Upon finding out we were pregnant for the first time, everything was exciting and blissful. I was so excited to set up the nursery, baby registry, plan a baby shower, and pick a name. We found out we were having a little girl and had an epic gender reveal party on the 4th of July where we lit off pink fireworks. The pregnancy went smoothly except for some swelling and carpal tunnel at the end. Half way through the pregnancy, we switched to a different ObGyn, he was very nice and promised to be the one to deliver my baby.
At my 39 week visit, my OB swept my membranes and “accidentally” broke my water. He assured us to go home and that labor would begin. Well, it didn’t. We still had dinner for my brother’s birthday then headed over to the hospital that night for cervical ripening. We started Pitocin the next morning and it wasn’t until the following morning that Angelina was born. It was a long exhausting labor with 5 hours of pushing and a lopsided epidural. She was born beautiful and healthy.
Postpartum recovery was rough. Physically it took me a while to heal. I had a lot of anxiety and fears that something bad would happen to her. We had many prolonged breastfeeding issues on top of it. Despite all that, we were just so in love with her. Our heart felt so full, we actually wondered if we should try again, but we really wanted to give her a sibling.
When Angelina turned a year old, we found out we were pregnant again. We were so excited to have another baby and a companion for Angelina. We decided this baby would complete our family.
After the birth I had with Angelina, I knew I wanted things to go very differently this time. We switched providers, to a Midwife group. We decided to use the birthing center at Yale (despite being an hour away), to have a natural unmedicated birth. We hired a doula, I practiced hypnobirthing, and listened to hundreds of birth stories. I was very excited to have a different, empowered birth experience.
It was a very busy, stressful year as I was working two jobs, going to school for my masters, and chasing a toddler around. I didn’t have much time to spend doting over my pregnancy or getting things ready for the baby. We found out we were having another girl. I was so excited that Angelina was going to have a sister and she would be able to share all her clothes and things.
A month before the baby was due my mom threw me a small sprinkle at her house with close family and friends on a Sunday. On Monday I spent the day with my cousin and her new baby. On Tuesday I Konmari-ed my house and got two drawers ready for baby. Then I had my prenatal meeting with my doula and right after she left I lost my mucus plug. I was starting to get excited with thoughts that the baby was coming soon. That night I was so anxious falling asleep, it was my worst night of sleep ever. The next morning I was anxious and tearful driving to my routine prenatal visit. I figured I was just overwhelmed with everything I had going on. At my appointment, my midwife couldn’t find her heartbeat on the doppler. She sent me over to the hospital for ultrasound.
At that point I was still in denial. I’ll never forget that car ride to the hospital even though it was a blur. It took me 20 mins to get there despite it only being 3 blocks away. By the time Shane met me at the hospital they had already confirmed with ultrasound, the baby had no heartbeat. I couldn’t believe it and couldn’t understand how something like that could happen so unexpectedly. I remember sobbing saying over and over “I don’t understand, how can this happen!?” Then I was told I would be induced to have this baby. What kind of cruel trick was this!? My thoughts were, “I can’t believe they are going to make me have this dead baby!?” The thought of induction triggered the traumatic memories of my first 40 hour labor. I begged them for a C-section and they assured me that’s not what I really wanted. The medical team came in and asked if I was ready for morphine. I refused, I didn’t wanted to be drugged through this, I wanted to continue with my beautiful, natural birth plan.
My doula met us at the hospital and we prepared for delivery. Our mothers joined us too. It took a while to get my body going. Emotionally it was up and down, I kept wondering how I was going to meet our daughter this way. After two days we had the most beautiful, natural delivery, despite the outcome of a silent baby. She looked like Angelina as a baby except with dark kinky hair. I’ll always wonder what color her eyes would have been. We held, her bathed her, took pictures, and spent as much time with her as we possibly could. Saying goodbye was so hard. I tucked her in her little box and kissed her goodnight.
Life was so different after that, planning a funeral instead of rocking our new baby. Angelina continued to kiss my belly. Every time I went out in public people would ask how the new baby was doing. They usually had bizarre reactions or said ridiculous things when they heard the news. But the worst, was those who said nothing at all. It was meeting other loss moms, hearing their stories, and learning about their babies that got me through.
