I’m an older PALS mom, by which I mean my first baby born after loss is 10 years old. I lost my first child – a daughter named Lily – in 2010 when she was born too early at 20 weeks. I went on to have four other children who were all born alive and healthy.
I also facilitate a local support group for pregnant after loss parents. All too often expecting parents in that group ask me how I bring up my dead baby to my living children, particularly since they never met her. How does she get incorporated into our family? When did I first bring Lily up in conversation with them? They’re looking for advice on how to introduce their dead child to their living siblings.
They also ask me what my living children take away from this whole experience. What’s their perspective? How do they view themselves as rainbow babies? (And I do refer to them all as my rainbow babies).
Then, the other day I was thinking about those social media posts where they ask you to interview your toddler or young child and give the answers verbatim. They’re funny and cute. And I thought about how I could do that for a rainbow baby. It would help facilitate a discussion with them about Lily and also offer insight into how they see her as part of our family.
So, I sat down, came up with a number of questions, and then interviewed my kids.
You may want to interview your own children with this set of questions or ones you come up with on your own. It was enlightening, fun, and a great way to connect to them. It gave me a lot to think about.
When I was pregnant with Dexter, my first rainbow baby, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the term “rainbow baby.” Then by the time my second daughter, Audrey, came around, I’d fully embraced the term, and also created a group for local parents expecting their rainbow babies. I became very close to a group of moms with that group and they are some of my very best friends even now 8 years later. Audrey also ended up being the only living girl. She thinks a lot about how she doesn’t have a sister at home with her. My pregnancy with Owen was tumultuous and I wasn’t really thinking that much about it. And my last pregnancy was celebrated as my “pot of gold” pregnancy. You can see some of this outlook reflected in their answers.
But it also reflects so much of their individual personalities. And I told them before the interview that they should answer honestly. I wanted their answers. Not mine. And I tried – hard – not to lead them in any one direction. Where there are additional comments it usually was to clarify a question or term for them.
What follows is a transcript from my interviews with my rainbow babies.
Interview with a rainbow baby: Dexter
Tell me your name? Dexter
How old are you? 10 years old
What do you know about your sister, Lily? She’s a year older than me. She was born in 2010. That’s about it.
Do you know how she died? She was born too early. And she was too small.
Do you remember the first time we ever talked about her? No. She’s just always been a part of the family, right? Yes.
What is something we do to remember Lily? We have that little box of her ashes and that teddy bear. And we also have her picture hanging in the living room.
When someone asks you about your family and who’s in it, do you include her? Sometimes. What makes you decide to include her? Because she’s still technically part of the family.
Is there ever anything that makes *you* think of Lily? Not really.
Do you know what a rainbow baby is? Sort of…
Do you know that you’re a rainbow baby? No. I thought it was just Audrey! No, you, my friend, are the OG! A rainbow baby is a baby that’s born after another baby died. So, I had Lily and she died. Then I got pregnant with you and had you. So you’re the rainbow baby. Audrey is also a rainbow baby. She just happened to come along when mama was pregnant at the same time with 4 other women expecting their rainbow babies too. So now that you know, do you like being called a rainbow baby? Sort of.
Do you know any other kids who are rainbows? Well, yes, Audrey. Does Owen count? And then Jaxon. And then one of Kasee’s kids. And that’s all I can remember. You don’t remember any of the rainbows who were born around the same time you were, do you? Do you remember a little boy named Liam? You used to play with him. Oh yeah! He’s a rainbow baby. And a little boy named Isaac. I think I know who you are talking about but I’m not sure. And do you know who else is a rainbow baby? Bea. Oh!
Do you like rainbows? Not really.
Would you like pictures of rainbows in your room? (laughs) No!
Do you like to wear clothes with pictures of rainbows on them? No.
How does it feel now that you know you’re a rainbow baby? Sort of cool.
Do you think it makes you special? Yeah!
Interview with a rainbow baby: Audrey
What is your name? Audrey
How old are you? 8
What do you know about your sister, Lily? She died when she was born.
Do you know how she died? She was born too early.
