Rainbow baby is a frequently used name of babies born to parents who’ve experienced a loss. I don’t hate the term; but in our case it just doesn’t feel fitting. Scarlet wasn’t a storm. The aftermath of losing her was incredibly bleak, but the fact that she existed was bright and shining for us. I read about the term and mentioned it in this post back when I found out I was expecting.
This article does an amazing job referring to subsequent babies following in a loss that really does the new baby justice. Penumbra ❤ August Bernard is our Penumbra 🙂 I challenge you to read that article if/when you have time or if you are interested. Excerpt below:
The word penumbra means “partially shaded area” and while I like and use the term rainbow babies, I think this one might be a better description. These babies are born in the shadow of their older siblings who died. Because I’m fascinated by words and their meanings, I find it interesting that she used the term penumbra, meaning partially shaded, and not umbra, or fully shaded. With a penumbra, some light is still coming through, which I find rather beautiful. Children born in the shadow of loss are definitely not replacement children! Unlike a rainbow, a shadow is not fleeting or illusory, but always present and always changing. When the sun rises and sets, our shadows are long, casting a deeper, darker presence over our lives. When the sun is high overhead, our shadows are barely present. No matter where you go or what you do, your shadow is with you. It changes as you change. It is unique to your shape. A shadow cannot exist without some light, even if that light is small.
When you are pregnant after a loss, the shadow of your past pregnancy will always be there. Some days you will feel its presence deeply, as if the light were dim and the shadow in front of you. Some days, you will hardly notice it. The sun will be bright overhead.
I wanted to take some time to gather my thoughts before writing this post. I always knew deep down that Gus would come early, and I was so thrilled that he didn’t come as early as I worried he would. Making it 34 and a half weeks exceeded my expectations. There was that underlying hope though that we *might* make it to full-term. With all of my interventions it was just starting to feel attainable. My instincts though the entire pregnancy led me to believe that we would have NICU time, so I went in to this pregnancy 1) expecting a preemie 2) expecting NICU time and 3) expecting a traumatic birth because that’s all I know at this point. From the moment I peed on a stick, my only wishes for a birth plan were 1) get him out alive 2) B stays with baby no matter what 3) If he is a preemie, give him the best of care and watch him like a hawk. I have to say that all three aspects of my birth plan were looked after. I’ve been terrified that something terrible would happen during birth so close to the finish line. I just had a sinking feeling going in to the last few months of pregnancy that something bad would happen, so I’ve already been on edge lately.
I was majorly bit by the nesting bug the weekend before Gus arrived. Buying some more baby stuff (as if we haven’t already done that enough), getting some of the finishing touches done on his room, getting the bed made that I would be sleeping in when coming home from the hospital with him (even putting a sheet down to sleep on the first few nights home). I thought I was just struggling with nesting due to control issues, but it turns out it was real nesting. I’m so grateful for it, because there is so little I will have to do now when I get home. Back to Gus’ birth story, though.
I just had a strange feeling on Monday night. In the days leading up to it I kept telling B that I just felt like this baby would be coming soon. On Tuesday morning, 3/21, I got up for my bathroom break in the middle of the night and when I got back in to bed, just a few minutes later, some fluid gushed at about 2:45 AM. It reminded me so much of what happened with Scarlet in my bed the night I was in labor with her. I aid in bed for about 15 minutes hoping that I had just leaked some pee, trying to determine if urine or amniotic fluid. I didn’t hop up right away because I wanted my next time getting up to yield a more definitive answer. When I got up to go to the bathroom, there was significant fluid and decided a bit after 3 AM that it was amniotic fluid and called labor and delivery to let them know I’d be coming in.
I left home around 3:30 to go to the hospital and told B to just stay home and rest for a bit. I knew what was in store, and anticipated a long day so I just wanted him to fit some more sleep in before things went wild. Also, we needed to make arrangements for the puppy, and this would give us time to gather his things. I figured if I was in labor, I had several hours before things would heat up, and if I wasn’t and they could do something to stop it, I would just end up laying there.
I experienced several huge gushes of fluid on the way to the hospital. Luckily I already had a waterproof seat cover for pets and had a towel down my pants. It was like in the movies unfortunately (also sort of like when Scarlet came), and the gushes got bigger as I neared the hospital and I knew the big one was coming, so I just parked my car in front of the hospital, threw my hazards on, and reminded myself to have them give my keys to security to move my car. This was about the time I started wishing that I hadn’t played things down to B and that I had brought him with me.
