Rainbow Baby Birth Story- I could Have Died

I wish the title to this blog was clickbait. I couldn’t have made this up if I tried. I would normally complain and say “why me?” but you know what, instead I want to say Thank You. Thank you to Silver Rose, my angel in heaven. Or should I say my guardian angel. I couldn’t be more grateful that I had my precious little girl up there looking down and watching over me. Naturally I wish she was here but I could have died, I am lucky that there is someone looking out and keeping me safe.

The Lead Up

Before I go into the gory details of why I could have died I was hoping to go in chronological order and first tell you why I even had a caesarean, or as I like to call it, a belly birth! I was so desperate for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean)in this pregnancy. I wanted that sense of accomplishment when I birthed a baby myself. I wanted the pool birth I missed out on with Beau’s birth by minutes and with Silver’s birth due to the circumstances requiring a belly birth to ensure she was born alive. Unfortunately for whatever reason, which is still unknow, Leilani’s growth had started to tail off and she had dropped from the 50th percentile, to the 10th and then to around the 1st.

My consultant was unavailable the day we had the last growth scan however she had asked a trusted colleague to review. I was expecting him to say I needed to deliver that day, a repeat of history, just like Silver’s birth. Instead he suggested it was important to deliver at 37 weeks (I was 36 weeks at the time). I was still given the option of induced VBAC or a repeat belly birth. He explained that due to Leilani’s size plus delivering early that she may struggled with a VBAC and also that I was still at risk due to my scar. I can’t say I wasn’t a bit in shock but we realised the decision was easy to make. Just as we did with Silver we knew we had to do what was best for Leilani. We also realised that emotionally it was likely neither of us would cope very well with an emergency belly birth if the VBAC failed and that it could become quite traumatic.

It’s a strange thing to have a planned belly birth. Knowing exactly when your baby will be born was a bizarre experience. I never got to truly experience full blown natural nesting this pregnancy like I did with Beau when I gutted the kitchen during the night. Instead I ended up nesting through necessity. I have to say though, it was also kind of reassuring at the same time to know when she was coming meaning we could mentally prepare instead of living in a what if state of mind for weeks as we wait for her to decide when to arrive.

Isn’t it strange how sometimes we know things before they happen? Like you know when your phone is going to ring before it does. Well Fabian really hated me for this as he has issues with death and doesn’t cope well with it but I kept teasing him and joking about my surgery for the days leading up to her birth. I think it was my way of coping with my own nerves but I kept saying he had to be nice to me because I might die. I even got him to cook my favourite meal the night before and compared it to a death row inmates last meal. That part wasn’t to tease him though, I honestly did worry in case I died during surgery and really wanted to make sure my last day and last meal was a joyous occasion!

For our last day I really wanted to focus on Beau, his last day as an only sibling plus I knew I would be staying in hospital for a least a couple of days. Initially we had planned to go for a walk but due to weather we instead opted for baking cookies together and I felt truly happy having that special time with Beau before finalising packing and tidying up the house.

The Big Day

In theory you’d think with the birth being planned in advance that the morning of the birth we would be pretty well organized and prepared. If you thought that then you don’t know me very well. Seriously, we are the most disorganized people ever, I blame being a parent but I wouldn’t say we were great even before Beau. Naturally there was a few items that we had to pack last minute but it still ended up being a mad panic and rush. Before we knew it, time was ticking and we were rushing out into the dark cold morning to get into the car. All I can say is thank god for heated seats!

We arrived at the hospital and Fabian dropped me and my mum off at the entrance with most of the bags so we could make our way up to the ward while he parked the car. I guess its good in a way that I didn’t have time to think or get nervous. I do regret that I never got a last “bump pic” outside the hospital though.

Once Fabian re-joined us in our private little room he helped me get my stockings on which are meant to prevent DVT. The surgeon then came into the room to say hello and check in on us. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that they had arranged the surgeon to be a familiar consultant, especially since she was so friendly and put my mind at ease. She then proceeded to cover every possible vein with EMLA cream for me, numbing my skin ready for wherever the anaesthetist decided to insert the cannula I would require for surgery. I then wouldn’t bend my arms which everyone found comical as I walked around like an Egyptian mummy!

EMLA cream pre surgery

Talking about the anaesthetist, well let’s just say I’ve never met such a happy go lucky, effervescent character. He came in to introduce himself and go over the important details but it was literally one pun after another and we couldn’t stop laughing. If only all medical professionals had the same bed side manner as him and perhaps people wouldn’t be so reluctant to seek medical help when they need it. The best part of meeting him was that he kept saying how we were just going to have some fun today, he was so nonchalant about the fact I was about to have needles poked into my spine before having major surgery and meeting our little Leilani.

