When I was a young mother, I had not heard of the terms “sunshine baby,” “miracle baby,” “cloud baby,” angel baby,” or “rainbow baby”. I didn’t know it then, but in hindsight, I have experienced mothering all four.
While labeling our children is generally not a good idea, I have found these labels help us relate to motherhood experiences. They allow us to support each other through the understanding imparted by the naming.
I started writing this article in a serendipitous way right after I discovered that there is a Rainbow Baby Day, which is August 22!
This article covers what is a rainbow baby, and also gives 21+ unique ideas for celebrating his or her birth!
My sunshine baby was my first child born about 45 years ago. By definition, a “sunshine baby” is a child born before a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal, or infant death. She was indeed my little sunshine and only child for ten years.
I had been told it was unlikely that I could have any more children due to several ovarian cysts surgeries. Thinking I was extremely tired due to something like anemia, I visited my family doctor for tests. Imagine my shock and awe when I received the phone call congratulating me on my pregnancy!
I thought of my second child, delivered months later and ten years after my first, as my miracle baby.
She was certainly unplanned and arrived at a difficult time in my life. Most of those close to me (including her father) wanted me to have an abortion. Due to a condition called placenta previa, the pregnancy was considered high risk and the fear of miscarriage was never far from my mind.
Apprehension about the possibility of another unplanned pregnancy amongst other concerns caused me to decide to undergo a tubal ligation after her birth.
Cloud or Angel Baby
Life changed for me so I decided to have tubal reanastomosis surgery, which repaired the tubal ligation.
The little miracle child, who had the largest eyes you could imagine, was about a year old when I discovered I was once again expecting. I was ecstatic even though the morning sickness was not exactly amusing!
Unfortunately, I had just begun wearing maternity clothes when the worst thing happened. I will never forget it. A nurse left a file in my room at Emergency and I saw the ultrasound image of an empty sac. They didn’t have to tell me — I knew.
A range of emotions washed over me for a very long time — guilt, sadness, numbness, and finally acceptance.
I envisioned this unborn child as my angel baby whose essence was somewhere in the clouds, a child who could not be born for whatever unseen and unknown reasons.
I worked hard to convince myself that he or she was not meant to be, and that it wasn’t my fault or some kind of punishment from a higher power.
If you have experienced a miscarriage, you know all about the rationalizations and the grief, but eventually, there is also hope.
This happened to me many years ago, but it can still bring tears to my eyes. It is true that with time there is healing and I am so grateful that I have learned to focus on the gifts and blessings in my life.
Rainbow or Spirit Baby
One of those gifts is my youngest child, a rainbow baby, the new little bundle who has brought so much joy into my life — in fact I named her Joy!
The loving term rainbow baby has been around about a dozen years and is exactly what the name implies — something beautiful, colorful, and full of promise after the storm and darkness of the unimaginable loss of a baby through miscarriage, prematurity, stillbirth, SIDS or other types of infant death.
As a rainbow baby is said, by some, to carry the spirit of the baby lost before it, it is also sometimes known as a spiritbaby. Some believe that our angel babies are the guardian angels of our rainbow children.
Breaking the Silence
When I experienced my miscarriage, the subject was really taboo — you just didn’t talk about it and were expected to move on.
Women are luckier today with the Internet as a resource and for support. They have easy access to find empathy and others who can relate and help them through the stormy turbulent times of the loss of a baby and then the bittersweet yet empowering subsequent pregnancy of a rainbow child.
As a Life-Cycle Celebrant®, I have come to know the magnitude of this story, the importance of recognizing that no matter how short a life, there is significance.
As human beings, we need to not only tell our story, but to honour the lives of our babies that we may not have even met or held in our arms — the little angels who some feel were taken back to heaven because they were too good for our world.
Perhaps we were meant to learn both how valuable and how fragile life is and to do our best to make every day the best for ourselves and the people we care about — especially our children.
Discover like I did that it is okay to feel anger, grief and disappointment for a while, but that it is wise to push away the shame, the blame, the stigma, the silence, and the sense of failure.
Both storytelling and ritual enable us to reflect, move through our grief, and celebrate our joys.
Honouring our Angel Baby
There is so much emotion around welcoming a rainbow baby.
Strong fears about the fragility of life can lead to helicopter parenting, especially if we have not come to a sense of peace and acceptance about previous losses.
It is so important for family and friends to validate the mixed feelings of elation, despair, and everything in-between.
We need to honour the angel baby held in the parent’s hearts, all while helping to cherish and celebrate the precious little rainbow baby in the here and now.
I highly recommend that the family organize a baby-naming ceremony where the angel baby can be honoured along with the rainbow baby.
A ceremony with personalized rituals is the best way I know to process loss and celebrate life.
Awkward silences and emptiness are replaced with something tangible to soothe the memories and create comforting new ones.
Symbolic objects, rituals, and well-written and spoken words move us through major transitions, leaving us feeling many blessings and crafting positive wishes for the future of the rainbow baby without feeling that we will ever forget our angel babies.
