“The fear of history repeating itself was always in the back of my mind”: The story of Rainbow Baby Isobel
WARNING: this article contains content and images that some readers may find distressing and may trigger previous trauma
Sophie has a didelphic (double) uterus which was discovered during her first pregnancy. A didelphic uterus is similar to a bicornuate (heart shaped) uterus which generally has positive outcomes for pregnancy, so she was treated like a normal patient. However, at just 23 weeks pregnant, Sophie started having back pain which progressively worsened throughout the day. At 8pm, Sophie and her husband Chris decided to go to the hospital to check everything was ok. When they arrived, the resident was asking her routine questions such as what she had been eating that day, and it wasn’t clear what was actually happening until the on-call obstetrician arrived. When the doctors performed an internal exam to check for amniotic fluid, Sophie’s waters broke. At 9.55pm, their son Harrison was born, and moments later he passed away in his Dad’s arms.
Initially, Sophie and Chris were in complete shock. Earlier that day, Chris was at a close friends’ Christmas party telling everyone how well Sophie and the baby were doing, and next thing they knew they were saying goodbye. “It wasn’t what we had expected”. They spent that night with Harrison simply holding him, watching him and taking photos to capture the precious time they had with him. The next morning when Chris went home to get Sophie some clothes, one of the nurses went in and kissed her on forehead – and that was when she first cried. The sense of loss and pain they felt as they left the hospital that day without their son was unimaginable. Sophie doesn’t believe there is anything that helped them heal other than time. "It’s still hard for both of us every day.”
The following April, Sophie fell pregnant again. Naturally, she and Chris were ecstatic, but they were extremely nervous. Sophie felt guilty for being happy about this new baby, and was worried it would look like she was trying to replace her son. This time her pregnancy was treated as high risk and after talking with her obstetrician, it was decided that Sophie would have a cervical suture at 12 weeks. Before this procedure, a blood test confirmed that their baby was healthy and they were having a girl, which helped Sophie feel differently about this pregnancy compared to the last. For reassurance, she decided to have fortnightly ultrasounds and at every scan they checked her cervix for shortening. At 27 weeks pregnant, she was given two steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs develop in case she came early. At 28 weeks, the baby was still healthy and growing and her cervix was still a good length for her gestation. That week, Sophie and her obstetrician discussed how everything was looking positive and he suggested that she didn’t need to have the extra ultrasounds anymore.
Three days later, Sophie was at home watching a movie and “just didn’t feel right”. She knew what to look for this time and although the ache in her back and across her stomach was familiar, it didn’t feel like labour until she got in the car. Sophie remained hopeful that they could stop it as she had recognised the symptoms so early this time. She drove to the hospital and called Chris to meet her there. When she arrived at 10pm, she was put in a delivery suite to be monitored and was setup with a magnesium drip. At 12am, Sophie was given drugs to stop her labour but she wasn’t able to keep them down. Her obstetrician was called in at 2am and after examination it was decided that she would be transferred to a hospital with a NICU. At 5.30am they were sent via ambulance to Nepean Hospital.
Sophie continued to labour throughout that morning despite their best efforts to stop it. She doesn’t recollect much from that day apart from the sheer agony of labour, but the fear of history repeating itself was always in the back of her mind. In between contractions, she remembers NICU doctors coming and talking to her and Chris about what to expect once the baby arrived. Sophie admits that she was still hopeful they would be able to stop the labour and she didn’t really believe what was happening. But at 2pm, 16 hours after she first arrived at hospital, it was decided that it was time to take Sophie to surgery. Their baby was breech and Sophie needed a caesarean. It was only when she was sitting on the stretcher having the epidural that Sophie realised her daughter was coming.
Isobel was born at 3:06pm at 29 weeks’ gestation weighing 1350g and 39cm long. Sophie remembers hearing Isobel cry and will never forget the overwhelming feeling of relief that followed. Isobel was placed on CPAP minutes after she was born and Chris went to the NICU with her while Sophie went to recovery. Later that night at 12am, Chris and one of the midwives took Sophie down to see her daughter for the first time: "She was tiny but perfect.” Isobel spent 10 days in Nepean NICU before being transferred to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital closer to home. She flourished at RPA and was taken out of her humidicrib and off hi-flow at just 2 weeks old.
Isobel then spent 26 days at the RPA before being transferred to another hospital, again to be closer to home. During this time, Sophie and Chris celebrated every little milestone she reached – each reduction of CPAP, the first time she opened her eyes, their first cuddles, first outfit, first bottle & breastfeed... “the list goes on.” But one of Sophie’s favourite memories from Isobel’s time in NICU was her first bath at RPA. “Izzy has always been a very active little girl, even in utero! But when she was placed in the water for the first time she froze and had such an uncertain look on her face.”
The nurses and doctors at the three hospitals all treated Isobel like she was their own and offered Sophie and Chris support through the highs and lows of NICU… “they were amazing.”
Finally, at 2 months old (38 weeks gestation) on Christmas Eve, Isobel was able to go home.
Isobel is now 5 months old (10 weeks corrected) and is healthy, happy and smiling. Sophie and Chris are grateful every day for their miracle rainbow baby.
Thankyou Sophie for sharing your story with me. You are incredibly brave and I truly believe your angel Harry has been with you every step of the way.
"While it is hard, it does get better." - Sophie
If you or someone you know is dealing with pregnancy or infant loss, please remember you are not alone. You can gain support from Bears of Hope - a non-profit organisation who provide leading support and exceptional care for families who experience the loss of their baby.
These are the thoughts and opinions of Sophie and do not in any way represent Miracle Mumma or it's affiliates.
If you have a story to share and would like to be featured, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can raise awareness of premature birth and offer hope to others who are going or will go through the same. You are never alone <3