after sky died and was born, i crocheted a rainbow baby blanket. for a long time after i finished it lay folded in a box, because i had no use for a baby blanket. the rainbow represented hope, represented belief in the future, represented my unborn rainbow children.
these days, the blanket again lies folded in a box. my rainbow children are getting older, and a newborn sized crochet blanket is of less use to them.
a rainbow is the product of a magical alchemy of sky tears and sun rays and a perfect angle. it is precious because it is ephemeral and untamed. it is elusive; holding the rainbow is the stuff of fantasy. a rainbow is wild. a rainbow is fleeting.
but what happens after you catch a rainbow? or two?
no longer elusive, but clinging. no longer fleeting, but ever present. the rainbows in my arms are solid and muscular and loud, their alchemy immediate and often smelly.
on many days the brilliant colors mush and fade into a muddy brown, the color of old food and dirty diapers and dirt and cups of coffee. the hours stretch and morph into forevers, and the clock creeps as i pack more parenting into 5 minute segments than i would have thought possible. days are both too long and not long enough, but never exactly the right length. the nights are busy, full of nursing and pacing and rocking and not-resting. joel has even taken to using his pedometer app during the nights, a techie’s attempt to validate that third cup of coffee the next morning.
the days have no beginning and no end; life is no longer cyclical, but an endless stretch of intense neediness.
i wrote a blog post about living with rainbows long before i had one. it said, among other things, this:
some say a baby isn’t all that. a baby is long nights no sex weird smells sore nipples and sacrifice but it’s worth it in the end.
i say no. a baby is a rainbow.
they say you don’t know what it’s like. they say wait until you’re a mother and you’ll see. they say you’ll be tired, you’ll want a break. they say you have no idea.
i say watch me. watch me make my rainbow. watch me conquer the choking clouds of fear to live at peace with my rainbow. watch me bring forth my rainbow in pain and joy. and watch me thank God and hope and heaven every morning for my rainbow, made more precious by the tears of pain in which it is conceived. i may have no idea what it is like to live with a baby, but i know what is like to die with a baby. and one whose motherhood has died with her baby may not know the trials of living with a baby … but i know without a doubt that i will embrace the rain with my rainbow.
some days i get really angry at the childless woman who wrote that. losing a baby is hard, but having babies is hard too – a more complicated kind of hard. she had no idea.
but other days … choking with fear, tears of exhaustion in my eyes, arms too weary to shield myself from the rain … i accept her mandate.
because rainbow babies, like rainbows themselves, are impermanent. i feel this acutely as we prepare to recognize aida’s 1st birthday, ash’s 2nd birthday, and sky’s 3rd birthday. this is a season of many reminders, celebrations, and commemorations for our rainbow family: the births of all of our children, sky’s death, ash’s adoption … all take place within the space of a few short weeks, along with thanksgiving and christmas. ashal and aida’s seemingly endless babyhood is suddenly punctuated with little exclamation points, reminders to notice the beautiful colors and beautiful moments of today. already, my little rainbows are beginning to fly away from me with toddling wings. they will no longer be rainbow babies; they will be rainbow toddlers. it is a different sort of impermanence than that of my sky baby; it stretches deceptively into the horizon. and yet, little by little, the horizon moves closer as they fly away.
it wracks the emotions to jump from birthdays to death days to separation days to togetherness days, and so in the next few weeks we will hold on to our little rainbows, still ours for now, and cry, or laugh, or simply sit in an endless moment that, all too soon, will end.