"Early in the summer of 2014 my husband and I announced that we were expecting our third baby, due in January 2015. We were planning our first home birth and we were going to be "team green" and wait until the birth to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. During my first trimester I couldn't help but feel like something was different about this pregnancy. As I began the second trimester I grew concerned about not feeling any movement from the baby. I started to worry that something could be wrong. I began to ask "what if all of my friends who are due around the same time are bringing home babies and I'm not? What if my baby isn't okay?" Many friends assured me that they had also experienced pregnancies feeling very little movement from baby during the second trimester and everything had turned out fine. I was overthinking it and worrying too much. I tried to relax but I couldn't shake that nagging feeling. When we had our anatomy scan at 19 weeks there was confirmation that my worries weren't for nothing. The baby was not moving, and as the ultrasound technician poked at my belly to try to wake the baby nothing happened. The baby didn't move at all. The limbs were contracted against the body, and the foot that we could see was clubbed. The heart was beating strong, though. There were a few concerns, but the midwife I spoke with said that it could just be a lazy day for the baby. We were set up with an appointment to go to All Children's for a level 2 ultrasound. I had been there before during my second pregnancy when we had to go for a concern about spina bifida, but my son was fine and everything turned out well, so I hoped that it would turn out fine this time, too.
This time, though, it wasn't. We were told that our baby had contracted limbs (arthrogryposis) and clubbed feet, and there was fluid in the feet. One strong possibility was Trisomy 18. We decided to have the Panorama blood test to see what the chances were of it being a chromosomal abnormality. I was given the option of having an amniocentesis but declined because the risks involved felt like too much. The doctor told us that if our baby survived, he or she would most likely be wheelchair bound with little to no ability to control the bladder or bowels. I was asked if I would terminate under any circumstance and I said no. So we did the blood draw, made an appointment for a heart echo ultrasound, and would check on her again a few weeks later. I left with very few answers, a piece of paper with everything we had learned during the ultrasound written on it, and a whole lot of uncertainty. The heart echo ultrasound revealed that the baby's heart was perfect, and it gave me hope. I asked if the technician could try to see if the baby was a boy or a girl. With everything that was happening I just wanted something positive, I wanted to know who my baby was. It was hard to tell because of the position of the legs, but it appeared to be a little girl! I left the appointment feeling like there was hope after all. If the baby's heart was perfect she could survive this, right? We received the results of the panorama test that day, too, and it detected no chromosomal abnormalities and they were also able to tell me that the baby was definitely a girl! We were so hopeful, and we named her Jane Elizabeth. Jane was Cory's grandmother who had passed away before I met him and it happened to be her birthday that day, so Jane was a perfect fit. Elizabeth is my best friend's first name, so that was her middle name. I pulled out the box of clothes I had saved from my first daughter and and finally felt a little bit excited imagining this new baby wearing them. We went to the next ultrasound expecting no changes, we thought it was probably just the arthrogryposis and that we would be able to get treatment for it once she was born, but there was more bad news this time. The doctor said it would be best for my mom and the kids to wait in the waiting room and then she told us that the baby had developed full body hydrops fetalis. I was told that I could either wait it out or have a cesarean section that day. She said that if I chose the c-section they would try to drain the fluid from the baby's body and intubate her and try to save her but her chance of survival was basically zero. I would also have a vertical incision and was told that I would never birth naturally again.
I asked if it would be painful for the baby when they did everything she had described and she said it would be. I didn't want my baby to suffer only to die anyway. This was a very scary decision and not one that I could make right away. I believe it was a Thursday and we decided to make our next appointment for Monday so that we would have time to think about all of this new information. I had been in touch with some moms who had experienced similar pregnancies with their arthrogryposis babies and some of them who had waited it out had babies who survived. Maybe my baby could, too. During the weekend I asked friends what they would do. There was a mixture of different answers. My friend, Tailea, took maternity photos for me and had a fundraiser for us. I decided that if my baby was still alive at Monday's appointment I wanted to try everything to save my baby. I was ready to tell them that I wanted the c-section. We went to the appointment to find that we no longer had a choice. We were seeing another doctor that day in the same practice and he told us that the baby's lungs had not developed and she would not survive a c-section. Her heart rate was also a little slower than it had been previously, but it was still within normal range. It still worried me. We left the appointment devastated. A friend loaned me a fetal doppler so that I could listen to Jane's heartbeat, but I never found it. It was October 23rd and I was trying so hard to find her heartbeat with the doppler and growing frustrated, thinking that I just could not figure out how to use it. My friend Shannon contacted her friend Stephanie who owned baby waves mobile ultrasound. Stephanie came over and looked for a heartbeat but there wasn't one. There was no flicker. There was no blood flowing through the umbilical cord. It was over. We went in to confirm with our doctor and were told that we would get a call that night to come in for induction, but when I received the call that evening there were no beds available. I was distraught. I did not want to wait until the next day to go in, her body was going to change and I needed to see my baby as soon as possible.
