Mom to Michael
October 14, 2012 – October 18, 2012
I have sat down several times the past few days with intentions of writing out my sweet baby Michael’s birth story, only to stare at a blank screen. I have so much that I want to say, that I need to say while the memories are still fresh but I just don’t know where to start. I am so afraid that I am going to miss something important. After going over the birth of my precious angel time and time again in my mind, I realized that it is quite impossible to tell you about the birth of my baby without starting at the very beginning, when we first found our we were expecting him. I also am compelled to tell you about his short, but very important and so very special, four days of life. To fully understand how special my Michael is, you need to hear his whole story. The beginning is just as important as the middle which is just as important as the end.
In December of 2011, my husband (Pete) and I decided to add another blessing to our lives, we decided to begin to try to conceive our third child. Our son (Mason) was just a few months shy of 4 and our daughter (Madilynn) was 15 months old. We were in the process of buying our first home and the timing just felt right. Since I was still nursing the baby and my cycle hadn’t returned to normal yet, I had begun to track my temperature to determine my most fertile days. With my previous two pregnancies, it did take a little bit of time to conceive (2+ years with Mason and 3 months with Madi) , I didn’t expect to get pregnant until Spring 2012. Right before the New Year, my best friend, Tammy, gave me the wonderful news that she got a positive pregnancy test and was expecting her 2nd baby. I didn’t really want to get my hopes up since it did take quite a while to get pregnant with Mason, but I was looking forward to being pregnant with my best friend for at least a small period of time. Around the same time, I began to test every few days, crossing my fingers and hoping that 2 purple lines would appear.
From the moment I got a positive pregnancy test on February 1st , our family was overjoyed and so excited. For the first time, since I was tracking temps and such, and because I was testing every few days, I was able to narrow down the exact day our baby was conceived. I had a negative test on January 30th. I tested again early in the morning on February 1st,right after Pete had left for work, just 2 days later and got a positive result. When the 2nd line began to show, very faint and purple, I had called my mom into the bathroom (we were staying with her for a few weeks while we waited to close on our house.) I was so surprised that we had conceived so soon and was convinced either I had to be seeing things or it was a faulty test. I said “tell me that I am not really seeing 2 lines there!” She assured me that she had seen the 2nd line so I decided to take another test, just to be sure. When that one also had those 2 lines which indicated that I was pregnant, I ran upstairs to wake up my sister, brother and sister in law to tell them the great news! They were less than thrilled that I woke them up at 5:20 am, but they were excited to hear about our new baby.
Our 2 children, Mason (4) and Madilynn (2) were very involved in the pregnancy and could not wait to have a little brother (I knew from the beginning our baby would be a boy.) Both of my previous pregnancies had been cesarean deliveries and not experiencing natural labor was something that left me feeling like I was missing something. It is very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t missed out on labor and delivery but it was upsetting to me to feel that I missed out on such a beautiful, natural experience. I wanted to be the first person to touch my baby, I wanted him immediately bought up to my chest so I could take in all of his beautiful features, I wanted to be able to nurse as soon as the baby was ready, I wanted my baby’s cord to have a chance to stop pulsating before being clamped to be cut, I didn’t want to be pressured into unnecessary procedures, I wanted a peaceful, lovely birth experience and I felt that the only way to get that was to have a home birth. Before we even conceived, my husband and I had discussed the possibility of hiring a midwife and having our next baby at home. I spent months and months doing research, going over the risks and benefits of both a home birth after 2 cesarean sections (hba2c) and a third repeat cesarean and I felt very confident and secure in our decision to move forward with a home birth. In March, I met with a wonderful midwife, Jen, who had shared my belief in my body’s ability to naturally birth my baby and we agreed that I was a great candidate for a successful hba2c. Throughout the pregnancy, I continued care with Jen with regular prenatal appointments and I also had the standard 1st and 3rd trimester blood work done and an anatomy scan at 20 weeks. Tests results were always normal and we got confirmation that our baby was indeed a boy! Experiencing a natural birth and delivery was so very important to me so I had worked very hard at making sure I was as healthy as possible during the pregnancy. I ate a very healthy diet and had began to walk 2 miles a day. I was able to walk over 300 miles during my second and third trimester and was very proud of my accomplishment.
