Friday, March 22, 2013

What a long, strange trip it has been

It seems like just yesterday I was bemoaning my infertile existence and begging God to give me another chance at pregnancy and the beautiful, peaceful birth that I so desperately wanted for my second (if I ever got one) child, because I allowed my anxiety to talk me out of it the first go around.

In May, at the very end of it, I got pregnant and somehow didn't realize it. You can see the post before this one to understand WHY I didn't realize it. I FELT pregnant, but let Doctors, Nurses and specialists tell me otherwise... Moving on.

I found out in October that not only was I pregnant, I was expecting another little miraculous boy, AND would be welcoming said boy in to the world in 4 1/2 short months.

I started preparing myself for a peaceful birth with a midwife and a doula with Hypnobabies. I surrounded myself with positivity and good energy. I was ready for this. I would dream about my birth and it was always so easy. One minute he was inside me, the next, he was out.

I photographed myself every single week from the moment I found out, something I didn't ever do with my first. I was SO HAPPY to finally be given this opportunity to raise another beautiful child that God had trusted me with. But I was still in a state of unbelief. How, after all these years and prayers could this be real?

I told myself, as my "due date" approached that it was okay if I went over. People go over 40 weeks ALL THE TIME and have healthy babies and CAN and DO push those bigger babies out. I listened to my positive affirmations of the birth that I wanted, and practiced my hypnosis. In the back of my mind something started to creep in though... The baby would be born via c-section. My dream of my perfect birth would not happen for me. I pushed that thought away, thinking that my anxiety was setting in, and told myself not to let those negative thoughts take root. Then I started to feel something different... The chord was wrapped around the baby's neck. TWICE. He wouldn't drop.

Now this is a very SPECIFIC feeling that I had, but I have to let you know something, my first had the same thing. The chord was wrapped around his neck twice, but I never went in to labor, so there was never any indication of distress or problems because of it.

I told myself that I was just scared of it happening again and tried (a little less successfully) to push those thoughts out of my mind.

Things went on normally. It was a fairly easy pregnancy all the way around. I was HUGE, but thankfully just in my belly. As the days pressed on, I was becoming increasingly nervous of the size of baby #2. The closer I got to week 40, the more those thoughts seemed to creep back in to my mind. C section... Chord wrapped around his neck...

On the day before I reached week 41, I had an appointment set up for a non-stress test and an AFI, (which is an ultrasound to measure the baby and the amniotic fluid). I didn't want to go. I woke up that morning just adamantly not wanting to go. BUT, even though I was reassured by my husband that it would be fine if I skipped it, those thoughts sneaked back in and I felt like, Better safe than sorry. So I went.

The non stress test was first, and we passed with flying colors. Then I had the AFI, and I was actually excited to get another look at my baby before we went through the birth together. The tech measured him at 9 lbs 8 oz, and sent me in to see the midwife. I met with someone I didn't really know very well, and she mentioned that I had more fluid than normal, and that the water looked a little cloudy. She was most concerned about the amount of fluid that I had, saying something along the lines of, "borderline too much..." or something to that effect. She told me that the cloudy fluid wasn't a big concern because at a week overdue, babies often pass merconium in to the water.  She wanted to talk to the doctor about what my options were. I refused a cervical check though, and she wasn't pleased about it.

A few hours later, I got a phone call telling me that the doctor and on call midwife thought things looked fine.

That night, I slept pretty well for pregnant sleep. The next day I woke up late and felt really tired and a little weak, and somewhat off. I had a nap a little later that day, and when I woke up, I still felt weird and tired, but I started to feel contractions, and they were starting to get consistent. I got excited thinking that perhaps that was why I was so tired and had slept so well, because my body was telling me to get ready for a marathon of labor. I texted my doula and my birth photographer to give them a heads up that today might be the day. The excited texts rolled back in from the both of them, and I started to feel really excited... but still a bit out of sorts. I blamed it on being nervous about the upcoming labor and delivery.

Husband and I decided to go out to dinner that night just the two of us, since my mother was in town and was willing to watch Z for us. So, off we went, and my contractions were not a real big deal, but were getting closer together. At this point, I had been having steady contractions for about 4 hours, but still felt a long way off because they were so far apart, and were really mild. Dinner at Outback was at 9pm and throughout dinner they started getting a little more serious, and a little closer together, but still very VERY tolerable. We smiled at eachother through dinner when I would have another one, excitement building between us that this really was it.

