My rainbow baby: A mother's story of loss, hope, and new beginnings
Mother of four, Ann Gillera Tapan, shares the pain and grief of losing her third child, son Marcus, at childbirth, while finding new joy in Ava, her rainbow baby.
Have you always dreamed of a big family?
No. I wanted to have just one baby but Harold, my husband, really wanted to have 3 kids from the start.
I was 22 when I had my first baby, Ea. I, coming from a big family, realized that it would be more fun for her if she grew up with a sibling. And I thought it best to have another one right away before the challenges of parenthood sinks in. We got pregnant with Franco, when Ea was just 4 months old.
Later on, my husband and I were having talks of having another addition to the family. I was hesitant because of the added responsibility, in terms of financial issues and what not. In addition, I really wanted to pay more attention on the business.
After a while, we finally agreed to have our third baby, I was 25 that time and thought that it would be best to have the baby now. I can focus on work after.
When you first realized that you were pregnant for the third time, what was your reaction?
I was both excited and scared when I found out. Unlike the first two pregnancies, where my hands and feet were cold, and I could’t wait to tell the world about it, this time, I literally had a moment of silence in the bathroom where I did the pregnancy test.
I was excited because we’re having a new baby! For me, nothing beats that feeling when you see your baby for the first time, after going through all that pain and suffering in the delivery room.
But I was also scared, because I was dreaded going through the pains pf pregnancy – the hormones, back pains, labor, delivery and bills! Haha!
Can you share the details of when you first discovered you were pregnant with your third?
I already had a feeling that I was expecting because of the delayed period. I bought the regular pregnancy test from a drug store and did the test at home. When it turned positive, I went to see my doctor the following day. We didn’t have an ultrasound on my first visit, she just checked the heartbeat and prescribed me with vitamins.
We had an ultrasound at 12 weeks. Marcus had the cutest ultrasound, as he really looked like a human baby unlike Ea and Franco’s first ones. They, on the other hand, looked like a small teddy bear or a ball floating around in my tummy.
But even if the ultrasound hadn’t confirmed it yet, my mother’s instinct kicked in and I knew our baby was a boy.
Can you describe your pregnancy with your third child, was it a difficult and sensitive pregnancy?
On my third pregnancy, everything was normal and I didn’t feel anything unusual. But compared to the first two, this time around I was getting tired easily and was more irritable. Perhaps it was because I was still taking care of the 2 kids, doing daily chores, and all of it with no help or yaya. I work as my husband’s assistant (he’s a photographer), I went with him on out of town trips, and was active so I didn’t think anything bad would happen.
What happened during childbirth, when you lost your baby?
Baby Marcus was a full term baby at 37 weeks. His expected due date was August 30, 2013. But I knew he would come earlier. I was telling Harold that Marcus will arrive either August 8 or August 13… he really did come out on August 13.
On August 10, (3 days before I gave birth), I went to the doctor for a check up. Everything was okay, everything was normal, and she even gave me an admission slip for the hospital. All my stuff for the hospital was prepared, I was all ready.
On August 13, around 1 pm, I was giving the kids a bath and suddenly I felt dizzy and was starting to feel abdominal cramps so I thought I was going into labor. Harold rushed me to the hospital – the same hospital where I gave birth to Ea and Franco.
On our way there, I felt like I was going to pass out. I couldn’t event open my eyes that time, I felt like I just got off an extreme ride from an amusement park, as in everything was a blur.
I told him that the labor was a bit odd as I didn’t go through that with the first two.
When I was admitted to the labor / waiting room, they had to assist me in changing my clothes because I was feeling weak. All I wanted to do was to lie myself on the bed and just sleep it off.
I remember being on that same bed, same spot where I was when in labor with Ea. I laid on my left side and I just closed my eyes. I was in pain but it didn’t matter to me, I really just wanted to shut my eyes.
The scare in the delivery room
A nurse came to do the usual interview, checked my vitals and then it was time to check the heartbeat of the baby. She used a doppler, but didn’t hear anything. She got a more sophisticated device to check again but there was none. She called the resident doctor to check again. They tried many times they still couldn’t detect a heartbeat so they rushed me to the delivery room and used an ultrasound machine.