Since I had never gone into labor naturally, I had a feeling that I would go past my due date. I was preparing myself to go to 42 weeks gestation so that if my due date came and went with no signs of baby coming, I wouldn’t be too disappointed. On my due date, October 13th, as a distraction, we decided to take the kids to a hotel that my sister works at for an overnight stay to swim and play in the hot tub. Never did I think that I would actually go into labor on my actual due date. My mom and brother stopped by to swim and spend time with the kids and Mason decided he wanted to go home with my mom for a sleep over. I had been having some pretty strong Braxton hicks contractions during the day but they weren’t anything consistent and they didn’t affect my activity so I just pushed them to the back of my mind. At 11:30 pm my family left to head home and I laid down with my husband. Right away, I had a very strong contraction. A few minutes later, there was another one. At 11:50, I realized the contractions were to the point where I had to stop and focus on breathing through them and they were getting consistent. I downloaded a contraction timer app on my phone and began to track them. Right from the beginning, they were 5-8 minutes apart and about 30 seconds long. At 1:47 am, I had sent my midwife Jen a text saying “ I’ve had contractions 5-10 minutes apart for the past 2 hours, not sure when I should let you know” Since it was the middle of the night, she didn’t get back to me right away so at 2:10 am I called her to let her know that I thought it was time and she told me to try to get some rest and to let her know when the contractions were 5-7 minutes apart lasting 1 minute for an hour. I knew that going to sleep wasn’t going to be possible but I did try to get as much rest as possible between contractions. As soon as I got off the phone with Jen, I realized I had some bloody show. I let Pete sleep since he had gotten up very early in the morning with the kids and I knew we were going to have a long day ahead of us. I spent the next few hours laboring in the hot tub or bed, trying to get as comfortable as possible. At 4:15 AM, I made the call to my mom to come pick up Madilynn since she had woken up and she was very clingy and seemed worried about me. By 6 AM, contractions were very intense and about 4-6 minutes apart and 30-45 seconds long. At this point, I decided it was best for Pete and I to head home since I didn’t want to be on the road when contractions got really unbearable and I did NOT want to have to deliver our baby at the hotel where my sister worked. We got home around 7 and I immediately got into the bath tub while Pete worked on setting up the birthing pool and getting the towels and other birth supplies together. At about 8:05 AM I had my husband call Jen because at this point, I couldn’t talk through contractions and really needed to focus on resting and getting ready for the next one in between them. She asked to speak to me for a moment and let me know that she would be on her way.
As soon as the pool was full, I moved upstairs and got in. At about 8:30 my sister, Katelynn arrived. To help with contractions, I spent a lot of time talking to my dad and God, asking them to help me get through it. I talked to my baby, told him that it was just me and him, we were a team and we had to work together to make this happen. As painful as it was, it was also very peaceful experience for me. I felt a very close connection to my dad (who had passed away when I was 12) my entire pregnancy. I couldn’t really explain it and just attributed the closeness to the fact that the baby was expected in October and my dad was also born in October. I had spent countless hours on the treadmill, listening to music that made me feel close to my dad, envisioning how beautiful it would be to finally get the birth that I had longed for and pulling up my newborn baby to my chest. While laboring, Pete had asked me if there was anything he could do or if I wanted him to get in the pool with me. During the pregnancy, I definitely thought that I would want him to be right in there with me but in the moment, I really just wanted some space and no one to touch me. Just having my husband and sister close was helpful and soothing. I continued to labor in the water and Jen arrived just before 10. She checked the baby’s heart rate and asked if I wanted her to check me. I was nervous that she was going