Well folks, I’m back writing again after more than a two-year hiatus. I tried several times to make my comeback before this, but got sidetracked by various life happenings. What kept me away so long, you might ask? I had a baby in October 2021. 🙂 Our sweet rainbow baby, whom I will refer to as M2 here, decided to make his appearance in the world five weeks early. He was supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby – due on Black Friday in 2021, but we ended up having quite an unexpected journey with him. Thankfully, we found out at 20 weeks that he was perfectly healthy – no ARPKD like E or V. Instead, we found out that I had placenta previa. This is a medical condition where the placenta lies directly on top of the cervix. Most of the time, the placenta will move during the second or third trimesters. In some cases it doesn’t move and a c-section is scheduled about 37-38 weeks because the mother can’t deliver the baby through the placenta. If the mother should go into labor before the c-section, there is a risk of hemorrhaging and the mother will need an emergency c-section.

Unfortunately, I fell into the latter camp. I was going to be scheduled for a c-section in November, but I started bleeding in the early morning hours of a Sunday in September at 31 weeks. It was an awful feeling. We got our girls ready as quickly as we could and since our dedicated babysitters (Grandma and Grandpa) were out of town, we took them to a friend’s house and headed to the hospital. I ended up staying a week for observation, the first few days never knowing if a c-section was imminent. It was a nerve-wracking experience made worse by the fact that I had some sort of episode of labored breathing and chest pain that could only be described as a panic attack the day I was admitted. I had been without food for most of the day (NPO) due the possibility of needing the emergency c-section that first day, and by the end of it I was completely stressed out, terrified, and exhausted. Of course we were not strangers to hospital life – I had been hospitalized prenatally with E for five days – and we were no strangers to NICU life. But potentially having an emergency c-section and a smaller NICU baby than either E or V was hard to process. Honestly, it felt like a gut punch to me after everything we’d been through up to that point. Even though I didn’t think I was panicking, that’s what my body must have been doing. I was given an EKG, had the infectious disease team come look at me in case I had COVID, and then was taken for chest x-rays. When I came back from x-ray, I spent the rest of the night and the next day unable to move. I had IVs in both arms, EKG stickers on my chest, a sat probe on my finger, a blood pressure cuff on my upper arm, and a fetal monitor around my belly. And, I was completely restricted to my bed – no getting up whatsoever.

The bleeding stopped after the second day in the hospital and didn’t return, but my doctor kept me for observation, just in case. At the end of the week, she discharged me on bed rest with the instructions to come back right away if the bleeding resumed. So I went home on a Saturday afternoon, relaxed with my family, ate our favorite pepperoni pizza, had terrible heartburn, and just rested on Sunday. Then wouldn’t you know, the bleeding started again Monday morning and it was back to the hospital for me. This time, our girls were able to go to G&G’s and Transplant Dad was able to take vacation and FMLA so he could be at the hospital with me. I spent another week being observed, and then was discharged with bed rest orders again. This second hospital stay gave me the lovely experience of an iron infusion to boost my red blood cells that made me terribly sick and set me vomiting. After the second hospitalization, I made it two weeks at home sitting on our couch while Transplant Dad was “Do-It-All-Dad.” I was able to get our baby clothes in order, Transplant Dad bought some boy-specific items, and my doctor scheduled my c-section for October 29th – 36 weeks, which also happens to be mine and Transplant Dad’s dating anniversary. The girls hated having me in the hospital and I hated being away from them. M was also upset that her new brother was interfering with her October birthday month and she was adamant that she didn’t want to share her birthday – October 28th – with her brother.

M & E visiting me during my second stint in the hospital.

Lucky for M, M2 decided that he didn’t want to share her birthday anyway. Unluckily for us, he decided that the time to make his appearance in the world was October 23rd. When I woke up in the middle of the night bleeding heavily this time, we were a well-oiled machine and made it to the hospital 15 minutes later. I was taken to the room I’d vacated two weeks earlier and was greeted by one of the nurses who had previously taken care of me. G&G were on high alert, so hopped in the car and sped to the hospital to get our girls. By the time, Transplant Dad met me in my room, I was resting, several centimeters dilated, and waiting to see what would happen. I’d seen my OB the previous day and she told me that she would be off-service for the weekend, but would be back on Monday. In the event that something would happen over the weekend (premonition, maybe?) I had asked her which of her colleagues would be her first choice to perform my c-section. The doctor she immediately identified was the one who was on-service when I went in early Saturday morning. When he came to check on me later Saturday morning, he explained that his wife had had placenta previa too and he had to drive her to the hospital for an emergency c-section years before. If made me feel better to know I had a compassionate doctor who could empathize with what we were going through. He explained to us exactly which signs he was looking for to do the c-section and said he’d keep checking on me. About 12:15 or so, the bleeding intensified suddenly. The nurses called the doctor back and I was soon in the operating room being prepped for an emergency c-section. My first thoughts were for keeping my baby safe, but I was also terribly nervous. The only experience with surgery I’d had was the D&C procedure, so I had no idea how my body would react.

