Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On the birth of a rainbow

Last Monday morning, Benjamin awoke earlier than usual.  I, of course, had been up since 3:30 am, with anxiety and nerves and fear and hope. As I lifted Ben out of his crib, I noticed a bright star out his window.  I asked him if he wanted to look at the Lydie star, and he eagerly climbed on to my lap.  We spent an hour cuddling there, talking and singing to Lydie in the sky and Bowie in my belly.  I struggle with finding Lydie, but I felt her as we watched that bright star, and this time with all three of my babies was a really peaceful start to a really stressful day.  
Far too many hours later, Justin and I headed to the hospital, for what I hoped would be my final trip to my MFM's office.  We were so anxious that we got there 15 minutes early and sat in the waiting room for 45 minutes.  Which really didn't help the anxiety.  I have been so worried about Bowie that I really hadn't given much thought to  these physical procedures that were about to be done to me.

And it turned out the amnio HURT.  (Please skip if you don't want details).   In an amniocentesis, a needle is inserted through the belly into the uterus and fluid is drawn out. That fluid is sent to a lab to check lung maturity. I first laid down for an ultrasound so the MFM Dr. F could determine where pockets of fluid were.  And guess what was a problem again?  That damn anterior placenta.  Apparently there was only one small pocket of fluid that he could access without touching the placenta, and Bowie was too close to that fluid.  Dr. F asked me to flip to my side, tried nudging her to get her to move.  It didn't work.  Finally he decided to go for it anyway, and inserted that needle.  I am not sure what exactly happened next, as I could not actually watch the ultrasound screen myself, but I am told there wasn't much fluid available in the first place, and then Bowie actually moved toward the needle, pushing the fluid away and actually bumping the needle and what should have taken 10 seconds was taking minutes, and my uterus contracted around the needle, and even after alllll that, they only got 6 CC of fluid when they were supposed to have 10.   Meanwhile, I am shaking with pain and crying and squeezing the hell out of Justin's hand and trying to keep from screaming.  

Dr. F apologized to me, said he hoped for good results.  He commented that he knew I didn't want to do the amnio in the first place.  And I lost my mind a little bit.   I cried, "She's alive right now!  I just want her out while she's alive!"

I had already told him that I had been having slight contractions and started to worry about uterine rupture, especially because I had previously had a c-section.  He nodded, told me how rare uterine ruptures are.  "Well,"  I said, and he nodded again.  I can only tell the man so many times that statistics offer me zero comfort.

They sent me back for an NST to wait for results, and a few minutes later, when I had calmed down, Dr. F came back to talk to me.   My emotional outburst seemed to have an impact on him.  "If the results are indeterminate, but she's close, we'll go ahead," he told me.  "How close do they have to be?" I asked.  "We'll talk about it," he responded, always noncommittal. 

So we waited, with me hooked up the NST.  Watching for the first time ever, as Bowie showed some concerns on the NST, with decelerations of her heart rate.  And I was having some noticeable contractions.  

And then the results came back.


Passing is 50.

I started to panic but the nurse told me Dr. F would call my OB Dr. B and they would confer.  And considering Dr. B was ready to get this baby out days ago without an amnio, and knows exactly how I felt about NICU time (meaning I made clear it was much preferable to me than a dead baby).

Dr. F returned shortly, told me we were on.

I almost cried with relief this time.

Except now they became concerned about Bowie's heartrate. Not to mention my contractions.  The amnio had sent me into labor.   Apparently, neither one of us liked the amnio very much.

And of course, Dr. F works at a hospital Dr. B does not have privileges at so we had to drive from one hospital to the other.  I started worrying about that time of not being hooked up to monitors.

My favorite nurse Jane told me, "You're going to have a baby TODAY!" and I told her we had to get there first.  Physically get there.  It still seemed so far from a possibility.

But I still started texting my mom and dad, telling them to start the drive, as they were "on call" based on the amnio results.  

And after more time hooked up to the NST, with my husband looking more anxious than ever, Dr. F and the nurses determined that Bowie was just adjusting her baseline heartrate, and gave us the go-ahead to leave the hospital to drive to St. Ann's.

I'm grateful to have a connection to Laura, the head of St. Ann's Labor and Delivery nurses; I work with her husband.  She came to meet Benjamin when he was born, and she came to meet Lydia when she was born.  Soon after I returned to work last January, I told my coworker that his wife was close to my heart because she was one of the few people who met my daughter.  He told me that the nurses who delivered Lydie - Amanda and Beth - are always asking for updates about how our family is doing.  

