(To read Lewis’ NICU stay click this link Lewis’ NICU Story )
It is Mother’s Day today. I’d like to wish everyone with a Mother Heart a Happy Mother’s Day. Today I received courage to post Lewis’ birth story. Posting birth stories is still hard for me. It is a part of my soul, which honestly still hasn’t healed. I still have unanswered questions.
I pray that you will feel a warmth in your soul as you read this and know that God lives and loves every one of His children and is present every minute of our lives.
Like all birth stories, I ask that you do not judge our decisions and methods used. We sought heavens help in this situation, as I am sure most do. Every birth is a beautiful miracle no matter the process or outcome. It is written in journal form, from my heart. I feel a need to apologize for the length but in reality, this post is for me, for my family and for Lewis. I have not tried to meet social media’s glorified standard of short and sweet.
This post is from the time we were admitted to the hospital until the time I was able to touch my sweet baby boy’s hand. Touching him was, I feel, the completion of the birth experience. I will publish the second post someday soon of being able to hold him for the first time, going home without him, our NICU experience and finally bringing him home (Yes, there is a happy ending!) With that said, I invite you to read the birth story of our little miracle.
Let’s just start out a few weeks before the Birth Story to make things a little more clear. I had my heart set on a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). You can read all about my first child’s birth story here, https://justbrit.com/2015/11/03/emilies-birth-story/ . Although our new Dr. was supportive of our decision, he was not very hopeful that it was actually going to happen. It really wasn’t comforting or helpful at all. This would be a sign you need a new Dr, for those that are interested in VBAC. Anyways, I went into my 30 weeks appointment, where all that really happened was that I was asked if I was feeling ok, yes, feeling baby moving, yes and then my tummy got measured. I was measuring small. I’m a small person, so I didn’t think twice about it. Our Dr. then told us to schedule an ultrasound before our next visit in 4 weeks. I was thrilled, I get to see an ultrasound at 34 weeks, how rare is that!
Monday December 12th, 2016
Monday morning, December 12th, I woke up at 6am and drove to the ISU campus gym. I picked a treadmill that overlooked the east hills, where the hospital perched right on top. It was still dark outside and snow was falling, December snow is magical. I remembered thinking, I’ll be in there in 6 weeks!
I came home afterwards, showered, packed Emilie in the car and Ed and I drove up to the Dr.’s office which was so conveniently attached to the hospital.
We were shown to the ultrasound room, with our usual technician, who we really liked. She had done our previous two ultrasounds. Even at 20 weeks baby was measuring more like 17 weeks, so we remeasured again a few weeks later. She measured baby boy this time around and reported that he was measuring around a 31 week baby. She told us that at this point he’s going to have to prove himself. Meaning that he was going to have to prove that he could remain inside and that he was going to have to be closely monitored. What I got from that was that our Dr. would be looking at him multiple times a week. He’s just small, I’m small anyways, it’s fine. She sent the information over to our Dr. and we left to go to the Dr.’s office across the hallway.
Looking back at it, it was kind of random that we actually had Emilie with us that day. We normally got a babysitter for her. So here we all are in the Dr.’s office. Emilie was actually doing really well, as in she was keeping herself occupied. It was a smaller than normal room, I was sitting on the edge of the table and Ed was on a chair to my left a foot away. A small knock on the door, and our Dr. comes in, sits on the stool in front of me, two feet away, looks at me and says, “Bad news. We’re having a baby.” Yes, word for word, no “Hi’s” or “How are you today?” just that. Now, I wasn’t really close with my Dr., he was usually always quite busy so our visits were never more than 5 minutes. I thought he was joking. But then again I didn’t think he was joking, if that makes sense. I just stared at him confused, then turned to Ed (who had the same confused look) and then turned back to him and said, “Are you serious?” He nodded reassuringly and said, “Your baby has stopped growing, we need to get him out.” This wasn’t a matter of being a small baby which I had initially thought all along. It had now turned into, he’s small because he stopped growing. There hadn’t been any growth since our appointment 4 weeks ago.
