Delivering our Rainbow

Charles and I went to bed around 1:30AM on July 27th. I was 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant. We fell asleep fairly quickly as we were both exhausted. I suddenly awoke and I felt the familiar feeling of my water breaking. I reached over and shook Charles’ shoulder, “Honey, wake up. My water just broke.” He stirred a bit and said, “What?” I repeated myself and he questioned if I was sure. I told him to turn on the lights and lay towels down on the bed and the floor. I knew as soon as I stood up it was going to go everywhere. Sure enough, it did. Charles’ face was priceless. He said something about how the movies don’t exaggerate what that looks like. It was 4:30AM.

We had all of Oliver’s bags packed and ready to go but we didn’t have ours ready so we ran around grabbing things to head to the hospital. I was shocked, anxious and honestly had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my water had just broke on its own and we were going to the hospital. The drive felt like it took forever. I just prayed and tried concentrating on if I could feel him moving or not. 

We finally arrived at the hospital (after what felt like forever) and got roomed. I was having very minor contractions fairly far apart. They checked and I was 2cm dilated and 25% effaced. Since my water broke and I wasn’t really that far dilated and not having consistent contractions we started pitocin at 7:32AM to get labor going. I started having strong and consistent contractions but I wasn’t progressing much. I very slowly dilated to 4cm. During this time Oliver was having a variable heart rate. His heart rate was dropping with contractions. We had a hard time monitoring my contractions and his heart rate so we placed two internal devices to measure those things. When they placed the one to measure contractions, Oliver’s heart rate plummeted into the 70s. Normal is 120-160 and Oliver was in the 150s. A whole wave of people came running into our room. I suddenly had oxygen on my face and was being turned into all different positions trying to get his heart rate back up. I was so scared. I thought Oliver was going to die. I cried and prayed and finally they removed the device and his heart rate slowly came up a little bit. It was still low but a lot better than it was. Just thinking about it now I cry and cry. I just wanted him here. 

The doctors felt confident continuing the induction as long as we were monitoring his heart rate and contractions. This scared Charles and I very much. I was seriously considering an elective c-section because I just wanted him here. We were terrified as we continued. After several more hours I still was only dilated to a four. The contractions were strong and consistent but at this point I was getting exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. So I thought maybe if I get an epidural I could relax and my body would be able to progress labor more. I got the epidural and Charles and I got some rest. We had an amazing nurse; she took such great care of us. We were coming up on 24 hours after starting the pitocin. If I wasn’t going to progress anymore they wanted to do a c-section. They questioned if Oliver was so big that that is why I wasn’t progressing. I told them I thought he was going to be smaller than his sister. We didn’t know why it wasn’t progressing… It just wasn’t. 

At around 6AM on July 28th we were told we would be headed to the OR in an hour for a c-section as I had only progressed to 5cm dilated at this point. We were just so ready to hold our son, especially with all of the scares with his heart rate, that we very quickly accepted that was what had to happen. We just wanted him here safe and sound. Just before 7AM our nurse asked the doctor to check me one more time for dilation. Her face was total shock as she announced: “You’re complete. Let’s have you do some practice pushes with the nurse.” I went from 5cm to being completely dilated in less than an hour! We were so excited, this is the moment we have been waiting for. Oliver was still very high in my pelvis so they weren’t expecting him to come for awhile. I pushed three times during one contraction and our nurse was blown away, Oliver was coming down… and quick! The doctor came in to check and the nurse tells her “We’re going to impress you.” I did one more push and they told me to stop, he was coming right now! A whole slew of people rushed into our room. The nurse told me not to push as they had to get the room prepped quick. The next contraction started and I could feel him moving farther down. I called to the nurse and doctors, “He’s coming out! I’m not even pushing!” The doctor (literally within seconds) just got her gloves on and was able to grab his head which was already out and grabbed his body as he came flying into the world. She laid him on my chest and I cried and cried. Here is my child. My baby. I exclaimed how tiny he was as they whisked him away to the other side of the room to do some tests. Charles followed him. When they laid him on me he was moving but not crying… I thought maybe he needed suctioning or something before I would hear that scream but all he let out was a little squeak while they were doing his exam. As long as he was okay I didn’t care. I was just so thankful. So thankful he is here; so thankful he is alive. 

Oliver was born at 7:32AM, exactly 24 hours after we started pitocin, weighing 6lbs, 12oz and being 19 3/4 inches long. He is so incredibly handsome and we are elated he is here in our arms.

My (partial) “Guide” on my PAL Journey

Every family is different; everyone’s story, how they react to certain situations, etc is all different. I am going to tell some things that help me in my journey of pregnancy after loss. Only some for now as what I do is lengthy and changes all of the time depending on the day.

While they might be helpful to some, they might not be to others. That’s okay because we’re all on our own journey. 