When we left the restaurant it was around 10 or 10:15. Husband called his sister to make arrangements for me to labor up at her house, because they had a jetted tub, and she had offered it to me a few weeks before. We went home to pack our hospital bags and get my labor clothes and were planning to head up asap. I got on the computer and was trying to figure out the new layout on itunes to create a hypnobabies playlist, (admittedly something I should have done beforehand) and after about 20 minutes of me cursing apple and swearing like a sailor in frustration, I felt a small burst and immediately knew that my water had broken. I stood up as fast as possible and ran in to the hallway so that I wouldn't get the carpet anymore messy than I already had. I felt a HUGE gush of fluid leave my body and pour down my legs, filling my shoes. I let out a yelp, and my mom and husband came running. They were so excited. I looked down at my shoes and at the trail I had left from the computer to the hall and knew immediately that something wasn't right.

It looked like straight blood.

I knew it couldn't possibly be JUST blood, that there was amniotic fluid in there too, but at that point I had witnessed 4 women's waters break, and not one of them looked like that. I called Sherri, my doula and, (as calmly as I could) explained the situation to her. She reassured me that sometimes there is blood in the fluid and not to worry so much. She told me get cleaned up and to the hospital as soon as I could, because while I was on the phone with her, I had had 2 contractions, and she knew that they were coming pretty fast at this point. I got in the tub to rinse off, and another HUGE gush of fluid came out, I looked down, and this time it looked to be only blood. I kept telling myself that things were fine, but I knew they weren't. Husband kept reassuring me that things were okay, but I knew he had never seen someone's water break, and didn't know that this didn't look right.

Another gush.

I got dried off, and put on one of the adult diapers I had purchased for my postpartum bleeding, and husband ran out to put towels and plastic bags down on the seats in the car. My mom helped me get dressed in my sarong, and got me different shoes to wear. As I walked out to the car, I felt 2 or 3 more huge gushes and could tell that the diaper had filled to capacity already. As I sat down in the car, I knew that if it kept coming out like that that the car seats would be ruined.

It is a 15-20 minute drive to the hospital I was delivering at, and I have never seen my husband drive so fast in my life, or run red lights before... But he did because I could tell he thought I was going to have the baby in the car. My contractions were now about a minute and a half apart, and they were getting intense! I was on the phone with Sherri, my doula, most of the way up there, and the blood kept pouring out of my body. By the time we got to the hospital, blood and fluid were running down and pooling at my feet, and the towel, my sarong, and my diaper were all saturated.

A nurse was coming out as my husband ran in to look for a wheelchair. She came over to help, and when she opened the door and saw the blood I looked at her face. It went pale. She smiled and stayed calm, but I knew my suspicions were correct. Something was wrong. She got me in the wheelchair while husband parked the car. She raced through the lobby, while I apologized profusely for the mess I was making. The entire time, blood and fluid were just pouring from my body, leaving a very scary looking trail behind us. She got me on the elevator so fast, and then in on to the labor and delivery floor as fast as her legs could push me. Sherri was waiting for me in the waiting area. She smiled and I tried to smile back. I was scared. They raced me to my room, and the nurses came in. Christa, who is an RN at the hospital was my nurse at that point, and I saw her face too. Everyone of those nurses who came in took one look at me, and my soiled clothing and towels and I could tell they knew something was up. Sherri looked at me, and said, "Wow, Susan you weren't kidding. This is a lot of blood." But she stayed calm. She didn't seem worried to me, and that helped calm me down. At this point there were a lot of nurses in my room, and they had hooked me up to monitors and were asking me all sorts of questions. My husband ran in to the room and told me he found me by following the trail of blood. I am not kidding when I say it looked like a murder scene.

Pretty soon, I started seeing knowing glances across the room, and then Christa said something about a c-section. I looked at her and asked why? She told me that the baby was in distress and that she just wanted to prepare me for that option. I couldn't believe it because my contractions were now a minute apart and they were crazy hard. Sherri was pretty sure that I was ready to push that baby out any second now. She asked me if I felt the need to push. I didn't.

