Before ever my husband and I had five vigorous children at home, determined daily to illuminate who they are and what they’re capable of, there were four children who were ours before them. If a child born after the loss of a child during pregnancy or infancy is a rainbow baby, then it goes without saying that these four were the most magnificent yet of our storms.
Indeed, a darkness came upon our family as we lost our first baby, the one whom I had built my life upon; our second and third children, the twins I had always dreamed of, we found as we learned we would never know their heartbeats; and our fourth baby, whom we lost nearly as soon as he had taken his place in my body, a merciful departure, after all my body had been through with our three children before him. We lost each of them before the end of the first trimester, every one sooner than the last. I considered myself fortunate. My physical recovery was relatively mild, having lost them so early. I wondered if I ever could have let them go if I would have had the chance to see their faces, but at the same time, how I yearned to see those sweet faces for myself!
I named each of them. Irenaeus, Penelope, Keziah, and Finnigan. These children didn’t bring darkness. They are a force to be reckoned with, like every one of their siblings we have the privilege of raising today. Indeed, they were the most brilliant of storms, glorious and life-giving in all they overturned as they passed from this life to the next. Knowing each of them as only a mother can, each of their wondrous lights obliterates the very darkness that living without them threatens to bring. Our journey of seeing what we are capable of began here with them.
Others fondly remarked on the birth of our rainbow baby when our firstborn son entered the world. From time to time, I wonder, even today, if they notice I never bestowed the term of endearment upon him myself. I respect the way in which other families who have lost a child in pregnancy or infancy honor their children, both the one they have lost and the one in whom they are bestowed the responsibility of raising a human. It simply is not my way.
The imagery of the rainbow baby is more accurate than anyone who has lost a baby can know. Indeed, I saw the light of life with my firstborn son differently, having lost children before him and every child after him. However, it is only so because of those children who came before him. A well of hope springs up in me following their storms. A fruitful harvest of new life overflows in my life that only the power of a storm can bring. My time with the children we have lost slows me on my path to see the light reflected through the rain- their light- and every light that has poured into my life after their lives were no more.
Indeed, I have a rainbow, but unlike all of those who truly do love us so well, I will never see it in our firstborn son, because as the mother of our children, I know something that they don’t know. All my life long, I will cherish the storm before the rainbow.