No birth story goes exactly as planned, but Quinn’s birth story is so different from what we ever could have possibly imagined for the birth of our second baby.

Before we even found out we were pregnant, I was already planning a home VBAC. I’d emailed local birth centers, doulas and midwives, researched VBAC safety statistics and strategies and I was determined to get another shot at the natural birth I so desparately wanted but didn’t have with Knox.

All of those plans came crashing down quickly when at 6 weeks pregnant we found out that I had isoimmunization. To make a long, detailed, heavy-with-scientific-terms-and-concepts story short, it meant our pregnancy was high risk, we needed to deliver at 37 weeks and that our baby might be very sick in utero and when she was born.

Our pregnancy was filled with ups and downs – at 18 weeks we were disheartened to find out through a free cell DNA test that our baby was definitely Rh+ and would be in danger. But, by 35 weeks my antibody titer levels were still very low and my doctor was so confident that our baby would be perfectly fine, he said he would even let us wait until 39 weeks to induce. We were cautiously optimistic, but we still weren’t comfortable going against the textbook recommendation of inducing at 37 weeks – I wanted our sweet girl to grow inside as long as she could but I knew I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if we waited until 39 weeks and my body harmed our baby during that time.

Though we needed to deliver a full FIVE weeks earlier than my failed induction with Knox, our doctor was still supportive of me attempting to birth vaginally. We were all set to induce the evening of Monday, June 5th. I went in for my very last NST and BPP scan the Friday before, expecting everything to be normal as usual. When the nurse began the ultrasound scan, she frowned. Hmm, the head must be way down in your pelvis, she said. She scooted the ultrasound wand around my belly once more. Oh! she exclaimed. The baby’s breech! Our baby had been head down for months, but with only 3 days until our induction, she had flipped.

We had intended to spend the weekend relaxing, spending time with Knox and attempting to encourage my body to be ready to labor – instead, we were scheduling last minute chiropractic appointments, acupuncture sessions and burning Chinese herbs over my pinky toes several times a day (seriously) in a last ditch attempt to make the baby turn on her own. If that didn’t work, our doctor agreed to try an external version first thing Monday morning so that we could avoid another C-section if possible.

We showed up at the hospital, our bags ready but totally unsure of what direction the day would go in. They admitted us into Labor & Delivery and our doctor came to check on us. The good news was that baby was head down. The bad news was that my cervix was high, firm and completely closed – I was about as close to going into labor as Ryan was. And with a prior C-section and no way to get a foley catheter in, the only option was to begin Pitocin.

And so, it began.

My contractions were consistent – spaced every 2 to 3 minutes – but even though they kept raising the level on my Pitocin drip, the contractions weren’t painful at all. We watched Netflix. We sent dumb Snapchats. I made Ryan smuggle me a few handfuls of Cheez-Its since I wasn’t allowed food. The nurses came in every hour or so and each time they were disappointed to find that the pain I was in had nothing to do with labor and everything to do with a really numb butt from spending all day sitting in a wildly uncomfortable hospital bed. With Knox, I spent 18 hours laboring with Pitocin and no matter how incredibly painful the contractions became, my cervix never dilated. Ten hours into our second induction, I had made no progress at all and we were certain we were headed for the same exhausting failed result.

We started talking C-section. If you know me, you know I’m extremely competitive. And stubborn. And I love any good physical challenge. Sitting in our hospital room discussing the possibility of requesting a repeat C-section made me feel like a huge failure. Already my body was failing us by attacking the baby growing inside me and now it was failing us by being incapable of laboring to bring that baby into the world. But more than anything, we wanted to finally get this baby out safely and something told me surgery was going to be the answer.

Once we made our decision, everything started to move at lightning speed. They prepped me, they outfitted Ryan in surgical scrubs, they wheeled me down the hallway into the operating room. My whole body was shaking as the anesthesiologist gave me my spinal block. I listened to the bustle of doctors, nurses and techs as I lost feeling in my lower body. Ryan appeared, camera in hand. Make sure they get her CBC, Coombs and bili from the cord blood, I said for the millionth time. And don’t forget my placenta.