I could see them whispering to each other and the other nurse rushed out of the room to get another doctor. My cousin, who is also an OB GYN at that hospital, came. She did another ultrasound.
I was staring at the machine, while that thing from the machine was going around my belly. Then there it was, she told me that there was no heartbeat.
I froze. I was just staring at that machine with an image of a baby Marcus curled up inside my tummy. I didn’t know how to react. She kept on talking, going on and on. S he said he would inform my husband about the situation. I’m not sure what I said to her because I wasn’t paying attention. I was just looking at my baby hoping and praying for a miracle.
The nurses prepared me for labor. They gave me medicine to speed up the process. There was another one on standby monitoring my vitals. An anaesthesiologist gave me an epidural and they asked for my blood type as they needed to have bags of blood on standby just in case I had bleeding.
My life was on the line
They told me that the baby was becoming a threat to my body, and that it had started to poison me. That’s why I was pale and dizzy the whole time, and my blood pressure was low.
I was lying there, numb. I didn’t cry. I was just thinking what could have caused it. I can’t think of anything. I was just praying.
When my doctor got there everything started to happen so fast. She told me that I had placental abruption and was bleeding internally. There was a possibility that when the baby came out, I wouldn’t stop bleeding and would require either blood transfusion or hysterectomy. I just told her to do what she had to.
Then I was fully dilated. It was time to push. I thought, “Push?” Wait, I forgot how to do that and I’m not even sure if had enough strength. 1… 2… 3… Push! I just didn’t have enough strength.
There were 2 male nurses helping me, pushing my belly every time I had to push. They were tapping my cheeks to keep me awake. I was just physically exhausted, drained and heartbroken… I thought to myself, “How can I go through it when I know in the end, I’ll just see him – lifeless.” I said, “Ayoko na, pagod na ako.”
My doctor was the one who encouraged me to keep going. She kept saying, “Ea and Franco need you. Kawawa naman if you give up.” Then I thought, “Oo nga. Kapag nawala ako kawawa sila, and baka magka evil stepmom pa sila! Yes, I thought of that pa ha!”
Then I relaxed for less than a minute and gathered all the strength I had left to push one last time. Then he was out.
Giving birth to my lifeless son
I was kinda hoping for some miracle that he would somehow start crying but no, it was impossible na. They asked me if I wanted to see him, I said yes. They asked for his name so they could baptize him. I said his name was “Marcus”.
I touched him then said goodbye. I didn’t have any idea what’s gonna happen next.
The nurses then transferred me to the recovery room, on our way there I saw my doctor with the baby and was talking to Harold. When I saw him, I said sorry and started crying… Crying and crying until I gave in to the sedatives that made me sleep.
Luckily for me, I was okay, I was just really weak and had low blood pressure. The cause of the death, according to the doctor, was placental abruption. My placenta had separated from the uterus before giving birth, putting me and my baby in jeopardy.
The next day of heartbreak
When I woke up, I started asking about the baby- how many pounds was he? Where was he?
In the room, I was surrounded by our family. I was crying the whole time. I couldn’t talk. They comforted me and Harold, but I just couldn’t stop crying.
My family was the one who arranged the services kasi we were in no state to handle the situation.
They booked the services of Sanctuario in QC. A service picked him up. Then a Mass and cremation was scheduled the following day.
I was discharged by the doctor. Then I went straight to the ceremony. It was attended by family and relatives, and I took home the urn where his remains stay.
Telling my daughter and son about their baby brother’s death
Ea, who was 4, and Franco, 3, were also there. They asked me what happened to their baby brother, and we didn’t make up any stories. We told them what had happened, and that he was already an angel in heaven. He couldn’t be with us anymore.
Prior to the birth, were there any signs? Did you feel that there was anything wrong?
I didn’t have any idea. Malikot lang talaga siya, compared to the first two. But I didn’t think of it as a sign of distress or something unusual. Because even at the last check up – 3 days before I gave birth, everything was okay. That time that I thought I was in labor and felt like I was gonna pass out, I felt that there may be something wrong. I kept telling Harold that it was different from when I was in labor with Ea and Franco.
Looking back, I was trying to remember if I felt any kicks or movement prior to that incident. I remembered feeling na parang big kick and my tummy was medyo naka umbok but it didn’t bother me kasi minsan pag malikot ganun talaga.
