Rainbow Baby Day: Meet Bear
National Rainbow Baby Day is Aug. 22. It’s a chance for families to celebrate the joy of a new baby while reflecting and sharing about the baby (or babies) they lost.
Today we’re celebrating the safe arrival of the Rainbow Babies born this year to Count the Kicks Ambassadors. We asked Missouri Ambassador Erica Bailey to share her experience with pregnancy after loss, pregnancy during a pandemic, and what having a rainbow baby means to her.
Congrats on the safe arrival of your new baby! Can you tell us more about your family and your new baby?
Not long after my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted to start our family. We got pregnant with Rhoan, our firstborn son, and he had a perfectly normal pregnancy. I loved being pregnant with him! It was everything I thought it would be, until the very end at 39 weeks when he died unexpectedly.
I was not aware I should have been keeping track of his movements and I will always wonder “what if” I had known, could be here now? He was stillborn on March 5, 2020 and he was perfect in every way. He was a little copy of his daddy. We will always have a hole in our hearts and family in the shape of him. Forever loved and never forgotten – Rhoan Osborne Bailey.
After Rhoan died, it was excruciating to come home to a quiet house and an empty nursery. Not long after, the entire world shut down because of COVID-19. We were forced to sit alone in our grief. Our hearts ached to love and hold a living child, so we knew we wanted to grow our family.
Three months later, we got pregnant with Rhoan’s little brother, Bear! After a complicated PAL pregnancy, Bear Odin was born healthy and alive on Jan. 26, 2021. He is so sweet, full of smiles and giggles, and looks a lot like his mama and a little like his big brother.
How long have you been a Count the Kicks Ambassador and what does it mean to you?
I have only recently become an Ambassador, but I knew I wanted to be one as soon as I learned about Count the Kicks. If only I had known about Count the Kicks when I was pregnant with Rhoan, he could be here.
He was trying to tell me something was wrong when his movements were slowing down in those last weeks, but I was not tracking, and I believed the myths that “babies slow down before labor” and “babies run out of room in the 3rd trimester,” which are both NOT true. If I had known my baby was trying to communicate with me, I could have alerted my providers to the change, and we could have delivered him before he died to save his life.
I don’t want another family to experience the unbelievable heartbreaking tragedy that is losing a child to stillbirth. Stillbirth is not a one-time event. It affects the rest of your life. You miss out on an entire lifetime of memories with your child.
Please tell us more about your experience being pregnant after losing a baby to stillbirth.
Being pregnant again after losing my first son to stillbirth at 39 weeks was the second hardest thing I have ever done. All the blissful ignorance of a first-time mom is gone out the window because now that I am a loss mom, I know too many things that can go wrong.
I remember seeing other families with little boys and thinking, “that should be us already” instead of “that’s going to be us.” I was painfully aware of how nothing is guaranteed.
My pregnancy-after-loss (PAL) pregnancy was so different from my first pregnancy in many ways. My first pregnancy was literally perfect. I had barely any sickness. I was able to exercise the whole time, and felt great. I had no anxiety. It was a magical time. With my second pregnancy, I was living in fear every moment. I didn’t know what the next day was going to bring, and I was terrified of having another baby die.
My PAL pregnancy had physical challenges unlike my first. At 13 weeks, I suffered a huge bleeding episode and went to the ER. I thought we were losing our second son. I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage and put on pelvic rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.
So now not only was I high-risk from having a previous stillbirth, but my PAL pregnancy was high-risk again because of the risk of placental abruption from the subchorionic hemorrhage. Every day I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. We also had a cancer scare at 16 weeks and I was ordered to get a MRI. It felt like we couldn’t catch a break and it was exhausting.
Another big difference between my pregnancies was that I did not advocate for myself and my baby in my first pregnancy. I was very trusting of what others told me and ignored my gut instincts.
With my second pregnancy, I was advocating for myself and my son at every appointment. I asked for the extra scans, extra appointments, and extra surveillance. I monitored my baby’s movements religiously. When things felt off, I went into labor and delivery to get checked. This happened multiple times in my third trimester. With Rhoan, I made the mistake of “sleeping on it” and going in too late; I was not going to do that again.
Despite all the scary things going on, my husband and I decided that we were going to let ourselves feel the joy of this pregnancy any chance we could because we knew a life with our son was not guaranteed. We planned an outdoor surprise gender reveal party for our friends and family. I will never forget the tears and smiles from that day. It was so special. We also went on a small babymoon a few hours away for a weekend. We wanted to make as many memories as possible with this baby just like we did with his older brother.
Did the COVID-19 pandemic have an impact on your pregnancy experience?
Being pregnant after loss through a pandemic was (almost) 9 months of holding my breath.
Since the hospital had a “no visitors policy,” I had to advocate very hard, repeatedly, to have my husband with me at my appointments. I personally believe there should always be a visitor allowed for beginning and end of life care.
Since I had found out my first son died during a doppler and then ultrasound check, all my appointments were extra triggering to my PTSD. There was no way I could be in those without my husband.
It took many crying phone calls to the doctor’s office manager and beyond to get my husband permission to come with me. This added more unnecessary anxiety to an already anxiety provoking experience. There were plenty of times we would show up to the appointment and have to explain our situation all over again (when we already had prior approval) because of the lack of communication to the front desk staff or nurses.
