‘I looked at the doctor, ‘What’s wrong with her exactly?’ She started listing things.’: Mom gives birth to rainbow baby with birth defects, ‘She’s a miracle’

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“On April 19th, 2020, we found out the best news: we were expecting our rainbow baby after experiencing a devastating miscarriage in February 2020. When I read the pregnancy test, I was ecstatic but also terrified of losing again. After the emotions I went through when I went through, carrying this baby felt so much scarier. I felt like I was walking on eggshells for the first trimester, praying constantly nothing would go wrong. I had been pregnant before—my older daughter Savannah had just turned 3 when we found out we were pregnant with our rainbow baby, but it was anything but easy. I had dual nephrostomy tubes (basically, picture tubes coming out of both kidneys with urine bags hanging off of both legs), so not an easy or typical pregnancy at all.

I knew going in there was going to be many more ultrasounds than the usual, lots of appointments, and a whole bunch of urine samples for kidney infections—every pregnant woman’s favorite thing, holding their pee and then peeing in a cup… not! But our sweet babies are worth every single thing we go through. Unfortunately, I ended up having hyperemesis gravidarum, extreme nausea, and vomiting. I ended up in and out of the hospital in my first and second trimesters. The nausea and vomiting lasted my entire pregnancy, and it was so bad I was in the emergency room for IV medication and fluids every other day at the start. This of course was all smack dab in the middle of the pandemic, so my husband, Chris, couldn’t even come inside the hospital to visit me. It was extremely difficult.

Pregnant mom at hospital
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

On June 15, 2020—our first wedding anniversary—we announced we were expecting our sweet little rainbow baby. Everyone was so excited for us! A few months later, we announced we would be having a little girl! We were over the moon excited! We had many ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments, and tests during the pregnancy. We always heard the same thing: ‘Baby is healthy.’ The words every parent longs to hear. Finally, December came and we were preparing for our little miss to arrive. I was just over 37 weeks and was being induced due to having previous pregnancy issues in my other pregnancy and because I was so uncomfortable, we didn’t want to risk anything happening. I was called in on Saturday, December 12, 2020, to be induced.

Pregnancy photo
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

The labor was slow and grueling, the pain medication wasn’t helping, and I was having a very difficult time. Thank goodness I had Chris there to support me through the pain, it was awful. We finally went down to labor and delivery Sunday evening and I experienced a horrible night of a nurse telling me I wasn’t ‘actually’ in pain since I kept falling asleep. Meanwhile, I was in so much pain I had been passing out because it was so bad. Finally, at around 7:00 a.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020, sweet Rosie came and our whole world flipped upside down in an instant. She was placed on my chest, which is of course standard when you have a baby, but was taken almost immediately because she wasn’t crying. The first thing I noticed though was her fire-red hair, just like mine.

The nurses and doctors began working on her across the room and finally got a small cry out of her. I knew something was wrong when they called for a pediatrician—this wasn’t normal. I started asking them over and over what was going on as they were working on me, but everyone just kept trying to keep me calm. I knew something was wrong, something didn’t feel right. It was taking them too long to bring her back to me. Finally, the pediatrician came over and explained to Chris and me Rosie had many physical deformities, she even asked us if we were sure she was over 37 weeks. She kept circling her words, not telling us anything concrete, I finally looked at my husband and then looked at the doctor and said, ‘What’s wrong with her exactly? What are the physical deformities?’ She then started to list off different things they saw with her: facial deformities, cleft palate, flattened ear, head not shaped right, heart murmur, and a couple of other things.

Baby in NICU
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

We were in shock, we couldn’t believe all this was happening with our newborn baby. They then told us they would need to take her to the NICU, but we could visit her only one parent at a time due to COVID rules. As they took my little newborn off to the NICU and I sat on the hospital bed watching the nurses clean up the room and people coming in and out, I started calling family members telling them everything that had just happened. Then I hit a wall—I became silent. It felt like everything around me was foggy and moving in slow motion. The tears were running down my face but no words could form, I felt devastated. I had no idea what was going on, what my family was about to face. My husband came back from the NICU to help me and he held me and supported me in every way. He got me showered and once we got back to my hospital room, I was able to go see Rosie and hold her, and this was when my mom brain kicked in.

Mom feeding newborn
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

I stopped crying and started just trying to brace myself for whatever we needed to do to get Rosie home. Within the first 24 hours, she needed an NG tube. Due to her cleft palate, she was unable to breastfeed, and bottle feeding wasn’t working for her with the bottles she was being offered. Over the course of 8 days between the Civic Hospital and CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) where she was transferred after a couple of days, we found out more and more news about the issues Rosie was dealing with. We found out she had two heart conditions, ASD, which is a hole in the heart, and pulmonary valve stenosis, which is the deformity on or near the pulmonary valve controlling blood flow to the heart. She had cataracts in both eyes, craniostenosis, and all of this on top of the issues they had found at birth.

