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My Rainbow baby by Nicola Vince

My husband and I were excited when I found out I was pregnant with our second child. It had taken a long time to make the decision to have another baby after a long labour, emergency c section, difficulty bonding and reflux made the first few months with our first very hard.

I even told a few people I was pregnant at around the 10 week stage. That excitement was to change at our 12 week scan when we were told our baby had a 1in 2 chance of having Trisomy 18 and wouldn’t survive.

Trisomy 18 (other names: Edward's syndrome) is caused by meiotic disjunction, an error in cell division. The normal pattern of baby's development is disrupted when an extra chromosome 18 is formed.

We were offered a termination which we refused. We continued with the pregnancy and I spent most of it convinced we would be the other 1 of the 2 and our baby would be fine. We refused any testing, as I didn’t want to risk miscarriage if the baby was ok. At 28 weeks the placenta started to fail and we were told we had got to the point we needed to know if the baby had T18, as if it didn’t, they would need to deliver that weekend.

We had an Amniocentisis and the results were positive, we were told that our baby, who we now knew to be a little girl wouldn’t survive. We were devastated. I begged for them to deliver her, we just wanted a few moments with our baby. We were told she wouldn’t survive labour and it wouldnt be fair to her. I asked for a c section and was told it would put any future pregnancies at risk and they wouldn’t do one unless we really insisted but it was against their advice. The thought of having anymore babies at that point was impossible but we took their advice and waited for nature to take its course.

Trying to prepare our then three year old was awful. I spent the next two weeks having heartbeat checks and blood tests every other day. One Thursday morning I sat in the hospital car park as my husband paid for parking, and didn’t want to get out of the car; I just knew our precious daughter had given up her fight. In the assessment unit, an amazing midwife checked me for a heartbeat, she joked gently about her being a pickle and being in the wrong position, but we all knew. I told her to stop and said it was ok, she said how sorry she was and moved us to another room. I was scanned twice to confirm , given a tablet to ‘tell my body the pregnancy was over’ and sent home to return Saturday to be induced.

Telling our daughter was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, she had been desperate for a sibling. I went into labour myself and, before we were even due at the hospital, Saturday lunchtime after a thankfully fairly short labour I delivered our daughter.

As we left hospital Sunday afternoon with empty arms, the midwives said they are sure they would see us again in happier circumstances, we replied we would never have another baby.

When we came out of the initial fog we started to talk about whether we could have another baby. I felt I couldn’t do it again, I was also 40 so time wasn’t on our side and the risks of a similar situation were high. We said we would wait a year and see how we felt. At that point it came down to the fact that we wanted to give our daughter a chance of a sibling and we knew we would regret it if we didn’t try. Four months later I was pregnant with our rainbow baby. I wasn’t excited, my initial thought was ‘what have we done’. That thought continued through most of my pregnancy.

We chose to have our 12 and 20 week scans done privately and were blessed to have both sets of parents pay for them, as neither of us could face going back to the hospital where we had all the previous scans. We are so glad we made that decision and feel blessed to have been in the position to be able to do so, the experience was way different. We were told at the 12 week scan that our risk for abnormalities was low, particulalrly given my age and previous pregnancy. We were clearly relieved. I think the best thing about the whole pregnancy was telling our then 4 year old I was pregnant. Her response was something I don’t think either of us will ever forget. Relived but still not excited I remember thinking ‘this is worth it for her to have sibling’.

This pregnancy was my hardest of the three. I felt sick for longer, had SPD and polyhydramysis (extra fluid around the baby). I had to explain our last loss to at every appointment.

To anyone reading this who is pregnant after loss, the kicks count charity does a sheet of stickers you can purchase to put on the front of any notes so that’s the first thing anyone at any appointment sees, I wish I had known about this during this pregnancy.

