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How to Deal with the Complex Emotions of a Rainbow Baby

How to Deal with the Complex Emotions of a Rainbow Baby

Our youngest son, Levi, recently turned 18. On his birthday, my husband prayed a special prayer of thanksgiving for Levi’s life, and I made an extra point to tell him how very precious his life is to me.

He is, after all, a rainbow baby.

I’ve told him this before, but I think it hit me harder this year as Levi was preparing to go away for college. When I told him this, he smiled. He knows how much he’s loved.

But he doesn’t understand the full weight of what it means to be a rainbow baby. And I pray he never does.

What Is a Rainbow Baby? Why a Rainbow?

A rainbow baby is a child born to a family that has previously lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death during infancy. 

The significance of this symbol comes from the idea of a rainbow appearing in the sky after a storm, or after a dark and turbulent time.

For the Christian, we understand that this symbol comes from Genesis 6. If you start reading in verse 11, you find that the world was corrupt in God’s eyes and he determined to make an end of all flesh.

God instructed Noah to build an ark that would house Noah, his family, and the animals that would be used to replenish the earth. In Genesis 7:11 we see that, “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”

Verse 23 says, “He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.”

If you grew up in church, you were likely taught this story with cute, smiling animals gathered on the deck of the ark. Because of this, we often fail to grasp the gravity of the situation.

Imagine being one of eight people left alive on the earth. Imagine watching everyone else you ever knew perish in the great flood. This was a frightening and devastating event. But then fast forward to Genesis 9.

God caused the floodwaters to recede, allowing Noah and his family to exit the ark onto dry land. And God, in his great mercy, made a covenant with Noah saying, “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.”

A rainbow is the perfect symbol to signify new life, to remind us of God’s faithfulness, and of his continual involvement in our lives.

How to Deal with Your Fear of Carrying a Rainbow Baby:

While there is great excitement in finding out you’re pregnant, especially after having lost a baby, it’s normal for that excitement to be accompanied by fear.

I found myself unexpectedly pregnant two months after miscarrying our daughter, Grace. I had spent those two months fearing I might never get pregnant again, and now that I was, I was terrified of having another miscarriage. These fears are normal and shouldn’t be ignored.

 - Talk to your husband or a trusted friend about these fears. This is a time when you need support, encouragement, and specific prayers, but those closest to you can’t know how to best love you if you don’t share this with them. 

 - Take your fears to God. Romans 8:2 tells us that the Holy Spirit groans for us and prays on our behalf when we don’t have the words. Sit quietly before the Lord when you are full of fear. Allow the Spirit to pray for you and to minister to your soul.   

 - Meditate on scriptures such as Philippians 4:7, which says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Also consider Psalm 94:19, which says, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

 - Worship. Our fears, anxiety, and worry should bring us closer to the throne of God, not farther away. If you find yourself neglecting your relationship with the Lord because you are riddled with fear, go to him and worship! Use 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 as your guide, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Rainbow over a field

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/grafxart8888

How to Deal with Grief after Losing a Baby:

We miscarried our daughter, Grace, going into our fourteenth week. We were able to hold her tiny body in the palm of our hand and see the definition of her eyes, nose, fingers, and toes. It was heartbreaking and I found myself in my doctor’s office saying, “I just can’t get happy.”

That’s the only way I knew how to describe what I was feeling. I had an eight-month-old baby that needed my attention, but I couldn’t see past my grief. I thought I heard the cries of a newborn in our house. I thought I saw a little girl peeking at me from around the corner. I had vivid dreams about her that woke me up in a panic.

Here are some things to remember as you grieve. 

 - Grief does more than affect your emotions; it affects your thought process, your reasoning skills, your eating and sleeping patterns, etc. Knowing this helps you not fight the way your body naturally responds to grief. 

 - Acknowledge your grief. If you are a woman who was raised in an environment where you were not encouraged to talk about your feelings, I urge you to fight against that. Acknowledging your grief and talking through what you're experiencing is a huge first step in the healing process. 

