Celebrating pregnancy after the loss of a baby looks different for everyone
If you’re pregnant again after losing a baby, you’re not alone. So many of us have been where you are.
I know this doesn’t make it any easier, whether you’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant death. There is no pain like that of saying goodbye to a baby all too soon.
Over the years, I have photographed many families who know both the heartache of loss, and the joy that a subsequent pregnancy can bring.
If you’re here, you’re probably expecting again (or thinking about it) – and that brings with it so many complicated emotions.
I know because I’ve been there.
Jordan and I got married on January 21, 2012. In early March, we were excited (and pretty overwhelmed/freaked out!) to find out I was pregnant. We talked about baby names, shopped for nursery furniture and began dreaming of becoming a family of three.
For Jordan’s first Father’s Day, I put together a Daddy Diaper Changing Survival Kit, complete with gloves, hand sanitizer, an extra onesie and tiny newborn diapers. I was barely showing and he was already grossed out by the thought of changing diapers!
Then all the planning stopped.
On a sunny Friday in late June, Jordan and I met for lunch and then went to our gender ultrasound appointment together. My mom met us there as well, so excited to find out if we’d be having a boy or a girl.
I didn’t know right away that something was wrong. The sonographer was scanning my belly and jiggling the ultrasound wand over and over. She was totally silent. I asked her if the baby was sleeping or not cooperating, and she quietly told us there was no heartbeat.
The next several days, weeks and months were full of tears, confusion and anger. It was so hard to be around pregnant friends. I couldn’t go to baby showers and I got off Facebook altogether.
This was absolutely the hardest part of our lives and our marriage. I didn’t think I would ever heal.
But as time went on, our hearts were mended. The pain never goes away, but it does become less raw and sharp. We’re beyond blessed to now have three amazingly beautiful, smart, hilarious and energetic little girls. We still miss the baby girl who’s not here, but we know we’ll meet her some day.
Planning your rainbow baby session
Whether you’re planning a rainbow maternity, Fresh 48 or in-home newborn session, here are a few things I want you to consider:
It’s hard to predict how you’ll feel emotionally before your session. Sometimes rainbow sessions are full of joy, while others are a little quieter. Any reaction or emotion you feel during your rainbow baby session is totally normal. I’ve seen a full range of emotions from parents during rainbow baby sessions, all of which come from a place of deep love for all of their babies.
You don’t have to feel guilty about celebrating this baby. There is nothing wrong with feeling happy again and looking forward to this baby and his or her life. We’ll make time for lots of snuggles, cuddles and kisses during your session, all of which are intended to elicit genuine joy from you and your spouse. Tears of happiness and moments of missing the baby who has passed happen to most parents.
If you’re comfortable with it, tell me this is your rainbow baby. You don’t have to share more than what you want to. Knowing what you and your spouse have been through in the past allows me to be more sensitive to phrases, poses and situations during your session that could be upsetting to you. I want to be respectful of you and what you’ve been through.
Location can be very important. I try to suggest peaceful locations where we won’t have to worry about crowds, especially for rainbow baby maternity sessions. I think this is important for your comfort and so that we have plenty of time and space to honor your angel baby during your session if you decide to do so.
Creative, thoughtful ways to honor your angel baby
Some mamas want to take time during a rainbow baby session to involve their child who has passed on. There are so many tender, sweet ways to do this. A few of my favorites include:
Wearing special jewelry to represent your baby. If you’re pregnant, we can drape it across your bump to involve both children. During Fresh 48 or in-home newborn sessions, we can help your newborn hold your jewelry in his/her hand or wrap it around their foot/toes.
Including a special stuffed animal or other memento. For newborn sessions, we can photograph your baby holding onto a special stuffed animal or laying next to an item that represents their older sibling. During a maternity session, you or your spouse can hold onto these items near your baby bump.
Making a sign that includes your angel baby’s name. I love when mamas use a letterboard to display a sweet phrase like “hand-picked by my brother in Heaven” for a rainbow session.
Or, you may not want to do anything in particular to represent your angel, and instead simply set aside a series of images or moments during your session to remember your baby. That’s perfectly fine too.
I’m an open book
I’m always very up front with mamas who’ve lost a baby about my story. Although I hate that any of us have a reason to bond over something so terrible, it seems to make these sessions a little easier. It doesn’t bother me to answer questions about what happened to us, or what it was like to carry three babies to term after our late miscarriage.
If you’re pregnant again right now or have just had a baby after previously losing a child, please don’t miss out on making these memories. I understand the fear you may feel – but I also know how much joy is ahead. You deserve to celebrate every moment, regardless of what has happened in the past.
Beauty from ashes
Surviving the loss of our first baby changed me forever. We waited till around 20 weeks to announce subsequent pregnancies, and I was always scared to assume we’d actually bring a newborn home until I walked through our front door with each of my daughters.
Saying goodbye to that baby also gave me a deep compassion for other mamas who experience the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant loss. I donate a maternity session to MEND (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) each year to help a mama find joy again after surviving the worst pain imaginable.
I don’t say this here to toot my own horn. Rather, working with a MEND mom during her rainbow baby session is a way to honor the daughter I lost. I think it’s easier on those mamas too, because they don’t have to explain anything to me.
There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to celebrate a rainbow baby session. It’s all completely up to you, and I’d be honored to help you celebrate the baby you’re expecting, while we remember the sweet one gone all too soon.