I am grateful that both our Ob/Gyn and Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor agreed that I should not be alone in my appointments. Having my husband in to support me and our son made a rough PAL a little easier.
COVID-19 also added another layer of loneliness during this pregnancy that was different. Because of social distancing, I felt like my second baby wasn’t loved on by family and friends like my first was. But I wasn’t willing to take the risk of getting sick and putting my baby in danger. Lots of alone time at home for me just meant more time counting kicks and 1-on-1 time with my baby!
Tell us more about your experience using the FREE Count the Kicks app during your rainbow baby pregnancy.
I started using Count the Kicks when I turned 26 weeks since I was considered high-risk. I would use it multiple times per day, every day because I wanted to learn my baby’s normal. Every baby is different, and Bear was certainly different from Rhoan. Of course, Bear had an anterior placenta, which made things a little more difficult, but the app made things a lot easier because I could easily see which times of day he was active and how long it would take him to get to 10 movements each session. By doing this multiple times per day, I felt like I was bonding with my baby and really getting to know him. It never felt like a burden to me because I would get to sit and have quiet time with my baby.
There were a few times I noticed Bear wasn’t moving as much, and I would call my OB on the way to L&D triage to get checked. Every single time I went in, the nurses were so kind to me and told me if I needed to come in 100 times to make sure my baby was OK, I could do it. That made me feel better.
In my 3rd trimester, I had weekly appointments for Non-Stress Tests and Biophysical Profiles. At my 36-week appointment, I woke up and noticed that Bear was not moving like he normally would. I alerted my providers at my NST/BPP appointment that day and they became concerned because his heart rate kept dropping during my contractions. Due to my history and his lack of movements, they decided to admit me that day.
They monitored us all night long, and it was very uneasy to hear the alarms go off every time his heart rate dropped. Early the next morning, my OB came in to check me and I was already 5 cm dilated. She broke my water, and Bear was born 4 hours later. Healthy and alive at 6 lbs. 12 ounces!
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had I not spoken up and told them Bear had slowed down. Luckily, I don’t have to because I did speak up. My providers listened, took action, and Bear is here in my arms today.
What was your favorite feature of the Count the Kicks app?
I loved being able to see the kick session history so I could compare my baby’s kick count sessions to make sure he was within his normal range. There are enough things to worry about during a pregnancy (especially a pregnancy after loss), so to have all this information easily accessible right at my fingertips was so helpful to me. Anything to help a mama with grief-brain AND pregnancy-brain is much appreciated!
It’s National Rainbow Baby Day. Do you use this term, and if so, what does it mean to you to have a rainbow baby?
I am personally not a huge fan of the term “rainbow baby,” especially when it is used by other people who have never experienced the death of a child. Not everyone gets a rainbow and not all rainbow babies get to come home. I also don’t want Rhoan’s legacy to be defined as a “storm.” He is my first baby who made me a mom, and a fierce mama bear at that! Because of Rhoan, I will always trust my instincts because he taught me that my mother’s intuition is powerful.
It is hard to put words to what it is like parenting a live child after loss. Holding Bear on my chest after birth, feeling him breathe, hearing him cry, was an out-of-body experience. It felt surreal. I felt like I could breathe again. I have never felt so much joy and grief in the same moment. But with every joyful experience, there is also grief and sadness because we never got that with Rhoan.
While I get to see my youngest grow up and experience life, my heart constantly aches for his older brother who was robbed of that chance. My heart also breaks for Bear who doesn’t get to experience having an older brother alive to grow up with him. It is just very bittersweet. Joy and grief go hand-in-hand, and that is something I am learning to accept. We never “move on.” Somehow, we keep getting stronger and the grief changes over time. It never goes away, and one baby will never replace another. Our family will forever be incomplete.
What do you want other moms to know about stillbirth, pregnancy after loss, and the Count the Kicks campaign?
There are so many things that we do not have control over in pregnancy (almost nothing really), but the one thing we do have control over is speaking up when we feel something is not right. We are our baby’s voice, and they are communicating to us through their movements. Trust your mother’s intuition and don’t second guess yourself. Alert your providers and go in to get checked as many times as you need to. Even on a holiday. Even on a weekend. Even if you already had an appointment that day. Labor and Delivery Triage is available to you 24/7. They want to help you. That is their job. I doubted myself when I thought something was wrong, and I will always regret not going in sooner. Maybe my firstborn son could be here alive.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role as a Count the Kicks Ambassador in your state?
My goal is that every pregnant patient in Missouri knows about Count the Kicks and how to properly monitor their baby’s (babies’) movements in the third trimester. It should not take a loss for moms to learn this life-saving information!
About Our Ambassadors
Count the Kicks Ambassadors help us educate expectant parents and providers across the U.S. about the importance of kick counting in the third trimester of pregnancy. This incredible group of kick counting advocates are essential to our efforts to reach as many parents and providers as possible. Our Ambassador team currently includes 42 women representing 28 states, plus Washington, D.C., Canada and India. The team includes 33 who work in honor of lost babies, five that are baby save moms, and four who are birth workers.
Visit our website to learn more about our Ambassador program.
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