Having a rainbow baby doesn’t fix grief. It doesn’t make us forget what we lost. It does make certain things better. After we had Elanor, babies on billboards no longer hurt. I could enjoy their cute little smiles again. I didn’t avoid baby sections in the store anymore. For eleven years, the cute little outfits were just cute little outfits, not stab wounds in the heart.

Recently, I’ve had a relapse. A dear friend lost her baby boy not long ago. On the way to his funeral, we stopped at Target for some things needed by my ever-growing eleven-year-old rainbow. That was my first hint of trouble. Cutting through the store in search of the fitting rooms, we came upon the baby section, with an adorable little plaid shirt and tiny little jeans ensemble prominently displayed. I had a fierce desire to buy them for little Paul, and a soul-deep hurt at the knowledge he would never need them. Baby section dread has returned, with a vengeance.

Confirmed this on a recent trip to Walmart. Didn’t pay as much attention this time, just felt a pang and turned my eyes resolutely away. Now I know I should go back to avoiding these places for awhile. It’s probably temporary. This was not my child I lost this time, but an honorary nephew who would have been a physically distant part of my life, no matter how loved and wanted. There will eventually most likely be another baby boy in my life someday, one I will want to buy adorable little clothes. And the happy of that will overcome the pang of what wasn’t, and I’ll be able to do the baby section again, and probably even enjoy it. But for now, I’ll steer clear. (Actually, I have a baby nephew I might brave the section for right now, but his mother is a super-efficient yard-saler, so the need is lacking.)

Everyone says the pain of losing our child never goes away, it just changes. I think that’s true of other children we lose, as well. It’s the price we pay as loving human beings. My babies were not as tangible as Paul. We never held them. But I rather hope someone else misses them, at least a little bit. I hope someone else thinks about their might-have-beens sometimes. I wasn’t sure if I should write this, because most mothers have those lovely guilt complexes that make us think we should suffer in silence and not foist our pain off on others. I feared my friend would feel bad because I’m feeling pain on her behalf. But I’m writing this, because I don’t think I’m the only one, and it helps to know someone else misses what we love most. And I want my Empty Arms friends to know that it isn’t just Paul. I miss your babies, too. I miss seeing the pictures of how they’re growing like happy little weeds on Facebook. I miss hearing how proud you are of them. I miss getting our kids together to play. I wonder about their might-have-beens. They are real to me. I thought you’d like to know.

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