This story is hard for me to write, because while it ends with a glorious rainbow baby, it begins with an intensely bad storm. February 5, 2014, Chris and I learned that we were expecting our second child. We were surprised, but glad. I called my parents that night at Barnes Jewish Hospital, where my dad was a patient, and told them the news. One week later, I had a miscarriage. Then on the 13th of the month, we found out that Dad was going to come home on hospice — although his cancer was gone, the stem cell transplant which had cured him was now seen as a foreign thing and his body was in rejection. On the 14th, as my parents pulled into their driveway, Dad died.
On March 17th, 2014, I found out that I was pregnant again. I was happy, because we had been trying for another baby, but also intensely frightened. My world, as I knew it, had been shattered with the recent deaths in my family and I didn’t think I could handle losing another child. A dear friend came over and prayed with me that day. Chris was ecstatic, not scared, and he kept encouraging me.
I had ultrasounds at six, seven, and eight weeks pregnant, all showing a heartbeat and normal development. It became more real and something I was allowing myself to hope for: another beautiful blessing from the Lord!
I was so much sicker this pregnancy than with Abbi. It was so bad that I spent almost a week laying around so I would throw up less. I felt GREEN, even when medicated. My sweet husband did a lot more of Abbi’s diaper changes during this time, so that I wouldn’t have to gag over the smell.
I looked pregnant much faster this time around. At Katie, my sister-in-law’s wedding, I was 12 weeks along and visibly pregnant. At 14 weeks, I began feeling the baby kick from time to time. I called her my little womb ninja, because she was so active.
At 17 weeks, the morning sickness finally subsided. Things were looking up. I thought the worst was over.
A week later, my world came crashing down when my husband of eight years was killed in a car wreck on his way home from a church mission trip. All the way to the hospital that night, as I waited to find out his condition, our little child kicked around in my pelvis, as if to reassure me. On the way home, without my husband the next day, she kicked and kicked again, reminding me just how much I still had to live for. The grief vomiting began that day and lasted for the next 4 weeks.
I found out the day before Chris’ visitation that I was expecting another baby girl. At the ultrasound that day, my Mom, Chris’ mom, my sister, and my older daughter all got to watch. They got to see this tiny, beautiful person moving around inside my womb. Chris and I had previously discussed and agreed upon the first name Aurora if the baby was a girl. I kept her middle name secret from everyone until her birth.
During the five-hour-long visitation for the daddy of my children, I had the worst migraine of my life. A combination of pregnancy hormones, crying most of the day every day for a week, exhaustion, and stress all had my head in a mess of pain. Partway through the visitation, Mom made me step outside to see, in the sky above the church, the biggest double rainbow I have ever seen. It seemed to originate over the place where Chris’ body lay. I believe God sent that rainbow, in part, to show me that life would still hold beauty. My “rainbow baby” was in the works, after all.
Once I hit 22 weeks, I enjoyed the pregnancy. It was pretty uneventful from that point until 34 weeks, when I found out that Aurora was in a footling breech position. I feared that she would not turn head down before labor and that I would now need a C-section. For me, the idea of being a single mom to a toddler and a newborn was scary enough, without the added concern of trying to recover from surgery at the same time. My little ninja, as I had previously dubbed her, would routinely flip between feet down and head down, sometimes more than once in a day. I could feel her flipping — a sensation of a five-minute long contraction followed by kicking or pressure in different places.
One afternoon, when I was 37 ½ weeks along, I was getting ready to take Abbi to the sitter’s so I could nap before work. I started contracting HARD, all of a sudden. They were so strong they were taking my breath away. I didn’t have the strength or energy to take her to the babysitter’s, so I called to see if she could come get her. She took Abbi and I continued to labor, or so it felt like. I called my doulas and one of them came over. The contractions were super intense for 20 minutes, then regular and painful for a couple more. I spent some time in the tub, trying to relax and remain calm. My doula was with me, and she felt my belly. She encouraged me that it felt like the baby was now head down again. I went to bed shortly after and the labor stopped.
That evening my OB doc confirmed that Aurora was head down. From then on, she behaved herself and stayed put.
The week I was due, I had some GI upset for two hours, two nights in a row. Sunday, the first night of it, I packed my hospital bag. The second night of it, I was at work at the hospital and the bag was in the car, just in case. Then on Tuesday the 18th, I was at home and asleep after a long night at work. Around 1 pm, I woke up and got up from bed to use the bathroom. As I stood, I felt fluid leaking, but I assumed it was urine, because that’s just how pregnancy can be. I went back to bed and then contracted painfully every seven to eight minutes for an hour. I was tired, and I was supposed to work that night, so I told myself, “If this is really labor, and my water broke, then it will get more intense and I won’t be able to go back to sleep.” Thus I continued to lie in bed, the contractions eased up, and I slept.
My alarm went off around 4 pm and I got up, showered, and headed to the babysitter’s house to eat dinner with her family and my toddler. Abbi was especially cuddly with me on the couch that night and I wonder if a part of her knew, instinctually, that something was up. It was, in fact, her last moments of having me to herself. Before I left for work, I again had the nagging suspicion that my water had broken.
