We had a completely normal pregnancy. The only complication we had was severe morning sickness in the first trimester. I had to go to the hospital twice to get an IV. I missed a lot of work. But it was worth it because I knew my baby boy was coming. Every appointment, every test, every ultrasound- it was all normal. We reached the 3rd trimester and were planning baby showers, maternity pictures, and getting the nursery ready. We were so excited to meet our little boy. Not long into the 3rd trimester, I started showing signs of preterm labor. I started having pieces of my mucus plug come out and even some blood. We went to labor and delivery 3 times within a week because we were worried. They monitored me and baby and checked my cervix and said everything was normal.
The last time I went in was on Thursday. I was exactly 30 weeks that day. The nurses told me that I could have some light bleeding and cramping/contractions from when they checked my cervix. I started having irregular contractions on Friday. They didn’t really hurt and were very irregular, so I wasn’t concerned. I would go several hours without having one and could always talk or walk through them. I talked to my doctor’s nurse on Monday and she agreed that they sounded like Braxton Hicks but I could always come in if I was worried. She told me what to look for in terms of when they would recommend coming in, but I wasn’t experiencing any of those things. I only had a couple of contractions on Monday and was just taking it easy, staying off my feet and drinking a lot of water. I thought everything was ok but didn’t want to push anything.
I woke up just after midnight Tuesday morning. I was having contractions. They were still irregular and didn’t really hurt, but I had several in an hour and was in a lot of discomfort and pain when I wasn’t contracting. We decided to go to labor and delivery to be safe. The nurses still thought I was having false contractions, but when they hooked me up to the monitors they noticed that Colt’s heart rate dropped a little when I had contractions. They were worried for him at that point and wanted to send me to a bigger hospital for monitoring and in case I needed to deliver early because they weren’t equipped to deal with a baby born at 30 weeks. They started making calls to prepare for that and then checked my cervix to be safe. I had 6 or 7 nurses check my cervix because the nurses were so confused. Finally my doctor shows up and tells me that I’m dilated about 7-8 cm. I wouldn’t be transferred to a bigger hospital. There was no more “in case you have to deliver early.” I was delivering that day and in that hospital.
The NICU team from the bigger hospital was called in so they could be there when Colt was born, stabilize him, and then transport him to the other hospital. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to go with him until I was discharged. Everything happened so fast that I didn’t have time to process what was going on.
Colt was born at 11:45 am March 24, 2020 at 30 weeks and 5 days. He came out crying loudly. Everyone was surprised at how well he was breathing and crying since he was born so early. I was able to hold him for a couple minutes before the NICU team took him. They took him out of the room to make sure he was stabilized, and they brought him back into my room for just a couple minutes before they left the hospital with him. I feel like I was in shock the entire time. All I could do was stare at him. This was my first baby and he came into the world in such a whirlwind that I felt like I was being left behind. I was so scared but everyone kept saying he was doing so well. I was discharged the next day and got to my baby as fast as I could. My husband had been able to see and hold him the night before after he got to the NICU. I was able to hold him again that day.
NICU Stay and Loss
For 6 days, Colt did amazingly. He was breathing mostly on his own. The only oxygen he had was supportive since he was so early. He had started tube feedings and was scheduled to have his IV nutrition removed in a day or 2 because he was handling his feedings so well and because he kept playing with and ruining his IVs. Every nurse he had told us that he was feisty but doing SO WELL.
On day 6, my husband had to go back to work. We had decided that he would take his leave once Colt came home, so I went to the hospital by myself for the first time. I had a great day with Colt. I got to hold him longer than I ever had before and even had a chance to video call my mom and sister before it was time for his cares (no one had been allowed to meet him except my husband and I because of covid). He spit up a little after his feeding, but the nurses weren’t worried because it was just a little bit and it was his first feeding at that increased amount. Just a couple hours later, I noticed that Colt was really fussy. I had never seen him that fussy- he was normally very easy to calm down. I called the nurses in and told them that I felt like something wasn’t right. By that point it was almost time for cares again, so we did those and they gave his next tube feeding. Everything seemed ok with him, but he spit up even more after his feeding and was getting more and more fussy. The nurses were trying to figure out what was going on with him. More and more nurses kept coming in and out of the room. His belly started getting a little distended, so they ended up bringing doctors in and doing xrays. They decided to start him on an antibiotic because they were worried he was developing an infection. They hoped that since he had just started showing symptoms, the antibiotics would take care of whatever was going on. They also stopped his tube feedings until this was all figured out.