1. Take each day as it comes. Even then, sometimes I need to take it hour by hour. Pregnancy after loss is stressful, terrifying, amazing, hopeful… Complex. I experience a lot of different emotions daily, hourly, minute to minute. It is hard. Try and breathe and try to relax. I’m not that great at trying to stay calm, myself. I’m so lucky to have an amazing health care team and husband who are always there. Which leads me to number two.

2. Get yourself an OB team who cares about you and your baby as much as you do. A team that is willing to put up with you calling and asking “stupid” questions whenever. A team that knows you and your history and who is compassionate about your family. I have heard so many horror stories of families not having a team that listened to their fears or worries and I couldn’t imagine being in that position. Our fear is real. It is terrifying. We deserve someone to take care of us that cares and validates our concerns while offering reassurance. 

3. Have that one person who you can pour everything to. For me, it’s my husband. I know not everyone is married or in a relationship and that’s okay because like I said earlier, everyone is on an individual journey. Have that person you can talk to, cry to, talk things through with. I have also met some amazing fellow loss moms/PAL moms online. I talk to them all of the time about anything and everything; because they listen and they understand.

4. Positive affirmations. Try and remind yourself: different pregnancy, different baby. Our children are their own unique individuals. It’s easy for me to distinguish their uniqueness from each other as people but where I struggle is different pregnancy… Because in my mind what happened to Sophia never should have happened in the first place. So how can I think any different when they only outcome I know from pregnancy and going to the hospital to have my baby is leaving with an empty carseat? I try and remind myself and those are the moments when I can breathe for just a moment… I will take my son home to raise him. 

5. Prepare for your child. Whatever that means to you. For me it is buying and washing his clothes, picking out his baby book, etc. It took me a long time to come to terms with changing the nursery. All of Sophia’s belongings were exactly as they were. My husband and I have slowly been working on it. It’s hard; exhausting really. We are so happy and excited for Oliver but we were for Sophia too and putting her things away is like a slap in the face. We were so ready for her… and now we are so ready for Oliver. We’re so close to bringing him home! (Positive affirmation)

These are just a few of the things I do that help me in my PAL journey. What are some things that help you? Leave a comment and let me know. 

Taylored to You

About three months after Sophia’s birth I had someone telling me about one of her friends who also had a stillborn child. She knew she had an organization that did photo sessions of rainbow pregnancies. I had no idea when Charles and I would be needing that but I kept it tucked into my mind to investigate further when the time came for us to have our second child. 

I contacted Taylored to You a little while into our pregnancy with Oliver.  Savannah started TTY (Taylored to You) in honor of her son, Taylor, who was stillborn. She takes maternity pictures for families who are pregnant after loss. We set up a date, time and place to meet for our session. When the day came I was very nervous. One of the last things we did with Sophia was take pictures (the day before our induction). I have looked at those photographs one time and I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it again. The sheer innocence and bliss on mine and Charles’ faces is enough to throw me through an emotional whirl. Even thinking about them makes me cry. We were so happy… so unaware our world would be ripped to pieces the next morning.

Driving to take maternity pictures for Oliver I was anxious, excited and a whole bunch of emotions jumbled together. We arrived and met Taylor’s mom, Savannah. We talked and took many photographs. She has since shown us some ‘sneak peeks’ and we absolutely love them! She captured our family beautifully and with so much care and compassion. 

We absolutely love these photographs and we can’t wait to see the final images. They mean so much to us. Having a photographer who understood our emotions set us more at ease with the photo shoot in general. We cannot thank Taylored to You and Savannah enough for this wonderful opportunity and gift.

Terrified : HopefulĀ 

Yesterday morning I woke up and did my usual routine: go downstairs, use the restroom, check my blood sugar, drink a half bottle of cold water and then go lay back down in bed to do kick counts with Oliver. I laid back down on my left side and waited… and waited… I woke Charles up and he went and got me some more cold water. I drank that; still no movement. Charles made me a piece of peanut butter toast and at this point I was starting to panic. We decided to just head to the hospital. I ate the toast as we scrambled to get dressed and run out the door. 

That car ride was terrifying. I prayed and worried the whole way. I never experienced that sheer panic of not feeling my child move because with Sophia it all happened so quickly I didn’t have the time to realize… I tried to stay calm, telling my little Oliver to give me a kick, anything! He finally did two little elbows on the way there. They were tiny and not normal for Oliver.

We got to labor and delivery and they got us roomed immediately. We decided to go to Austin because it was close instead of going to our usual Rochester. Having the nurse pull out those monitors gave me horrible flashbacks to the day, just under a year ago, that the nurse couldn’t find Sophia’s heartbeat upon arrival for our scheduled induction. The nurse placed the monitor on my tummy looking for Oliver’s heart beat. There was silence; I held my breath. 

Please, be alive. 

