They say that after a storm, comes a rainbow. Something beautiful that appears after a long dark period of rain, dark clouds, uncertainty, and fear. A rainbow is a reason to smile again after the storm. It brings light and beauty out of the never ending darkness. In the Bible, a rainbow represents the covenant of grace between God and mankind. An actual symbol of Christ himself; that God would not destroy all flesh through a flood again. Is it possible to see a rainbow and not be in awe of its beauty? In the world of baby loss, children that are born after the death of their older baby siblings are called rainbows.
This is the story of the birth of our rainbow. Our tiny miracle. She is our reason to smile, laugh, and hope again. How can we look at her and not be in awe of her beauty? How can we not be humbled by the grace that's been given to us and blessed us so richly?
On June 26, 2012 I was able to positively confirm, without a doubt, that I was pregnant again. We had conceived again, and on Father's Day weekend nonetheless. We were overcome with joy that we'd been given a second chance at having the family we'd dreamed and despaired about for so long.
The first half of my pregnancy went smoothly. Of course we knew that this would be considered a high risk pregnancy from the start. The weeks passed and were filled with countless doctor appointments, tests, and ultrasounds. Since we never found out the reason for Caroline's death, we didn't know what to look out for this time around. So we had to be careful about every red flag. Once the second half of my pregnancy began, things started getting more stressful. I seemed to have one issue after the other, thankfully none of them affecting the pregnancy. I had a pilonidal cyst removed, a cold, strep throat, the flu, and a biopsy performed on my breast all within about a 12 week window. I was at the doctor's office twice a week for non stress tests and had ultrasounds every 4 weeks, on top of my regular appointments. At 32 weeks we learned that the baby's cord was wrapped around her neck. I began documenting everything I possibly could so that I could see on paper a change from the norm; blood pressure, braxton hicks contractions, her hiccups, kick counts... you name it. But it kept me sane. At 34 weeks I decided to paint my bedroom and ended up hospitalized due to high blood pressure and reduced fetal movement two days later. Silly me. I was on a modified bed rest from that point on. Allen made sure I stuck to it and didn't overdo it again. He helped me so much, I don't know how I would have made it through any of this without him.
After the scare with my blood pressure, my doctor didn't want to take any chances, especially since we just didn't know what we could be potentially dealing with. She suggested that we consider doing an amniocentesis at 37 weeks and if it showed that the baby's lungs were ready, then they would immediately induce me. It seemed as though there was some disagreement as to when to induce me between the doctors at that office. Dr. "S", my regular OB who delivered Caroline, was the one to suggest an induction at 37 weeks. Another OB in the office thought they should wait until 38 weeks with no amnio, and another said 39 weeks because that was ACOG's guidelines. But Dr. "S" overrode everyone; and after much research, discussion, and soul searching, we felt that the 37 week plan was what we were most comfortable with. The last thing I wanted was to be dealing with going into labor on my own again, knowing that the baby more than likely had a nuchal cord and my blood pressure was already above normal levels. So it was scheduled. On Monday, February 18th at 37 weeks 1 day, I would go for an amniocentesis and hope for the best.
We were so nervous about the procedure and what it would tell us. I didn't want to be pregnant another minute, not because I was so uncomfortable physically at that point, ( I love being pregnant!) but because I was so scared. Each day that passed was a day that could potentially end tragically again. The end of pregnancy is never easy for anyone. But to those who have experienced such a loss as ours, the waiting game at the end is complete torture every minute of every day.
The Sunday before the amnio, we decided to go visit Caroline's grave and put a new flower arrangement down for Easter, because we didn't know if we'd have another chance to do it before then. Caroline always sends us signs at just the right moment. As we got closer to God's Acre, Aerosmith's song "Angel" came on. "Your my angel, come and save me tonight. Your my angel, come and make it alright." I burst into tears. True, it's about two lovers; but at that moment those words spoke to me straight from heaven. We told Caroline how much we loved her and to watch over her baby sister. We told her we were sorry that we couldn't save her, but to help us save her sister. I've always felt her with me, and I know she watches over us.
I barely slept that night. My nerves were shot no matter how calm I tried to be. The ride to the doctor's office was so surreal. I think Allen kept talking about cars, but really I know it was his nerves doing the talking. I was in a zone. We got to the doctor's office and realized that this could be the last time we were sitting there still pregnant. I wondered if the other ladies in the waiting room were just as nervous as I was. If only they knew what has happened and what was about to happen. Our favorite ultrasound tech took us back and started the procedure to find a nice pocket of fluid. But before the OB came in for the amnio, the tech gave us a gift, a precious baby outfit and a card. She's the one who told us Caroline's heart had stopped beating, and she's the only one we allowed to do our ultrasounds this pregnancy. So it was very emotional for her as well. Once the OB came in, the procedure was over after a few short minutes. It felt like someone was taking blood, except it was from my stomach. Not nearly as bad as I expected. The OB said that it looked cloudy, which is a good sign because it means that the lungs were mature enough to produce a certain type of protein. We would find out soon enough.
