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The Birth of Rainbow Baby Sammy

The Birth of Rainbow Baby Sammy

“He’s here, Lauren! He’s here!” My midwife lifted Sammy into the air to show me that my baby was alive. As he was placed on my belly, I stared with awe and wonder at this little life that my body had successfully brought into the world. The nurses were rubbing him, coaxing him to cry and take big gulps of air. But something was wrong; Sammy would cry, but would make little grunting noises as he tried to breathe. The NICU was paged for a consult. I laid on the bed, praying and hoping that he would begin to breathe better so I could keep him with me. The NICU team arrived and put CPAP on him, but his oxygen level was not improving. They tried one last ditch effort: skin to skin with me. I held him for one beautiful minute, but nothing was working, so they told me to kiss him goodbye. He was quickly rolled away to the NICU, and as I watched my baby leave, the tears began to pour down my face. I had finally reached the moment I had waited so long for, only to have my baby taken away again.

As I was taken to postpartum recovery, Will went to the NICU to be with Sammy. Soon, the NICU doctor came in to my room, telling me that Sammy was on a ventilator and was doing alright, but they were keeping a close eye on him. I asked him, “Is my baby going to die? I need to know if he is going to be okay.” He was encouraging, but couldn’t make any promises. He asked me why Sammy was born so early, and I told him about my previous stillbirth. He gently assured me that we had made the right choice; he had lost a baby 30 years previously and understood the pain and fear. A few hours later, the NICU doctor returned to tell me Sammy was not improving and would need a procedure to help his lungs. They would inject surfactant into his lungs since he had not had enough time in the womb to develop his own; without surfactant, the lungs cannot breathe effectively.

I still had not been able to go to the NICU, so at that point, it had been about 6 hours since I had seen my son. They told us they would call when Sammy was done with the procedure. After an hour had passed, I started to panic. I begged Will to go to the NICU and see what was going on. He got there and called me to say the partitions were up around Sammy’s bed, which meant that the doctors were still working. I remember hanging up the phone, feeling absolutely terrified and helpless. I kept thinking, “I’m about to lose another baby. God, please don’t let this happen again.” I felt guilty because Sammy was born early by choice; we thought it was the safest route given my previous stillbirth at 36 weeks. I felt like I was the reason he was suffering, and I believed it would be my fault if he died. After several minutes of intense worry and dread, Will sent me a picture of Sammy, alive and well. The procedure was over, and Sammy’s oxygen levels were dramatically improving. He was still getting oxygen through a nasal cannula, but the ventilator was out. I burst into tears, overwhelmed with relief and praise.

A few minutes later, I got to visit Sammy for the first time. The room was dark, but full of the noise of monitors constantly beeping and sounding alarms. I was overwhelmed by the sounds, but I was thrilled to finally be with my baby. He was on his belly, covered with wires and tubes. The nurses called him ‘fiesty’ because he did not like being poked and prodded all the time. I wasn’t allowed to hold him that first time, so I put my hands on him and sang songs. He became so peaceful when we sang to him; it was an incredible thing to see him recognize my voice. It was truly heartbreaking to see my baby lying in a bed, hooked up to all kinds of devices, and I couldn’t even pick him up to comfort him. Other mothers would have been starting to breastfeed and getting to cuddle and bond with their babies, but all I could do was touch him, sing, and pray. Leaving him that night was terrible; I had to entrust my whole heart to those nurses and doctors. It just felt so wrong to leave him behind.

The next morning, we got to meet Sammy’s new doctor, who told us that his x-rays showed 80% improvement in his lungs since having the procedure! At that time, he was being fed via feeding tube, so I would pump every 3 hours in order to give him milk through the tube. We weren’t allowed to hold

him yet, so we would simply sit and stare at our beautiful boy. Our day consisted of pumping milk, eating, and sitting with Sammy. We would repeat this schedule every 3 hours, and although my body was begging for rest, I refused to leave my boy. That night, our new nurse asked if I wanted to do skin to skin. I was overjoyed! It had been so long since I had held him; when they placed him on my chest, it finally began to feel real. He had been very upset, but as soon as they placed him on me, he fell into a deep, restful sleep. I held him for an hour, and it was one of the happiest hours of my life.

Over the next few days, Sammy was slowly weaned off of extra oxygen, which was so encouraging. He developed jaundice, but after a few days under the bilirubin lights, he beat that too. Our final hurdle was feeding. Sammy was doing great trying to breastfeed, but the requirements to leave the hospital were very strict. Finally, one morning, his doctor said his tone was really good, so we could take his feeding tube out. Two days later, we were told that we could get him ready to go home. After 10 days in the NICU, which felt like an eternity, I finally got to place him in a car seat. I sat next to him on the drive home, just cradling his head and praising God for a healthy baby boy. No more fast food, hospital beds, or beeping monitors. No more driving back and forth, parking garages, or saying goodbye. We were going to be a whole family at last.

When we brought Sammy home, our older son Matti asked us, “Can he stay here?” It was such a profound question, one that my own heart had asked God so many times during my pregnancy and during that 10 day period in the NICU. At that moment, I looked at my son and said, “Yes, he gets to stay with us forever. He is part of our family.” After 3 years of heartbreak, loss, and waiting, God allowed us to bring a healthy baby home. It felt like our period of suffering was finally over; the storm had ended, leaving behind a beautiful rainbow named Sammy.

Lauren Young is a wife to Will and mom to two beautiful boys on earth (Matti and Sammy) and three precious babies in heaven (Hope, Jonah, and January).  She is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys writing, reading good books, cooking new recipes, and playing piano.  She lives in central Texas now but was born and raised in Georgia.  She and her husband are now in the adoption process and can't wait to see what God has in store for their family.  

Catherine Hartel

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