Updated: Jun 20, 2020
One in four women will experience a miscarriage in their lives. For some women, even multiple times. I had two within a five month time period, in 2018 (you can read about my experience in a previous post, "Coping with Miscarriage.")
A "rainbow baby" is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death in infancy. For me, that rainbow is named Calvin. And I almost lost him as well.
But thankfully, I was blessed with sunshine.
I believe in miracles. Prayer works and God is real.
Calvin Elias Allred was born June 17, 2019 at 3:45 PM.
He weighed 5 lbs 14 oz. and was 19.75 inches long.
My baby turned 1 year old today! I can't believe it's been that long already. I intended to write about his birth story a long time ago, when he made his debut, but taking care of him (and my other two kiddos) has kept be very busy--especially with our family moving just 2 weeks after I had a c-section (and then again just 6 months later--overseas to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates!
I probably kind of subconsciously put off writing though too, because for a while, any time I would start to think about the day Calvin was born, images of the physical and emotional trauma I experienced would emerge in my mind. It was hard to talk about it shortly after giving birth, as relaying the details to family and friends would just make me cry. Partly because it was so scary, and I didn't want to relive the experience--but also because of its happy ending and the immense gratitude I felt and still feel, knowing how close I was to losing my precious boy. Lots of different emotions. So unfortunately, the following account isn't as fresh anymore. I did start writing when he was 3 months old...then 5 months...now finally here we are at 12 haha. But emotionally, it's easier to write about now.
Calvin gave his dad and I a scare coming a little earlier than we anticipated, with a traumatic entrance.
I was 38 weeks pregnant. Due date was June 28th, but I had an induction date of June 24th because our family was planning on moving from Montana to Washington on July 1st (crazy, I know). For a while I actually thought I'd be induced at 37 weeks like I was with my other son, because of Cholestasis (which is a potentially dangerous liver disease during pregnancy, where there is an increased risk of stillbirth. For me, the main symptom was extreme itching all over my body--especially palms of my hands and soles of my feet--to the point of not being able to sleep at all). So I started to have some itching with this pregnancy, but my liver enzyme and bile acid levels were just borderline for being out of range, to require an early medical induction. I received a steroid injection though just in case, to prime our son's lungs.
June 16th--Father's Day. I remember being at home and not sleeping well. I was up most of the night with what I thought was just digestive pains. The next morning I made myself a smoothie with a bunch of coconut water, which is a laxative. But then the pressure I had been feeling started to come at regular intervals.
Oh my gosh, I think I might be in labor.
I still felt unsure though. I nervously started to time what I finally determined were probably contractions. I don't know why it took me so long to realize I was in labor--but it just felt different from what I had experienced before with my other pregnancies.
I called my husband Jeremy, who was at work over an hour away, and told him that I might be in labor. And the hospital was a half hour away from me in the opposite direction. Thinking that it was just early labor, my husband told me not to worry and said that we had plenty of time (he was still of course ready to do whatever I thought was needed). But this baby was coming and he was coming fast--though I didn't really know that yet. I then talked to my doctor's nurse and was advised to come to the hospital. I called my husband back with the news. He tried to arrange a coworker to cover for him.
I needed to find a sitter for our kids. I hadn't figured that out ahead of time yet. My mom was going to travel from Utah to help babysit just a few days later, when I was scheduled to be induced--and so I was originally planning on that.
I think it was around 2 in the afternoon or so. I showered and got my hospital bag ready. I focused on breathing through contractions. I called my friend Summer, who lived close by, to see if she or her teenage daughter could babysit for me. She was out of town, but sent her daughter Robyn over to pick up my kids.
I called my husband again to see if he would be home soon, but to my dismay, he wasn't able to leave yet. Knowing he still had a long drive ahead of him, I anxiously tried calling a couple people to find someone else to take me to the hospital, but couldn't get ahold of anyone.
When Robyn arrived, I was in the bathroom. I had just started to bleed, which terrified me. I called out to her for help and asked if she'd call someone to take me to the hospital. I called my husband again, who was racing home. Robyn was able to reach my friend Kadie, who also lived close. Kadie told Robyn that she wouldn't be able to to take me because she was at work, but that she would find someone that could.
"I told my co-worker what was going on and she told me to just go....At this
point I didn't think that things were too serious, that she had just started
labor. That was far from the case. On the other end, Clarissa was nearly in
tears....I could tell that something was very wrong. I had walked to work, so I
ran home to grab my car and drove right over to her house. On the way over I
saw Robyn walking Clarissa's two children back to her house."
Thankfully, they left just before the ambulance arrived. I’m glad my kids didn’t have to witness the whole thing, and were out of the house before things got more crazy.