When the time finally came to walk to theatre, I don’t think Fabian nor myself could quite believe the time had come. The predominant emotions were excitement, nerves and an almost disconnect with reality. It’s strange to walk through the labour ward knowing I wouldn’t be going into a delivery room and would never feel a single contraction. Walking into the theatre with Fabian and my allocated midwife (who just so happened to also be our bereavement midwife we had been seeing) was a nerve wracking moment, my fears suddenly becoming apparent.

Despite having a wonderful team of familiar faces looking after me I had to try very hard to focus on my hypnobirthing breathing techniques to keep calm. In this moment I wasn’t actually nervous of meeting Leilani nor did I have any fears she wouldn’t survive which was a surprise considering what we have been through. Instead my anxieties surrounded the needles I would soon have perforating my skin.

They first inserted the cannula which actually wasn’t painful due to the EMLA cream and I managed to do that with the emotional support of the anaesthetist’s assistant who was a very lovely, kind lady. I did however get much more flustered with the spinal. Thankfully Fabian came around and held my hand, encouraging me to do my hypnobirthing breathing techniques. I did still find it a little stressful as the anaesthetist and his assistant were both trying to talk to me at the same time whilst trying to put a needle in my spine!

It is not exactly a pleasant experience as you feel it going in. I’m not sure if I actually felt the spinal go in or just the local anaesthetic they put in your spine first. My favourite part however was the “heated seat” feeling. Before doing the spinal the anaesthetist asked if we had heated seats in the car, to which I replied yes. It turns out you know the spinal is working when quite soon after the injection has gone in, your bum goes really warm as if you were sat on a heated seat! You then need to lie down pretty quickly because it certainly doesn’t take long for your body to start going numb.

Once laid down they waited and gave plenty of time for the spinal to be fully functioning and checked it was working by using cold spray on my tummy and asking if I could feel it. I was a little nervous in case they didn’t give it enough time for it to work but thankfully that was not the case. They were very relaxed in theatre and nothing was rushed, making for a much more comfortable experience.

me and fabian in surgery - rainbow birth c section

Most mums are guilty of watching One Born Every Minute, usually scaring themselves silly of the beautiful process of giving birth. From watching one born I have gathered some knowledge about birth I perhaps wouldn’t have known otherwise. For example, with a belly birth the baby is often born within the first ten minutes from incision, the second half of the surgery usually lasts a lot longer as they put you back together. This is when I realised something was wrong during our surgery.

They had told me they had begun the surgery and the anaesthetist explained how when I hear a slurping sound it means I will soon be meeting my baby. Being so relaxed both me and Fabian were happily talking away with the anaesthetist, it will forever stick in my mind him telling me about his pet turtles! The thing is, I started to realise it was taking a lot longer than expected and there was still no baby. I can’t remember if it was before or after we asked the anaesthetist but at some point we heard the words “rupture” mentioned and the second consultant had also come in to assist who had said she wouldn’t come in unless necessary as to not add an additional face to the mix.

I had got Fabian to ask the anaesthetist if everything was okay with it taking so long, he peeked over the screen and reassured us all was good. I’m not sure if he was being honest and thought all was okay or he just didn’t want me to worry when despite it going wrong it was being managed and under control. Not long after this he pointed out the slurping noise and announced that Leilani would soon be here.

She Was Finally Here!

The moment was finally here. Beau was six months old when we first started trying for a sibling for him and it took six months to conceive Silver. Of course, Silver will always be his first sister but now the time had come to meet a baby we knew would be healthy and coming home with us. I had been so apprehensive, desperate to know what she looked like, hoping that putting a face to the name would help me bond. Yet I was also so scared of meeting this innocent being and feeling I was not good enough for her. I wanted Leilani to come into a world where she felt loved and important. I was fearful of the emotional turmoil of finally meeting her and exactly how I would cope. I knew I would cry and be overwhelmed but I also wanted the day to be about Leilani and not focussed on Silver and our grief.

As they were bringing her out the anaesthetist quickly lowered the screen and before I knew it she was on my chest. It was an overwhelming emotional experience. My initial thoughts were shock at just how small she was. I know that should have been expected but it was still a shock and that is what set the tears off. She was so much like Silver in terms of size and I didn’t know how to feel about that. I was overjoyed and heartbroken simultaneously.

first meeting with leilani rainbow baby

I was of course also in complete shock to actually have a living baby on my chest. She was warm and moist, still covered in blood and surprisingly alert. I’m pretty sure Fabian cried too as he wrapped his arms around my head and we had this precious moment together as we finally welcomed our little girl into our life, into our family. Our lovely midwife politely asked if she could stand next to us and wrap Leilani in a towel to keep her warm. I really appreciated that she knew from my birth plan I didn’t want them wiping Leilani down and I didn’t want her being taken away from me. As soon as she was wrapped up she was placed back on my chest.

