Parenting, in general, can be so complicated. New and experienced parents alike are filled with love, joy, exhaustion, guilt, and worry. After a loss, there is an added layer of complexity to the already difficult but ultimately rewarding job that is parenting. Loss parents can feel a little extra guilt, sadness, anxiety, and have grief work to complete at the same time.

Lately, as I have been rocking my sweet rainbow girl Zoe to sleep, I have been finding myself comforting the memory of my little boy Leo, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 2013. I kiss Zoe and I feel that Leo is nearby, allowing me to give him a kiss and a soft caress on his cheek as well.

It seems that, as I walk along this parenting after loss journey, I am walking in the footprints that Leo left behind. Our family honors our son as we move forward with our newest baby, as we achieve milestones that he never got to accomplish, and at the same time we celebrate Zoe as an individual.

A part of me wonders if she will feel burdened by her place in our family as a “rainbow baby”, similar to how a firstborn may feel resentful of their perceived responsibility over younger siblings.

How does your unique place in your family define your character traits? Does being a rainbow baby change any of those feelings?

Being a middle child myself and knowing how many miscarriages my mother had before she went on to have her 5 children, my place in the family was well-received. I never really gave much thought or had any sense of the losses that came before my sisters and me. While it was no secret, my mom never really spoke of her losses.

And here I am now, a bereaved mom. I have a son who left us too soon. I have a son whom my girls knew, held, kissed, and loved so much. A part of all of our hearts died when he died. How will that shape them? And how will not having met him shape Zoe?

I trust that our unconditional love for all of our children, living and not, will shine through. And the love and faith that we have in life, in physical living, in our bodies, to bring another child into this world after we were made fully aware of how fragile it all is and how badly it hurts to live on without your child, well, if that’s not unconditional love, I don’t know what is.

And so I’ll journey on with my girls at my side, with my boy in my heart, with my husband holding my hand, and I’ll walk in the footprints that Leo left behind. A sweet memory that he was real and a comforting reminder that he never really left.

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