I have always loved Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I’d probably choose it as my life’s lullaby. It brings comfort and hope. Each time I hear the song, it calms me. In fact, I’ve collected every version of the song that’s been recorded. I currently have 15 versions on my iPhone. At my wedding, I danced with my dad to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version. When I learned the story of the “Rainbow Baby,” it seemed to fit into the metaphors where I find comfort.
In the pregnancy/baby/child loss world, there is a story of hope about a precious new life, the “rainbow baby.” The story is based on the understanding that the beauty of the rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm (the storm being the loss of your baby, not the baby who died). The impacts linger, sometimes forever, but the rainbow provides hope and promise of new life ahead.
This metaphor can bring great hope after loss, but it can also be very painful for those who cannot or choose not to get pregnant again. When this metaphor gets turned upside down, some see the “storm” as the baby who died, rather than the loss itself. They feel it dishonors their child who died by calling that child a storm.
I personally do not see the metaphor in that way. Patrick wasn’t our storm: our storm was the loss of Patrick—one from which we will never fully recover. We will rebuild, but we will always have a piece missing from our family.
When we were in Kansas for my nephew’s baptism over Memorial Day Weekend, the state was in the middle of a month of heavy rains. Saturday night, as we drove to the house where we were staying, we saw the most brilliant double rainbow, and I mused about how rainbows are viewed in the loss world and how I felt a piece was missing from the metaphor. As Lloyd and I struggle to conceive after loss, I frequently consider that we may not give birth to another child. I think about what our lives will look like, and I still see options, hope, and even happiness.
Considering trying to conceive after loss was not an easy decision. Trying to get pregnant in the first place was not an easy decision, but that’s a story for another day. We knew going into the process that having another baby wasn’t going to fill the hole Patrick left. Another baby wouldn’t make us feel complete. Another baby wouldn’t heal us. No, healing had to be found through getting up every morning, living one day at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time.
You don’t “get over” a loss like this. Loss changes you. The damage remains. Clouds come and go as you move forward. But there are rainbows, and they don’t have to be more babies.
As I walk the tightrope between the loss of Patrick and trying to conceive our second child, I’ve found a rainbow in helping other women who are going through pregnancy after loss. The women with whom I work, as well as the work I am doing—the difference I am making—those are my rainbows right now. This work has brought me healing and helped give the loss some meaning and purpose. This work gets me up every morning and helps me to thrive in this new normal.
The irony is not lost on me: that even if we do not birth another child, the work I do at Pregnancy After Loss Support is the work that sustains me. I believe in what we do—helping women choose hope over fear while nurturing their grief. A piece of this work requires that we walk with women as they decide to stop trying to conceive after loss. Lloyd and I haven’t reached that point yet, but when I consider it as an option, it makes me sad. It would be more loss. But we have survived worse. I would still find rainbows of hope in everyday life. I could be content. I could even be happy.
No, not every rainbow after loss is a baby. But there are always rainbows.