For those parents who have experienced the death of a baby but have not chosen to or been able to have a subsequent child or "rainbow baby".
1. You are still a mother. It can often feel confusing and like you’ve lost this part of your identity, but this part of you does not die with your child.
2. Your birth story is just as valid and important as those with living children. A lot of times when women gather and talk about their birth experiences, they will exclude you (either intentionally or unintentionally). If you feel that you would like to contribute to these types of conversations, it is okay to let your voice and your story be heard. People may be uncomfortable with your story of loss, but it is your story. Don’t be afraid to share it.
3. At first you will find a great sense of belonging in the baby-loss community. However, as time goes on, people around you will start to become pregnant with their rainbow babies. It can feel hurtful and as though you’re being left behind, even by the people who once “got it." Even the majority of this community will not understand the pain of living without a rainbow. Seek out those who understand, and protect your heart however you need to (i.e. by blocking or removing yourself from pages/groups/people that emphasize pregnancy after loss or pregnancy and birth in general).
4. It is very normal to feel misunderstood. Living as a baby-loss mother is hard enough, but adding the extra pain of never raising a living child is unimaginable for most people. It is normal to feel detached from people and life in general. There are others out there though who are experiencing a similar situation, and it is important to seek out these types of support—you are not alone.
5. For a lot of women and couples, secondary infertility is a real problem. Or perhaps you’ve made the choice to not try to conceive another baby. You will often hear people saying that “it will be different next time” or “sometimes it just takes a while—It will happen when it’s supposed to.” People don’t realize that this is very hurtful, especially for someone who has already experienced loss, and even more especially for someone who has experienced loss and will not have the opportunity to have another child.
We hear often in the babyloss community about how you will come to live a “new normal” after your loss. When you come to the decision—or the realization—that you may not ever have another child after your loss, you will have to learn to integrate this into your life. It will be like learning to live yet another new normal. You will be grieving a new kind of loss—the loss of your opportunity to parent in the way that you had envisioned for your life.
6. A lot of bereaved mothers will place some element of blame on either themselves or their bodies for failing to keep their baby safe. The inability to conceive again may only add to this feeling of inadequacy. Thoughts could be “my body was designed to do this, so I must somehow be less of a woman. Maybe I am broken.”
Some women may see the opportunity to have a rainbow baby as a way to redeem herself from this feeling of failure. So what happens if she then is unable to prove to herself that she isn’t broken? That she is worthy of happiness? It can lead to a very strong feeling of despair and hopelessness.
7. When the pattern of hopelessness continues and there is no end in sight - no rainbow after the storm - it is very easy for a mother to lose touch with the desire to live at all. Life becomes a routine, becomes mundane. There is little joy and no hope. There is no solution, and it is hard to be distracted from that fact.
Further online support
Parenting Without A Rainbow - Private closed Facebook group for bereaved mothers with living children but no "rainbow" baby.
Empty Arms - Private closed Facebook group for bereaved mothers with no living children.
Thank you to the contributing authors RaeAnne Fredrickson and Lisa Sissons.