 - Have a memorial service. If you don’t feel the need to have a traditional funeral, you can easily have a memorial gathering for your immediate family or simply you and your husband. Dedicating time to grieve together can be salve for the broken heart. This is true for the women who are able to bury their babies and for those who aren’t. 

 - Name your baby. There’s no questioning this for women who experience a stillbirth or lose their baby in infancy. But for women who miscarry, it’s not uncommon to leave the baby unnamed. The biggest factor for this is not always knowing the gender of your baby. But I suggest naming your baby regardless of not knowing the gender. This will give you a connection with that baby and help you celebrate the impact their short life had on yours. 

 - Talk to your other children about it. Our sons know they have a sister waiting for them in Heaven. When they were young they would ask me, “How will she know us when we get there?” or, “What will she look like? How will we know it’s her?” It’s okay to tell your children that you don’t know. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to let yourself and your other children be in awe of the mystery that surrounds our eternal home.

How Do I Celebrate My Rainbow Baby?

It’s easy for some to say, “You celebrate your rainbow baby the same way you would any other baby.” But for many moms, the significance of this baby’s life calls for special recognition. If this is you, here are some ideas that might help.

 - Have a rainbow-themed baby shower. For some women, it’s simply too painful to talk about the baby or babies that have been lost. For these women, a rainbow-themed shower might be distracting and cause them pain. If that’s the case, celebrate your rainbow baby in the way that suits you best.

However, if you like the idea of a rainbow-themed shower, decorate with rainbows, hang a rainbow pinata, play baby bingo with Skittles or use them to top your cake. Offer different punch flavors in bright colors. You can even use rainbows on your invitations with a short explanation so that everyone knows what to expect.

This is important for other ladies you might have in your life who are anxiously awaiting their own rainbow baby and may find celebrating with you to be painful. 

  - Celebrate through thanksgiving and humility. If you have been blessed with a rainbow baby, give thanks and glory to God! Don’t spend your time talking about how you changed your diet and stopped stressing and started juicing in the mornings. You are likely surrounded by women who are fighting their own battles with the womb. Use your blessing as an opportunity to point them only to Christ. 

 - Take time to explain to others what a rainbow baby is and why this life is so special to you. When we lost our daughter, Grace, and then found ourselves pregnant again, no one was using the term “rainbow baby”.  This is just a reminder that there may be women, especially in the older generations, who have never heard this term. Take time to explain its significance.

You may find there are older women in our life who have their own stories of infertility or loss, and will rejoice in learning of the term “rainbow baby”. 

 - Take time to remember the baby or babies that you’ve lost. Display ultrasounds pictures or pictures of your baby after they were born if you have them. While some women don’t have pictures or find them too painful, it’s sometimes nice to have a small figurine, framed scripture, or something of significance that reminds you of and allows you to celebrate the baby or babies that came before.

You can incorporate this into your shower and into everyday life.

 - Tell your rainbow baby who they are. When your rainbow baby is old enough to understand, tell them how significant their life is. Praise God in front of your child for the life they were given. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child about the fallen state of our world, how sin has broken our bodies and how death is a part of our life.

And then point your rainbow baby to Genesis and tell them of God’s great love, his faithfulness, and how he binds up the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3).

When we see a rainbow in the sky, we are reminded of the account in Genesis and God’s covenant. We are given a sense of hope and expectation. Yet we must never forget the storm that came before the rainbow.

So, as you rejoice in the new life of your child, and as you celebrate your own rainbow, don’t forget to reflect on the storm, however many there might have been, because the storm and the rainbow have made you who you are, have been a part of your sanctification, and will be used by God for his glory. 

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Rawpixel

Beth Ann Baus is a wife and mother of two adult sons. She is a freelance writer and author of Sister Sunday, My So Much More, and His Power, Our Weakness: Encouragement for the Biblical Counselor. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for homeschooling, women’s ministry, and is an ACBC-certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life. You can find more from her at