Rainbow pregnancy in Uganda - Lauren's Story
I wrote about the beginning of my pregnancy journey for the blog and now I wanted to continue where I left off…
My husband, Eric, and I had been living in Mbale (the eastern region of Uganda) for the first 7 months of our marriage. When we got married we knew we would move out of Mbale for Eric’s work. We ended up in Gulu, in the northern region of Uganda. It was a week into settling into our new home in Gulu, on April 20th, that we found out that I was pregnant! We were not so shocked, yet we were so grateful. We found out by taking a blood test at the local clinic. We went in together, they took my blood and a hour later we came back for the results and the technician said, “I don’t know if this is a good thing for you or not, but you have a positive test!” It was a GREAT thing to hear! There was some trepidation, given the previous two losses, yet I decided to cling to Proverbs 3:5-6 and enjoy the news from today without worrying about tomorrow.
Eric and I got home and would you know that a storm came then a RAINBOW. This pregnancy was to bring about our rainbow baby (a baby born after a loss). The next day was Easter and we had planned to call our families anyways, so we shared the news with them! I also had a prayer/update email that I kept. I would write regular updates to this group of about 8 friends/mentors who are so dear to me and I KNEW they were praying alongside Eric, our baby, and me.
I also had a dream of giving birth to a baby boy at 20:20 on December 20. There were a lot of ‘20s’ connected to this birth and I googled what the number 20 represents; it means many things yet one representation is that 20 is the cycle of completeness after a period of waiting and the reward is generous and full of God’s love.
About 5.5 weeks into this pregnancy nausea hit me and boy did it hit. I rarely left the house for 7 weeks out of fear that I would randomly throw up wherever I was. Also I felt so weak and the less movement I made, the better off I was.
I did have to see my doctor every two weeks for monitoring, because of the infertility challenges prior to this pregnancy. The journey to Kampala was about 5.5 hours yet we did it, every two weeks for the first trimester. I got a lot of scans and blood work and every time it was so amazing to know that I was there because a little miracle was being formed in me by God’s hands.
With my previous two pregnancies, I started writing a journal for each of the babies when I found out that I was pregnant. With this pregnancy, I held off until week 12. At that point, we had seen the baby move, heard the heartbeat, and all my stats were good! I started sharing my heart with this little one in her personal journal. I also kept two apps on my phone to track my pregnancy and growth each week. I read What to Expect When You are Expecting each week as well. Lastly I followed along with a pregnancy prayer journal on my kindle. I read a handful of pregnancy/delivery books, throughout. I did not take so many photos, but every couple of weeks, I did snap a few to document my external growth.
Eric and I had decided early on that without a doubt, we would go back to the US for my delivery. Therefore one of the major tasks was to find a provider in the US while I was still in Uganda. I knew I did not want a hospital birth, I didn’t think a home birth was ideal because we didn’t really have a home (we were just going to be renting for a few months). I found a birthing center that was about 1.5 hours away from where we would be staying and they agreed to take me on. Also, Eric had some relatives that lived close to the center in case we needed to go there before delivery. From July onwards, I was in communication with them and they directed me on tests, etc. that they needed and after every appointment, I sent the updated records to them. All was going quite well.
The baby was due on Christmas day and the center needed to see me before 32 weeks so we decided to pack up and leave Uganda at the end of October.
By the second trimester, my doctor who I had been seeing since my miscarriages moved back to her home country. I was feeling so much better and the pregnancy was progressing smoothly and she directed me to other doctors at the practice.
Eric and I even traveled to Ethiopia to meet up with one of his brothers and before going back to the US, I made a solo trip to Italy to meet up with a close group of friends. They had a birth way blessing for me and it was so special! I read my baby books, journaled, prayed, dreamed, and planned life with a new addition. I loved feeling her movements each day; I was truly enjoying this season of life.
At my 25-week check up, the doctor who saw me that day said that there was a gap in my cervix and that I needed a cerclage. I had no idea what do to, so I checked in with a few medical friends in the area and the US. A cervical cerclage is not recommended after 14 weeks, yet I was set to have the surgery the next morning. Eric was still in Gulu, so he got on a bus and made it by evening and we prayed together about what to do. All we were getting from the western medical professionals I was in contact with was: do NOT get the cerclage, it’s a high chance that it could bring early labor. I was advised to come back to the states and await labor if in fact this was a serious issue. We went to bed that night after Eric prayed for God to show us what do to because we were still unsure what was going to happen, yet God knew. I was scheduled for the surgery at 8am and I had a last minute appointment with a highly skilled sonographer at 7am. We woke up and went to the scan and her conclusion was there is no gap in the cervix, what we are seeing is thinning mucus. The two ends of my cervix were closed and the cervix was a good length for that stage in the pregnancy and all was normal and healthy. She did not recommend the cerclage. We aligned with what she said and what she showed us on the monitor and we got in the car, called the hospital to cancel the surgery and drove the 5 hours home! Talk about 11th hour provision. Thank you Jesus!