Do you remember the first time we ever talked about Lily? No.
What is something you do to remember Lily? I keep Lily’s Halloween pumpkin in my room. What else is in your room? When Lily was born you were going to give her a notebook but since she died, I have it in my room now. What notebook? It’s one in my room. We’re going to have to see that notebook I don’t know what notebook you’re talking about. You also have a picture of her in your room, don’t you? Yes.
When somebody asks you about who’s in your family, do you ever include her? Quite a bit.
Does anything make you think of Lily? The letter L! (laughs)
Do you know what a rainbow baby is? When one of their siblings dies.
Do you know that you’re a rainbow baby? Yes
Do you like to be called a rainbow baby? I mean I like the word but it’s a sad meaning.
Do you know any other kids who are rainbow babies? Bea. Teddy! My rainbow friends. We haven’t seen them in a long time.
Do you like rainbows? Yes!
Do you like them hanging in your room and on your clothes and on your face? (laughs) Yes!!
How does it feel to be a rainbow baby? I don’t really like it because it means our family is not complete.
Do you know that it makes you special to mommy and daddy? No. You don’t know that? Well, it does and you wanna know why? Because we really, really love you. Lots.
Interview with a rainbow baby: Owen
What is your name? Owen.
How old are you? 6.
What do you know about your big sister, Lily? She died.
Do you know how she died? She was born too late. Too late or too early? Oh too early!
Do you remember the first time we ever talked about her? No.
What’s something we do to remember her? Draw pictures.
When someone asks you about your family and who’s in it, do you include her? Yeah.
Is there anything that makes you think of Lily? Um. [long pause] When we see the bench that has Lily’s name on it.
Do you know what a rainbow baby is? No.
Do you know that you’re a rainbow baby? No.
Do you want me to tell you what a rainbow baby is? Yes.
Would you like to be called a rainbow baby? Noooo.
Do you know any other kids who are rainbow babies? Dexter.
Do you like rainbows? Yeah.
Do you like them in pictures? Yeah.
Would you wear clothes with rainbows? Uh, I don’t have any! But would you? Yes!
Would you like your room decorated in rainbows? Ahhh, no.
Now that you know you’re a rainbow baby, how does it feel? Uh, good!
Why does it feel good? Because I didn’t die and then we had Jaxon and that was very good!
Do you know that it makes you very special? No. Well it does. Ok!
Interview with a rainbow baby: Jaxon
What is your name? I name Jaxon!
How old are you? I free (3)! What those red things? [They were the voice modulation lines for recordings]
Do you know that you have a big sister named Lily? Mmmm hmmm. What do you know about her? She name Lily!
Do you remember the first time we ever talked about her? Mmmm hmmm.
What is something we do to remember Lily? Ahhh Lily.
Who is in your family? Owen, Audrey, and Dexter!
Do you ever think about Lily? Yeah.
Do you know that you’re a rainbow baby? Yeah. I a baby. I drinking milk!
Do you know any other rainbow babies? Yeah. Owen, and Dexter, and Audie was babies.
How does it feel to be a rainbow baby? What’s that sound like? [gusty winds outside]
Do you like rainbows? Yeah. Do you like pictures of rainbows? Yeah. Do you like rainbows on your clothes? Yeah.
The interview with my three-year-old ended pretty quick because it was clearly not going anywhere!
This was a really fun exercise to do with my kids. We’d love to see interviews with your rainbows.
List of Questions for an Interview with a Rainbow Baby (can be modified for the age of the child)
- What’s your name?
- How old are you?
- What do you know about your older sister/brother?
- Do you know how she/he died?
- Do you remember the first time we ever talked about him/her?
- What is something we do to remember him/her?
- When someone asks you about your family and who’s in it, do you include him/her?
- Does anything make you think of your older brother/sister?
- Do you know what a rainbow baby is? Do you know that you’re a rainbow baby?
- Do you like to be called a rainbow baby?
- Do you know other kids who are rainbows?
- Do you like rainbows? Do you like them in pictures? Would you wear rainbows on your clothes?
- How does it feel to be a rainbow baby?