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Processing Grief and Finding Joy in Pregnancy After Miscarriage

Advice from my personal experience for parents wanting to celebrate their rainbow baby from pregnancy after miscarriage while mourning their lost child

Rainbow baby (born from pregnancy after a miscarriage) wearing a blue rainbow hat | Dallas IVFLosing a baby or infant is more common than most people realize. While the statistics vary due to age, medical history, medical access and other factors, research shows more than 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, including miscarriages before the mother even knows she is pregnant.

The loss of a pregnancy or newborn can cause overwhelming grief for a couple or individual. This isn’t something that simply “goes away” if a successful pregnancy follows. One of the biggest struggles in a parent’s life can be the balance of mourning a child they have lost while finding joy in pregnancy after miscarriage and the successful birth of a rainbow baby.

A rainbow baby is a child born after a miscarriage, stillbirth or death in the first weeks of infancy. My wife and I have two rainbow babies at home, and we understand the debilitating sorrow that comes with pregnancy loss, as well as the immense happiness found in bringing home a healthy baby.

Tips for processing miscarriage and infant loss

After a miscarriage or the death of an infant, the parent(s) don’t just grieve for the loss of their child, but for the loss of the life they thought they would have as parents. The death leaves a giant hole in their hearts, which takes a long time to heal. Losing a child is one of the most difficult things a person can experience.

Everybody processes grief differently. Grief can look like anger, sorrow, disbelief, guilt, fear or any combination of these things. While some feel like they are experiencing everything at once, others may feel one wave of emotion at a time. Some may feel nothing at all. There is no “right way” to grieve, but I can offer tips for how to heal through the grieving process.

Your partner may grieve differently than you

If you have a partner, they may process the loss of your child in a different way than you do. This can add stress in an already difficult time and cause tension in the relationship. It is important to remember that if your partner does not express as much outward grief as you, it does not mean that they aren’t as distraught about your child’s death.

Equally, if your partner shows more distress than you, it may cause you to develop feelings of resentment. You might feel that they need to “get over it” or that they are too emotional. Often times the more emotional partner and/or the partner who carried the child receives more support from others, sometimes leading to the other partner experiencing jealousy or feeling left out.

There are a few key ways to keep the relationship healthy during this trying time.

  • Be patient with each other.
  • Communicate clearly and often.
  • Remember what brought you together in the first place.
  • Seek counseling and/or support groups.

Helping your children grieve

If there are children at home, they will likely experience grief as well. Children of all ages can grieve and may show their emotions by acting out or requiring extra attention from you. They can also experience guilt, sadness and fear of death.

You can help younger children through their grief by taking the time to explain things in a simple, honest way. It is not helpful to tell a small child that the baby is sleeping or that you lost the baby. This can confuse them. Try to provide gentle but clear explanation like, “The baby was born too tiny to live,” or, “The baby got really sick and died.”

Reassure them that it is nobody’s fault. Don’t be afraid to share your emotions. It’s healthy for children to know at any age that we all have feelings and it’s ok to show them.

Older children will better understand the intricacies of miscarriage, but they will still experience many emotions. Explain to them that having a miscarriage does not mean that you are unhealthy and that something will happen to you as well.

No matter what a child’s age, it is important to set aside some family time for everyone to heal together through conversation, relaxation, play and celebration of life.

Becoming your own mental health advocate

Seeking emotional assistance through helpful sources is an important way to be your own mental health advocate and is paramount to healing after the loss of a child. Many parents who have lost a baby found healing through support from the following:

  • Their primary care provider or fertility doctor.
  • Support groups.
  • Social workers.
  • Counseling.
  • Speaking with their spiritual leader.
  • Holistic therapies such as acupuncture or meditation.

Our clinic’s holistic care approach addresses emotional health and offers resources for patients experiencing infertility. Local support outside of our clinic includes:

Many people, including both partners, experience depression after losing a child. Even if you did not carry a child to full-term, you can also develop postpartum depression. Tell someone if you are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or feel like you want to hurt yourself. Call 988 or visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention to talk with experts who can help you navigate these feelings.

The importance of mental health self-care

Keeping your body healthy also helps improve mental health and can aid in the overall healing process. There are several critical ways to take care of your physical self, such as eating healthy, hydrating, working out, getting sunshine, practicing good hygiene and maintaining a steady sleep schedule. It is also important to stay away from drugs, tobacco and alcohol when you are in a grieving state.

Handling family and friends after miscarriage or infant loss

When you lose a baby, your extended family feels the loss as well. They may not know what to do or say to help. Communication is key in this case.

Create healthy conversation and boundaries by telling them upfront what you are comfortable talking about and how often you want to discuss it. Let them know if you want visits, calls or gifts. Tell them it’s ok that they aren’t sure how to respond, then let them know exactly what you need from them and how they can help.

After losing a child, some parents’ grief is triggered by the name of their baby or infant while others want to remember them by talking about them openly and often. Guide your family in this area as well. Remember that your grief is your own, and it is not your family’s role to tell you how and how long to grieve.

Dealing with the loss of a multiple pregnancy (twins or more)

Having a multiple pregnancy, or “multiples,” means you are pregnant with one or more babies. Sometimes a parent will be pregnant with twins, triplets, etc. and can lose one baby, some of the babies or all the babies. This can bring a new set of stressors and sorrows: not having time to grieve; feeling scared for the remaining baby/babies and saddened you cannot fully enjoy taking them home due to your loss.

One of the best ways to move forward is to memorialize the baby/babies that passed away. This physical representation provides the opportunity to feel that the lost child will not be forgotten, if that is what you want.

Ways to remember

  • Creating a scrapbook with their ultrasound, footprints, photos and such.
  • Have a memorial service.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, poems or other things that come to mind.
  • Light a candle, say a prayer or include a framed photo at special events such as holidays or birthdays.
  • Plant a tree or flower in memoriam.
  • Have a piece of jewelry made with their birth stone or ashes.
  • Donate to a charity in their name.

Once a memorial is chosen, and it doesn’t just have to be one, a parent can often feel like they can now celebrate their other child or children while still honoring those who are not with them. Other parents choose not to be reminded of the passing. This is a personal choice that you should consider.

Fully enjoying pregnancy after miscarriage & your rainbow baby

Parents may also struggle with negative emotions such as feeling scared something will happen to this child when having a pregnancy after miscarriage since they have lost a child before. It’s common to feel guilty for being happy to have a healthy baby when the other(s) didn’t make it, as if feeling joyful is a betrayal to the child that was lost. Although these emotions are normal, they don’t need to take away from celebrating your new addition. Emotional support through the sources I previously mentioned can help.

This child born from a pregnancy after miscarriage is called a rainbow baby because it’s like a rainbow after the storm – having a baby after miscarriage or the loss of an infant can still bring incredible joy. A rainbow baby’s life can honor the life of a baby or infant who was lost. These babies don’t only arrive through pregnancy but can also become part of the family through surrogacy or adoption.

Having a rainbow baby can create strong, mixed emotions. A rainbow baby can bring healing to a heart that so badly wants a child. The child can make the mundane feel incredibly special and remind you in the tough moments that it is all worth it.


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