Newborn baby
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

We did a lot of crying, praying, and life felt so heavy. We just wanted to take Rosie home with us. We were also so blessed during this time; a GoFundMe was set up by a friend of ours, and family, friends, and even strangers supported us financially. My hometown church organized meals for us and I started a page on Facebook called ‘Prayers for Rosie’ so people could follow the updates. Finally, after 8 days, we were able to go home! We had many follow-up appointments, but it was only a couple of days before Christmas and we were so eager to be home for the holidays. We enjoyed 3 weeks at home with Rosie until one early morning when she started throwing up her feeds. At this point, she had been drinking about 60% of her feed and taking 40% by the NG tube. She never spit up after a feed so I knew something was up.

Big sister holding newborn sister
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

I took her into CHEO and explained the situation, but the doctor on call did not treat the situation seriously. She barely did an examination of Rosie and then she sent us home. The following day, Rosie threw up again two times within 20 minutes and I knew I needed to take her back. Something didn’t seem right. I brought her back to CHEO that evening and after doing some tests, they found Rosie’s bowel was twisted. They would need to do emergency surgery to repair it. My husband drove in and they did Rosie’s first surgery. I was terrified, but we had so many people praying for us, and it helped to calm me. She made it through the surgery well, but the next morning her oxygen kept dropping. By the time evening had hit, she had been intubated and we were in the PICU, unsure what was wrong with our sweet baby.

Newborn baby with birth defect
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

The whole day we had doctors and nurses surrounding us, trying to figure out why Rosie was not recovering. Then the surgeons came back in to take her in for another surgery—not even 24 hours since her last one. They told us they were unsure what they were going to find when opening her up, but there was a chance they would be finding dead bowel, and if it were the case then they wouldn’t be able to do anything. They would just close her back up and she would die. Even writing those words crushes my heart, I cannot explain the pain I felt at this moment. I just knew we needed to pray. Chris and I held Rosie’s hands and stood next to the hospital bed and cried and prayed. I sang a song my extended family’s singing group sings, ‘Even In The Valley,’ and it says, ‘Even in the valley, God is good. Even in the valley, he is faithful and true.’

I just kept singing this promise over her little life until they took her away for surgery. Someone had made a post for us about Rosie’s condition and how people needed to pray harder than ever for her little life, and through social media, people all around the world were praying for our little girl. Thousands of people were praying, waiting to hear how the surgery went, praying for a miracle. When the surgeons opened the door to the tiny waiting room where my husband and I sat and we heard the words, ‘She’s going to be okay,’ I just exclaimed, ‘THANK YOU, GOD!’ I knew God had healed her! The surgeon explained they found ZERO dead tissue. It had been a hernia in her bowel they hadn’t seen earlier and it was causing her body distress, so they repaired it.

Newborn baby
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

A couple more days went by and she was still not improving as much as they would have liked, so they took her into surgery for the third time, and they found she had a bruising on her bowel, they think from one of the previous surgeries. They resected a small part and she started to heal! Slowly, she came off the intubation tube and was acting like a baby again! During this same stay at CHEO, they decided to do her cataract surgery also, which went very well and has made such a difference for her. She now wears contact lenses and is able to see! We spent a total of 5 weeks at CHEO for this visit. It was the scariest thing I have ever been faced with. We had only been home for a couple of weeks when we found out her heart condition, pulmonary valve stenosis, needed to be repaired urgently. It felt like my world was flipping upside down again.

Newborn baby smiling
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

The trauma I was feeling was intense and I was so scared, but I kept reminding myself how many lives God had touched through Rosie’s story and I knew I needed to trust him. Her heart procedure was scheduled, and a month later, we went back to have an EKG and echo to see if the procedure had worked. Her valve numbers had been in the high 70s before the surgery and the doctor said she would be happy if they even got it down to in the 40s, which they weren’t sure they would be able to. But when they checked little Rosie’s heart, it was at 14! An AMAZING number! The doctor was shocked and again I just said, ‘THANK YOU, GOD!’

We just recently did a 3-month check from this previous appointment and the number was 17! Which the doctor only looks at a change by ten, and also Rosie was kicking her legs and being extra active during the test, so it probably is an even lower number!

Newborn baby smiling
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

It is currently June, and Rosie is just shy of 6 months. I am looking at all things we have been through, but I am looking at it as all the things God got us through. All the things God blessed us with, all the miracles I saw, all the prayers answered, and I will continue to do so. She is a miracle and God is good, even in the hardest of times, he truly is so good! We are now all home and Rosie is THRIVING. She is rolling over, saying ‘mama,’ and doing all the things a baby is supposed to do. We are enjoying every second of it.”

Mom posing with daughters
Courtesy of Rebekah Hambley

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rebekah Hambley of Ottawa, Ontario. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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