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Exclusive: Inside the minds of women who fear rainbow baby pregnancies

For millions of women around the world, pregnancy is a journey filled with dreams of cradling their bundles of joy after nine months.

From the moment they find out they are pregnant, they begin imagining what gender their babies will be, which parent they would resemble, how they will carry out their gender reveal events, shopping for the baby, imagining their first cries and steps- basically, they look forward to the joys of motherhood.

And just as not every journey is the same for all women, some pregnancies end up taking unexpected turns, shattering these dreams of having a baby and leaving behind immense grief- most times often unspoken and unexpressed.

In 2022, research conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics on the Demographic and Health Survey, revealed that of all pregnancies among women aged between 15 and 49 in the three years before the survey, 10 per cent of them had miscarriages, 2 per cent had stillbirths while 1 per cent had induced abortions.

Such heartbreaking experiences continue to leave women with silent burdens of grief and profound loss if these were critically wanted babies.

After experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of these babies through miscarriages, some women then find themselves longing for another chance at motherhood.

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While still grieving, courageously and hopefully, some women actively embark on the journey to get pregnant again, fervently hoping for a live birth after nine months of a rainbow baby – a baby who is born after a previous pregnancy loss/stillbirth.

Once they conceive and begin looking forward to meeting their rainbow babies, some women, however, carry deep seated fears about the pregnancy. They fail to enjoy this pregnancy journey like they did the previous time before loss occurred.

According to Counselling Psychologist Dr Venus Kyengo, a practitioner at The Myndspa, fear is the main reason why some women fail to enjoy rainbow baby pregnancies is because of fear.

“It’s all about fear of the unknown. You have come from a traumatising period where you were very expectant of this baby and then something happened and you lose the pregnancy,” Dr Kyengo said.

The Counselling Psychologist explains that the human mind is designed to remember.

“We have three compartments in the mind: conscious, subconscious and the unconscious. A lot of the traumas we carry in our journey of life are stored in the unconscious space and therefore it means that whenever we encounter triggers, that compartment where we hide things is aroused. Just like a door, it opens up and someone is able to experience in real time what they experienced the other time,” Dr Kyengo explains.

Coming from this place, Dr Kyengo explains, some women often embark on a journey of fear because in as much as they are assured, the mind does not forget.

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“They will have the fear of losing that pregnancy too. Many people who go through traumatic experiences never really get to enjoy the future unless they go through that journey of healing,” Dr Kyengo said.

Another factor could be the issues that come with pregnancy become hinderances to someone enjoying a rainbow pregnancy especially if they have health related problems. Apparently, the baby may be a blessing but the mother-to-be wouldn’t enjoy it.

“It also does matter how long you have waited. There are couples who wait for a baby for so long that in that period, they’ve been abused and labelled names by in-laws and relatives that even when the miracle happens, there is no joy in it. It would be ticking a box for them, It is, therefore, pegged on culture and personalities,” said Dr Kyengo.

During the gestation period of rainbow pregnancies, some women’s emotional state tend to take a beating due to past experiences of loss.

According to Dr Kyengo, the trauma that comes with the loss, if it remains unaddressed, along with the fear and other psychological problems, may become a threat to the pregnancy.

“What I would advise here is, whenever someone goes through any pregnancy loss, let them go on a healing journey or go and walk with a therapist to get through to them and help them heal because we’ve seen success stories. Someone cannot be really stable emotionally so it is very critical we know that past experiences have a history of relapsing or triggering a woman emotionally based on what happened at that point,” she said.

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However, there are some effective strategies that pregnant women can employ to navigate the emotions surrounding rainbow pregnancies, and successfully end their pregnancies with healthy babies in their arms.

“The first thing is having a support system – walking with people who understand and are able to help them to manage their emotions. Secondly, there are many therapeutic models away from the therapist. There is pharmacological intervention whereby one is given medication that could help a hormone to function well or fully,” explained Dr Kyengo.

“A human being’s complexity is as a result of the brain transmission. It is the one that controls our hormones and if someone tends to have depression, medication is given. during this time, as there is another life growing within, there is so much demand on the woman. It has been found that hormonal support helps a lot in stabilizing the woman. A lot of morning sickness and other issues is because of hormonal imbalance,” she said.

In conclusion, she also mentioned spirituality as a factor where one can embrace prayer as “where there is faith, there is no fear.” In this instance, according to Dr Kyengo, a woman would have the vision and trust in the supernatural power that they would be carried and seen through the pregnancy through the art of prayer.

“We don’t impose religion on anyone but if someone is religious, I would think this is one of the most effective ways of going through difficult pregnancies that (if there is) a history of previous losses,” said Dr Kyengo.

At the end of the day, despite the fear, depression, hormonal imbalance and medical issues during a rainbow pregnancy, the joy that awaits a woman who successfully comes through it remains incomparable.

The moment one gets to hold their rainbow baby, a symbol of hope and healing after a storm, immense joy, gratitude and a deep sense of fulfillment becomes the order of life as a new chapter of love and hope for a better life begins.