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New Program from Capital Health Maternity Helps Families Navigate Grief

The Perinatal Bereavement Multidisciplinary Committee and the Maternity Services team at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell recently introduced the Rainbow Baby Program to help families who have experienced the loss of a child at or before birth.

To better understand the journey of the families who experience this reality, there are several commonly used terms to describe babies born under these circumstances. A “sunshine baby” is a mother’s first child who is born healthy and free of complications, while the term “angel baby” indicates a child that is lost before or during delivery. The “rainbow baby” is a child born after an angel baby, embodying the light that follows the darkness of a storm and signaling hope for brighter days. The birth of a rainbow baby can prompt a range of emotions, from joy to guilt and grief.

“One of the most painful challenges often faced by families after the loss of a baby is the tendency of others to avoid talking about an angel baby. This Program provides the space for families to include their Angel Baby in the birth of their Rainbow Baby. We piloted the Program for a family in August 2020, and it was very well received. Their feedback confirmed that the Program can support the grief journey and promote healing for families,” said Joyce Merrigan, clinical specialist and chair of the Perinatal Bereavement Multidisciplinary Committee.

As part of the Rainbow Baby Program, a printed rainbow is placed on the door of the mother’s room at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell to alert hospital staff entering the room of the complex emotions the family may be experiencing. Additionally, newborn rainbow babies receive onesies with a rainbow applique that reads “Handpicked for earth by my [brother/sister] in heaven.” The family can also choose to personalize the onesies with the name of the family’s angel baby. It is a Maternity Services tradition at Capital Health to provide every newborn with a hat, and thanks to the generous efforts of volunteers, rainbow babies receive handmade knitted hats and blankets made from multicolored yarns.

Maternity Services at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell is the most comprehensive maternity program in the area. From routine deliveries to high-risk needs, services at the Josephine Plumeri Birthing Center provide a full range of prenatal, obstetrical, postpartum, and neonatal care options so newborns have the greatest chance for a healthy start. In addition, the Regional Perinatal Center at Capital Health Medical Center - Hopewell provides neonatal care, including Mercer County's only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for at-risk births. To learn more, visit capitalhealth.org/maternity.