to tell me that I was just a cm or 2 dilated but to my relief, she let me know I was about 80% effaced and 8.5 cm dilated. I began to cry and told Michael “yes baby, we are almost there! We are doing this! Me and you baby, we have to do this together.” We went over our plans on who was going to catch the baby and I was so happy to know that my body was working. I wasn’t broken; I would be seeing my baby shortly! Not long after that, Jen suggested that I get out of the pool and move around a bit since I had spent 2 hours in the water. As much as I didn’t want to, I got up, walked down the steps and went directly into the bathroom and got in the shower. Water was the only way I got relief and it was so helpful to me to feel hot water on my belly during contractions. While in the shower, I had vomited which I took as a good sign since I had heard that many women will vomit during transition. After a few minutes, I got out of the shower and went into the living room and fell onto the couch. At this point, moaning through contractions no longer was very helpful and I had began to internalize the pain and found I got more relief by talking myself through the contractions, thinking things such as “ride the wave, this will be over before you know it. Every contraction is one step closer to having my baby in my arms. This is pain with a purpose. Help me through this dad” over and over until the contraction was over. I spent the short time in between each contraction trying to relax and brace for the next one. During this time, my husband, sister and midwife gave me my space but remained close. Later, my sister and the midwife had mentioned that during the time I was on the couch, they had thought that I was sleeping because I was so silent and looked relaxed (I had kept my eyes closed during probably 90% of my labor). After spending some time downstairs, I made my way up the steps to get back in the pool. Pete and Kate had drained some of the water while I was on the couch and had refilled it with hot water. It felt great to be back in the pool and the warm water. Around this time, I got really hot and asked Pete to get me a wet washcloth to hold on my face and to turn on the fan. At around 12:50, Jen had asked if I had wanted her to check me. I said yes and she told me I was now 100% effaced and 9.5 cm dilated and my water bag was still intact and bulging. Since I was so far along, she had asked if I wanted her to rupture my waters. She went over the benefits and risks and I decided that after I got through a few more contractions, I did want her to. When she had ruptured the water bag, she let me know that the amniotic fluid had meconium in it and that we would start to monitor the baby more closely. She immediately checked his heart rate and it was in the 130 range, just as it had been during the entire pregnancy and labor. A few minutes later she had checked it again and had a hard time getting a good reading (I think it was in the 90’s). My husband had gotten me 2 glasses of fruit juice in hopes that getting some fluid in would help us get a better reading. After Jen checked again and didn’t get a good reading, she had told me that it was time to transfer to the hospital. I really didn’t want to move at all but I knew it was serious. My sister helped me out of the tub and helped me get downstairs to get dressed while Jen called 911 and made copies of my file. As soon as I was dressed, I laid on the couch and was trying to get through each contraction and was worrying about my baby. Within a few minutes, rescue workers from our town’s volunteer fire department had shown up and started to get my stats while Jen continued to closely monitor the baby. Eventually she began to get more reassuring heart tones but decided it was still best to go through with the transfer. The ambulance arrived shortly after and we began the 1 hour ride to the hospital, all while continuing to have contractions 1-3 minutes apart and lasting 30-45 seconds. Jen, my midwife had followed right behind the ambulance in case I had the urge to push, they would pull over so she could get in and deliver the baby. My good friend and photographer, Emily, who was planning to capture the birth of our little baby and had been in communication with my sister, Kate, throughout the day, had arrived at our house right as the ambulance had. She had no idea what she was walking into and she drove to the hospital right behind us.