I was settled in to triage by 4:30, and my big gush happened in their triage room. Before that I asked the nurse to watch me pee in the bathroom because I couldn’t handle my water breaking big gush happening while I was alone in the bathroom again. Things started feeling very triggering and it was getting harder to stay calm. Within the span of a half hour, my cerclage was removed (without any pain management-ouch). The fluid tested positive as amniotic. And they diagnosed me with PPROM as the cause of my water breaking (pre-term premature rupture of membranes. It’s unclear whether that is what happened with Scarlet too or whether it was the infection let in by my incompetent cervix that had caused my water to break with her. I asked to keep my cerclage stitch to give to Gus as joke when he is older. Better yet, it is blue, so I could give it to his future fiancee to use as their something blue someday : ) I’ve never been so grateful for thread in my life. That stitch did it’s job as long as it could. They gave me the option to start Pitocin right away or to do the steroid shot for his lungs and try to give him another 24 hours. They would watch me closely for infection and induce at the slightest sign of infection. I opted to hold off on Pitocin for the time being.
Photo of trusty old cerclage 🙂
I was moved in to room around 5:15 AM or so. I got the first steroid shot for his lungs (he was born almost 24 hours after getting that first shot!) B arrived in mid-morning and my sister did too. I worked a half day until about 2 pm when contractions started and no longer needed the distraction of work. Also we experienced a medical event with Gus where his heart rate plummeted and our huge 8 person medical team rushed in to see if it was the cord being pushed by his head by the birth canal or something. No epidural yet- very scary and very painful. I thought we were losing him. I begged them to just put me under and do an emergency section to get him out, but they got him squared away. I knocked out a few emails and decided it was time to stop working and take the Pitocin.
Contractions were pretty mild when they started around 3 or so. I ate some dinner, spent time with family, and then they started picking up around 7 or 8 once the Pitocin kicked in, but still pretty mild and I wasn’t dilating very quickly. I opted for an epidural once contractions really started. I was also terrified that they would do another maneuver going elbow deep without pain management so I decided it was time.
After that, I listened to my Gus Delivery play list for a bit and had some fun enjoying family. I laid down around 10:30 to get some sleep. Didn’t get much sleep. Gus’ heart kept decelerating.
Gus struggled with his heart rate dropping all night. They came in to place an inter-uterine device to see if it would help in tracking everything. They tried to do a transversion with me doing a sort of downward dog (with numb legs from a c section) on the edge of the bed and elbows and forehead on a chair to see if we could get Gus in a better position.
Lots of anxiety that night, very little sleep. It was comforting to know so many providers were watching him on their monitors too ❤ My sister would walk by and there was always one person completely focused on him, glued to the screen. Finally a little after 3AM on Wednesday, 3/22, they decided to do a c-section ASAP since I wasn’t dilating past 4, even with Pitocin, and he wasn’t making any progress and his heart rate kept falling. Ironically enough, when you suffer from cervical insufficiency, it isn’t always just an issue of dilating too soon like I did with Scarlet. After the cerclage, some women’s cervixes fail in a different way and fail to dilate.
Things happened really fast from there. I felt a lot of pressure, but no pain. I had a wonderful duo of Anesthesiologists. I seriously had the most amazing medical team ever. My wonderful Perinatologist led the surgery and actually lifted him out. There was a strong team of female doctors assisting her. I trust my Peri so much and I was so thrilled that she happened to be working that night and could be the one to get my baby here, after she worked with me so much to get this far. I listened to my Gus playlist and he entered this earth to Three Little Birds by Bob Marley <3, which had been my calming song throughout my pregnancy and was also one of the only songs I could listen to after Scarlet died. I hoped so badly for a cry and I was so relieved when he cried. He weighed 7lb 2 oz, and was 19.5 inches long. Brian went over to watch them clean him up and he scored an amazing 8 on his APGAR test. For a 34 weeker, he blew everyone away by how well he did breathing.
We got to have some brief skin to skin before they took him back and whisked him off to the NICU. B stayed on Gus and my sister rotated in to the OR to be my support person. I did surprisingly well when they took Gus away, but I’ve been preparing myself for the fact that he would go to NICU and be in good hands with his Dad, that it didn’t impact me. I was grateful for that. They closed me up. I was later told by my Perinatologist that the extra lobe I had in my placenta would have required surgery anyway, so I was actually sort of relieved to have just had the c-section since the placenta wouldn’t have been able to be delivered vaginally. This extra lobe had caused me so much stress the entire pregnancy and I always had a feeling that something terrible would happen as a result. They only occur in something like 2% of pregnancies and in most occurrences, nothing bad happens. There is a chance of hemorrhaging if not delivered completely, so I was relieved to have had it removed completely and without hemorrhaging. I experienced more blood less than usual with births (similar to with Scarlet), but I didn’t require a blood transfusion.
