who know your journey and find support in them. You are not alone. 

Your rainbow baby is a beautiful gift after the dark clouds have passed.  Once they arrive - kiss them often and hold them tight. You deserve to be happy. 

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