‘Throughout my entire pregnancy, I had a ticking time bomb inside of me, and no one knew.’

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“Do you ever reflect on life and wonder how and why things go the way they do? Some days we may feel incredibly blessed, while other days can leave you feeling cheated by it. After everything my husband and I have been through these past few years, I truly believe everyone has a different path in life they are destined for, and while we may not know why our paths go the way they do, I feel that each has a special reason in the end.

As I said earlier, these past few years have taken my husband, Shawn, and I on a path we never imagined. At first life was simple and sweet. Shawn, and I were high school sweethearts. Shortly after we graduated high school in 2010 we got married after Shawn joined the Army. Life was an adventure, and life was great.  Besides moving, a deployment, and finishing college, we were young and felt invincible to the world, but little did we know back then we would cross a storm in our path.

Reflecting on everything we had been through brings one popular quote to my mind: ‘After every storm, comes a beautiful rainbow.’ I never thought too much about the meaning behind it, until we encountered truly the worst, devastating storm no one should ever have to endure in their life. That storm was our first born, Amelia, passing away 8 short days after she was born.

Husband and wife kiss as they hold ultrasound picture in front of them
Alissa Catherine Photography

In May of 2015 my husband and I found out we were finally pregnant, again. My biggest fear back then was the first trimester since we had a miscarriage previously. Back then, I felt if we made it past the first trimester, there was nothing to worry about. While each week felt like an eternity, the day finally came that I was 12 weeks pregnant and felt ‘safe’ to announce my pregnancy to everyone. Despite making it through the first trimester, and having a pretty healthy pregnancy up until the end, I just couldn’t shake this odd feeling that something was going to go wrong.

Unfortunately, my gut feeling was right, and something did go wrong. Horribly wrong.

On December 29, 2015, our beautiful little girl, Amelia, was born via emergency C-section due to a rare pregnancy complication called Vasa Previa.

Side by side of husband holding pregnant wife's stomach beside pregnant wife sitting between husband's legs in grass
Whitney A Photography

For those who don’t know what Vasa Previa is, it is a very rare obstetric condition that occurs 1 in every 2,500 pregnancies. Vasa Previa is a rare condition in which fetal blood vessels from the placenta or umbilical cord cross the entrance to the birth canal, beneath the baby. The condition has a high mortality rate (95%) when undetected due to rapid blood loss resulting from the vessels tearing when the cervix dilates, membranes rupturing, or if the vessels become pinched off as they are compressed between the baby and the walls of the birth canal.

Throughout my entire pregnancy, I had a ticking time bomb inside of me, and no one knew. Every OB appointment I had, Amelia was growing healthy and strong, so there were no concerns, only due to complications from pre-eclampsia, I was induced at 37 weeks. Even during my induction, Amelia’s heart rate was beautiful and everything was going well, but I still had the gut feeling something could still go wrong despite everyone telling me it would be okay or it was just normal nerves.

Then my water broke, and that beautiful heartbeat disappeared. It wasn’t long after that they discovered something had gone terribly wrong and within minutes I was wheeled away from Shawn and had an emergency C-section. Amelia had lost a tremendous amount of blood from the exposed blood vessels rupturing. Minutes following her birth, Amelia was resuscitated and immediately rushed to receive blood transfusions at the NICU before being placed on a cooling blanket. She was then transported to a level IV NICU over an hour away from us.

Newborn who had blood transfusion sleeps in NICU with tube in her mouth
Mikey Fuller

Our beautiful little girl was a fighter. In the 8 short days Amelia was on this Earth, she taught us so much and just how precious life really can be. She was truly such a beautiful blessing. Words really cannot describe how it felt to see her alive, and to feel her little hand squeeze my finger, but despite fighting, God had another plan.

On January 6, 2016, our beloved little girl took her final breath as we told her our final goodbyes. It was the worst heart break we ever endured. From that point on, time felt like life was at a stand still, but it wasn’t. Life had to continue to go on even though I just wanted it to stop, pause, and to just take a deep breath to figure out what just happened. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

Newborn who didn't live long sleeps in blanket with headband on her head
Mikey Fuller

The days turned into weeks and before we knew it months had passed. It was truly an ugly storm of emotions after our daughter passed away. All I could think about was ‘how did this happen?’ and ‘why did this happen to us?’ I think the worst feeling was knowing had I been diagnosed with Vasa Previa, Amelia would still be here with us today.

You see, when Vasa Previa is detected early enough, the survival rate is about 95%. This is because hospital bed rest and monitoring should start at the third trimester with a scheduled C-section at 35 weeks before labor. Labor is what makes Vasa Previa such a danger. However, Vasa Previa is rarely detected through a normal ultrasound, but those delicate, exposed blood vessels can be diagnosed through an internal ultrasound using a color doppler. When it is not diagnosed, fetal mortality rate is high due to rapid blood loss.

Not a day passed by that we didn’t think about our little Amelia. We wanted a child in our arms, but after everything we didn’t know if that would ever happen. While we were trying for another baby, we unfortunately had no luck.

Grave covered in flowers for newborn who passed from Vasa Previa
Mikey Fuller

Time continued to pass, and one day out of nowhere we received a letter in the mail about fostering a little boy. We always had an open heart to adopting a child before we became pregnant with Amelia, but we weren’t sure if we would be good enough parents or a good fit considering our recent loss. After a lot of discussion, prayer, and feeling that this may be where our path is heading, a beautiful baby boy named James joined our family in November 2015.

