In September 2018, courageous mama, Jessica McLaughlin was pregnant with her rainbow baby after the stillbirth of her daughter, Lila. She was desperately clinging to hope, even though it was hard. So, she splurged and bought a rainbow train for her maternity photos. The photos were stunning, completely worth the splurge. But, as the rainbow train sat in her closet after the photos, she started to wonder if there was a way to share that splurge, and the hope, with other courageous mamas who were pregnant after loss.
And so, that December, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Rainbow Train began.
Jessica mailed the rainbow train, along with a notebook to collect the stories of each mama as it traveled, to another mama for her maternity photos.
Since that first travel in December of 2018, the rainbow train has traveled to 26 pregnant after loss mamas in 17 states, connected through their stillbirth support group. Each mama hires their own local photographer to take photos with the train, and they write about their journey in the notebook before sending the train to the next mama.
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Jessica gave birth to her rainbow baby, Violet, 21 months ago, and she is currently pregnant again, with a little boy. In October, the project will come full circle, as she welcomes the traveling rainbow train back to her to have photos taken with both of her babies born after loss. She looks forward to reading the notebook, learning more about the journey of each courageous mama who has worn the train, which connected them through pain and hope–a precious sisterhood of the traveling rainbow train.
Jessica told PALS:
The story of the train. It started out as a bold move to force myself to have hope; to see color again after so much darkness. I needed to believe my baby would survive and I really needed her big sister up above to be included. Once my daughter was born safely into my arms, the train was no longer just an expensive piece of fabric. It became such a symbol of love and strength for me. I had fought through pregnancy after loss, and survived. The photos are something I will always treasure. I wanted every other loss mom I knew to experience this. I knew it could be something special.
This train now has quite a story to tell of many pregnant after loss moms from all over the country. It connects us. It gives hope both within ourselves and to those who need it. It tells the story of the pain, never-ending love, and incredible strength we carry with us each and every day. Most of all, it is a beautiful way to express that our babies will never be forgotten. Say their names. We love them and think of them every day.
Meet some of the other courageous mamas who have been photographed with the traveling rainbow train.
Jessika Lynn Jackson