Once we got to the hospital, at about 3:00 PM, everything was kind of blurry and in a rush. I had thought that once the hospital was aware of my history of 2 prior c-sections, that I would be wheeled right into the operating room for a cesarean. To my surprise, they took me to a labor and delivery room where the hooked me up to monitors, including an internal monitor, got information from Jen regarding my pregnancy and labor up until that point, and checked me. The Dr said that I was 9 cm dilated. I think they may have had a hard time getting a good heart beat reading because they had me lay on my right side first, then my left side before they left me alone for a few minutes. Once the doctor felt comfortable with the heart rate, he said that they were okay with me pushing since I was so far along. An anesthesiologist came in and explained that if I wound up needing a repeat section, they might be able to do a spinal or they might need to use general anesthesia to put me under depending on the situation. The whole time, the dr stood by the monitors, closely paying attention to the baby’s stats. I remember I kept telling them that I wanted something for pain and didn’t get a response from anyone. Then I had said that I just wanted a C-section. I must have said that at least 5 times before it finally got through to someone that did just want the surgery, I had been 9-9.5 cm for at least 3 hours and didn’t have any urge to push and I feel that was my body’s way of saying something was wrong. At that point, the Dr had said that it was for the best since he wasn’t feeling too good about the baby’s heartbeat and the wheels started turning for the surgery. Time seemed to pass so slowly and I remember getting quite frustrated that it was taking so long. When I had asked why it was taking so long, someone informed me that they needed to wait for people to show up for the surgery and they were waiting for the results of my blood work in case I had needed a transfusion. At around 4:30, I was finally wheeled into the OR to prepare for surgery. It was so hard to stay still while the spinal was placed since I was still having back to back contractions but once it was in, my whole body seemed to relax and I just began to focus on the excitement of seeing my sweet boy. They bought my husband in once things were ready for the section and we talked about everything that had happened up until that point. I noticed almost immediately that things were very different this time compared to my previous two C-sections but I had attributed it to the fact that they were planned and this one was an emergency. With my first 2 sections, they had the baby out within just a few minutes of making the cut. This time, it took almost a half hour for them to deliver Michael, at 5:01 PM. With the first 2, they had told my husband to stand up and look as they were pulling out the baby. This time, he wasn’t given the go ahead to stand up and look at all. The first 2 times, I had heard my babies begin to cry almost immediately of being pulled out. This time, I heard no noise at all. I had mentioned to my husband that I was worried that I hadn’t heard the baby and I had asked those working around me why he wasn’t crying and if he was okay but no one was giving me any answers. My husband had looked down under the operating table and said “oh wow, there is a lot of blood.” Right after this, someone had come up to him and told him that he needed to go and wait in the waiting room. Instantly, panic had taken over and all I could think about and say over and over to myself was “oh my baby, what is wrong with my baby?” I knew I was having complications but my only concern was my baby and his health. I didn’t realize the seriousness of what was going on with me until I overheard the Dr mention “uterus rupture” and “full hysterectomy” several times. Turns out, once the Dr had cut me, he realized that my uterus had ruptured. I was losing a lot of blood and they thought they were going to have to do an emergency hysterectomy to get the bleeding to stop and to save my life. Although it was scary, I didn’t care if I had needed a hysterectomy, what the reason was or what my recovery would be. All I cared about what my baby and the fact that I still hadn’t heard him cry. They worked on me for what seemed like hours and at some point, I had begun to feel pain. I had told them and they gave me something that had made me feel like I was in a dream and very out of it. I remember a blood transfusion being mentioned and hearing someone say that 2 units needed to be ordered just in case. The Dr. had another Dr. come for a second opinion and they were able to stop the bleeding so they didn’t go through with the hysterectomy. Once they had finished with me and I had asked about my baby, they had told me that Michael had breathed in meconium and he needed help breathing on his own. They were going to need to transfer him to Danville NICU, a town 2 hours away from our home, because they were better able to give him the treatment he had needed. I was wheeled to recovery and tried to let what had happened and what I had been told sink in while I waited for my husband to come in. While waiting, a nurse came in and showed me two pictures that she had taken of the baby and gave me his stats. Our baby boy was 9 lbs 4 oz and 22” long which came as a surprise to me because I had expected Michael to be smaller than my other two babies (9 lbs 10 oz and 8 lbs 15 oz). Michael was my longest baby! The nurse had said how cute the baby was and what a beautiful head of hair he had. They really didn’t give me any information on how the baby was doing, just that he was having problems breathing and he would need to stay in the NICU for a new weeks. When Pete finally was able to come into recovery with me, he looked so worried. He had told me that he spoke to the pediatrician and that it didn’t sound good. At this point, I thought that the only issue was the meconium and I knew that it is fairly common for babies to pass meconium but that it was rarely a very serious problem so I told him not to worry. I explained that from what I understood, the baby was having some issues breathing on his own but that after a few weeks in the NICU, he should be fine. At that point, I didn’t realize that Michael also had brain damage that was a result of a lack of oxygen when my uterus ruptured. My heart hurt knowing that my baby was going to be away from me for a few days while I was recovering at the hospital and he was getting the care he needed at the NICU. Little did I know the heartbreak that my family would soon be facing.