An hour and twenty minutes after the bleeding started, M2 was born. He weighed six pounds, ten ounces and had a full head of hair. We were a little surprised to see he was so big already considering he was only 35 weeks. He was healthy and didn’t need any oxygen, so he stayed in the OR with Transplant Dad for an hour while I was being worked on and closed up. Because the epidural was taking some time to take effect before the operation began, the anesthesiologist had the team lower the head of the operating table. Pretty soon after the operation started, I had terrible pain in my right shoulder. The anesthesiologist told me that nerves in my abdomen were reacting and sending signals to the nerves in my shoulder. (Later, the shoulder pain continued as air trapped in my body from the surgery that was seeking a way out.) I was also put on oxygen during the surgery. As a result of the intense shoulder pain and the uncomfortable sensation of air constantly blowing up my nose, I was not in any condition to enjoy having M2 and my husband in the OR next to me. All I could do at that point was glance over at M2 when he was weighed and hold my husband’s hand. I had to use the rest of my strength to breathe out of my mouth to try to keep my mind off my shoulder and what I was hearing from the other side of the drape.

M2 and I were separated after my c-section was complete. M2 went off to the NICU per hospital policy for babies born before 36 weeks since he was technically considered premature. I went back to my room in Labor and Delivery to recover before being taken to the post-partum floor. Soon after leaving the OR, my bleeding returned. My epidural also started wearing off, so I was in a lot of pain from both the surgery and from the nurses having to push on my abdomen to check on my uterus. My lab results were fine but the bleeding continued, and every time someone tried to touch my abdomen, I instinctively tried to keep their hands away. When the doctor who performed my c-section came to check on me, he told the nurses to take it easy on my abdomen and he ordered some medicine to help stop the bleeding. If the bleeding continued, I would need a blood transfusion or I would have to go back to surgery. After that, I was given some high-powered pain meds and the medicine to help with the bleeding. I remember my nurse giving me the pain medicine in my IV first and then distracting me while she injected the other medicine into my thigh. It was late evening before I was finally stable enough to go to the post-partum floor.

I have so much respect for moms who have c-section deliveries for all of their children. My c-section was by far my hardest delivery and recovery. After being on bed-rest for so long and then not eating much at all the day of M2’s birth, I was so weak and in so much pain that I didn’t get out of bed and to the NICU to hold M2 until the evening of the day after he was born. It took me longer to be able to stand, sit up, and walk than other c-section moms, and when I did, I needed both pain medicine and a stomach brace to help keep pressure on my incision. Thankfully, my doctor had closed my incision with staples and my regular doctor removed them before I was discharged. That made my recovery a little easier since I didn’t have to worry about stitches itching or pulling on my skin. M2 was born on a Saturday and I wasn’t discharged until the Wednesday after. Transplant Dad rearranged our bedroom at home and built a stool for me so I could more easily get in and out of bed. He also helped me walk up and down stairs and get dressed for the first few weeks I was home. It was a slow recovery and when all was said and done, it was almost seven weeks before I felt like I was finally myself again. M2 spent two weeks in the NICU learning to eat before we finally got to bring him home.

Holding my boy for the first time.

The day M2 was born was hands-down the most scared I have ever been for my own life, and seeing fear in my husband’s eyes was something I won’t forget. At first, I was terribly frustrated and angry that we had to go through another hard situation as a family, even if the outcome was positive – M2 was healthy and I recovered with time. After more time passed and I have been able to reflect, I have realized that my placenta previa and c-section taught me some lessons in humility and spousal compassion, and gave me a gift in the form of empathy. My experiences gave me the ability to relate to what my grandpa went through when he lost his mobility and had to depend on other people to help him do simple daily activities. Most of all though, through my experiences I was given a small taste of E’s life.

I can never truly know what it is like to be E – all the surgeries, procedures, hospital stays, medications, and recoveries – that have made her and shaped her into who she is. It’s hard to imagine all the feelings E must have had and still has. But the experiences I had made me live for a small time in a world very similar to hers. As a result, I now know what it’s like being hooked up to IVs in multiple limbs, not being able to move because of blood pressure cuffs, lines, and monitors. How it feels to breathe when you have to wear oxygen and it’s blowing up your nose. How it feels to wake up in excruciating pain after abdominal surgery. I now know what it’s like to have x-rays taken and how scary it is when something’s happening to you and you don’t know why. I was a healthy, rational adult and I was scared. So after being through some of what she’s lived through myself, I’ve been able to use my new insight to better help E. When she spent five days in the hospital last year and later when she underwent a new procedure, I was able to make her a little more comfortable and coach her through her anxiety a little better than I did previously. Most of the time I’m better at noticing when she’s afraid, and try to take extra time to answer questions she might have. I also try to ask her about her feelings now that she’s old enough to recognize them and put a name to them. Part of me wishes that my family and I wouldn’t have had to go through what we did with my placenta previa and c-section. But, as with most things, we learned so much from that time and I am now grateful for the brief glimpse I had into E’s life. The empathy I learned continues to help me not only with E, but also with other loved ones. I hope I can continue to use it well in the future.

Our rainbow baby – my hardest delivery by far, but so worth it.
Photo by Bethany of Photography by Bethany.