So a few weeks ago, I emailed Laura and told her the plan for my amnio and tentatively scheduled c-section.  I asked that she make sure the nursing staff is familiar with our history.  She emailed me back that absolutely, they would be.  A week or two later, she emailed again, to let me know that Amanda and Beth both wanted to be our nurses for Bowie's delivery and had asked to take extra shifts so they could be with us.  !!!!  I was floored.  As Justin commented, we wanted nurses to know our story, but even better, these nurses were part of our story.  We didn't have to explain the complexities of the emotions to them.

So I texted Laura too, told her to let Amanda and Beth know we were on our way.

Dr. F gave me a little talk first, that he would go ahead and approve delivery.  That indeterminate results didn't mean the lungs weren't mature, but it did mean they weren't certain, and that it was a possibility Bowie could need NICU time.  That he believes the safest place for a baby is inside the mother.  

I second-guessed myself for about ten seconds, then looked at that decel of Bowie's on the monitor and at my continued contractions.  I told him we were heading to St. Ann's.  "Take your money and run," a doctor told a friend in her pregnancy after loss.  Yes.

Gratefully, Bowie gave her Mama good kicks on our 15 minute drive from one hospital to the other.  Arriving at St. Ann's, the nursing staff quickly got me hooked up to the monitors, and her heartbeat was still there.  

It took until this point to feel any sort of confidence that I could be delivering a living, breathing baby... that we could be bringing this one home.

I asked Justin to write "live baby" for our birth plan, but he thought this was more appropriate.

My mom arrived and said I was glowing.  Said she hasn't seen me look so peaceful, in oh, about 11 1/2 months.

The next two to three hours were spent laying in bed, listening to Bowie's heartbeat, watching my steady contractions, and reconnecting to the nurses that delivered Lydia.  When they walked into our room, there were hugs all around.  I don't think most patients get that kind of treatment.  We talked a lot about stillbirth and grief and the Cuddle Cot that we're donating to St. Ann's in honor of Lydie.  We talked about the things they did that really helped us, the photos of Lydia, the hand-decorated photo book, the hand and foot prints.  We told them about the lack of support when we left the hospital and returned home.  We talked about the fear during this pregnancy.

Ironically, the article in the Columbus Dispatch about Cuddle Cots and Lydia was published the day before.  This is our blurb:

A fifth CuddleCot, which will help families at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s, will bear the name of another child, Lydia Joanne, who was stillborn in November after her umbilical cord kinked, cutting off her blood and oxygen supply.

“The moment she was born, I said, ‘Give me my baby,’  ” said her mom, Heather of Gahanna.

She and her husband, Justin, spent about six hours with Lydia. They read to her and kissed her and told her they loved her again and again.

“The time we did have was so very precious, but it was very hard to watch her deteriorate. We just knew at some point to say goodbye,” Heather said.

They left her in the arms of a nurse, who rocked their baby girl and sang to her softly as they left the room.

“I went to give her one more kiss and I told her that we loved her very much and the nurse kissed me and said, ‘She knows,’  ” Heather said.

And laying in that hospital bed, listening to my second daughter, in walks that nurse.  

The Dispatch reporter had asked me her name.  I had no idea.  (Turns out her name is Christi).

That day with Lydia is such a blur.  I was on pain meds.  I was sleep deprived.  And most importantly, I was in total shock.

But I knew that nurse's face, and she came straight to me and hugged me.

The emotions in these moments were just completely overwhelming.  You'd think I'd be an emotional wreck, but there was just too much there.  I think I am just now beginning to process them, more than a week later.

I told her, thank you for making an unbearable, impossible situation just a little more bearable.  

They had to take the monitor off me to prep my belly.  I held my breath while I was disconnected.  I could breathe again when I could hear and watch that heartbeat again.  

They suggested having NICU staff in the operating room in case Bowie were to need oxygen, since we weren't sure about how mature her lungs were.  I agreed.

And finally, after the longest 9 months of my life, it was go time.

Right before go-time.  These grins on our faces are due to the sudden confidence that our second daughter may arrive alive.

Walking back to the operating room with Dr. B and Beth.  I don't think most women hug their doctors and nurses before starting that walk back to the OR.  I don't think most women are so giddy to walk to the OR either.

In the operating room, they kept the monitor on me the whole time.  When they lost the heartbeat for a moment, the nurses reassured me it was there.  They joked with me as I got my spinal.  They kept the operating room light-hearted and full of love.

They brought in my husband, and he held my hand.  And we had our first birth experience go as planned.  A c-section feels so weird, all this pulling on your insides. With both arms splayed to your sides.  Not to mention my shoulder having shooting pains (which apparently is a result of air hitting my insides???)

But soon, soon was the best sound I've ever heard... Bowie's screams.