PREGNANCY AFTER LOSS
After losing Hannah, we didn’t want to go through the pain again, but just felt empty arms and empty heart leaving our family like this. At the 6 month mark we wanted to start trying again, but that’s when the pandemic hit. We debated if it was safe and if we should wait, so we just put it in God’s hands. We tried and got pregnant within two months. I was not prepared for the joy, grief, fear, isolation, and anxiety that would hit with this pregnancy.
It started with the resurgence of PTSD symptoms and extreme anxiety around every doctors appointment. I had difficulty bonding with this baby, knowing there is no safe zone in pregnancy. We held our pregnancy close and was hesitant to share it with others. I still did my best to avoid other pregnant women, as I didn’t want to hear about their joyful, blissful, carefree pregnancies. This pregnancy involved constant advocating and fighting with my healthcare team for extra monitoring and peace of mind.
I took this pregnancy in stages and milestones. There was anticipation about getting to the next ultrasound and seeing the beating heart. Making it past the miscarriage window, the anatomy scan, getting to viability, the second trimester, feeling fetal movement, the third trimester, each MCA, BPP, NST, US, provider visit, and hospital visit. We had a scare at 12 weeks where fluid was found around the baby’s lung and we feared the worst. It was difficult not to mentally go into that downward spiral thinking this baby would die too. The fluid miraculously went away and never came back. I was adamant about being induced at 37 weeks to err on the side of caution. The weeks leading up to induction were rough consisting of poor sleep, nightmares, and increased worry that my baby was going to die.
Towards the end of pregnancy I had ultrasounds and nonstress tests twice a week. We were set to be induced at 37 weeks, it was black Friday. However, at every ultrasound the baby was inconsistently in a different position and sometimes in breech. They scheduled an external cephalic version (ECV) procedure to turn the baby manually then start induction, with the OR prepped for C-section just in case it was unsuccessful or something went wrong. I was very nervous about all the unknowns of the day and wondered if I should just do a C-section and get it over with. I tried what I could to safely get the baby into position including acupuncture with moxibustion twice a week and listening to daily ‘Turn Breech Baby’ and ‘Fear Clearing’ hypnosis tracks.
Friday morning we showed up for the version and the baby was head down! We were so thrilled, we put on an abdominal binder and were set to start induction. When we showed up to the labor and delivery unit a nurse walked in and said “I don’t know if you remember me, I’m your nurse from last time”. I was so thrilled to have Hannah’s nurse, it made things that much easier and everything felt like it was falling in place. It also made me feel like Hannah was with us and helping her brother arrive safely. Induction progressed rather quickly, by afternoon we were 6 cm! Then, baby flipped into breech position! We did the version procedure which was really painful and scary. After the procedure, it took them a while to find the baby’s heartbeat, I’ll never forget that moment thinking we were back there again to deliver a dead baby. They broke my water to keep the baby from flipping again. After the ECV my progression slowed down, at my next cervical check I was 4 cm. I had gone backwards, which I didn’t think was even possible. That’s when they determined the baby had foot presentation. They tried to manually move the foot which was extremely painful and unsuccessful. After trying everything it was time for a C-section. At that point I just wanted to baby safely in my arms.
It felt so surreal to finally hold this live screaming baby that I fought so hard for. The postpartum period was challenging on many accounts. But I was just so in love with him and bonded instantly. I never imagined I’d have three birth stories not to mention three that are so different.
My rainbow pregnancy was very stressful and were inundated with flashbacks from Hannah’s pregnancy. I had a difficult time bonding with the baby in my belly, for fear of losing him. Since Hannah died a few days before our scheduled maternity shoot, doing photos with this pregnancy were even more important to me. When I heard of Sarah’s traveling rainbow skirt it sounded perfect. I loved the idea of feeling so connected to women I didn’t even know, who all suffered similar heartache and pain of their own.
I set up a photo session with a friend of mine, who also had come to photograph Hannah after she was born. It felt special to have the person who shared those intimate moments with Hannah with us, document this new milestone of our life. A loss mom friend once said to me “losing my baby was the hardest time of my life and pregnancy after loss was the second hardest”. Once you experience it, you realize how true those words are.
Photos Taken By Victoria Brown Photography.
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