My Birth Story (Rainbow Baby)

June 7, 2020

By Sanda Rathamone



“Although birth is only one day in the life of a woman, it has an imprint on her for the rest of her life.” - Justine Caines

A little before 6 in the morning, my husband was getting ready for work. He was going to be late. Usually, I would still be in bed half-asleep, but was awakened by a strange feeling. 

This is where the story begins.

Do you know that sinking feeling when something isn't right? That's what I felt. I told my husband that I wasn't feeling well and wasn't sure why. Typically, a trip to the bathroom would make things better, but it didn't. I brushed it off thinking that maybe it was nothing more than the usual discomforts of late pregnancy. My husband paused for a moment, considering if he should or shouldn't go to work. We both had that "gut feeling" that something might happen.

Since we weren't sure if I was going into labor or not, he suggested I record every time I felt the pain so that I can consult with my OB later, and then went to work. I was back in bed. There was a 10 a.m. appointment scheduled with my doctor that morning and we would be going over our 39 week progress (my mom was to take me there). But that feeling wouldn't go away; it became more apparent as time passed.

I had this sharp back pain and assumed that it was like any other day. Then again, what wasn't normal was how the pains came and went. Like waves. Another symptom I had was this undeniable heavy pressure in the rectal area, as if one big gigantic poop was going to fall out. The problem: it felt like constipation, but far, far worse. 

Once I realized that a whole hour had passed (it was now 7 a.m.) and that the pain had worsened, I began timing the back pains just to see if it would correspond with the "4-1-1 Rule," contractions occurring every 4 minutes, lasting 1 minute for 1 hour. Amid the pain and confusion, I googled everything on "signs of early labor," but wasn't convinced. My timing wasn't an exact match to 4-1-1, which had me more confused and worried.

7:16 a.m. - 7:20 a.m.
7:23 a.m. - 7:28 a.m.
7:32 a.m. - 7:35 a.m.
7:37 a.m. - 7:40 a.m.
7:42 a.m. - 7:45 a.m.
7:49 a.m. - 7:52 a.m.
7:54 a.m. - 7:56 a.m.
8:01 a.m. - 8:06 a.m.
8:08 a.m. - 8:13 a.m.


On average, my pains lasted 3 minutes and were about 2 to 3 minutes apart. At this point, my body went into instinct mode without my brain realizing I was in actual labor. On the bed, I got on all fours and began breathing through the pains.

Luckily, just before 7 a.m., my husband texted me. For about an hour, we texted back and forth, unsure of what to do or who to call. The clinic or the hospital? I didn't want to call either. If we were to be sent home with a "false alarm," I would have been highly embarrassed (as a "first-timer" of a full-term pregnancy). When I had the courage to call the clinic, a triage nurse told me that the CONTRACTIONS were very close and that I should go to emergency. She ended the call with, "You're gonna have a baby today!" 

I was in shock, "Am I REALLY having contractions?"

After about two hours at work, my husband rushed home. We would be heading to triage in Labor and Delivery. 

And yet, here was the hard part.

Being pregnant and close to delivering in the midst of COVID-19 had me in a tough spot. Deciding between my mom and my husband on who was going to be my ONE support person was heartbreaking. I wanted both, if not, all family members to be there. Nevertheless, I would have been highly disappointed if my husband wasn't in the room with me. He was my support person during Elijah's birth; I needed him close in case anything went horribly wrong.

My husband and I could feel the disappointment in my mom's voice after I told her that we would be going to the hospital without her. I had a feeling that she wanted to be my support person. She wasn't fully "there" when Elijah was born and died. I know that she wanted things to be different this time around because of the fall-out we had after Elijah died. But I digress.

Once we arrived to the hospital, got through security questions (concerning COVID), and was taken to triage, a nurse checked me. This was the moment we had waited for and the answer we wanted to know:

  • Yes, I was contracting.
  • I was having back labor.
  • I was 7 c.m. dilated!

Immediately, we were sent to Labor and Delivery, and that's when it all hit me. I was laboring on my own! The plan was to have this baby by 7 p.m.! 

For back labor, the nurses suggested the birthing ball or a bath. My doctor also did a second check (I was actually 6 c.m.) and wanted me active and walking around. The moment I sat on the birthing ball, I just wanted to hop right off. Sitting and bouncing on the ball put more strain into the rectal area. Leaning on the bed (on and off the ball) and having my husband massage and place counter-pressure on my lower back didn't help ease the back labor either. 

So, I opted for the hot bath. 

We waited for ten minutes for the tub to fill. Finally, I could relax! We also ordered food, which my husband had sitting in the bathroom right next to the tub, so I could eat and labor at the same time. The hot water and a good pillow behind my head was a dream... 

A short-lived dream. 

Unfortunately, the hot water didn't help for long. Every other minute or so, a contraction would come and pass. I don't remember how long we were in the bathroom (at this point, time is distorted) but it was long enough to where my toes pruned and the water turned lukewarm. Oh, and the food we ordered? My husband tried feeding me the soup while I was in the tub. After 2 or 3 spoonfuls of soup, my husband ended up eating his own meal (and later, mine). I learned that food + laboring does not mix very well.

After the bath, I couldn't stay in bed. Aside from sitting on the ball, lying down was one of the worst positions. I labored standing at the edge of the bed, bent over with my head buried in my arms, unable to speak or open my eyes. I could barely walk. When the contractions got so bad, the towel bar in the bathroom was my friend. Somehow, that thing was the perfect tool for laboring: the sturdiness, the cool touch, the height. I could pull and hold tightly onto it; it made me feel safe.

