Why “Rainbow Babies” Are Not A Cure For Grief

Having a baby after a loss will not fix the pain, but it can still bring you hope.

When Dorothy died, I plummeted.  I found myself in the lowest place I had ever been to.  It was far below any place I had visited before.  You might know the level I speak of; a low so far down that when you look up, you see black.

There is nothing there for you.  And then, one day, you start to rise out of the black.  You begin to claw your way through the nothingness.  The only thing fueling you is this glimmer of hope that maybe someday you will experience joy that will save you from the depths of your sorrow.

But, what happens when joy doesn’t rescue you from the grief?

After Dorothy died, I was fortunate enough to become pregnant again.  The entire time I carried her sister, Frances, I was wrought with anticipation. There was a chance for me to finally becoming a mother to a living baby and I imagined that this living baby would save me.

I thought, perhaps naively, that the joy of Frances’s birth would help to balance out the low of Dorothy’s death.

I carried this dream of balance with me throughout my whole pregnancy.  The idea that I was working towards a high that could lift me out of my pain and grief, it pushed me through the anxiety and stress of my high-risk pregnancy.  It pushed me and pushed me and then it was time to push.   

Frances had arrived.  She was alive.  I could feel her warmth, I could hear her breath, and I could see her eyes as they opened and closed. This was it. Any moment now, I was going to be carried away by the bliss of having a living, breathing child in my arms.

The pain I had experienced for so long was going to be rewarded with unbridled happiness.  I laid there and waited. I felt so sure that becoming a mother to a living baby was going to lift me out of my pain.

Frances’s birth was supposed to bring me to highest point of happiness; so why was I still in so much pain?

Over those first days and weeks, time with my newborn daughter rushed by me in a blur of emotions and exhaustion. When I was able to grasp onto my consciousness, a realization became apparent.  The emotional rescue I was waiting for didn’t seem possible.

There was simply not a counterpart for the place I had been before.  One single moment was not going to change what I’d been through. Frances’s ability to take a breath in this world was not equal to the fact that Dorothy never experienced life outside of my womb.

The parents of multiple children often fall into this trap; we want our children to even each other out.

However, our children do no exist to even each other out.  Both of my daughters bring me moments of sorrow, and both of my daughters have brought me moments of incredible joy.

Even though Dorothy no longer lives with us, she continues to impact my life from wherever she spends her days.  The same way that her sister will impact the rest of my life for better or for worse.  

It was not fair for me to expect that Frances’s existence would lift me out of my pain.  It wasn’t fair for me to hold Dorothy’s death solely accountable for the pain I was in.  My daughters were not here to save me.  

I needed to take more ownership of my experiences and stop waiting for the high to come and rescue me. I wasn’t meant to be rescued from my grief, but I did need to save myself from the idea that I was broken. I was grieving and I still am.

I will carry this grief forever because I will forever carry this love for my daughters.

Since the birth of both daughters, my propensity for joy has changed. My heart often needs more encouragement to let go and just experience happiness. Losing a child does that to you.

But I know that joy is still possible.  When I feel joy in my heart and in my life, I feel as if I’m soaring. Loving a child does that to you and I have two daughters to love.

Originally published on Still Standing Magazine

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

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