Then Christa pulled the oxygen mask out and placed it on my face. My nightmares were coming true. The baby was in trouble, and I was freaking out that he was going to die. Again, in that moment of frantic realization that things were getting hairy, I felt what I had been pushing out of my mind again, very clearly.

The baby's chord is wrapped around his neck twice. He won't drop. This will end in a c-section.

They had me turn on my side. More questions. More paperwork to sign. At some point Ginger, our birth photographer showed up. Faster, harder contractions.

Sherri asked if someone could check me so we could know how dilated I was. Christa said no. We had to wait for the midwife to show up to do that because they didn't want to risk infection since my water had already broken. The wait for the midwife to show up felt like an eternity because I was worried about the baby, and the contractions were crazy fast and intense. Not to mention, I still felt a ton of fluid leaving my body, and I knew I was losing a lot of blood.

Christa turned to me and gave me an option. I could continue laboring until the midwife came and assessed everything, or I could get a shot to stop contractions so that we could have the c-section. I didn't know what to do. I looked at Sherri, she told me there was no turning back if I got the shot, but that it was my call. We both looked at husband. He didn't know what to do either. I had two or three more contractions and then turned to Christa and said, I know I need a c-section. Give me the shot. It was so clear in my mind, but still so scary. They started prepping me for surgery. She gave me the shot. It did NOT stop my contractions. About 3 minutes later, the midwife and my doctor, (head of the clinic) came through the door. I saw their faces. Wide eyed and knowing. Christa looked at them, with the same knowing look on her face, and I knew that they didn't want to scare me.

The midwife checked me, and I was dilated to a ONE. I thought to myself, I can't go on like this. There is no way that I can make it through labor if I am only at a one. Dr. Parker walked over to me and started out by saying something like, "I know this isn't the VBAC you wanted..." I interrupted him and said, with tears running down my face, "Dr. Parker, my baby is in distress. I want him out alive. Let's do the c-section. I don't care about what kind of labor I have. I just want my baby to be okay." He said okay, and told them to prep some blood in case I needed a transfusion, and then they wheeled me out of the room, and in to the OR which was a short jaunt down the hall.

I said my goodbyes to Sherri who got the call that her own daughter was in labor too, and she was needed at home to attend her birth as the midwife. I was so grateful that she had been a calming presence to me during a very emotional and scary time in my life.

My husband had to stay behind and get prepped for the OR and I had to go and get the IV's and spinal block alone. I was terrified. My entire body was shaking. I could not control my sobbing. I was so worried about the baby.

In came husband. They wouldn't let our photographer in the OR, much to my disappointment. I so wanted to get my husband's face captured when he first saw our little boy. I wanted these moments captured. Our worry, our elation, everything.

We sat there together, holding hands and I stared in to my loving husband's eyes, terrified, and waiting to hear that first cry. I was still shaking uncontrollably. I felt the doctor and midwife shaking my body and pushing on my diaphragm to get the baby down and out. It all felt so violent. (And trust me I would feel all that pushing and pulling in a few days). Then, after what seemed like an eternity, we heard the doctor say, "He's out!" And we waited for that cry...

And we waited...

I said, "What is happening?! Why isn't he crying?!"

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, sirens and alarms were calling all staff in to the OR. The baby wasn't breathing.

No one answered me. I asked again a little louder. "WHAT IS HAPPENING?! WHY ISN'T HE CRYING?!"

Finally the nurse said, "He has a mask over his face, that's why you don't hear anything."

Then we heard it... Not a cry, but a woman counting. She was doing chest compressions on my baby. She was performing CPR on my brand new baby because he wasn't breathing. Was he dead? I couldn't see anything, and I have to tell you that my husband and I sat there waiting to hear that cry.

Then we heard him. He let out a whimper. Then he let out a real cry. We looked at each other and relief and joy came out in tears.

There were so many people in that OR, rushing around. No one really talked to me about anything. I would find out later that he was born with an apgar score of 1. That after a few minutes his score went up to a 5, and it kept going up. But he wasn't breathing right. They ordered him to the nursery to be monitored, and I knew at that moment it would be a long time before I would be able to hold him.

