Rainbow Baby: a name coined for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The term given to these special rainbow babies comes from the idea of a rainbow appearing in the sky or after a dark turbulent time.
Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-one years old, I gave birth to two babies. These births were the defining moments of my life. In the summer of 1998, I went away to college in upstate Pennsylvania, leaving behind my boyfriend Shawn, whom I loved. I still remember the sadness I felt the night before I left for college, knowing I was starting a new chapter in my life that did not include him. By mid-summer, I was standing in my all-girl’s dorm bathroom stall, taking a pregnancy test that revealed I would be seeing him sooner than I thought. My parents were extremely disappointed, but supported me in my decision. Shawn was elated that I was home and having his baby.
My early pregnancy was rough, due to extreme morning sickness and my baby having an elevated heart rate. I had a high-risk pregnancy: there were constant doctor appointments, and I had to take medicine to slow her heart rate down. Our baby girl, Makiyah, was born in February 1999, weighing just over four pounds. Aside from her heart issue, which needed monitoring, she was healthy. I took her home and began my journey as a young mother, which included allowing family and friends to visit her very early on. On an early morning in April, when Makiyah was about five-and-a-half-weeks-old, she developed a high fever and labored breathing. Her doctor immediately had us bring her in, and once she was checked out, she was sent to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Less than forty-eight hours later our baby girl was hooked up to life support. She had an infection called Group B strep (meningitis). In the most defining moment of my life, I had to choose to remove my baby from life support, due to the infection debilitating her brain function.
Over those next few months, I was grief stricken and deeply depressed. I felt alone, even with so many family members surrounding me with support. I would never have believed I would be nineteen-years-old and have a baby, only to plan her funeral less than two months later. Shawn and I went to group counseling with other parents who experienced similar losses, which helped some. It all seemed so surreal, and before I could gain some emotional stability, I discovered I was pregnant again, in December 1999. I should have been safe and on birth control, but I was not, and now Shawn and I faced another decision: whether we should keep the second baby.
How does someone who is still grieving the loss of a baby abort a baby? Once I told my family that I was pregnant again, they surprisingly encouraged me to keep it. During everything they were still grieving and missed her, and could not imagine me aborting this little miracle.
When you lose a baby and find yourself pregnant a short time later, your emotions are mixed. I was fearful, worried, excited, and anxious. But I knew for me to push forward I was going to have to dig deep within myself to be strong for this new baby. This pregnancy was healthy, and because of that, I was able to get a job, which helped me become self-sufficient. I also went back to therapy. In August 2000, I gave birth to my son, Shawn Thomas. He was healthy and happy.
I feel like because I pushed through my grief during my pregnancy, I assisted in bringing this joyful baby into the world. I was twenty-one-years-old when he was born, and over the next two years, I got my driver’s license, moved out of my parents’ home, and continued to keep stable employment to be a good mother to my son. I will always have my daughter Makiyah in my heart. Her life and death has made me the strong, resilient woman I am today. I know that if I can survive that traumatic experience, then I can make it through anything.
Danielle Henderson (she/her) was born and raised in West Philadelphia. She's been full-time for the City of Philadelphia for nine years. She currently writes personal essays on relationships, mental health, and culture. She began her writing journey last year, and her essays can be found on Medium.
Humberto Hinojal is a retired teacher who has lived in Mar del Plata, Argentina, since he was born. Married for over forty years, he and his wife, Nidia, were blessed with two children and four grandchildren, their great loves. Humberto enjoys traveling the world with his wife, and his passion is photography.