Rainbow's End

What rainbow's end have we been chasing, these past two years?

an abstact watercolor illustration of a thin rainbow over a field
Image created via Midjourney

It is 3:00 am and I am staring into my baby's very alert face, willing her to go back to sleep. As her steely blue eyes stare back at me, I thought of Iris. My baby that was supposed to be my rainbow baby. How much I wanted her, after losing Nelle. How Autumn would not exist if Iris had lived. It is all such a complicated story of "them" and "her." "Here" and "not here."

I started crying. Ger, half-asleep, heard me and asked me if I was ok. I replied only that the baby was spitting up, ignoring anything about myself. In his stupor of waking-up-multiple-times-per-night, he accepted this explanation.

I stared down at Autumn. I don't have as many thoughts about Iris as I do Nelle. She only lived to 16 weeks of gestation, versus 21, and I had intentionally kept myself as detached as I could. My reaction to the loss was just as intense, but I don't have many "memories."

There was the pregnancy test. The first OBGYN visit. Morning sickness. Fear and anxiety. Loss. Delivery. With Nelle I had several good months of believing that I had a normal pregnancy. I never had moments like that with Iris.

I was flashed to that awful moment in the OBGYN office, that moment of expected/unexpected shock when I was told that she had no heartbeat and I let out a silent scream.

If Iris had lived, she would have been my last child. I wouldn't be holding Autumn. Hence the complicated nature of my grief.

It is why I struggle so much with the term rainbow baby. Iris was my rainbow baby. I chose her name early because Iris means "rainbow." Rainbow has become such a paradoxical word for me.

Everyone in the babyloss community knows the term "rainbow baby" so I have felt compelled to use it to refer to Autumn, by way of an easy explanation that she is a baby after loss. But the term hurts.

I was listening to music the other day, and the song 'Moon River' came on. Unexpectedly, I started crying at the lyrics:

"We're after the same rainbow's end / waiting round the bend."

What rainbow's end have we been chasing, these past two years?

I kept crying, while feeding Autumn. Still half asleep, Ger heard me sniffling and asked if I needed my Neti pot. It was sweet, that in the world between asleep and awake he assumed that I was fighting a cold and offered me something to help clear it.

I told him I was fine. 3:00 am when we were both exhausted seemed like the wrong time to bring up how much I was missing our other babies.

"Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it.

You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as fast as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal."

-Cheryl Strayed