So I was in active labor... at home. That wasn't the plan. I should have already been at the hospital. It was so crazy. Everything happened so fast. Suddenly, I felt something come out, which I caught in my hands. I didn't know what it was and I was afraid to look. I felt paralyzed and started to panic. Though Kadie was on her way, I knew I didn't have much time. So I called 911.
Breathe. Breathe... I can't believe this is happening.
"She was standing over the toilet....I could see that the baby's sac had started
to come out, but it looked low on water. I had absolutely no idea what to do
and asked her how I could help her. She didn't know. She informed me that
she had called the ambulance, so I asked if I could get anything ready for her.
She had already packed everything she needed and had it by the door. Shortly
after my arrival an officer arrived to help. I was so relieved, because I was
starting to freak out."
I remember him being taken off guard as he entered my bathroom, but although I am a very modest person, there was no room in my emotionally frazzled mind to be embarrassed. In this emergency situation, I was past that. He and Kadie hurried and got me a drink of water and a towel for me to lay on. The officer asked, “has this been a difficult pregnancy for you?” And as I breathed through contractions, kind of puzzled, I was like, ummm YEAH. Like, duh—this is really difficult for me right now. But then I realized he meant complicated or high-risk so far (which it wasn’t). This was unexpected.
"After getting her down, he inspected the situation and said that a foot was starting to come out. After he said that I really started to freak out. He asked her if the baby had turned yet, but Clarissa didn't understand, so I told her the baby was breech. I feel like that was a bad idea because then she started freaking out. She started to pray out loud."
I remember emotionally shouting in fear, "Heavenly Father, please help me!" It's difficult to explain, but at this point, I felt like I was outside of myself--detached and observing in shock.
Waiting to wake up from a nightmare. Numb. Floating. Like I was watching a movie in slow motion.
I have since learned that this is a common response to experiencing trauma. It's called disassociation. An avoidance coping mechanism that is often used when fighting nor fleeing is an option. You mentally and emotionally shut down.
Calvin was in a single footling breech presentation with a prolapsed umbilical cord (his foot and the cord started to come out first). Very dangerous. So one foot was scrunched up high, and the other was coming out. Just a few days prior, my doctor (who wasn't the one who delivered him) told me at my appointment that the baby was head down. And after having Calvin, she said that small babies like him can easily flip, and at the last minute. Also, the small size means the umbilical cord can move faster around the baby and slip out before the birth. The doctor also mentioned that she predicted I'd go into preterm labor and have a breech baby, but didn't want to tell me and worsen my anxiety. I didn't know how to respond to that.
I have read that 5% of pregnancies end up with breech babies. And that umbilical cord prolapse occurs in approximately one in every 300 births. It has a "significant perinatal morbidity and mortality (up to 50% of cases), usually as a result of birth asphyxia from the lack of oxygen to the child" (birthinjuryhelpcenter.org).
"I had so much running through my mind....A few minutes later the ambulance came. There was a crew of three; Jim, Dan, and Lori. Dan immediately got down to assess what was happening. Clarissa's contractions were getting stronger so I started combing my fingers through her hair. It dawned on me that I was doing it to soothe her and also myself. I was so scared and just didn't know what to do. After a while the thought hit me that it might be a little irritating for her, so I asked if it was okay for me to continue. She said it was fine but then grabbed my hand for a big contraction. Jeremey, her husband, called and I tried to tell him what was happening, but I don't think I made much sense. I was trying to soothe Clarissa and stay out of the way while trying to pay attention to what they were trying to do and still talk to Jeremy.
The EMTs got a sheet with handles to put under her because they needed to move her to the living room to get her on the stretcher. There were a lot of moving boxes so the stretcher couldn't make it to the bathroom. They lifted her up during a contraction, which I thought was so cruel, but I know they were just trying to get her out as fast as possible. We kind of carried/scooted her to the hallway where we had enough room to lift her onto the stretcher. I told her I would go on the ambulance with her and stay with her until Jeremy arrived. Dan asked me to go outside with him. He asked me what her name was and her birthdate.
They got her down the stairs and into the ambulance. I decided I should follow in my car with all her bags and the baby car seat. We drove out to the highway [and didn't drive very far] before the ambulance pulled over. I had no clue what was going on. I thought they were going to tell me not to follow them anymore. Jim came up to my car and told me they needed an extra hand and wondered if I could park my car on the side of the road and help with Clarissa. I thought maybe she was freaking out and they needed me to hold her hand. That was not the case. Instead, I was asked to put gloves on and place my fingers between her pubic bone and the umbilical cord. We sat like that the whole 20+ miles to the hospital and into the ER. She and I were connected right up until the doctor cut her open. He was a great doctor and knew immediately upon us arriving that she needed an emergency c-section."
