Pregnancy loss parents often refer to subsequent children, born after their miscarriage or stillbirth experiences, as “rainbow babies”, the idea being that “a rainbow follows the storm.”
Our world offers a lot of interpretations of rainbows, and while I enjoy the sentiment and agree, wholeheartedly, that the experience of pregnancy loss is in fact a devastating storm, as I rub my tightly stretched, expanded belly, which holds my fifth child and my very first daughter, I feel convicted to push the fantasy aside and know that she is in fact, not my rainbow.
Genesis 9:8-16 tells us:
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations…”
God is telling us that the rainbow is a reminder of His covenant, a promise that He will not allow destruction in the same manner in which He previously did.
I cannot deceive myself into believing that this promise is directed toward the preservation of earthly life of this child in my womb.
God has not promised that He will not allow destruction of this child’s earthly life, as He previously permitted of my last child.
And yet understanding that powerful truth does not leave me feeling vulnerable, suspicious, or afraid.
It makes me humble. It makes me marvel at God’s goodness. It makes me thankful, not for every trimester that passes or for every month that brings me closer to the birth. No, I don’t count down the days. I rejoice in them. I touch my belly. I feel my daughter stir. 25 weeks. She is growing so big.
Her legs are longer than her arms, which as she continues to grow will serve to constrict her space even further and make things more uncomfortable for her. I can tell already by the force of her kicking that she is stretching and has begun to fill in the space within my womb. Why are her legs longer than her arms already? It is to prepare her for walking, for life outside of the womb. Yet all she knows right now is the swishing, the whirring, the humming of the sounds through the water that surrounds her. All she knows is she bumps harder and stronger every day into my soft but protective flesh around her. She has no idea that the duration of her earthly life is not promised. That at any day, any minute, God could gently whisper to her heart, to still. She has no idea just how vulnerable she is, how delicate this life is.
All the while, her body continues to prepare her for a world she has no idea is here. A world much bigger than she could ever imagine.
I want to have faith like that.
I want to just naturally move to a rhythm that brings me more and more prepared for the life that is bigger than this. I want to be grown, molded, and shaped to be ready for it. I want every day to mark a change in my development, I want it to be visible and apparent and obvious to others.
My storm has allowed me to see just how my spirit is taking shape. It is growing. I can feel the resistance when I push at life’s pressures as they close in on me. I feel the reality of the physical world, the discomforts and the sense of imperfection around me, and know that this is in fact, not my home. I am gestating, maturing and learning, so that I can be prepared for a place much bigger, much more bright, much more awesome than the little space I have right now.
I sit quietly in my baby’s nursery. I am surrounded by pink for the first time in my adult life.
As a little girl, my mother and father were abusive and unloving toward me, and that is the most honorable and least detailed way to say it. I was raised in foster care, and because I wasn’t adoptable, I didn’t stay anywhere long. I lived in orphanages, institutions, and shelters. I have been abused in every way possible, and I mean that in the most literal and accurate way.
I never had a mother to teach me how to cook, how to sew, how to be modest yet bold, how to be submissive and yet successful. In truth, I simply never had a mother.
When I began having children, I felt as though I was not only prepared to be a “girl mom”, but not a mom at all. I was scared but trusted God to prepare me. My first son has shaped my ability to love selflessly and has refined my determination and perseverance. My second son has shaped my patience and ability to share and have balance. My third son has taught me to embrace the amazing joy of motherhood and to relax. My fourth son, my miscarried baby, has taught me forgiveness. I blamed God and myself for his death, and I learned to forgive God, to see His perfection even in storms, and I’ve learned to forgive myself for things outside of my control. And, I’ve learned to accept God’s forgiveness, really accept it, for blaming Him.
My fifth child, my first daughter, has taught me about God’s goodness. I love each of my children for their intrinsic value and the wonder of God’s blessings through them but I feel compelled to share now the spiritual value of her particular life, this daughter of mine.
She is not the promise after the storm. She is neither the long awaited-for girl born after boys. I never imagined having a daughter.
Now, as I sit in the nursery, filled with soft shades of pink, I marvel at the wonder of it: my daughter. I touch my belly again, and thank God for His goodness.
He has entrusted with me a little girl, even in the face of all of my uncertainties and fears and shortcomings in my own childhood.
While I like to dream about our future, a life with three active, rowdy, crazy boys, and wonder what our daughter will be like, how she will fit in with this family, I don’t have any expectation. In the same way I strap all of our children into their seats with seatbelts, I know that the time we are given, the duration of this life, is not promised.
As I allow those dreams to linger, as they build the reality that in fact our daughter will be born, I don’t miserably wish the time away until something feels more certain. I don’t impatiently wish this pregnancy past.
I rub my belly. I marvel at how far we have already come, my daughter and I. I am not in any hurry for her to reach a certain point or a particular age or even a milestone. I don’t depend on her to be my promise, a promise that would make my love for God conditional and would limit my joy tremendously.
I watch adoringly as my oldest son kisses my belly and says he loves his little sister. My heart melts as he enters the nursery and jokingly says it gives him a “pink headache.” I marvel as I see how much he has grown, and the things he is capable of doing; things that have nothing to do with his sister at all. I am captivated by my third sons new ability to maneuver as a biped. How do humans learn to walk, anyway? It amazes me. I am filled with joy when I see my second son pat his little brother on the head and ask “Are you OK?” when he falls down. I melt when my man walks in the door from work and looks at me, really looks at me, full of compassion and adoration and total love, and tells me simply that he’s glad to be home. We’ve always had an amazing marriage, but the experience of grief following the birth of our miscarried baby shook us, both individually and as a couple. Oh, how God has grown us even closer than ever before!
There are so many blessings all around me.
I don’t want to call my daughter my “rainbow” because I can’t separate that from what I know God’s promises to be, and I can’t allow myself, or my daughter, or God, the terrible disservice of confusing His promises from His gifts.
My daughter is in fact, a gift. One that I have already received. I have been given so very much by her presence in my life already. I will remain in this life the mother of a daughter, regardless of the duration of her life, or my own.
The “rainbow” in my life, in the worldly context of finding beauty after the storm of my loss, is in the strength of my marriage, the strength of my heart, and the strength in my relationship with God. It’s in having new eyes to see the many ways He blesses, provides and sustains, each and every day.
The actual biblical promises I stand on include bringing all things that He creates to proper completion. He creates, gestates, provides until the creation lacks nothing, and when that person’s job is complete, they are welcomed Home. These are biblical truths. I trust that my miscarried baby is complete, that his work is done, and that he is Home.
I move into preparing for my daughter’s tomorrow; I wash and fold her tiny clothes and match her tiny ruffled bloomers with pretty floral dresses. I hold out her tiny booties and smile as I imagine her tiny feet tucked warm inside. I hope for tomorrow, and act as if when it comes we will continue to share it together. I don’t demand it, and I don’t fear it will be taken.
Instead, I am simply and deeply thankful for the hope that I am given today.