22nd August

Tradition (noun): The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation

If you’re anything like me (bitter, fragile and in a world of despair this week)*, you might want to avoid Instagram on the 22nd August, for it is:

Rainbow Baby Day

For the vast majority of people, this won’t mean much, you won’t even notice it. But if you have a baby loss account or follow lots of them, then be warned: it can be brutal. So (controversial, as ever) I’m planning to avoid social media on Sunday, because of it.

Last year, I knew nothing about Rainbow Baby Day and then, along it came.

In theory: National Rainbow Baby Day is a time when families can rejoice in the blessings of a healthy child while reflecting on the previous loss.

In practice: National Rainbow Baby Day is a time when families share photos of their full-term, smiling, living, thriving babies. Tonnes of them. En masse.

If photos of other people’s newborns give you hope for your own fertility journey, perfect. Rainbow Baby Day is the one for you. You “like” away. But if, like me, you find things like this painful or triggering, then this blog has been written to spare you from it. Avoid the day, at all costs.

I’ve blogged previously here about how, personally, I’m not enamoured with the rainbow and angel baby terminology. I wouldn’t ever get offended if someone bought any future baby of mine a rainbow babygrow (after all, some of them are gorgeous!), but I imagine that glimpsing at the rainbow will feel bitter, not sweet. I don’t feel it celebrates Summer, but replaces her. I’m basically a weirdo. I’m going to buy babygrows with the sun shining and smiling, for my hypothetical-non-existent-future-pipedream-of-a child instead i.e. “my imaginary baby is here because of Summer, not in spite of her”. That’s how I would remember or carry Summer fondly. It’s very nuanced. And I have to (learn to) appreciate, that’s how others may consider the rainbow.

Interestingly, Sunday 22nd August this year, is another notable day in the Hindu/Sikh calendar, it is also Raksha Bandhan (the date changes every year, but always falls in August). It’s a day to celebrate the bond between brothers and sisters. Similar to how we have Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, in the Indian calendar, we also have a sibling day.

I guess that I have to grudgingly admit, that the timing of Raksha Bandhan, coinciding with Rainbow Baby Day, does work quite nicely this year. Grr. I sat down to argue that Rainbow Baby Day is EVERY DAY. That every day is an opportunity to celebrate a healthy child. But then that stands for brother and sister days / Raksha Bandhan too – it’s a day I always mark with my brothers. Something for me to think about. Double grr.

In Sanskrit, “Raksha” means protection and “Bandhan” is the verb “to tie”. As per the tradition, girls tie a colourful cotton bracelet (rakhi) around the wrists of their brothers and/or male cousins, the idea being that the sister is placing her love and protection into the bracelet. The girls tie the bracelet and give the boys a little sweet treat and the brothers usually give a small gift (or as you get older, money!) in return. Every year, my brothers and I joke about who gets the short straw in this set-up.

Last year, as Raksha Bandhan approached, I didn’t know what to do regarding Summer. Had Summer lived, I would have sent rakhis to her male cousins. But then I realised, she DID live and she WAS born. So I decided to send some in the post. Summer’s male cousins are all on James’ side (and none of them are Indian), so I sent a little note to my two sisters-in-law explaining it all. I was a bit embarrassed actually, would they think it weird, me sending stuff on behalf of a deceased child? Probably. To their credit though, the rakhis were really kindly received, and they sent me lovely photos of the boys proudly wearing them and said they would happily tie them every year (a request I hadn’t made). So this year, I posted the Raksha Bandhan parcels again, and it felt good being able to do something for Summer, but it felt particularly good to send two rakhis for my two nephews who passed away at full-term. It felt nice to do something for the twins.

Rakhis for Summer’s male cousins

One of the reasons I’ve always wanted a family, is so that we can start some traditions of our own. My family didn’t really have a lot of traditions growing up (except a couple of vaguely religious ones, like the one above), but we did have weekend mornings gathered in my parent’s bed, debriefing the week. That was always the highlight of my week.

Though I love a plan and I love an event, we’ve been a bit rubbish, as a couple, making our own traditions. I know I’ve always been waiting for a family, to start some. I want my children to roll their eyes at the things I do in the name of our family’s tradition. Birthday traditions, Easter traditions, exam day traditions, Raksha Banshan traditions, Diwali, advent and Christmas traditions, new socks traditions! Although it’s not entirely as planned, it’s nice that Summer has her own little August tradition now. It is her season, after all.

Summer’s Raksha Bandhan parcel for her cousin

* For balance (and to be kind to mysef, blah blah), I’m also fiercely loyal, pretty thoughtful and feeling a little better today. Thank you.

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