A few weeks into the third trimester, we were back in the states, settled into our rental and had had the first appointment at the birthing center. After several appointments there, we realized the disorganization of the care but I felt that I had no other option. It was through them that I took my glucose test and found that I had gestational diabetes so I monitored it and managed it with my diet. There was a major challenge that came up and the center ended up dropping me as a patient at 37 weeks along. They tried to help me find my next provider; it was a hospital that I had heard great things about. Although I was resistant to delivering in a hospital (primarily because of how quickly they jump to intervention, the lack of being able to move around and be flexible in labor and delivery), at this far along I could not be picky. My first appointment with them was great- I loved the staff and the OB who I met with. I was going to visit the hospital, but at that same time my sister in law had recommended a local midwife in our area and she had just agreed to take me on as a patient. Now I was set up with her for a home birth! A little concerned, but grateful for a non-hospital option.
40 weeks came and went without much progression. On New Year’s Eve night, Eric and I went out for pizza, came home, went to bed just like any normal night. The next morning I woke up at 2am with some fluid leakage. I laid back down and checked again 30 mins later then some small cramping started at around 4:30am. I was SO excited! LABOR WAS FINALLY STARTING! Eric was working on his family farm so he went to work by 4:30am and I told him that I would keep him updated on any progress or changes. I spent the morning doing things around the house and some cooking for the days ahead. By the afternoon, my contractions were picking up and I called my doula, Faith, and midwife, Rose. Eric was setting up the birthing pool and getting the bed ready. I was on the birthing ball watching football in between contractions. There came a point where the contractions were getting too intense and I could not focus. What I did realize is that I was having back labor! My sister in law had this with two of her pregnancies so she warned me that it was not fun. When a contraction came I had to lean over the sofa or counter and Eric or Faith had to apply intense counter pressure.
I was unable to sleep, needed help to take a drink and had no desire to eat. I tried the pool and that did not feel good, laying down was challenging and I was quite miserable, yet I had a great team! I was dilating but it was slow and by early morning of January 2nd, my contractions had really slowed down. Rose recommended so many natural things but nothing was getting my contractions back to a consistent pace. Eric drove me on bumpy roads, we went for a few walks, I tried castor oil, the peanut ball, but after 33 hours, Rose really recommended that I get to a hospital. She called the hospital that I had visited once after the birthing center dropped me as a patient and they willingly took me in. The baby had been monitored this whole time and remained so strong. Once I arrived, they wheeled me in and started me on a baby Doppler, I got an epidural (not what I wanted for my natural birth, but the relief was so needed), they started me on Pitocin and then I rested for the first time in a few days.
When things started on Jan 1st, Eric and I were excited about a New Years baby. Now it was the 2nd in the afternoon and we were excited about a Jan 2nd baby! Well 2pm turned into 4pm, turned into 10pm and by midnight I was FINALLY fully dilated and started pushing. I pushed (in a few different positions) for 2.5 hours then the nurses had me take a break for 1.5 hours. We came back together and I tried again for 2.5 hours and at that point the midwife suggested the doctor come to advise on what to do. The doctor talked to Eric and I about vacuuming the baby out and we agreed. The staff geared up and I gave three intense pushes in a matter of 6 minutes and I could feel the baby come out so quickly- it was the wildest feeling!
We hadn’t found out the gender, and I romanticized about Eric saying, ‘ It’s a…” but the room was FULL of staff and he could not tell the gender. I heard someone say a comment about a girl and I asked Eric, “ Is it a girl? Is it?” Sure enough it was! They put her directly on my chest and that was also the most incredible feeling!
I hemorrhaged and needed two units of blood and had almost a level 4 tear (her little hand was resting on her cheek) so the doctor and nurses were at work around me. I was weak and a bit out of it, Eric held our little girl for the next hour as I gained strength. Aubrey Anne Charlotte Ranck was born January 3, 2020 at 6:39 am weighing 7lb 4oz. She is named after both of our moms.
The labor and birth went nothing as we had planned but it was perfect because it brought us safely together with Aubrey Anne! The hospital staff was phenomenal and this experience completely changed my perspective of a hospital birth.
Being that we were living in a small town where Eric grew up, Aubrey Anne ended up being recorded as the county’s first baby to be born so we made our newspaper debut and received some fun prizes!
6 weeks later we were on our way back to Uganda. Aubrey Anne was healthy and continued to develop over the weeks and months.
By June she was 5 months old and we found out that I was pregnant, due at the end of February 2021! We were due to be back in the US for 3 weeks at the end of July for Eric’s brothers wedding. Due to Covid, the airport in Uganda was shut down, so we organized to get on a charter flight at the end of June because if we waited until July to get on a charter flight, there was a high chance that I would be sick and I did not want to travel in such conditions.
It is now the end of September and we thought the Uganda airport would be open by now so we could go back but since it is not, we have decided to remain in the US for the remainder of this pregnancy. I am getting prenatal care with the hospital provider where I delivered Aubrey Anne and I will deliver there as well. We will plan to return to Uganda by mid April after the baby is at least 8 weeks old.