Some Thoughts on Rainbow Babies

Our 4th child was born healthy and happy last month. Thanks be to God. He, like his sister before him, are often called "Rainbow Babies."

I have some problems with this catchphrase. For one thing, after standing at the foot of our three year-old son's grave, it sounds like a trite gimmicky term that cannot begin to encompass the depths of our grief journey. For another, "Rainbow Babies" seems like a phrase that outsiders use to express their relief that you've "moved on" or God has placed you back in the "blessed" category. Placing these rose-colored glasses on does not remove the dread that grieving parents feel. 

In the Christian tradition, rainbows symbolize God's Covenant of Protection.

 "I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." Genesis 9:15-16

But this promise of "never again" falls flat to grieving parents. We know that our children will die. We know that we might have to bury more children (See: Joe Biden). I was terror-stricken throughout my entire pregnancy with my daughter. I spent the first six months of her life changing out the batteries in her breathing monitors. Every morning, every naptime I expected to find her dead. I didn't worry about it. I expected it. Fear is normalized when grief is fresh. The promise that God will give my children eternal life is still more real to me than the promise that He will guard and protect them here on earth.

But the most important reason I'm not a fan of using the term "Rainbow Babies" is that my youngest son and daughter's stories are not defined by their brother's short life or their parents' grief journey. They are not an accessory in my life. They are not a footnote in my grief journey. They are born persons made in the image of God who were sent here with their own unique story. They are adding a new color to our family and the world.

God is writing a beautiful story, and we all have parts to play to bring Him glory. That's my prayer - not just for my living children but also for myself. God is a Master Storyteller. No detail escapes His narrative plan. In Revelation, we see God bookending His story with rainbows: 

"And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. " Revelation 4:3

A neverending rainbow. An eternal promise before our eyes. There will come a day when my children will all be living and worshiping together. They will be truly safe and secure in the new heaven and the new earth. Until then, we pray for temporal protection. In our church's Rite of Baptism, the Pastor prays that the infant, child, or adult will be kept "safe and secure in the ark of the Christian church." As I rock my baby boy tonight, I'll remember that regardless of when God calls my son home, God is seated on His throne, encircled in a rainbow. He is good. And He is in control. As I rock like a ship tossed about at sea, holding my defenseless newborn who some call a Rainbow Baby, I'll remember that we have a Rainbow God.

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