When I first heard the term ‘rainbow baby’ and ‘there is a rainbow of hope after every storm’ to describe a child born after baby loss, I hated it.
It made me clench my jaw in defence of my beautiful first born son who was anything but the cloudy storm the phrase implied he was.
He was rays of sunlight bursting through the clouds and comforting warmth; there has never been anything negative or dark about him.
However, as time passed and my grief moved between stages, I realised he was not the storm, his death was.
The aftermath of hearing the earth shattering words ‘your baby has died’ and learning to somehow put one foot in front of the other without him was the loudest, most terrifying storm I’ve ever sat through.
The darkness of his loss was all-consuming.
There is such a physicality to baby loss. My body felt empty; quite literally after I had birthed all 5lbs 11oz of my beautiful boy and in a hundred other ways I never could have imagined.
My arms twitched with their futility, my heart physically ached with grief and every inch of my body was silently screaming with the wrongness it felt. Something was missing and my body knew it as much as my brain did.
The only part of me that was blissfully unaware were my breasts, which cruelly leaked their liquid gold none the wiser.
I felt as though I had lost all purpose. I didn’t just want another baby, I needed one. Which is why we so desperately needed that tiny glimmer of hope that came in the form of our rainbow baby.
When I said it out loud, the words ‘another baby’ felt so flippant. I was terrified that the world around me would think I couldn’t wait to replace our son and move on.
But moving on implies leaving something behind and we knew from day one that our son would always be at the centre of our family.
His name is spoken regularly and he is very much a part of our lives, but in that desperate phase of grasping for hope with one hand and clinging onto him for dear life with the other, I felt ashamed to be thinking about our next child.
I didn’t have to think for long though as I, very unexpectedly, fell pregnant a mere five months later.
Pregnancy was so different this time. The little spark of excitement tried so hard to burn only to be squashed by crippling fear.
For weeks I hated talking about the fact that I was pregnant. When the people closest to me let their glimmers of hope for us grow I took a step back.
Off the cuff comments about who this baby might be, what they might look like or what traits they would inherit made me angry. I couldn’t allow myself to indulge in those much needed and necessary moments of optimism.
That little speck of hope continued flickering away though, getting brighter and brighter. Some days I could see it clearly and those were the days I took advantage of and used to spur myself ahead.
I forced myself to make memories knowing that there was a possibility they might be all I was left with. I wanted to know I had made the most of my time with my baby in case pregnancy was all the time I had.
People were keen to focus on the end goal rather than the present, which I found challenging sometimes.
Well intended comments about becoming first time parents felt careless but I learnt very quickly that people didn’t mean to be dismissive of our son.
They hadn’t forgotten his existence but it is far easier to nudge someone forwards towards the light than sit in the darkness with them even for a moment. Gentle, careful optimism was our focus and fortunately that carried us through.
When our daughter arrived safely I truly understood why they’re called rainbow babies.
She burst through the clouds, a bright force of nature, to give us hope. She turned the lights back on (and up another notch!).
Our son is the beautiful sunlight that gave way to the storm and our daughter is the little slice of magic that appeared through it.
On the darkest days when I feel like I am drowning in my grief for her big brother, she is the little spark of light that helps guide me to the surface.