My rainbow boy is my second living child. My daughter was just over a year old when her little sister died, followed by two more losses over the next fourteen months – not old enough to have her own memories of the events that turned my world upside down. If this were fifty years ago, we might have quietly moved on, without mentioning our babies in Heaven to others, and certainly not to our daughter.
But, thankfully, this is now, and parents who lose a child during pregnancy or infancy have other models for how to grieve, how to remember their babies in Heaven, and how to include them in their family as they move forward in life.
We named all of our babies, we talked about them, and we have pictures of Naomi in our home. We light candles and march in their memories in October, as a family. Their names are part of our family conversations. Although she has few true memories of her sister and other siblings, my daughter has grown up knowing their names and their stories.
When our son was born (amazingly alive and healthy!), I wondered how and if we should continue that tradition with him. Some comments by random people had left me concerned. Would it be psychologically healthy for my son to know about the babies that preceded him? Would he grow up feeling like he was a “replacement” for my other children? Would he feel like he was living under a shadow of sadness for the babies who didn’t live?
My questions were pushed to the side by the very immediate needs of a growing baby, but they lingered there at the edges of my mind. At what age would my son be “ready” to hear the stories of the babies that came first? I imagined a conversation of great importance with my wide-eyed son as I revealed our family history to him.
My rainbow boy is six years old now, and that “sit down” conversation has never happened.
But you know what? Just like his big sister, he has grown up knowing their names and their stories.
And it has all happened very naturally. Like many other things in life, our son has learned this by family osmosis. Having begun our journey of pregnancy loss with openness about our experiences and our emotions, we could not shut that down just because our rainbow baby was here. We continued our Naomi’s Circle ministry, we continued to build relationships with other families of babies in Heaven, and we continued to talk about the siblings that live in Heaven. As our son has gotten older, he has asked questions about pictures in our home, or about the monthly Naomi’s Circle meetings that I lead – and we have given him honest answers.
As a result, there is no disconnect between the life we once expected to have and the one we are living. There is no shadow hanging over him. There is no concern that he is replacing anyone. He is simply who he is. The fifth baby in our family, the one who came after, and before (we had two more losses when he was two). He is the one who made it, whose very existence in the midst of five losses feels like a miracle to me. The one whose cuddles and kisses light up my world, and whose personality now fills a room.
How did we tell our rainbow?
We simply continued to live our lives, remembering and missing the babies we lost, and rejoicing in the ones we got to keep. And so sharing life with and about our family, our whole family.
Shadow and light, rain and prisms.