Rachel's Birth Story

As with every story, ours has a beginning even if the beginning isn't where we thought it would be.

We had two miscarriages in the course of a year of trying for a baby and when I found out I was pregnant again in March of 2009, I was excited but cautious. Why get attached to a baby who may not make it? But the weeks rolled on. I had morning sickness the whole first trimester and it was horrible! I never thought that peanut butter or the smell of vanilla would make me throw up but sure enough they did. I even lost weight.

The second trimester was great by pregnancy standards. I gained weight and got round. We both could feel her move and kick in my tummy. We had an ultrasound done at 18 weeks for an anatomy screening and to find out who was being born. To our delight, we were having a girl. The anatomy screening showed nothing to be concerned about. We were finally able to relax and believe that this pregnancy, this little girl, would be ok. We were finally able to name her, decorate the nursery and dream about her.

At my 26 week appointment, the doctor told me I was "measuring big but it's nothing to be concerned about." The same thing happened at my 28 week appointment. "If you are still measuring big at your next appointment," said the doctor, "we will do an ultrasound to find out what is going on."

I never made it to that next appointment. And this is where I believe our story actually begins.
On Sunday, September 13, 2009, I went for a walk with our dogs and my neighbor. She is also pregnant and expecting a boy. We talked about everything that is needed for a baby and when we got back to our homes, I even showed her the things that we had ready for our little girl. After she left, I noticed that the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been feeling over the last couple of weeks were very constant and when I went to the bathroom there was some blood. I called my doctor and was told to rest and see if the contractions went away on their own. They didn't. I drove myself the 15 minutes to the hospital and the whole time praying in my head, pleading with God, crying to our baby, "please don't die, please stay with me."

Stephen left work and met me at the hospital. It took three shots of drugs to calm down my contractions. They did an exam and tried to see if my water had broken. They couldn't tell. I was admitted to the hospital antenatal area, a place where they try to stop your labor, and a sonogram was arranged for the next day.

Usually sonograms are fun and we look forward to them. This one was different. We were told our little girl, our perfect little girl who kicked and punched in my belly, had markers for Down syndrome. Down syndrome! Never in a million years had we expected to hear those words. It was so hard to listen to the doctor tell us about our baby's shorter limbs and stomach problems. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. Stephen and I held each other and cried.

On Wednesday, the 16th, I had an amniocentesis done. This was to confirm that our baby had Down syndrome. On Thursday, my 30 week mark, we received the call. "Yes," said the specialist over the phone to Stephen, "it is positive, your baby has Down syndrome." I was laying in the bed watching Stephen's face when she said those words. I will never forget how his face crumpled as he heard them. We talked and cried some more. Our doctor was still positive that my water had not broken and that I would be able to go home on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. I wasn't ready to go home. I felt that there was still something wrong and I asked my doctor if I could stay at the hospital for the weekend. She agreed I could.

Thursday night, the 17th, I could tell things were changing. I had fluid leaking and I told the nurse that either I had lost complete control over my bladder or my water was indeed broken. The tests came back negative again. Friday, it increased and my doctor came in and did another exam. Finally the tests confirmed what I knew, my water was leaking. I was staying at the hospital until our baby was born. My doctor was aiming for 34 weeks. Our baby had different plans.

I started having regularly spaced contractions. At first they didn't hurt but as the day wore on, they became very painful and very close together. The doctor was able to see that I was 4-5 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced. I was admitted to Labor and Delivery and after a week of contractions, I gave in and got an epidural. We settled in for the night and my doctor checked me again. This time I was 6 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. Our doctor wanted to wait until morning to see what happened.

Saturday, the 19th, I woke up and my doctor came to visit. She said my contractions had slowed down and she would be in later to check me again. If I hadn't changed, I would be sent back to antenatal to try and keep our baby in longer. About an hour later I realized that I couldn't hear her heartbeat on the monitor. I asked Stephen to check it to see if it was there. Her heartbeat was at 70 beats per minute...it should have been between 120 and 155. He ran and got the nurse and after that two more nurses ran in. They put me on oxygen and told me to turn on my side. My doctor appeared out of nowhere and broke my water the rest of the way. I was starting to panic but her heartbeat shot back up to normal. I guess the water bag was constricting her somehow. I had another exam and I was 9 centimeters. We tried to wait for my body to dilate the last centimeter but it wasn't happening quick enough. Every time I had a contraction, her heartbeat would drop dangerously low. It was time for an emergency C-section.

I have to say I pride myself on being a strong person, someone who doesn't panic in stressful situations, but being on that table and unable to see anything or hear my baby sent me reeling. Stephen was the rock that day. He told me everything they were doing, told me when he saw our little girl's dark hair, how they were working on her and how everything was going to be ok. I am thankful that he was able to take over that roll and help me get through it. I only got a glimpse of Rachel Jane in her incubator before they took her to the NICU. I could see her cute little nose and I would have given my life for her.
Rachel Jane was born at 30 weeks on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 10:52 AM. She was 3 pounds, 6 ounces and 17 inches long with a head full of dark hair. She also had lost 1/3 of her blood because of a placental abruption and they needed to do chest compressions and two shots of epinephrine to bring her back to life. She received two blood transfusions that brought her little white body back to a healthy pink and within the day, she went from being on a ventilator to nose prongs to nothing at all helping her breath. She is a fighter and I knew that from the moment I first felt her in my stomach. Rachel was transferred to another hospital after it was confirmed that she had duodenal atresia. Rachel stayed in the NICU at Brenner Children's Hospital for 59 days. Half of that time was waiting for her to gain a pound for her surgery to repair the duodenal atresia. The other half of the time was recovery, learning how to eat, and make bowl movements. She came home a day after my birthday in November, six days before her due date. My mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law were all in town and got to welcome her home.