Once I was able to move my legs and my stats were stable, I was moved from the recovery room to a labor and delivery room. Usually they would have moved me to the mom and baby unit of the hospital, but since I had lost so much blood, they could better monitor me in L&D. Shortly after I got to my room, the transport team from Danville arrived and they wheeled Michael in my room so I could see him for a minute before they transported him. Seeing my poor baby hooked up to the machines and with tubes coming from what seemed like everywhere was so hard. I was able to hold his hand for a short moment and cried. Then, they had to leave so I wiped my tears away and tried to gather my thoughts before my family was bought in to see me. I tried my best to explain what I thought was going on and I was positive that in a short time, our family of 5 would be together. I felt so helpless but I decided to focus on getting myself better so that I could be discharged and could get to my baby as soon as possible. I also got a nurse to bring me a breast pump so I could work on getting milk for my sick little boy.
My husband stayed with me the first night but the next night (Monday), I asked him to go home with the babies since they needed him more than I did. I was hopeful that I would be released the next day and then the four of us would make the trip to Danville so I wanted us all to be well rested for the reunion with our baby. Shortly before he had left, I was moved to the mom and baby unit since I was doing better and didn’t need to be monitored as closely. I didn’t expect being on that unit to affect me but it was very hard to hear other babies crying and knowing I hadn’t even heard my baby cry at all. At shift change, the nurse had come in and introduced herself as she wrote her name and began to write “congratulations” on the dry erase board in the room. She got about halfway done writing it and then erased it. I know that it wasn’t intentional and she usually wrote a congratulations message for her patients but at the moment, I took it personal. Once she had left, I had called Pete who had just arrived home. As soon as he answered, I began sobbing and wasn’t able to talk for a moment. When I was able to choke back the tears, I had explained to him what happened with the nurse and how it was so hard for me to hear the other babies crying when I was so far away from my baby and had yet to hear him cry. He did his best to calm me and to tell me that the nurse had not meant to hurt me. He let me know he had began to pack our bags and get things ready for our stay in Danville (I was given information on the Ronald Mcdonald house and was told that as long as they had room, we would be welcome to stay there while our baby was in the hospital). We talked for a little bit and I was feeling better and optimistic when we hung up. I pumped breast milk one more time before bed, waited for the nurse to bring my medication and settled in for what I had hoped to be a restful night of sleep just before 11 PM.
Just before 1 AM, I was awoken by the nurse. She let me know that the NICU was trying to get in touch with me to give me an update on the baby. I had spoken to the nurses taking care of Michael several times before this point and I knew that it had to be serious for them to be trying to get in touch with me in the middle of the night. I called them back and the nurse had asked if my husband was with me. Immediately, I knew that I was about to get devastating news. I said “no, he went home with the 2 kids tonight.” Then she asked if any family member was there with me. When I said no, she asked if a nurse was there. I said yes, there is a nurse here and she had told me that it would be a good idea to get there as soon as possible. Michael had coded two times and he wasn’t doing well, he might not make it to the morning. At that moment, I could not breathe. They must be wrong. My baby would be fine, all this time I was told that he was very sick and he would get worse before he got better but never had the thought of my baby dying crossed my mind. The NICU nurse asked me to call my husband and, remembering my phone call and break down earlier over a nurse unintentionally hurting my feelings, I said that I absolutely wasn’t able to call him and let him know. She said she would take care of it and we hung up. Right away, my nurse had said she was so sorry and that she would see about getting me discharged. I said “Discharged or not, when my ride gets here, I am leaving. My baby needs me!” I then called my mom and told her that she needed to come to the hospital right away. She asked what was going on but I wasn’t able to say anymore so I just told her that she needed to meet us at the hospital right away. Then, I gathered my thoughts and realized that my mom would be getting to the hospital after Pete and the kids. I knew that we were going to be going to say goodbye to our baby and I didn’t know