“Rainbow baby” is a term commonly used for a baby born after the loss of a pregnancy or infant. A “double rainbow baby” is a baby born after two or more such losses. My husband and I are currently hoping for our own double rainbow baby to arrive this summer. I would say we are “expecting,” but to be perfectly honest, after two back-to-back second trimester miscarriages, I don’t feel comfortable using that word. At this point, I expect nothing. But I do hope. I fervently hope that this baby gets to join our family the way the Lord intended.
I’m not sharing this for pity, although we certainly appreciate any prayers you feel so moved to send our way. I’m writing about this because pregnancy after loss is one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced in my spiritual life and if my struggles and growth can help someone else at all, then that’s one more little good thing to come out of a whole mess of pain.
Pregnancy before loss and pregnancy after loss are profoundly different experiences. Before our losses, we were blessed with three beautiful healthy babies. During each of those pregnancies I knew that something could go wrong. But the possibility of losing the baby was a distant murmuring fear that I only brushed against occasionally. My trust in the process of growing and delivering a baby was unshaken. My trust in the Lord was solid. The Lord wants us to have babies. Most babies survive and thrive. I knew people who had experienced miscarriages or stillbirths or had lost an infant, but I felt somehow protected from that pain. It was something other, something that wasn’t mine—a cloud in the horizon that might never reach me.
Now I have my own painful loss stories. They do not define me, but they are very much a part of who I am. I won’t ever be the same. My gratitude for my living children has deepened and my fear of losing them or any future children sometimes threatens to drown me. We are so blessed to have this third try at our fourth living child. But it’s a burden. That might seem terrible to say, but it’s true. I have never felt more spiritually laden. While I hope this baby will live, I also know that his or her heart could stop beating any moment. This life inside me is so fragile and I could lose it with no answers as to why. It’s a lot to hold—trying to balance the hope and the fear. I know the right thing to do is to give the fear over to the Lord. And I’m trying. I am trying so hard. But peace is slippery these days and never seems to last for long.
I know that Lord has endless perfect patience. I know that He will take this burden from me if I am willing to let go of it. But the problem is that this fear of losing another baby has countless sharp edges and corners. It’s not one giant ball of fear—it’s a mess of jagged pieces. I am only able to hand Him tiny shards of this burden at a time. And it’s hard. And it’s okay.
As the weeks of this pregnancy drag slowly by, I have learned to pray not just for a healthy baby, but for trust. Trust in the Lord and trust in my body have been severely bruised since losing our babies. I believe that the Lord didn’t want those losses to happen, but it’s one thing to believe and another to really feel it. I believe that good will come out of any bad thing that happens in this world, but I may never see that good myself. That good isn’t necessarily for or about me. But it’s there. I have to trust that no matter the outcome of this pregnancy, everything will be okay. Even if it doesn’t look or feel that way. The Lord is in charge and therefore everything in His Providence will be okay. That’s my prayer really for everything these days—I pray for the trust that somehow everything will be okay.
While navigating everything that’s wonderful and hard about pregnancy after loss, I’ve been thinking a lot about the symbol of the rainbow. Rainbows are beautiful and sometimes surprising. They often appear when you aren’t looking for them. And—this is important—they aren’t guaranteed after every rainfall. A lot of very particular factors need to come together in order for a rainbow to appear:
1. You need light.
2. You need mist to reflect the light.
3. You need to be standing in the right position.
Pondering these key ingredients has inspired me to consider rainbows in a more spiritual way. What do you need to see a rainbow even if you never get the one you want (whether that’s a baby or any other thing for which you dearly hope)?
So first off, we need light. Of course, the light we need most is the Lord. Our earthly sun can remind us of Him even though it is pitiful compared to His radiant glory. The simple truth is, we don’t get rainbows without Him. One of my favorite songs says, “We are shaped by the light we let through us.” I often capitalize the word “Light” in my mind, knowing that the Lord is the Light we should let shape and shine through us.
Next, we need mist. We don’t get mist without palpable water droplets in the air, most commonly achieved after it rains. I think of rain as the truths we need to soak up, but that sometimes feel overwhelming or too hard for us. Sometimes difficult truths feel threatening—like they might flood our lives. Sometimes we mistake truths for falsities or the other way around, and that’s when it feels like we might get pulled under the torrent and never come up again. But the Lord has promised that He won’t let us drown:
And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:12-17 (my emphasis)
I love the idea that every cloud has a rainbow in it. That might not be literally true, but spiritually speaking, I think it is. The Lord’s promise to us is always there in the hard times, even if we can’t see it. And reflecting on hard things—finding the blessings and the lessons in them—that’s another key component to seeing a rainbow: mist reflecting light.
And lastly, we need to be in the right place to see a rainbow. All of the other ingredients might be there, but if we aren’t in just the right position, we might miss it. When we experience loss, we might not be ready for comfort. The mist might feel like a torrential downpour. The light might be too bright. We might need to wallow for a while. And that’s okay. The Lord has an endless supply of rainbows to share with us. Maybe we’ll catch the next one.
“And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Ezekiel 1: 26-28