This is the needle and amniotic fluid that they took:
We went home and took it easy that afternoon; waiting with baited breath. I kept my phone by my side just waiting for it to ring with some news. I was constantly checking to make sure I hadn't missed a call, even though it didn't leave my side. Finally, around 4:30, the phone rang. It was the nurse from the doctor's office calling to tell us that the baby's lungs showed maturity and I could head to the hospital that evening to begin the induction. It was finally happening! What a rush of adrenaline! We finished packing the hospital bags and loaded up the car. Allen was so emotionally drained and excited and with all the rushing trying to get things together, ended up with a headache and thought he was going to pass out. After sitting down for a few minutes and drinking some coffee he was good to go. We picked up some fast food on the way to drop our dog off at my parents and off to the hospital we went.
We arrived at the hospital right as the nurses were changing shifts. One of my former clients who I hadn't seen in a few years checked us in. We probably should have known better than to check in at shift change, since Allen works there, as it caused a little confusion. But they were gracious and very sweet about it. Dr. S called my room, even though she wasn't working that night, to let me know about what I could expect over the next few hours. They would be inserting Cervadil, and that was supposed to "soften" the cervix and could put me into full blown labor or do nothing. Oh boy was I about to find out.
Around 10 pm the nurse inserted the Cervadil and Dr. O came in to talk to us about my options for pain management, should I need it. I could have morphine for pain and an Ambien to help me sleep. I took the Ambien, but it had no effect. Around 1 am, it seemed like exactly 3 hours on the dot from getting the Cervadil, I started having contractions. They quickly became very intense. From that point on I was contracting nonstop, all night long. It was the most painful experience of my life. One contraction after the other and nothing seemed to help. I didn't sleep for a minute that night. All I could do was focus on my breathing. For some reason, the nurse would only give me Tylenol (it might as well have been a sugar pill). I'm not sure why she was hesitant about giving me morphine, but I didn't push the issue because I knew it could have an effect on the baby. Plus, I'd hoped that the contractions would mean they'd take me to labor and delivery soon and I could get an epidural. Contraction after contraction, it beat me down so bad. One would hit before the other was finished. All I wanted was a break in between contractions, just for a minute or even seconds. But that didn't happen. I was so exhausted and weak, and they wouldn't let me eat anything. At one point the contractions seemed almost comical to me as I was feeling delirious, if I didn't laugh about it I would scream and writhe in pain, so I took a picture of the monitor with my phone. A sort of post card to remember the pain by, to prove what I was going through. "Soften" the cervix is such a pleasant phrase for what Cervadil really does. There was nothing soft about it. Induced labor is by far more excruciatingly painful than I could have ever imagined.
My contractions at the bottom of the screen, baby's heart rate is at the top.
Around 8 am the nurse came to check my progress and see if I'd dilated anymore. I'd been only a 1/2 cm when I'd arrived at the hospital. I thought surely what I'd gone through that entire night would have progressed me. To my chagrin, I was only 2 cm. I felt so defeated. But it was enough progress for them to send me to labor and delivery.
Once there, I was told I could take a shower. I'd hoped that it would help my pain, but before I got in there I realized that the shower head was broken. I wanted to cry. Somehow, Allen found a way to fix it so that I could actually take a shower without having to hold the shower head. As I undressed I noticed that I was bleeding pretty bad. It freaked me out and I called the nurse in there. She said it was normal and a good sign. The shower only helped slightly. What I needed was an epidural, I didn't know if I could take much more of the pain.
Eventually, the anesthesiologist came in and gave me my much need pain relief. My best friend arrived to my room right as he was placing it. I told her she'd been replaced, he was my new best friend. The nurse asked, "Did you feel that contraction?"
"What contraction?" was my answer. Finally some relief.
Dr. H came in and broke my water a few hours later. She also placed a heart rate monitor inside of me to get a better read on the baby. I didn't notice the monitor, but they could do whatever they wanted to me if it was best for this baby. Between the Pitocin I was receiving at just minimal amounts and having my water broken, I was having off the chart contractions regularly.