I went to work. I clocked in. I got ready to work on labor and delivery. Then I went to the bathroom and decided that, yes, maybe my water really did break. I wasn’t contracting though. I went to my good friend, who was our charge nurse, and told her the situation. I clocked out and became a patient. We sent a test down to lab to confirm my suspicions, and I called to give my mom and my doulas the heads-up.
While waiting, I began to contract. They were painless at the beginning. Then I started to walk the unit, like so many other women had before and would after me. I started having strong enough contractions that I had to stop and breathe through them. The verdict was in: this was the real deal. About 30 minutes later, the test results finally came back and confirmed what I’d already figured out. I called Mom and she came in.
She labored with me for a while. I remember sitting on the birthing ball a lot in the early stages. Mom and I talked about some of the emotional fall-out of what this birth meant to me…for nearly five months after my husband’s death, his DNA literally grew, lived, and thrived inside my body. It was a kind of beautiful, marital intimacy to have that child created by our love, inhabit me for those months following his death. Giving birth meant no longer carrying Chris inside me, at least not physically or literally. We cried together and held each other as I continued to labor.
Birthing room three was finally clean for me and I moved in. We kept it a dark, quiet birthing space so I could do the work I needed to do. I called my doula, Trish, and she came in, bringing the glorious birthing tub with her. She set it up and filled it. A dear co-worker of mine brought me contra-band (real food!) from Steak ‘N Shake. I ate my cheeseburger and was thankful for the sustenance.
My sweet nurse, Amy, who was my nurse when I delivered my first child, was working that night and I got to choose her to care for me again. She was great, always as unobtrusive as possible to the process of my more natural birth experience. She checked with Doppler the heart tones from time to time and Aurora sounded fine. It was such a blessing not to be strapped to a continuous monitor!
At some point, my doula, Carolyn, came in, too. Both these doulas are so special to me, and Carolyn was there for my first child’s birth. She had seen me labor once before, but with my husband at my side. She understood, on a different level, what was “missing” from this labor, because she had seen it first-hand.
I was in and out of the birthing tub at that point. Somewhere around 4:30am I was in the bathroom, laboring on the toilet. Just Carolyn was with me, face to face. Some gentle music was playing and it was very dark. I remember being in active labor and then just dealing with my feelings. “I need Chris.” I sobbed into Carolyn’s arms and then would stop to moan and breathe through an awful double-peak contraction. As she held me in her arms, she “held space” for me. She let me feel what I felt and validated me in that vulnerability so I could move through it.
Somewhere around 5am, she mentioned I might want to have my wonderful nurse, Amy, check my dilatation. I was hesitant to do this, only because I was fearful that I wouldn’t have made any “progress” since I had been checked before. I decided to go ahead and do it. 5 cm, -2 station, bulgy forebag, was the “word”. The 5 cm was okay, but the fact that the baby still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis concerned me. Unfortunately it’s hard to “turn off” the labor and delivery nurse part of me, even in labor! I declined having the doc come in to break the forebag.
The very next contraction after I was checked, I think I went complete. All of a sudden it just felt more intense than ever and all I knew was that I needed to get back in that birthing tub IMMEDIATELY.
Once back in the water, I kind of felt like pushing, but I kind of didn’t feel like pushing and I said this aloud. I screamed with a few contractions as the discomfort was becoming unreal, but my doulas reminded me to keep it nice and low, guttural. I got quieter and more focused. I felt my forebag break into the water of the tub.
Somewhere in this span of minutes I remember thinking how stupid I was to get pregnant again and why didn’t I get an epidural like a “normal” person and this could not be worth it! I continued to push, quietly moaning, on my knees in the tub. My doulas and my mom were very near, with Carolyn face to face with me. I think I must have said the words, “I can’t do this,” which my wise nurse, Amy, took to mean it was time to get Dr. Bishop in the room. She went to the desk to get him, and they came back in.
Moments after they entered the room, I whispered, “She’s crowning.” Then I whispered, “Her head’s out.” Then I felt the shoulders come, but the baby didn’t finish gliding out fast enough for my liking, so I reached down and I pulled her from my body. We had a “Lion King” moment as I lifted her out of the water with her cord still attached, and said, “Oh! I delivered my baby!” She was beautiful and squishy and perfect, her head free of any molding.
Someone helped us out of the tub and into the bed then and the moment was so surreal, I can’t even picture who they were. I had a lot of varicosities, and so I was still in an excruciating amount of pain immediately after her birth. Thankfully, though, there was no tearing.
At 5:35am, on November 19th, 2014, Aurora Kay Williams came earth-side. It was worth all the pain in the world to see that little face. Even the little detail of her birthdate — the 19th — is meaningful, because her daddy was born on October 19th. She was God’s fulfillment to me of His goodness — His faithfulness — the fact that rainbows follow the storms, but it takes trust and perseverance to get there. My Jesus promised me hope and He gave it to me in a 7 lb. 8.6 oz baby girl.