Husband went over and took some pictures and they finally let our photographer in to capture a few more,

and then they bundled him up and brought him over to me. I kissed his face and showered him in my tears for about 15 seconds before they whisked him away again.

My arms ached. I wanted to hold him close to me. To tell him all that I had planned to tell him in those first few minutes I would have with him after the birth. How we had waited for him, how happy we were to have him, how perfect he was... And I couldn't. I longed to be near him and any separation felt like agony throughout my entire body. Every part of me hurt and shook. I wanted to scream out so that I could get the emotional anguish out of my body. Husband left with the baby and I was left alone again with the hospital staff. I cried. I was inconsolable. I felt so empty and so alone. I didn't know if he was okay. I actually thought, what if he dies and I am not there? What if he never gets to feel my arms around him?

Time slowed to a halt and each minute that ticked by felt like an eternity. Finally they finished with me in the OR and wheeled me back to the delivery room to monitor me for the next hour. Christa was there and told me what had happened. My placenta had abrupted, which means that it was starting to pull away from the uterus. That is what caused the massive amount of blood loss, and the hard contractions. She told me she knew immediately when she saw me what was going on, but had hoped that she was wrong.

Then Husband came back to me to reassure me that the baby was okay but that he was hooked up to breathing machines and was on an IV in the NICU, and would have to stay there for a while. But that he was okay, and was already doing much better than he was.

Dr. Parker came in to check on me and talk to us. He is such a kind, gentle man. He has delivered over 8,000 babies in his career, and I was so relieved when I saw his face come through the door with the midwife while I was in labor. He talked to me about counting my blessings and not worrying so much about the loss of my perfect birth. He spoke of a family who was burying their tiny baby because he had been stillborn earlier that week. He was attending the funeral later that day. He said through my tears and sobbing that we were lucky to live in the time of modern medicine because if we lived during the time of the pioneers, my husband would be burying both me and the baby that day. Instead, he told us, I was alive, and things were under control, and the baby, though in the NICU and not in my arms, would pull through just fine.

He told me also that the baby's chord WAS wrapped around his neck twice, and that the murkiness of the water from the day before was probably a little blood because the placenta was probably starting to pull away the day before. But he also said that the baby didn't appear to have gone very long without oxygen, as the umbilical chord was not flat or strained.

Finally, after many "Thank you, Dr. Parker for saving my life and the life of my son" and "I thank God you were here and that things are alright" He left, and Husband went down to the NICU to be with the baby. I was wheeled down to my new room, and then they wheeled my bed in to the NICU so that I could see my baby.

I couldn't hold him. I could only hold his hand. He was hooked up to so many monitors and he had IV's and wires all over. He had a CPAP mask on his face, so I couldn't see him very well, but he could see me, and our eyes met, and he looked so lovingly at me. I spoke what I could get out, and told him how much I loved him. I cried because I just wanted to hold his little body in my arms.

When we left, it felt like someone took an ax and cut me in half. I felt so broken. Emotionally, physically...BROKEN. My heart ached for my son who just wanted his mommy.

That first night was horrific. I sobbed and sobbed until I couldn't anymore. Then the numbness would set in, and that is when I could muster the ability to post updates on facebook. Things like, "Will update when I know more..." were all I could get out, because I was just so lost as to what was REALLY happening.

I went in to see him once I could stand up and move from the bed to a wheel chair, but I still couldn't hold him.

Finally, at 11am, (10 hours after I delivered) I got to hold my son for the first time.

It was magic. I fell in love so instantly. He was beautiful. I knew he was perfect. He had an oxygen tube coming out of his nose, and an IV in one of his little hands, and wires monitoring everything from his heartrate to his oxygen levels to his blood pressure to his body temperature. But he was whole. He was intact. He was perfect.

I cannot even put in to words what it felt like to hold him for the first time. This perfect little person in my arms, fresh from Heaven. It was like the sky opened and I felt the Savior with me. He was holding me while I was holding my little baby. The baby that I had prayed for. The baby that I longed to hold the moment I realized I wanted another baby. The baby that I had carried in my body. The baby whose eyes reflected my eternal life as a mother. The baby that our Heavenly Parents had entrusted me with. The joy was immeasurable.