My throat instantly became choked with emotion, my eyes stung as I tried to hold everything back. I looked over at Ed, who mirrored my exact feelings. No way. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. We weren’t ready. This can’t be happening. Through my high pitched emotional voice I cracked, “Are you sure?” I can’t remember all he said, but he basically said that he wasn’t sure why our baby had stopped growing, (my blood pressure was fine) but being inside wasn’t doing him any favors anymore. Without hesitation and without letting us even fully grasping the idea yet he told us what was going to happen. My tears fell freely at this point as we listened. He told us that after leaving this room we were to immediately go over to labor and delivery (again, the office was attached to the hospital) he would call and inform them we were coming. He said he would highly recommend me getting steroid shots, to boost the baby’s lung growth. One injection today and if baby was still doing ok, a possible injection tomorrow too before baby would come. It would be another c-section, the baby’s current state is too fragile. The word steroid scared both Ed and I. Ed asked our Dr. if the steroids were something that he’d recommend to his own wife. He said that yes, he would advise his own wife to get them, in fact she had to have them before. He got up to leave, saying he would check in on me that night. I asked if we could stay and take a few minutes to process, which he agreed to. This whole interaction between us and the Dr. only lasted 2 minutes. It was too much to process.
He left, the door closed behind him. My body fell limp, I hunched over, face in my hands and sobbed. Ed held me amidst his tears too… we didn’t say anything for a minute or so. I couldn’t help but feel that my body had failed once again. That feeling sat like a lump in my chest.
I also didn’t have a hospital bag. What was Emilie going to do? What was Ed going to do, it was finals week. What about his work? What about my homework and my finals? I kept thinking, but he’s kicking, he’s moving, he’s fine, I swear he’s fine, I voiced this to Ed. Ed said a prayer out loud. Emilie inquisitively watching her parents cry and wondering what was going on. Through tears and strained smiles we told her baby brother was coming soon. I’m glad she was there. Her happy go lucky mood was much needed.
We discussed briefly about the steroids and prayerfully decided to go through with them. I knew I needed to call my Mom. She would be able to come watch Emilie, even though she was 6 hours away. This was going to be one hard phone call. With those two things being the only plan we really had that far, we got up, walked out of the room, down the hallway, out the office and into the elevator, trying not to meet anyone’s eyes. Silent tears still falling.
I called my Mom on the walk over. Her boss actually answered the phone and asked if everything was alright, he knows we don’t really call unless it’s somethings serious. I emotionally said, that baby is coming today. He handed the phone to my mom saying, you’d better sit down. Mom left work, and her and my Dad immediately packed and hit the road. Bless them!
The few minutes walk over were taken very slow. We passed a Starbucks booth inside the hospital where we let Emilie pick out some melon and banana and some milk. Again, being as cheerful as ever.
We got lost in the hospital asking several people for directions. We finally made it to Labor and Delivery. I told a nurse that our Dr. told us to come over. She looked confused. We figured we were in the wrong place seeing that our Dr. said he’d call and they’d be expecting us. We turned and walked away, when another nurse down the hall yelled, wait, are you Brit!? I said I was and she said to come on back and showed us to our room. It was a nice room, but had a view of wall out the window. Seems insignificant but it really was a downer for me. The hospital is perched upon the high east hills overlooking the city. I have a thing for city lights.
She pulled out a gown and asked me to change and left. I changed sat on the bed and turned on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Emilie. We don’t have a TV at home so this was a real treat for Emilie and she was still perfectly content and unaware as she sat eating her fruit and drinking her milk. My eyes were drawn to the baby vital table in the corner. Again that feeling in my chest ached knowing that I would not be seeing a freshly born baby in this room or on that table. I had wanted it so much with my first child, and wanted it even more with my second child. I sort of dreaded that it remained in my room as a constant reminder. But then I noticed Ed. He was off by the far wall kneeling down with one knee bent and his hand pressing his forehead, eyes closed. I could tell he was in pain, emotionally. Yet he was praying, silently. It made me cry. For a man who loves kids, his wife sure has a hard time getting them here.
The nurse came back in and asked me to lay down. They strapped the monitors to my stomach to track the baby’s vitals. He was good, moving, normal. I was actually showing signs of small contractions the nurse said. A faint glimmer of a possible vbac crossed my mind.
I remained on the monitors all day. A nurse came in around noon with a steroid shot. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see the needle. I asked the nurse if it would hurt, and she said yes, it’s one of the most painful shots around. I rolled on my side, grasped Ed’s hand, grit my teeth and braced myself. I then felt a tiny little prick. I remained tense waiting for more. Confused, I asked the nurse if that was it, to which she smiled guiltily and said yep, that was it. I actually really appreciated her trick.
