Conversations in a Bathtub

Talking to my rainbow baby about her sisters.

watercolor illustration of a claw foot bathtub filled with water
Image created via Midjourney

I was taking a bath with my 5-year-old rainbow baby. Not really a baby anymore. And I know our bath nights won't last forever. Eventually, she'll be too old and it won't be fun to take a bath with mama anymore.

She was examining my tattoos as we lathered soap over our arms. She wanted to know the names of each tattoo artist. I pointed to each tattoo and named the artist, if I remembered.

She peered at the tattoo on my back, my first tattoo. The one I rarely see because of it's position. She said, "Why do you have so many numbers?"

I told her that the last set of numbers was her birthday. And that the other numbers were the birthdays of her brothers and her sisters.

Her awareness of the two sisters that came before her is limited. We attend events with our pregnancy and infant loss support group. We celebrate Nelle and Iris on their birthdays. But it's not part of our everyday conversation. And at her age, those days when we acknowledge their existence sometimes sit at the edge of her awareness.

When I told her that my tattoo has five birthdays for my five kids, she scrunched up her face. "I miss my sisters."

She paused and then said, "What did they look like?"

I had a hard time explaining that I didn't see them. I chose not to look at them when they were born, knowing that — at only a few inches long — they wouldn't resemble the baby I'd pictured in my mind. So I told her that they were really tiny when they were born, because they were sick and they died.

Her eyes got really wide. "Was it Covid?" That's her frame of reference. People get sick from Covid and they died. I told her no, it wasn't Covid. They got sick before Covid.

In a few weeks, we'll attend an annual butterfly release at our local hospital, honoring all babies gone too soon. I'm hoping that the event is more memorable for my living daughter, on the heels of this bathtub conversation.

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