Holding the baby off the umbilical cord, so as not to constrict oxygen and blood flow to him, as Kadie helped do--and me resisting the urge to push--was critical. Kadie later told me that the EMTs asked if she'd ever considered becoming an EMT herself, after the great help she was.
So I went straight to the operating room, was given a general anesthetic, and had my son 7 minutes later. The doctor that delivered Calvin wasn't my usual doctor. I had just seen him once before, after one of my miscarriages. Apparently, he was called in and was dressed in casual shorts when he delivered Calvin, as he did not have time to get on his scrubs.
"I got to watch this little boy be born. It was truly amazing. Clarissa had asked if he was in fact a boy. I went over to her head to let her know how beautiful he was and that he was fine! But by then she was already out from the drugs. As they started sewing her up the EMTs and I left and went into the waiting room. They all went to file a report and I waited for Jeremy to arrive. I was shaking like crazy because of all the adrenaline. I had only experienced that after giving birth to [my son].
Jeremy arrived maybe 10 minutes later. Together we waited to know what was going on. After a couple minutes a nurse came and got us to see baby. We went up to the maternity ward and got to see him. I had to get back to work, so I left after making sure he and Clarissa were okay."
"This was truly one of the most amazing experiences I have ever been through. It is crazy how well everything lined up for me to be there for her. Had I not been working that day, I probably wouldn't have been able to help. I wouldn't have had anyone to watch my children for me. Heavenly Father was truly looking out for her and baby. Clarissa and Jeremy later told me....that I saved his life and I truly feel so humbled that I was able to help. It is something I will never forget and forever be in awe that I was put in the position to be the one to help them both."
I know it was hard for Jeremy to not really be able to talk with Kadie or I, and be in the loop with everything. To not be there for me in person. And as he was racing home, to be alone with his racing thoughts for a long drive. To swing by the house and see blood in the bathroom. To find out he had just missed the birth. And then having to wait, not knowing if I was okay, and if our baby had made it or not. I remember I had just told one of my friends a few days prior, that for some reason I had this fear that my husband wouldn't make it in time--that he would miss the birth because of the long distance of travel. Then I convinced myself that I was just being anxious and irrational. Those crazy stories happen to other people--but not me. I'm sure everything will be fine.
Since I was unconscious, neither Jeremy or I were able to witness our son’s birth—but Kadie was, and we are eternally grateful that she helped save his life, along with the amazing medical team.
Once the anesthesia wore off, I remember thinking, oh my gosh, do I have a baby? Where's my baby? I entered the recovery room in a wheel chair and saw my husband for the first time, holding a baby. Our precious son. A huge sigh of relief. Calvin made it! Our little miracle. I too am my parents' miracle baby--as I was born 2 months early and weighed only 3.75 lbs.
The doctors said we were very lucky, and that typically once the cord comes out, after about 10 minutes, you are likely to no longer have a baby. With this occurring at home for several minutes, and then the 20 mile drive...we were far past that small window of time. When I learned that after delivering Calvin, I just broke down crying. And I still get emotional every time I think about that.
I was ghost white. The doctor said I lost a lot of blood ("postoperative anemia due to acute blood loss"). I was given an iron prescription, which I continued to take for a couple weeks after giving birth. I had to be on oxygen for a little while and my feet were so swollen, I could barely fit into my slippers. Apparently I had an x-ray on my abdomen. I discovered the report in my medical records, saying that "there is compensatory tortuosity of the thoracolumbar spine and compensatory scoliosis" (which I knew). But what I didn't know is that I also have a moderate degenerative left hip (osteoarthritis).
I spent four nights at the hospital. My husband and the nurses took good care of me. In addition to our other two children coming to see their new baby brother, a couple friends visited--and my parents drove all the way from southern Utah, as soon as they heard of our emergency situation.
When we made it home, with having such a major surgery, getting out of the car and up the steps to our house was a slow and painful ordeal. As I entered the door, I felt extremely overwhelmed. My kids excitedly hovered around and there were boxes everywhere. The stressful reminder that our family was moving from Montana to Washington in just two weeks, hit me like a ton of bricks. But I received a lot of help from family and friends, of which I am very thankful for.
My mom was able to stay with us that entire time to help us finish up packing, as Jeremy had to return to work a couple days later (but just for a few more days, before having time off again for the move).
Because it was difficult for me to walk around the house, and I couldn't lift anything, I felt so helpless. I felt bad that I couldn't assist my mom. It was difficult for me to ask for help, and it was frustrating that I could hardly do the simplest of tasks. I was constantly asking my family to pick things up for me, as it hurt to bend.