When I finally put him down and was again wheeled away from him, the joy seemed to stay behind with my new son, and grief and guilt began to settle inside of me in it's place.

I was the reason all of this was happening. My own ideas of what birth should be like prevented me from hearing the clear revelation that Heavenly Father was giving me. My pride shrugged it off as anxiety and I had CHOSEN to ignore it continue to pursue something that I was told would end up this way. I wasn't just broken anymore. I was shattered in to a million indiscernible pieces, and felt as though I would NEVER be able to pick myself up and put myself back together again. It was all my fault. My son was needlessly suffering because I had been so headstrong in my desire to have this "PERFECT BIRTH" instead of opting at week 40 for the elective c-section that would have prevented all of this separation and turmoil for both me and the baby. At week 40 he would have been just fine, I told myself. The placenta was still intact at week 40. This all could have been prevented.

I sat alone in my inconsolable state, unable and unwilling to express what I was feeling. And then I told my husband, and he told me not to blame myself, because even with those promptings it would seem a little strange to just think that you should opt out of the VBAC. Anyone would assume it was their trepidations about the birth, and that he doubted that anyone would think that another c-section would truly be what was best for a baby versus a natural, drug-free delivery... I felt a little better. But admittedly, not much.

The pediatrician came in to talk to me around 2 that day and told me that he wanted me to start breastfeeding, because he thought that it would be good for both me and the baby to bond and to spend more time together. I was elated. I went down the hall to the NICU as soon as I could and held my son in my arms and held him close while he nursed. The joy came back, along with a peaceful feeling that all was as it should be, and that I did nothing wrong. Of course, those feelings only lasted while I was with my son. They quickly disappeared once I left him... Which is why I wanted to be in the NICU with him as much as possible. Something that I couldn't really explain to people who insisted that I get more rest than I was getting... (also that is laughable given that as soon as my eyes would close, another nurse or hospital worker would pop in for something... Resting at a hospital is impossible)!

Sherri called me the next day to see how everything had gone and how I was feeling and to find out what had happened to cause so much blood. We talked for a while, and I explained to her how I had felt so guilty, and she told me to stop. She said that those promptings were Heavenly Father's way of preparing me to make the decision to get the c-section quickly. That if I hadn't had those promptings beforehand, we would have lost precious minutes that could have been the difference between life and death for the baby. That those feelings were blessings and not meant to torture me. I HAD listened to them, and that had allowed me to know exactly what to do the MOMENT I needed to know what to do. I felt so much better after that conversation. I knew I was looking at things the wrong way.

The next day, Christa came to check on me. I thought it was so thoughtful that she had cared enough about my situation to come and see how we were doing. I was glad to see her. She told me that she couldn't stop thinking about me and all that had happened. She also told me about another miracle that had happened the night I was wheeled in to that hospital that I didn't know about...

The labor and delivery floor was empty of patients with one exception... ME. I was the only patient that night at that time, and this allowed all the nurses and caregivers to prepare everything and get me in to the OR as fast as possible, and to take care of the baby without worrying about neglecting someone else. There were no other people distracting them from the task of getting my son out alive. I knew right then and there that God was looking out for us. How on EARTH is it possible that in the middle of UTAH COUNTY, UTAH (the birth capital of the USA-ask anyone) there was a hospital that had an EMPTY labor and delivery ward?!

On Monday, they released our son to be in our room with us. They had taken him off of oxygen and he was doing well enough that the pediatrician on call was willing to give him the OK to room with us for the rest of the time. I was ELATED! No more separation! No more having to walk away from my baby.

We called his brother, who had been so anxiously anticipating his brother's arrival, that finally after 2 days, he would be able to hold him and not have to wave at him through a glass window. He was so excited. Truthfully, the only thing that ever cheered me up while I was in the hospital were my daily visits from Z and my visits to the NICU. The entire experience had made me want nothing more that to wrap my children in my arms and never let them go. They are truly the most incredible gifts I have ever been given.

I called our birth photographer, Earthside Birth Photography and she agreed to come down to the hospital for a little family session that night. I was so happy. My baby was going to be just fine. All the prayer requests had worked. My wonderful friends and family had banded together to think on and pray for our little dude, and he was doing so well!