Mother who lost her first child crouches down beside toddler foster son who is smiling
Alissa Catherine Photography
Mother sits on blanket outside with toddler foster son in her lap while husband kisses his cheek
Alissa Catherine Photography

We may not have given him the gift of life, but let me tell you, this little boy truly gave us the gift of him. He brought so much love, and hope back into our lives we never imagined was possible. While losing Amelia was the absolute worst heart break we could ever experience, having James in our lives brought us so much joy. It was like the storm clouds hovering over us were finally starting to dissipate and the warmth of the sun was peeking through. It’s bittersweet though, because as much as we would have loved to have Amelia, I honestly don’t know if we ever would have considered fostering James had we not gone through what we did. Again, a part of me feels like this was where our path was destined to go.

Toddler sits on ground outside with pink balloon beside chalkboard announcing birth of his sister
Alissa Catherine Photography

As more time passed, it was now 2017, and it was my daughter’s 1 year angelversary. I don’t know why I had to urge to take a pregnancy test so badly, because every month since we lost our daughter has always resulted in negatives, so I figured why should this time be any different? But, this time WAS different. Those two pink lines finally showed up, and for a brief moment I smiled, followed by a lot of crying. Exactly one year after saying goodbye to Amelia, I was pregnant again.

Parenting James after Amelia was not easy, but I felt that it truly did make me a better parent, and in return he helped heal my heart in ways I’ve never thought would be possible. However, pregnancy after loss… that was completely different. It was an emotional roller coaster with many positive days, followed by the days of fear of losing another baby. I now was aware that there was no ‘safe’ zone in pregnancy and that anything could happen when you least expect it. The biggest help during my pregnancy after loss though was my husband, James, and the strong support system of family, friends, and the OB office I went to. I honestly don’t think I would have had the courage without all of them and am still thankful to this day.

Pregnant woman who lost her first child stands with hand on her hip on back porch beside dog
Mikey Fuller

Every month that passed, slowly but surely those storm clouds were disappearing. Halfway through my pregnancy we started the process to adopt James and found out that we were blessed with another baby girl! We were very excited for James to officially become our son, but also nervous about having another baby girl. I was worried about this baby replacing Amelia, but all my fears were put to ease one night while driving with my husband.

While we were driving back home after visiting family and were discussing possible baby names. During that drive we drove past the hospital where we said our final goodbyes to Amelia, and we both went quiet. It was always a somber moment every time we drove past there. We both were thinking about Amelia, and then all of sudden on the radio, the song ‘Bubbly’ by Colbie Caillat came on. Coincidently that was also Shawn and I’s ‘song’ when we were in high school. Out of nowhere my husband then suggested the name, Colbie. Even James would smile every time we said it, and we decided it was the perfect name. This baby was not a replacement for our loss, this little girl was a very special soul.

Before we knew it, our beautiful little rainbow baby, Colbie, was born September 2017.

For those who don’t know what a rainbow baby is: ‘A rainbow baby is a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death in infancy.’

Newborn laying on rainbow blanket wearing onesie that says, "Hand picked for earth by my sister Amelia in heaven"
Alissa Catherine Photography

The storm that crossed our path left a lot of damage, and forever we will miss Amelia, but on the other side of our path the skies were clearing and there was a beautiful double rainbow. For us, we were blessed with two rainbow babies, James and Colbie. Both of them born after our loss, and both truly brought so much joy, healing, and hope back into our lives.

Toddler lays shirtless in suspenders and jeans on fuzzy rug with newborn sister swaddled in pink blanket beside her
Chelsea M Walts Photography

After Colbie was born, our path took a new direction. We made another big move and Shawn deployed again shortly afterwards. Time passed fairly quickly and before we knew it Shawn was finally home! Then as of August 2018, James was finally adopted into our family and recently Colbie celebrated her first birthday in September.

Husband who is about to be deployed holds adopted son beside wife and daughter
Stefanie Marie Photography
Baby sits in high chair eating cake with her hands with pink frosting all over her hands and face
Mikey Fuller

While there is not a day that goes by that we don’t think about Amelia, we are truly grateful for both James and Colbie and hold them a little tighter when we think of everything we have been through. While losing a child is something I would never wish on anyone, for the 1in 4 that do experience child loss, never give up hope of a rainbow after the storm.

Looking at my children, watching them play, laugh, and grow brings tears to my eyes. It’s been a difficult road after losing Amelia. As I said earlier, a rainbow baby is not a replacement for the child that you lost. Those emotions you felt when your child died do not go away, but instead a whole new world of emotions emerge. You just hope in the end you can be the best parent you can to your rainbow babies and cherish every little moment a little bit more.

I believe everything we have gone through these past few years happened for a reason to direct our path to welcoming James and Colbie into our lives. While I wish Amelia was here with her brother and sister, I see her heart through my kids’ smile and laughter. I’m not sure where our path will take us in the future, but I do hope it’ll reach out to others to raise awareness of Vasa Previa, break the stigma of child loss, open other families’ hearts to fostering/adopting, and to bring hope to others of a rainbow after a storm.”

Mother sits on ground outside hugging adopted son with daughter in her lap beside picture of deceased first born
Guadalupe’s Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mikey Fuller, 27, of Fort Riley, Kansas. Do you have a similar journey? We’d like to hear your story. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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