I was given the suggestion that I could try going to another hospital and see if they would induce. So I went to the place that felt most familiar, Mease Countryside, where I had my first baby. After talking to the head nurse and the OB working that night and explaining that it was important to me to see my baby before her body changed too much, they agreed to let me stay.
I ended up in the best place I could have and it all really worked out for the best that I ended up there. They were so kind to me and never gave me a hard time about anything. All of the nurses were good to me and my family and friends. Induction started in the middle of the night. Several of my friends dropped everything and came to stay with me. Lauren came to be my doula and Tailea came to take photos. Friends came to help nurse Tailea's baby and bring toys and snacks for the kids. I was surrounded by friends and family. The environment was peaceful and I wasn't scared. I wasn't alone. We smiled and laughed and everyone kept my spirits up throughout labor. During the afternoon on October 24th I was exhausted. I was having contractions non stop and labor had really gotten going. This was harder than my first two labors and I needed to sleep, so I decided to get an epidural. I had never had an epidural before and it was scary to me, I'm not a fan of needles. Lauren supported me while the epidural was placed. I never felt a huge difference, the epidural didn't numb anything like I expected, and I still felt everything, but I did get some sleep finally. When I woke up that evening I was in transition. I had never experienced transition before and it was miserable. I wanted to get up into a better position to push and Lauren helped me move to where I wanted to be. I was nauseated and upset, I wanted the pain to stop, I wanted the baby out. The nurse decided to run and grab some anti nausea meds but after she left the room I felt the need to push. On the first push my water broke. I thought for a moment that the baby had come out and told Lauren to find her in the sheets but she assured me that I had not had the baby yet. My mom gathered the kids and took them to the waiting room as I felt the baby crowning. One more push and Jane was born, at 8:16pm, onto the bed. She was perfect and tiny and beautiful. She shares a birthday with my brother and great aunt. After she was born Cory left the room to tend to the other kids and the nurses and OB came into the room. I remember looking at the OB, Dr. Ira, and saying "I had my baby!" A nurse swaddled Jane and helped me get settled in the bed with her in my arms. I was not a fan of the pitocin that was given to help quickly birth the placenta. After that was finished and things settled a bit everyone started coming back into the room. Lauren took some pictures and Cory held Jane. Tailea arrived and took more pictures. We dressed Jane and took a footprint and took more pictures. I finally sent Lauren home, she was so tired after staying up with me the whole night before, and Ashlee came to stay with me overnight. Cory took the kids and went to spend the night with Tailea's family at the home of an acquaintance who lived in the area. I settled in to finally get some sleep while still holding baby Jane, and Ashlee took some pictures of me sleeping holding her. I am so glad to have those pictures.
In the morning Shannon was there and she was Jane's first and only babysitter while I took a shower, while Jane was in the little hospital bassinet. After visitors came and went we decided that it was time to call TJ from Cremations of Greater Tampa Bay to come and pick her up. Her body was changing quickly. TJ arrived around 7:30 and I said the hardest goodbye of my life. I couldn't leave the hospital without her, so she was leaving first. I think it was the first time I cried while I was there. I kissed her little perfect nose and placed her in the tiny box she would leave in, and then she was gone. I remember watching TJ from the top floor window as he took her to his vehicle in the parking lot and drove away. Then we were discharged and we went home. It was the hardest week of my life waiting to bring her ashes home. On Halloween we got her urn, a pink teddy bear, and on November 1st we had her beautiful memorial. Lauren's church even donated butterflies for a butterfly release at the memorial. One of the butterflies landed on Jane's urn bear and stayed for a while. This whole experience is one that I am grateful to have had, because it meant that I got to meet Jane. "You're worth all of the hurt my heart has been through and I'd do it all again to get to you."