I got up a few times, because I really didn’t see the need to stay down. However, they were worried that the baby could show signs of distress at any minute and had me hook up to battery packs while I moved my equipment with me down the halls.
Ed and Emilie took a quick trip home to grab some essentials, mainly our laptops so we could to homework and take tests. I spent most of my time, finishing homework assignments, taking tests and emailing professors about my predicament and why I may be turning things in late. All of our professors and Ed’s work were very understanding, which we were so grateful for. Amongst all this I was picking off my false nails and searching Instagram for images of 34 week old babies, so I could know what to expect. We shot out a quick update on social media, knowing that prayers and thoughts could help us. We had dinner in the room and before I knew it, it was nearing 8:00pm, past Emilie’s bedtime. Ed took her home and put her to bed, and waited there for my parents to arrive.
At some point that day we asked the hospital if there were any priesthood holders that could come help Ed in giving me a blessing, a prayer for strength and health. Two doctors happened to be members of our church and offered to help. It was such a comfort, knowing that these men were in the hospital.
While Ed was gone my Dr. came in and chatted briefly that we would go ahead and do the second steroid tomorrow and proceed with the c-section around 4:00pm. I chimed in about the possibility of a vbac, but I already knew what the answer was going to be. I just needed to remember that at least I asked. He also mentioned how he would have the NICU Dr. come in tomorrow and talk with me.
It was around 10:00pm that I got prepped for my IV. Now you’ve probably gathered that I am no fan of shots, but I would rather get several shots over getting an IV. I have the worst luck. That, or I have the worst veins. Probably both. Of course by now, this was the 3rd or 4th nurse I had that day, I tried to stay positive as this new lady was going to attempt her hand at it. Two tries on my left arm. One try on my right arm and then right on the side of my wrist, below my thumb if finally worked. But wow was that uncomfortable, during and after. It ached something fierce. I was secretly really disappointed because I was then supposed to sleep somehow. Why couldn’t it have waited until morning…
My parents arrived at our home and Ed came back up with my body pillow reinforcement. It helped a little, but the IV ache kept me awake. That and hourly vital checks. I mentioned my discomfort to the new nurse in the morning (Tuesday, Dec 13th) after a rough night. All she could really do was put a sort of splinter on my thumb so I couldn’t move it as much, it helped a bit.
Tuesday December 13th, 2016
My parents came up with Emilie. Knowing I didn’t need to worry about Emilie was such a comfort. Then they left to take Emilie to nap. I received my second steroid around noon again. As promised, the NICU Dr. came in and spoke with us. I immediately liked her, she had a sweet and gently presence. I hadn’t even thought about the NICU. My brain somehow thought, my baby would be born fine and I’d be able to take him home, but they wisely knew otherwise. She gave me a run-through of the NICU, with lots of new terms and asked if I would come take a tour that afternoon before the baby came. I agreed.
Ed left to go take a test on campus. My homework and tests had been postponed so I was left to my own thoughts. I asked to go visit the NICU. This was the turning point. Where it all became real. I wheeled my IV down the hallway by myself. Stopped at the locked double doors. Picked up the phone and said that I’d been allowed to come in for a tour.
The doors opened, I went in. I stood inside trying to take it all in. Beeping, alarms, faint cries, incubators lined up, dozens of monitors, wires, cords, the unique smell. I looked around and met the approaching nurses eyes… I lost it. I started crying. She hugged me, reassuring me that everything was going to be okay, he will be okay, he will be in good hands. This was the first time I had ever met her. It was the first glimpse I had of the loving staff of the NICU. She said they already had a spot prepared for him and then proceeded to take me there. It is rare that a pregnant mom gets to tour a NICU and see what lies ahead. His spot, his incubator, was located in the corner of the unit. On a shelf behind his incubator there was a tiny lit christmas tree. That made me smile. I couldn’t keep back my tears, but I felt comfortable crying there with the nurses. I made the lonely trek back to my room, now understanding (although not fully) that my baby was not going home with me.