Suddenly, the noise and the shuffling paused. One of the doctors announced that they were about to break my water (and then promptly commented on just how much water it was). From my side of the curtain, I heard her cry as they pulled her out.

I waited for them to bring her to my side. As the minutes dragged on, I got more and more anxious. As they glued me back together, the surgeons were chatting about which coworkers were currently pregnant. I heard a nurse call out for a pediatrician to come to the OR. My arms were shaking again but they were still strapped to the table. I thought I was going to throw up.

I tried to ask Ryan what was taking so long, what the problem was, and he said the baby had some trouble breathing but they thought it was fine now. Finally, they brought her to me and held her to my cheek. She was small, pink and sandy haired, our girl Quinn Elodie.

When we were all together in the recovery room, Quinn lying on my chest to breastfeed, I breathed a sigh of relief. My mind and my body were still hazy with pain medication, but I had the thought that finally the worrying was over.

It wasn’t very much later that they became concerned about her breathing again. She shouldn’t be wheezing. She shouldn’t be so sleepy. And she was whisked away from me again. This time, I watched as they wheeled her tiny little box out of the recovery room. I told Ryan not to worry about me and to follow her to the NICU.

I waited and waited under the fluorescent lights of that stupid recovery room while one of the nurses struggled to input my information into the computer beside me so they could admit me to our postpartum room. I was burning up, sweat pouring from my forehead and droplets hanging on my upper lip, but she kept covering me with blankets. Finally she raised my bed to wheel me out of the room. Before we made it to the door, I was throwing up over and over and my recently cut open abdomen felt like it was quite literally being ripped apart. The nurse offered me medication to control the nausea but I declined, as she also said it would cause more drowsiness – I had this idea that Quinn would be able to leave the NICU later that night and I wanted to be awake to see her.

It was midnight when they got me to our room. I was still vomiting. Ryan was still gone. Still dazed, I ate a few ice chips, laid back in the bed and eventually fell asleep alone.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Ryan came back to the room to sleep. I wasn’t allowed to get out of my bed to visit the NICU until 9AM, twelve hours after our baby was born. She was lying in her clear, enclosed box – there were wires connected all over her body, an IV in her arm, oxygen tubes in her nose, a drainage tube in her mouth. A white mask covered half of her face, protecting her eyes from the bright phototherapy lights all pointed at her tiny exposed body. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to touch our baby. Timidly, I opened one of the tiny windows and stuck my hand inside the box. She gripped my finger and held on tight.

Quinn was born with hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN), meaning the anti-D and anti-E antibodies from my blood were in her body, attached to her D and E positive red blood cells and killing them off. Her hemoglobin (a protein molecule that makes up red blood cells) was low and her bilirubin (the waste product of dead red blood cells) was very high. If your hemoglobin gets too low, it leads to heart failure. If your bilirubin gets too high, it can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause brain damage.

I could give you a day by day account of Quinn’s fight with this disease, but we’re already on day 26 and still battling the barrage of antibodies. Instead, I’ll give it to you in numbers:

18 – The number of hours Quinn was alive before she was allowed to eat. Because of her breathing problems, we had to wait before beginning to feed her, and then we had to feed her with expressed breastmilk from a tiny cup.

1 – Quinn was just one day old when she received an IV infusion of IVIG, a donated blood plasma product. Thankfully, this saved her from needing an exchange transfusion, where they would have drained all of her blood and replaced it with donor blood.

80 – The number of blood tests Quinn has had so far in her short lifetime.

3 – Quinn was three days old before we got to see her eyes and hold her for the second time.

16 – Sixteen days Quinn had to spend on bili lights. During this time her eyes were always covered by a mask so she wasn’t able to see anything at all.

