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"Rainbow baby" shirt honoring pregnancy loss goes viral due to chance meeting

Who would've thought a bittersweet chance meeting, and an adorable maternity tee, would equal Internet gold?
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Call it the gold at the end of the rainbow. A chance meeting between strangers at an Arkansas craft store led to a viral Facebook post that's brought the issue of pregnancy loss out into the open for thousands.

It all began when Autumn Tolliver Safley, 30, who is 30 weeks pregnant, ran into Courtney Mixon while shopping. Safley, of North Little Rock, was wearing a maternity tee featuring a heart-shaped rainbow marked ‘You're looking at a rainbow!’ But it's not just a cute and colorful sentiment. The rainbow is meant to honor a baby who is born after a miscarriage, still birth or infant loss.

“I bought it after my first miscarriage with intentions of wearing it when I was pregnant again, but I lost the second baby, and never got an opportunity to wear it,” Safley tells TODAY Parents. “I found it in my closet … and I was like, I’m going to wear this…”

Autumn Tolliver Safley, wearing her 'rainbow baby' shirt.
Autumn Tolliver Safley, wearing her 'rainbow baby' shirt.Autumn Tolliver Safley

Saffley, an occupational therapist, says Mixon appeared touched by the meaning behind her baby-positive shirt.

“We made eye contact,” Safley says, “and she had these big ole tears in her eyes, and I walked over to her.” Mixon told Safley: “I know what your shirt means … my husband and I lost our baby last year, and we’ve been trying to conceive’”

After Safley shared with Mixon her own back-to-back miscarriage experiences, Mixon asked if she could take a photo of the mom-to-be, which she later shared on Facebook without identifying Safley by name.

Safley says they parted only knowing each other’s first names, and she never expected to hear from Mixon again. But then a mutual friend spotted the picture on Mixon’s Facebook page, where it's since been shared 34,000 times.

When their mutual friend alerted Safley to Mixon's post, the two were reunited: “[Mixon and I] friend-requested each other and she was able to tag me in the post," Safley says. “It’s been pretty miraculous for sure, and uplifting.”

Courtney Mixon and husband Jon, 37. The matching tattoos pay tribute to a friend who passed away.
Courtney Mixon and husband Jon, 37. The matching tattoos pay tribute to a friend who passed away.Courtney Mixon

"I'm still in awe!," Mixon told TODAY Parents. "I never thought [the Facebook post] would go this far! I never knew by just posting that picture it would give women a voice."

"We are trying to conceive," she shares, adding, that the popularity of the post has helped her "to realize that we are not alone."

Safley with husband James Addison Safley II, 33. Their son is going to be named James Addison Safley III, with the nickname Jas (like J + Ace).
Safley with husband James Addison Safley II, 33. Their son is going to be named James Addison Safley III, with the nickname Jas (like J + Ace).Autumn Tolliver Safley

Safley, an avid kickboxer, says she has found much solace in networking with other women who have dealt with infant loss, miscarriage, or fertility struggles. “My husband and I had prayed for a way to be able to uplift others that have gone through the same thing,” she says.

She and her husband, James “Addison” Safley II, lost two pregnancies back-to-back in late 2015, and in January 2016. Despite the hardship of losing two pregnancies, Safley is grateful for the experiences.

“Honestly I felt like I have been given a gift some women never get to experience,” she said. Still, she’s quick to add that: “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there weren’t nights that I cried and felt hopeless or felt sad, but I think a lot of that was normal as your hormones are balancing out — it just takes time,” she says. “I just had faith and knew that God was going to provide us with a baby someday, and that it was going to be OK eventually.”

Safley is due in December with her son, who will be named after her husband, and will be nicknamed Jas (pronounced "Jace").

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"We didn’t announce publicly online [that we were pregnant] until I was about 16 weeks along, and we knew that we were having a boy,” Safley admits. “I just was so gun-shy. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me if I experienced another loss.”

Even now at 30-weeks pregnant, Safley still feels nervous: “Naturally, [these feelings are] going to happen but I feel more confident as every day passes," she says brightly. “The more I’m feeling (the baby moving), I feel more and more confident that this is going to be the perfect little pregnancy, and I am going to get my son here in a few weeks.”

Follow Jacqueline Colette Prosper on Twitter.