We only told a few close friends and family, I didn’t feel the least bit excited and couldn’t face ‘congratulations’ when that wasn’t how I felt. I think I was probably a little in denial I was pregnant atall. I hid it under baggy tops for as long as I could. I had an overwhelming feeling of ‘I don’t want this baby, I want that baby’ (our previous loss). The guilt I then felt for feeling like this was also pretty overwhelming. I tried so hard to enjoy my pregnancy, but I’m not sure I did at all. My husband found it hard to connect with or touch my bump, the emotions for both of us were a rollercoaster, add a very excited 4 year old to the mix and you have for an interesting ride. She asked if this baby would be ok and I refused to promise, I said ‘we hope so, the doctors have told us the baby is fine’. The thought of her having to cope with another loss didn’t bear thinking about. We chose to find out the gender at the 20 week scan in order to help get our heads around it. We had mixed feelings on whether we thought we could cope with having another girl, and our daughter was desperate for a sister. The guilt I then felt about worrying about the gender when I should just be thankful I was having a healthy baby added to the strong emotions I was already feeling. Rainbow pregnancies are complicated!

It probably wasn’t until around week 26 when I had a few episodes of reduced movement that I started to realise I did want this baby, I became incredibly protective in my thinking towards her. The pregnancy wasn’t easy, I was in pain due to the SPD and uncomfortable due to the extra fluid. We had several scans to try and get to the bottom of the reason for the extra fluid. One of which can be abnormality. They couldn’t find any problems other than telling me she would be very big.

As I was over 40 it was hospital policy to induce me at 39 weeks. I refused. I said I would rather go straight to a section. This wasn’t met with much enthusiasm but we had decided we were not going to be pushed around. Our daughter was very anxious about the pregnancy and I didn’t want the risk of being in hospital for days on end. We also had an issue with childcare for her. We explained we had to do what was best for us as a whole family. In the end our baby was breech so it was going to be a section anyway, but it would have been what I opted for. Several people asked me if I knew how I would feel, was I worried about having this baby. I decided I had no way of knowing how I would feel and I just needed to go with it.

The day of the section arrived and I was terrified, mainly of something happening to me during surgery and our daughter losing her mummy as well as her sister. I had already figured a section was the best way to get the baby out quickly and to make sure she was ok, so oddly I wasn’t overly concerned about her at this stage. I had spoken to anyone who would listen in advance and on the morning about the fact I wanted skin to skin as soon as possible and in theatre if possible I wanted to do everything I could to help with bonding given our loss and the issues I had had bonding with our first baby.

I was also determined I would give breastfeeding my best shot but wouldn’t put myself under pressure as I had the first time. I asked to be told if she was ok as soon as she was born, particularly if she didn’t cry straight away. The section went well and she was put on my chest as soon as her cord was cut. I had an overwhelming sense of relief she was ok. She was so high up I couldn’t really see her and the huge baby I had been promised was tiny. I think my first reaction was ‘is that it?!’

I found we bonded pretty quickly, I felt very protective and didn’t want anyone else to hold her. Our daughters face when she held her sister for the first time was priceless. The journey was hard but we are so glad we did it. I didn’t think I could love another baby as much as I love my first and after our loss but it is possible. It doesn’t come without emotions. I did find once she was born that I felt my connection to the baby we had lost had gone. I had felt my only connection with her had been whilst I was pregnant I think somehow I kinda got them mixed up in my head. Once our rainbow baby was born I found myself thinking, this time last year I was x weeks pregnant etc. I found our rainbows first birthday really hard as I no longer had the ‘this time last year’ moments and I felt my ‘baby’ was disappearing. It was a hard adjustment knowing I wouldn’t have anymore babies. I guess I have felt a little cheated, which is weird given I have two healthy babies. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression a while ago, the doctor thought I had been misdiagnosed for too long with low mood due to tiredness. I was reluctant to have treatment but feel so much better, I am enjoying my kids more than I have for years.

Our rainbow is now 20 months and a little whirlwind. She is hard work and into everything and totally different from her sister. They adore each other. I am totally in love with her. It has been a hard road with some strong emotions but we are so glad we were brave enough to make the rainbow journey.

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