2 – The number of blood transfusions Quinn has received so far. She needed her first transfusion when she was 6 days old. It was late Sunday afternoon and Quinn was still in the NICU. Everything seemed stable and they were planning to discharge her that evening with a home phototherapy unit as long as her 4PM bilirubin test came back with a result showing progress. Ryan and I had come home to eat dinner and put Knox to bed. It was a breezy evening and we were outside playing with Knox. For the first time in a week, I felt hopeful. Light. Unburdened. When the doctor called, her tone was strange – one step above concerned and one step below panicked. She said the bilirubin was okay but they’d run another blood count as well and Quinn’s hematocrit and hemoglobin were so low she needed a transfusion immediately. The doctor said she couldn’t believe they’d dropped so far so fast – they ran the test twice in a row because she was so surprised at the results.

I didn’t cry during my C-section. I didn’t cry when they took my 45-minute old baby from my chest and wheeled her off to the NICU. I didn’t even cry when we left the hospital 3 days later without her. But sitting in the car on the way to the hospital where our anemic newborn was waiting for a life-saving blood transfusion, I couldn’t stop crying. I had been living in survival mode and distracting myself by focusing on facts, numbers and all the research I could get my hands on. But Quinn’s first transfusion took us completely by surprise, and 9 months worth of worries and emotions came crashing down.

Quinn has been in this world for almost 4 weeks now. She has the longest little toes, she loves to be held and she poos so noisily you can hear it from across the room. By all accounts, she’s a totally normal newborn. But my antibodies are still circulating in her blood stream and can live in her body for up to 3 months. She may need more treatments and she’ll at least need weekly blood tests until we can confirm the antibodies are gone completely. And then she WILL be a totally normal baby – hemolytic disease of the newborn is serious and stressful while it lasts, but as long as it’s monitored and treated carefully, it should have no lasting effects.

Our sweet girl’s pregnancy and birth has been such a bittersweet experience for me. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that her birth story has left me with a weight on my heart. With isoimmunization, each pregnancy is riskier than the last. I’m mourning the fact that I will likely never get to experience the feeling of going into labor on my own or know what it’s like to push a baby out of my body. I’ll probably never again get to spend my baby’s first days of life by their side. I will be putting our future babies at risk just by trying to bring them into the world, and I’m not sure anything could make me feel more inadequate as a mother.

But right now, I’m focusing on the sweet part of the experience. The part where I get to hold our little girl in my arms and just look at her blue eyes and her chubby cheeks. I’m thankful Quinn needed no treatment inutero. I’m so thankful for her strength and for the doctors who delivered her and helped keep her healthy during her first few weeks on Earth. And I’m beyond grateful for the blood donors who have literally saved her life.

Our Quinny girl is writing an interesting life story already and I’m so lucky I get to be her Mama and watch the rest of it unfold.

*Also, just in case you’re wondering what happened to that placenta…we DIY dehydrated it and encapsulated it to eat. And when I say “we” I mean I did while everyone else in the house cowered far, far away in fear and disgust.

 

  • Wow, Mama! You are amazing and so is your little girl. She is beautiful. My heart goes out to you and your family. You are all as strong as I hope to be, especially that little girl!ReplyCancel

  • Sweet Quinn is such a fighter! She got it from her mama!ReplyCancel

  • You are such a strong, brave momma. I admire your vulnerability and strength. I cried as I read this post. Quinn is a strong little one, already taking after you. May God bless you both (and the boys in your family, too!)!

    Much love,
    ErinReplyCancel

  • Betty

    What a touching story! I am impressed with your details and honesty. Being a good mom has nothing to do with the birth process. Quinn is awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Simone

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve been through a lot of stress in my life now. But reading your lines, made me think about what really matters.
    Congrats got your beautiful baby girl!:)ReplyCancel

The last several weeks have been eventful ones for our little family. Three weeks ago, the same blood test that let us know the exciting news that we’re expecting our first baby girl also gave us the difficult news that our girl’s blood type is Rh+, meaning that she will be in danger throughout the rest of her stay in my belly. Thankfully, my antibody levels have been stable the past few weeks and our first MCA scan (a special ultrasound done to determine whether the baby is becoming anemic) showed that baby is fighting off the antibodies successfully so far. At this point, we’re just loving feeling our strong little fighter kick and praying that she makes it to our 37 week induction without needing any blood transfusions. It’s absolutely crazy to us that we’ll get to meet her face to face in just 17 weeks or less (and that she’ll arrive a full FIVE weeks earlier than her big brother did!).