"I remember you adjusting in bed and setting her in my hands so you could adjust and cradle her as you slept. I remember you asking me to turn a light on and instinctively covering her face from the light. That moment has stuck with me." -Ashlee
"When I drove out to the hospital to meet Brandi while she was in labor with Jane, I was nervous. I honestly expected the experience to be the complete opposite of what it was. There was no fear, no sadness, no anxiety in that room. There was only love. Brandi smiled throughout her labor, even when things got rough. She smiled while she held her sweet baby. She smiled through it all. Jane was and is the embodiment of pure love, and everyone that had the privilege of meeting her can attest to that. She is a gift to her parents, her siblings, and her community. She reminds us all that love is the most important thing in the world. I’m so grateful to have been able to meet her." -Tailea
The Rainbow After the Storm
In early January of 2015 we found out that we were expecting our fourth baby, our rainbow baby. We planned a home birth with Barefoot Birth and I was sent for a nuchal scan around 12 weeks just to make sure all was well this time around. The baby was healthy! We couldn't wait to find out this time if it was a boy or a girl, so Stephanie of baby waves came back over and we found out that we were having another girl! The pregnancy went very smoothly other than having spd pain again which I had during my second and third pregnancies as well. On September 12th of 2015 I woke up early in the morning with a very mild contraction and went to the bathroom to find that I had some bloody show. It was finally time, at 40 weeks and 3 days. My friends and I had been joking about how she was never coming out, but just like with my second baby who I swore was also never coming out, it started early in the morning the same exact way. I texted Lauren, my friend and Doula, to tell her it was happening today. I was going to have my baby by 8pm, I told her. We planned for her to head over around lunch time and I woke Cory and the kids and we went about our morning as the contractions continued.
I don't remember what time it was but at some point I texted Charlie and gave her a heads up that we were having a baby by 8. Around lunch time we met up with Lauren at the Sam's Club right down the road to walk and get the contractions going stronger. We ate, shopped, chatted, tried the food samples. Each time I had a contraction I told Lauren and she would put it in the contraction timing app. After a while I felt it was time to head back home, I needed to be in my nest. When we got back home we sat in the living room chatting and we realized that when I sat in one place the contractions were further apart, so Lauren encouraged me to take a walk around the neighborhood. We all put our shoes on and the kids and Cory, Lauren and I all went for a walk. We spotted a baby alligator in the pond and kept walking until I was having to stop walking during contractions. They were getting stronger. We went back inside, I was tired and ready for a break, and the contractions were getting close together, but not super strong. Same as my second birth, they never did get very painful.
Lauren finally said it was time to call Charlie. With how mild the contractions felt I probably never would have thought it was the right time to call her without Lauren there to convince me that it was time. She sent Charlie a screenshot of the contraction timing app and it was definitely time! Charlie and Jenn made their way over and I let my mom know to head over. I decided I was going to go lay down as everyone was arriving but not long after I settled in bed I needed to go to the bathroom. When I sat down on the toilet I was feeling "pushy" and the baby's head was close to crowning. I called out to everyone and they came to check on me. Jenn helped me over to the bed and I got into the comfortable hands and knees position to push. I wanted my back and behind covered and we all laughed as Charlie put a chucks pad over me and named it the splash guard. I was laughing through contractions. I started to push and pushing is my least favorite part of giving birth. I don't remember exactly what I said but it was something about wanting this baby out and Lauren said "well then push!" and I was laughing again. My water broke as the baby's head was crowning and then after some good pushes her head was born! Charlie slipped the cord off of her neck and another good push and she was here! Born at 7:36, at home, weighing 6lbs 3oz. I was right, we had a baby by 8pm! I heard her cry before I turned around to see her, it was the most beautiful cry. My rainbow baby was here! Magdalena Rose. Charlie lifted her into my arms and I held her, she was so perfect. It was such a blur and so fast that I don't even remember whether I had the placenta first or nursed her first.
After some bonding time we took some pictures of her with the placenta before we tied the cord with our beautiful rainbow cord tie and then Cory cut the cord while our then 4 and 2 year old children watched. Darla, our oldest, had been picturing an actual rainbow colored baby when we said rainbow baby, and when she saw Magdalena she said "she's not rainbow colors!" as if we had lied to her and she turned and walked out of the room! It was hilarious! After the newborn exam and wrapping everything up, Charlie and Jenn did some clean up and threw some sheets into the wash before packing up to head out. After everyone headed out I was ready for some rest with my new rainbow baby. Time has flown and she is turning one! I couldn't imagine life without her, she's so special."