Welcoming our rainbow baby

With a deep sigh and fingers interlocked, we walked through the double doors of the labor and delivery unit. As fate would have it, we were ushered into the same recovery room that I was in following Ellie’s birth. This was also where Adam waited for me – anxiously pacing around while I was in surgery, unsure of whether we were going to be able to met our daughter alive. I didn’t remember the room, but the look on Adam’s face told me we had been there before. We had been careful in our planning with the OB to avoid the same triage and postpartum rooms, but this detail had been overlooked. We decided to stay in that room anyway, hopeful to make new memories there.

Because of the trauma and PTSD from Ellie’s birth, Adam was given permission to stay with me at every point during the pre-op and procedure. I had driven myself to the hospital alone with Ellie and underwent emergency surgery alone, and things desperately needed to be different this time. His calm presence made a world of difference.

“Ok, Meredith…it’s almost time to meet your baby,” said my OB from behind the drape. The OB who cared for me through Ellie’s pregnancy and my subsequent losses offered to come in on his day off to deliver our baby. When you’re cared for at an academic medical center, you usually end up with whomever happens to be working that day. This was a priceless gift and I quickly obliged. I knew I was in his excellent care and he had worked so hard to help support me through to this very moment. We had been through so much together in our physician-patient relationship and part of me wanted him to have some closure as well.

Seconds later the sound of a baby crying quickly filled the operating room as tears of joy poured down my face. My baby boy was finally here and I breathed the sigh of relief I had been holding in for 9 months. The team giggled at the sound of his cry, which was stronger than they expected for such an early baby. I never heard my daughter, Ellie, cry so this noise was music to my ears.

Surgery lasted longer than expected due to some complications, so Adam held the high honor of having the first skin to skin time with our son. I could barely take my eyes off those two, watching my husband soak up every single moment with his baby boy. It had been two and a half years to the day since we first held Ellie as we said our goodbyes, and it felt so good to have arms filled up with life once again. I hope I never forget the way Adam looked at Rhett as he held him tight.

As soon as I was in the recovery room, it was my turn to hold my precious son. It felt like my entire body melted when Adam placed him in my arms. He fit perfectly there – like we were made for one another. He nestled peacefully on my chest as I soaked up every precious second. It felt like I was living in a dream, and I never wanted to wake up from it. He was finally here and I could now begin to envision a future with him in it.

The two days in the hospital were an absolute gift. Since he was delivered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, no additional visitors were allowed at the hospital aside from Adam. For two days, it was just the three of us. We were getting to know one another, and not having to share any of the snuggles with anyone else. I know it was difficult for our family to not see him, but I will forever cherish our time.

The two days were over in the blink of an eye and it was time to be discharged home. My mind flashed back to the events of two years prior. I was escorted to the hospital lobby to wait for Adam to pick me up in the car. Our bags were piled neatly on a cart and I stood by a window at the hospital entrance, sobbing with arms that were empty and a soul that had been crushed. Instead of bringing home our baby girl, we were leaving the hospital while her body grew cold in the hospital morgue. To this day I can almost see myself standing at that window any time I walk by it. That memory will forever haunt me.

But today was different. I felt a pang of guilt as my sweet Rhett was nestled peacefully in my arms as I prepared to take him home. Rhett had already surpassed this monumental milestone that his sister was never able to. In some ways it felt wrong to be bringing him home when I had so desperately wished for the same for his sister. Again, I found grief and joy dancing together in this moment.

“Check it out,” Adam said as he pointed to the most beautiful rainbow that filled the sky. God was telling me it was okay to feel what I was feeling, but also that I could allow myself to love Rhett without fear. It was time to go home and I sobbed as the transport employee wheeled me through the hospital to wait for Adam. He quietly handed me a box of tissue and stepped away as the tears flowed freely.

Adam met me at the hospital door with red eyes and a tear-streaked face. I could tell he felt the weight of today, too. This moment marked the bitterness of our loss and the sweet hope we felt in a new beginning. It’s so much for one heart to hold.

After only 6 hours at home I ended up back in the labor and delivery unit with complications, terrified that something may be seriously wrong with my health. I had the most lovely nurse, Anne Marie, with a British accent that seemed all too familiar. “There’s no way it’s her,” I thought to myself, but I had to know for sure. She told me she had worked on this floor for six years. I told her she seemed familiar and asked if she happened to be involved with my care in 2018 when I came in like a whirlwind to deliver Ellie. With tears in her eyes, she told me she remembered me, even down to the room I was in prior to surgery. You see, it was Anne Marie who grabbed my face and told me Ellie was alive. For years I had wanted to find her and hug her and thank her, but never knew who she was or how to reach her. “Perhaps this is the very reason you’re here tonight,” she told me. Again, one more part of my soul that was mended that night. She hugged me tight as she handed me my discharge papers. “I needed this too,” she told me as she said goodbye.

My heart still longs for Ellie to be here with our family today. She would be two and a half years old now, and I can only imagine the little girl she would have become. In some ways, having Rhett feels like betrayal – his life is only possible because of his sister’s death. I would never trade one for the other and simply must accept this is how my life is meant to be. He is here because she isn’t, and this harsh reality is one I will carry with me as long as I live.

The last four weeks have been a blur as we have welcomed Rhett into our home and adjusted to life as a family of 5. I feel an odd sense of peace when he cries, a gentle reminder of a strong, healthy baby boy – a gift I don’t take for granted. Rhett has brought some much-needed healing to a heart that had been broken from loss. He will never take Ellie’s place in our family, but has shown us a glimmer of hope that can come in the midst of heartache. A rainbow – hope that follows a storm.

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