Aside from the emotional roller coaster of our high risk pregnancy, this baby is giving my body a run for its money! With Knox, I felt adorable and glowing – this time around, I’m feeling like an enormous blimp with perpetual acne, under eye bags and dry skin that no amount of lotion or oil can cure. Girls steal their mothers’ beauty indeed. Thankfully, my morning sickness is gone and I can now tolerate a cup of coffee each day, which allows me to be semi-functional until my bedtime at 8pm sharp (and if you’re judging my small caffeine consumption, I’m totally willing to give it up if you’ll volunteer to keep up with my super-early-rising, always-on-the-go toddler while I go take a nap). We’ve cleaned out the office to turn it into a nursery and I’m literally bursting with excitement to get to work on my plan for our little lady’s room. This baby is so very loved, especially by her big brother who loves to give her kisses, “BIG HUGS”, share his toy cars with her and, after a week or two of insistence that she be a boy, finally exclaims with excitement that the baby is a GIRL.

Everyone’s idea of motherhood looks different. While pregnant, or even before, I think every woman considers what style of motherhood will be her own and how she wants to parent her children. Co-sleeping or crib sleeping, breastfeeding or formula, cry-it-out or attachment parenting – it’s an entire world of choices and everyone has to decide what’s best for themselves, their child, their family.

I have a lot of goals for what kind of Mama I want to be for Knox. Some of them have been easy to keep, some of them have been a daily challenge and some of them I feel guilty for compromising on, especially since I’ve been pregnant with our new little baby and daily life has just gotten a whole lot more difficult.

Things are changing and I’m sure there are one thousand more compromises to be made in the future. But for now, after surviving our first trimester (barely), here are a few things I want you to know about my expectations for myself as your Mama, Knox Elon:

I’m sorry for the days when, even though we planned not to start screen time until you turned two years old, we watched Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas not one, not two, but THREE separate times because I was too sick to move from the couch. In January.

I’m sorry for the snack times when I served you as many store bought, processed Ritz crackers as you requested because I was too tired to bake the homemade healthy foods I hoped would always comprise most of your diet.

I’m sorry for the middle-of-the-nights when I handed you, crying, to Dada and sprinted from your room to throw up after attempting to nurse you back to sleep.

I’m sorry for the mornings when you had to read a book to yourself while you sat beside me in the bathroom while I got sick.

I’m sorry for the times I didn’t have enough patience and I snapped at you because I was tired or grumpy or in the weirdest of moods.

So much thought went into our decision to try and have another baby, and so much of it revolved around you, Knox the fox. A part of me longed to extend these weeks and months and years that I have alone with you. Because as exhausting as it can get sometimes, there’s something truly magical about having one-on-one time with you all day, every day. You’re my little best friend, and part of me imagined how amazing it would be to have four or five years of being partners in crime – to get to give you my complete, undivided attention while you grew from the curiosities of a toddler to the adventures of a little boy. But another part of me wanted you to experience the joy of having siblings close to you in age (and also, most likely, the bickering and scheming as well) and to see you thrive as a big brother the way I totally know you will.

In the past few months, I’ve already felt the dynamics of our little family slowly beginning to shift. Some of it has broken my heart a little, like the times I’ve found myself giving you only half of my attention while the other half of my brain was deep into research on isoimmunization in pregnancy, the way my endless Pinterest searches for toddler activities and recipes have begun to share space with my searches for nursery decor and newborn outfits or the way we’ve had to encourage your growing independence to help prepare you for the job of sharing me with another little person. Some of it has been so sweet it makes me cry, like your constant requests to read the “baby book” (my pregnancy journal) or when I ask you where the baby is and you demand that I “open” my shirt so you can give my belly a kiss and a grin.

