Why This Mom Chose to Redefine the Term 'Rainbow Baby'

A mom named Teresa Mendoza recently took to Instagram to share why she doesn't feel right calling her son a "rainbow baby."
Donell Koppenaal

The popularity of the term "rainbow baby" -- used to describe LOs who arrive following the loss of a baby from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant mortality -- has skyrocketed in popularity recently. Plenty of moms relate to the term, as it reflects hope and beauty after a storm has lifted. But not every parent has taken to it. A mom named Teresa Mendoza, who blogs at WritingsforSylvia.com, recently took to Instagram to share her story and explain why it doesn't resonate with her. 

Mendoza's first child, Sylvia Paloma, was born without a heartbeat on August 12, 2016, Mom.me reports. A little more than a year later, on October 9, she welcomed her son Leo Coronado.

After initially rejecting the term, she and her husband Carlos are owning it, with their own definition.

"For a long time I rejected the title, feeling protective of Sylvia and hurt by the idea that anything surrounding her was a storm," Mendoza explained in an Instagram post from October 19. "She is perfect, not a storm, we are heartbroken, but she is not a storm, it was a great tragedy, yes, but she is not a storm. Somewhere along the pregnancy with Leo, Carlos told me that his interpretation equates to both Sylvia and Leo as rainbows that were shining above the storm and that the storm had nothing to do with Sylvia except to bring the rainbow of her and now her brother into our lives. She is the rainbow as much as he is...and the two rainbows that showed up in this photo make me think he’s absolutely right."

What a gorgeous, heartening interpretation. 

Yet, opening up about her story on Instagram certainly presented its challenges. "Before losing my daughter, the internet was a scary place, and after, I remember reading things that made me feel like I was wrong in the way I was processing or stories that made me feel bad about myself and my thoughts," Mendoza reveals to Parents.com. "The last thing I want to do is offend or make someone feel more isolated in an already very isolating situation. Losing a child is so traumatic, so painful and so sensitive that sharing emotions, thoughts and pictures can be a tricky thing. There is no right way or one way to grieve. Even women [with] stories that are nearly identical to mine have completely different ways of processing and different emotions moving forward. Sharing my opinion publicly is scary every time."

So, what eventually compelled her to do so? "I felt like I needed to share my personal interpretation on the term 'rainbow baby' not to reject it or discredit it, but to let others know that this is not a one-size-fits-all process," Mendoza explains. "The term signifies hope, a future and some sort of light at the end of the darkest of tunnels, so if I refer to my child who is here with me and my child who is not both as rainbows. It's not because I am disrespecting the term, but I am allowing for my own meaning that sits better on my heart."

So far, the response to Mendoza's "rainbow baby" meaning has been positive, she says. "Many women saying they agree or at least understand," Mendoza shares. "The last thing I would want to do is offend another parent navigating this muddy, confusing path after the loss of their child. Connections I have made through the community of parents who have experienced a loss are powerful. No matter how different our opinions are, we all understand that we are doing the very best we can with this confusing and heartbreaking hand we have been dealt."

Since opening up about her rainbow babies, Teresa continues to inspire her followers with details of her motherhood journey. Just today, Thursday, November 9, Mendoza shared this gorgeous, emotional photo from Leo's birth.

Ultimately, Mendoza wants her experience and personal definition of the popular term to give other women hope. "When my daughter Sylvia died, I looked at other women who have lost a child as survivors," she explains. "It gave me hope to see that they were still alive. Not in a life or death, suicidal kind of way, but in a way that they got up, got ready for the day and faced whatever they had to in order to make it through the waves of overwhelming sadness that we inevitably face. Every emotion that is brought up after losing a child, no matter how dark or confusing, has a purpose. I hope I can help other moms acknowledge that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that connecting with others is a powerful tool in remembering our babies, better understanding our own grief and breaking down the silence regarding pregnancy and infant loss."

Props to Mendoza for sharing this deeply intimate story -- and making "rainbow baby" her own. After all, every parent's experience is unique. So, why shouldn't the terms we use be, too?

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