K's Pregnancy & Birth Story: Part 2 (The Rainbow Baby)

If you missed Part 1 of this story, go read it here.

When we left off , I was just shy of eight weeks pregnant. Aside from going back and forth being scared out of my mind that something was going to go wrong with my baby and comforted that God did a crazy miracle to have him be okay - and therefore he was probably going to see it through to the end- right? I think. I hope. Anyway, things were pretty normal until we got to about 32 weeks...

PUPPPS (say it like "pups")

No, not small dogs. PUPPPS is a condition that happens in .5% - .25% of pregnancies where you essentially become allergic to being pregnant. It started as a couple itchy spots on my wrists and upper arms and thighs. It eventually spread to my belly and hips. It is VERY itchy and VERY uncomfortable. You also look like you've been attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes - or at least I did. The only cure for PUPPPS is to have your baby. Bennadryl and steroid cream help a bit but you're generally rashy and itchy and just kind of uncomfortable until the baby arrives.  (read more about PUPPS here)

34 Weeks
My blood pressure - which is normally very good - had gone up. I'd also started getting dizzy spells where the whole room felt like it was spinning even if I was sitting or laying still. Between that and some swelling in my hands and ankles (I didn't tell you the part about how I had to get my wedding ring cut off at around 27 weeks. It was traumatic) made my doctor concerned about preecclampsia (something that happens to about 2% of pregnant women). I got put on a half time work schedule to see if the ability to work less and rest more would help.

35 Weeks
The good news was that the reduced work hours seemed to get my blood pressure and most of the dizziness under control. I went in for a check up at 35 weeks and my doctor wanted to do a Strep B culture and asked if she should check my cervix while she was down there.

I was a full month away from my due date so fully expected there to be nothing happening but said Sure, why not? As she's checking me, she tells me that the baby's dropped. This didn't really surprise me too much since one of the women I worked with had commented on how bad I'd been waddling and also because that week, I'd started needing to pee every 30-60 minutes. 

Then she stops and goes Holy cow!

Me: What?

Doctor: Wow

Me: Um, so am I dilated?

Doctor: Yeah! You're already 4 centimeters dilated and like 70% effaced.

Me: What? Seriously?

Doctor: Yeah. That's really unusual for 35 weeks.

She then said that the good thing about it is that if I'm already this dilated that is usually a sign that labor will go pretty quickly and if my water breaks or I start having rhythmic contractions, I need to just head to the hospital because the baby might come pretty fast. She also said I was at the point where I could really go into labor at any moment and she would be really surprised if I made it any more than 2 weeks without having the baby.

This was, of course, a bit overwhelming. I'd had a weird feeling for most of my pregnancy that the baby might come early but not that early. I figured I had at least 4 weeks left. Or 6 if I was wrong about the early part.

We didn't even have the nursery set up all the way but luckily that day we'd planned to go to a big JBF consignment sale that day after our appointment and took the chance to stock up on everything we still needed.

36 Weeks

Day 1, Monday: Nothing significant. Worked a half day. Spent some time setting up the nursery

Day 2, Tuesday: Worked a half day. Nothing strange.

Day 3, Wednesday: I started having some contractions while I was at youth group (I was an assistant youth pastor at the time). They were anywhere from 4-16 minutes apart and lasted anywhere from 30-45 seconds. They lasted for about two hours -through the end of youth group, through my drive home and for a while after being home. When I got up to go to bed they stopped. They weren't painful so especially since they were erratic I figured they were just braxton hicks.

Day 4, Thursday: I started contracting again that morning. Sometimes they were as close as 2 minutes apart but they didn't hurt so figured it was more false labor. I had a doctor's appointment and ultrasound that morning before work.

The ultrasound showed that his head was super engaged. They took some measurements to estimate his size based on his femur length, abdominal circumference and head circumference. His femur was a normal length for 36 weeks gestation, but his abdomen and head were measuring as normal for between 40 - 41 weeks! His estimated weight was 8 pounds, 6 ounces - at 36 weeks! That puts him in the 98th percentile for how far along I was. 

Cervix check showed I was 4.5cm dilated and 90% effaced. My doctor noted that I was pretty puffy looking and my blood pressure was also reading high so said to take it easy over the weekend and come in for another check up on Monday when I would be full term at 37 weeks. If my blood pressure was still high we might have a discussion about induction.

