by Dana MacDonald
Dana has been a registered nurse for 10 years. She is currently working as a surgical nurse at Kingston Health Sciences Centre. She lives in Kingston, Ontario, and is a proud mom of two kids (Dylan and Zoe) and one dog, named Storm.
My birth story begins before a pandemic was declared, before COVID-19 became common vernacular or masks were worn as a part of our everyday attire. It begins in September of 2018 with my first pregnancy. My partner and I were ecstatic to learn that we were expecting our first child. The pregnancy was textbook, and although the summer was incredibly hot, I had never felt more beautiful than I did carrying that child. We did the things that new parents do: we prepped the nursery, attended birthing classes and anxiously awaited the arrival of our future son or daughter. Unfortunately, at 37 weeks pregnant, I did not feel the baby moving as much as I normally had. I went to the doctors with a giant pit in my stomach knowing that something did not feel right. The doctor recommended that, due to the decreased movement and my anxiety, I should have an ultrasound to make sure that everything was okay with both the baby and I. My partner decided to take time off work to meet me at the hospital and we awaited the ultrasound as we had done so many times before. Unfortunately, this ultrasound didn’t show the magic of that beautiful heart beating. Our baby was gone.
We sat in a labour and delivery room as the OBGYN explained that they weren’t sure what had happened but that the next step was to deliver. I screamed, and I sobbed, and I clutched my belly begging it to give me some kind of movement that would tell me they had gotten this all wrong. Unfortunately, it was true and they had to walk me through the delivery process of a stillborn. At my request, they were able to discover with the bedside ultrasound the sex of the baby. We’d have to have a name prepared and a plan in place. They told us we had lost a little boy.
The next day was spent waiting for a call to say a bed was available to deliver. My partner and I did our best to plan for an impossible day and to tell our family that their lives had changed forever as well. We went to the hospital with the mindset that we were going to make this little boy’s short time with us as magical as we could, as he deserved nothing less. My partner and I played Yahtzee at the beginning of the induction, we snuggled, we cried, even managed to have a laugh or two. Dylan Thomas was born at 10:23 a.m. on September 23rd. He landed on my chest and I was a mother. I was incredibly heartbroken but completely enamoured by the beautiful human I had carried with me for 37 weeks. The next few hours were spent staring at our beautiful boy. Our family joined us as we played music, cried, hugged and loved that little boy with every single ounce of our bodies because we knew we didn’t have much longer with him.
After a year of grieving, a year of torturous holidays and inconceivable pain, we found out we were expecting again and our baby was due in April of 2020. Our rainbow baby was on its way but the pregnancy wasn’t quite as magical as the first. It was an anxious pregnancy. It was a pregnancy filled with fear and distrust of my own body. We were lucky to have learned that Dylan died of a true knot in his cord but there was nothing to say that this baby wouldn’t succumb to the same fate or any other complication for that matter. When the new year rolled around, we began hearing of COVID-19 - as if my anxiety wasn’t high enough. With that came the fear of the unknown: would my partner be able to attend the birth? What happens if I contract the virus? What happens if the baby contracts the virus? Everything was so new and it seemed as though information was changing daily at that time. Due to the loss of our firstborn, the delivery was another induction at 37 weeks for everyone’s well-being. As the day approached my anxiety intensified. We arrived at the hospital to begin induction on Sunday, March 29th and although induction doesn’t always follow the same path, they explained that I would likely go home and return the next day for the next step. However, this baby was telling us that he or she was ready to arrive and possibly even before the end of the day. My mind spun. The only thing I had been able to cling to was the plan set in place by the physicians. This was a wrench in my plans. We were able to go home, give our dog some kisses and cuddles and return to the hospital with our bags and the hope that this time we would be leaving the hospital with our baby. Thankfully, my partner was able to be there as my one permitted support person. As we had done with our first labour, we played Yahtzee, we cuddled, but this time we remembered our son.
If only all women were able to undergo the labour that I experienced. After the epidural was inserted at 5 cm I merely felt pressure with contractions and could speak through them and even nap. After learning I was fully dilated, I had to slow down pushing because this baby was ready to enter the world. I pushed for only 10 minutes and once again, a beautiful baby landed on my chest, this time a girl. Zoe Dylan entered the world on a rainy day in March and a perfect rainbow arced over the hospital upon her arrival.
We will never get over the loss of our son but, it has taught us many things. Time is precious and so many things are out of our control - even our own bodies. Without the loss of our son, we wouldn’t have our daughter right now. While that is an impossible truth to wrap our heads around, all we can do is be thankful for what we have, speak about him to our daughter and smile that our rainbow came after the storm.