Jeremy removed our bed frame so that we just had a mattress on the floor to sleep on, which made it easier for me. That first month after having a baby is hard. The sleepless nights. Needing to take care of your baby while trying to recover. It was so tough trying to get out of bed in the middle of the night to tend to Calvin. Jeremy would often pick him up and bring him to me, so that I could feed him. I remember one night feeling so tired, overwhelmed, and in pain--and as I held Calvin, I said tearfully, "I can't do this." It was all just too much. But Jeremy comforted me, and gave me a Priesthood blessing on a couple occasions during this crazy time. And I know God gave me strength to get through it.
In addition to friends bringing over gifts and meals, I also had a few teenage girls I taught at church come over to help us clean, after some men from our church helped load our U-haul. After my mom left, Jeremy's parents were able to come and help us with the move. Jeremy drove our car, and my father-in-law drove our U-haul, to Washington. My mother-in-law came with the kids and I on an overnight trip on the Amtrak--which was really nice for me, recovering from surgery and all. It was a fun experience for my kids' first time on a train. And my first time in a sleeper car. My mother-in-law stayed in a car with the older kids, while I was in a separate car with just Calvin. And then my in-laws were able to help us unload once we made it to our new home.
While unpacking, I came across a fetal doppler kit (a device that uses ultrasound waves to detect a baby's heartbeat). Kadie told me that one of the EMTs left it in my bathroom, and asked if I would mail it back to them. So I did, and included a heartfelt card with pictures of Calvin, thanking all the EMTs that helped save my son's life. They sent this card back to me:
After having the c-section, I started to feel a little better after about 8 weeks. I had twinges of pain every now and then for several weeks after that, as the scar from my incision would feel a little sore. In addition to the internal dissolvable stitches, I had a special kind of adhesive tape on the incision site called Steristrips, which remained there for a couple weeks. I would often look in the mirror at my scar, which is a little wavy because the doctor had to work fast. And that visual reminder of my crazy story would float in my mind, as I just stared--so surreal. And it will always be there.
And then for a couple months after giving birth, I had frequent bouts of crying episodes. Like major ugly-cry. And Jeremy would just hold me for a long time, while I released all the emotional stress that was bottled up. I think it was my body's reaction to processing the trauma I experienced, because it wasn't always necessarily emotionally triggered. It was like this random physical response. And everything was go-go-go after giving birth, leaving no time to process. So every now and then, I just had to get a good cry out.
Coming into the world with only a bruised foot, we feel very blessed to have a perfectly healthy, sweet boy. We love him so much. And we like that one of the interpreted meanings of his name is "messenger of God"--who was definitely watching over us. And I know that angels on both sides of the veil were present that day. Miracles happen.
Happy Birthday, Calvin!
Time has sure flown by. Today you turned 1! I’m so thankful that God watched over you, so that you could be apart of our family. You gave your father and I quite a scare. You were so excited to come to earth, that Mommy barely made it to the hospital in time after the ambulance ride. The doctor told us that you were very lucky to be alive. Such a miracle! You’re so special.
Calvin, you bring me so much joy. You have such a sweet and happy spirit. Your cuddles and sloppy kisses melt my heart. I enjoy watching you learn and grow. Last month you took your first steps, and just a few days ago you started walking like a big boy! The excitement on your face was priceless. You also finally have two bottom teeth!
I love hearing “mama,” which was your first word—and how you’ll smile and stretch your arms out, when you want me to pick you up. You get excited when it’s time to take a bath; you flap your hands and repeatedly say “bahh” (bath). You can say “baw” (ball), and you can throw one really well too. It’s so cute when you blow kisses with a long “muah”….say “nigh-nigh” and wave at bedtime…and clap your hands whenever you’re done eating.
Playing peek-a-boo and copying actions we do, are lots of fun. You love to bounce and shake as soon as you hear music. You like to be outside and observe the world around you—and go on the swings at the park. You like to explore and have started to climb. In fact, you’re a world traveler. You have already lived in three different states and in another country. And have visited a few other states as well.
You’ve eaten everything I’ve given you so far, and though you are only about 18 lbs and 27.5 in, you are as healthy as can be. Having infected eczema lately hasn’t been fun, and you don’t really like to sleep at night. But for the most part, you play with your cars and blocks, unperturbed during the day. So chill.
Although I’m almost always tired and stressed, while I also take care of your big brother and sister—who adore you—seeing your double-dimpled smile and hearing your cute giggles truly help me to be happier. You make me feel like I’m your most favorite person in the world. And I see the gratitude in your eyes, as we bond when I nurse you—because you know that you are loved. And you are. Very much.
Happy Birthday little guy!