Last Updated on 4 November 2023 by Rebecca
I know I should have been happy and grateful to deliver a healthy boy or girl, but I think deep down I was hoping my rainbow baby would be a girl. But whenever anyone asked what I was hoping for, I just said I wanted a healthy baby.
After nine months of waiting and not finding out the sex of our third child, we welcomed another little girl into our family on the 23rd of December 2022.
What is a Rainbow Baby?
A rainbow baby is a baby that’s born after a baby loss due to a miscarriage, infant loss, termination for medical reasons, neonatal death, or stillbirth. The name draws on the symbol of a rainbow, representing beauty after a storm.
In our case, we lost Luna, my second-born baby, at 27 weeks last July after my waters broke, which was followed by an emergency cesarean. I’ll never forget the day I had to say goodbye 14 hours after she arrived in the world due to several issues – an exomphalos, which we knew about at the 11-week scan, and the other, a diaphragmatic hernia, which we found out at her birth.
Rushing down to the NICU to find her surrounded by midwives and a doctor as they tried to resuscitate her is an image I won’t forget.
What is a Neonatal Death?
With Luna, she was a neonatal death, which is when a baby dies 28 days after they are born. This is compared to a stillborn death when a baby dies after 24 weeks, but before they are born.
Following Luna’s death, we had a post-mortem examination to find out what could have caused her to die. In the end, unfortunately, it was put down to a combination of the exomphalos, the diaphragmatic hernia, and the fact that Luna’s lungs were still underdeveloped at 27 weeks. It was also thought that these issues could have caused my waters to break early.
Even though we had these answers, it still didn’t make the fact that we’d lost her any easier.
Common Causes for a Neonatal Death
- Complications during or after the birth
- Premature birth
- Congenital anomalies
Rainbow Baby Statistics
Pregnancy loss is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. Yet, it’s one that’s not often talked about. For many, myself included, how common pregnancy loss is, is underestimated.
According to figures from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 60% of miscarriages are believed to be due to chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo. Positively, though, the American Pregnancy Association states that around 85% of women who have had one pregnancy loss and 75% of women who have had two to three losses will go on to have a successful rainbow baby pregnancy.
Rainbow Baby Pregnancy
And while I’ll always remember Luna, I’m grateful for our third daughter and her safe arrival into our lives. After several months of trying to get pregnant again, I was shocked at seeing the double blue lines on the pregnancy test.
While I was happy to be pregnant, my third pregnancy was a series of scans, checkups, and appointments that had me taking each week as it came. I also found out at 17 weeks pregnant that I had a short cervix. Because of this, I had a stitch placed at 18 weeks pregnant.
And unlike my first pregnancy, which I loved, I felt I couldn’t enjoy my third pregnancy as much as I feared I might lose this baby too. I found I didn’t want to get too attached in case I had to say goodbye again.
With my first pregnancy, which went to 40 weeks plus one day, the thought of losing a baby didn’t enter my mind. While I’d heard of stories where parents had lost a baby, because it didn’t happen to me I didn’t expect it to happen. And I remember joking during my first pregnancy that if I got pregnant again, it wouldn’t be as smooth sailing. I never realised how true those words would be. Yet, thankfully, each passing week and each checkup completed brought me closer to seeing my baby.
During this pregnancy, I had stages I wanted to reach that would help lessen my anxiety and make me feel more connected with my unborn baby. These included reaching 20 weeks and then 24 weeks when a baby is considered viable. Reaching 27 weeks was another important milestone for me followed by 30 weeks, 36 weeks when the lungs are considered fully developed, and then 37 weeks when our baby had reached full term.
At 36 weeks, I had my stitch removed and I thought our baby would arrive shortly after that. As it happens, our baby stayed inside until 40 weeks plus four days. As with my first, she was quite happy to stay where she was.
After I lost Luna I didn’t take advantage of the counselling available to me straight away. It was only several months after her passing that I decided it might be good for me. Yet, despite having someone to talk to outside of my family and friends, I felt as if something could still go wrong with my third pregnancy.
If I’m honest, this feeling lasted until our baby finally arrived, and even then I just wanted to get her home and out of the hospital.
Not Finding Out the Sex of Our Rainbow Baby
For all three of my pregnancies, we never found out the sex of our babies. I’d already had two girls, so I figured my third baby would be a boy. Each week, I was checking my bump shape to my previous two births to see if they were the same or different.
And while it was nice not knowing what we were having, there were some days, with my third, that I just wanted to know. But then I would think to myself, there’s nothing I can do if the baby is a boy so I might as well carry on not knowing and wait until the birth.
Truthfully, I don’t know how I would have reacted if our baby girl turned out to be a boy, but I feel as if I might have suffered from some form of gender disappointment. For some, gender disappointment can hit harder after a pregnancy loss, which is what I was experiencing during my third pregnancy.
I’m Grateful for My Rainbow Baby
I was happy when I found out I was pregnant again, but it wasn’t long afterwards when I began to feel anxious, especially as I counted down the weeks until my 11-week scan when I could find out whether we had a healthy baby. When we found out that we had it was a massive weight off of my shoulders. But then I was faced with bi-weekly scans for my cervix and to check on my stitch as well as the scans to check on my baby, which were always a tense time.
When I finally saw our baby, the first feeling I had was relief that she was Earth-side. Despite being out of it on gas and air, I remember looking down to see whether it was a boy or girl and experiencing a wave of happiness when I saw we had another little girl.
Nothing will ever replace Luna, but I think having a girl gives me hope to give this baby the best I can in life. When I look at how great our firstborn is with her sister, I wish all three of my girls could grow up together. I will always remember Luna and I know things happened because they were meant to, but that still doesn’t erase the fact that I wish loss wasn’t written into our lives as a family.
Whether you’re going through a pregnancy after a baby loss, are trying for a rainbow baby, know someone who is going through the stages of grief, or have welcomed home your rainbow baby, know that each pregnancy is different – all three of mine couldn’t have been more different if I’d tried.
As with all babies, bringing a rainbow baby into the world is special and will bring all types of emotions to the surface – love, hope, and appreciation – as we give thanks that we can raise another baby.