Ginger captured some beautiful moments for our family, and I cannot thank her enough for her time and talents.

The next day, was the day before we were scheduled to leave the hospital. We were taking a nap in the afternoon, and the nurses came in to do one of their frequent checks of me and the baby. All of a sudden, they told me after listening to his breathing while he was asleep that they wanted to take him down to the nursery to be monitored because he was breathing funny. I was terrified. I started crying and could no longer rest for a second knowing that he was out of my arms reach for an undetermined amount of time.

I called down to the nursery and they told me that he was losing oxygen while he slept and that it was necessary to run some tests. They had hooked him back up to oxygen and had done a chest x-ray and blood work. About an hour later I walked down to the nursery myself and wanted to know what the news was. The x-ray had come back clear, and so had the bloodwork, meaning he didn't have pneumonia or any other infection and wouldn't need antibiotics, (something I feared would be needed, and which would require a longer hospital stay for him after we were released). The truth was, they weren't sure why he was losing oxygen, other than his lungs might be irritated because he had inhaled blood from the amniotic fluid in them, or because he was such a large baby and his lungs weren't strong enough to keep up with the demands of oxygen for him. But either way, it would clear up with a little time. But he HAD to stay in the NICU until we were released the next day. I was devastated. DEVASTATED. I didn't want to walk away from him. I didn't want to see him lying there reaching out to me, watching me turn my back on him and leave him with strangers. It was so hard.

But, on the bright side, (everyone reminded me) he would be leaving with us and not staying behind after we were released.

Peace came to me knowing that I had my husband next to me, there for everything I needed, and my oldest son was at home being cared for by his grandmother, and my newest son was being cared for by wonderful nurses in the NICU. I knew we were all in good hands. I tried to put my heart in the Savior's hands so that I could calm down and feel more peace. I did my best.

The next day, we were told we couldn't leave until we learned infant CPR and our baby passed the home monitor test. We were talked to by every doctor and specialist and nurse there was it seemed. But I was so glad that we would be coming home to our little Z and we would be together forever from that moment on.

We left the hospital, dragging an oxygen tank, and leaving a phone charger behind, (we got it back the next day) and on our way to meet the home healthcare worker at our house to get all the oxygen tanks and the monitor. That first night was daunting to say the least. So many wires and tubes to keep track of... But we were home, and we were together.

He continues to improve every day. He is truly a miracle. And me? Well, emotionally I am doing a lot better, and spiritually I feel better too. I know that we have been provided for by Heavenly Father. The miracles that happened cannot be dismissed. And physically, I am doing great! It was a little dodgy there for a while. The pain was a little more severe than the last go around, given the crazy circumstances that happened, but all in all I am doing very well indeed.

The baby is a super eater, and had surpassed his birthweight by the 6th day of his life, instead of the 2 weeks that the doctors hope for... And because of his enormous appetite, I was down to below my pre-pregnancy weight by the end of the first week!

As for Z, well, he loves his baby brother more than words can express, and tries daily to get him to smile, which we continue to tell him won't happen for a little while. But that doesn't dash his spirits in the slightest. He is so happy to have his family all together...

And really, that's what it is all about, right?

With Love,


Morgan Pickard said...

This is so beautiful! I had no idea what you had been through. Amazing testimony too. God Bless you my sweet cousin, and your beautiful loving family !

Emily Leue said...

I can't remember the last time I cried so hard reading ANYTHING. I know it's been a long time since we've seen each other, but I think about you all the time. It's taking a lot longer than I expected for us to get pregnant, and every time I start to feel sorry for myself I remember your family, and I feel the Spirit encouraging me to never give up. Heavenly Father takes care of us, and I'm so happy for you!

Dan and Emily said...

Susan! This is emily from "" (i did close down our site but i didnt know if you remember me?) we met forever ago when we stopped by when you were selling cupcakes and we bought the GF cupcakes and they were sooo good! I have been revamping our old blog and sometimes have checked your blog and for the longest time i didnt see any updates then boom you have a baby!!!!! Whether you remember me or not i just want to tell you congratulations!!! I am so happy for you what a beautiful miracle!