But with every change that comes, I’m just so thankful – for a husband who always helps, for this new little nugget growing in my belly and always for you, sweet boy, my little best friend who made me a Mama forever.

  • Eeep, reading this post makes me so happy! 🙂 I’m also glad to hear that I’m not the only one who calls their little baby a ‘nugget’.ReplyCancel

This pregnancy has been so different from our pregnancy with Knox, even this early on. My belly is already showing, the morning sickness has been almost unbearable and my legs and armpits are covered in the itchiest rash of all time. But the most drastic difference is that this pregnancy has been deemed “high risk” because we found out that I’m now Rh-sensitized. The short story is that my body may attack the baby and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. The long story follows here.

If you don’t know much about Rhesus (Rh) status, chances are you’re in the 85% of the population who are Rh+ and have nothing to worry about on that front. Rh is an inherited protein found on red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you’re considered Rh+. If you lack the protein, you’re considered Rh-. Most of the time, your Rh status will effect your life in pretty much zero ways. But if you’re Rh-, your husband is Rh+ and you’re pregnant, it starts to matter a lot more. When an Rh- woman is exposed to Rh+ blood, her body will recognize the Rh protein as something foreign and it can develop antibodies to attack the Rh+ red blood cells. So if you’re Rh- and you’re carrying an Rh+ baby, there’s a possibility you can be exposed to the baby’s blood and become sensitized (develop antibodies against Rh+ blood). To combat this, it’s standard in the US for Rh- negative women to receive two shots of “Rhogam” during pregnancy to help prevent sensitization – one at the end of the second trimester and another right after delivery.  According to the (hours and hours) of obsessive online research I’ve done in the past several weeks, the Rhogam shot is effective in 99% of women, meaning they go on to have totally normal, non-sensitized pregnancies for the rest of their lives. I received both of my Rhogam shots while pregnant with Knox, but it seems I was the unlucky 1%.

I went off to our first prenatal appointment feeling on top of the world. It took us 14 months to get pregnant with Knox so we were ecstatic to be expecting our new little one so quickly. Our pregnancy with Knox was as healthy as can be, and (aside from a significantly squishier midsection and chronic lack of sleep) I’m just as healthy now as I was when we got pregnant with Knox, so we expected a gleaming early pregnancy report. I sat down with the nurse, I got my official positive pregnancy test, I listened to the same pregnancy info I’d heard two years prior and I skipped off to have approximately 963 vials of my blood drawn for all of the standard early pregnancy blood tests.

When my blood work came back a few days later, our doctor called with the news that I am Rh sensitized. Which means that my blood now contains antibodies against the Rh protein. Which means that my blood might begin to kill off our baby’s red blood cells. I asked her what we should do to treat this – to prevent this – and she told me there was nothing we could do. Once the antibodies are in your blood, they’re in your blood forever.

We found out more information gradually – that our pregnancy (and any other pregnancy following this one) will be considered high risk and will be closely monitored with frequent blood tests to check my antibody level and frequent ultrasounds to check the baby for signs of anemia. We learned that if the ultrasounds show signs of anemia, our baby will have to receive blood transfusions while still in utero. We read about the damage anemia can do to a developing baby. We learned that to be safe, we will have to deliver the baby at 37 weeks at the latest. And we found out that before 20 weeks, when the baby is too small to receive a transfusion, there’s nothing we can do but hope that the baby stays safe.