I think it was an isolated case, talagang bumitaw lang siya… I didn’t bump into anything, didn’t have an accident, as in nothing.
As you were grieving, how did you and your husband and family find comfort?
It was difficult. I locked myself up in the room the first month. Every time I woke up, I cried and wished it was a dream. I cried myself to sleep. I would just look at Ea and Franco, play with them for a little while, and then go back to bed.
I prayed. I was always on the phone with my family, chatting with friends pero nasa room lang ako.
Harold was also depressed, his way of coping up was work. He’d take on any project, bookings. Fortunately, my in-laws were so helpful and comforting. They took care of me, my husband and the kids.
Did Ea and Franco ever ask, how did you explain the loss?
Ea and Franco asked what happened, we explained to them about the baby, the placenta, the uterus and how it may have happened or what caused it. The kids are smart so we didn’t have to baby talk or something. We told them that their brother is now an angel, he is up in heaven with Papa Jesus.
Every night before we go to bed, Baby Marcus is always included in their prayers. The kids were affected with what happened. Sometimes I find Franco in the prayer room. When I ask him why he is there, he will say that he misses his brother. And Ea, at night when she’s in bed, she would cry also because she misses Baby Marcus.
How were able to bounce back?
I prayed and prayed for guidance because I was really heartbroken. Naiisip ko noon papaano kaya ako makaka-move on. It seemed impossible.
I searched about what happened to me and ended up reading online forums about moms and parenting. I was reading stories about moms who also went through tough times. We found comfort in each other. Everything happens for a reason and God wouldn’t have given us something we couldn’t handle.
I also thought about those parents who took care of their kids for days, months, years and then lost them. That would have been more painful, more difficult, but they were able to move on.
Then I realized that I was being unfair not only to myself but to the kids and the people around me. They need me so I needed to move forward.
Months after, projects and events started pouring in. I had no choice but to start going out again. The work, the socialising, the computer and paper works, the kids — all of those helped me take my mind off what happened.
It wasn’t easy as I still cried every time I remember, or every time someone would ask me how my baby was. I drew my strength from Harold and the kids. Unti unti, we were able to cope with the loss.
When it came to having your fourth child, did you plan to have a baby soon after?
A year after we lost Marcus, the hubby said that maybe we can have another addition to the family. I said, No. I didn’t want to go through all of that again. Fresh pa lahat at ayoko na talaga that time.
But I was persuaded. It was really the kids. The kids were always bugging us for another sibling. They have always included their brother in their prayers and also prayed that Papa Jesus would bless Mommy and Daddy with another baby.
So early last year, Harold and I talked about having another one. We weighed everything physically, financially, spiritually, mentally if we were ready, especially me.
We finally agreed, but I wanted the baby to be born during the BER months because Ea was born October like Harold, and Franco and I November. So we had to conceive between January to March lang. If I didn’t get pregnant then, no more na.
A few months along with Ava
During the pregnancy of your fourth baby, were you more fearful/ careful?
Yes. But I was still active, still working, going on out of town trips. I tried to lessen the stress, like lifting and carrying equipment.
On my 9th month, I was started being paranoid. With my previous pregnancies, I delivered 2-3 weeks early than expected. So on my 36th week, I was constantly monitoring the baby’s movements. Kapag medyo wala movement akong ma-feel, I go to the ER to have the heartbeat checked. I rushed to the hospital maybe three times. Ithought to myself better to be sure than sorry.
When Ava was born, how did you feel?
I gave birth to Ava at the same hospital in Las Pinas. Same room, same procedure. When I got there, everything came back to me, every detail. It was a bit traumatizing and I was a bit scared. Harold, too. But it was worth it.
Ava just turned 3 months old yesterday. She’s getting chubbier every day. She’s always smiling and the only time you’ll hear her cry is when she’s hungry! She’s exclusively breastfed so maya-maya gutom. Her Ate and Kuya are always taking care of her. Her face is full of rashes now, because the Dad and sibling always kiss her. Nakakatuwa, she’s a stress reliever.
As happy as I am now, I miss Marcus every day but he is in a better place now. I know that we will be reunited one day, and until that day comes, we’re happy to know that we have an angel in heaven.
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