A rainbow baby is a baby born to a mother who has recently lost a child through a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Tennille Aron spoke to Nuku Motloung to find out about her rainbow baby, who defied the odds and, like many other rainbow babies, has restored hope to her parents after they had suffered a great loss.
Thirty-year-old Nuku was sitting in front of her laptop late one evening when she came across the term ‘rainbow baby’. She had been desperately searching online for anything that would help her understand why she had lost her baby to miscarriage. Little did she know then the impact that this simple term would have on her life, and on how she would come to view the beautiful baby girl she would give birth to just over a year later.
Rainbow baby Karabo
It was just five months after her miscarriage that Nuku fell pregnant with Karabo, and although she was a mess of emotions then, she can’t imagine her life without her little rainbow baby now. “Just like a bright rainbow often follows a turbulent storm,” explains Nuku, “Karabo is my hope of better things to come; she is my rainbow after the storm of my miscarriage.”
The prevalence of miscarriage
Nuku is one of many parents who have had to face the loss of a child because of a miscarriage. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic about 10 – 20 % of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Suffering a miscarriage is a devastating experience for any parent – the loss of a child can leave moms and dads with feelings of unbearable sadness, anger and even failure.
For many moms who fall pregnant soon after having had a miscarriage, these emotions can also greatly impact on how the mommy-to-be experiences this new pregnancy. They often suffer from feelings of guilt and uncertainty, and even an intense fear of what the new pregnancy might bring with it. “When I first found out I was pregnant with Karabo, I was incredibly happy, but at the same time I was also absolutely terrified,” confesses Nuku. However, reading about rainbow babies has helped her to understand that Karabo is a blessing that she deserved after having to go through such a hard time in her life. “Having been through the storm of losing a baby, I am much more appreciative of my daughter now,” explains Nuku.
Rainbow baby coming early
Nuku’s miscarriage was not the only storm that she had to weather before she could meet her beautiful baby girl. When she was just 24 weeks pregnant with Karabo she went into early labour because of cervical insufficiency. This is a condition in which a woman’s cervix begins to dilate too early in the pregnancy, causing the baby to be born before it is fully developed in the womb. Despite trying medical interventions to prevent her from delivering her baby so early in her pregnancy, on 28 January 2016 Nuku went into labour and gave birth to her daughter, Karabo. This beautiful little rainbow baby weighed just 510g when she was born, which included the weight of the oxygen tubes that were inserted to help her breathe.
“Being born at such an early stage in the pregnancy meant that Karabo’s organs were all severely underdeveloped and she spent a total of 158 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately after her birth,” explains Nuku. She also had to undergo a series of operations including patent ductus arteriosus, which is a heart surgery to close the blood vessel between the chambers of the heart to ensure normal blood circulation in her body. This is a procedure that would ordinarily have taken place on its own after birth, but had to be performed surgically because Karabo was born at five months.
Karabo also had to have laser eye treatment to treat her retinopathy of prematurity (a condition usually occurring in premature babies in which extra blood vessels develop in the retina, which can cause it to detach from the eye, resulting in blindness). This 24-week-old also had to undergo a series of blood and platelet transfusions from the time she was born as her body was unable to make its own.
Rainbow baby photoshoot
This brave rainbow baby beat the odds and celebrated her first birthday earlier this year. In honour of her rainbow baby status, her parents commemorated the occasion with a rainbow baby-themed photoshoot. “We decided on the rainbow baby theme for the photoshoot because we wanted to celebrate our rainbow after the storm and her fighting spirit through all of the prematurity complications. She’s our true super hero,” explains Nuku.
Rainbow baby-themed photoshoots are becoming popular around the world as a way to celebrate babies born soon after a miscarriage.
The rainbow-themed photoshoot is a means to capture the hope that a rainbow baby brings into the lives of their parents through the colours of the rainbow. Globally, photographers have taken highly creative approaches to rainbow baby-themed photoshoots. In an effort to demonstrate the true beauty of rainbow babies, American photographer Alex Bowen (Shutter Darling Photography, LLC on Facebook and @shutterdarlingphotography on Instagram) decided to enlist six moms with rainbow babies to do a rainbow baby-themed group photoshoot. Each mom had a very different story to tell regarding their miscarriage and the birth of their rainbow baby. She shot each mom and her baby (or bump) in matching rainbow colours with matching colourful smoke in the background. She also shot a group photo that included all six moms and their babies, which she posted to her social media pages. On Facebook this picture has already received over 27 000 reactions from moms all over the world. Other moms have also started sharing their own rainbow baby stories as a result of this photo.
Something to celebrate
To capture the beauty of her rainbow baby, Nuku enlisted the help of photographer Clair Fraser for Karabo’s rainbow baby-themed shoot. Clair incorporated the colours of the rainbow into the background and props in Karabo’s shoot. As the shoot was also a celebration of Karabo’s first birthday, Clair incorporated these same colours into the icing on the birthday cake used in the photoshoot.
For mothers like Nuku, these themed photoshoots are a way to capture the colour that their rainbow babies have brought into their lives. For Nuku in particular, although she still mourns the loss of her child, the birth of her rainbow baby has given her hope that no matter how hard things may get, they will get better. Her incredible journey of loss and hope and the strength of her rainbow baby should inspire hope in other mothers out there too.