I can explain the situation to you as if I’m executing a verbal science quiz, as detached as can be. I can laugh about the absurdity of being that tiny ONE percent. But I’m scared. I’m frustrated. I’m so disappointed. And I feel like my body is betraying me – this body that is supposed to nurture our babies, to protect them, to give them life, and now it may try to take that life away. But I also feel like this baby is strong. This is the baby who has been knocking me out with the worst morning sickness, the baby we watched dance and wiggle for the camera at our 10.5 week ultrasound, the baby who came to us so quickly and surely.

This baby is a fighter. And things are going to turn out well. I can feel it in my soul.

 

  • Grandma D.

    My heart is with you. Pray and have faith, turn it over to God and have faith that the right thing will happen. All thing are possible with God!ReplyCancel

  • Oh my, I’m sending all my good thoughts and positive vibes your way. Tears actually welled up in my eyes as I was reading this because being that 1% is one of my biggest fears. I’m rh negative too, so I can understand how terrifying sensitisation is. This is my first pregnancy and I’ve been hospitalised numerous times and given anti-D twice (so far). Worst experience ever.

    That being said, I am confident your wee babe will be absolutely fine! He/she is doing great in there and it will continue to be that way 🙂ReplyCancel

I spend at least 90% of my life in yoga pants and zero percent of my life doing yoga. My signature scent is eau de spilled coffee, with a sprinkle of leaky breast milk and occasionally, a splash of toilet water from spraying off a poopy diaper. Literally the only time I actually style my hair is when I know I’m going to be photographed that day.

Yes, I’m a hot mess mom.

When I envisioned my motherhood, this isn’t what I expected of myself. I imagined that, even though I was half of a hot mess already from spending my days working from home, motherhood would make me get my act 100% together. I thought I would magically make the time for showers and make up and curling irons (I know, you guys – I’m laughing at former me, too. Apparently the pregnancy hallucinations were real strong over here). And for the first three months, my messy buns were fine. I mean, you’re not supposed to have your life together three months after having a baby, much less your physical appearance. And then those three months stretched into six. And twelve. And I thought, alright – year one is down! NOW, I’ll finally start dressing and looking like a human again.

But here we are, on the verge of 16 months and I’m chasing a toddler around gym class in the same sweatpants I wore all weekend long.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled “how to be a put together mom”. I’m not even kidding – I’ve literally Googled those exact words (other phrases I’ve Googled since becoming a Mom: “how to fix your hair after a sweaty workout without taking a shower” and “fastest make up routine”). It would be embarrassing if it weren’t so damn amusing.

I’ve read one thousand times on one thousand different mothering blogs that I just need to make the time to get ready in the morning. That I’ll feel so much better if I do – I’ll be more productive, I’ll be more self-confident, I’ll be happier. And it’s totally true. When I do get a chance to spend an hour actually showering, primping and dressing in clothes that don’t involve elastic or spandex, I do feel good. Occasionally I even feel pretty again. But you know what feels better? Spending an hour baking healthy cookies with Knox (and a second hour cleaning up the mess from letting a toddler help bake cookies). Or spending an hour working out so I can be a saner, more patient mother (and to counteract those times I’m not a sane mother and I eat my weight in not-so-healthy cookies). Or spending an hour with Knox scooping out pumpkin guts and watering the garden, the sidewalk, himself and me without worrying how many stains my clothes are acquiring.

Some day I’ll have time to properly prepare myself in the morning. Some day I’ll be a put together mom. Until then, I’ll take my under-eye bags and my dirt smeared yoga pants with a big side of clingy toddler hugs, please.

  • Andrea

    I totally agree that there are better ways to spend your time than getting ready. But, if you ever do need to get ready and look totally put together in a jiffy, check out http://www.maskcarabeauty.com. No I don’t work for them! She sells a highlight and contour palate along with the 30 second highlight and contour brush, and it’s so easy and so amazing. Seriously, watch the video on the site of how to do it and then DM them a picture on Instagram and they will color match for you. Life. Changer.ReplyCancel

  • Enjoy your time with him while he is little! Plus you will occasionally get dressed up for things and feel even better about it. Or at least that’s what I tell myself!ReplyCancel