The nurses kept having me roll from one side to the other every so often. They didn't say why to begin with. So it seemed like a minor annoyance as I was trying my best to get a little sleep, which never actually happened.
Eventually all of the nurses came in to inform me that I was being made to roll onto my sides because the baby's heart was dipping every time I had a contraction and now I was going to have to have oxygen to see if that helped. We immediately started freaking out, but I tried my best to breathe and stay calm. I knew I would have to have an emergency c-section if this didn't work. Luckily, it did. It just wouldn't be fitting if we didn't have one final scare during labor.
It's an entirely different experience when you're giving birth to a living baby.
We continued to wait, and wait, and wait. My entire family had arrived at the hospital by that point. But I was so tired that I just didn't feel like seeing anyone but Allen. I think some people may have been a little irritated at us. But we couldn't have cared less.
I'd stopped pushing my button to receive the epidural juice about two hours prior, because I'd become so numb that I couldn't feel anything waist down and that was a scary feeling. So naturally the contractions started back up and I was in an unbearable amount of pain again. I was told by my nurse that I couldn't push the button anymore at this point too because I was so close to being complete. But the anesthesiologist came back after awhile and told me that I could push the button, and if I had any epidural questions they were to go through him, not the nurse. If I needed pain management, I could have it. Thankfully, the epidural was once again able to do it's job.
My nurse and her apprentice came in to check my dilation. I was 9 cm! We couldn't believe it was almost time. The nurses started preparing the room.
It was so surreal to be at that point in life again, except this time they were preparing to care for a living newborn. Heating lamps, birth certificates, blankets, her shots... it was all so different this time.
As we waited the final stretch, Allen and I talked about what a gift this was. How much we loved each other and couldn't believe we were finally in the homestretch. We'd ached for this moment. All of our hopes and dreams were riding on what was about to happen. It was such a tender moment and I'll never forget it. The anticipation was so intense in those moments.
Just then, someone knocked at the door. I didn't know who it could be as we'd already said we didn't want visitors in my room until she was born. Like an angel straight out of heaven, once again at perfect time, was our Pastor Tom. When I saw his face I immediately started sobbing. I couldn't believe that once again, at such a pivotal moment in our lives, there he was again.
It was just like that moment when he'd appeared when we were grieving so deeply the morning after having Caroline. How could he have known and been in the right place at the right time again? Except this time it was a joyous occasion. And just like he'd said that sad morning, he proclaimed again "He is my dispatcher". I will never question or doubt that God put him there at those moments to comfort us and pray with us. I felt that Caroline was there in that moment with us. It was absolutely amazing and incredible having him there.
After an almost 21 hour labor full of excruciating pain, emotional high's and low's, and a few scary moments; it was time to push. I pushed once and she began to crown. Allen was amazed that he could see all the hair on her head that we'd seen in ultrasounds for so many weeks. I pushed only 2 more times and she was out. The cord was wrapped around her neck a few times, but Dr H was able to easily get her free. Elise Arabella entered the world and our lives on February 19th at 7:29 pm, weighing 6 lbs 3.5 oz, and was 19 in long.
Her cry was the best sound of my life. She was beautiful and I couldn't help but to cry at the sight of her. They laid her in my arms, she looked at me and her crying stopped. Finally, I'd gotten the moment I had longed for, for so long. It was indescribably amazing. I was her Mother, and she was all mine.
When they took her to clean her up and weigh her, she laid there crying. But the moment Allen spoke to her, she was immediately calmed by his voice and reached her hand out to him. I believe that because of all those times he talked to her in my belly, she recognized his voice. He finally had his baby girl.
When they handed her back to me, she was already rooting. I'd wondered and hoped that I'd be able to breastfeed her. She latched onto me with ease. It was amazing. It was the beginning of a bond that could never be broken.
We were all taken to the recovery room where we'd spend the next few days. She had to be taken to the nursery the first night for about an hour to sit under the heat lamp because her temperature had dropped when they'd given her a bath. The next night was tough, because she cluster fed the entire night, and I was so sore from it. I'll never forget it. But I didn't mind, I would do anything for her.
She was tested, poked, and prodded and passed everything with flying colors. Despite being born 3 weeks early, she was as healthy as could be. We took her home on February 21st and she has continued to do well ever since.
We finally have our miracle rainbow baby. She has filled our lives with more joy than we ever thought possible. Her name describes her perfectly: Elise (God's gift) Arabella (answered prayer), and that's exactly what she is. Everyday gets better and better. We are so blessed and are more in love than she will ever know. Words can't describe it, but we will try our best to show her.
She is the light and the love of our lives.
And here she is, at 9 weeks old!