She moved the monitor around and suddenly, like the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard, his heart beat blared across the monitor. I cried and cried. He’s alive. We stayed and were monitored with what is called a non-stress test. They monitored for I don’t even know how long because my eyes were just glued to his heart rate. He had a reactive test and we were sent home to rest where he moved around like nothing happened. I love you so much, Oliver.

It is so hard to be so scared but to be so hopeful at the same time. I am terrified we will leave the hospital with an empty car seat for the second time and yet I have hope we will bring Oliver home to raise him this time. 

Grass Above Her Grave

Charles and I went out to the cemetery to plant flowers in Sophia’s flower pot. We got done and Charles went to get a bucket of water for her newly planted flowers. I laid down next to Sophia on my left side and placed my hand over her tiny grave; my fingers intertwined in the grass. It all hit me and I couldn’t stop crying. This is as close as I’m ever going to be to her on Earth… touching some grass above her. I only got to hold her in my arms for two days. I gave her her last kiss before we “tucked” her in to her casket. I miss her so much. All of the hopes and dreams I had for her are now memories in my mind of events that will never take place. It’s messed up. I laid next to her and cried as Charles laid next to me and held me. The wind blew around us, the shine shining on her freshly planted flowers. In the middle of the cemetery I, a mother, cried for my first child on Mother’s Day. 

She made me a mother when her life started in October of 2015. She was long awaited for and was our “miracle baby”. We had an appointment with fertility specialty the following month… cancelling that appointment was surreal! She is our firstborn, our daughter. For as long as we love her we will grieve her. A parent’s love is forever. 

The Face of a Mother During Pregnancy After Loss

I’m 30+1 with Sophia on the left and 25+0 with Oliver on the right. The angle on the photos is different but if you look at the placement of my left hand in both photos you can see I’m literally holding under my belly with Sophia and I’m not able to do that yet with Oliver. I love my babies so much!

This picture (on the left) came up on Facebook’s “On This Day” last week. I am pregnant with Sophia, glowing. I remember taking that picture. Charles and I were organizing Sophia’s freshly washed clothes according to size and type. We had so much fun laughing, imagining her in all of the little outfits, watching her move around. It was a fun day filled with many smiles.

I put these photos side by side so I could compare them. There are a lot of similarities and yet a lot of differences. My hair has grown so long in one year! I thank Oliver for that; my hair grew with Sophia but nothing like how it has grown with Oliver. I am carrying a little lower with Oliver; Sophia was up a little higher. However, I am carrying out front with both of them. Then the biggest difference of all: my face.

The face on the left is that of a mother untouched by the devastating loss of her child, not worried every single day or hour. I am glowing, my smile radiant. Internally I have feelings of happiness, joy, and excitement. The face on the right is that of a mother who is pregnant after losing her first child just hours before her scheduled induction. My eyes are tired from sleepless nights and crying, my smile weary from exhaustion. Internally I am happy, sad, anxious, full of love, full of longing. These feelings are not always able to seen on the outside. 

Only those of us who have experienced this loss and are pregnant again can understand the vast emotions that are present. It is complex. It is exhausting. Even then, everyone is different. My pregnancy with Sophia was a whole different experience than my pregnancy is with Oliver. I was so blissfully naive with Sophia. Pregnancy after loss isn’t a walk in the park; it isn’t like pregnancy before loss. It is its own experience; just as my children are their own person. They are unique individuals. I love my children more than anything. 

I will always advocate and talk about both of these taboo subjects: stillbirth and pregnancy after loss. No one will ever understand unless they have these experiences. But I hope to open up on these subjects which are so rarely given thought to. 

“Just You Wait”

When Charles and I are around young children and they do something, well, something children would do (like eat dirt/throw it/etc.) the automatic response for that child’s parent(s) is to say “Oh, just you wait!” staring at my stomach, sometimes even pointing to our baby growing inside of my womb and laughing. Why? Even before we had Sophia people saying this to us would bother me. We have been waiting. We tried to conceive for fourteen months! If we weren’t ready for those things we wouldn’t have been trying.

Now, after losing our first, our little Sophia, it really bothers me when people say this to us about our rainbow, Oliver. I mean, really? “Just you wait“? We have been waiting for so long and just when we thought that wait was over it was again thrown at us with Sophia’s death. 

We’ve been waiting. 

We can’t wait for our children to throw a fit when we have to wipe their nose, rub mud on their new clothes, throw a tantrum over the littlest thing… we also can’t wait to hear “I love you”, to kiss our children goodnight, to watch them play in the backyard. Children are exactly that: children. They’re growing and learning. When we were trying to conceive and then pregnant, we knew what we were in for. We are so ready for every aspect of parenting a child on Earth. We have been for quite some time.

We know what we’re in for.

I pray every day for those moments to become our life. I have for a very long time. So, before you say “Just you wait” think twice. I know some people may not even realize the hurt that can be inflicted upon couples, but it can and it does hurt; a lot.