I found out I was pregnant for the first time in December 2019. My husband and I were thrilled and terrified, but so ready for a baby. We had taken custody of our daughter, Kaylee — biologically my husband’s niece — when she was two, and had been her parents for a year and a half. We were familiar with parenthood, but totally in the dark about pregnancy and babies. Most of my pregnancy was perfectly normal until it wasn’t. At the anatomy scan at 21 weeks, the ultrasound tech said they were having trouble seeing my cervix and had to do an internal ultrasound. It was unusually painful.
Afterward, a doctor came in to tell me that while my baby looked great, there was an odd dark mass they couldn’t identify on the ultrasound. They thought it could possibly be placenta previa, but said I’d need some extra monitoring, and to go to the hospital at the first sign of bleeding. When I got home from the scan, I started bleeding profusely. I spent the next two weeks in and out of the emergency room. The baby was always fine, but my bleeding only seemed to get worse. Finally, my OB had me admitted to the hospital at 23 weeks, and the next morning, I was taken via ambulance to a more advanced hospital 40 minutes away. At that point, I learned I was having a placental abruption — a life-threatening condition for both the baby and me.
At 23 weeks and 3 days, I went into sudden labor. I had been lucky to get steroid injections to help the baby’s lungs and a heavy dose of magnesium to slow things down, but my labor quickly became emergent. The baby was coming out fist-first, right into the umbilical cord, and I was hemorrhaging. I was put under anesthesia and at 7:09 a.m. on April 23, 2020, my son, Ronan, was born. He was just over one pound. They tell me he let out a tiny cry before they intubated him. When I woke, I was wheeled straight to the NICU on a hospital bed, where my husband was watching over our son.
Ronan was feisty for a micro preemie born on the very threshold of survivability. He always had to wrap one of his tiny hands around one of his many tubes and wires, and while he couldn’t cry because he was intubated, he was always furrowing his little brow to express his displeasure. And when we could finally hold him, a week after he was born, he was never more content. My husband and I spent the next six weeks in the NICU every single day, usually from morning until night. It was the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were lucky to even be allowed to visit. The NICU director had just gotten clearance to let parents back in when Ronan was born.
Ronan defied many of the staggering odds against him, gaining weight and thriving despite some pretty bleak predictions. He was lucky to only have a small brain bleed. However, he needed emergency heart surgery at just two weeks old, and his oxygen would often plummet, sending a whirlwind of nurses and doctors into action.
At five weeks old, Ronan suddenly became very sick and almost died multiple times. I stayed in the hospital for four nights, barely able to leave his side, watching doctors repeatedly save his life. Unfortunately, it became clear the night before his six week birthday that he could not survive. I drove to the hospital in the middle of the night, and was able to hold him as he passed away. We later learned he’d developed NEC, a common and deadly complication in premature babies.
Grieving Ronan has been fraught with so many complications, including the isolation of the pandemic and our six-year-old daughter’s confusion and grief. Since Ronan’s death, I have also had three miscarriages: two at seven weeks, and an especially traumatic one in May of 2021 at 13 weeks. I hemorrhaged at home and had to drive myself to the ER in the middle of the night, where I was ignored by the doctor on shift until it became clear my hemorrhaging was critical and that I needed an emergency D&C. It is still very difficult to talk and think about. Almost a full year later, I am only now beginning to grieve the loss of that baby, a boy we named Cieran.
No doctor has been able to explain why this keeps happening, as extensive testing has revealed nothing that indicates why my children keep dying. At the advice of a fertility doctor, my husband and I started trying again and I found out I was pregnant in October 2021. This has been my only healthy pregnancy to date, in part I believe because of the intense medication and injection regimen the fertility clinic put me on in the beginning.
Our hopeful rainbow baby is another boy, and while he is technically due June 19, 2022, I have a scheduled C-section planned for the end of May because of my medical history with Ronan. Pregnancy after loss is the hardest thing I’ve ever done short of holding Ronan as he died. It’s still hard to believe this little one is going to be okay, but I want nothing more than to meet this baby, hear him cry, and bring him home, where I desperately hope he’ll get to stay.
Read more about Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) here.
Photos taken by Be Boulder Photography.
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