As a Seattle birth photographer, I know that part of my job in capturing these birth stories is to help mothers get the chance to heal, if only in some small way.
When this beautiful couple explained their history to me, a feeling of calmness swept over me. Everyone who approaches me to document their birth story is doing so for the memories, the love, and more. But this Mama needed to have these moments to keep and hold forever. A rainbow birth story is not one I believe I should ever need to photograph for a mother, but as we all know, forever doesn’t always get to happen.
This Mama received her Rainbow–her hope after the storm–with fear, strength, worry, and love. I believe I did witness a small piece of her heart heal that day.
Please continue reading this Mama’s story, in her own words (have some tissues handy.)
One line.. wait, was that first line there? I can’t tell.
Hold on, let me try another one..
That looks like two lines.. but that first line is way too light so it can’t be two lines; probably just a faulty test.
Digital test.. negative. Okay then. Maybe next month.
The thoughts that raced through my mind in the Fred Meyer bathroom before we headed out to what would obviously be an alcohol induced game of “I’m totally going to beat your dad at trivia tonight” and as he would know it- royally fail at. No way, that line was there! No way was there two lines! We bought another test with different colored dye, followed by that digital test that quickly showed “negative”. Okay, I’m totally going to beat your dad at trivia tonight.
Well, those two lines WERE there and they were growing darker and darker by the minute. June 30th, the wedding anniversary of your grandparents, we found out that you were officially growing in my womb. I got to surprise your dad with an early birthday announcement and it felt like we were on the start to all of our hopes and dreams finally coming true.
Breathe, you made it to 12 weeks, there’s a heart beat.
I know there’s a heart beat because I listen to it every day that I get home from work.
A boy? Really? Can I have another boy? What will that feel like?
20 weeks, okay is his heart going to be okay? Are we sure? We need to check again.
22 weeks, okay it really IS okay, but if he makes it here, I’m going to have them check it again… just to be sure.
24 weeks, that’s the start of some form of “quality of life”, wait.. we could actually have this baby and he could maybe… live?
28 weeks. Borderline IUGR diagnosis- Again? I have to worry about this, again? I thought I was spared from this, the odds were so minimal?
32 weeks. 32 weeks is good because I will have an ultrasound every week to check on you. A non stress test, an ultrasound; rinse and repeat.
33 weeks, okay we are still borderline IUGR, but you’re growing.. so we’ve got this. We’ve totally got this.
35 weeks. Wow, 35 weeks?! Some babies don’t even see the NICU at 35 weeks! Please don’t die. I can’t make it this far and you die. 37 weeks. Wow, 37 weeks. I’ve been pregnant this long, once.. once before and he didn’t live for long, so I need you to come NOW. Wait, why can’t he come now? “No medical reasons”. I’ll give you medical reasons! I can’t take this, I can’t take the risk of losing another baby.
One more week? More like day by day..
38 weeks. Wow, I’ve REALLY never been pregnant this long. One more week and you’ll for sure be here.
38 weeks + 3 days. Here we go,
It was a Tuesday morning and we walked into our weekly ultrasound and non stress test thinking nothing more than how excited we were to see you on the sonogram again. I had touched bases with our birth photographer, Erin, earlier in the week and let her know we were really playing it by ear, day by day really, at this point. We were preparing our bags here and there, and that morning your dad had this inclination to grab all of our bags and load up the car. Silly me, thought, “Why would we do that? We aren’t having this baby until Saturday, and if we do pack the bags, then he’s definitely not coming!”.
I had showered that morning. Which is 100% out of character for me.
I had showered that morning, And refused to pack the bags into the car, so of course that meant you were coming.
It was only a few moments into our ultrasound that we saw your fluid levels had decreased quite a bit from the week before. They had been a rollercoaster the entire month of February, and as much as I wanted a reason to be induced, I was not expecting that to be the reason. The ultrasound tech walked us through what was going on, and I quickly replied with a, “Can you please just go grab our doctor, she’s going to induce us today once you tell her those numbers”. Your dad and I sat in the room waiting for them to come back with what felt like a FOREVER amount of time passing. We sat there saying over and over “Whoa, are we having a baby today? Is this really happening?” as both excitement and anxiety grew and grew.
I told your dad to send Grandma the text saying “10″ because that was our code for baby is coming and there’s no turning back now! She was at work teaching and needed to get a sub in so she could make the trek up to be with us.