The little girl came out screaming.

That was when I started crying, sobbing.

They held her up on to the window in the operating sheet for me to see.

And she was (is) just perfect.  Most importantly, she was alive.

I will spare you the photos of when Bowie is pulled out.  But here's her being held up, with the screen reading 6 lbs, 2 oz.  See that rainbow on the screen? 

I was busy sobbing, looking over at my daughter here.
Justin and I had narrowed our long list of names to two, and although I had declared my favorite a while ago, we really hadn't been talking much about it.  I teased him if she came out alive, he'd be so happy, he'd go with my favorite, but I figured we'd have a conversation.

Instead, I'm laying on the surgery table, while Justin is standing over his second daughter, holding her hand, and she is squeezing back when I hear Amanda ask him if Bowie has a name, and hear Justin reply, his voice full of tears, "Josephine Hope."

So I guess I was right.

The hospital staff decided to break a few rules for us -- like bringing Bowie to me, before they officially "tagged" her.  "There's no other babies in here!" I heard Amanda explain.

Getting sewn up, but I finally get to hold my third baby.  Justin is wearing my necklace of Lydie's handprint.

I plan to give her a million kisses.
They also let me continue to hold Bowie skin-to-skin as they wheeled my bed out of the operating room back to the laboring room.  Usually, babies have to be placed in the bassinet.  Another nurse said she wanted to see the baby and tried to peer into the empty bassinet in the hallway, when she realized I was still holding her.  "You didn't see anything!" Amanda told her.  She nodded, "I didn't see anything!"

That's relief on my face right there - and I think on Dr. B's too.  

Proud daddy and a really special nurse.
Just out of the oven.
Bowie, err Josephine, breastfed right away.  Phew.

I thought I had just survived my first birth without vomiting everywhere, until the nausea came full-force.  Nothing like dry-heaving with a completely empty stomach that was just cut open.  That and the amnio were the most painful parts of my day.  I kept one eye on my husband and daughter while I writhed in pain.

Worth it.

A million emotions, the biggest one relief.

On day 2 of Josephine's life, her Pop-Pop and Aunt Laura rushed to see her.

I've never seen my sister look so happy.  I think everyone is so relieved to have Josie here safe and sound.

I love my sister.  She brought a perfect balloon for each of my babies.  Elmo for Ben.  A star for Lydie.  And a baby girl balloon for Josie.

Dr. B came to see us and I withheld myself from asking her when we could go out for a celebratory beer.  

She made the suggestion that when Benji met Bowie, we should go pick her out in the nursery together.  And as much as I hated letting them wheel Josie away, that seemed like a really nice plan. 

We told Ben that Bowie came out and we were going to go pick her up together.  I told him he would know her by her rainbow blanket that I had been working on for weeks.  He ran through the hospital hallway, calling "Rainbow...  Bowie... where are you?"  He was so excited. 

Offering his little sister a cracker... you know he likes her when he wants to share his snacks!  

He then wanted to pull her bassinet through the hallway by himself.
My sister was surprised that I didn't leave out Ben's Big Brother shirt for my dad to dress him in.  I couldn't, I explained.  That would have been too much of a leap of faith that she would be born alive.  Besides, I bought that shirt to announce Lydie's pregnancy with.  Besides, he has already been a big brother, and even though he is a big brother again, I'm hesitant to send that message.

But still when Ben showed up wearing this shirt, I winced a bit. Not the best one for family photos.  Until I realized it said, "Game changer."

Actually it was perfect.

So excited to hold his littlest sister.  "My hold my baby!" big brother declares.

Lydie Bear had to be in there too.  

I couldn't have asked for a better first meeting between big brother and littlest sister.    Ben asked to hold "his baby," got excited when she squeezed his hand, and kissed her again and again.  We told him Bowie was coming home to live with us, and just like me, he seemed to be in disbelief.  "She come home?  She stay?"  I know, buddy.  Not all sisters live in the stars.

Milk cheers and a hospital bed picnic with my oldest.

We had a surprise visitor - Dr. F!  He drove over to St. Ann's after working at his own hospital.  He commented that he had never been up to this floor before.  He took Josephine's photo and texted it to our nurses and Dr. B.  He asked about her lungs, and I was happy to tell him she didn't need any interventions at birth!  Later, I was told by others such visits are not routine and we made a big impact on Dr. F.   One sonographer had commented that I really went "toe-to-toe" with him.  Thank you?