Colt continued to get worse, and eventually they did another xray. He had air in his belly, which meant that his bowel had perforated and air was escaping from his intestines and into the free space around his organs. I was told that he would need to have surgery to fix this. By this point my husband was asleep at home and in no shape to make the hour drive to the hospital. But once we found out Colt had Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and would need surgery, he got there as soon as he possibly could. He got there at about 5:30 am on March 31, just as Colt was about to be wheeled out of his room to go to the operating room. Colt looked so bad by this point that we didn’t know if we would ever see our son alive again.
A couple hours later, Colt was being wheeled back to his room and we were told that he did really well in surgery. The doctor explained that an infection had weakened his intestines and caused some of the tissue to die and tear. She believed that she got all the damaged and dead tissue in his intestines and that he would be perfectly fine once he healed. He would have to have an ostomy for a few months and then a surgery to reverse that. She sounded like she fully believed Colt would make a full recovery.
Throughout the day, we tried to sleep off and on as Colt healed, but we were constantly on edge. We finally went down to the cafeteria that afternoon. As soon as we bought our food and sat down, I got a call from the NICU that we needed to come back right away. Colt had coded and they had to do compressions to bring him back. They were still working on him. We practically ran all the way back to the NICU, but we weren’t allowed into his room. We sat in the hallway and watched as an entire room full of people were going in and out and trying everything to save our baby. Not being able to be next to him and make him better felt like it was killing me. Finally we were told that the doctor was going to have to open him up again and check on his intestines that had been operated on that morning. He was too sick to move to the OR, so they were preparing to open him up in his room. We were offered an empty room to wait in while they performed the surgery and told that we could call our families to come up for support. This gave me a bad feeling because no visitors had been allowed due to covid, but my husband and I agreed that he had to be ok. We couldn’t wrap our heads around the idea of not having our baby anymore.
It felt like minutes and like hours passed before the doctor came into the room. She told us that when they opened Colt up again, all of his intestines had died and there was nothing they could do for him. My husband immediately started crying and I sat there in shock, waiting for her to say more. To tell us what they were going to do to save him. I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying to me.
We were taken back to Colt’s room. He was cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, but he was still connected to all the monitors. They said he wasn’t gone yet, but I knew that he was. I could see it by looking at him. My baby was gone. We asked them to unplug him and I held him without wires for the first time since immediately after he was born, and my husband held us both, until long after he was completely gone.
Our Rainbow Baby
When we decided to try for our rainbow, we were terrified. Nothing about pregnancy felt safe anymore. It took us a couple months to get pregnant again. When we found out we were expecting again, we were terrified. I took 8 pregnancy tests over the next few days and then got my blood drawn to be sure. We wanted to be excited but were so scared. We knew we would be anxious throughout the entire pregnancy, but we didn’t expect it to be as stressful as it was.
This has not been an easy pregnancy by any means. We already had the added stress of all the PTSD and flashbacks of Colt’s pregnancy, and then this pregnancy has had several complications of its own. We had bleeding which was deemed “a threatened miscarriage” around 6 weeks and cramping so bad I could barely walk at 13 weeks. Doctors weren’t able to find a reason for the bleeding or the cramping, but both eventually stopped. Then I had several bouts of threatened preterm labor. Even though every test, ultrasound, and NST have come back normal, we’re still scared daily that something will happen that will take this baby from us too.
I’m now almost 34 weeks with a healthy baby boy. I’m still extremely high risk for preterm labor and am being watched closely in case I do go into labor, but we’re getting closer and closer to that full term, 37 week mark. Pregnancy after loss is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, second only to losing our son. Every second feels like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Good news only helps keep the anxiety at bay for a short time. But all the pain and fear is forth it for this baby that we love with all our hearts.
Photos taken by On Angels’ Wings.
On Angels’ Wings is a Missouri non-profit organization that seeks to improve the mental health and wellness of families with medically fragile children (regardless of race, ethnicity, class status or orientation) through therapeutic photography and grief recovery services.
Find out more about Project Finding Your Rainbow.
Pin and help spread the project!