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Honoring Our Rainbow Baby

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I knew I wanted to do a photoshoot for our rainbow baby, but I thought maternity photos were just not possible within our budget at the time. (For those who don’t know, a “rainbow baby” is a baby born after miscarriage or loss.)

After some poking around online, I decided to post an ad on Craigslist, stating my budget and my requirements. I was lucky enough to find a professional photographer who had worked for years in a studio. Since she had recently decided to go solo, she was now looking to build her maternity portfolio.

She was more than happy to work within my budget and gave me a fabulous deal for a maternity+newborn package. I cannot say how glad I am that I went to the effort to find a photographer within our budget. I’m not super sentimental when it comes to photos (there are no family photos up anywhere in our house), but I treasure these.

Recovery from Miscarriage

I found out I was pregnant with my youngest just six weeks after my second miscarriage. I hadn’t even had a normal period yet. It was a shock, and although a welcome one, it took me a long time to emotionally connect to the pregnancy.

After two back-to-back losses, without much time to heal in between, I was very cautious about getting “too attached.” I was so prepared to lose the baby that I barely let myself hope.

I was lucky to have a really good midwife. At my 12-week appointment, she noticed that I seemed a little down for someone who was entering the second trimester of a much-wanted pregnancy.

She looked me in the eye and said, “We need to hear this baby.” She wheeled in the portable ultrasound, and we watched the baby’s tiny heartbeat flutter around the screen.

After I sat up off the exam table, my midwife looked me straight in the eye, grasped my shoulders, and said, “You are going to have this baby.”

Needless to say, I totally lost it (in the best possible way). That was the start of my emotional recovery.

Getting help

Not only did I have a history of recurrent miscarriage, but there had been a lot of birth trauma during my first delivery. I had soldiered through it, and I had spent the last few years thinking I was past all that. But so many emotions re-surfaced during my second pregnancy, especially as the delivery date crept closer.

At my midwife’s urging (and a separate recommendation from my awesome doula), I sought therapy from someone who was trained in birth trauma, miscarriage, and infant loss. After just two sessions, I felt much better.

The combined support from an incredible midwife, a truly life-changing doula, and quality therapy all set me on the path to healing. I am so glad that I had people in my life who knew what to look for and who encouraged me to get help.

Healing through rainbow baby photos

These photos were the final piece of the puzzle. I had lost the other babies so early, and most people didn’t know what we were going through at the time. There are no ceremonies or rituals in our culture to honor these losses. Our rainbow baby photoshoot was a part of my healing journey, and it helped me internalize that I was about to have a new baby to love and cherish. It honored the past and celebrated the future.

My PSA that goes along with this post is that it is TOTALLY normal to struggle after miscarriage or birth trauma, and there is no shame in getting help.

The truth is, finding healthy ways to process and deal with these big emotions is actually a benefit to your future baby — you are giving them the gift of a healthy, emotionally stable parent. As I say in one of my other posts on self-care for moms, this is the best possible gift you can give your child.

Our Budget-Friendly Rainbow Baby Photoshoot

These two photoshoots COMBINED cost around $375. I’m sure Kate has raised her prices now (as she should!), but because I caught her at the right time, we got a fabulous deal. It was a little bit of a stretch for us at the time, but we made some other sacrifices to make this work with our budget, and I am so glad we did — these photos are worth every penny.

While there are some AMAZING rainbow-baby themed props out there, these just weren’t in the budget for us back then. Instead, I used rainbow scarves from my toddler’s dress-up collection and fingerpaints that we already had on hand.

I used clothes I already had in my closet — a pair of black stretchy pants that I felt comfortable in (Ann Taylor Loft makes the best maternity leggings!) and a maternity tank from Target. I threw a plaid wrap on for the maternity shoot, and I wore a kimono over the tank for the newborn shots. I got both from Motherhood Maternity for peanuts as part of my general maternity shopping. It was basically the same outfit, just with one little tweak, making it feel very different for each shoot.

The only other expense was the blow-out that I got before the newborn shots because I was five days post-partum and I was ready to feel a little fancy.

One other note — don’t lowball your photographer. They are working professionals with families, who need to pay the bills just as much as you do. They go to school and study for years to do what they do, and their equipment costs a lot money. Additionally, even if a photoshoot is short, photo editing can take hours. Be respectful.

Tips for a Rainbow Baby Photoshoot on a Budget

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Know your top number before you start negotiating with photographers.
  • Find a student or a new and up-and-coming photographer on Craigslist, or by posting an ad at nearby university photography departments. You can also check BabyCenter’s community board in your area.
  • If you can’t find a photographer within your budget, or you really don’t have any money to spend on a photographer, you can still get some great shots with a cellphone or DSLR. They might not be as good as a professional, but with good lighting and composition, you’d be surprised what you can achieve at home. I learned a lot from Schultz Photography School for Parents.
  • Use props you already have on hand. Scarves, fingerpaints, a simple rainbow-headband, or a soft, white rug can make a great prop.
  • Check for flowers in your garden or from the discount section of the grocery store — flowers in a variety of colors make an excellent and inexpensive prop.
  • Consider making your own prop with a chalkboard and chalkboard markers.
  • Keep your wardrobe simple.
  • Do your own hair and make-up, or ask a skilled friend to help.
  • Choose a simple backdrop. Most of these photos were taken standing in front of the big window in our living room, with the sheer curtains down to create a softer and cleaner background.

Resources in the Boston Area

Incredible Doula: Shari from DeepSeed Doula (Seriously, Shari is the best. Not enough words in the English language to adequately rave about her.)

Fabulous Midwife Team: Midwives at Harvard Vanguard in Wellesley, MA

Maternity+Newborn Photography: Kate Mullen Photo

Rainbow Baby Photoshoot — The Photos

Some of these are rainbow-baby themed, and some of them are just lovely photos. I love how Kate incorporated our other daughter into the pictures as well. I hope you enjoy.

One last note — for those who are struggling with miscarriage, infertility, or infant loss, I just want you to know that I see you. Your babies are out there. No one ever tells us how hard it can be to bring our babies home.

Stay strong, mama. You are not alone.

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Have you done a rainbow baby maternity or newborn shoot? Share below!

rainbow baby photoshoot
rainbow baby photoshoot
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