As the hour approached, my parents came back with Emilie and Ed came back too. They left Emilie, Ed and I alone for a bit. I asked Emilie to grab a book from her bag and come sit with me. She willingly obliged. We sat together on the bed as I read her a book. I cried yet again, my voice cracking as I read, knowing this was the last moment of her being my one and only baby. My parents came in to take her home. I couldn’t stop crying. Goodbye Emilie.
The nurse offered for me to take a bath in the big jacuzzi, since we had time. I did not turn that down! They unplugged me from everything and taped off my IV with a bag, to waterproof it. I still had to keep my right arm above water which made things awkward. But still nice none the less.
4:00 pm was creeping up. These last hours were very unsettling and scary for me. My first child had been an emergency c-section after pushing for a couple hours. Back then I wasn’t scared accepting a c-section at the moments notice for some reason. But this time, knowing that massive surgery was a few hours away, the spinal block, the cutting, the anesthesia, the what-if’s, the recovery, the chills, the unknown… my heart pounded, my breathing quickened, I started shaking. I doubted. I ran to the bathroom and dropped to my knees on the floor and cried. The type of cry often referred to as the “ugly cry” where you produce sounds from deep within… I forced out the words to Ed, I – am – so – scared.
Ed gave me a pep talk, and then he gave me a blessing of comfort. I was reminded how God’s hand was in the birth of Emilie and he too is present now. Trust Him. Trust yourself.
My anestheitoligist came in and talked with me. Ed was given scrubs to change into. And then we waited. 4:00 came and went. Our Dr. was running late. I wanted my parents and Emilie to be in the hospital when he was born, so they came back up. They were waiting in the toy room down the hall. I don’t remember what Ed and I talked about from 4:00-5:00 but it went slowly.
5:10pm, our Dr. was heading over. It was time. I put on a new gown and a blue cap. A new nurse came to take us down to the operating room. My heart still pounding. We stopped outside the OR double doors. This is where I was to proceed alone. Ed kissed and hugged me, smiled and said, “I love you, you got this.” I turned and pushed through the doors. It was cold. I sat on the operating table while the anesthesiologist prepped the spinal block and wiped the numbing gel on my back. I quickly debated if it would be weird to ask the nurse if I could squeeze her hands when he administered the needle, when she came right before me and offered instead. I exhaled a yes, thank you! I shut my eyes, squeezed her hands tightly and breathed. It was done. They quickly laid me down. Spread my arms to a T, and put heat packs on them. An oxygen mask was placed over my mouth and nose. The blue curtain was lifted up above my chest and secured. The anesthesiologist then tested my numbness. I was ready. The radio was playing faintly in the background which I tried focusing on. They began surgery. Ed was allowed in and came by my side.
I knew that this part would go fast. I switched between staring at the fluorescent lights and Ed’s eyes, and then back to the lights because I could see the laser light reflecting in his eyes! I’m not the best when it comes to surgeries and blood, so I tried to keep my mind busy with humming my own Christmas songs, as I did with Emilie’s birth, but this time it was very applicable given the time of season.
5:23pm Ed gave me brief updates every now and then and then, “He’s here!” I heard a low long cry, just the once and then it was gone. He was immediately passed through to the NICU. I didn’t get to see him. I cried. Joyous and heartbreaking. Ed was not able to describe what he looked like because it all happened too fast, just that he was small. I lay wondering. I had to remain for further surgery and Ed also had to wait until the Nurses said it was okay for him to go and meet him. The birth stats were finally told to us. 3 lbs. 14 oz., 16.75 in. The average weight and length for 34 weeker is 4 lbs. 12 oz., 17.72 in. Needless to say, as much as it pained me, leaving him inside for any longer would have been very detrimental. God’s hand showed itself yet again. A fragment of peace entered my mind.
At this point I strained my ears to hear what song was playing. It would be a song I would remember no matter what it was! Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. Interesting.
We started conversing with our Dr., who was inspecting my placenta. He shared that it had calcified and showed it to Ed. Placenta’s calcify after 40+ weeks of pregnancy. That means they basically start dying. That is normal. That is how long they are supposed to last. However it should not be happening anywhere around 34 weeks. This was why Lewis had stopped growing. He was struggling gaining nutrients from a dying placenta. It is known as Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). There isn’t any real information to what causes this or that it will happen again, so I don’t what else to say about it…