Amanda, upstairs to check on Lydie's sister.
I found myself surprisingly unemotional in the hospital.  I cried one afternoon having a good talk with my sister about Lydia and Josephine, and I felt like I needed that, but I couldn't quite keep up with the processing of all these emotions.  I talked about Lydie (as I usually do) with any of the hospital staff that would listen.  We had visits from our L&D nurses while in the recovery room with Bowie.  Christi, the person who last held Lydie, held Josie.  She kissed both my daughters.  We had a visit from the person who is helping us arrange the donation of the Cuddle Cot.  We talked about support for families with a stillborn baby, while I cuddled Josie.

But getting ready to go home, putting Josie in the carseat her sister never got to ride in, choked me up.  Thinking about leaving the hospital without Lydie, thinking of leaving the hospital with Josie.  Thinking of the past year of my life.

This should be the view of every mother who has just given birth as she leaves the hospital.

* I almost titled this entry "What it's like to deliver a live baby after you've delivered a dead baby."  But I didn't.  You're welcome.


  1. Wow this brings back so many feelings from Finley's arrival. I got teary at the birth plan. Because it's so freaking sad that THAT was your birth plan,but of course it is. That's all any of us could hope for - a baby with a heartbeat. I just love that your nurses took on extra shifts to be with you and there are so many connections from your girls' births. that's so very special and Lydia will impact them far in to their careers.

    Love the blanket you made and just love that you got to wrap your rainbow in it and bring her home. So thrilled for your family. xo

  2. It's such a lovely thing to feel like all of the hospital staff is supportive and celebrating with you. L&D nurses are amazing, but some of them are truly extra special. And the smiles on your faces--giddy with joy and relief! It's so freaking awesome, but sobering to remember that it is wonderful in part because of the sharp contrast with your previous experience. Oof. Heavy. I love Josephine's name, and I'm so glad she's here.

  3. I am so SO happy for you all! Brenda Swann

  4. I cried reading this. I am so incredibly moved you got to hear your daughter's screams. I am sure all those nurses will never forget Lydie or her family. She touched so many lives. I'm sure it was healing for them to to be part of the next chapter of your story. This sounds like such an enormous amount to process, I don't even think it's possible to really let it all sink in as it comes. I'm sure you'll be coming back to bits and pieces of this past week for a long long time. And this past year, forever. No one giving birth should have to go through the trauma of not bringing home a live baby. I am so grateful to Josephine Hope for bringing so much hope into the world with her arrival. And I'll always remember her big sister.

  5. Sitting in a pond of tears and snot. Your family's story continues to inspire and comfort me. Your honesty continues to give me confidence and courage. Thank you for sharing Lydie and Bowie with us. Love your beautiful family of 5. XO

  6. Heather, I'm SO happy for you. I loved reading this, because the emotions came flooding back of relief and happiness.

    The nurses + that doctor coming to see you is just incredible.

    I'm so grateful that she didn't need NICU time and that she came home in that carseat. Oh Heather. I'm so happy for you.

  7. Also, can I be totally vain and say your Dr. B is pretty much a hot doctor? Hah. And super young. Adorable. My OB doesn't look like that. Hahah.

    1. We are the same age... And I totally had a girl crush on her until Lydia died. Now? Like I said, I want to ask her to go out for a beer!

  8. So happy for your family!! I cannot wait to meet her when you visit work, or at least I hope you visit so I can meet her..Congrats again.

  9. I finally got around to reading this...And hi, TEARS.

    Like, ALL my memories came flooding back too. I am so relieved that everyone at the hospital was so wonderful. It makes things so much easier, doesn't it? (I didn't say EASY--just EASIER!) To know that they were and ARE all rooting for you? It's the best feeling.

    And I'm so relieved that Josie didn't need anything NICU. Obviously so relieved she came out screaming.

    Isn't it strange how sometimes the best birth experiences come after the worst? Maybe it's just that our expectations are realigned, but man. That rainbow...it meant everything to me that day Lena was born. We didn't even turn it on with Luke. So. Depressing.

    Anyway. I loved seeing all of these pictures, and I'm so so so so proud of you. This past year has been an absolute insanity ride, I know. But you made it. It'll never be over, but I think you made it through one of the HARDEST parts with grace.

    Huge, HUGE love. So proud of you.

  10. Happy tears. It's so amazing that Lydie's nurses were there for you again. Lydie was with you. Oh, and it's nice to see real smile on you. ❤

  11. Happy tears. It's so amazing that Lydie's nurses were there for you again. Lydie was with you. Oh, and it's nice to see real smile on you. ❤

  12. Happy tears. It's so amazing that Lydie's nurses were there for you again. Lydie was with you. Oh, and it's nice to see real smile on you. ❤

  13. Beautiful. Just beautiful. I am so grateful for the hope you continue to provide me throughout your journey.


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