The ultrasound tech came back in and said, “Let’s just take you over for your non stress test”. We didn’t even make it hooked up to the monitors before the doctor came in and said, “It’s time! You’re having a baby today!”
Thankfully we were able to go home and grab our bags because dad needed a shower, and mom needed a few minutes to realize what the hell was happening. This was the last time we would leave our home as just the two of us, because we were hopefully returning with you.
We made it back to the hospital at noon, and by 1pm we were all set up in our delivery room and met our wonderful nurse who’d be with us for a few hours. I had group B strep and had to have antibiotics for 2 hours before we could really get the process started.
Grandma made it by 2pm and the first thing we did was show her your name on the letter board I had put together. Your dad and I kept your name a secret the entire pregnancy and made bets who would be the one to ruin it! Luckily neither of us did and showing Grandma your name in person was one of the sweetest moments of my life. We had spent so many weeks scouring every source we could to find your name; to find the right name. One that had meaning but was strong and beautiful all at the same time. So we were both overwhelmed with excitement to finally be able to share it because it was your name; the perfect name.
Around 3pm we got hooked up with the Pitocin and were able to walk around a little bit before getting settled in to get my epidural. I had wanted a “natural”, non-medicated birth but after talking with the nurse about how quickly labor could potentially go, I decided it was best to focus on my emotional well being to prepare for meeting you because I was still 10000000% in denial that that was even going to happen. The epidural was the absolute right choice because my doctor came in at 5pm and broke my water, and the show was officially on the road!
At 7:30 when the nurse checked how far dilated I was, I was still stuck at the same 5cm I had been since my water was broken. I was determined this was going to be a long night and cuddled into bed to try to get some sleep and rest for what was to come.
Little did I know that the abrupt pressure that came at 9pm was the start of the most life changing moments of our lives. I called the nurse back in and told her I felt a burning sensation and she asked if maybe my epidural was wearing off. I asked her to check me again and low and behold she looked up and said, “You’re ready to push. It’s time for me to call the doctor!” The look of excitement on everyone’s faces around me was the most overwhelming experience. I wasn’t ready! What was I doing? What did I sign up for?
Tears instantly poured down my face and I don’t think I saw through them for at least an hour after they started. Hearing those words and realizing what was about to come, it all hit me at once. I was going to be having a baby again. I was going to meet you. I was going to hear you cry and hold you. Oh my god, I was going to HOLD you. Something my arms have longed for for a long 7 years and something I knew I could never truly understand until it happened.
Push. Push. Push. Each contraction and push felt like an hour because the epidural wore off and I felt every ounce of pain, and doubted my body could get you here. It was the words and the confidence of your dad and your grandma that kept me going and reminded me how strong I was and how much we all wanted to just meet you.
26 minutes of pushing and you were here. I pulled you up to my chest and I held you. You were beautiful. You were perfect. You were more than I ever dreamed you could be. You gave me the best experience I could have asked for with your birth. I wanted that unmedicated birth but instead my epidural wore off and I still got to feel all that my body was doing and be in control of bringing you here. I had the strength to persevere through the pain, to clench the bed with hands and channel all of the emotions that were coming through me to bringing you here. And through the endless tears that filled the room, my entire world opened to something new that night and in those first few moments with you.
Grandma added, “There was this transition. You held him by your palms but your fingers were outstretched. As he settled into you, your hands settled and your fingers relaxed around him. I kept telling myself…. just wait, she’s nervous…. and when your hands curled around him and you hiked him up a little closer I knew you believed you actually had a baby in your arms.”
And she’s so right, my arms were full of everything I had never known and everything I had ever longed for.
My dear son, you are not a replacement for the journey I endured so many years ago. You are a dream that has been fulfilled from the first conversations your dad and I ever had; cuddled up in bed talking all night about what we wanted in life. I never knew I could be a mom again, I never knew I would have the strength or the desire to endure so much, but those moments of holding you will forever fill my heart in new ways. And each day that I watch you grow, I will treasure each and every second of that. You have brought new life into my life and changed every ounce of what endless love looks and feels like for us.
You son, are the rainbow after my storm, and the joy in all of our lives.
Erin DuPree is a licensed and insured professional, and happy to offer services as an Issaquah Birth Photographer, Kirkland Birth Photographer, Redmond Birth Photographer, and Seattle Birth Photographer.