how long we would have with him, if he even could hang on until we got there. I knew that the 1.5 hour ride to the NICU would be very emotional for me and my husband and I didn’t really want the two kids to see us break down so I tried to contact my 2 friends Tammy and Richelle to see if they could possibly come to the hospital to sit with the kids until my mom got there to take them. Since it was the middle of the night, I didn’t have any luck getting in touch with them. When I was trying to get touch with my dear friends, a nurse from the NICU had called to asked if I would like to have a Chaplin come to baptize Michael and to pray for him. Although I already knew my baby’s condition was serious, this was another reminder of how serious it must be. I said I would like him blessed and baptized. In the mean time, the nurse didn’t have any problem getting my discharge papers and we made our way to the Emergency Room entrance to wait for Pete to get there. After waiting a few minutes, the nurses got me a phone to call Pete to see where he was but there was no answer so I tried to call my mom. I got a hold of her, asked where she was at and let her know that I didn’t have any luck getting in touch with Pete. She had told me she was about 15 minutes away and Pete was right behind her! At that point, the NICU had contacted Pete, he got the babies in the car and left right away. I called my mom and she left with my sister Kate. At no point had they had time to contact each other but somehow, on the highway, my husband wound up directly behind my mom.
As soon as they pulled up, my mom and sister got in our car with the kids and Pete helped me get in my mom’s car and we drove alone in that to the NICU so we could talk alone on the way there. We spent the hour and a half ride praying that our baby would hang on until we got there to say goodbye to him. We did a lot of crying and thinking about how we would possibly be able to explain to our two children where the little brother they waited and looked forward to for 10 months had gone. We asked God why this was happening to us and tried to imagine how we could possibly breathe one breath, live one moment without our Michael.
We arrived at the hospital and Pete parked in the Janet Weiss Children’s Hospital entrance while my mom and sister tried to find a parking space. We walked up to the entrance and found that since it was after hours, it was locked and we would need to use the Emergency Room entrance to gain entrance. Since I had just had major surgery and hemorrhaged less than 33 hours prior, Pete had left me there and ran to the Emergency Room to get a staff member to get me with a wheel chair. It is a huge hospital and it took what felt like an hour to get back to me with a security guard and a wheel chair but during that time I cried to God and my dad, “Please don’t take my baby. I need him. I can not live without him. I need him. Please help my baby, I need him.”
About 20 minutes later, my husband finally arrived at the entrance with a security guard. He was able to get a wheel chair for me and we made the trip to the NICU. So many thoughts were flooding my brain and I had such a hard time processing them. Somehow, my mom, sister, and the babies had arrived at the NICU the exact moment we had. The security guard led us to the NICU and before we even entered the unit, my husband asked about getting a room for our two babies since it was the middle of the night and they had needed to sleep. A nurse had made arrangements for the babies and our family to go to a hotel very close (actually on the hospital premises I think) to rest. At that point, my mom, sister and our babies went to the waiting room while Pete and I went to Michael’s bedside. This was the first time since he was born that either one of us had the chance to actually see our son for more than a moment or two. As soon as I saw my little angel, I began sobbing. Michael looked so sick. He was swollen, hooked up to so many machines and on so many medications. The two nurses who were working with him that night were incredibly helpful and explained our baby’s condition the best they could. They had given us a picture of when Michael was baptized and asked if we had wanted anymore taken. They had a digital camera and a printer there that they would use to print any pictures we had wanted. At that point, we were unsure about how we would feel about having pictures of our baby who was near dying, so we declined. A nurse then offered us a disposable camera to take what pictures we had wanted but would be able to get developed when the time felt right. I took the camera and decided that I would rather take pictures to have available to look at if/when I felt the time was right than to have nothing to remember our precious baby and to regret not taking the opportunity to document my beautiful baby’s life.
You can contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org