Designing Personalized Ceremonies for Angel and Rainbow Babies
A qualified professional celebrant recognizes the need for emotional support after a devastating loss and is trained to help individuals find meaning and inspiration.
Well versed and experienced in ceremony and ritual creation, and expert wordsmiths, Life-Cycle Celebrants® create beautiful new traditions honouring a lost life, no matter how short, giving that life a deserved and cherished position in the family unit.
Parents discover they are not alone when their community rallies around them at the ceremony and cannot help but treasure a profound sense of gratitude.
Well-written and performed ceremonies (in consultation with the family) helps to acknowledge that the parents are not alone and results in fear taking a back-seat to the promising and hopeful future.
A ceremony can be designed to acknowledge a very difficult time, as well as leave people feeling great joy and peace. Treasured reminders can also be created in wonderful ways to honour both angel and rainbow babies.
Life-Cycle Celebrants® are professionals who are dedicated to outside-of-the-box thinking, innovative ceremony creation, and honouring clients’ beliefs and values. Differentiated from other officiants, there is no ‘one size fits all’, ‘fill in the blanks’ memorial or celebration in the minds of Life-Cycle Celebrants®.
The following is a list of 21 creative ideas to use in a ceremony to honour rainbow and angel babies:
- Write the story of the lost baby to share with the rainbow child, family, and close friends.
- Plant a tree that has meaning, such as an evergreen, olive tree, or rose bush, and install a memorial plaque. Consider having a dedication ceremony with family and friends.
- Create a special rock garden, scrapbook, or memory box to celebrate your rainbow baby and your angel baby.
- Create or commission special jewelry to celebrate your angel and rainbow babies. Consider including a birthstone, angel wings, and engravings like “Too beautiful for Earth” for your angel baby. Consider using birthstone, a rainbow symbol, and engravings like “The greater the storm, the brighter the rainbow” for your rainbow baby.
- Create or commission a custom blanket made to the size of your angel baby and speak about what it means to the family.
- Arrange for unique tattoos and explain their significance to guests during the ceremony.
- Present symbolic gifts to guests as keepsakes and explain the significance.
- Make a commemorative meaning of name certificate and/or an astrological chart and have it framed.
- Create a time capsule with input from guests at the ceremony to be presented to the child in the future on a significant birthday. Fill the time capsule with gifts to acknowledge his or her birth date (as examples: newspaper; coin collection; stamps; other symbolic items).
- Compile a book or video with heartfelt messages and advice from guests at the ceremony. They could even offer to teach your rainbow child a certain skill in the future. For example: “See me when you are 12 years old and I will teach you guitar!”
- Express vows and pledges to the child from parents, grandparents, guide parents, Godparents, and the community.
- Use the ceremony as an opportunity to pass on family jewelry to your rainbow child.
- Sprinkle rose petals over your rainbow baby while explaining the significance of the chosen colours.
- Announce the rainbow baby’s name and why it was chosen, including possibly naming the angel baby as well.
- Shower the rainbow baby with wishes for the future. Ask each guest to touch the baby’s head with a flower as they express their thoughts.
- Pass the baby around in a large circle, giving each guest a chance to welcome the child through touch.
- Start your rainbow baby’s first library at the ceremony. Ask each guest to bring a favourite children’s book and explain why they are gifting that particular book to the baby.
- As part of the ceremony, the parents of the rainbow baby could make an impression of his or her hand or foot, using either clay or safe washable ink. A guest could read an appropriate poem reflecting the meaning behind the ritual.
- Present a family tree book at the ceremony. Dedicate that book by adding the names of both your angel baby and your rainbow baby to the family tree in the presence of your guests.
- Acknowledge your angel baby by buying and naming a star and explaining the significance to guests at the ceremony.
- Acknowledge both your angel baby and your rainbow baby by dedicating angel wings or a halo while lighting candles. Alternatively, you could do a sand pouring ceremony by pouring coloured sand into a glass container, layer upon layer, using colours of the rainbow. Whichever one you use, (candles or sand), explain the significance of the ritual to your guests.
If you have a rainbow baby and are still struggling with loss, here are further resources on Love Lives On that you may find helpful:
- Beautiful quotes about miscarriage and loss
- Understanding the 5 stages of grief and how to survive them
- A mother’s personal journey of loss and grief
Here are additional resources that are worth checking out:
- Still Birth Alliance
- Pregnancy After Loss Support
- Compassionate Friends
- National Share
- March of Dimes
About the Author
Marilyn Dion is a Life-Cycle Celebrant®, specifically trained and experienced to perform weddings, funerals, memorials commitments and other ceremonies to honour the milestones in your life. As owner and operator of Woven Words Ceremonies, she honours all philosophies, beliefs and traditions — secular, spiritual, religious and interfaith.
With you, she will create a beautiful ceremony that will respect and reflect your values, your style and your life. You can be as unique, creative, formal, or informal, as you wish. She will listen to you, make suggestions, and in the end, you and your family will have the perfect ceremony.
Be sure to contact Marilyn if you need help designing a beautiful and meaningful ceremony in Southwest Ontario. You’ll be so glad that you did!
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