Normally, I'm pretty strongly of the opinion that babies come out when they are done baking and I'd rather just leave mine be until he came out on his own. BUT in light of how miserable I'd become (large painful/itchy rash covering about 1/5 of my body, carpel tunnel, extreme swelling) I was getting pretty desperate to get him out as soon as I could do so safely. The nice thing about his head being engaged and me already being 4.5 cm dilated and 90% effaced is that he was showing good signs of being ready so if we chose an induction, it would hopefully go a lot more quickly than someone who might come in who has shown no progress at all.

Day 5, Friday: Worked a half day. Felt like the baby really might come any day so wrote up a guide to where I was at with all my projects and told the two pastors I worked with that I'd see them on Monday unless I had a baby.

Day 6, Saturday: We had our final maternity orientation class at the hospital. While I was there, I started feeling woozy and nauseous. On top of feeling like I looked puffier that day than I had a couple days prior PLUS knowing my doctor is watching me for preeclampsia, Husband and I decided since we were at the hospital we should have my blood pressure checked then we'd know if we needed to worry or call my doctor about it.

The nurses on the maternity floor, however, said they are not allowed to touch me to do so much as check my blood pressure unless I actually check myself in as a patient. To be on the safe side, we decided to stay and let them do a regular triage exam to make sure the baby and I were okay. They hooked me up to a fetal heartbeat monitor and a contraction monitor for about an hour. Luckily my blood pressure was normal and although I had trace amounts of protein in my urine (another sign of preeclampsia) it wasn't enough to be worried about. They sent me home and told me to take it easy until I saw my doctor on Monday.

That night I told Husband that if I had to be pregnant for one more day I thought I would die. Could we please PLEASE try some natural labor induction techniques? PLEASE? He said no and that he wasn't touching me until I got to 37 weeks because he was worried about bad things happening to the baby if I went into labor too soon.

The next day was Mother's Day and we had plans to go to the beach with my cousin and step mom. That night before going to bed I had about 2 hours of fairly regular but non-painful contractions that we were trying to decide if they were real labor or not. About an hour in, I called my step mom to tell her I didn't think I should go to the beach because we were trying to decide if I was in labor or not and even if I wasn't then, I didn't want to go into labor at the beach - which was almost 2 hours from the hospital I planned to deliver at. 

36 weeks, 6 days: Mother's Day

I got up SO MANY TIMES overnight because I kept feeling like I was leaking something. When you have the history I do, whenever you feel like you are leaking something you always think "oh crap, I hope I'm not bleeding." Thankfully no blood but I started to wonder if maybe my amniotic fluid was leaking.

By the time I got up in the morning, my husband had already been up and left for church (we'd decided it was best for him to go by himself and for me to stay home and rest). At 9am, I got out of bed and went downstairs. I sat on the couch, opened my laptop and pulled up Google. I typed in "What does amniotic fluid look like?" and as the results were loading POP! A huge gush of fluid came out. Luckily I stood up before any of it got on the couch!

I waddled my way to the bathroom to clean myself up. I called my husband who had just arrived at church and told him my water broke so to please come home. I called my step mom to say I really wasn't going to the beach and I'd let her know once we left for the hospital. I also made arrangements for my cousin (who was living with my dad and step mom at the time) to come over to take care of my dogs while we were at the hospital.

I wasn't having any contractions so I didn't feel like I was in much of a hurry and started cleaning up. I put my pants in the washer and started tidying my house for my cousin who'd be coming over with her 9 month old daughter to dogsit. I changed the sheets on my bed, I made sure there were sheets in the crib in case she needed to put her daughter down in it, I vacuumed the floor. Somewhere in the midst of my cleaning, Husband came home and started helping me get the house ready.

As we were cleaning our bedroom, I started having some contractions. On about contraction number three I had to stop and told him we should probably stop messing around at home and go to the hospital like my doctor had advised.

Thrown into the deep end of the pool

My pain management plan prior to actually having contractions had been to see if I could just make it through - at least to the pushing phase - without medication. I mean, I was already about half way there! The maternity orientation class at the hospital had some exercises we could try with a tennis ball for pain relief and we practiced breathing through 60 second contractions. 

