The morning of my scheduled induction, I woke up before my alarm. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, so I started doing the Miles Circuit like our doula recommended. I had a little over an hour left before I could call and confirm that my induction would indeed take place that day. I tried to put it out of my mind, but it was hard.  My stomach was in knots. Time seemed to crawl by, but finally 6:00 am came around. I called knowing I’d be nervous no matter what the answer was. They told me they were ready for us. I was relieved and for the first time really started to believe that I might meet my baby that day.

My husband and I threw our bags in the car, kissed our daughter goodbye, and headed to the hospital.

After checking in, we walked to our delivery room.  I looked around and tears filled my eyes when I saw the bassinet and incubator – two items that were painfully absent from my last delivery.

isolette in the delivery room - Hannah's Birth Story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

A nurse asked what number baby this was for us. When I told her it was our third, she asked how old our other two children were. I told her about my three year old then explained that we lost our second baby. I nearly broke down then, but tried my best to hold it together.

There was a hospital gown sitting on the bed and as I anticipated, it looked exactly like the gown I wore when I delivered my son Koda. I was concerned that might be a little triggering for me, so I thought ahead and brought my own labor and delivery gown. I ended up being very thankful that I did.

One last bump photo - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

Getting the induction started happened quickly and was relatively painless.

I had already started dilating, so we were able to go straight to Pitocin. An hour or two passed before I started feeling contractions. For the first few hours after that, I was up on my feet or sitting on a birthing ball while resting in between. My husband and I were both in good spirits. We started to feel that nervous, excited, butterflies in our stomachs sort of feeling. I was still able to talk through contractions, so I let myself enjoy the time with my husband with the reassuring sound of our baby’s heartbeat in the background.

Hannah and her husband - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

After I labored that way for just a few hours, the nurse came in and told me that they wanted to break my water. I didn’t feel ready for that and asked them to wait. We called our doula and ended up asking her to go ahead and come in. It was a good thing we did too because contractions started to ramp up around that time. They were stronger when I was standing up or walking around, so I did more of that to help move things along. I started having to focus on my contractions and breath through them. They were coming steadily and we all felt pretty confident that I was moving towards active labor.

Hannah laboring with the ball - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

Because of how I was contracting and the fact that we thought my water might have broken on its own, I thought things might start to move quickly. I was also running on very little sleep and already getting tired. Because of all of that, I decided to go ahead and get an epidural. After it was placed and I was settled in bed, I was feeling good and very relaxed. The nurse came in to check my progress and told us that I’d dilated to three centimeters and that she didn’t think my water had broken. I felt so crushed. I thought surely I had made more progress than that. I struggled with that for another few hours. I really didn’t want to be stuck in bed for a long period of time, but there I was in that exact situation. A while later, the nurse again asked about my water being broken and I told her I wasn’t sure yet. That seemed to bother her a little. She asked what my hang up was. I told her that I was just scared to make a bad decision. She told me that the doctor would probably be in later to talk to us about it then she left us alone for a while.

I started to spiral emotionally.

At one point, my husband was asleep and our doula had gone to get something to eat. In those moments of silence, I started to cry. I cried over the loss of my first son, Koda. I cried because I missed my three year old who was safely at home with her godmother. I cried because I was scared something could go wrong with the delivery and hurt my unborn baby. When it came to making decisions I felt paralyzed. I was scared to have my water broken too soon and potentially introduce infection. I was also scared that I’d waited too long to let them intervene and put my baby into distress by prolonging my labor. I couldn’t even answer simple questions like, “do you want your labor playlist turned back on?” I felt like no matter what I did, the decision might be wrong and lead to devastation.

My husband and our doula helped me get into a new position in the bed every twenty or thirty minutes. Contractions became noticeably stronger. We waited a few hours thinking the doctor was going to come in and talk to me about breaking my water only to find out they had been waiting on me to make the call. Whether it was a miscommunication or lack of communication, I’m not sure but we finally got the ball rolling by asking for the doctor to come in. When he came into the room, I agreed to my water being broken. Our doula cautioned me not to get discouraged if I was still only dilated three centimeters. She reminded me that early labor is the longest stage of labor and breaking my water would likely help things move quicker. Immediately after he broke my water, the doctor checked my cervix and told us that I was five centimeters dilated, ninety percent effaced, and that the baby had moved down. I nearly cried. I felt so relieved and grateful that I was able to make that much progress in those few hours and while stuck in bed. That gave me a surge of encouragement and put me in a better place emotionally.

It was quiet for a bit, but as everyone suspected, things started to move pretty quickly not long afterwards.

Our doula was watching the monitors and pointed out that the baby’s heart rate was dropping a little with each contraction. She told us not to worry and that it indicated that he had probably moved down farther. Not long after, the nurse checked me and told me I was at an eight. She told me to call her when I started to feel pressure. What felt like minutes later, I called her back in. A few other nurses came with her.

Hannah laboring - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

I was definitely feeling pressure and the urge to push. The nurse left the decision up to me on if I was ready to start pushing or not. However, I was still struggling with making decisions and couldn’t seem to make the call. I asked our doula what she thought based on what I was saying and how I was acting. She told me that she thought I was fighting the urge to push. That was all I needed to help me give in.