Fabian had to help me by holding Leilani on my chest as she had a tendency of trying to roll forward. I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t feel a little claustrophobic as I tried to look down at her in such close proximity behind the screen but I absolutely loved these precious moments of being able to spend the time looking at her and trying to memorise her features. We both kept laughing at the funny faces she was pulling, especially when she would go cross eyed, something Silver also did a lot and we couldn’t help but laugh at her too.

c section cuddles rainbow baby

Eventually after a long wait it was time to get me onto my recovery bed, so Fabian took Leilani for skin to skin. I thought it was nice that the people moving me to the bed put up a cover as they knew how discombobulating it is to see your legs moving and being bent etc. and yet you can’t feel a thing and if you weren’t aware you would think they were still laid flat. I can confirm this happened when I had delivered Silver and was the strangest thing to look down at my bent legs which I was unaware had even been touch let alone moved.

I was then wheeled into the room next door. A much different experience compared to Newcastle. Scarborough hospital is much smaller and I had a recovery room all to myself this time instead of being in a bed behind a curtain in a large recovery ward in Newcastle. Of course, the best part of this recovery was to actually have a baby stay with me. Originally SCBU wanted to admit Leilani due to her size but I am so thankful for my midwife fighting my corner so they would agree for her to stay with me in the ward under their care.

new born cuddles - skin to skin - rainbow birth

The consultant who had performed the surgery came to speak to me in recover and explained how thankful she was that we had opted for the belly birth. When they had opened me up they discovered my previous scar from Silver’s birth had in fact began to rupture and Leilani’s waters had filled the space, preventing me haemorrhaging and internally bleeding to death basically! She explained that they did not need to remove my womb and had managed to stitch it all back up after delivery. She did also explain that should I wish to have more children she would strongly advise a planned belly birth at 39 weeks and to wait at least two years.

This was of course a shock but not a complete surprise. I had got pregnant very soon after Silver’s birth which obviously and undoubtedly stretched and strained a very fresh scar. I had also noticed a very sharp uncomfortable pain a few days earlier at my last reassurance scan when the sonographer passed over my scar, something that had not happened at any other scan during the pregnancy (and trust me, I had a lot!). It has naturally given myself and all my family a fresh perspective on the fragility of life and a grateful feeling all round with a sense that Silver was somehow looking out for me.

It was a blissful and special time in the recovery room. Leilani had her first breastfeed, with a little of my expressed colostrum for energy and encouragement to feed. We spent so much time just studying her face and looking upon her in total awe, both enjoying cuddles and skin to skin. Eventually we did decide to dress her to keep her warm and she was just such a dinky dot! This in turn became her nickname as she was just so small it was everyone’s immediate comment when they met her. I can’t tell you how good it was in recovery to finally eat a meal, not only after fasting but also after three months of a very restricted diet due to gestational diabetes!

The day Leilani was born felt like true bliss and we experienced a unique version of happiness only a parent will recognise and relate to, something we have been lucky enough to experience three times now. Even loss parent’s will no doubt agree that meeting your child for the first time is still such a special experience, no matter how joyous or tragic the circumstance. It is such a rush of emotions to meet your new born baby, even more so when you’ve been dreaming of that moment for so long. I honestly wish I could feel those emotions every day, a true sense of everything being perfect and an unfounded hope for the future. We feel overwhelmed with joy and still feel the need to pinch ourselves when we look at her six weeks on, not quite able to believe how lucky we are.

I want to send out baby dust and love to all the grieving parents out there that are still waiting for their rainbow. It is a nerve-wracking journey to embark on. My advice is don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re replacing your angel and don’t allow anyone to tell you when they think it is the right time. The decision of when you try is truly yours and your partners and must be when you both feel emotionally ready. I feel happy that we did it at the right time for us and can’t express enough just how happy we are to finally have a little girl in our arms, with daddy wrapped around her little finger!

The postnatal recovery update will be in a future blog so don’t forget to follow the blog and our social media accounts! For more pics and to find out how much our Dinky Dot weighed head on over to my Introducing Leilani Nevaeh blog post, it’s a super short one with loads of cute baby pics!

Until next time,

Holly x