I was just on cloud 9 about Gus. I knew he was safe in the NICU and I just couldn’t wait to get to recovery.
My recovery was difficult. I don’t remember much. I was ssoooooo out of it. I had my sister go down to be with B and Gus for a little bit at some point and I told her to go ahead and hold him. He responded really well to her voice as we sound alike. I’m happy that we were able to hoodwink him in to thinking that it was me ; ) They took me down to see Gus a few hours after surgery wheeling me in the bed. It was a pitstop on the way to the recovery floor. I remember being wheeled in near his incubator and I reached in through the holes to touch his belly and toes, but then I got nauseous and had to be wheeled out of the room after just a few minutes. I didn’t even get to hold him : (
The rest of the day was spent vomiting, being pumped full of anti-nausea and pain meds, and falling in and out of sleep. It is a complete blur and I have very little recollection of the day. I remember needing help to pump. I could hardly keep water down. My sister helped me puke several times and would take my used puke bag and hand me a new one. It was so terrible. I couldn’t stay awake even though I was desperate to see Gus. I made an attempt to get out of bed around 10 pm, but almost fell and then puked again so I had to lay down and get more anti-nausea meds which made me tired. Finally around 1:30 am (almost 24 hours after delivering Gus), I got up and walked, was able to drink some water and juice and eat some crackers. They took me up and I finally held my Gus! We did skin to skin and attempted to breastfeed, but he didn’t really do anything because he wasn’t quite there yet. B did a wonderful job in the NICU with Gus while I was in recovery Thursday and Friday.
Thursday was spent pumping a ton, sleeping a lot, and not as much seeing Gus as I would have liked. I would have people do “milk runs” to get my little syringes of milk to the NICU, or if no one was available, Brian would pop up to get my liquid gold.
They discharged me on Friday afternoon late in the day after I spent most of the day going between my room and the NICU. B tapped me in to take his place in the NICU, and he packed up and went home to get the puppy from our friends house and then I was on duty. My c-section recovery probably went better here in the NICU than it would have at home, because I ordered all of my healthy meals from dining, so they came straight to me. The walk to the bathroom was a bit long, but the shower was a stall-style rather than a tub-shower, and had bars, so it was much better for me while healing than home would have been. And there were no stairs and the bed thing is lower. Overall, I’m happy with my decision to just hunker down and stay here. The staff has been pretty understanding, while I know a few probably felt like I overstayed my welcome or that my presence here wasn’t really needed since Gus isn’t in critical condition.
I do know that the act of leaving this hospital without Gus soon after delivery would have been incredibly difficult for me emotionally. I’ve left the hospital after delivering a baby with empty arms before and I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t leave here until I felt confident that he would be ok. Until I truly was ready. I didn’t leave his bedside for more than 15 minutes for over a week after settling in to the NICU after I was discharged. Yesterday 9 days after his birth), I went outside for my first time with a cup of coffee on a patio and felt the sunshine on my face. It was really nice. After a week living behind a curtain in a partitioned off part of his NICU room, I realized that it was time for me to home (at least at night time). I realized that I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was burning the candle at both ends. I was struggling to let nurses handle nighttime feeds and wanted to do everything myself. I was running myself ragged and getting four hours of sleep total (broken in to chunks) was a huge victory when I finally let a nurse help with some night feeds. I started thinking about the oxygen mask on the airplane saying- that you can’t help someone else with their mask until you have yours on. I just haven’t been living up to that. So, I had B take me home with him last night after Gus’ 6 pm cares routine. He has plenty of my milk to get him through when I’m not there.
And it went fine! I shed a few tears, but I know that I need to get some rest and take care of myself better so that I can truly be ready for Gus to come home. We hope that he will get to come home in another week or so. He’s really struggling with feeding but gets a little better every day. I was able to get more and better quality of sleep, feel a bit more normal in my own house, eat non-hospital food, and get even more excited about bringing Gus home. Oh, and I got to use my new Medela Sonata pump and that thing is amazing! Better output than the hospital grade Medela Symphony at the hospital. I don’t get to drive right now, so it was hard to wait until B was ready to drive me back once I felt “ready” to just be back with my boy. It felt good to walk in to the hospital with a cooler full of pumped milk, better rested, and ready to do everything I can to resume some normalcy while handling having a child in the hospital
Adventure is out there! I’m really looking forward to having our son at home with us.