Again, I don't know how long this went on, but to and fro I went. Bed. Bathroom. Bed. Bathroom. 

Eventually, I was hovering over the edge of the bed, going over in my mind if I should get the epidural. I wanted to go natural (with epidural as back-up), but was exhausted, beginning to doubt myself, and became emotional. I didn't have much sleep to begin with, since labor started at 6 in the morning, and I felt like I was running out of energy. Nothing I did helped ease the back pain. 

My doctor came back to check on me and it was now some time in the afternoon. I had dilated to a 7. Since I had been going at it for some time now, she suggested breaking my water, hoping that it would speed up labor (because we were going to have this baby by 7 p.m.!).

"We don't want moms doing this for too long. It's not good for mom and baby. And we want you to have enough energy to push."

That's when I asked about the epidural. Both my doctor and nurse recommended I get it because 1. I was very exhausted and 2. They were grateful to have their epidurals. My husband was also on-board, encouraging me to get it. Before sending the anesthesiologist to our room, they had us watch a video on the process of administering epidurals, along with the risks and benefits. 

Now, I have to mention that I had a terrible experience getting a spinal block when getting the cerclage placed. The spinal block didn't work properly and it took more than the "typical" two hours to wear off. My biggest fear was that the epidural could possibly be, yet, another terrible experience (with numbing medicine). I had also heard stories of moms having long-term back problems after the epidural and didn't want the same for myself.

But of course, watching a video and having contractions is another bad mix. I couldn't remember or focus on everything the guy on the video said. I was also horrified to see the list of health risks. Hearing the guy talk about all of the things that could go wrong was already discouraging. My doctor and nurse laughed when at the end of the video, I had changed my mind. I was scared into not getting it! So, with a lot of reassurance that the risks were actually not as high, some sharing of epidural stories, my doctor and nurse gave us a few minutes to think it over. 

A few contractions later, I changed my mind for a second time. I was a little disappointed that getting an epidural meant that I would be confined to the bed with no food, but I had been going at this for HOURS without rest. A part of me felt like I had given up too easily (going naturally), the other part knew that I had done more than a great job. (Hubby agrees).

If I could describe what labor was like, I would compare it to a triathlon - not that I have ever competed in one before. It's the part of endurance and perseverance that I felt I had failed. It was like I was only in the beginning, drowning in the swimming race.

However, getting the epidural turned out to be a success (after a second try). It wasn't all that bad as my mind had made it up to be and I finally got some rest, so did my husband (who slept real good, so good he was snoring!). 

Before we knew it, it was 7 p.m. and baby wasn't ready to come out. By this time, I was in labor for 13 hours and was onto nurse #3. Remember: the goal was to have baby out by 7 p.m. with nurse #1. It turns out that after getting the epidural, the contractions slowed and I wasn't progressing. My doctor decided it was a good time to break my water and start Pitocin. Slowly, we crept to 8 c.m. 

I remember dozing off and on during those last few hours before pushing. The nurse would come in and out of our room in about every other 5-10 minutes or so. The baby monitor kept coming loose and out of place; the nurse constantly adjusting it here and there on my belly. We figured that baby didn't like the monitor and would move away from it. There was also a moment where baby had hiccups and I could hear it through the monitor. The pulsing sound was comforting; a familiar and reassuring sign that he was still alive. After all that time, I was still worried... 

By 9 c.m., the initial epidural dosage had begun to wear off, even with the hourly dosage; I was beginning to feel the contractions coming on stronger. Baby was also pushing even lower and there was this hard pressure on the left side of my cervix. This was the part where my doctor and another doctor had "checked" me, which was a real pain! They found that there was a part of the cervix on the left side that had yet to open up. Baby's head hadn't fully turned downwards and a part of his head was pushing the left side, which was why I could feel that pressure. 

My doctor called in a specialist to try manually turning baby, but after checking me (for a third time), said that it should be fine to push, letting baby move on his own.

When they asked me if I was ready to push, I was surprised to hear myself give the "OK". I had so much anxiety about this moment, weeks before going into labor. I knew that the physical pain of birthing a baby at 20 weeks would not compare to a full term baby, and I was scared of how much this would hurt or if I would be able to do it at all. So, I closed my eyes like I had done before. Yet, with my husband by my side and a doctor I had trusted/wanted to be there, I felt safe and confident.

Within the first few pushes, I could already feel baby moving down lower and lower. It was the moment that I knew that it wouldn't be too long - he was coming. Fast. Soon enough, I felt like I was being stretched to the max, and then, it was like... magic. The rest of his body slipped out of me and from that moment on, he cried. HE CRIED! He was out after just 15 minutes of pushing!

When my doctor laid him on top of me, I couldn't believe what I was feeling, seeing, and hearing. From the weight of his body to the sound of his cry that could probably be heard a mile away, I was in shock. I did this! We did this! God did this! 

There were no tears of joy coming from my eyes, but there was this mixed feeling of relief, amazement, and exhaustion. He came out alive and screaming, and that was something like a dream. Something that told me that my journey had only just begun, yet, we had come a long way. 

"In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born." - Isaiah 66:9

Benjamin Elijah Saeteurn
Born April 15, 2020 at 10:24 p.m.
6 lbs. 3.8 oz. 22in. 



With love,
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