After you lose a child, your life is forever changed, no matter how old your child was when you lost them. And for many parents who have lost a child, the experience of being pregnant or expecting a new child to join their family can be fraught with conflicting emotions. Having a rainbow baby after losing your first can be a mix of emotions. It can be very common to feel both immense joy for the new baby in your life, and also sadness at the memory of what might have been with your first.
What is a rainbow baby?
It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the meaning and symbolism of the term “rainbow baby.” The term rainbow baby is defined by Healthline as “a name coined for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death.” It derives its meaning from “the idea of a rainbow appearing in the sky after a storm, or after a dark and turbulent time. The term has gained popularity on blogs and social media in recent years, and has come to symbolize hope and healing.”
Make sure the parents are okay using the phrase “Rainbow Baby”
While this super sweet term is very meaningful for many parents, it does not resonate with everyone. If you are unsure if your friend considers their baby born after a loss as a “rainbow baby,” be sure to closely pay attention to their language and let them lead on if they would or would not like to refer to their child as a rainbow baby. If you are still unsure, sometimes a simple but direct question such as, “I’ve recently learned about the meaning of the term ‘rainbow baby.’ Does that resonate for you with your baby?” is a thoughtful way to give your friend agency over whether you do or do not refer to their child as a rainbow baby.
Reference their deceased baby when you talk about the number of children they have
After you lose a child, it is very normal to be concerned that your family and friends will forget about your first child, or that they will consider you as a less of a “parent” than someone who has a living child. For this reason, it can be really hurtful if you fail to count their child that passed away in the count of their children. Be sure to always remember that their living child is not their first, and that they have children who are no longer earthside.
Here are a few ideas of what to avoid saying, and what to say instead.
Instead of saying, “How does it feel being a parent?” try saying, “How is the transition to life with your baby going?”
Instead of saying, “I’m sure your parents love that they are grandparents now!” try saying, “I am sure your grandparents are thrilled to meet your new baby, and that they are so proud of all their grandkids, both on earth and in heaven.”
Instead of saying, “It seems like you are taking to parenthood so well,” try saying, “I watched how well you loved your child who passed away, and it’s no surprise to me that you are loving your new baby so well too. You’re an incredible parent.”
Incorporate the theme of the rainbow into their baby shower
If you choose to throw a baby shower for your friend, a rainbow themed baby shower can be a perfect way to thoughtfully celebrate your friend’s rainbow baby. There are many creative and unique rainbow baby shower ideas that can make your friend’s shower an event to remember! I love the ideas that are all rounded up on this blog from Cafe Mom. Check it out!
Be there for them if they need to talk about their mixed emotions
When you are working to support a friend who has gone through something as difficult as losing a child, it is important to offer your friend a listening ear. If you need tips on how to listen well to your friend, this article from Very Well is full of amazing tips on how to listen well.
“Good listening skills are vital to healthy relationships. Whether you're strengthening a relationship, resolving a conflict, or offering support to a friend facing a crisis, good listening skills can be a lifeline to peace. Learn how to be a truly supportive listener, and you may find yourself surrounded by others who are able to do the same.”
If the term rainbow baby does resonate for your friend, below are some thoughtful gift ideas to celebrate your friend’s rainbow baby.
Create a parent remembrance gift
I love the idea of creating a special gift of remembrance for your friends to honor their first baby and also celebrate their second baby. This lets them know that you recognize them as a parent and remember both their children. Many parents who are expecting children after their loss fear that their child who has passed away will be forgotten. When you send a rainbow baby gift that recognizes both children, you assure them that their child will not be forgotten. Here are a few of my favorite ideas!
- Have necklace made with both baby’s handprints, sonograms, or name
Many parents want to ensure that their second child grows up knowing the story of their younger sibling. This is a very sweet way to show your friend that you will remember their children as siblings.
This Custom Engraved Handprint or Footprint Necklace is engraved with the baby’s actual handprint or footprints, and offers the option to add additional charms to the necklace chain. This is a perfect way to create a personalized necklace that is extremely customized and tells the individual story of your friend’s sweet siblings.
You can also send a special necklace that features the names of all of their children together. It helps parents significantly when they know that their friends recognize all their children as siblings, and not just the ones that are earthside. This Wear Your Name Necklace is a beautiful option and can be customized with additional names on the same charm.
2. Get a special frame for their sonogram picture of their first child
- Send bracelets for both of the parents to wear in memory
Oftentimes, dads or partners do not receive the same amount of support, which makes it important to remember to think of creative ways to support them too. Matching bracelets for both parents is an incredibly thoughtful way to acknowledge the experience of both parents. I love this custom leather bracelet on Etsy, which would fit anyone’s personal style.
Give a rainbow-themed gift
A rainbow themed gift is an adorable way to celebrate your friend’s rainbow baby. There are so many cute rainbow themed baby items, and I love the idea of gifting your friend with one of these!
- Rainbow swaddle
There is something extra sweet about swaddling your rainbow baby up in this beautiful muslin rainbow swaddling blanket. I love this one from Caden Lane that can even be personalized with the baby’s name!
2. The Rainbow Fish book
The Rainbow Fish book is another very sweet gift for a rainbow baby. It is a very popular children’s book that teaches the lessons of sharing, beauty, and happiness, and would make a super thoughtful gift for your friend’s rainbow baby.
3. Rainbow baby mobile
4. Rainbow Family Portrait
You can also have a custom portrait created that includes a rainbow to symbolize all their children. This one from Kierra B Art is so sweet!
5. Send a Rainbow Coffee Mug
This rainbow mug is a super cute and subtle way to honor their rainbow baby! It is large and sure to become one of their favorite mugs.
Gift the baby a remembrance gift
As the child grows, they will learn more and more about their older sibling who is no longer earthside. You can send a super thoughtful gift for the new baby that recognizes their older sibling.
- Make a piece of jewelry for the baby as a commemorative gift to honor their relationship with their older sibling
A children’s sized piece of commemorative jewelry is a great way to honor them! I love this piece and it can be customized with initial charms, making it even more personal and unique.
- Send a custom onesie about being handpicked by their big brother or sister in Heaven
We hope these ideas help equip you as you thoughtfully celebrate your friend’s rainbow baby, and continue to support them in their grief over the loss of their earlier baby. This is hard friendship work, but we are so proud of you and know you can do it!