All Rachel Taufer ever wanted to be was a mum. She had imagined it from the time she was a little girl. So, when Rachel got pregnant with her fourth child, she was over the moon, thinking that her family was finally complete. That is, until her world turned upside down.
Just seven weeks into her pregnancy, Rachel started to bleed heavily. After visiting her obstetrician, a subchorionic hematoma (a bleed in the uterus) was found growing alongside her baby. Rachel was immediately placed on strict bedrest at home.
Normally an active stay-at-home mum to three children under five, she found her new routine emotionally and physically taxing.
“[My son] Patrick was only one at the time. He was still breastfeeding and we had to wean him and get him off for the sake of the baby growing inside me,” Rachel said.
“I could hear what was going on at home, but I couldn’t get up to get up. It’s very easy to begin to feel like you’re a burden to those around you.”
“It’s very easy to begin to feel like you’re a burden to those around you,” – Rachel Taufer
Turning to God
Five weeks later, Rachel was cleared to go on a small outing to a dance shop – to get her daughters’ costumes for their end-of-year dance recital. But, while there, she began cramping and blacked out. She was rushed to hospital, where she was diagnosed with placenta accreta – a situation where the placenta abnormally attaches to the uterine wall, risking haemorrhaging and premature birth.
Rachel returned home, and was, once again, placed on bedrest. Amidst constant fear, Rachel turned to God to get her through.
“There were so many days where I didn’t have the strength to pray. I hope that God knew that I wanted to, but there was nothing left,” Rachel said.
“I was scraping the bottom of a barrel that was already broken.”
Fighting for life
At 21 weeks gestation, Rachel experienced a large bleed, and was rushed to Westmead Hospital by ambulance, where she was told that her baby was too small to be saved if she delivered now.
Rachel remained at Westmead Hospital, monitored day and night. She was not allowed to leave her bed except to go to the bathroom.
Five weeks after being admitted to hospital, at 26 weeks gestation, Rachel’s body couldn’t take any more. She entered into preterm labour, and quickly became septic. As a result, a life-support alarm was called and Rachel was rushed into emergency surgery to deliver her baby.
Amidst the panic, Rachel recalled a moment in which she accepted that she may not survive.
“They were prepping me for theatre. I was really panicked and scared but then I heard these words going through my head ‘as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.’
“I was really panicked and scared but then I heard these words going through my head ‘as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil’,” – Rachel Taufer
“I turned to [my husband] Nathan and said ‘promise you will tell my kids every day that I love them’ and then everything went black.”
Small, but mighty
Rachel awoke the next day in ICU, where she was informed her daughter, Estelle, had been born – and was fighting for her life in the NICU.
Although relieved, she fought against meeting Estelle in the days following the birth.
“I was terrified of hurting her. I thought she was better off without me,” Rachel said.
“It was hard to become attached to a baby that I knew I might lose.”
Although Rachel’s fight was now over, Estelle’s fight had just begun. She remained in the NICU for three months, with many stumbling blocks and complications.
Five years on, Estelle continues to struggle with various health issues but she does it with what Rachel describes as an “amazing personality”.
“She’s an incredibly strong fighter,” Rachel said.
As for Rachel’s childhood dream of four kids? She got it. The journey wasn’t easy but she counts her blessings every day.
“We don’t take things for granted anymore,” – Rachel Taufer
“We don’t take things for granted anymore,” Rachel said.
“I know exactly how lucky we are. I’m so thankful for every day.”
Listen to Rachel’s full story in episode four of Finding Hope with Georgia Free, in the player above. Find out more about Rachel’s story on Instagram. She is also an avid blood donor – with blood donations saving both her and her daughter Estelle’s lives. You can check your eligibility and nearest donor centre at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.
If this story brought up feelings of grief for you, the SANDS bereavement hotline is available on 1300 308 307.