My daughter will start kindergarten this year. Like many other parents whose first baby is going off to elementary school, there are tears building at the backs of my eyes waiting to break free at the thought of my baby growing up. But unlike many other parents, my first child to go to kindergarten is not my first baby.
My kindergartener-to-be is my rainbow baby. A rainbow baby is a trendy term to describe the tragedy of having a baby after losing a baby. The rainbow baby is said to be the symbol of hope after the storm of grief that accompanies the tragic loss of a baby born before them.
My first baby was stillborn seven years ago. She should be going into first grade this year as my rainbow baby starts elementary school. I like to envision them holding hands as they skip into school, both safety entering the outside world without me. It’s a calmer thought than I actually have for my kindergartener-to-be, not just because the imagined vision includes my daughter that died and a life that I wished could be, but also because it’s a safer reality than what we live in.
I lost my first daughter in the early hours of the morning while she was in what we often think of as the safest place a child could be — inside her mother’s womb — my womb. For this reason I did not see my second daughter as safe within my womb’s walls and felt much better once she was in my arms. And for the most part have felt fairly safe with her there since.
Until today, when I think about the day she will step into that elementary school door. Because now I am again like every other parent, whether they have lost a child or not, as I give over my baby to a world that doesn’t deserve her. A world that doesn’t deserve any of our children, because we have created a world that isn’t willing to protect them from guns, mass shootings, and school shootings. A world where guns matter more than kindergarteners.
I was nine months pregnant with my first daughter when the Sandy Hook Massacre occurred. Crying in front of the television with my own child safety inside me, I foolishly thought that being a bereaved parent would never be me. And it wasn’t, until it was, but not in the same way. My daughter died two weeks later from an unpreventable infection that found its way into my uterus, not from a school shooter. Now, seven years later, as I send my first living child into the world on her first day of school, our nation still hasn’t made any changes to protect our kindergarteners through teenagers from the preventable gun violence of the world.
I know what it’s like to lose a baby to a fluke occurrence.
How do I give over my rainbow baby girl, a child I worked so hard to bring into the world with her heart beating, over to a world that won’t protect her? That won’t value her? That doesn’t show an ounce of love for her? I sometimes can’t breathe at the thought of how callous a society we’ve become.
In 1999 I was 16, the same age as the two shooters who entered Columbine High School on April 20th of that year. I assumed then — and I obviously assumed wrong — that the grown ups of the world would handle it, they would protect us. But 20 years later, yes 20 years of this senseless violence and innocent lives lost because some value guns more than they value children, grown ups in our government still have done nothing. How we find it acceptable to have startups for bulletproof backpacks instead of our government banning AR-15 rapid-fire, magazine-fed, automatic rifles designed for war, I will never understand.
I know what it’s like to lose a baby to a fluke occurrence. I don’t want to know what it’s like to lose my kindergartener to something that could have been prevented through legislation around gun violence.
This world does not deserve my child, or any of our children. They all deserve to be safe.
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