Nobody told me I might get thrown into the deep end of the pool!

Instead of the nice, gradual, build up to neatly spaced, 60 second long contractions they'd described in class - I went from contraction number three and thinking "oh, that didn't feel great" to 90 second long contractions that were coming in waves on top of each other in the course of the 35 minute drive from our home to the hospital.

I was SO not prepared for that even being a possibility and the tennis ball wasn't really helping either. 

By the time we got me checked into the hospital and settled, my dad, step mom and sister had all arrived. We had the laptop up and playing soothing music but neither that nor the tennis ball were doing any good. My sister had an epidural for her first birth and an emergency C-section for for her second, my step mom had never birthed a baby and my dad and husband just looked worried about me. All that to say: nobody really knew what to do, I needed help and I felt like I was out of options so we asked for the epidural.

Um, I can feel my feet

After the epidural I felt a ton better. My husband noticed, though, from watching the contraction monitor that the epidural had pretty much stopped by rapidly progressing labor. My doctor was away for the weekend (it happened to be her birthday weekend!) so I had the on call doctor and she decided we should supplement with pitocin to get things going again. Since I couldn't feel my contractions any more, I was okay with that. 

A few hours later, I'd progressed to 9cm dilated. About the point the nurse told me that, I noticed I could really feel my feet - like I thought that if I wanted to I might even be able to walk. I told her that and she said it was fine because they want to epidural to wear off at least a little before I push so I can feel my muscles. She said to just hang in there and it would probably be time to push in about an hour.

When she came back in an hour later to check me, I hadn't made any progress. She told me that I was close but I looked tense and really just needed to relax so that I could dilate the final centimeter. I told her, it felt like the baby was going to come out and I had to hold him in (which is what I'd spent the last hour concentrating on doing)- if I relaxed I was convinced he'd just fall out! At that point, she agreed to increase the dose of medicine in my epidural so I could at least relax (she assured me that my baby wasn't just going to fall out). 

An hour later, she said there was just a lip left and to keep hanging in there and she'd get the doctor so I could get ready to push.

In 30 minutes you'll have a baby!

Once the doctor and the "catching team" was assembled, a cervix check showed that the lip was still there but the nurse was able to push it out of the way. My step mom and sister were on either side of me holding my legs for me and I asked if they could turn the epidural back up since I could REALLY feel my feet again.

Once again they insisted that I would be fine and they wanted me to have some feeling. No really I said. I think I could stand up. They insisted that was silly and let's get on with this pushing business. My sister looked at me with a big smile and said Alright, Carissa, it's time. You can do this. In 30 minutes you'll have a baby

If you know much about pushing out babies, you might know that the average first time mom pushes for two hours - not 30 minutes. You could see the nurses and doctor getting uncomfortable when my sister said this and tried to point out that as gently as they could that it doesn't exactly work that way. My sister and I didn't say anything (why start a fight?) but we both knew that she and our mother had each spent only 30 minutes or less pushing out their vaginally delivered babies so good genes were on my side.

I had a nurse positioned at the end of my bed telling me to push into her hand - and so I started pushing. After only 2-3 pushes I started getting lots of encouragement coming from the birth team - they could see the baby. He was almost here! Keep going! Just a few more.

I was convinced they were all lying. And I  told them so.

First because I was in a LOT of pain. Despite having the epidural in, I felt like I was trying to poop out a bowling ball. Second, because I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere in the way of progress. Third because I was sure that there was no way I had made any progress with only 3 pushes and that everyone was just being fake positive to keep me going.

They insisted that no, really, they weren't lying and offered to bring over a mirror. However, when I looked in the mirror all I could see was that it looked like my butt had turned inside out! I remember being so distressed about my poor butt that I missed the fact that there was the top of a little hairy head making it's way out, too!

The pushing continued and I started pushing off my step mom and sister's hands to get some leverage to get the baby out. This, however, freaked out the doctor who started asking nurses how and why I was picking up my butt out of the bed while pushing. The nurses re-did how they were holding my legs - which now felt super ineffective but I was so focused on just getting the painful part over with and the baby out of me that I didn't have any extra energy to argue with them about effective birthing posture.