I started pushing on my side without any direction from the hospital staff. However, I felt like I needed confirmation that I was doing it right, so the nurse stepped in. She still allowed me to take the lead, but assured me that I was indeed making progress. I focused on the voices of the nurse, my husband, and our doula who were encouraging me and reassuring me that things were moving along. After pushing on my side for a while, I decided I wanted to move onto my back and the nurses helped me do so. I pushed for one contraction on my back then the doctor came into the room as the baby’s head started to crown. Before he had the chance to get fully suited up, I heard someone say, “Oh baby’s coming!”

About twelve hours after my first noticeable contraction, our baby was born at 11:08 pm.

My body pushed the baby out involuntarily. (I have since learned this is called the fetal ejection reflex.) I was relieved that I was done pushing then my mind immediately turned to my baby’s well-being. I picked my head up just in time to see his sweet face as the doctor held him up. I reached for him and pulled him close. My husband and I immediately got emotional. The baby started crying on his own with minimal stimulation – my first baby to do that. As soon as I heard his little cry the tears started flowing and wouldn’t stop. It was the confirmation that I needed to truly believe I was finally holding a living, breathing baby in my arms. My husband and I got a little shaken up when he spit some red fluid out of his mouth, then he let out a loud cry and we again breathed a sigh of relief at that beautiful sound.

He's here! - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

The doctor finished working on me and told us that I didn’t tear. For obvious reasons, I was relieved to hear that.  When I voiced how surprised I was about it, one of the nurses told me that it was because I took my time and didn’t rush the process. It meant a lot to me to hear that. Our doula told me many times that she thought I made good decisions. I don’t know if she realized how badly I was struggling with that. To hear her repeatedly tell me that she thought I made good choices comforted me. I was doubting myself so intensely in the hours before I gave birth. However, for a moment as I held my healthy newborn baby with a supportive birth team surrounding me, I felt like maybe I had done something right.

Seeing my husband’s teary eyed smile beaming over our newborn son further fueled the tears that were streaming down my face. After nine long months, we were finally holding our rainbow baby.

It felt like a dream. Still every time a nurse checked his vitals, I held my breath until I heard, “everything looks great!” I stayed a little bit on edge until we were wheeled down to our recovery room and left alone for a while. Part of me was waiting for something alarming to happen, but everything kept getting checked off for both me and the baby. All was well. The rest of the night was a blur of sleeping, nursing, and snuggling our baby.

While I was in labor, I remember looking over at the bassinet and imagining my baby placed there. I silently declared that he would be in that bassinet very soon. Now there I was, staring at our little miracle in the bassinet beside me. He is truly a dream come true and an answered prayer.

Newborn boy - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

The next afternoon, my daughter was able to come to the hospital and meet her baby brother.

She had been waiting so long for that day. I thought I would cry, but I was just so overjoyed to see them together. She was so sweet with him. It didn’t take long for her to ask to hold him. She was smitten. The baby even smiled moments after he was placed into her arms for the first time. My heart had longed for that sweet moment for so long. It was everything I dreamed it would be.

Meeting big sister - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

The next day, we were able to bring our son home. We buckled him into his car seat – the one we bought for his older brother just a year before. My husband carried our son down the labor and delivery hallway. I let myself fall behind so I could grab a quick video of them. Though it was a happy moment, I couldn’t help but remember our walk out of the hospital after my last delivery. It made me all the more grateful to be leaving with a healthy, living baby this time. I knew I wanted to remember that moment.

Going home! - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

There is nothing like holding your rainbow baby for the first time.

The immense relief physically, mentally, and emotionally is indescribable. Still, in the weeks following his birth, I struggled. I actually felt somewhat grieved that my womb was once again empty. It took some time to figure out why.

When we brought our first baby home from the hospital, our family felt whole. I also felt empowered and confident in myself and my body. After my first son, Koda was born and we left the hospital without him, his absence was devastating. I hated my body. I couldn’t stand to look at or touch my belly that held my empty womb inside. In these early days after my rainbow baby’s birth, I feel almost in limbo. While my first pregnancy after loss is behind me and I can rest in that relief, part of me still feels hollow. I feel an emptiness in our family and in my womb. It’s an emptiness that will follow me all of my life because one of my babies isn’t here. It’s a longing that I can’t satisfy on this side of Heaven. No matter how many more children we might have, no matter how much joy they would bring into our lives, I’m always going to miss Koda. There will always be a place in our family and in my heart that is empty because he isn’t here. Though our rainbow baby brings so much joy and happiness into our lives, our family does not feel whole. Carrying and delivering a healthy baby did not erase the emptiness I feel from losing my first son. I’m thankful for the hope of Heaven and that it won’t always be this way. In the meantime though, it’s hard and it hurts.

Lately I’ve found myself looking at my newborn son and feeling so much love and so very thankful.

I’ll think about how devastating losing Koda was or how nerve-wracking my pregnancy was and as the anxiety starts to rise, I look over at my baby and my heart just relaxes for a moment. His birth by no means fixed everything, but he is absolutely a precious gift of hope, love, and joy. I’m so thankful that he’s here with us.

Rainbow boy - Hannah's birth story

Author’s Personal Collection/Hannah Kirk

Thank you to everyone who followed along on my pregnancy after loss journey. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share my story and bring awareness to a topic that will forever be close to my heart. To all the mamas pregnant after loss or hoping to be, you are incredibly courageous and you are never alone.

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