A few more pushes, a few determined shouts of get him out of me! and he was here! All 10pounds and 5ounces of him! And in just 30 minutes.

I held him for a little while - it felt like only ten minutes, though, it may have been longer and people started trying to take him away from me. I kept telling them to no, really, leave me alone. After telling people to go away for a while, my husband finally came over and said They have to weigh and measure him. You really need to let go of him for a bit but I'll stay with him and I'll bring him right back.

I explained to my husband that the sharp needle the doctor was poking me with to put in stitches where I tore hurt really bad and holding the baby was distracting me from that so to please leave me be until he was done.

At this the doctor perked up. You can feel this?


He messed with a control and gave it a couple minutes. How about now?

Yup. Still feeling it.

We went back and forth like this for a while until I could finally NOT feeling him stabbing me with the needle. Based on how much he had to turn up the epidural so I couldn't feel him putting the stitches in, he said that my epidural was only operating at about 20% - which would be the equivalent to natural birth of a normal sized baby.

Recovery - or not

After we got my pain management under control again so the doctor could resume stitching me up, a nurse and Husband took K for his newborn assessment, bath, vitamin K shot, etc. Everything looked great with him - he was just HUGE. Oh? And because he missed the cut off for being full term by 4 hours (he was born at 8pm the day before I'd be considered 37 weeks) - they insisted he was a preemie.

An hour later I was supposed to be up, moving around and peeing on my own. A nurse took me into the bathroom, I sat down and nothing came out. I just hurt. It turned out I was so swollen from the trauma of pushing out a 10 pound baby in 30 minutes that my urethra was swollen shut. She took me back to bed and upon further examination saw that I'd developed a hematoma - just trust me and don't Google it. I'm sorry I did. A hematoma is essentially a blood blister and I'd developed a golf ball sized one on one of my labia. 

Since I seem to specialize in "really uncommon" (this happens at only about 1 in 1500 vaginal births) none of the nurses had actually seen this or knew what it was. So they kept getting older nurses to come in and look at it - hoping they'd find someone who'd been a nurse for long enough that they'd seen this before and would know what to do. After finally tracking down the oldest nurse who'd been working in labor and delivery the longest - and still not knowing what was going on, they called the doctor and asked him to come back to the hospital to look at me.

When he got there, he said he'd seen it and knew what it was and decided to leave it alone and see if it would go down on its own with ice and rest (the other treatment option was the lance, drain and pack it). With that, he went home and the three of us got settled into a room for the night.

Our little glowbug

After resting for about 24 hours, my recovery got back on track with a pretty standard postpartum time frame. K, though, had elevated billirubin levels (elevated billirubin is what happens when you are jaundiced) and had to have a little glow mat skin to skin on his back at all times - which made it hard to go anywhere with him since he was tethered to the light machine.

After two days on the glow mat, his levels were actually climbing instead of going down so they decided they needed to pull out the big guns and move him to the NICU to keep him under the big lights. I took the initial news ok but as soon as the nurse was out of the room I starting crying. I didn't want them taking my little baby away to the NICU where I'd have limited contact with him. I think the nurses felt bad for me so they had a meeting and decided that since there wasn't anything else going wrong with K, that they could bring the machine upstairs to the pediatric wing of the hospital and move us over there.

Luckily, after a full day and an overnight under some space agey lights, both he and I were cleared to go home.
Look at his cheeks! And I look exhausted and puffy but that cleared up after a week or so (at least the puffy part did!)

The rainbow baby

So that's our journey. A baby born after a lost baby is called a rainbow baby. After losing four of his siblings before him, K is our quadruple rainbow baby. The fact that he was born on Mother's Day just made the celebration that much sweeter. 

Knowing what I know now, there are a few things we'd do differently (and are planning to do differently with his brother who is set to arrive anywhere from 3-6 weeks from now) - but we'll talk about that later. Thanks so much for joining us on our journey through the pregnancy and birth of our sweet little K!

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  1. You are AMAZING Carissa. Holy mackeral. And your boy is truly a wonderful miracle! This world would be a sad place without his sweet self!

  2. Loved reading this again! Beautiful birth story; Hod is good. ❤️

  3. Loved reading this blog, part 1 and 2. Beautiful birth story! God is good.


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